There’s nothing quite like cruising down an open road and being in complete control of your motorcycle. But being on a bike is as thrilling as it is dangerous, especially for new riders. Figures released by the Singapore Police Force show that motorcycle riders accounted for approximately 57 percent of all traffic accidents and 44 per cent of traffic-related deaths in the first half of 2018.
Simply put, motorcycle riding comes with a high risk of getting into an accident. Even if you’ve been driving for years, operating a bike safely requires a different set of skills, not to mention a higher level of awareness of your surroundings.
However, by taking extra steps to protect yourself and other motorists, you can mitigate the inherent risks of being on a bike. Consistent practice, respect for traffic laws, and awareness of the following bike safety rules can go a long way in keeping you safe out on the road.
1. Do a pre-ride walk-around of the bike
A good habit to develop in your first year as a motorcyclist is to do a quick walk-around of your bike before heading out on your first ride of the day. Check the horn, lights, and directional signals to see if they’re all working properly. You also want to check the belt, shaft or chain, brakes, and tyres for wear and pressure.
Pro tip: Keep your bike clean to make it easier to spot new issues such as worn parts, leaks, and damage. A clean bike also prevents rust from forming, particularly on the chain.
2. Buy the best motorcycle helmet you can afford
If you’ve managed to get through the notoriously difficult Traffic Police riding test system, then you know that wearing a motorcycle helmet is non-negotiable. But the question is, which helmet should you get?
Any helmet sold by a reputable retailer in Singapore will be affixed with a “TUV SUD PSB Test” label. This shows that the helmet conforms to Singapore Standards (SS9:2014). You don’t necessarily have to splurge on a $500 helmet (or more), but considering that it’s the only thing protecting your head from injury, it pays to go for the best quality full-face helmet you can afford.
Pro tip: A brightly coloured helmet may not match your all-black riding outfit, but it will make you easier to see in dimly-lit roads.
3. Ride according to your skills and experience
If you’re a new rider, take the time to get used to your motorcycle before going on that long weekend ride you’ve always dreamed of. You want to rack up a few hundred kilometres before going on longer journeys on unfamiliar roads. With enough skills and experience, you’ll soon be taking on hairpin turns with ease.
Pro tip: Target fixation is a common problem among new riders. When controlling a bike, most people will drive in the direction they’re looking at. So, if you want to head straight, look straight. Practice looking into the distance while still paying attention to your surroundings.
4. Avoid lane splitting in fast-moving traffic
Lane splitting, or riding a bike between roadway lines of vehicles heading in the same direction, is a controversial topic among motorcyclists and car drivers alike. Technically, Singapore law does not prohibit lane splitting, but it can still be a risky thing to do in traffic.
For new riders, avoid lane splitting if you aren’t completely confident with manoeuvring your bike in tight spaces. And even if you are, you should only do it when overtaking slow or stopped vehicles. This is especially true for Class 2B bikes, whose small mass makes them vulnerable to impact from larger vehicles.
Pro tip: Lane splitting, even in bumper-to-bumper traffic, can be nerve-wracking for novice riders. The key is to maintain a safe distance between you and the bike/car in front of you, which will depend on your speed. Be sure to follow the two-second rule to check your following distance.
5. Ride extra defensively
When it comes to riding a motorcycle, there’s no such thing as being overly cautious. If you already have experience driving a car, then you probably already know what defensive driving is. Now, take that mindset and dial it up a few notches when riding a bike.
On a bike, you want to pretend that everything and everyone can hit you. Most motorists and pedestrians are looking for cars on the road. Motorcycles? Not so much. And because of your smaller profile, it’s easier to be hidden in the blind spots of vehicles, especially vans and lorries.
Pro tip: Avoid fast lanes whenever you can, especially if you’re riding a smaller bike. If you need to overtake someone, enter and leave the fast lane safely and quickly, and assume your normal lane position.
6. Stay away from large vehicles
Many bikers take unnecessary risks with large vehicles on Singapore’s roads, thinking that their nimbler bikes can easily flit in and out of danger. But squeezing in between a narrow gap between two trucks can be the most dangerous thing you can do on the road, as it puts you in one or more of the drivers’ blind spots.
Pro tip: Just don’t do it. Most fatal motorcycle accidents involve some type of large vehicle.
When in doubt, don’t do anything risky
Always remember that an accident that would normally only damage a car could total a motorcycle and seriously injure or kill its rider. With no airbags, no seatbelt, and no hood or boot serving as crumple zones, the risk of injury and death from road impact is much higher. So, the goal is to avoid any type of accident, no matter how small, from happening in the first place.
While Singapore’s roads are some of the safest in the world, you can never tell when an accident will happen to you. Be sure to protect yourself from the cost of medical bills, legal fees, and motorcycle repairs with motorcycle insurance.