Let’s face it; riding on two wheels is a tough task in our country. Aside from the constant discrimination and targeted enforcement from various sectors in the Philippines, there’s the general lack of respect for each other on the road, the need for proper training, and the road conditions that seem to change overnight. As a developing nation, the influx of motorcycle sales has spiked, with businesses and even professionals recognizing the need for a more efficient and cost-effective form of transportation.
Motorcycling usually transcends social status and gender, and, being an avid motorcyclist myself, we all know the risks involved, whether you’re on your Italian superbike or your Japanese scooter on your way to work. Yes, motorcycling is inherently dangerous, but there are steps to make it an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
Get Proper Training
The truth is that most people learn to ride on a scooter or motorcycle from a friend or family member. Bad habits and questionable fundamentals are picked up, and the foundation for your riding is compromised. Take proper lessons from an accredited school or riding clinic, such as Honda’s Safety Driving Center, which offer proper courses for both automatic and manual two-wheeled vehicles. Trust me, I thought I knew almost everything until I took a single day course; there’s a lot to learn from a simple refresher.
All The Gear, All The Time
Invest in a good helmet that fits you properly. There’s no point in protecting your head if the helmet can just roll off or the straps come undone. A jacket that has some padding but allows for ventilation in our hot weather is the next requirement, as well as gloves. The padding should protect you from impacts and the fabric of the jacket should put a layer between your skin and the road in case of an accident. Those pieces of equipment should be your minimum riding attire to cover most of the city commutes. Additional riding jeans or pants with motorcycle boots are a must for longer and more demanding rides.
Be Aware of your Surroundings
The beauty about motorcycling is that it engages all the senses of the human body. Yes, including the taste of crisp morning air, or the bugs that get stuck in your teeth at the end of a six-hour ride. We can also hear and see things that help us make riding decisions much quicker than anyone stuck in their car with the windows up and music blasting on the radio. Keep your mirrors properly angled to keep track of other vehicles in the other lanes and make sure to keep up with traffic. Shoulder checking is a habit that should be developed, as one cannot rely on mirrors alone to judge proper distance, especially with the limited view with a helmet on. Anticipate changes in traffic and choose the path that will give you an exit in case something happens, like a vehicle suddenly stopping or cutting you off.
Assume you are Invisible
Always ride with the notion that you are invisible on our roads. Other vehicles misjudge the speed and size of motorcycles, and that can lead to deadly consequences. Keep your headlight on at all times and wear reflective or bright clothing to catch the eye of other motorists at all times of the day. Never ride in the blind spot of vehicles and always make it a point to position yourself where the driver can see you with a quick glance in any of his mirrors; riding offset to the right or left of a lane is encouraged, as you are more visible.
Filter with Caution
Filtering is a widely accepted practice all over the world, even more so in developing countries where motorcycle mobility is a must to keep things flowing. Can you imagine if every motorcycle in our country lined up during rush hour? As a motorcyclist, always make sure that you can clear the vehicles as you’re riding in the middle of two lanes of stopped traffic. If in doubt, don’t do it. Always assume that a gap in traffic might mean a car will change lanes, so keep an eye out for turn signals, turned wheels, and drivers looking at an open lane. Remember also that the decision to filter is based on how comfortable one is with doing it, and the traffic conditions. Standstill traffic would be the best case scenario, with the cars staying in their proper lanes. Never filter or pass traffic on the right because of road debris, doors that might open, pedestrians, and stopping vehicles. As a general rule, always filter in between the first or second lanes, and keep scanning the traffic conditions. If traffic picks up again, join a lane to keep the flow going and keep you out of danger.