Idiotic mistakes motorcycle owners should avoid

Riding a motorcycle is one of life's great pleasures that most people never get to experience. But that pleasure comes at a price. Because unlike driving in a safe, four-wheeled steel box, riding a bike means you're exposed. Exposed to the rush of the wind, the joy of the open road, and that thrill as you twist the throttle and lean into your favorite corners. Unfortunately you're also exposed to rain on an oily road, distracted car drivers, and (worst of all) your own stupidity. Because it doesn't matter if you've been riding for a week or ten years, all it takes is one mistake to ruin your day. And there's no steel frame, seatbelt, or airbag between you and the consequences. So next time the sun comes out and you're pulling the cover off you two wheeled pride and joy, try to avoid making these dumb moves.

Buying too much bike

It doesn't matter if you've just bought your first bike, or if you've been riding for 40 years. Knowing your limits is important. And no matter how tempting it is to call a guy on Craigslist and drop some cash on a 1200cc monster, if you don't have the experience to ride it safely, you're going to get into trouble. But it takes an honest person to admit when they are out of their depth, and when you throw ego and peer pressure into the mix it gets even harder. But choosing the right bike for your ability will not only keep you safe, it will keep you happy. Because hanging on for dear life while pretending you're loving it is actually no fun at all. And even if it doesn't kill you, it will kill your enthusiasm for two wheels.

Not wearing leathers

We've all seen that guy, the one who rides his 1000cc sportsbike in a t-shirt, shorts, and sneakers. And when you're waiting at a red light on a hot summer day with the sun beating down on your leather-clad back, it might even seem like a good idea. Except it isn't, because that guy's an idiot. Riding a bike without leathers is like playing the lottery, except the odds of winning are much higher, and the prize is a 70 mile per hour slide down the road on your back wearing just a t-shirt, shorts, and a pair of sneakers. At least he won't be a sweaty mess when that hot nurse is pulling gravel out of his backside.

Not wearing a helmet

Wolverine never wears a helmet when he rides his motorcycle, and there are two reasons for that: first, he has a mutant ability to survive and recover from injuries, and second, he isn't real—neither of which apply to you. But wearing a helmet is a personal choice, and no one should be able to make you wear one. Not the government, not your neighbors, not your loved ones who will sit by your bed when you're in a coma, not your health insurance company who won't cover all the costs of your avoidable head injury leaving your aforementioned loved ones with a huge bill…no one! Because it's about freedom, and your constitutional right to make your own choices. But remember, those choices don't have to be bad ones.

Overconfidence

You're the king of the road and you know these corners like the back of your hand, the sun is shining and the motorcycle gods are smiling on you. It's the perfect time to turn things up a notch and finally nail that apex—and it would be perfect, if that car hadn't broken down just out of sight…or the farmer hadn't spread mud all over the road…or that water main hadn't burst and created a river right where you turn in. On a warm summer day, the temptation to ride that little bit faster and really feel the turns is felt by everyone on two wheels, motorized or not. But the world isn't built with your riding pleasure in mind, and it's all too easy to assume everything is fine and safe. Until it isn't. If you really want to wring your throttle, hit the redline, and lean all the way over, then book yourself onto a track day where there's no oncoming traffic, no Sunday drivers, and no cop with a speed gun. Just you, your bike, a few like-minded individuals, and an ambulance.

Not driving predictably

If only every day on the road were a warm summer afternoon on the weekend, the conditions are good, traffic is light, and other drivers are mostly paying attention. But it's not. In reality, most of the time you're on the road, it's rush hour, people are tired and trying to get home or to work, and the road is covered in water, snow, oil, or all three. And while it is tempting to shave a few minutes off your ride by sliding between those two cars in front, you might want to think twice. When drivers are tired or distracted, they see what they're expecting to see. And most of the time, that isn't a bike between them and the next guy over, or undertaking them just as they decide to take a shortcut down a side street. In order to stay safe, don't assume the tired guy in the minivan who's on the phone to his wife and struggling to see through the dirty windshield on an overcast day while his kids scream in the back is going to go the extra mile to see you. So make it easy for him. When conditions are less than ideal (and that includes inside the heads of everyone around you), think like a car and be where they would be. And you might just get to be there again tomorrow.

Drinking

It's probably not much of a leap to say that for any given mistake made while driving, the consequences for a motorcyclist will be considerably greater than for a car driver. A moment of distraction or misjudgement in a car might result in a dented fender and a deployed airbag, but the same poor judgment on a bike could land you in hospital. So it stands to reason that a stupid decision made by a car driver is much much stupider when made by a biker. And that counts double for drinking. Riding a motorcycle safely requires much greater situational awareness than driving a car, because car drivers pay so little attention and a biker is so vulnerable. So anyone who downs a few pints before jumping on two wheels deserves everything they get…which hopefully is nothing more than a DUI and a hefty fine.