Our annual Ride to Work Day will be held on Monday, June 19th. While we applaud and support the efforts of non-profit volunteer organizations to promote the benefits of using “motorcycles and scooters as transportation,” the reality is that motorcycle riders aren’t what you need for your daily commute. It’s just that we need more bike riders. only once a year.
The great thing about bike commuting is that he gets to ride his bike at least twice each working day, plus the bonus of the occasional ride on his lunch break to clear his head. But commuting to and from work on two wheels can be a hassle. Drivers commute daily and we not only deal with rush hour traffic, busy highways, busy city streets and congested parking lots, but also the occasional bottlenecks, bad weather and tire wear.
We deal with punctures, unexpectedly empty gas tanks and, fortunately, rare accidents. As with any bike, proper preparation, thinking ahead, and controlling your ego can go a long way toward making your commute safer and more enjoyable. Without further ado, here are our top tips for commuting by bike like a pro.
1) Stick Out Like a Sore Thumb
The gear is so bright, I had to wear shades.
Commuting isn’t the time to look cool in a black leather jacket and matte black helmet that’s almost invisible to the modern distracted, smartphone-addicted driver. The smart thing to do is to stand out as much as possible, and one of the best ways to do that is to wear clothes that make you stand out. Fluorescent colors are more noticeable because they do not occur naturally in nature. A few years ago, Olympia Moto His Sport created a “toxic” version of their Airglide his jacket, combining high-visibility yellow and orange on the same jacket. It was terrible, but it got your attention. If you don’t want to spend the money on a safety vest, buy one of our many brightly colored motorcycle safety vests and wear it over your regular motorcycle jacket or suit. I wear my bright orange fastpass vest from Fly every day. It’s made of mesh material with reflective strips and has pockets for your garage door remote, earplugs, tire pressure gauge and other essentials.
2) Dress like an astronaut
The moto onesie!
A street fighter should never go into battle without wearing armor. Please adhere to ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time) and wear a full face helmet, armored jacket and trousers, gloves and boots. Or, instead of a jacket and pants, opt for the Aerostitch Roadcrafter. This is his one-piece suit that has been around for over 30 years and is the choice of many bike commuters. The Roadcrafter slips on and off in seconds and is designed to be worn over regular clothing. Put on your work clothes, slip into her (almost) waterproof Roadcrafter, and head to work without worrying about bugs, dirt and road grime coming into contact with your cotton docker. It features flexible CE-approved armor that covers the knees, elbows and shoulders, and optional armor can be added for back, hip and chest protection. It has several large pockets, pit and back vents, and convenient hip zippers to keep your wallet, phone, and keys within easy reach of your pockets. The Roadcrafter comes in several versions, all in high-visibility yellow. There is also a cheaper version called Useful Suite.
3) Flip Your Lid
Take me to your leader.
All motorcyclists must wear a full-face helmet that protects the entire head. For even more comfort, consider a flip-up or modular helmet like the Shoei Neotec. A quick-release button lets you raise the chin bar so you can talk to gas station attendants, toll collectors, or friendly passers-by without removing your helmet. Keep in mind, though, that modular helmets aren’t designed to be ridden with the chin bar flipped up and your face exposed. The Neotec is comfortable, well ventilated and has a convenient folding sunshade. Mine is brilliant yellow and adds a very noticeable look.
4) Be a Middleweight Champ
The Versys sure is versatile. (Photo by Kevin Wing)
The best bikes for commuting are the ones you already own. However, if you have more than one bike in your garage or are looking to buy a bike for commuting, we recommend a modern bike with modern suspension, tires and ABS brakes. Today’s bikes are much more capable, capable and more responsive than the bikes of a few years ago. Of all the different bikes built in the last five to ten years, the Kawasaki Versys 650 LT (above) is his one of the best bikes for commuting. A fully reliable 649cc parallel twin that delivers great midrange power and takes regular unleaded fuel from a 5.5 gallon tank, comfortable upright riding position, great wind protection (adjustable windscreen and handguards incl.), ABS and quick release saddlebags. . And it costs just $8,999.
5) Be a Hard Ass
Saddlebags, if they’re large enough, are great places to stash your helmet, gloves and essentials like Rok Straps and a tire-repair kit.
As a motorcycle commuter, you’ll want to be able to easily transport stuff to and from work, such as your lunch, a laptop, a pair of work shoes (since you’ll be wearing motorcycle boots on the bike) or groceries you picked up on the way home. Hard-sided, lockable luggage is the way to go. Bikes like the Kawasaki Versys 650 LT come with easy-to-use hard saddlebags, and many other bikes can be fitted with OEM or aftermarket accessory hard luggage from companies like Givi. Hard luggage will keep your stuff dry in a rainstorm and keep it safe from thieves should you need to run into a store for an errand. Top-loading saddlebags/panniers or a top trunk with a clamshell lid are the easiest to open/close and load/unload, but any lockable hard luggage is better than none. And while you’re at it, keep a set of Rok Straps handy in case you need to secure bulky cargo such a cardboard box to the passenger seat.
6) Stay in Shape
Being physically fit is never a bad thing and makes it easier to tackle the challenges of bike commuting, but it really means the bike. To keep your bike safe and reliable in transit, perform regular maintenance. Check your tire pressures at least once a week (also check for excessive tire wear, damage, and punctures such as nails), and check the oil level every time you fill up with gas. Check regularly that your horn, headlights, tail/brake lights and turn signals are working properly. Change the oil and filter according to the recommended schedule in your owner’s manual. Pay attention to all applicable normal maintenance items such as chain lubrication and tension, brake pad thickness, cables and hoses. Also, if you must store your bike for the winter, fill the tank with gasoline and a fuel conditioner such as Startron and close it. Transfer the battery to the maintenance charger. Getting in shape is never a bad thing, and it comes with its own set of challenges. Bike commuting is easier to handle, but it actually refers to the bike. To keep your bike safe and reliable in transit, perform regular maintenance. Check tire pressures at least once a week (also check tires for excessive wear, damage, and punctures such as nails), and check the oil level each time you fill up with gas. Check regularly that your horn, headlights, tail/brake lights and turn signals are working properly. Change the oil and filter according to the recommended schedule in your owner’s manual. Pay attention to all applicable normal maintenance items such as chain lubrication and tension, brake pad thickness, cables and hoses. Also, if you must store your bike for the winter, fill the tank with gasoline and a fuel conditioner such as Startron and close it. Transfer the battery to the maintenance charger.
7) Fer Chrissakes, Will You Cover Yourself?
Use your first two fingers to cover the brake lever so your thumb and two outside fingers maintain grip on the throttle.
No, we’re not talking about Chet punishing Wyatt for wearing women’s underwear (who’s to judge?). We are talking about braking in traffic. Keeping his two fingers on the front of his brake lever automatically moves his fingers into a position where he can operate the brake lever when he releases the throttle. Over-reacting and applying the brake lever too quickly can create more brake pressure than the front tires can handle and lock the front wheels if ABS is not installed. As Nick Jenatsch teaches at the Yamaha Champion Riding School, you need to stress the tire before you move it. By covering the front brake, you can reduce the aggressive reaction and gradually increase the pressure, gently compressing the front fork, making the front tire heavier and gripping better. You should also practice covering the rear brake pedal and using both brakes at the same time for full braking power. Braking hard and under control is a very valuable skill on a motorcycle. If you’re not comfortable doing this, practice in an empty parking lot.
8) Play Offense
No, you shouldn’t drive like this on your commute. But as Constable Quinn Redeker demonstrated above, paying attention to where you’re going is an important part of aggressive driving.
Aggressive riding does not mean being aggressive. When you’re surrounded by thousands of pounds of cars and trucks, don’t let impatience, anger, cockiness and other short-tempered emotions and actions overwhelm you. (Read Editor-in-Chief Mark Tuttle’s column on road rage, “Keep Calm and Keep Riding.”) When you drive defensively, you just keep running and wait for something to happen. When you drive proactively, you are always vigilant, always watching, looking ahead, acting proactively, and being able to avoid bad situations before they happen. Reposition your lane to create space between you and your car to avoid blind spots and optimize forward visibility. Drive a little faster than the cars around you to avoid getting trapped and having no way out. Thinking about a big office meeting or a stressful day can make it hard to focus on the road. But it’s important to always stay focused on the game and drive with purpose.
9) Change It Up
If only there were more roads like this between home and work.
My round trip is 50 miles and I drive mostly in the US. Drive Route 101, the main thoroughfare through Ventura County. Traffic jams usually occur during rush hour. Taking the same route every day can be boring and quickly switch off and catch you off guard. (Read Editor-in-Chief Jenny Smith’s take on Perilous Days.) Sometimes I take a different route to add variety. Instead of taking the highway, drive along the coast and through Oxnard on city roads and dirt roads. Alternatively, drive through the Ojai Valley, winding over the mountains on Balcombe Canyon Road. A different route might take longer, but it will change your perspective and stimulate your brain with different perspectives and challenges. A scenic alternative route can make your commute more enjoyable.
10) Don’t Tailgate and Watch Your Six
In California, it’s legal to split lanes, and it’s safer because it reduces the risk of being hit from behind in traffic.
Motorcycles are smaller, faster, more maneuverable, and have shorter braking distances than passenger cars, so it’s easy to find yourself sitting right behind your car’s bumper. Also, the concertina effect of stop-and-go traffic can leave you trapped with nowhere to go when the car behind you suddenly has to stop. Whenever possible, maintain a safe distance from the vehicle behind you and stay on the left or right side of the lane to secure an escape route. Here in California, lane splitting is legal and you can drive through traffic jams between cars. Driving at a reasonable speed is safer than actually staying in the lane because it reduces the risk of rear-end collisions. Wherever you ride, always stay alert, look in your mirrors, and always give yourself an escape route. Don’t sit at a traffic light or let your bike idle and get off with your head covered in clouds.