There's been a lot of hate thrown at us motorcycle riders. Besides the catch-all term, kamote, some have gone so far as to call us insects, while others advise to run us off the road whenever possible. However, the rage is not unfounded as there's no shortage of videos on social media showing riders riding drunk, overshooting corners, overtaking dangerously, or simply squeezing into spaces where they shouldn't be. We all know how hurtful it is to be called a kamote. So here are some tips to improve our riding and avoid being called that derogatory term altogether.
Helmet and Headlights On
This is the simplest and easiest step towards preventing accidents. Always wear a helmet, no matter how short the ride or how well you know the road. And properly, too. Don't just drape it over your forehead. It's the law, after all.
Invest in a proper helmet that has passed international safety standards. It's your head that's going in it, after all. Take good care of your helmet, regularly clean the visor, and don't simply leave it lying around in the sun or rain. These elements can deteriorate the visor and make it unusable. If your helmet has figured in an accident, replace it immediately. Even without incident, replace your helmet within 5-7 years. This ensures you enjoy the benefits of a helmet compliant with the latest safety standards.
Keep headlights always on, whether in the day or at night. The old advice that lights sap a motorcycle's power and consumption is a myth. Lights make a motorcycle much more visible to other motorists, letting cars or pedestrians know you're there. Keep your headlights and tail lights maintained and immediately replace the bulbs when they're broken. A motorcycle can be practically invisible to a car in bad weather if its lights are broken.
Invest in safety gear
The law may just require a helmet to ride a motorcycle, but it's always better to go beyond the minimum requirement. Never ride with just a shirt, shorts and slippers. Shirts and shorts don't provide any protection at all. Slippers can easily slip off and leave your feet unprotected. These fall under "improper attire" and may be grounds for an enforcer to pull you over.
Invest in a proper motorcycle jacket with proper padding. Or invest in external padding that you can wear over a regular jacket. These can prevent road rash in the event of a fall. Buy gloves with hard knuckles. These can also protect your hands and fingers to some extent in a crash. Always wear pants when riding with knee and shin guards strapped on, although proper riding pants with padding is preferred. Closed shoes are the bare minimum, though we recommend high cut riding shoes with the right amount of protection that doesn't restrict ankle movement. Finally, get yourself a reflective vest. Some riders may find this uncool, yet the extra visibility, particularly at night, can be a lifesaver.
Ride where you can be seen
When in traffic, it's tempting to just ride in between cars in order to be in the right position for any opening that might appear. Bear in mind that this can be risky, because not many car drivers always check their mirrors, and especially not for motorcycles.
When not filtering, stay where you're most visible to the driver ahead and behind. Keep your bike right at the center. Riding directly behind one of the tail lights is right in a car's blind spot. The driver may not be able to see you if you're at an oblique angle, particularly if he or she, is planning to switch lanes.
Never pass on the right
One of the most common mistakes of riders is to pass on the right side, particularly when on right turn lanes approaching intersections. Cars and jeeps on this lane are most likely to stop, unload, or turn right, sometimes without signaling. Avoid filtering on this side as much as possible, as cars don't typically check their right mirror if they're already on this lane. While it is always advisable to pass on the left, be on the lookout for left turn lanes, as well, and stay well clear of this side when approaching intersections. If it is not safe to pass on the left, then simply wait for the safest time to do so.
Let them know you're there
Riders don't have it easy as most drivers are trained to look out for other cars and not motorcycles. As such, always signal your presence when planning to pass, whether by flashing your lights or sounding your horn. Remember to keep your headlights on, as this makes them more likely to see you. Flash your lights when passing a car or sound the horn (with short beeps, not long ones). This lets drivers know you're there and are coming through.
Always weigh the risks at each instance. Consider first if it safe to make a particular pass, if you're visible to the driver, or if you'll even fit in the first place. Just because there's an opening in traffic, doesn't mean it's worth squeezing into. Taking some time to analyze the risks before passing can avoid a potential accident.
These are just a few tips to make riding on the road with other cars a little more harmonious. Remember, they key here is to let other motorists, whether other cars or bikes, know your intentions. Don't presume they know where you're going. always assume they don't know you're there. This defensive riding mindset will not only help avoid accidents, but remind you to be more considerate of other road users.