Riding Tips: Are You All-Around Ready To Ride?

Being “ready to ride” includes mental, emotional, physical, and mechanical readiness, as well as crash readiness.

how to get ready to ride
Are you ready to ride?©Motorcyclist

“By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail,” Benjamin Franklin once famously said. Motorcycling is an endeavor that is not kind to those who neglect mental or physical preparation. How prepared you are can mean the difference between a minor hiccup—an incident minimized or avoided—and a major financial and medical setback.

Riding a motorcycle can be likened to first responders or soldiers who experience hours of calm that is shattered by a call for urgent action. These high-risk professionals are trained to respond correctly and precisely—tamping down or setting aside fear to focus on the task at hand. Without this ability, they would be in a heap of trouble. Unfortunately, average motorcycle riders often aren't ready to handle high-stress situations.

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If you compare motorcycle riding to any other activity that has the potential to cause you harm, you’d likely take the time to make sure you’re up to the task. However, since the likelihood of a nightmare situation is relatively remote, most people complacently thumb the starter and zoom away without any real forethought about what they might encounter.

Being ready to ride includes mental, emotional, and physical readiness, as well as crash readiness in case things don’t go as planned. You also need to make sure your bike is ready because jumping on a motorcycle that has not been well maintained is a bad idea.

Being mentally ready means you are alert with a clear head. If you are mentally prepared for bad things to happen, you are more likely to “see it coming” even before signs of trouble become obvious. Ready riders respond in a controlled manner to change the outcome of a developing situation before it gets really nasty. Unready riders react out of desperation.

An often-overlooked pre-ride procedure is a mental preview of your ride. Take a moment to think about the environment and the conditions you are likely to encounter. Will you be dealing with rush-hour traffic? Did it rain recently so the road is damp or dirty? Are you prepared for diminishing light? If you are about to join a group ride, ask yourself whether the other riders are likely to behave aggressively and whether you are ready to accept and handle that added risk.

Physical readiness means being awake, sober, and physically capable of handling the rigors of riding. You don’t have to be in top physical condition to ride a motorcycle, but you do need quick reactions and decent stamina. You must also have good coordination and strength so you can maneuver your machine effectively. Battle-ready riders have well-honed braking and cornering skills that they can deploy at a moment’s notice without a second thought. The best riders are able to respond with precision and control when the poo hits the electric air-moving device. Are you?

Even the most skilled and ready riders hit the pavement sometimes, which is why it makes sense to be “crash ready” by always wearing protective gear. Riding without full protection says that you’re either oblivious to the risks or are willing to suffer from the pain and expense of road rash, concussion, and myriad other maladies. Zipping on riding gear can be a pain, but remind yourself just how painful it would be to slide on pavement without protection. Any argument against wearing protection is seriously weakened by the availability of fairly priced gear in styles that appeal to all types of riders.

Before you dismiss this advice as overly cautious or alarmist, remember that a majority of crashes occur when important clues are missed because we aren’t actively looking for them. Check yourself to see if you’re up to the task before hitting the road. If you’re just not feeling it, choose a less risky route, decide to ride more conservatively, or forgo the ride altogether if you’re really off your game.