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The 3 Minute Pre-Ride Checklist

Think you're ready to roll every time you jump on your motorcycle?

To save time, money, and possibly even your life, do a quick walk-around before you ride. Make sure your lights, horn, and directional signals are working properly. Check the chain, belt, or shaft and the brakes. And carefully inspect the tires for wear and make sure they’re set at the proper pressure.

Our Leo's powersports service technicians say they routinely see worn-out brakes and improperly inflated tires that greatly increase safety risks for riders. When tires are under-inflated, handling gets really hard, steering becomes difficult, and the bike doesn’t want to lean properly in your turns. And poor braking results in needing a longer stopping distance. And there are times you just don't have that option.

So take a few minutes to inspect your motorcycle for your own good and your passengers before you jump on it and go. Ride often. Ride safe. Have fun!

Anti-Lock Brakes and Road Hazards

Whenever possible, invest in anti-lock brakes. They are now available on a wide array of models and are a proven lifesaver.

Recent highway data shows that motorcycles equipped with ABS brakes were 37 percent less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than bikes without it. No matter what kind of rider you are, ABS can brake better than you can.

The reason is simple: locking up the brakes in a panic stop robs the rider of any steering control. That can easily lead to a skid and crash, which can result in serious injury. ABS helps you retain steering control during an emergency stop and it can be especially valuable in slippery conditions.

This critical feature is now standard on many high-end models and adds only a few hundred dollars to the price of more basic bikes. Plus, you may be able to offset some of the added cost with an insurance discount. Either way, we think it’s a worthwhile investment in your safety.

Which brings us to our next point: watch for road hazards. A motorcycle has less contact with the pavement than a car. Sand, wet leaves, or pebbles can cause a bike to slide unexpectedly, easily resulting in a spill. Bumps and potholes that you might barely notice in a car can pose serious danger when on a bike. If you can’t avoid them, slow down as much as possible before encountering them, with minimal steering input. Railroad tracks and other hazards should be approached as close to a right angle as possible, to reduce the chances of a skid.

Just a little advice to help keep you riding safely. We like seeing your smiling faces around here!

Dress Right for Your Ride and Keep Your Mind Sharp for Safety

Whether you are just riding across town or road-tripping across the country, be sure to always wear the right gear. Jeans, a t-shirt, and sandals are recipes for a painful disaster on a bike. Instead, you'll want apparel and gear that will protect you from wind chill, flying bugs, road/ditch debris, and, yes, lots of ugly road rash if you should slide out.

For maximum protection, go for a leather or other reinforced jacket, gloves, full pants, and over-the-ankle footwear, even in summer. Specially designed jackets with rugged padding and breathable mesh material provide protection as well as ventilation for riding in warm weather. You'll also want to wear effective eye protection; don't just rely on eyeglasses or a bike's windscreen. Use a helmet with a visor or goggles. And keep in mind that car drivers who have hit a motorcycle rider often say they just didn't see them, so choose apparel and gear in bright colors.

Which brings us to our 2nd point: be defensive! A recent FL highway study found that in collisions involving a motorcycle and a car, car drivers were at fault 60 percent of the time. So, you need to be extra alert, especially in this age of epidemic phone use and texting behind the wheel. Always assume you are invisible to drivers of other vehicles. Keep an eye out for cars suddenly changing lanes or pulling out from side streets. And don't tailgate; keeping a safe following distance is critical, both to ensure you have enough stopping distance and so you have time to react to obstacles in the road. An object that a car might easily straddle could be a serious hazard when on a bike. So keep the dirty side down--we want to see you around here all in one piece.

Use Your Head

Yes, helmets are an emotional topic for some riders, but the facts show the risk. Riders without a helmet are 40 percent more likely to suffer a fatal head injury in a crash, and are three times more likely to suffer brain injuries than those with helmets, according to government studies.

When Texas and Arkansas repealed their helmet laws, they saw a 31 and 21 percent increase in motorcycle fatalities, respectively. "It is absolute insanity to repeal helmet laws," says Orly Avitzur, MD, a neurologist and a Consumer Reports medical adviser. "Because helmets do save lives, it is insanity to expose the skull and brain to potential trauma that could be prevented or at least mitigated."

A full-face helmet that's approved by the Department of Transportation is the best choice (look for a DOT certification sticker on the helmet). Modern helmets are strong, lightweight, and comfortable, and they cut down on wind noise and fatigue. Keep in mind that helmets deteriorate over time, and may not be safe even if they look fine. The Snell Memorial Foundation, and independent helmet testing and standards setting organization recommends replacing a helmet every five years, or sooner if it's been damaged or in a crash. Beyond potential detonation due to aging and exposure to hair oils and chemicals, Snell points out that there is often a notable improvement in design and materials over that time.