Bugs, roadway grime, sweat, unforeseeable weather conditions, wrinkly clothing, and inattentive drivers can all take the wonder of riding a motorcycle and flush it right down the drain.
If done correctly, commuting on a motorcycle can be a wonderful experience, and for those of us that have a choice in the matter, there’s plenty of benefits. Things like saving money on gas, getting to utilize special parking in some areas, and looking like a badass are all great reasons to commute on two wheels.
Becoming a motorcycle commuter comes with true dedication, and depending upon where you live and how often you’re going to ride, it can actually become more of a lifestyle . For most commuters, since you will be riding daily in differing weather and traffic conditions, there are a few things you’ll need to know from the beginning. Motorcycle commuting can be fun, but it can also be a pain if you aren’t prepared.
What to Be Prepared For When Commuting
The biggest issue when commuting is, by far, traffic. Motorcycle commuters need to not only share the roadway with an endless sea of other drivers, but these drivers are normally distracted drivers. Being a lowly bike in the middle of this grind can be intimidating and potentially deadly so a rider’s best defense is to always drive defensively, and make it a point to be seen.
Conventional riding wisdom states to “ride like you’re invisible,” because to many drivers, you are. Driving a car involves being aware of a handful of things all at once. A lot of times, even attentive drivers fail to see motorcyclists that are right in front of them because there’s so much else they also have to pay attention to. This is just something our brains do, and is actually the basis of virtually all sleight-of-hand ‘magic’ tricks.
When you have too much to look at, your brain just ignores certain things. This phenomenon leads to traffic accidents that can be deadly on a motorcycle. So, long story short, even in an ideal world where every driver is a good, attentive driver, you’re still not guaranteed to be seen, so ride like everyone is out to kill you.
Weekend cruising provides you a lot of flexibility to select when, where, and for how long you’ll ride, but commuting is a little different. You’re going to be on the roadway a particular time every day, and the weather condition is just going to do its thing. An important part of commuting is being prepared for this, and coming prepared for all types of weather conditions including cold, rain, snow, hurricanes, and yeah even a perfect sunny day.
Keep in mind even a small drizzle can feel like a torrential rainstorm when you’re riding through it at 70mph, or when you have to ride in it for longer than 15-20 minutes. At high speeds, rain feels like needles so make sure you have a good waterproof jacket on at all times, or with you stowed away and ready to throw on.
Being a commuter includes WAY more carrying of “things” than riding on the weekends for fun. In addition to everything you bring to work daily, like a laptop, phone, a change of clothes, and lunch, if you’re a commuter you may also have to bring along things like extra riding gear, tools, emergency supplies and more.
If you’re riding a sport bike, your options for storage are even more limited. If you’re planning on commuting on a regular basis, make sure to invest in a good motorcycle backpack. A waterproof backpack with great storage capacity is a must for a daily rider.
If you have a cruiser, invest in lockable saddlebags that can hold a good amount of gear, but won’t be an easy target for thieves.
General Motorcycle Commuting Tips
- Be strategic about your lane position. Since lanes are built for cars, not motorcycles, you can continuously adjust where you ride in the lane to optimize your presence and safety.
- Practice being conscious of ALL of your surroundings; like a radar detector, always have an idea what’s out in front, on either side, and coming up behind you at all times, and make riding adjustments accordingly.
- Never ride beside another car, or around the driver’s blind spot.
- Do head checks in addition to mirror checks. Especially if you’re changing lanes, make sure to physically turn around and check behind you to make sure there isn’t a car there. This trick has saved my life more than once.
- If its legal in your area, don’t be afraid to filter to the front of the line at a red light. Getting rear-ended in a car isn’t fun, but getting rear-ended on a motorcycle can ruin or end your life.
- Have alternate routes in mind, because traffic is a lot more unpleasant on a bike than in a car or truck, so check your GPS before you leave and see if there’s a better route. If you have time, taking a more exciting, motorcycle-friendly route can even brighten up your day.
- Ride like everyone wants to kill you. Aka ride extremely defensively and assume the a-hole is going to cut you off. Ride like that grandma is going to slam on her brakes for no reason, like that minivan is going to swerve into your lane. Make a game out of it even, it can be fun!
For motorcycle commuting, safety and storage are your two biggest considerations. With these tips, you’re well on your way to a wonderful life of motorcycle commuting!