– Ben Martens

What Motorcyclists Wish You Knew

I had an interesting conversation the other day where a lady talked about how driving around motorcycles made her nervous. I actually notice that some drivers do change their driving styles when I'm around them. Sometimes that's good, and sometimes that's bad. Next time you're near a motorcyclist on the road, here are some things to remember:

  • The main thing is that if you get in an accident, you'll have to fill out some paperwork and get a loaner car while yours is in the shop. If we get in an accident, we die. Therefore, in any argument, the motorcyclists wins whether you like it or not. That's not to say the rider is always right, but you must give way and let them do their thing if you have the choice.
  • Always use your turn signals and check your blindspots, especially if you know there is a motorcycle around. I know firsthand what can happen.
  • If it's rainy, we're probably miserable and less happy than normal.
  • Don't wash your windshield if we're following you.
  • Don't flick your cigarette out the window if we're behind you.
  • If you're on the interstate and there's a large convoy of motorcycles, try not to get in the middle of us. If you need to exit, just slow down and get behind us. Don't try to merge into the middle. And if you find yourself in the middle of a pack, kindly pull out and get in front of behind the pack. Don't make us all pull out and pass you one by one.If you're driving down a nice windy two lane road and there's a rider behind you, slow down and wave us past when it's convenient. I'm way faster than you in the corners and I'm probably driving that windy road for the enjoyment of the corners.
  • If I turn on my turn signal to merge in, back off. I can fit in just about any spot and I will whether you give me room or not. I can't count the number of times that I turn on my signal to squeeze into a spot, and when I finally do squeeze in, the driver slams on their brakes like it was a surprise. My bike is small. I use that to my advantage. Deal with it.
  • I don't care how big your muffler is, you can't race me. My bike does not have a huge engine and I ride a cruiser instead of a sport bike, but I've still beaten Porsche's off the line. You can't compete with the horsepower to weight ratio.
  • When following, leave twice as much space as you normally would. Few things make me more nervous than a tailgater. It's very dangerous. Besides, bikers have been known to have a stack of nuts attached to their bike which they will drop off behind them when a car is following too closely. You'll end up with a dent in your car or a cracked windshield.
  • If you're waiting to turn onto a road and you see a motorcycle coming, look really hard before you decide to pull out. It's very difficult to judge the speed of the bike since there is only one headlight. Assume they are flying and if at all possible, just wait until they go past. As a biker, I really don't like following people and I always give a friendly wave to someone who waits a few extra seconds to let me pass before they pull out.

It's a lot to remember, and I know it's a losing battle. Even if there's one person on the road who doesn't understand these things, that's all it takes to get me hurt. As a motorcyclist, I assume that everyone on the road is out to kill me. It's a mentality that has served me very well so far. When you get on a motorcycle, you quickly gain sixth sense of knowing who the bad drivers are and predicting their poor choices.

Ultimately it's my responsibility to manage my own risk level, but you can help us out by paying extra attention when we're out there. Thanks!