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How to Safely Ride a Motorcycle


Improper use of a motorcycle can result in serious injury or death to you, your passenger and others. To minimize the risk of injury, read and understand the information provided here and in the safety section of your Owner's Manual before operating the motorcycle. Anyone riding a motorcycle (operators and passengers) must follow these safety precautions.


Protective Apparel

  • Always wear a helmet that meets or exceeds established safety standards. Approved helmets in the U.S. and Canada bear a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) label. Approved helmets in Europe, Asia and Oceania bear the ECE 22.05 label. The ECE mark consists of a circle surrounding the letter E, followed by the distinguishing number of the country which has granted approval. The approval number and serial number also will be displayed on the label. Laws in some areas require that you wear an approved helmet. Head injuries are the leading cause of fatalities in accidents involving motorcycles. Statistics prove that an approved helmet is the most effective protection in preventing or reducing head injuries.
  • Wear eye protection to protect eyes from wind or airborne particles and objects. Laws in some areas require that you wear eye protection. It is recommended that you wear approved Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) bearing markings such as VESC 8, V-8, Z87.1 or CE. Make sure protective eyewear is kept clean.
  • All riders should wear bright or light-colored and/or reflective clothing to improve visibility to other motorists. A motorist's failure to see or recognize a motorcycle is the leading cause of automobile-motorcycle accidents.
  • Wear gloves, a jacket, heavy boots and long pants to prevent or reduce injury from abrasions, lacerations or burns should the motorcycle fall. Wear boots with low heels, as high heels can catch on pedals or footrests. The combination of boots and pants should completely cover legs, ankles and feet, protecting skin from engine and exhaust system heat.
  • Do not wear loose, flowing clothing or long boot laces. They can catch on handlebars, levers or footrests, or they can become entangled in the wheels, causing loss of control and serious injury.


Motorcycling Has Inherent Risks

  • You can minimize those risks, but you can't eliminate them completely. Even if you're an experienced motorcycle operator or passenger, read all safety information in your Owner's Manual before operating the motorcycle.
  • Take a rider education course from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation or another qualified instructor. The course will help you develop or refresh your expertise in safe riding habits through instruction and riding. For information on courses in your area, call 1-800-446-9227 or visit
  • Observe all maintenance requirements specified in your Owner’s Manual.


Design Characteristics Affect How You Should Ride the Motorcycle

  • The motorcycle is designed for on-road use with one rider (and one passenger if the motorcycle is equipped with a passenger seat). Never exceed the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or the GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating). Refer to the Specifications section of your Owner’s Manual or the Manufacturing Information/Vehicle Identification Number label on the motorcycle frame for model-specific information. 
  • Riding off-road, riding with more than one passenger, or carrying weight exceeding the maximum weight rating can make handling difficult, which could cause loss of control. 
  • During the first 500 miles (800 km) of operation, follow all break-in procedures as outlined in your Owner’s Manual. Failure to do so can result in serious engine damage.
  • If your motorcycle is equipped with saddlebags, a windshield or a passenger backrest, be prepared to reduce operating speed to maintain stability.


Follow These General Safe Riding Practices

  • Before each ride, perform the Pre-Ride Inspections. Failure to do so may result in an accident or damage to the motorcycle. 
  • Until you're thoroughly familiar with the motorcycle and all its controls, practice riding where there is little or no traffic. Practice riding at a moderate speed on various road surfaces and in different weather conditions.
  • Know and ride within your skills and limits.
  • Allow only licensed, experienced operators to ride your motorcycle, and only after they have become familiar with its controls and operation. Make sure all riders read and understand your Owner's Manual before riding.
  • Do not ride when you're fatigued, ill or under the influence of alcohol, prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs or any other drugs. Fatigue, illness, alcohol and drugs can cause drowsiness, loss of coordination and loss of balance. They can also affect your awareness and judgement.
  • If your motorcycle operates abnormally, correct the problem immediately. Find a participating RideReady service dealer near you to schedule maintenance.
  • Ride defensively, as if you are invisible to other motorists, even in broad daylight. A motorist's failure to see or recognize a motorcycle is the leading cause of automobile-motorcycle accidents. Ride where you're clearly visible to other motorists and observe their behavior carefully. 
  • Be especially cautious at intersections, as these are the most likely places for an accident.
  • To prevent loss of control, keep your hands on the handlebars and your feet on the footrests.
  • Be aware that a highway bar is not designed to protect the rider from injury in a collision.
  • Obey the speed limit and adjust your speed and riding technique based on road, weather and traffic conditions. As you travel faster, the influence of all other conditions increases, which can affect the motorcycle's stability and increase the possibility of losing control.
  • Do not move or operate the motorcycle with the steering locked (if equipped), as the severely restricted steering could result in loss of control.


Reduce Speed When:

  • The road has potholes or is otherwise rough or uneven.
  • The road contains sand, dirt, gravel or other loose substances.
  • The road is wet, icy or oily.
  • The road contains painted surfaces, manhole covers, metal grating, railway crossings or other slippery surfaces.
  • The weather is windy, rainy or otherwise causing slippery or rapidly changing conditions.
  • Traffic is heavy, congested, not allowing enough space between vehicles or otherwise not flowing smoothly.
  • You are being passed in either direction by a large vehicle that may produce a wind blast in its wake.


Other Precautions

  • When approaching a curve, choose a speed and lean angle that allow you to pass through the curve in your own lane without applying the brakes. Excessive speed, improper lean angle or braking in a curve can cause loss of control. Ground clearance is reduced when the motorcycle leans. Do not allow components to contact the road surface when leaning the motorcycle in a curve, as this could cause loss of control. 
  • Do not tow a trailer. Towing a trailer can make the motorcycle hard to handle. 
  • Retract the side stand fully before riding. If the side stand is not fully retracted, it could contact the road surface and cause loss of control.


Braking Facts and Practices

  • The rear brake provides 40 percent of the motorcycle's stopping power at most. Use the front and rear brakes together.
  • To avoid skidding, apply the brakes gradually when the road is wet or rough or contains other slippery or loose substances. 
  • If possible, avoid applying the brakes while making a turn. Motorcycle tires have less traction during turns, so braking will increase the possibility of skidding. Bring the motorcycle to the upright position before applying the brakes.
  • With new pads and rotors, allow up to 250 miles (500 km) of operation in urban driving conditions (not highway cruising) to allow pads to mate with new rotors. Brakes should be used frequently. During this time, brake performance will be less effective. Avoid using brakes harshly unless in an emergency. Brake efficiency will gradually increase during this seating period. 


Note: The information provided is a general guideline. For specific safety warnings and procedures for your motorcycle, refer to your Owner’s Manual. Indian motorcycle owners can access their Owner’s Manual by logging in to their RideReady account.


To find a dealer near you or learn more about RideReady services, visit the RideReady website.