How to ride a motorcycle safely

12 minute read Published on Oct 28, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

How to ride a motorcycle safely

If you plan on buying a motorcycle, then it’s important to understand how to ride one safely. While there are many benefits of motorcycle riding, it can also be dangerous. Keep reading to discover a few tips on how to ride a motorcycle safely in Canada.

Tips for safe motorcycle riding

Stay safe while riding your motorcycle by following the tips below. From having the proper gear to buying motorcycle insurance that features collision coverage, the BrokerLink team has put together a list of advice for safe riding:

1. Ease into highway driving

Driving a motorcycle is a challenge when you’re first starting out. Don’t make it harder on yourself by rushing into highway driving. Start by nailing residential roads before conquering larger freeways at higher speeds. When you decide it’s time to try your luck on the highway, take your time and stay in the right lane. In addition, take advantage of the fact that you can easily turn around and assess the traffic around when merging, rather than having to rely on your side-view mirrors like other drivers. A huge advantage to riding a motorcycle on the highway is that your field of vision is much greater, which can actually make merging or changing lanes easier than in a car. That said, since you will be travelling at a much faster speed than you're likely used to, be patient, obey the speed limit, and test it out on a day or time when the highway is quieter.

2. Wear a helmet

Any motorcycle rider will tell you that wearing the right gear is crucial, and no piece of gear is as important as your helmet. There’s a reason helmets are mandatory for motorcycle drivers and passengers across Canada. When buying a helmet to wear while riding, we recommend choosing a full-face helmet. Although there are half face and three quarter helmets available, a full-face helmet will give you the most coverage, including coverage from all angles. Not only that but a full-face helmet can keep bugs, dirt, dust, and other debris off your face while driving.

3. Protect yourself from the wind

Many beginner riders forget the importance of wind coverage while riding. They might even underestimate the power of the wind. Even on a calm day, cruising down the highway at 100 kilometres per hour can result in wind so powerful that it affects your driving abilities and leaves you exhausted post-ride. That is what makes wind gear so important. It is recommended that riders wear a full-face helmet, as mentioned above, along with a protective riding jacket or vest, protective eyewear, and a windshield. If you plan to do long rides regularly, then we recommend installing a detachable windshield or protective fairing onto the front of your motorcycle, if it doesn’t already have this.

4. Scan the road while riding

Focusing on the road is of the utmost importance, but more specifically, it is recommended that all motorcycle riders scan the road while riding. The reality is that there are obstacles and hazards on nearly every road, which is what makes regularly scanning your surroundings so important. Whether you’re driving on a highway or a residential road, you should always keep your eyes peeled for other cars, pedestrians, litter, roadkill, wildlife, and more.

5. Ride with others

Riding with others is generally safer than riding on your own, whether you choose to have a passenger on the back of your motorcycle or ride with a group of friends. After all, there is safety in numbers and that includes when riding your motorcycle. Don’t believe us? Think of it this way, it’s much easier for one motorcycle to get lost in a crowd of cars, but it’s a lot harder for other drivers to miss an entire group of motorcycles. Thus, riding with others increases other drivers’ awareness of you on the road, reducing your odds of getting into an accident. Plus, driving with others is fun, especially when taking a road trip.

6. Give yourself ample space

Giving yourself space while on the road can significantly reduce your chances of getting into an accident. Why? It gives you more time to react to a situation, such as braking or swerving suddenly to avoid a collision. It also reduces the odds of getting into a collision in the first place, since you won’t be as close to other cars. As a motorcyclist, leaving ample space around you is extra important since you might be small enough that you’re in other drivers’ blind spots. Give yourself at least two car lengths’ worth of space, or two seconds of stopping time, when driving on residential roads. Add more car lengths onto this measurement when driving at higher speeds, such as on the highway.

7. Only drive when rested

Only driving when rested is a safety rule for any type of driver, whether you're driving a car or a motorcycle. However, motorcycle riders may find riding far more exhausting due to the physical requirements and increased exposure to the elements. Remember - the wind can really take it out of you. As such, it is especially important that motorcyclists avoid driving when tired. Pull over, take breaks as needed, stretch, or pull over if you need to get some rest.

8. Stay hydrated

Hydration is just as important as rest when it comes to motorcycle riding. As mentioned above, due to your increased exposure to elements, like the wind and sun, it’s easier for motorcycle riders to become hungry and dehydrated. Avoid these circumstances by snacking regularly and drinking water before, during, and after riding.

9. Make yourself big

Being seen and heard is critical while riding your motorcycle. In order to do this, you must demand attention, and there are several ways of doing this. For instance, you can wear bright, reflective clothing to ensure you are visible to other drivers. You can ensure that your headlights and signal lights are bright in the daytime and also after dark. This type of clothing is especially useful when riding at night. You can also install a loud set of pipes on your bike, so that even if another driver can’t see you, they will be able to hear you, and will be more aware of their surroundings as a result.

10. Invest in comfort

Riding a motorcycle can be downright uncomfortable - especially when you’re first starting out. That is why we strongly recommend investing in comfort, and this starts with the bike you’re riding. Some motorcycles, such as touring motorcycles, are known to be comfortable since they are meant for long road trips. These types of bikes come equipped with larger frames, floorboards, forward controls, saddle seats, and various handlebar options to suit different riders. The end result is being able to ride in a relaxed position as opposed to one that leaves you stiff and sore. So if you plan to spend many hours on your motorcycle, choose a touring option that has a reputation for comfortability.

11. Enrol in a motorcycle safety course in your province

If you want to learn safe driving tips from a professional, there is no place better than a motorcycle safety school. These types of programs may feature a mix of classroom and roadside riding lessons from a professional instructor. By taking this type of course, you can learn what to do if you are involved in an accident, as well as advice on how to avoid an accident in the first place. Thus, enrolling in a motorcycle safety course is strongly recommended for new riders. As an added bonus, if you can show proof to your insurance provider that you completed a motorcycle safety course in Ontario, you might be eligible for a motorcycle insurance discount.

12. Become familiar with the controls of your motorcycle

Learning the basic controls of your motorcycle before riding is extremely important and can even keep you safe while riding. Think of it this way. If you aren’t familiar with how to operate your motorcycle, it will take you longer to react, and this could be the difference between getting into a collision and narrowly avoiding a collision. Examples of controls that you should familiarize yourself with before riding include:

  • Hand clutch lever: This is usually found somewhere on the left handlebar and works to disengage the power from the back wheel when changing gears.
  • Throttle: This is often found on the right handlebar and used for accelerating.
  • Handbrake: The handbrake, which works to stop the front wheel, is usually operated by a lever located on the right handlebar.
  • Gear shifter: Most motorcycles have a gear shifter by the left foot. It is used to shift gears while pulling the hand clutch lever. Meanwhile, the lever near your right foot is for the rear brakes.

A general rule of thumb to remember when operating your motorcycle is that the left side of the bike controls gears and the right side controls acceleration and braking.

13. Inspect your motorcycle before riding

The next tip is to inspect your motorcycle before riding. Though this might sound tedious, it is important to make sure that everything is in working order before getting on your bike. This means checking the tire pressure, mirrors, lights, oil, and more. Visually inspect the following aspects of your bike before leaving home:

  • Tires: Inspect the tire tread to make sure that tread depth isn’t too worn, as this can have a major impact on your tire’s capabilities. You should also check the tire pressure and look for signs of tire wear.
  • Batteries: Test the voltage and run a charge/discharge load test.
  • Brakes: Check the brake fluid levels and visually inspect the drum, brake pads, and rotors for signs of wear and tear.
  • Lights: Test that all headlights, brake lights, hazard lights, and turn signals are functioning as they should be.
  • Engine: Look at the engine for leaks or signs of damage.
  • Fluids: Check that all oil levels, coolant levels, and washer fluid levels are what they should be.
  • Exhaust system: Examine the exhaust manifold, catalytic converter, tailpipes, and muffler for damage, cracks, or leaks.

14. Maintain your bike regularly

Beyond a daily motorcycle inspection, take care to schedule professional maintenance once a year. Having your bike serviced by a professional can make you aware of any potential issues or repairs before they turn into major issues. This allows you to catch them early. Just make sure that if the mechanic discovers an issue, you pay to have it fixed as soon as possible. While an oil change, suspension adjustments, or brake pad replacement might not seem like a big deal, leaving these repairs for too long can lead to much larger problems. Lastly, routine maintenance can also increase the lifespan of your bike, saving you money down the line.

15. Check the weather forecast before leaving home

Anytime you’re riding your motorcycle, it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast before leaving home. Since you are more exposed on a motorbike than you are on a car, a change in the weather can have a big impact on not only your comfort but also your safety. For example, if a sunny day turns into a severe thunderstorm, you could end up driving in heavy rain and lightning. Avoid this scenario by checking the forecast and delaying your trip or taking an alternate mode of transportation if the forecast shows inclement weather.

16. Drive the speed limit

Driving the speed limit is crucial at all times when on your motorbike. Never exceed the speed limit and make a habit of driving below it in areas with lots of pedestrians or construction. It’s also smart to take your time when driving at night or on slick roads.

17. Purchase the right motorcycle insurance coverage

One final motorcycle safety tip is making sure to purchase the right motorcycle insurance coverage. Like Toronto car insurance, motorcycle insurance is designed to protect riders from the risks of the road. Certain types of coverage, like third party liability coverage and accident benefits coverage, are mandatory for all motorcycle riders in Canada. Speak with a BrokerLink insurance advisor to find out where you can get the best policy at the lowest price. A BrokerLink insurance specialist can also answer questions like: Is year round motorcycle insurance necessary, and help with tasks like renewing car insurance and motorcycle insurance.

For more tips on safe motorcycle riding in Ontario, contact BrokerLink or check out this article on group motorcycle safety and BrokerLink’s official motorcycle riding safety guide.

The importance of motorcycle insurance coverage

As mentioned above, one of the best ways you can protect yourself on the road is with motorcycle insurance. We break down some of the most common coverage types below:

Third party liability coverage

Liability insurance protects motorcyclists if they cause an accident on the road. Whether the accident results in damage to another vehicle or bodily injury, liability insurance can help pay for the costs. Specifically, liability insurance can cover costs like legal fees, medical expenses, vehicle repair bills, etc. Most provinces stipulate that all motorists must carry a minimum amount of third party liability coverage. For example, the minimum amount is $200,000 in Ontario and Alberta.

Accident benefits coverage

Accident benefits coverage is another type of mandatory coverage. This means that all motorcycle riders must add this coverage to their policies. It protects you if you get into a collision and someone involved suffers bodily harm. Whether you get a concussion or another driver breaks their wrist, accident benefits coverage can help pay for the medical expenses not covered by provincial health care. For instance, accident benefits may reimburse policyholders for the cost of physical therapy, prescription medication, rehabilitation, lost income relating to the injury, or funeral fees in the event of someone’s death.

Direct compensation - property damage coverage

Direct compensation - property damage coverage can help pay to have your motorcycle repaired if it is damaged in a collision. The only catch is that you can’t have been responsible for the collision.

Uninsured automobile coverage

Uninsured automobile coverage, also known as uninsured motorist coverage, will pay for the costs associated with an accident if you get into a collision with a driver that is uninsured or underinsured. It can also reimburse policyholders for the cost of damage sustained in a hit and run accident where the other driver’s identity is unknown.

Collision coverage

Collision coverage is a type of optional coverage that motorcycle riders may choose to add to their policies. It is usually recommended if you lease your motorcycle or if your motorcycle is of particularly high value. This type of coverage can pay for the cost of motorcycle repairs if your bike suffers extensive damage after colliding with another vehicle, grounded object, or animal on the road.

Comprehensive coverage

Comprehensive coverage is also optional but can be worthwhile for the peace of mind it offers motorists. It is the only type of insurance on this list that protects bikes from damage while parked. For example, if your bike is stolen from your driveway in the middle of the night or a fire breaks out in your garage and damages it, you can file a claim under the comprehensive coverage portion of your policy and receive a payout to cover the cost of replacing or repairing it. The only catch is that the damage must have been caused by a peril that is named in your policy, with some of the most common perils being fire, wind, water, theft, vandalism, and falling objects.

Accident forgiveness coverage

Accident forgiveness coverage is another type of motorcycle insurance that many riders choose to include in their policies. Accident forgiveness is additional coverage that can be added to your motorcycle insurance policy as an endorsement, to protect your driving record and to help prevent your insurance premium from increasing if you have an at-fault accident claim. Note: coverage and eligibility varies by province.

Reach out to BrokerLink to learn more about motorcycle safety

Find out more about how to ride your motorcycle safely by contacting BrokerLink. We are a full-service auto insurance brokerage with a team of specialists ready to help you. We can give you tips on how to ride your motorcycle safely, as well as help you purchase a policy that meets your needs. Our insurance advisors know the ins and outs of motorcycle insurance, which means we will make sure that your coverage complies with local laws while also not breaking the bank.

Learn more about BrokerLink’s unparalleled motorcycle insurance services by getting in touch today. Please note that BrokerLink offers free quotes to all prospective customers. Simply give us a call, send us an email, visit us in person, or log onto our website and use our online quote tool today. No matter how you prefer to get in touch, you will receive an accurate and reliable motorcycle insurance quote in minutes.