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What increases accident and injury risks on a motorbike?

While everyone knows that riding a motorbike comes with more risks of injury than driving a car, there are choices motorcycle riders can make that make crash risk much worse.

Sports bikes: riders on these have a greater risk of losing control for a number of reasons. Firstly, the riding position is not relaxed, and the bikes can be very twitchy. It can result in overcorrecting, or becoming over-confident in the bike’s performance. Once you hit the limit on a sports bike, it bites back much more quickly than some other motorbikes. The accelerations and braking performance on a sport bike are generally more extreme; it’s easier to lift the front wheel and fall off the back while accelerating and easier to go over the handlebars when braking. Sports bikes also have a prominent petrol tank which is particularly bad for your groin if you hit it.

Sports bikes are faster and more twitchy to ride

Riding multiple different motorbikes: if you swap between motorbikes or types of two-wheel transport, or you regularly ride unfamiliar bikes, you won’t build up the confidence and skills required to achieve a good level of control.

Riding in bad weather: driving in bad weather is particularly challenging for motorbike riders. Choosing to stay at home or take alternative transport options is a good way of reducing the risk of a crash.

Riding the same boring route over and over: this also applies to car drivers, but riders who only ever ride one route (e.g. home to work and back again), become complacent and lose focus.

Older riders take much longer to heal: while older riders might have more experience, if they do fall off, they are more likely to suffer worse injuries and take longer to heal.

Older motorbike rider. He’s more likely to be injured, will take longer to heal, and is less likely to wear the right equipment for full protection

Males: males are less likely to wear protective clothing and equipment, believing themselves to be invincible. Wearing just a helmet will not provide much protection in a crash. Wearing a helmet that’s not a full face helmet often results in facial injuries that could have easily been avoided.

Women tend to be more sensible with safety equipment

Recreational riding: riding for fun means more miles on the road, and while this ultimately adds up to more experience, the increased exposure just through being on the road contributes to increased risk of a crash. Add into the mix that recreational riding tends to be on roads that are more challenging for the rider, and at higher speeds, any outcome of losing control typically has worse outcomes.

Road position: riders that ride in other road users’ blind spots are more likely to have a vehicle change lanes on them, open a door in front of them or pull out in front of them.

Old bikes: older bikes tend to have worse handling and won’t have antilock brakes (something that can give a rider full confidence in braking to the maximum of the motorbike’s ability.)

Older bikes don’t have the braking and cornering performance of newer bikes

Poor road surfaces: riders that have to ride on surfaces that are poorly maintained or are secondary roads increase the risk of falling off. Poor maintenance would include potholes while secondary roads are likely to have gravel shoulders and mud on the road. These road surfaces are bad for motorbike riders.

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Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Posted in Advice
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