Before you get on your bike, carry out the POWER check.
Get into the habit of doing these simple checks every time you plan to ride to make sure the bike is in top condition:
Have you got enough fuel for your ride?
Check the engine oil levels as well as brake, coolant and clutch fluid levels and make sure there are no leaks.
Make sure the water reservoir is at the correct level and there are no leaks.
Are all the lights working properly? Look at the headlights, brake lights and indicators. Make sure the horn works and that instrument warning lights come on and go off.
Check your tyre pressures and tread depth. Look for wear, cuts and stones or other foreign bodies embedded in the tread. If you don't use your bike every day, or you're getting it out of hibernation after the winter months, make sure you give it a thorough checking over.
Familiarisation of controls and handling
Loading your bike, going to the shops or off on holiday? Check your bike's manual if you are planning to carry a load and don't exceed the capacity. Always spread the weight of the load evenly and make sure it doesn't interfere with your control of the bike. Tank bags and pannier luggage should be fastened securely and not moving about.
You might have mastered the art of riding a motorcycle but carrying passengers is a completely different skill. Neither the standard nor advanced tests go into too much detail on pillion passengers so it's not surprising that many motorcyclists are afraid of taking another person on their bike.
Before carrying a passenger, there are a few points to consider:
Designed for Passengers
Adequate seating space and footrests
Your bike will handle differently when carrying a pillion passenger and you may have to adjust your riding to compensate for the extra load
Suspension, headlight(s) and tyre pressure may need adjustment to allow for the additional weight (check the manufacturer's manual)
Provisional Motorcycle Licence
If you only have a provisional motorcycle licence, you can't carry a pillion passenger
There is currently no minimum legal age for a pillion passenger, make sure they have parental consent, wear the correct protective clothing and that they are able to reach the footrests
- Make sure your passenger is wearing adequate protective clothing including a properly fitting safety helmet
- You are responsible for the safety of your passenger so don't try and scare them
- Tell your passenger what's going to happen before you set off to reassure them
- Make sure you have a clear view in your mirrors
- Relax and go with the bike - don't try and sit upright in a bend
- Hold on at all times - either use the grabrail or hold the rider at the waist and grip with your knees when the bike is braking
- Keep your feet on the footrest at all times, even when the bike comes to a stop at junctions, traffic lights etc
- Sit still and, most importantly, don't scream - agree a signal that you want to slow down or stop with the rider before you set off (such as a shoulder tap)
A group motorcycle run is an ideal opportunity to enjoy the open road with people on the same wavelength as you.
If you're a new or inexperienced rider, you can get more practice and improve your riding by learning from the more competent motorcyclists in the group. As an experienced motorcyclist with years of riding under your belt, riding in a group offers great camaraderie and the chance to discover new roads and routes.
While a group run can be a lot of fun, there are a few tips worth remembering before you set off to keep everyone safe:
Plan the ride
Whether it's a short run for three or four bikers or a day's outing for a larger group, make sure everyone knows where they are going and where you plan to make stops. Sort out meeting points so that no-one feels under pressure to keep up or takes risks if they get separated from the group. You may want to give everyone a copy of the route (list of roads and/or a map together with any known hazards or difficult spots), meeting points and mobile phone numbers so they can make contact (safely) with the group if they get lost. Try and have someone with first aid training on the ride.
Follow the leader
Choose one of the more experienced riders to lead so they can set the pace depending on the experience and stamina of the group and their bikes. Nominate a 'sweeper' to ride at the back to keep an eye out for breakdowns or stragglers and to call for help if there's an accident. Both should be familiar with the route and, if possible, have some form of communication such as a bike radio. You should always ride within the limits of the less experienced riders so position them behind the leader. Make sure everyone knows the hand signals you plan to use.
Before you set off, pair up with another rider to carry out basic checks on your kit and bike. Make sure that you both have plenty of petrol in the tank - tragically, motorcyclists have died in accidents trying to catch up with the group after stopping off for fuel.
Rules of the road
Always ride to the bike behind, not the one in front. Keep the bike behind you in your mirrors at all times. Don't overtake without prior planning and remember the two second rule to keep your distance from the bike in front.
Driving within the limits
Drive to the conditions of the road. If someone is riding too fast for the conditions, don't feel pressurised to keep up. Don't ride any faster than you are comfortable with and go at your own pace.
It may be tempting to scrimp and save on the clothing after spending lots of cash on your bike but what you wear when out riding is your only protection against injury should the unfortunate happen.
Wearing the correct clothing also helps defend against the elements and any insects or debris you come into contact with.
When buying clothing, think about:
Make sure it fits and is comfortable to wear and doesn't restrict movement
Help other road users see you so consider fluorescent clothing in the day and reflective material at night
Protect yourself properly against the cold and the wet so you don't lose concentration when riding
Always wear the following when out on your bike:
You have to wear an approved safety helmet by law when riding a bike on the road. Make sure it complies with the relevant safety standards and never buy a second hand helmet. Always replace it if there's any damage. Choose a helmet that fits properly and is comfortable. When riding, use the fastener so that the helmet stays on.
You'll need them to protect your eyes from dust, wind and debris. Again, they must meet the required safety standards. Don't wear scratched, dirty or damaged visors, goggles or glasses and never wear tinted ones at night or when there's poor visibility.
Long trousers and jacket. Shop around for the right material for your needs (leather or synthetic, warm or cold weather conditions). Look for the Safety Standard mark as it's a guarantee that the clothing offers an appropriate level of safety.
Trainers won't protect your feet and the laces could become tangled in the pedals. Look for boots that protect your ankles and provide maximum grip.
Don't be tempted to ride without gloves. They protect against abrasion and help you maintain control of the bike. Don't compromise on safety because of cost. Shop around and get advice from the experts.