Motorcyclists

Choosing Gear & Helmet

Protective clothing reduces the severity of injuries sustained in a crash, and bright coloured protective clothing will help other road users see you.

Here are some things to consider:

  • Helmets – There are guidelines to helmets that can be worn in Western Australia.
  • Jackets – Choose either leather or non-leather alternative.  Select a jacket with built-in shoulder, elbow and back protection that is abrasion-resistant.
  • Eye Protection – Ensure you wear quality glasses with open-faced helmets or when riding without a visor.
  • Gloves – Should fit securely but comfortably, be reinforced, padded and able to improve your grip.
  • Boots – Buy boots that are light, secure and reinforced.
  • Pants – Choose pants that are comfortable and have built-in reinforcement.

You should choose clothes that make you visible on the roads. It helps if you show as much contrast with the environment as possible. As a general rule this would include:

  • high visibility clothing and white or light helmets when riding through highly dense traffic;
  • darker clothing when cruising in open spaces with high ambient light; and
  • reflective clothing at night.

When buying a helmet, there are some essentials you need to consider:

  • Comply with the Australian standards.
  • Be comfortable and protective.
  • Fit you properly.  Try it on for size before you buy it and don’t purchase online unless you are sure it will fit correctly.
  • Be light-coloured that will offer better visibility to other vehicles day and night.
  • Be brand new.  Buying a second-hand helmet is not recommended because you do not know how it has been treated, if it has been involved in a crash or if there is any damage (e.g. UV degradation).  After a single crash or drop, the helmet must be replaced.
  • Be only for you.  You should not lend your helmet to others because it can affect how it fits your head when it is returned.

 

Choosing a Motorcycle

Choosing the right motorcycle for your needs is a crucial step towards assuring your safety on the roads. This is because riding is more physically and mentally demanding than driving a car and the relationship between machine and human is that much closer. Here are some tips:

  • Talk to experienced riders, chat to knowledgeable staff in showrooms and check out as many websites as you can before choose something that could prove to be unsuitable.
  • Think about what sort of motorcycle you want and what would best suit your needs, whether it’s for touring at weekends, everyday commuting, trips to the beach or a sports model.
  • Be realistic about your size, weight and strength – these are important considerations, as you will need to be able to manoeuvre quickly, efficiently and confidently.
  • If upgrading to a more powerful bike after gaining your ‘R’ licence, take time to practice, as the handling is very different from smaller motorcycles.

Riding Tips and Techniques

Ride responsibly and don’t risk becoming a statistic by:

  • Stay alert and attentive to what’s happening on the road.
  • Don’t ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Keep to the speed limits and drive according to the conditions.
  • Take breaks to avoid fatigue.

Below are some important tips and techniques for safe riding or read the Riding Tips & Techniques (PDF 6 pages 179 KB) booklet.

The Motorcycle Riders Association of Western Australia has published the Make Yourself Visible booklet. The booklet highlights some of the situations that motorcyclists find themselves in on a daily basis, and the recommended steps to increase the chances of being seen by other road users.

Setting Up and Braking

‘Setting up’ is braking lightly as you approach potential hazards, giving you more opportunity and space to react to events. The advantages of this are:

  • It prepares the rider. By recognising the hazard and taking preparatory action you will have more control.
  • It prepares the motorcycle to stop if needed without locking up the brakes and losing control.
  • It prepares the vehicle behind you, whose driver has been alerted by the brake light that you may be about to brake hard.

Safe Cornering

In rural and regional areas, the majority of motorcycle crashes tend to be single vehicle. Many of these relate to misjudging cornering.

Braking and Gears

  • Adjust your speed coming up to a corner.
  • Allow for traffic and weather conditions.
  • Ease off the brakes gently on entering the corner.
  • Change down to the appropriate gear to get you into and out of corners.

Road Position

  • Start corners wide to improve your vision of oncoming traffic.
  • Plan to finish in tight.
  • Move away from the central ‘head-on’ zone as you round the corner.

Difficult Surfaces

A number of surfaces can provide a slipping hazard for motorcycles, particularly if the road surface is wet, including painted lane markings and steel surfaces such as manhole covers. To ride safely on slippery surfaces:

  • Reduce your speed, so that you require less space to stop
  • Reduce the amount of lean on the motorcycle when riding curves. This is done by slowing down and/or leaning your body into the bend.

Tip: On wet roads you may gain more traction from riding in the tracks made by the car in front of you. However, look out for oil that often collects down the centre of a lane.

Swerving

If something unexpected happens and you need to avoid a crash:

  • Lean in to the swerve and then try and correct the motion as quickly as possible
  • Check where you’re going to make sure you don’t end up in another crash.

Steering Shakes or 'Wobbles'

This can occur at any speed due to incorrect tyre pressure or weight distribution on the bike. If it happens:

  • Grip the handlebars firmly but do not try to correct the steering. Don’t fight the wobbling.
  • Gradually decelerate without braking suddenly.
  • Once the wobbling stops, pull over to a safe place.

Blowouts and Punctures

If a blowout or rapid puncture occurs whilst you are riding:

  • Don’t brake – just gradually close the throttle down and try to steer straight.
  • Move your weight towards which ever tyre is still inflated.

Carrying a Pillion Passenger

Carrying any additional weight your bike will affect the handling of the motorcycle:

  • Do not carry a pillion passenger or heavy loads unless you are an experienced rider
  • Make sure you have a suitable seat fitted on your motorcycle
  • A passenger is your responsibility; make sure they are as well protected as you are
  • Adjust the rear suspension spring preload, mirror, headlight and tyre pressure to allow for the additional weight
  • Ride at lower speed
  • Slow down earlier
  • Adjust your buffer zone to allow extra stopping distance
  • Keep conversation to a minimum to avoid distraction
  • Do not make sudden moves or show off as it will make your passenger nervous and could compromise safety.

Your passenger should:

  • Get on the motorcycle after you have mounted the motorcycle and started the engine
  • Sit as far forward as possible
  • Hold on to the waist of the rider or a secure part of the motorcycle
  • Keep both feet on the footpegs at all times, even when the motorcycle is stopped
  • Stay directly behind you, leaning as you lean and avoiding any unnecessary movement.

 

Motorcycle Maintenance

Get into the habit of getting your motorcycle regularly checked and serviced.  Before each journey you should be confident that your motorcycle will not let you down at a critical moment.  Your owner’s manual will list checks you should carry out.

Here are some tips from the Ride Safe Handbook:

  • Tyres – these should be in good condition and have a tread that is at least 1.5mm deep across the tread surface. Also ensure that the sidewalls do not have any cuts, cracks or bumps and that the tyres do not have any worn or uneven tread.
  • Tyre pressure – a bike handles correctly when the tyre pressure is set to the optimal level. Checking the pressure is best done when the tyres are cold, before you ride and approximately every two weeks.
  • Chain tension – riding with a slack worn chain can cause the rear wheel to lock, so it's important to ensure that your chain is correctly tensioned, as per your owner’s manual.
  • Lubricate the chain – lubricant should be applied to the pivot points of the chain to ensure optimal operation.
  • Brake pads for wear – ensure that the brake pads have sufficient material to stop the bike when the brakes are fully applied.
  • Level of engine oil – ensure that the level of engine oil is in-between the high and low marks on the inspection window.
  • Level of brake fluid – the level of brake fluid on both the rear and master cylinder reservoirs should be checked regularly.
  • Level of coolant – check the level of coolant that is being used and top up as required.
  • Fork legs – ensure that the fork legs are operational and that there is no evidence of oil leakage
  • Electronics – check that all front lights, high beams, low beams, brake lights, front and rear brakes and the horn are working. Also ensure that your battery contains the correct level of fluid, topping up if levels are low.
  • Mirrors – ensure that all cables are in good condition, lubricated and free of kinks.

Sharing the Road

There are three major aspects to sharing the road with other vehicles:

  • Being seen – don’t assume other drivers or riders can see you.
  • Scanning and planning – scan regularly without focusing on any one spot too long.
  • Keeping your distance – the best protection you can have is space between yourself and others.

The following information has been sourced from Land Transport New Zealand, the Road Traffic Authority of New South Wales Motorcycle Riders handbook and the Motorcycle Riders Association leaflet.

Being Seen

A large proportion of motorcycle crashes in urban areas involve other vehicles. For your safety, you need to ensure that you are always seen.

  • Always have low beam headlights on during the day.
  • Wear bright coloured protective clothing, or at least contrasting colours (e.g. black and white, and a reflective vest at night.)
  • Lane positioning. Always be aware of how your visibility to others will be affected by the lane you are in and your position within it. Move within your lane when coming up to junctions to be in the safest position if someone suddenly pulls out.
  • Parked cars can obstruct other drivers’ view of motorcycles when approaching junctions, so adopt a lane position that gives you clear space from them.
  • Be aware of drivers or riders ‘blind spots’. Try to make sure that you can see their face in their wing mirror or rear view mirror.
  • Slowing down when approaching junctions or other areas of manoeuvring traffic gives you a better chance of being seen and more time for all drivers to plan their actions.

Scanning and Planning

Always be aware of potential trouble. Scan regularly without focusing on any one spot too long.

  • Scan ahead so you know what junctions or other traffic situations are coming up.
  • Use your height advantage to look over or through vehicles ahead to see what’s happening.
  • Be aware of vehicles immediately around you and what you think they might do.
  • Use your mirrors frequently to check behind you, especially if you are about to manoeuvre.
  • Do a head check to make sure there is nothing sitting in your blind spot.
  • Scan the road itself for hazards such as oil, slippery road markings, twigs and debris, gravel or potholes.

Keeping Your Distance

The best protection you can have is space between yourself and others.

Space in Front

Under normal conditions, a 3 second buffer zone between yourself and the next vehicle:

  • Gives you enough time to react in an emergency;
  • Gives you a better view of the road surface; and
  • Allows other drivers to see you.

In wet conditions, extend the buffer zone to 5 seconds or more to give you additional stopping time.

At the Side

Moving from one side of your lane to the other will allow you to maintain your buffer zone at the side when:

  • You are being overtaken by other vehicles
  • You are passing a line of parked car
  • A truck is approaching, possibly creating hazardous wind gusts.

Space Behind

If a driver is tailgating your motorcycle, increase your distance from the car in front to give you additional stopping time. Alternatively, change lanes or slow down and allow the tailgater to overtake.

Lane Splitting

Lane splitting/filtering is an unsafe practice which usually contravenes the road rules. While the Australian Road Rules and WA Road Traffic Code 2000 do not explicitly ban lane splitting/filtering, they do prohibit the practice by virtue of the fact that a number of other rules may be and are regularly contravened during the manoeuvres, such as not signalling before a lane change, riding with the wheels on the lane line, crossing continuous lane lines, safe overtaking and so on.
 
Important: Slipstreaming trucks is not a safe practice as it reduces your buffer zone and loose debris may strike you.

Motorcyclists and scooter riders are vulnerable on WA roads because the lack of physical protection and small size when compared to other motor vehicles. It is important that motorcyclists and scooter riders engage in safer riding and ensure that they have the appropriate protective clothing and helmet to reduce their risk on the road. Here you will find extensive information about choosing the right motorcycle, gear and helmet for you, motorcycle maintenance, safe riding techniques and information about sharing the road.