While motorcycle events serve up some of the best experiences available for motorcycle enthusiasts, they also come with their share of unique challenges.
Whether its several hundred or several hundred thousand, a group of motorcyclists arriving in a single town or region (especially one they’re unfamiliar with), and experiencing new roads, new laws, and unexpected situations heighten both the excitement and potential dangers of a major rally.
Having the right mindset, practicing a few skills and safe riding strategies, and being aware of the ground rules will maximize your safety and the amount of fun you’ll have at your next giant motorcycle rally.
Here are six safety tips and riding strategies specifically for rallies to keep you riding like a pro.
Whether it’s a planned excursion with friends, a massive organized parade, or the impromptu accumulation of unrelated riders that naturally occurs at big events, riding in large groups is a near certainty at most rallies. It’s going to happen. But don’t fret: Riding in and around large groups is one of the great experiences of a motorcycle rally, and following some basic advice easily minimizes the risks.
Most importantly, don’t get caught up in the excitement. No matter where you ride, always do it within your own comfort zone, ride your own speed, make your own decisions, don’t blindly follow the person in front of you, don’t assume the people around you know what they’re doing, and always stay calm. In short, just ride your own ride.
There are some special situations during a rally that can be extra challenging. If you want to avoid the traffic jams that occur when these events end (and thousands of people try to leave at the same time), try to time your departure to avoid the mad rush.
Such advice sounds simple and obvious, but the nature of groupthink has a peculiar way of turning individuals into lemmings. Take the road less traveled when you can.
While there is safety and virtue to taking the road less traveled, beware of the potential challenge of riding the roads never traveled, as in those roads and regions you’re experiencing for the first time.
While new places and new roads can be exciting, they can also be distracting and unpredictable.
If it’s your first trip to a particular rally, be prepared to take the long and slow way to get around. Chances are you’ll miss an exit at some point. When it happens, don’t force an erratic maneuver or attempt a U-turn. Instead, take your time, go to the next exit, and revise your route accordingly.
Here are a few additional common safe-riding strategies:
It may surprise you that one of the most common accidents at rallies is the slow-speed tip-over.
There are several reasons why tip-overs are common at rallies. Many popular destinations allow middle-of-the-street parking (in which motorcycles are parked herringbone-style in the middle of the road and along each side of the road) to maximize parking space. Add to the mix the commotion of so many riders and pedestrians, very slow speeds in such areas, and the added pressure of being watched by hundreds of peering eyes, and you have a recipe for tipping over.
The best way to avoid tipping over in parking situations is to practice riding slowly . Find a parking lot, preferably one with a crowned surface that replicates most roads, and begin by practicing slow riding.
This is a highly valuable skill, but it’s also worthwhile to practice the steps of actually parking, especially backing into a spot. Do this a half-dozen times before your trip, and you’ll be a pro when doing it on Main Street in front of a thousand riders.
It is also smart to park like you’re planning to leave in a hurry, with the rear wheel on the curbside and the front wheel pointing toward the middle of the road. Use gravity to assist backing into the spot and leave an open (usually uphill) path forward to pull out. Always park in a spot where the bike’s jiffy stand provides optimal balance and bring a puck/pad to place underneath the jiffy stand to help avoid tip-over due to soft asphalt.
While practice and smart strategies can minimize the chance of a tip-over, it may still happen. If it does, don’t panic.
People get so embarrassed when they tip over, but they shouldn’t. It happens to almost everyone at some point, and the worst thing you can do is to rush the situation. Instead, take a moment to evaluate yourself and your motorcycle. If you tweaked a knee, don’t make it worse by trying to wrestle your bike by yourself. Recruit help from a friend or a stranger.
Then make sure nothing is broken on the bike, such as control levers. Gather your wits and calmly return to whatever task you were performing that resulted in the tip-over.
And by all means, make sure you have your motorcycle insurance card with you and offer to assist a fellow rider who’s tipped over. It’s good biker karma.
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A version of this post appeared in HOG® magazine.