Road Safety

Safe operation of your motorcycle

Starting and stopping are commonly where beginner motorcycle operators lose control.

Starting

  • A controlled start requires smooth coordination of the clutch and throttle.
  • You must be able to start, upshift and downshift without jerking the motorcycle or lugging the engine.
  • When downshifting, pull in the clutch and slightly increase the engine speed.
  • If the engine speed does not match the speed of the motorcycle, the rear wheel may skid when the clutch is released.

Starting on hills

  • Use the front brake to hold the motorcycle from rolling back.
  • Start the engine and shift into first gear.
  • Change to the foot brake and release the front brake to allow operation of the throttle.
  • Gradually release the clutch and foot brake to start off smoothly and to prevent stalling the engine.

Stopping

  • A controlled stop in wet or dry conditions requires that both front and rear brakes be applied at the same time without locking them.
  • The front brake provides 70 per cent of the braking force and is the strongest brake on the motorcycle. Squeeze the front brake lever gradually and evenly.
  • A locked rear brake can usually be controlled; a locked front brake rarely can.
  • Downshifting can also greatly increase the stopping force of a motorcycle.
  • Always downshift when slowing down or when preparing to stop.
  • Downshifting keeps the motorcycle in a gear that allows you to accelerate quickly if necessary.

Lane position

  • Ride in a position where you can see other traffic and where they can see you.
  • Occupy your lane in a position that discourages drivers from moving alongside you.
  • Stay near the centre of your lane, without riding on the centre strip between the two tire tracks, which may be slippery from oil leaked from vehicles.
  • Never ride in other motorists’ blind spots.
  • Scan ahead for road hazards.
  • Keep to the right side of your lane when approaching the crest of a hill or riding around corners.
  • When riding on a multi-lane roadway, ride in the dominant position (the track that is closest to the line separating the lanes traveling in the same direction). This gives you an area you can manoeuvre into, should you be forced out of the tire track that you are riding in. It also reduces the chance of another motorist boxing you in and reducing the space you have to manoeuvre.

Following

  • Ride where the motorist ahead can see you in the rear view mirror.
  • Use a four-second following distance when following another vehicle under ideal driving conditions.

Passing

  • Always signal well in advance, even if moving from tire track to tire track.
  • When passing parked cars on a street with marked lanes, ride in the left track of the passing lane and reduce your speed.
  • When passing parked cars on residential streets, ride a reasonable distance (approx. 1.3 – 1.8 m) from the cars.
  • If a vehicle is overtaking or passing you, keep in the left tire track. If you move to the right, you will encourage motorists to share your lane.
  • When meeting oncoming traffic, especially large vehicles, be prepared to move to the right of your lane to avoid air turbulence.

Lane changing, turning and cornering

  • Signal and shoulder check before changing from one traffic lane to another. When changing from one tire track to the next within the same lane, you must shoulder check and signal prior to moving.
  • For a right turn, turn from the tire track of the right lane onto either tire track of the right lane of the other road.
  • For a left turn, turn from the left tire track of the left lane, and turn left of the centre of the intersection, onto either track of the left lane.
  • Slow turns require good control and balance. Lower your right wrist so you do not unintentionally take too much throttle. Keep both feet on the foot pegs for balance and control and your right foot poised over the rear brake pedal.
  • When cornering at speeds faster than 20 km/h, you must lean on your motorcycle to turn or corner since centrifugal force created by the turn pushes your motorcycle outward. To counter this force, you must rely on the gravitational force created by leaning inward in the direction of the turn. Counter-steering is the most effective way to produce the inward lean required in cornering on a motorcycle. To counter-steer, you must push on the handlebar with the hand nearest to the direction you wish to turn:
  • to turn right, push on the right handlebar; or
  • to turn left, push on the left handlebar
  • As the motorcycle begins to lean, you will turn the handlebars in the direction of the lean. This will happen automatically as you lean into the turn with the motorcycle.
  • Counter-steer on all turns over 20 km/h. If you increase your speed when cornering, increase the angle of the lean.
  • When turning at speeds over 20 km/h:
  • Keep your head up and look forward to where you want to go.
  • Always slow down by braking and/or downshifting before entering the turn.
  • Lean in the direction of the turn.
  • Keep the throttle position constant.
  • Accelerate slightly coming out of the turn to straighten up.
  • Since your motorcycle has less tire surface on the road and less friction between the road and each tire, when leaning into a turn:
  • Avoid shifting gears or braking; an increase or decrease in speed will reduce your control.
  • Watch for debris, sand, potholes, bumps, manhole covers and pavement cracks.
  • Reduce your speed when the road surface is wet or has debris on it.

Intersections

Most collisions occur at intersections with vehicles making left turns or entering from side streets. To avoid a collision at an intersection:

  • Look ahead, behind, left and right to assess an intersection for potential dangers.
  • Ride in a position where you can be seen.
  • Give yourself room to manoeuver – never ride in a position where there is no way out.
  • Be prepared to stop.
  • Always move into position well ahead of the intersection so that other road users know you are not going to turn.
  • If an oncoming driver wants to turn left, slow down and be ready to move to the left or right of your lane, whichever will give you more room.
  • If a car is about to enter from the right side of the intersection, move to the left of your lane and be prepared to stop.
  • If traffic is entering the intersection from both sides, stay in the left tire track in your lane to even out the space on either side, and be prepared to stop.

In traffic

  • Never cut between lanes of traffic o pass vehicles that are moving slower or have stopped. There is no room to manoeuvre and no way out should a door open in front of you or a vehicle change positions within the lane.
  • Don’t cut in between lanes of traffic.

Group riding

  • Avoid riding in large groups. Divide groups of more than four into at least two groups.
  • Plan your route in advance to avoid confusion.
  • Slower or inexperienced riders should lead.
  • Never ride directly beside another rider – it limits your room to manoeuvre as well as your reaction time.
  • Ride in a staggered formation, following the four-second rule. At highway speeds increase the count to five, and in bad conditions, make it at least six.

Parking

  • When parking near a curb, position your motorcycle at a 45-degree angle. It will be more visible to motorists looking for a place to park.

If you would like to register for a motorcycle rider training program, you can do so at the Safety Services Manitoba office, located at 3-1680 Notre Dame Ave. in Winnipeg. More information is available on their website or by calling 204-949-1085 (ext. 813). Safety Services Manitoba also offers refresher courses for more experienced riders.