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Spring is here, listen up: Five key things to know when you’re motorcycling

With the change in seasons, the open road beckons. Motorcycle drivers are finally enjoying the breezy freedom of the outdoors for what they hope will be a memorable summer of biking adventures.

Don’t wreck it by getting in a wreck.

Having a safe biking season is a two-way street. Motorcycle drivers have to obey the rules of the road and drivers of other vehicles have to “see” the motorcycles and pay attention to what they’re doing.

Motorcycle safety is not a topic to be brushed off lightly. Last year, 60 motorcycle riders in Minnesota lost their lives, a 7 percent increase from 2012, marking the first year since 2008 that rider fatalities went up.

Rider deaths accounted for 16 percent of Minnesota traffic deaths last year, according to the Department of Public Safety.

Speed was cited in 14 of the fatal crashes. In the past five years, 40 riders (21 percent) have been killed where speed was cited on the part of the motorcyclist.

Only one-quarter (15) of the motorcyclists killed were known to be wearing a helmet.

The DPS offers these five key points to motorcycle drivers:

  1. Assume you are invisible to other drivers. Don’t ever assume another driver knows you’re there. Adhere to the attitude that no one else on the road is concerned with your personal safety. Learn to use a riding strategy like SEE (search, evaluate, execute) to manage the roadway and traffic.
  2. Look where you want to go. It’s called visual directional control. Keep your head and eyes oriented three to four seconds ahead of you when cornering. You can get instruction and practice in this technique in a basic or advanced training course. In an emergency, do not stare at the guardrail, the gravel shoulder or the oncoming car; chances are you’ll hit whatever you’re trying to avoid.
  3. Countersteer. Use precise inputs to the handgrips, not body lean, to lean the motorcycle. When you countersteer, you initially turn the handlebars in the opposite direction you think you should. Press forward on the right handgrip, the bike leans right. Press forward on the left handgrip, the bike leans left.
  4. Use both brakes. Your front brake provides 70 percent or more of your stopping power in an emergency. Squeeze, do not grab, the front brake, and keep squeezing, increasing the squeezing pressure until you’ve slowed sufficiently or stopped. Untrained riders are often afraid to use the front brake, for fear of flipping over. Trained riders know better.
  5. Never stop riding the bike. Don’t ever give up control of your motorcycle. “Laying it down” is not a strategy. The person with the most control of any situation is you. Look where you want to go, countersteer or use maximum braking to avoid a crash.

Remember, you can get instruction and practice in all these techniques by taking a basic or advanced training course. – Alexandria Echo Press