How To Understand Motorcycling Etiquette

One Motorcyclist's Actions Reflect on All Motorcycle Riders

With the price of fuel continuing to skyrocket, along with the high prices of cars, motorcycle riding as an everyday event is becoming more popular. Prices for new and used motorcycles are usually lower than cars (unless you go for the tricked-out motorcycles) and fuel consumption averages 40-50 miles per gallon.

With this in mind, what formerly used to be more of a hobby and/or sport is quickly becoming a primary source of transportation for many people. Whether you enjoy riding a sportbike or a touring bike, there are many rules and forms of etiquette to keep in mind.

Following are the primary “rules of the road” that need to be observed.

Always remember, one motorcyclist's actions reflects on all riders.

  1. Acknowledge other motorcyclists. While passing in opposite directions, acknowledge with a nod of the head or a hand gesture. This hand gesture would be to take your left hand off the handlebar and clutch, then give a low-positioned, open-handed wave or two victory fingers.
  2. Ride safely. In other words, ride within your own skill and limits. Do not be “sucked-in” to riding faster than you are comfortable with, putting yourself in danger along with everyone around you. This includes not doing “wheelies” (lifting the front tire and riding down the road on only the back tire) on the highway.
  3. Pass safely. When passing another rider or a driver in a car, do not “fly” by them as close as possible while revving the rpm's on the engine. Remember you are not on a race track. There are numerous race tracks around the country where you can test your skills, if you desire. And, on the other hand, if you are being passed, allow the passing rider plenty of room.
  4. Be respectful. Motorcycles and their riders are often looked at in a derogatory fashion. To this end, in residential areas, do not rev the engine at high rpm's, causing loud noise pollution.
  5. Use your turn signals. As well as this being a safety issue, it also presents yourself as a respectful rider. This can be achieved with the electronic turn signals or hand signals.
  6. Lane splitting. This allows a motorcyclist to use the space between two lanes. At this point, in the United States, California is the only state that legally allows lane splitting. Many European countries also allow it. If it is not legal in your state, you may find car drivers becoming incensed or disoriented with this activity, once again, making it a safety issue.
  7. Offer help or assistance to a rider in need. Motorcycling is a culture in and of itself and, therefore, the camaraderie of riders should extend to helping each other. If nothing else, offer to call or go for help if someone is broken down along side the road.
  8. Permission. Never assume you can mount or touch another person's motorcycle without permission. This goes for both riders and non-riders. For non-riders, in particular, not realizing most motorcycles average 400-500 pounds, the possibility of having it fall over is a very distinct reality.

If you are interested in learning how to ride in a group, for a more complete explanation of hand signals, rules, riding terminology, and how to ride in groups, check out New Jersey Motorcycle Cruisers for “The Quick and Short List” of riding.

For the motorcyclist interested in getting on a race track for additional experience and training, there are numerous tracks across the United States. Three easily accessible tracks in the central part of the United States are Mid-Ohio, Barber Motorsports, and Road Atlanta – you can check out their schedules to take riding classes.

No matter your level of riding expertise, always remember to ride at your skill level, stay within the parameters of safe riding, and integrate your riding into mainstream transportation. Motorcycle riding is fun and exciting, but always needs to be handled with great respect. Enjoy the open road and all it has to offer.


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