Your best ride

When you’re on a motorcycle, you play a major role in creating your own safety. It helps to know more than just the rules of the road — a good rider is aware of all the ways their ride can be enhanced or impaired, and ways to ride your best ride.

Explore tips below for riding your best.

A Sober Ride Is the Only Ride

Motorcycle riding requires a clear head and quick reactions. Alcohol and other drugs deteriorate your judgment, vision, attention and fine motor skills. Impaired driving is a contributing factor in over 50% of fatal crashes in Washington. If you plan to consume alcohol or other drugs, leave the motorcycle at home.

And remember, impaired driving doesn’t just mean alcohol. Your driving can be affected by substances you might not expect, including cannabis, prescription drugs and even over-the-counter medications.

Some people also have the misconception that cannabis can counteract the effects of alcohol, but that is simply not the case. Statistics show that if you use cannabis before or after drinking alcohol, you triple your risk of a crash.

What does the law say?

In Washington, an adult with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or above is considered intoxicated. (For riders under 21, that goes down to 0.02%.) And while a breath or blood test is normally what determines whether or not you are riding legally, ultimately it’s up to the discretion of law enforcement.

If you are convicted of riding under the influence of alcohol, consequences can include suspension of your license, severe fines, community service and a mandatory ignition interlock device. Not to mention the expenses like lawyer fees, lost work time and public transportation.

A conviction for riding under the influence of drugs leads to a fine of up to $5,000, jail time and a suspended license — and that’s just for first-time offenders. This includes cannabis; anyone over 21 with a blood concentration of THC of 5 nanograms is considered impaired.

See what the Revised Code of Washington says about driving under the influence >

Your Riding Technique

The feeling of connection between rider, motorcycle and road is a fundamental reason to ride. Unfortunately, motorcycle riders are vulnerable road users and overrepresented in crashes resulting in serious injuries and fatalities. But these crashes are preventable.

Controlling your motorcycle should always be your number-one priority. Speeding is one of the biggest contributing factors to motorcycle crashes. Faster speeds often reduce your control, and greatly increase your risk of a crash and injury. Cornering, overtaking and swerving also require complete attention and command of the motorcycle.

Fortunately, there’s a fun and effective way to stay sharp on your motorcycle, no matter how long you’ve been riding. Honing and maintaining your skills with regular training is always a good idea — you’ll practice good techniques and defensive and evasive maneuvers that could save your life.

Technology & Electronic Devices

With the ubiquity of screens, sounds, buzzes and alerts, it’s easy to forget how distracting technology can be. Safety on a motorcycle requires you to be fully present and aware of your surroundings. Smart phones and other devices are useful for navigation and communication, but make sure they don’t become a distraction and interruption.

Many riders take the opportunity to disconnect when they’re on the motorcycle, to feel the road and take in the scenery. This is the safest way to enjoy the ride.

What does the law say?

While it’s legal to wear a helmet with a built-in speakers or approved wireless systems, earphones and headsets, these can still be a source of distraction that takes your attention from the road and muffles outside noise. If you are cited for being distracted while riding, expect a fine and a likely hike in your insurance rates.

Your Mental & Physical State

Riding a motorcycle is an exercise for your mind and body. Before you get on the bike, take a moment to assess yourself:

  • What state of mind are you in? How you ride is often a reflection of how you feel — so if you’re angry, frustrated or in a bad mood, you’re more likely to speed and ride aggressively. Wait until you’ve calmed down to hit the road.
  • Are you feeling tired or sluggish? If you’re not prepared to remain alert for the entire ride, think twice about heading out.
  • What’s your physical condition? Injuries can have a big impact on your ability to ride safely. Even discomfort that starts out small can become a big problem over the course of your ride, so make sure you’re healthy and comfortable before you go — and don’t forget to dress for Washington’s often-unpredictable weather!

The People You Ride With

Riding motorcycles is an activity that naturally brings people together. For some, the community and social aspects are the main reason to ride. While there are plenty of upsides to riding with others, like camaraderie and a sense of shared responsibility, it’s important to be aware of the ways your fellow riders can distract or pressure you.

Before you head out with a group, make sure you understand each rider’s comfort, skill level and experience. When you’re on the road, you need to stay focused and maintain the safety of yourself and the group — if you’re distracted, pressured or pushed beyond your comfort level, it’s best to remove yourself from the situation.

For a great way to build your confidence on the motorcycle and riding in groups, gather some friends and enroll in a local training class.