This article was originally published in MotoStories. It has been reproduced with the author's permission.
I have been riding motorcycles for 6 years now. I do not count the riding experience of anything before that because I didn’t have a driving license then. Roughly more than 90,000 kilometers done with the two motorcycles I have owned in past. Each kilometer ridden adds to your experience towards becoming a better rider. However riding in India is not a cakewalk for riders. Bad roads? Well not really but the bigger threat to riders is all the elements around which if neglected could make the ride unsafe. In this article I am just trying to help you all on how to ride a motorcycle safely in India.
I do not consider myself as an expert rider and this is just what I have learnt over last few years of riding. If you consciously follow these points while riding I hope it can help you avoid some accidents on road.
Most of us neglect the need of riding gear. To be honest, it is the most important way to help you stay safe on the road. If you are a sensible rider and not a maniac, you can easily assume that most of the accidents happen on the road. In case of a fall or a similar incident, riding gear is the only thing which can save your head and body or at least reduce the extent of the damage/injury.
A complete set of riding gear may consist of – a good quality DOT certified (preferably full face) helmet, riding gloves with knuckle protection, a riding jacket with in built armor to protect shoulder, elbows and back, riding pants with thigh protection and in built knee guards, riding shoes which are at least ankle length.
Now you can buy all this stuff starting from few thousands rupees to lakhs of rupees depending on the quality of the gear you wish to purchase. It is always advisable to invest in good quality riding gear (especially helmet) because they work the best in protecting you in case of a fall or an accident.
You might argue that how can I ride every day and all the time in full riding gear. Well honestly with Indian weather conditions, you can’t. However it is advisable to wear minimal riding gear all the time while riding- full face helmet, gloves, and ankle length boots.
Avoid road rage:
I used to ride 50 kilometers every day to and from work and believe me I have seen traffic and people on road at their worst and least sensible behavior. It’s like people leave their brains in fridge at home before they come out to drive/ride. Such traffic idiots who do not know how to cross the road, idiots who change driving lanes suddenly and without indicating etc. might become the cause of an accident! These idiots get on your nerves and you wish you could just kill them right away. However I have learnt that it is best to not to argue with such idiots and keep riding away with a calm mind. #OmShanti
You will also meet some maniacs on road every day who will try to race with you. Even if you ignore them completely they will not stop teasing you by riding madly around you trying to prove I don’t know what. When I was returning from my Ride to Kolli Hills I met such an idiot on road. The problem with such idiots is that they think just because you are in full riding gear and riding a decent machine, you are trying to race with them. He kept riding along me in a mad way as if he was a circus artist. He even provoked me to race and kept following me till my home! LOL! I did not utter a single word and kept riding at my own speed as if he didn’t exist. Such jobless assholes!
AVOID SUCH IDIOTS AND LET THEM GO.
Look for unexpected elements:
While riding in city or on highways you must always be alert. Unexpected elements such as a dog or a cow might appear out of nowhere on the road making you panic brake. Panic braking might lead to skidding if your tyres are worn out and this might lead to a fall if you fail to control your bike. While cruising on the highways always maintain a speed comfortable enough for you to handle the bike even if you have to brake hard at times.
Other unexpected elements could people turning up on road out of the bushes, and again..out of nowhere. Cars and bikes changing lanes suddenly could also disturb your riding and giving you a jolt. Then another important area where you have to be extra careful are the junctions on the highways and the streets joining in the highways. You will see cars entering the highway from these streets with the largest turning radius possible without paying heed to the incoming traffic from behind. They end up taking up your line of riding in the road making you apply brakes hard. Again, no fault of yours but your safety was at risk. Always slow down at the junction and such streets joining the highways.
Believe it or not one of the biggest irritating and even a safety risk factor are the people turning left/right without indicating. Same for changing lanes. They never use rear/side view mirrors or the turn indicators on their vehicle.
Sometimes on the road you have to rely on your intuition, to predict the traffic around you. Such as the bus moving in front of you, will it turn left or go straight? If you knew this you would plan your lane change and vary speed accordingly. But the bus driver hardly cares to indicate. Look at the bus number, see the route where it is going. If you ride on the same road every day you should be aware of such things by now. This way you can guess whether the bus will turn or go straight.
People on road on two-wheelers tend to look to their sides whether someone is coming from behind, instead of looking in their rear view mirrors. When this happens I always slow down because this means that guy is going to change lanes!
Some other points:
Slow down at speed breakers, they are there for a reason.
Ride with your headlights on. Even if its day time switching on your headlight increases your visibility on the road for the people in front of you whether they are driving in same or opposite direction. A headlight on is more visible in the rear view mirrors of the cars and hence they are aware of your presence on the road. However during night time riding with high beams could blind the other guys coming on two-wheelers from the opposite and hence a risk to yourself. Nobody likes to be blinded by the stupid high beams.
Do not mess with the truck drivers on the highways. One small turn of their steering could prove fatal for you. Whenever overtaking these trucks always honk enough to show them your presence.
Always keep your bike in fully functional condition. Get the brake pads checked. Pay attention to the life of tyres and know when it’s time to change them. If possible, invest in a bike which comes with ABS (Anti-Lock Braking System). I ride a bike with ABS and believe me it’s a life saver. ABS is a safety feature in a motorcycle prevents wheel locking when brakes are applied hard and all of a sudden. Anyone riding a bike with ABS will agree with me on this! Always apply both the brakes. Applying both the brakes reduces the braking distance considerably.
And last, but not the least, respect the traffic rules.
Well this is all I have on riding a bike safely in India. If you think I missed out on an important factor please let me know in the comments!
Keep riding. Ride safe.