THROTTLE THERAPY: Looking both ways is only half the message

Motorcycling tips to keep you safe this riding season, by Britt Santowski, former Chief Instructor with VISC

This is she

This is she

I’ll bet your mama told you to look both ways before you cross the street. Us moms tend to be smart about things like that.

I’ll also bet that your mama also never really wanted you to ride a motorcycle. Us mamas tend to want to bubble-wrap our children, even when they turn 40.

But when a mama turns motorcyclist herself, as this mama did (well before mama-hood walloped me  submissive to a bawling bundle of joy and spittle), we also have additional wisdom to add to the pile.

First and foremost, ride to live.

Which brings this mama back to looking both ways.

As a motorcyclist, you need to be continually aware of what’s going on around you, 360 degrees.

At a minimum, ride two seconds behind any vehicle in front of you. Better yet, count to three. Rear-enders mostly happen because the following vehicle is too close, or the rider is inattentive. Counting to three gives you a safe distance; the act of counting keeps you focussed.

Rear-enders also happen if the vehicle behind is so impressed by your biker awesome-ness that they want to be closer to you.

Appreciating their adoration, establishing that three second barrier to the vehicle in front doubles as a safety from the vehicle behind. But … this ONLY works if you immediately look at the vehicle behind as you do your emergency stop, should you need to engage. Mirrors and shoulder checks are your primary tools.

If the vehicle behind you is not stopping as you do, you have a second or two to scoot left or right, as the situation might dictate.

As far as looking left and right for lane changes and turns, remember the five-step mantra:

  1. Shoulder check
  2. Signal
  3. Shoulder check
  4. Turn
  5. CANCEL that darned signal

After you’ve mastered the 360 head bobbling thing, then you can live to ride.