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Rally Like a Pro with These Safety Tips

Added September 17, 2020
Man sitting on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle

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.

1. Large Groups: Don’t Be a Lemming

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.

2. Roads Never Traveled

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:

  • Ride at a speed that you can quickly slow down or stop from.
  • Search aggressively within the visible sight distance.
  • Always position yourself to have an escape path.
  • Cover your brake and clutch controls to reduce your reaction time, especially when approaching an area with limited visibility or complexity, like an intersection or highway exchange.
  • Pay heightened attention to road signs.

3. Park Like a Pro: Beware the Tip-Over

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.

4. Riding in the Rain

Although it’s essential to stay hydrated, you need to keep dry when the water falls out of the sky. A good rain suit can help seal out the elements. Many Harley-Davidson® models offer enhanced visibility with bright colors and 3M™ Scotchlite™ Reflective Material stripes and graphics.

5. Arrive in Style

The Travel Care Kit has everything you need to make your bike shine.

  • Kit includes five 2-oz. refillable bottles of proven Harley-Davidson® cleaning products
  • Features Sunwash® Bike Soap, spray-on Bug Remover, fast-acting Wheel & Tire Cleaner, Glaze Poly Sealant, Gloss Detailer, and soft Microfiber Detailing Cloth
  • Fits easily in the compact reusable zip closure bag

6. Emergency Service

Express Lane™ Service (ELS) is an excellent tool for travelers because it enables riders to have their bikes serviced without an appointment. Typical ELS services include oil and tire changes, and various Genuine Motor Parts & Accessories upgrades.

The more than 300 H-D® dealerships that offer ELS can carry out work in an hour, and some can perform more comprehensive procedures, such as 1,000-mile services. Look for ELS dealers to minimize emergency repairs.

A version of this post appeared in HOG® magazine.

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