Terri Lynn Land, Secretary of State
Dear Michigan Motorcyclist:
Michigan’s beautiful and varied landscapes provide motorcyclists with
many opportunities for enjoyable riding. With nearly 500,000 properly endorsed
riders, the Department of State is committed to promoting training, the use of
suitable riding gear and licensing as the best means for keeping everyone safe on
the road. I know you’ll find this latest edition of the “Michigan Motorcycle
Operator Manual” helpful when preparing to obtain your endorsement or as a
refresher of the skills, techniques and basic traffic laws pertaining to safe riding.
Rider safety and education remain hallmarks of the Department of State
Michigan Motorcycle Safety Program. Under the program’s coach preparation
classes, up to 50 new coaches are trained annually to assist state-approved sites
in meeting the growing demand for rider education. Other efforts benefiting
motorcyclists include expanding rider-training enrollment opportunities and
obtaining additional motorcycles used for training.
Motorcycling is gaining in popularity as is evident by the increasing
numbers of registered motorcycles and properly endorsed riders. I encourage
everyone to share the road and obey all traffic laws when driving. As a
motorcyclist, the smartest action you can take to keep yourself safe is to be
prepared, obtain an endorsement if you don’t have one, ride defensively and
never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Respect the ride and enjoy!
Terri Lynn Land
Secretary of State
MICHIGAN’S DRIVER TESTING PROGRAM PREPARING
Testing Improprieties .........................1 TO RIDE
Under the Michigan Vehicle Code ....1 WEAR THE RIGHT GEAR .....................9
BUSINESS REQUIREMENTS Helmet Use .........................................9
Helmet Selection .................................9
FOR THIRD-PARTY TESTING Eye and Face Protection ...................10
ORGANIZATIONS .....................................2 Clothing .............................................11
REPORTING IMPROPER, ILLEGAL OR KNOW YOUR MOTORCYCLE .............11
The Right Motorcycle for You .........11
FRAUDULENT TEST ACTIVITIES .............2 Borrowing and Lending ....................12
OPERATING YOUR MOTORCYCLE Get Familiar with the
Motorcycle Controls ......................12
IN MICHIGAN .........................................2 Check Your Motorcycle ....................13
THE DEFINITION OF A MOTORCYCLE .....2 KNOW YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES .......14
d REGISTRATION REQUIREMENTS ..............3 RIDE WITHIN
n RENEWING YOUR MOTORCYCLE
BASIC VEHICLE CONTROL ................15
REGISTRATION ........................................3 Body Position ...................................15
OBTAINING A MOTORCYCLE Shifting Gears ...................................15
. Braking .............................................16
ENDORSEMENT Turning .............................................16
KEEPING YOUR DISTANCE ................17
Adults..................................................3 Lane Positions ...................................17
THE MOTORCYCLE TEMPORARY Following Another Vehicle ...............18
Being Followed .................................19
INSTRUCTION PERMIT (TIP)...................4 Passing and Being Passed .................19
MOTORCYCLE SKILLS TEST ...................4 Lane Sharing .....................................21
Merging Cars ....................................21
LEGAL REQUIREMENTS AND SAFETY Cars Alongside ..................................21
GUIDELINES FOR OPERATING A SEE ......................................................22
MOTORCYCLE .........................................5 INTERSECTIONS ..................................23
Blind Intersections ............................24
BE EXTRA CAREFUL OF ..........................6 Passing Parked Cars .........................25
Parking at the Roadside ....................25
DRINKING AND DRIVING IN MICHIGAN...7
INCREASING CONSPICUITY ................26
! GENERAL DRIVER’S LICENSE RENEWAL Clothing ............................................26
INFORMATION ..........................................7 Headlight ..........................................26
PROVIDING A SOCIAL Brake Light ........................................27
SECURITY NUMBER .................................7 Using Your Mirrors ...........................27
Head Checks .....................................28
RENEWING YOUR DRIVER’S LICENSE ....8 Horn ..................................................28
Riding at Night .................................29
RENEWING YOUR DRIVER’S
CRASH AVOIDANCE ............................29
LICENSE BY MAIL ...................................8
Quick Stops .......................................29
CHANGE OF ADDRESS..............................8 Swerving or Turning Quickly ...........30
OFFICE HOURS ........................................8
HANDLING DANGEROUS SURFACES ..32
Uneven Surfaces and Obstacles .......32
Slippery Surfaces ..............................33
Railroad Tracks, Trolley Tracks
and Pavement Seams ....................34
Grooves and Gratings .......................34
MECHANICAL PROBLEMS ..................35
Tire Failure .......................................35
Stuck Throttle ...................................35
Chain Problems ................................36
Engine Seizure ..................................36
FLYING OBJECTS ................................37
GETTING OFF THE ROAD ..................37
AND CARGO .....................................37
Instructing Passengers ......................38
Riding With Passengers ....................38
Carrying Loads .................................38
GROUP RIDING ...................................39
Keep the Group Small ......................39
Keep the Group Together .................39
Keep Your Distance ..........................39
BEING IN SHAPE
WHY THIS INFORMATION IS
ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS IN
MOTORCYCLE OPERATION ...............41
ALCOHOL IN THE BODY .....................41
ALCOHOL AND THE LAW ...................43
MINIMIZE THE RISKS .........................43
Don’t Drink .......................................43
STEP IN TO PROTECT FRIENDS .........44
Knowledge Test ................................45
On-Motorcycle Skill Test ..................46
MICHIGAN’S DRIVER knowingly encourages, facilitates
or participates in improper, illegal
TESTING PROGRAM or fraudulent driver testing is also
State and federal laws mandate subject to criminal prosecution.
driver testing for residents wishing to • Any person found to have been
obtain a license or endorsement to improperly, illegally or fraudulently
drive an automobile, a commercial tested must take the appropriate
vehicle or a motorcycle. The tests again. The fee for retesting
Department of State administers the may be charged to the applicant.
written driver knowledge tests at its • Improper, fraudulent or unlawful
branch offices. Driving skills tests driver’s license tests result in
are provided only through a third- illegal license applications.
party testing program. This program
uses a statewide network of
authorized public and private UNDER THE MICHIGAN
organizations to conduct driving VEHICLE CODE (PUBLIC ACT
skills tests. The Department of State 300 OF 1949), IT IS A FELONY:
is committed to assuring that the • To make a false certification
procedures for testing drivers are regarding any driver’s license
administered in a fair and reliable application.
manner by qualified examiners. • To bribe or attempt to corrupt a
Names and phone numbers of person or agency that conducts a
third-party testing organizations are driving test with the intent to
available from the Department of influence the opinion or decision
State Web site at of the tester.
www.Michigan.gov/sos or any • For an examining officer who
Secretary of State office. conducts a driving test under an
agreement entered into with the
TESTING IMPROPRIETIES Department of State to vary from,
Michigan law mandates that: shorten or in any other way change
the method or examination criteria
• Any third-party testing organization prescribed under that agreement.
or examiner who intentionally
misrepresents a driving skills test • For a person to forge, counterfeit
by omitting any testing requirement or alter a driving test certification
or procedure, or participates in any issued by a designated examining
illegal activity related to driver officer.
licensing, is subject to severe A felony committed under these laws
penalties. Those include loss of the is punishable by one to five years in
testing authorization, criminal prison and a maximum $5,000 fine
prosecution and restitution for for the first offense. Subsequent
monetary damages to the test convictions result in additional
applicant, the department or both. penalties.
• Any person, including the
examiner or applicant, who
BUSINESS REQUIREMENTS FOR Department of State. Please be sure
THIRD-PARTY TESTING to include the names of the people
ORGANIZATIONS and organizations involved, the date
Third-party testing organizations of the incident and a detailed
must adhere to certain business description of the activities observed
practices and administer driving or discussed. All legitimate reports
skills tests according to established will be investigated. A written
standards and procedures contained statement may be required. This
in a formal, legal agreement with the information should be submitted to
department. Among many contract the:
requirements, third-party testing Michigan Department of State
organizations must: Driver Programs Division
• Be approved by the department Richard H. Austin Building
before testing services are offered. 430 W. Allegan, 3rd Floor
• Maintain an established place of Lansing, MI 48918
business and obtain written Phone (517) 241-6850
permission to use all approved test Fax (517) 373-0964
• Respond to all driver-testing
service inquiries by the next OPERATING YOUR
business day. MOTORCYCLE IN MICHIGAN
• Publish a printed fee and refund Before traveling, make sure you
policy and provide receipts. Test are aware of any state laws that affect
fees are set by the third-party the operation of a motorcycle.
testing organization and are not Michigan has several laws concerning
regulated by law. registration, motorcycle endorsements
• Maintain a surety bond. and safe riding equipment – as well
• Ensure examiners attend and pass as traffic laws – that motorcyclists are
all required training and obtain required to obey.
department authorization before
administering tests. THE DEFINITION OF A
REPORTING IMPROPER, A motorcycle is a two- or three-
ILLEGAL OR FRAUDULENT wheeled motor vehicle with a saddle
TEST ACTIVITIES or seat that produces more than 2.0
If you are aware of any improper, brake horsepower and can attain
illegal or fraudulent testing activities, speeds greater than 30 mph on a
report them immediately to the level surface. Some vehicles, such as
“pocket rockets” or “mini OBTAINING A MOTORCYCLE
choppers,” may meet this definition, ENDORSEMENT
but do not have all of the equipment
To operate a motorcycle on
required by Michigan law to legally
public roads, you must possess a valid
drive them on public roads and will
Michigan driver’s license with a
not be registered by the Department
motorcycle endorsement. The cost of
the motorcycle endorsement is added
to the regular driver’s license fee.
To obtain a motorcycle
Under Michigan law, motorcycle endorsement, you will need to pass a
registrations are issued for one year vision screening and a written
and expire on the owner’s birthday. knowledge test as well as a motorcycle
You must register your motorcycle at safety course or a motorcycle skills
a Secretary of State office if you plan test. The requirements for obtaining a
to operate it on public roads. When motorcycle endorsement differ for
registering, you will need to provide: teens and adults.
• Proof of insurance for at least
$20,000/$40,000 public liability TEENS
and $10,000 property damage
To apply for a motorcycle
endorsement, teens must be at least
• For an original registration, your 16 and:
motorcycle title. For a renewal
• Possess a valid Level 2 or Level 3
registration, your renewal notice
Graduated Driver License.
or last year’s registration.
• Successfully complete an approved
motorcycle safety course.
• Pass the written knowledge test
administered at a Secretary of
You can skip the trip to a State office.
branch office by renewing your
motorcycle registration online at the ADULTS
Department of State’s Web site at
www.Michigan.gov/sos. Payment To apply for a motorcycle
is by credit card. Registrations may endorsement, adults 18 or older must:
also be renewed by touch-tone • Possess a valid driver’s license.
telephone and mail or in person at a • Pass the written knowledge test
branch office. Your license plate administered at a Secretary of
tabs will arrive within seven days. State office.
For more information, please refer • Pass the motorcycle skills test
to your renewal notice, visit the given by a third-party testing
department’s Web site or contact a organization approved by the
Secretary of State office. Department of State OR pass a
motorcycle safety course approved
by the Department of State.
• If you have a valid motorcycle completion of an approved
license or endorsement from motorcycle safety course. Riders
another state, the requirement to who want to extend a motorcycle
pass a motorcycle skills test or TIP beyond 180 days must make a
motorcycle safety course may new application.
• Adults 18 or older are required MOTORCYCLE SKILLS TEST
to take a motorcycle safety
course if they fail the The motorcycle skills test
motorcycle skills test twice. should include all the components as
described in this manual. Provided
Contact your local Secretary of below are the required skills test
State office or visit the department’s elements and approximate times for
Web site at www.Michigan.gov/sos the test. The allotted times are
for more information and the estimated minimums.
motorcycle safety course nearest you.
Motorcycle Skills Test
THE MOTORCYCLE • Vehicle inspection – 5 minutes,
PERMIT • Basic control skills on range – 10
The Department of State issues During the motorcycle skills
the motorcycle Temporary test, certified examiners must
Instruction Permit (TIP). A always:
motorcycle TIP allows applicants to
practice riding on public roads under • Read standard instructions to each
the constant visual supervision of a applicant for each part of the test
licensed motorcycle operator age 18 (a list of instructions is provided
or older. You may not ride at night to the examiner for this purpose).
or carry passengers when using a • Use only department-approved,
motorcycle TIP. Riders apply for a off-street exercises.
TIP before taking the motorcycle Before taking the skills test, you
skills test to give them an must have a legally equipped and
opportunity to practice riding under registered motorcycle. To drive a
supervision. motorcycle to your skills test, you
The motorcycle TIP is valid for must have a valid motorcycle TIP
180 days from the issue date. To and be under the constant visual
apply, you must have a valid supervision of a licensed motorcycle
operator’s or chauffeur’s license, operator at least age 18.
pass a written test, and pay the The motorcycle skills test
endorsement fee. Teens ages 16-17 approved by the Department of State
must have a valid Level 2 or Level 3 has seven exercises that gauge your
Graduated Driver License and ability to handle a motorcycle,
present proof of enrollment in or including starting, accelerating, turning
• Engine stall: This is scored LEGAL REQUIREMENTS AND
during the entire test. Points are SAFETY GUIDELINES FOR
assessed each time you stall the OPERATING A MOTORCYCLE
engine during any exercise. Michigan law requires the
• Sharp turn: You ride a short path following when you operate your
and then make a sharp left turn at motorcycle:
low speed while staying inside a • Wear a properly fastened safety
5-foot path. helmet on your head. It must meet
• Normal stop: You must make a U.S. Department of Transportation
smooth stop without skidding, standards and be properly labeled.
with the front tire of your Passengers must also wear a
motorcycle in a painted box. properly fastened and approved
• Cone weave: You must weave safety helmet.
through a series of five cones that • Use shatterproof goggles, a face
are placed 15 feet apart with a 3- shield or windshield to protect
foot offset. your eyes when riding at speeds of
• U-Turn: You must make a right 35 mph or more. Eye protection is
U-turn in a marked area. Those recommended when riding at any
operating motorcycles over 500 cc speed.
are allowed more room to complete • Sit on a regular, permanently
the U-turn. Motorcycles of 500 cc attached seat.
or less have a smaller U-turn area. • Never carry any package, bundle
• Quick stop: You accelerate along or article that prevents you from
a straight path. At the end of the keeping both hands on the
path (marked by cones), you must handlebars of the vehicle.
stop your motorcycle as quickly • Never let anyone without a valid
and safely as possible. driver’s license and motorcycle
• Obstacle swerve: You accelerate endorsement operate your
along a straight path. At the end motorcycle.
of the path (marked by cones), you • Never attach your motorcycle to
must swerve to avoid an obstacle another vehicle for a “tow.”
line and then swerve to avoid the
• Never operate a motorcycle on
sidelines of the exercise.
sidewalks, more than two side-by-
After you have successfully passed side on a public road, between
the motorcycle skills test, you will lanes of traffic, between traffic
be given a certificate that must be and the curb or on a bicycle path.
presented at a Secretary of State
Keep the following points in
office when you apply for your
mind when traveling by motorcycle
• Lane use – When operating your
motorcycle, you are entitled to use
a full lane.
• Freeways or limited access and hand straight out for a left
highways – Motorcycles with turn; and left arm and hand bent
engines smaller than 125 cc are down for a slow or stop.
not allowed on freeways or • Passengers – Motorcycles with
limited access highways. extra foot pegs and seating space
• Equipment – Your motorcycle may be used to carry a passenger.
must have the following If your motorcycle has this
equipment, which must be in good equipment, it does not necessarily
condition: front- and rear-wheel mean that a passenger can be
brakes, headlight, taillight, carried legally or safely. If in
stoplight, muffler, horn, rearview doubt, check with a motorcycle
mirror and permanently attached manufacturer or dealer. A
seat. motorcycle operator may never
• Handlebars – Your motorcycle carry more than one passenger.
handlebars must be positioned so • Starting on a hill – Use the front
that there are no more than 15 brake to hold the motorcycle
inches between the lowest point of while you start the engine and
the (unoccupied) seat to the shift into first gear. Change to the
highest point of the handle grips. foot brake to hold your vehicle
• Signaling turns – Signaling when while you operate the throttle with
you are turning or changing lanes your right hand. Slowly open the
is not only a courtesy, it’s the law. throttle for more power and
slowly release the clutch. If you
• Before stopping or turning, see
release it too quickly, the front
if it is safe. Then, let other
wheel may lift off the ground or
drivers know of your intention
the engine may stall. Ease off the
to turn by using your turn signal
foot brake as the engine slows
or the appropriate hand and arm
down and engages.
• Start your signal at least 100
BE EXTRA CAREFUL OF:
feet before you turn. In heavy
traffic or on freeways, signal • Animals crossing the road,
sooner so drivers behind you especially at night.
have time to change their speed • Ice in the winter, early spring and
or position. late fall.
• Make sure your turn signal light • Approaching livestock being
has stopped blinking after you ridden, driven or led so as not to
have turned. startle the person or animals.
• Always use turn signals to alert • Pedestrians crossing, including
other drivers when you plan to blind pedestrians and joggers.
change lanes. You must yield the right of way.
• The proper hand and arm • Bicyclists who may cross roads
signals are: left arm and hand without warning. Be prepared to
bent up for a right turn; left arm stop or avoid them.
DRINKING AND DRIVING IN • Do not allow hardship appeals for
MICHIGAN habitual alcohol offenders.
It is illegal to operate a motor • Require a $125 reinstatement fee
vehicle in Michigan: if your driver’s license was
• While intoxicated or impaired by suspended, revoked or restricted.
alcohol, illegal drugs and certain • Require a Driver Responsibility
prescribed medications. Fee of $1,000 for two consecutive
• With a bodily alcohol content of years for driving while
0.08 or more. intoxicated, and a $500 fee for
two consecutive years for driving
• With the presence of a Schedule 1
while impaired, with the presence
drug or cocaine. Schedule 1 drugs
of a Schedule 1 drug or cocaine,
have no medical uses and present
under the Zero Tolerance law or
a high risk for abuse. Included in
for child endangerment.
this group are marijuana, Ecstasy,
amphetamines and heroin. GENERAL DRIVER’S LICENSE
Drunken drivers face swift and
tough action under Michigan’s Your driver’s license is valid for
drunken driving laws. The laws: four years. The license expiration
date is shown on the upper right
• Require courts to decide drunken corner. The Department of State
driving cases within 77 days after sends a renewal notice about 45 days
an arrest. before your license expires. Plan to
• Require a six-month driver’s renew at least two weeks before it
license suspension, even for a first expires. If your renewal notice does
conviction. Drivers may be not arrive or is lost, do not let your
eligible to receive a restricted driver’s license expire. Go to a
license after serving 30 days of Secretary of State office and renew it.
• Require five days to one year of jail PROVIDING A SOCIAL
time, 30 to 90 days of community SECURITY NUMBER
service, or both, for a second Anyone applying for or
conviction of drunken driving. renewing a Michigan driver’s
• Include a felony for a conviction license must provide a Social
for drunken driving that causes Security number before the
death. application can be processed. The
• Include a felony for a conviction federal Welfare Reform Act requires
for drunken driving that causes a states to collect Social Security
serious injury to another. numbers for use in child-support
• Require fines for a conviction of enforcement.
driving while a driver’s license is A person who has never been
suspended or revoked of up to issued a Social Security number
$500 for a first offense and $1,000 must certify to that fact on an
for an additional offense. application obtained at a Secretary
of State office. Individuals who CHANGE OF ADDRESS
make a false statement on the Michigan law requires that your
application are subject to driver’s license address, which is
imprisonment for one to five years, your place of residence, matches the
a fine of $500 to $5000, or both. address on your voter registration
The individual’s license or permit card. You may submit a change of
will also be suspended. address at any Secretary of State
office or by mail. There is no fee
RENEWING YOUR DRIVER’S for this service. If you go to a
LICENSE branch office, a change-of-address
When you renew your driver’s sticker will be provided for the back
license at a branch office, you will of your license. Mail-in forms are
be required to take a vision available from the department’s Web
screening. A new photograph will site at www.Michigan.gov/sos.
be taken. You may pay the renewal Failure to notify the Department of
fee with cash, money order or State of a change of address may
personal check. Credit card result in a driver’s license
payment at the counter is offered at suspension.
Secretary of State PLUS offices and
SUPER!Centers.* OFFICE HOURS
*At the time of this printing, only Discover • Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and
credit cards are accepted at PLUS offices Friday – 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
and SUPER!Centers. • Wednesdays – 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Offices in city centers are open
RENEWING YOUR DRIVER’S from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
LICENSE BY MAIL • Secretary of State PLUS offices
You may be eligible to renew your and SUPER!Centers provide
driver’s license by mail if you: extended Wednesday hours from
9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
• Renewed in person the last time.
• SUPER!Centers also offer
• Do not have a commercial driver’s
Saturday hours from 9 a.m. to
• Are not listed on the sex offender
• Smaller offices may close for a
lunch hour, and all branches are
If you have had a change in closed on state holidays.
your physical condition during the
past six months, you must renew in
person. You may need to submit a
physician’s statement to renew.
PREPARING TO RIDE
What you do before you start a trip goes a long way toward
determining whether or not you’ll get where you want to go safely.
Before taking off on any trip, a safe rider makes a point to:
1. Wear the right gear.
2. Become familiar with the motorcycle.
3. Check the motorcycle equipment.
4. Be a responsible rider.
WEAR THE RIGHT GEAR • An approved helmet lets you see
When you ride, your gear is as far to the sides as necessary. A
“right” if it protects you. In any study of more than 900 motorcycle
crash, you have a far better chance of crashes, where 40% of the riders
avoiding serious injury if you wear: wore helmets, did not find even
WEAR THE RIGHT GEAR
one case in which a helmet kept a
• An approved helmet. rider from spotting danger.
• Face or eye protection. • Most crashes happen on short
• Protective clothing. trips (less than five miles
long), just a few minutes after
HELMET USE starting out.
Crashes can occur — • Most riders are riding slower
particularly among untrained, than 30 mph when a crash
beginning riders. And one out of occurs. At these speeds, helmets
every five motorcycle crashes results can cut both the number and the
in head or neck injuries. Head severity of head injuries by half.
injuries are just as severe as neck No matter what the speed,
injuries — and far more common. helmeted riders are three times more
Crash analyses show that head and likely to survive head injuries than
neck injuries account for a majority those not wearing helmets at the time
of serious and fatal injuries to of the crash.
motorcyclists. Research also shows
that, with few exceptions, head and
neck injuries are reduced by properly
wearing an approved helmet. There are two primary types of
helmets, providing two different
Some riders don’t wear helmets
levels of coverage: three-quarter and
because they think helmets will limit
their view to the sides. Others wear
helmets only on long trips or when Whichever style you choose, you
riding at high speeds. Here are some can get the most protection by
facts to consider: making sure that the helmet:
• Meets U.S. Department of Goggles protect your eyes,
Transportation (DOT) and state though they won’t protect the rest of
standards. Helmets with a label your face like a faceshield does. A
from the Snell Memorial windshield is not a substitute for a
EYE AND FACE PROTECTION
Foundation give you an added faceshield or goggles. Most
assurance of quality. windshields will not protect your
• Fits snugly, all the way around. eyes from the wind. Neither will
eyeglasses or sunglasses. Glasses
• Has no obvious defects such
won’t keep your eyes from watering,
as cracks, loose padding or
and they might blow off when you
turn your head while riding.
Whatever helmet you decide
To be effective, eye or
on, keep it securely fastened on your
faceshield protection must:
head when you ride. Otherwise, if
you are involved in a crash, it’s likely • Be free of scratches.
to fly off your head before it gets a • Be resistant to penetration.
chance to protect you. • Give a clear view to either side.
• Fasten securely, so it does not
EYE AND FACE PROTECTION blow off.
A plastic shatter-resistant • Permit air to pass through, to
faceshield can help protect your reduce fogging.
whole face in a crash. It also • Permit enough room for
protects you from wind, dust, dirt, eyeglasses or sunglasses, if
rain, insects and pebbles thrown up needed.
from cars ahead. These problems Tinted eye protection should
are distracting and can be painful. not be worn at night or any other
If you have to deal with them, you time when little light is available.
can’t devote your full attention to
CLOTHING KNOW YOUR
The right clothing protects you MOTORCYCLE
in a collision. It also provides There are plenty of things on the
comfort, as well as protection from highway that can cause you trouble.
heat, cold, debris and hot and moving Your motorcycle should not be one of
parts of the motorcycle. them. To make sure that your
• Jacket and pants should cover motorcycle won’t let you down:
arms and legs completely. They • Read the owner’s manual first.
should fit snugly enough to keep • Start with the right motorcycle for
from flapping in the wind, yet you.
loosely enough to move freely.
Leather offers the most protection. • Be familiar with the motorcycle
Sturdy synthetic material provides controls.
a lot of protection as well. • Check the motorcycle before
Wear a jacket even in warm every ride.
weather to prevent dehydration. • Keep it in safe riding condition
THE RIGHT MOTORCYCLE
Many are designed to protect between rides.
without getting you overheated,
• Avoid add-ons and modifications
even on summer days.
that make your motorcycle
• Boots or shoes should be high and harder to handle.
sturdy enough to cover your ankles
and give them support. Soles
should be made of hard, durable,
THE RIGHT MOTORCYCLE
slip-resistant material. Keep heels FOR YOU
short so they do not catch on rough First, make sure your motorcycle
surfaces. Tuck in laces so they is right for you. It should “fit” you.
won’t catch on your motorcycle. Your feet should reach the ground
• Gloves allow a better grip and while you are seated on the
help protect your hands in a crash. motorcycle.
Your gloves should be made of
leather or similar durable material.
In cold or wet weather, your
clothes should keep you warm and
dry, as well as protect you from
injury. You cannot control a
motorcycle well if you are numb.
Riding for long periods in cold
weather can cause severe chill and
fatigue. A winter jacket should resist
wind and fit snugly at the neck,
wrists and waist. Good-quality
rainsuits designed for motorcycle
riding resist tearing apart or
ballooning up at high speeds.
KNOW YOUR MOTORCYCLE At minimum, your street-legal are licensed and know how to ride
motorcycle should have: before allowing them out into traffic.
• Headlight, taillight and No matter how experienced you
brakelight. may be, ride extra carefully on any
• Front and rear brakes. motorcycle that’s new or unfamiliar
to you. More than half of all crashes
• Turn signals. occur on motorcycles ridden by the
• Horn. operator for less than six months.
• Two mirrors.
GET FAMILIAR WITH THE
BORROWING AND LENDING MOTORCYCLE CONTROLS
Borrowers and lenders of Make sure you are completely
motorcycles, beware. Crashes are familiar with the motorcycle before
fairly common among beginning you take it out on the street. Be sure
riders — especially in the first to review the owner’s manual. This is
months of riding. Riding an particularly important if you are
unfamiliar motorcycle adds to the riding a borrowed motorcycle.
problem. If you borrow a motorcycle, If you are going to use an
get familiar with it in a controlled unfamiliar motorcycle:
area. And if you lend your
motorcycle to friends, make sure they
Light Switch (high/low) Engine Cut-Off
Choke (varies) Switch
Horn Button Throttle
Clutch Lever Front Brake Lever
Fuel Supply Valve
Rear Brake Pedal
• Make all the checks you would • Brake Light — Try both brake
CHECK YOUR MOTORCYCLE
on your own motorcycle. controls, and make sure each one
• Find out where everything is, turns on the brake light.
particularly the turn signals, horn, Once you have mounted the
headlight switch, fuel-supply motorcycle, complete the following
valve and engine cut-off switch. checks before starting out:
Find and operate these items • Clutch and Throttle — Make
without having to look for them. sure they work smoothly. The
• Know the gear pattern. Work the throttle should snap back when
throttle, clutch and brakes a few you let go. The clutch should feel
times before you start riding. All tight and smooth.
controls react a little differently. • Mirrors — Clean and adjust both
• Ride very cautiously and be mirrors before starting. It’s
aware of surroundings. Accelerate difficult to ride with one hand
gently, take turns more slowly and while you try to adjust a mirror.
leave extra room for stopping. Adjust each mirror so you can see
the lane behind and as much as
CHECK YOUR MOTORCYCLE possible of the lane next to you.
When properly adjusted, a mirror
A motorcycle needs more may show the edge of your arm or
frequent attention than a car. A minor shoulder—but it’s the road behind
technical failure in a car seldom leads and to the side that’s most
to anything more than an important.
inconvenience for the driver.
• Brakes — Try the front and rear
If something’s wrong with the brake levers one at a time. Make
motorcycle, you’ll want to find out sure each one feels firm and holds
about it before you get in traffic. the motorcycle when the brake is
Make a complete check of your fully applied.
motorcycle before every ride. • Horn — Try the horn. Make sure
Before mounting the motorcycle, it works.
make the following checks: In addition to the checks you
• Tires — Check the air pressure, should make before every trip, check
general wear and tread. the following items at least once a
• Fluids — Oil and fluid levels. At a week: wheels, cables, fasteners and
minimum, check hydraulic fluids fluid levels. Follow your owner’s
and coolants weekly. Look under manual to get recommendations.
the motorcycle for signs of an oil
or gas leak. 1 Test Yourself
• Headlights and Taillight — More than half of all crashes:
Check them both. Test your switch A. Occur at speeds greater than
to make sure both high and low 35 mph.
beams are working. B. Happen at night.
C. Are caused by worn tires.
• Turn Signals — Turn on both
D. Involve riders who have ridden
right and left turn signals. Make their motorcycles less than six
sure all lights are working months.
Answer - page 45
KNOW YOUR • Be visible — wear proper
KNOW YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES
RESPONSIBILITIES clothing, use your headlight, ride
in the best lane position to see and
“Accident” implies an be seen.
unforeseen event that occurs without
• Communicate your intentions —
anyone’s fault or negligence. Most
use the proper signals, brake light
often in traffic, that is not the case. In
and lane position.
fact, most people involved in a crash
can usually claim some responsibility • Maintain an adequate space
for what takes place. cushion — following, being
followed, lane sharing, passing
Consider a situation where
and being passed.
someone decides to try to squeeze
through an intersection on a yellow • Scan your path of travel 12
light turning red. Your light turns seconds ahead.
green. You pull into the intersection • Identify and separate multiple
without checking for possible hazards.
latecomers. That is all it takes for the • Be prepared to act — remain
two of you to tangle. It was the alert and know how to carry out
driver’s responsibility to stop. And it proper crash-avoidance skills.
was your responsibility to look
Blame doesn’t matter when
before pulling out. Neither of you
someone is injured in a crash. There
held up your end of the deal. Just
is rarely a single cause of any crash.
because someone else is the first to
The ability to ride aware, make
start the chain of events leading to a
critical decisions and carry them out
crash, it doesn’t leave any of us free
separates responsible riders from all
the rest. Remember, it is up to you to
As a rider you can’t be sure that keep from being the cause of, or an
other operators will see you or yield unprepared participant in, any crash.
the right of way. To lessen your
chances of a crash occurring:
RIDE WITHIN YOUR ABILITIES
This manual cannot teach you how to control direction, speed or balance.
That’s something you can learn only through practice. But control begins with
knowing your abilities and riding within them, along with knowing and
obeying the rules of the road.
BASIC VEHICLE too much throttle. Also, adjust the
CONTROL handlebars so your hands are even
with or below your elbows. This
permits you to use the proper muscles
BODY POSITION for precision steering.
To control a motorcycle well: • Knees — Keep your knees against
• Posture — Sit so you can use your the gas tank to help you keep your
arms to steer the motorcycle rather balance as the motorcycle turns.
than to hold yourself up. • Feet — Keep your feet firmly on
• Seat — Sit far enough forward so the footrests to maintain balance.
that arms are slightly bent when Don’t drag your feet. If your foot
you hold the handlegrips. Bending catches on something, you could
your arms permits you to press on be injured and it could affect your
the handlebars without having to control of the motorcycle. Keep
stretch. your feet near the controls so you
• Hands — Hold the handlegrips can get to them fast if needed.
firmly to keep your grip over Also, don’t let your toes point
rough surfaces. Start with your downward — they may get caught
right wrist flat. This will help you between the road and the footrests.
keep from accidentally using
HOLDING HANDLEGRIPS There is more to shifting gears
than simply getting the motorcycle to
RIGHT pick up speed smoothly. Learning to
use the gears when downshifting,
turning or starting on hills is
important for safe motorcycle
Shift down through the gears
with the clutch as you slow or stop.
Remain in first gear while you are
WRONG stopped so that you can move out
quickly if you need to.
BRAKING Make certain you are riding Also, using the front brake
slowly enough when you shift into a incorrectly on a slippery surface
lower gear. If not, the motorcycle will may be hazardous. Use caution
lurch, and the rear wheel may skid. and squeeze the brake lever, never
When riding downhill or shifting into grab.
first gear you may need to use the • Some motorcycles have integrated
brakes to slow enough before braking systems that activate the
downshifting safely. Work toward a front and rear brakes together
smooth, even clutch release, when applying the rear brake
especially when downshifting. pedal. (Consult the owner’s
It is best to change gears before manual for a detailed explanation
entering a turn. However, sometimes on the operation and effective use
shifting while in the turn is necessary. of these systems.)
If so, remember to do so smoothly. A
sudden change in power to the rear
wheel can cause a skid. Riders often try to take curves or
turns too fast. When they can’t hold
BRAKING the turn, they end up crossing into
another lane of traffic or going off the
Your motorcycle has two brakes:
road. Or, they overreact and brake too
one each for the front and rear wheel.
hard, causing a skid and loss of
Use both of them at the same time.
control. Approach turns and curves
The front brake is more powerful and
can provide at least three-quarters
of your total stopping power. The Use four steps for better control:
front brake is safe to use if you use • SLOW
it properly. • LOOK
Remember: • PRESS
• Use both brakes every time you • ROLL
slow or stop. Using both brakes for
even “normal” stops will permit • SLOW — Reduce speed before
you to develop the proper habit or the turn by closing the throttle and,
skill of using both brakes properly if necessary, applying both brakes.
in an emergency. Squeeze the front • LOOK — Look through the turn
brake and press down on the rear. to where you want to go. Turn just
Grabbing at the front brake or your head, not your shoulders, and
jamming down on the rear can keep your eyes level with the
cause the brakes to lock, resulting horizon.
in control problems. • PRESS — To turn, the motorcycle
• If you know the technique, using must lean. To lean the motor-
both brakes in a turn is possible, cycle, press on the handlegrip in
although it should be done very the direction of the turn. Press
carefully. When leaning the left — lean left — go left. Press
motorcycle some of the traction is right — lean right — go right.
used for cornering. Less traction is Higher speeds and/or tighter
available for stopping. A skid can turns require the motorcycle to
occur if you apply too much brake. lean more.
• ROLL — Roll on the throttle 2 Test Yourself
through the turn to stabilize the When riding, you should:
suspension. Maintain steady speed A. Turn your head and shoulders to
or accelerate gradually through the look through turns.
turn. This will help keep the B. Keep your arms straight.
motorcycle stable. C. Keep your knees away from the
In normal turns, the rider and the
D. Turn just your head and eyes to
motorcycle should lean together at look where you are going.
the same angle. Answer - page 45
NORMAL TURNS KEEPING YOUR
The best protection you can have
is distance — a “cushion of space” —
all around your motorcycle. If
someone else makes a mistake,
distance permits you:
• Time to react.
• Space to maneuver.
In some ways the size of the
motorcycle can work to your
advantage. Each traffic lane gives a
In slow tight turns, counterbalance motorcycle three paths of travel, as
by leaning the motorcycle only and indicated in the illustration (next page).
keeping your body straight. Your lane position should:
• Increase your ability to see and be
SLOW, TIGHT TURNS seen.
• Avoid others’ blind spots.
• Avoid surface hazards.
• Protect your lane from other
• Communicate your intentions.
• Avoid wind blast from other
• Provide an escape route.
Select the appropriate path to
maximize your space cushion and
make yourself more easily seen by
others on the road.
In general, there is no single FOLLOWING ANOTHER
best position for riders to be seen VEHICLE
and to maintain a space cushion
“Following too closely” could
around the motorcycle. No portion
be a factor in crashes involving
of the lane need be avoided —
motorcyclists. In traffic, motorcycles
including the center.
need as much distance to stop as
Position yourself in the portion cars. Normally, a minimum of two
of the lane where you are most likely seconds distance should be
to be seen and you can maintain a maintained behind the vehicle ahead.
space cushion around you. Change To gauge your following
position as traffic situations change. distance:
Ride in path 2 or 3 if vehicles and
• Pick out a marker, such as a
other potential problems are on your
pavement marking or lamppost, on
left only. Remain in path 1 or 2 if
or near the road ahead.
hazards are on your right only. If
vehicles are being operated on both • When the rear bumper of the
sides of you, the center of the lane, vehicle ahead passes the marker,
path 2, is usually your best option. count off the seconds: “one-
The oily strip in the center
portion that collects drippings from • If you reach the marker before
cars is usually no more than two feet you reach “two,” you are
wide. Unless the road is wet, the following too closely.
average center strip permits adequate A two-second following distance
traction to ride on safely. You can leaves a minimum amount of space to
operate to the left or right of the stop or swerve if the driver ahead
grease strip and still be within the stops suddenly. It also permits a
center portion of the traffic lane. better view of potholes and other
Avoid riding on big buildups of oil hazards in the road.
and grease usually found at busy A larger cushion of space is
intersections or toll booths. needed if your motorcycle will take
longer than normal to stop. If the
pavement is slippery, if you cannot drivers ahead and to prevent lane
see through the vehicle ahead, or if sharing by others.
traffic is heavy and someone may
squeeze in front of you, open up a BEING FOLLOWED
three-second or more following
Speeding up to lose someone
following too closely only ends up
Keep well behind the vehicle with someone tailgating you at a
ahead even when you are stopped. higher speed.
This will make it easier to get out
A better way to handle tailgaters
of the way if someone bears down on
is to get them in front of you. When
you from behind. It will also give you
someone is following too closely,
a cushion of space if the vehicle
change lanes and let them pass. If
ahead starts to back up for some
you can’t do this, slow down and
open up extra space ahead of you to
When behind a car, ride where allow room for both you and the
the driver can see you in the rearview tailgater to stop. This will also
mirror. Riding in the center portion encourage them to pass. If they don’t
of the lane should put your image pass, you will have given yourself
in the middle of the rearview mirror and the tailgater more time and space
— where a driver is most likely to to react in case an emergency does
see you. develop ahead.
Riding at the far side of a lane
may permit a driver to see you in a PASSING AND BEING PASSED
sideview mirror. But remember that
Passing and being passed by
most drivers don’t look at their
another vehicle is not much different
sideview mirrors nearly as often as
than with a car. However, visibility is
they check the rearview mirror. If the
more critical. Be sure other drivers
traffic situation allows, the center
see you, and that you see potential
portion of the lane is usually the best
place for you to be seen by the
PASSING PASSING stay in the center portion of your
1. Ride in the left portion of the lane. Riding any closer to them could
lane at a safe following distance put you in a hazardous situation.
to increase your line of sight and Avoid being hit by:
make you more visible. Signal • The other vehicle — A slight
and check for oncoming traffic. mistake by you or the passing
Use your mirrors and turn your driver could cause a sideswipe.
head to look for traffic behind.
• Extended mirrors — Some
2. When safe, move into the left lane drivers forget that their mirrors
and accelerate. Select a lane hang out farther than their fenders.
position that doesn’t crowd the
• Objects thrown from windows
car you are passing and pro-
— Even if the driver knows you’re
vides space to avoid hazards in
there, a passenger may not see you
and might toss something on you
3. Ride through the blind spot as or the road ahead of you.
quickly as possible.
• Blasts of wind from larger
4. Signal again, and complete mirror vehicles — They can affect your
and headchecks before returning control. You have more room for
to your original lane and then error if you are in the middle
cancel the signal. portion when hit by this blast
Remember, passes must be than if you are on either side of
completed within posted speed limits, the lane.
and only where permitted. Know your
signs and road markings!
Do not move into the portion
of the lane farthest from the
BEING PASSED passing vehicle. It might invite the
When you are being passed from other driver to cut back into your lane
behind or by an oncoming vehicle, too early.
PASSING BEING PASSED
LANE SHARING another lane if one is open. If there is
no room for a lane change, adjust
Cars and motorcycles need a full
speed to open up space for the
lane to operate safely. Lane sharing is
Riding between rows of stopped CARS ALONGSIDE
or moving cars in the same lane can
leave you vulnerable to the Do not ride next to cars or trucks
unexpected. A hand could come out in other lanes if you do not have to.
of a window; a door could open; a car You might be in the blind spot of a
could turn suddenly. Discourage lane car in the next lane, which could
sharing by others. Keep a center- switch into your lane without
portion position whenever drivers warning. Cars in the next lane also
might be tempted to squeeze by you. block your escape if you come upon
Drivers are most tempted to do this: danger in your own lane. Speed up or
drop back to find a place clear of
• In heavy, bumper-to-bumper traffic on both sides.
• When they want to pass you. BLIND SPOTS
• When you are preparing to turn at
• When you are moving into an exit
lane or leaving a highway.
Drivers on an entrance ramp may
not see you on the highway. Give
them plenty of room. Change to
3 Test Yourself
Usually, a good way to handle
tailgaters is to:
A. Change lanes and let them pass.
B. Use your horn and make obscene
C. Speed up to put distance between
you and the tailgater.
D. Ignore them.
Answer - page 45
Good experienced riders remain • Road and surface characteristics
aware of what is going on around — Potholes, guardrails, bridges,
them. They improve their riding telephone poles and trees won’t
strategy by using SEE, a three-step move into your path but may
process used to make appropriate influence your riding strategy.
judgments, and apply them correctly • Traffic control devices — Look
in different traffic situations: for traffic signals, including
• Search regulatory signs, warning signs,
• Evaluate and pavement markings, to help
• Execute you evaluate circumstances
Let’s examine each of these steps.
• Vehicles and other traffic —
May move into your path and
SEARCH increase the likelihood of a crash.
Search aggressively ahead, to the Think about your time and space
sides and behind to avoid potential requirements in order to maintain a
hazards even before they arise. How margin of safety. You must leave
assertively you search, and how yourself time to react if an
much time and space you have, can emergency arises.
eliminate or reduce harm. Focus even
more on finding potential escape
routes in or around intersections, EXECUTE
shopping areas and school and Carry out your decision.
construction zones. To create more space and
Search for factors such as: minimize harm from any hazard:
• Oncoming traffic that may turn • Communicate your presence with
left in front of you. lights and/or horn.
• Traffic coming from the left and • Adjust your speed by
right. accelerating, stopping or slowing.
• Traffic approaching from behind. • Adjust your position and/or
• Hazardous road conditions. direction.
Be especially alert in areas with Apply the old adage “one step
limited visibility. Visually “busy” at a time” to handle two or more
surroundings could hide you and hazards. Adjust speed to permit two
your motorcycle from others. hazards to separate. Then deal with
them one at a time as single hazards.
Decision-making becomes more
EVALUATE complex with three or more hazards.
Think about how hazards can Weigh the consequences of each and
interact to create risks for you. give equal distance to the hazards.
Anticipate potential problems and
have a plan to reduce risks.
In potential high-risk areas, such INTERSECTIONS
as intersections, shopping areas and The greatest potential for
school and construction zones, cover conflict between you and other traffic
the clutch and both brakes to reduce is at intersections. An intersection
the time you need to react. can be in the middle of an urban area
or at a driveway on a residential
street — anywhere traffic may cross
your path of travel. Over one-half of
motorcycle/car crashes are caused by
4 Test Yourself drivers entering a rider’s right-of-
To reduce your reaction time, you way. Cars that turn left in front of
should: you, including cars turning left from
A. Ride slower than the speed limit. the lane to your right, and cars on
B. Cover the clutch and the brakes. side streets that pull into your lane,
C. Shift into neutral when slowing. are the biggest dangers. Your use
D. Pull in the clutch when turning. of SEE [p. 22] at intersections
Answer - page 45 is critical.
There are no guarantees that
others see you. Never count on “eye
contact” as a sign that a driver will
yield. Too often, a driver looks right
at a motorcyclist and still fails to
“see” him or her. The only eyes that
you can count on are your own. If a
car can enter your path, assume that it
will. Good riders are always “looking
for trouble” — not to get into it, but
to stay out of it.
Increase your chances of being
seen at intersections. Ride with your
headlight on in a lane position that
provides the best view of oncoming
traffic. Provide a space cushion
around the motorcycle that permits
you to take evasive action.
As you approach the intersec- cross street can see him as soon as
tion, select a lane position that possible.
increases your visibility to the driver.
Cover the clutch and both brakes to LARGE INTERSECTIONS
reduce reaction time.
Reduce your speed as you
approach an intersection. After
entering the intersection, move away
from vehicles preparing to turn. Do
not change speed or position
radically. The driver might think that
you are preparing to turn.
If you approach a blind
intersection, move to the portion of
the lane that will bring you into
another driver’s field of vision at the
earliest possible moment. In this Remember, the key is to see as
picture, the rider has moved to the much as possible and remain visible
left portion of the lane — away from to others while protecting your space.
the parked car — so the driver on the
STOP SIGNS PARKED CARS
If you have a stop sign or stop
line, stop there first. Then edge
forward and stop again, just short of
where the cross-traffic lane meets
your lane. From that position, lean In either event, the driver might
your body forward and look around cut into your path. Slow down or
buildings, parked cars or bushes to change lanes to make room for
see if anything is coming. Just make someone cutting in.
sure your front wheel stays out of the Cars making a sudden U-turn are
cross lane of travel while you’re the most dangerous. They may cut
looking. you off entirely, blocking the whole
PASSING PARKED CARS roadway and leaving you with no
place to go. Since you can’t tell what
When passing parked cars, stay
a driver will do, slow down and get
toward the left of your lane. You can
the driver’s attention. Sound your
avoid problems caused by doors
horn and continue with caution.
opening, drivers getting out of cars or
people stepping from between cars. If PARKING AT THE ROADSIDE
oncoming traffic is present, it is Park at a 90˚ angle to the curb with
usually best to remain in the center- your rear wheel touching the curb.
lane position to maximize your space
A bigger problem can occur if PARKING AT CURBS
the driver pulls away from the curb
without checking for traffic behind.
Even if he does look, he may fail to
5 Test Yourself
Making eye contact with other drivers:
A. Is a good sign they see you.
B. Is not worth the effort it takes.
C. Doesn’t mean that the driver will
D. Guarantees that the other driver will
yield to you.
Answer - page 45
CLOTHING INCREASING Reflective material on a vest and
CONSPICUITY on the sides of the helmet will help
drivers coming from the side to spot
In crashes with motorcyclists, you. Reflective material can also be a
drivers often say that they never saw big help for drivers coming toward
the motorcycle. From ahead or you or from behind.
behind, a motorcycle’s outline is
much smaller than a car’s. Also, it’s
hard to see something you are not
looking for, and most drivers are not The best way to help others see
looking for motorcycles. More likely, your motorcycle is to keep the
they are looking through the skinny, headlight on — at all times
two-wheeled silhouette in search of (although new motorcycles sold in
cars that may pose a problem to the USA since 1978 automatically
them. have the headlights on when
running). Studies show that, during
Even if a driver does see you
the day, a motorcycle with its light
coming, you aren’t necessarily safe.
on is twice as likely to be noticed.
Smaller vehicles appear farther away
Use low beam at night and in fog.
and seem to be traveling slower than
they actually are. It is common for
drivers to pull out in front of SIGNALS
motorcyclists, thinking they have The signals on a motorcycle are
plenty of time. Too often, they similar to those on a car. They tell
are wrong. others what you plan to do.
However, you can do many
things to make it easier for others to SIGNALING
recognize you and your motorcycle.
Most crashes occur in broad
daylight. Wear bright-colored
clothing to increase your chances of
being seen. Remember, your body is
half of the visible surface area of the
Bright orange, red, yellow or
green jackets or vests are your best
bets for being seen. Your helmet can
do more than protect you in a crash.
Brightly colored helmets can also
help others see you.
Any bright color is better than
drab or dark colors. Reflective,
bright-colored clothing (helmet and
jacket or vest) is best.
However, due to a rider’s added • You slow where others may not
USING YOUR MIRRORS
vulnerability, signals are even more expect it (in the middle of a
important. Use them anytime you block or at an alley).
plan to change lanes or turn. Use If you are being followed
them even when you think no one closely, it’s a good idea to flash your
else is around. It’s the car you don’t brake light before you slow. The
see that’s going to give you the tailgater may be watching you and
most trouble. Your signal lights also not see something ahead that will
make you easier to spot. That’s why make you slow down. This will
it’s a good idea to use your turn hopefully discourage them from
signals even when what you plan to tailgating and warn them of hazards
do is obvious. ahead they may not see.
When you enter onto a
freeway, drivers approaching USING YOUR MIRRORS
from behind are more likely to see While it’s most important to
your signal blinking and make room keep track of what’s happening
for you. ahead, you can’t afford to ignore
Turning your signal light on situations behind. Traffic conditions
before each turn reduces confusion change quickly. Knowing what’s
and frustration for the traffic around going on behind is essential for you
you. Once you turn, make sure your to make a safe decision about how to
signal is off or a driver may pull handle trouble ahead.
directly into your path, thinking you Frequent mirror checks should
plan to turn again. Use your signals be part of your normal searching
at every turn so drivers can react routine. Make a special point of using
accordingly. Don’t make them your mirrors:
guess what you intend to do. • When you are stopped at an
intersection. Watch cars coming up
BRAKE LIGHT from behind. If the drivers aren’t
Your motorcycle’s brake light is paying attention, they could be on
usually not as noticeable as the brake top of you before they see you.
lights on a car — particularly when • Before you change lanes. Make
your taillight is on. (It goes on with sure no one is about to pass you.
the headlight.) If the situation will • Before you slow down. The driver
permit, help others notice you by behind may not expect you to
flashing your brake light before you slow, or may be unsure about
slow down. It is especially important where you will slow. For example,
to flash your brake light before: you signal a turn and the driver
• You slow more quickly than thinks you plan to turn at a distant
others might expect (turning off a intersection, rather than at a nearer
high-speed highway). driveway.
HEAD CHECKS USING MIRRORS HEAD CHECKS
Checking your mirrors is not
enough. Motorcycles have “blind
spots” like cars. Before you change
lanes, turn your head, and look to the
side for other vehicles.
On a road with several lanes,
check the far lane and the one next
to you. A driver in the distant lane
may head for the same space you
plan to take.
Frequent head checks should
be your normal scanning routine,
also. Only by knowing what is
happening all around you are you
fully prepared to deal with it.
Some motorcycles have rounded Be ready to use your horn to
(convex) mirrors. These provide a get someone’s attention quickly.
wider view of the road behind than
do flat mirrors. They also make cars It is a good idea to give a quick
seem farther away than they really beep before passing anyone that
are. If you are not used to convex may move into your lane.
mirrors, get familiar with them. Here are some situations:
(While you are stopped, pick out a • A driver in the lane next to you is
parked car in your mirror. Form a driving too closely to the vehicle
mental image of how far away it is. ahead and may want to pass.
Then, turn around and look at it to • A parked car has someone in the
see how close you came.) Practice driver’s seat.
with your mirrors until you become a
good judge of distance. Even then, • Someone is in the street, riding a
allow extra distance before you bicycle or walking.
change lanes. In an emergency, press the horn
button loud and long. Be ready to
stop or swerve away from the danger.
Keep in mind that a motorcycle’s
horn isn’t as loud as a car’s —
therefore, use it, but don’t rely on it.
Other strategies may be appropriate
along with the horn.
RIDING AT NIGHT CRASH AVOIDANCE
At night it is harder for you to No matter how careful you are,
see and be seen. Picking your there will be times when you find
headlight or taillight out of the car yourself in a tight spot. Your chances
lights around you is not easy for other of getting out safely depend on your
drivers. To compensate, you should: ability to react quickly and properly.
• Reduce Your Speed — Ride even Often, a crash occurs because a rider
slower than you would during the is not prepared or skilled in crash-
day — particularly on roads you avoidance maneuvers.
don’t know well. This will increase
your chances of avoiding a hazard. Know when and how to stop or
swerve, two skills critical in avoiding
• Increase Distance — Distances
a crash. It is not always desirable or
are harder to judge at night than
during the day. Your eyes rely possible to stop quickly to avoid an
upon shadows and light contrasts obstacle. Riders must also be able to
to determine how far away an swerve around an obstacle. Deter-
object is and how fast it is coming. mining which skill is necessary for
These contrasts are missing or dis- the situation is important as well.
torted under artificial lights at Studies show that most crash-
night. Open up a three-second fol- involved riders:
lowing distance or more. And
allow more distance to pass and • Underbrake the front tire and
be passed. overbrake the rear.
• Use the Car Ahead — The • Did not separate braking from
headlights of the car ahead can swerving or did not choose
give you a better view of the road swerving when it was appropriate.
than even your high beam can.
Taillights bouncing up and down The following information offers
can alert you to bumps or rough some good advice.
• Use Your High Beam — Get all QUICK STOPS
the light you can. Use your high To stop quickly, apply both
beam whenever you are not brakes at the same time. Don’t be shy
following or meeting a car. Be about using the front brake, but don’t
visible: Wear reflective materials “grab” it, either. Squeeze the brake
when riding at night. lever firmly and progressively. If the
• Be Flexible About Lane Position. front wheel locks, release the front
Change to whatever portion of the brake immediately then reapply it
lane is best able to help you see, be
firmly. At the same time, press down
seen and keep an adequate space
cushion. on the rear brake. If you accidentally
lock the rear brake on a good traction
6 Test Yourself surface, you can keep it locked until
Reflective clothing should: you have completely stopped; but,
A. Be worn at night. even with a locked rear wheel, you
B. Be worn during the day. can control the motorcycle on a
C. Not be worn. straightaway if it is upright and going
D. Be worn day and night in a straight line.
Answer - page 45
SWERVING STOPPING DISTANCE in the last few feet of stopping. The
motorcycle should then be straight up
and in balance.
SWERVING OR TURNING
Sometimes you may not have
enough room to stop, even if you use
both brakes properly. An object
might appear suddenly in your path.
Always use both brakes at the Or the car ahead might squeal to a
same time to stop. The front brake stop. The only way to avoid a crash
can provide 70% or more of the may be to turn quickly, or swerve
potential stopping power. around it.
If you must stop quickly while A swerve is any sudden change
turning or riding a curve, the best in direction. It can be two quick
technique is to straighten the bike turns, or a rapid shift to the side.
upright first and then brake. Apply a small amount of hand
However, it may not always be pressure to the handlegrip located on
possible to straighten the motorcycle the side of your intended direction of
and then stop. If you must brake escape. This will cause the
while leaning, apply light brakes and motorcycle to lean quickly. The
reduce the throttle. As you slow, you sharper the turn(s), the more the
can reduce your lean angle and apply motorcycle must lean.
more brake pressure until the Keep your body upright and
motorcycle is straight and maximum allow the motorcycle to lean in the
brake pressure is possible. You direction of the turn while keeping
should “straighten” the handlebars your knees against the tank and your
SWERVE, THEN BRAKE BRAKE, THEN SWERVE
feet solidly on the footrests. Let the CORNERING
motorcycle move underneath you. A primary cause of single-
Make your escape route the target of vehicle crashes is motorcyclists
your vision. Press on the opposite running wide in a curve or turn and
handlegrip once you clear the colliding with the roadway or a fixed
obstacle to return you to your original object.
direction of travel. To swerve to the
left, press the left handlegrip, then Every curve is different. Be alert
press the right to recover. To swerve to whether a curve remains constant,
to the right, press right, then left. gradually widens, gets tighter or
involves multiple turns.
IF BRAKING IS REQUIRED, Ride within your skill level and
SEPARATE IT FROM SWERVING. posted speed limits.
Brake before or after — never while
swerving. Your best path may not always
follow the curve of the road.
CONSTANT CURVES MULTIPLE CURVES
DECREASING CURVES (TIGHTER TURNS) WIDENING CURVES
DANGEROUS SURFACES Change lane position depending on HANDLING DANGEROUS
traffic, road conditions and curve of SURFACES
the road. If no traffic is present, start
Your chance of falling or being
at the outside of a curve to increase
involved in a crash increases
your line of sight and the effective
whenever you ride across:
radius of the turn. As you turn, move
toward the inside of the curve, and as • Uneven surfaces or obstacles.
you pass the center, move to the • Slippery surfaces.
outside to exit. • Railroad tracks.
Another alternative is to move to • Grooves and gratings.
the center of your lane before
entering a curve — and stay there UNEVEN SURFACES AND
until you exit. This permits you to OBSTACLES
spot approaching traffic as soon as Watch for uneven surfaces such
possible. You can also adjust for as bumps, broken pavement, potholes
traffic “crowding” the center line, or or small pieces of highway trash.
debris blocking part of your lane.
Try to avoid obstacles by
slowing or going around them. If you
must go over the obstacle, first
determine if it is possible. Approach
it at as close to a 90˚ angle as
possible. Look where you want to go
7 Test Yourself to control your path of travel. If you
The best way to stop quickly is to: have to ride over the obstacle, you
A. Use the front brake only. should:
B. Use the rear brake first. • Slow down as much as possible
C. Throttle down and use the front before contact.
D. Use both brakes at the same time.
• Make sure the motorcycle is
Answer - page 45 straight.
• Rise slightly off the seat with your brake lever gradually to avoid
weight on the footrests to absorb locking the front wheel.
the shock with your knees and Remember, gentle pressure on the
elbows, and avoid being thrown off rear brake.
the motorcycle. • The center of a lane can be
• Just before contact, roll on the hazardous when wet. When it
throttle slightly to lighten the front starts to rain, ride in the tire tracks
end. left by cars. Often, the left tire
track will be the best position,
If you ride over an object on the
depending on traffic and other
street, pull off the road and check
road conditions as well.
your tires and rims for damage before
riding any farther. • Watch for oil spots when you put
your foot down to stop or park.
SLIPPERY SURFACES You may slip and fall.
Motorcycles handle better when • Dirt and gravel collect along the
ridden on surfaces that permit good sides of the road — especially on
traction. Surfaces that provide poor curves and ramps leading to and
traction include: from highways. Be aware of what’s
on the edge of the road,
• Wet pavement, particularly just particularly when making sharp
after it starts to rain and before turns and getting on or off
surface oil washes to the side of freeways at high speeds.
• Rain dries and snow melts faster
• Gravel roads, or where sand and on some sections of a road than
gravel collect. on others. Patches of ice tend to
• Mud, snow, and ice. develop in low or shaded areas
• Lane markings (painted lines), and on bridges and overpasses.
steel plates and manhole covers, Wet surfaces or wet leaves are just
especially when wet. as slippery. Ride on the least
slippery portion of the lane and
To ride safely on slippery
Cautious riders steer clear of
• Reduce Speed — Slow down
roads covered with ice or snow. If you
before you get to a slippery
can’t avoid a slippery surface, keep
surface to lessen your chances of
your motorcycle straight up and
skidding. Your motorcycle needs
proceed as slowly as possible. If you
more distance to stop. And it is
encounter a large surface so slippery
particularly important to reduce
that you must coast, or travel at a
speed before entering wet curves.
walking pace, consider letting your
• Avoid Sudden Moves — Any feet skim along the surface. If the
sudden change in speed or motorcycle starts to fall, you can
direction can cause a skid. Be as catch yourself. Be sure to keep off the
smooth as possible when you brakes. If possible, squeeze the clutch
speed up, shift gears, turn or brake. and coast. Attempting this maneuver
• Use Both Brakes — The front at anything other than the slowest of
brake is still effective, even on a speeds could prove hazardous.
slippery surface. Squeeze the
TRACKING GRATINGS CROSSTRACKS-RIGHT enough away from tracks, ruts, or
pavement seams to cross at an angle
of at least 45˚. Then, make a quick,
sharp turn. Edging across could catch
your tires and throw you off balance.
GROOVES AND GRATINGS
Riding over rain grooves or
CROSSTRACKS-WRONG bridge gratings may cause a
motorcycle to weave. The uneasy,
wandering feeling is generally not
hazardous. Relax, maintain a steady
speed and ride straight across.
Crossing at an angle forces riders to
zigzag to stay in the lane. The zigzag
is far more hazardous than the
RAILROAD TRACKS, TROLLEY wandering feeling.
TRACKS AND PAVEMENT SEAMS
Usually it is safer to ride straight GRATE CROSSINGS-RIGHT
within your lane to cross tracks.
Turning to take tracks head-on (at a
90˚ angle) can be more dangerous —
your path may carry you into another
lane of traffic.
For track and road seams that run
parallel to your course, move far
PARALLEL TRACKS-WRONG 8 Test Yourself
When it starts to rain it is usually
A. Ride in the center of the lane.
B. Pull off to the side until the rain
C. Ride in the tire tracks left by cars.
D. Increase your speed.
Answer - page 45
MECHANICAL STUCK THROTTLE
PROBLEMS Twist the throttle back and forth
several times. If the throttle cable is
You can find yourself in an
stuck, this may free it. If the throttle
emergency the moment something
stays stuck, immediately operate the
goes wrong with your motorcycle. In
engine cut-off switch and pull in the
dealing with any mechanical
clutch at the same time. This will
problem, take into account the road
remove power from the rear wheel,
and traffic conditions you face. Here
though engine sound may not
are some guidelines that can help you
immediately decline. Once the
handle mechanical problems safely.
motorcycle is “under control,” pull
off and stop.
After you have stopped, check
You will seldom hear a tire go the throttle cable carefully to find the
flat. If the motorcycle starts handling source of the trouble. Make certain
differently, it may be a tire failure. the throttle works freely before you
This can be dangerous. You must be start to ride again.
able to tell from the way the
motorcycle reacts. If one of your tires
suddenly loses air, react quickly to
keep your balance. Pull off and check A “wobble” occurs when the
the tires. front wheel and handlebars suddenly
start to shake from side to side at any
If the front tire goes flat, the
speed. Most wobbles can be traced to
steering will feel “heavy.” A
improper loading, unsuitable
front-wheel flat is particularly
accessories or incorrect tire pressure.
hazardous because it affects your
If you are carrying a heavy load,
steering. You have to steer well to
lighten it. If you can’t, shift it. Center
keep your balance.
the weight lower and farther forward
If the rear tire goes flat, the back on the motorcycle. Make sure tire
of the motorcycle may jerk or sway pressure, spring pre-load, air shocks
from side to side. and dampers are at the settings
If either tire goes flat recommended for that much weight.
while riding: Make sure windshields and fairings
• Hold handlegrips firmly, ease off are mounted properly.
the throttle, and keep a straight Check for poorly adjusted
course. steering; worn steering parts; a front
• If braking is required, however, wheel that is bent, misaligned, or out
gradually apply the brake of the of balance; loose wheel bearings or
tire that isn’t flat, if you are sure spokes; and worn swingarm bearings.
which one it is. If none of these is determined to be
the cause, have the motorcycle
• When the motorcycle slows, edge
checked out thoroughly by a qualified
to the side of the road, squeeze the
clutch and stop.
Trying to “accelerate out of a ENGINE SEIZURE
wobble” will only make the When the engine “locks” or
motorcycle more unstable. Instead: “freezes” it is usually low on oil. The
• Grip the handlebars firmly, but engine’s moving parts can’t move
don’t fight the wobble. smoothly against each other, and the
• Close the throttle gradually to engine overheats. The first sign may
slow down. Do not apply the be a loss of engine power or a change
brakes; braking could make the in the engine’s sound. Squeeze the
wobble worse. clutch lever to disengage the engine
from the rear wheel. Pull off the road
• Move your weight as far forward and stop. Check the oil. If needed, oil
and down as possible. should be added as soon as possible
• Pull off the road as soon as you or the engine will seize. When this
can to fix the problem. happens, the effect is the same as a
locked rear wheel. Let the engine
9 Test Yourself cool before restarting.
If your motorcycle starts to wobble:
A. Accelerate out of the wobble. ANIMALS
B. Use the brakes gradually.
C. Grip the handlebars firmly and
Naturally, you should do
close the throttle gradually. everything you safely can to avoid
D. Downshift. hitting an animal. If you are in traffic,
Answer - page 45
however, remain in your lane. Hitting
something small is less dangerous to
CHAIN PROBLEMS you than hitting something big —
A chain that slips or breaks while like a car.
you’re riding could lock the rear Motorcycles seem to attract
wheel and cause your cycle to skid. dogs. If you are chased, downshift
Chain slippage or breakage can be and approach the animal slowly. As
avoided by proper maintenance. you approach it, accelerate away and
• Slippage — If the chain slips leave the animal behind. Don’t kick
when you try to speed up quickly at an animal. Keep control of your
or ride uphill, pull off the road. motorcycle and look to where you
Check the chain and sprockets. want to go.
Tightening the chain may help. If For larger animals (deer, elk,
the problem is a worn or stretched cattle) brake and prepare to stop —
chain or worn or bent sprockets, they are unpredictable.
replace the chain, the sprockets or
both before riding again.
10 Test Yourself
• Breakage — You’ll notice an If you are chased by a dog:
instant loss of power to the rear A. Kick it away.
wheel. Close the throttle and brake B. Stop until the animal loses interest.
to a stop. C. Swerve around the animal.
D. Approach the animal slowly, then
Answer - page 45
FLYING OBJECTS CARRYING PASSENGERS
From time to time riders are AND CARGO
struck by insects, cigarettes thrown Only experienced riders should
from cars or pebbles kicked up by the carry passengers or large loads. The
tires of the vehicle ahead. If you are extra weight changes the way the
wearing face protection, it might get motorcycle handles, balances, speeds
smeared or cracked, making it up and slows down. Before taking a
difficult to see. Without face passenger or a heavy load on the
protection, an object could hit you in street, practice away from traffic.
the eye, face or mouth. Whatever
happens, keep your eyes on the road EQUIPMENT
and your hands on the handlebars.
To carry passengers safely:
When safe, pull off the road and
repair the damage. • Equip and adjust your
motorcycle to carry passengers.
GETTING OFF THE ROAD • Instruct the passenger before you
GETTING OFF THE ROAD
If you need to leave the road to
check the motorcycle (or just to rest • Adjust your riding technique for
for a while), be sure you: the added weight.
• Check the roadside — Make sure Equipment should include:
the surface of the roadside is firm • A proper seat — large enough
enough to ride on. If it is soft to hold both of you without
grass, loose sand or if you’re just crowding. You should not sit
not sure about it, slow way down any farther forward than you
before you turn onto it. usually do.
• Signal — Drivers behind might • Footrests — for the passenger.
not expect you to slow down. Give Firm footing prevents your
a clear signal that you will be passenger from falling off and
slowing down and changing pulling you off, too.
direction. Check your mirror and • Protective equipment — the
make a head check before you take same protective gear
any action. recommended for operators.
• Pull off the road — Get as far off Adjust the suspension to handle
the road as you can. It can be very the additional weight. You will
hard to spot a motorcycle by the probably need to add a few pounds of
side of the road. You don’t want pressure to the tires if you carry a
someone else pulling off at the passenger. (Check your owner’s
same place you are. manual for appropriate settings.)
• Park carefully — Loose and While your passenger sits on the seat
sloped shoulders can make setting with you, adjust the mirror and
the side or center stand difficult. headlight according to the change in
the motorcycle’s angle.
CARRYING PASSENGERS INSTRUCTING PASSENGERS • Ride a little slower, especially
when taking curves, corners or
Even if your passenger is a
motorcycle rider, provide complete
instructions before you start. Tell • Start slowing earlier as you
your passenger to: approach a stop.
• Get on the motorcycle only after • Open up a larger cushion of
you have started the engine. space ahead and to the sides.
• Wait for larger gaps to cross,
• Sit as far forward as possible
enter or merge in traffic.
without crowding you.
Warn your passenger of special
• Hold firmly to your waist, hips,
conditions — when you will pull out,
belt, or to the bike’s passenger
stop quickly, turn sharply or ride over
a bump. Turn your head slightly to
• Keep both feet on the footrests, make yourself understood, but keep
even when stopped. your eyes on the road ahead.
• Keep legs away from the
muffler(s), chains or moving parts. CARRYING LOADS
• Stay directly behind you, leaning Most motorcycles are not
as you lean. designed to carry much cargo. Small
• Avoid unnecessary talk or loads can be carried safely if
motion. positioned and fastened properly.
Also, tell your passenger to • Keep the Load Low — Fasten
tighten his or her hold when you: loads securely, or put them in
saddlebags. Piling loads against a
• Approach surface problems. sissybar or frame on the back of
• Are about to start from a stop. the seat raises the motorcycle’s
• Warn that you will make a center of gravity and disturbs its
sudden move. balance.
• Keep the Load Forward — Place
RIDING WITH PASSENGERS the load over, or in front of, the
rear axle. Tankbags keep loads
Your motorcycle will respond forward, but use caution when
more slowly with a passenger on loading hard or sharp objects.
board. The heavier your passenger, Make sure the tankbag does not
the longer it will take to slow down interfere with handlebars or
and speed up — especially on a light controls. Mounting loads behind
motorcycle. the rear axle can affect how the
11 Test Yourself motorcycle turns and brakes. It can
also cause a wobble.
A. Lean as you lean. • Distribute the Load Evenly —
B. Hold on to the motorcycle seat. Load saddlebags with about the
C. Sit as far back as possible. same weight. An uneven load can
D. Never hold onto you. cause the motorcycle to drift to
Answer - page 45
• Secure the Load — Fasten the down a little to stay with the
load securely with elastic cords tailender.
(bungee cords or nets). Elastic • Know the Route — Make sure
cords with more than one everyone knows the route. Then,
attachment point per side are more if someone is separated they won’t
secure. A tight load won’t catch in have to hurry to keep from getting
the wheel or chain, causing it to lost or taking a wrong turn. Plan
lock up and skid. Rope tends to frequent stops on long rides.
stretch and knots come loose,
permitting the load to shift or fall. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
• Check the Load — Stop and Maintain close ranks but at the
check the load every so often to same time keep a safe distance to
make sure it has not worked loose allow each rider in the group time
or moved. and space to react to hazards. A close
group takes up less space on the
GROUP RIDING highway, is easier to see and is less
If you ride with others, do it in a likely to be separated. However, it
way that promotes safety and doesn’t must be done properly.
interfere with the flow of traffic. • Don’t Pair Up — Never operate
directly alongside another rider.
KEEP THE GROUP SMALL There is no place to go if you have
Small groups make it easier and to avoid a car or something on the
safer for car drivers who need to get road. To talk, wait until you are both
around them. A small number isn’t stopped.
separated as easily by traffic or red
lights. Riders won’t always be • Staggered Formation — This is
hurrying to catch up. If your group is the best way to keep ranks close
larger than four or five riders, divide yet maintain an adequate space
it up into two or more smaller groups.
KEEP THE GROUP TOGETHER
• Plan — The leader should look
ahead for changes and signal early
so “the word gets back” in plenty
of time. Start lane changes early to
permit everyone to complete the
• Put Beginners Up Front — Place
inexperienced riders just behind
the leader. That way the more
experienced riders can watch them
from the back.
• Follow Those Behind — Let the
tailender set the pace. Use your
mirrors to keep an eye on the
person behind. If a rider falls
behind, everyone should slow
cushion. The leader rides in the left open up room for the next rider.
side of the lane, while the second Some people suggest that the
rider stays one second behind in leader should move to the right
the right side of the lane. side after passing a vehicle. This
A third rider maintains in the left is not a good idea. It encourages
position, two seconds behind the first the second rider to pass and cut
rider. The fourth rider would keep a back in before there is a large
two-second distance behind the enough space cushion in front of
second rider. This formation keeps the passed vehicle. It’s simpler
the group close and permits each and safer to wait until there
rider a safe distance from others is enough room ahead of the
ahead, behind and to the sides. passed vehicle to allow each rider
to move into the same position
• Passing in Formation — Riders
held before the pass.
in a staggered formation should
pass one at a time. • Single-File Formation — It is best
to move into a single-file formation
• First, the lead rider should pull
when riding curves, turning,
out and pass when it is safe. After
entering or leaving a highway.
passing, the leader should return to
the left position and continue 12 Test Yourself
riding at passing speed to open When riding in a group,
room for the next rider. inexperienced riders should
• After the first rider passes position themselves:
safely, the second rider should A. Just behind the leader.
move up to the left position and B. In front of the group.
watch for a safe chance to pass. C. At the tail end of the group.
After passing, this rider should D. Beside the leader.
Answer - page 45
return to the right position and
GROUP PASSING (STAGE 1) GROUP PASSING (STAGE 2)
BEING IN SHAPE TO RIDE
BEING IN SHAPE TO RIDE
Riding a motorcycle is a demanding and complex task. Skilled riders pay
attention to the riding environment and to operating the motorcycle, identifying
potential hazards, making good judgments and executing decisions quickly and
skillfully. Your ability to perform and respond to changing road and traffic
conditions is influenced by how fit and alert you are. Alcohol and other drugs,
more than any other factor, degrade your ability to think clearly and to ride
safely. As little as one drink can have a significant effect on your performance.
Let’s look at the risks involved in riding after drinking or using drugs.
What to do to protect yourself and your fellow riders is also examined.
WHY THIS INFORMATION substance abuse don’t mix. Take
IS IMPORTANT positive steps to protect yourself and
prevent others from injuring
Alcohol is a major contributor to themselves.
motorcycle crashes, particularly fatal
ALCOHOL AND DRUGS
crashes. Studies show that 40% to ALCOHOL AND OTHER
45% of all riders killed in motorcycle DRUGS IN MOTORCYCLE
crashes had been drinking. Only one-
third of those riders had a blood OPERATION
alcohol concentration above legal No one is immune to the effects
limits. The rest had only a few drinks of alcohol or drugs. Friends may brag
in their systems — enough to impair about their ability to hold their liquor
riding skills. In the past, drug levels or perform better on drugs, but
have been harder to distinguish or alcohol or drugs make them less able
have not been separated from to think clearly and perform physical
drinking violations for the traffic tasks skillfully. Judgment and the
records. But riding “under the decision-making processes needed
influence” of either alcohol or drugs for vehicle operation are affected long
poses physical and legal hazards for before legal limitations are reached.
every rider. Many over-the-counter,
Drinking and drug use is as big a prescription and illegal drugs have
problem among motorcyclists as it is side effects that increase the risk of
among automobile drivers. riding. It is difficult to accurately
Motorcyclists, however, are more measure the involvement of
likely to be killed or severely injured particular drugs in motorcycle
in a crash. Injuries occur in 90% of crashes. But we do know what effects
motorcycle crashes and 33% of various drugs have on the process
automobile crashes that involve abuse involved in riding a motorcycle. We
of substances. On a yearly basis, also know that the combined effects
2,100 motorcyclists are killed and of alcohol and other drugs are more
about 50,000 seriously injured in this dangerous than either is alone.
same type of crash. These statistics
are too overwhelming to ignore. ALCOHOL IN THE BODY
By becoming knowledgeable Alcohol enters the bloodstream
about the effects of alcohol and other quickly. Unlike most foods and
drugs you will see that riding and
BLOOD ALCOHOL CONCENTRATION beverages, it does not need to be Your sex, physical condition and food
digested. Within minutes after being intake are just a few that may cause
consumed, it reaches the brain and your BAC level to be even higher.
begins to affect the drinker. The But the full effects of these are not
major effect alcohol has is to slow completely known. Alcohol may still
down and impair bodily functions — accumulate in your body even if
both mental and physical. Whatever you are drinking at a rate of one
you do, you do less well after drink per hour. Abilities and
consuming alcohol. judgment can be affected by that
BLOOD ALCOHOL A 12-ounce can of beer, a mixed
CONCENTRATION drink with one shot of liquor and a 5-
Blood Alcohol Concentration or ounce glass of wine all contain the
BAC is the amount of alcohol in same amount of alcohol.
relation to blood in the body. The faster you drink, the more
Generally, alcohol can be eliminated alcohol accumulates in your body. If
in the body at the rate of almost one you drink two drinks in an hour, at
drink per hour. But a variety of other the end of that hour, at least one drink
factors may also influence the level of will remain in your bloodstream.
alcohol retained. The more alcohol in Without taking into account any
your blood, the greater the degree of other factors, these examples
impairment. illustrates why time is a critical factor
Three factors play a major part when a rider decides to drink.
in determining BAC: A person drinking:
• The amount of alcohol you – Seven drinks over the span of three
consume. hours would have at least four (7 – 3
• How fast you drink. = 4) drinks remaining in their system
• Your body weight. at the end of the three hours. They
would need at least another four
Other factors also contribute to hours to eliminate the four remaining
the way alcohol affects your system. drinks before they consider riding.
– Four drinks over the span of two If you are convicted of riding
ALCOHOL AND THE LAW
hours would have at least two (4 – 2 under the influence of alcohol or
= 2) drinks remaining in their system drugs, you may receive any of the
at the end of the two hours. They following penalties:
would need at least another two hours • License Suspension —
to eliminate the two remaining drinks Mandatory suspension for
before they consider riding. conviction, arrest or refusal to
There are times when a larger submit to a breath test.
person may not accumulate as high a • Fines — Severe fines are another
concentration of alcohol for each drink aspect of a conviction, usually
consumed. They have more blood levied with a license suspension.
and other bodily fluids. But because
• Community Service — Performing
of individual differences it is better
tasks such as picking up litter
not to take the chance that abilities
along the highway, washing cars in
and judgment have not been affected.
the motor-vehicle pool or working
Whether or not you are legally
at an emergency ward.
intoxicated is not the real issue.
• Costs — Additional lawyer’s fees
Impairment of judgment and skills
begins well below the legal limit. to pay, lost work time spent in
court or alcohol-education
ALCOHOL AND THE LAW programs, public transportation
Nationwide, a person with a costs (while your license is
BAC of 0.08 or above is considered suspended) and the added
intoxicated. It doesn’t matter how psychological costs of being
sober you may look or act. The tagged a “drunk driver.”
breath or urine test is what usually
determines whether you are riding
MINIMIZE THE RISKS
legally or illegally. Your ability to judge how well
Your chances of being stopped you are riding is affected first.
for riding under the influence of Although you may be performing
alcohol are increasing. Law more and more poorly, you think you
enforcement is being stepped up are doing better and better. The result
across the country in response to the is that you ride confidently, taking
senseless deaths and injuries caused greater and greater risks. Minimize
by drinking drivers and riders. the risks of drinking and riding by
taking steps before you drink.
CONSEQUENCES OF Control your drinking or control
CONVICTION your riding.
Years ago, first offenders had a
good chance of getting off with a DON’T DRINK
small fine and participation in Don’t Drink — Once you start,
alcohol-abuse classes. Today the laws your resistance becomes weaker.
of most states impose stiff penalties Setting a limit or pacing yourself
on drinking operators. And those are poor alternatives at best. Your
penalties are mandatory, meaning ability to exercise good judgment is
that judges must impose them.
FATIGUE one of the first things affected by It helps to enlist support from
alcohol. Even if you have tried to others when you decide to step in.
drink in moderation, you may not The more people on your side, the
realize to what extent your skills have easier it is to be firm and the harder
suffered from alcohol’s fatiguing it is for the rider to resist. While
effects. you may not be thanked at the
time, you will never have to say,
Or Don’t Ride — If you haven’t
“If only I had ...”
controlled your drinking, you must
control your riding. FATIGUE
• Leave the motorcycle — Riding a motorcycle is more
so you won’t be tempted to ride. tiring than driving a car. On a long
Arrange another way to get home. trip, you’ll tire sooner than you would
• Wait — If you exceed your in a car. Avoid riding when tired.
limit, wait until your system Fatigue can affect your control of the
eliminates the alcohol and its motorcycle.
• Protect yourself from the
STEP IN TO elements — Wind, cold, and rain
make you tire quickly. Dress
PROTECT FRIENDS warmly. A windshield is worth its
People who have had too much to cost if you plan to ride long
drink are unable to make a responsible distances.
decision. It is up to others to step in
• Limit your distance — Experi-
and keep them from taking too great a
risk. No one wants to do this — it’s enced riders seldom try to ride
uncomfortable, embarrassing and more than about six hours a day.
thankless. You are rarely thanked for • Take frequent rest breaks —
your efforts at the time. But the Stop and get off the motorcycle at
alternatives are often worse. least every two hours.
There are several ways to keep • Don’t drink or use drugs —
friends from hurting themselves: Artificial stimulants often result in
• Arrange a safe ride — Provide extreme fatigue or depression
alternative ways for them to when they start to wear off. Riders
get home. are unable to concentrate on the
• Slow the pace of drinking — task at hand.
Involve them in other activities.
• Keep them there — Use any 13 Test Yourself
excuse to keep them from getting If you wait one hour per drink for the
on their motorcycle. Serve them alcohol to be eliminated from your
food and coffee to pass the time. body before riding:
Explain your concerns for their A. You cannot be arrested for drinking
risks of getting arrested or hurt
B. Your riding skills will not be
or hurting someone else. Take their affected.
key, if you can. C. Side effects from the drinking may
• Get friends involved — Use peer still remain.
pressure from a group of friends D. You will be okay as long as you ride
to intervene. Answer - page 45
EARNING YOUR LICENSE
EARNING YOUR LICENSE
Safe riding requires knowledge and skill. Licensing tests are the best
measurement of the skills necessary to operate safely in traffic. Assessing your
own skills is not enough. People often overestimate their own abilities. It’s even
harder for friends and relatives to be totally honest about your skills. Licensing
exams are designed to be scored more objectively.
To earn your license, you must pass a knowledge test and an on-cycle skill
test. Knowledge test questions are based on information, practices and ideas
from this manual. They require that you know and understand road rules and
safe riding practices. An on-cycle skill test will either be conducted in an actual
traffic environment or in a controlled, off-street area.
KNOWLEDGE TEST 4. If a tire goes flat while riding and
(Sample Questions) you must stop, it is usually best to:
1. It is MOST important to flash A. Relax on the handlegrips.
your brake light when: B. Shift your weight toward the good
A. Someone is following too closely.
C. Brake on the good tire and steer to
B. You will be slowing suddenly.
the side of the road.
C. There is a stop sign ahead.
D. Use both brakes and stop quickly.
D. Your signals are not working.
5. The car below is waiting to enter
2. The FRONT brake supplies how
the intersection. It is best to:
much of the potential stopping
power? A. Make eye contact with the driver.
B. Reduce speed and be ready to
A. About one-quarter.
B. About one-half.
C. Maintain speed and position.
C. About three-quarters.
D. Maintain speed and move right.
D. All of the stopping power.
3. To swerve correctly:
A. Shift your weight quickly.
B. Turn the handlebars quickly.
C. Press the handlegrip in the
direction of the turn.
D. Press the handlegrip in the
opposite direction of the turn.
Answers to Test Yourself (previous pages)
1-D, 2-D, 3-A, 4-B, 5-C, _____________________________________
6-D 7-D, 8-C, 9-C, 10-D, Answers to above Knowledge Test:
11-A, 12-A, 13-C 1-B, 2-C, 3-C, 4-C, 5-B
ON-MOTORCYCLE • Adjust speed and position to the
SKILL TEST traffic situation.
• Stop, turn and swerve quickly.
Basic vehicle control and
crash-avoidance skills are included in • Make critical decisions and carry
on-motorcycle tests to determine them out.
your ability to handle normal and Examiners may score on
hazardous traffic situations. factors related to safety such as:
You may be tested for your • Selecting safe speeds to perform
ability to: maneuvers.
• Know your motorcycle and your • Choosing the correct path and
riding limits. staying within boundaries.
• Accelerate, brake and turn • Completing normal and quick
• See, be seen and communicate • Completing normal and quick
with others. turns or swerves.
To receive a motorcycle endorsement with full privileges,
skills test maneuvers must be performed on a motorcycle
with two wheels.
A modified version of the test will be administered if your vehicle has
more than two wheels, such as an autocycle, a motorcycle with sidecar
or other three-wheeled vehicle. If you successfully complete the
modified test, you become eligible for a restricted motorcycle
endorsement that would allow you to ride only these types of vehicles.
Diagrams and drawings used in this manual are for reference only
and are not to correct scale for size of vehicles and distances.
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Operating a motorcycle safely in These revisions reflect:
traffic requires special skills and • The latest finding of motorcycle-
knowledge. The Motorcycle Safety safety research.
Foundation (MSF) has made this manual
• Comments and guidance provided
available to help novice motorcyclists
by the motorcycling, licensing and
reduce their risk of having a crash. The
traffic safety communities.
manual conveys essential safe riding
information and has been designed for • Expanded alcohol and drug
use in licensing programs. While information.
designed for the novice, all motorcyclists In promoting improved licensing
can benefit from the information this programs, the MSF works closely with
manual contains. state licensing agencies. The Foundation
The original Motorcycle Operator has helped more than half the states in
Manual was developed by the National the nation adopt the Motorcycle Operator
Public Services Research Institute Manual for use in their licensing
(NPSRI) under contract to the National systems.
Highway Traffic Safety Administration Improved licensing, along with
(NHTSA) and within the terms of a high-quality motorcycle rider education
cooperative agreement between NHTSA and increased public awareness, has the
and the MSF. The manual and related potential to reduce crashes. Staff at the
tests were used in a multi-year study of Foundation are available to assist state,
improved motorcycle operator licensing private and governmental agencies in
procedures, conducted by the California efforts to improve motorcycle safety.
Department of Motor Vehicles under
contract to NHTSA.
The purpose of this manual is to
educate the reader to help avoid crashes
while safely operating a motorcycle. For
this edition, the MSF has updated and
expanded the content of the original Tim Buche
Motorcycle Safety Foundation
2 Jenner Street, Suite 150
Irvine, CA 92618-3806
MOTORCYCLES MAKE SENSE –
SO DOES PROFESSIONAL TRAINING
Motorcycles are inexpensive to operate, fun to ride and easy to park.
Unfortunately, many riders never learn critical skills needed to ride safely.
Professional training for beginning and experienced riders prepares them for
real-world traffic situations. Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCoursesSM teach
and improve such skills as:
• Effective turning • Braking maneuvers • Protective apparel selection
• Obstacle avoidance • Traffic strategies • Maintenance
For the basic or experienced RiderCourse nearest you,
call: (517) 241-6850 or visit: www.Michigan.gov/sos
The Motorcycle motorcycles. The infor-
Safety Foundation’s mation has been com-
(MSF) purpose is to piled from publications,
improve the safety of interviews and observa-
motorcyclists on the tions of individuals and
nation’s streets and highways. In an organizations familiar with the use of
attempt to reduce motorcycle crashes motorcycles, accessories, and training.
and injuries, the Foundation has Because there are many differences in
programs in rider education, licensing product design, riding styles, federal,
improvement, public information and state and local laws, there may be orga-
statistics. These programs are designed nizations and individuals who hold dif-
for both motorcyclists and motorists. A fering opinions. Consult your local
national not-for-profit organization, the regulatory agencies for information
MSF is sponsored by BMW, Ducati, concerning the operation of motor-
Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, cycles in your area. Although the MSF
KTM, Piaggio/Vespa, Suzuki, Victory will continue to research, field test and
and Yamaha. publish responsible viewpoints on the
The information contained in this subject, it disclaims any liability for
publication is offered for the benefit of the views expressed herein.
those who have an interest in riding
Motorcycle Safety Foundation
2 Jenner Street, Suite 150, Irvine, CA 92618-3806
Second Revision....................December 1978 Seventh Revision ..................September 1992
Third Revision........................February 1981 Eighth Revision........................January 1999
Fourth Revision .......................January 1983 Ninth Revision ............................March 2000
Fifth Revision...........................October 1987 Tenth Revision..........................January 2002
Sixth Revision ...............................April 1991 Eleventh Revision...........................July 2002
....................................................................... Twelfth Revision.............................May 2004
Printed in USA 000254
An alternative format of this printed material may
be obtained by contacting the Department of State
at 1-888-SOS-MICH (1-888-767-6424).
Total Copies Printed: 50,000; Total Cost: $15,475.00; Cost Per Copy: $0.31
SOS 116 Rev. 01/07