To motorcyclists, we're merely stating the obvious when we say bikers make better drivers. Every rule has an exception, but in general motorcycle riders pay more attention, are more polite, and drive more defensively.
And for some reason, those who ride Harley® motorcycles seem to be among the best at learning from their riding experiences. Perhaps it's because we respect our bikes so much. Maybe it's because dependable performance and excellent handling enable us to ride more skillfully and confidently. It might be both. But this is how cycling improves our driving:
We Expect Drivers Not to See Us
Nothing drives home the importance of defensive driving more clearly than a few minutes on a motorcycle in a student driver training. You don't need to be told that you are smaller than other traffic. It's palpable. So you adjust.
We assume responsibility for our own safety. Riders are constantly on the lookout for dangers and escape routes. If we need to come to an abrupt stop or accelerate to full speed, we are well aware of what to expect from our bike.
Car drivers sometimes merge, change lanes or turn like they're the only vehicle on the planet. They either never see you, or if they do they get that shocked look. "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry I didn't see you there," they seems to say, as if that makes it okay to drive with your head up your backside.
Motorcycle riders don't do that. They never assume vehicle drivers will notice what they're doing and make adjustments. The ones who do, unfortunately, don't ride very long.
That makes us better drivers across the board, because we give others space. We don't ride too close hoping to push other drivers along. We're acutely aware of our lane position, so we don't crowd other drivers or drift into their space.
We Think Through Traffic Decisions
You've probably seen that driver in Dallas traffic who darts across four lanes of busy traffic when he realizes his exit is on the opposite side. It's mysterious how he generally makes it through. And how many hours have we wasted sitting in traffic when he caused an accident and we have to wait for the road to be cleared. Riders of motorcycles avoid making stupid split second decisions.
The next time you're in traffic behind a motorcycle, pay attention. They continually scan the lanes in front of them and check their mirrors to see what's in the other direction. They never make quick decisions without first considering what might be in their blind zones.
We Don't Use Auto Pilot
In a car, people can, to some extent, get away with zoning out. When you first go on a bike, you suddenly become aware of things you weren't previously. It seems like a sudden realization of your humanity and weakness. Your skin is fragile and prone to tearing. Your knees and elbows look exceedingly sharp and likely to bang into hard surfaces. You are aware of the potential damage to your brain and skull if you even lightly strike the pavement. Before you release the clutch for the first time, an awareness of your mortality flashes through your head.
A motorcycle training course or your first few riding lessons don't take long, but you make mistakes. You learn how quickly unexpected things can happen. It changes you for life.
Whether you become a lifelong motorcycle rider or you just ride for a season, you're never the same. Just one day on a bike makes you more aware of the world around you. You don't ever "check out" like when you're driving. You know if you do, it could mean your life.
Motorcycle riders become confident in their abilities as skill improves. But the wise ones never feel untouchable. We know what we're doing is more dangerous than riding in a car. That's a risk we accept because we're also willing to take responsibility for our own safety. And frankly, we trust our ability to ride a motorcycle well more than we trust other drivers to pay attention to what they're doing.
We Expect Weather Changes
Before we set out, we know what we're facing. We ride with gear to help us stay safe and comfortable. We seldom just hop in the car and hope for the best, instead we know
We Don't Use Our Cell Phone While Riding
In the space of five minutes, you can usually count at least half a dozen Dallas drivers texting, taking selfies, watching videos and everything else when you ride from point A to point B. Motorcycle riders don't mess with the thing when they're going down the road.
The difference isn't just that you don't need both hands the whole time you're driving a car. Plenty of us have cruise control, we could text and ride if we really wanted to. But if you bump the vehicle in front of you in a car, you have steel reinforcement and airbags. On a bike, we have leather and a helmet. We can wait to check messages the five minutes it takes to get to the coffee shop. Plus, part of the reason we ride is to get away.
Usually, that behavior carries over into regular driving. We realize the folly of it on a bike, so we don't do it in our car or truck either.
We Show Courtesy
If you've ever been on a road with no room to pass and a long way to go, you've probably gotten stuck behind the guy who isn't in any hurry. Motorcycle riders generally pull over and let you by if you want to go faster than they are.
The reason is twofold. First, we don't like you riding our tails. Second, we want to relax, enjoy the experience and ride safely.
We recognize you might have a pressing need to get where you're going and that's fine. Each person's experience is personal, it's not a competition.
That mindset spills over into our other driving habits. We don't feel like we should have to adjust our speed to the fastest person on the road, it's better to be courteous. We expect other drivers to do the same. And if we want to go faster than you, for us that's not generally a problem.
Ready to Buy a Harley®?
When you're ready to experience a thrill like no other, come test ride a Harley®. If you don't have your license, we'll put you on the JumpStart. If you do, pick out your dream bike and set up a test ride today.