Engage your brain. It’s the most effective and important piece of safety equipment at your disposal. Focus on what’s happening right now and what can happen in the next several seconds. Events farther out than that are of only minor concern and what transpired yesterday is irrelevant.
Motorcycles don’t stop any better than most cars but can accelerate quicker than just about anything on four wheels. Use this to your advantage when necessary and adjust your following distance accordingly.
Never pass on the right, ever. Only pass on the left when you can see that it’s safe to do so. Be in the proper gear and have some engine revs built up before you start. Don’t pass when both of you are accelerating; it makes it that much more difficult to do so. Be wary of the car in front of you potentially turning left. It’s surprising how often motorcyclists t-bone a car turning left in front of them during a passing maneuver. Don’t pass on curves unless you can safely handle the needed speed around the corner and you have full visibility of what’s coming.
Pay attention not only to the vehicle in front of you, but to the vehicles in front of him. Their brake lights will come on first, giving you even more notice that things will be slowing down. Don’t follow in the center of the lane. Follow in either the left or right tire track, depending on visibility and road conditions.
When you see a car on a side road waiting to pull out, weave side to side in your lane as this increases the chance they’ll see you. Motorcycles are narrow and it is difficult to judge their speed when coming toward drivers, so the side-to-side weave helps give them a better depth perception of your speed and position. Some riders turn their brights on to increase visibility, but be careful about flashing your brights — some drivers consider this a “Go ahead!” signal and will pull out in front of you.
Loud pipes don’t save lives, they only make you look like an ass. Get a loud horn instead (never test it without wearing earplugs).
Riding is optional. Don’t drink and ride, ever. Don’t ride if you are tired or distracted. Some people ride to relieve stress; go back and read the first paragraph again. You don’t want your thoughts to be anywhere other than the moment. That fight you had with your significant other and that overdue bill will still be waiting for you when you get back, yet all that concentration and focus you spent on the ride will magically ease their sting.
Take care of your bike. Change the oil and filter regularly and learn how to do it yourself. Performing basic maintenance tasks yourself will not only save you money, it will make you more familiar with your bike and help you notice when things need attention such as binding chain links, loose or broken hardware, low tire air pressure, or leaks.
Respect other riders as you want to be respected. Give the ‘wave’ to everyone on two wheels, even if they ride a bike or brand you may not like. If you see another motorcyclist in need, even when you are driving your car, stop and offer to help. There will come a day when you need help and karma goes a long way.
If you drop your helmet on a hard surface, replace it. They are made to destruct themselves in a collision in a sort of sacrifice on your behalf and this damage may not be visible to the naked eye. You don’t want to find out the hard way (no pun intended) that your helmet’s ability to protect your skull has already been used up. Never buy a used helmet.
Wear all your gear all the time. If it’s hot out, get gear with hot-weather ventilation but still has proper padding and abrasion protection. There’s nothing cool about road rash and no one will be impressed by the painful series of skin grafts you went through because you wrecked your motorcycle while only wearing shorts and a tank top.
Finally, motorcycling doesn’t have to be any more dangerous than a lot of other activities we take for granted (you’d be surprised by the statistics) but the stakes are higher if something does happen compared to crashing in a car. However, once you have taken the proper precautions and practiced the needed skills, enjoy the experience. Fear becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy after a certain point so you don’t want to be ruled by it.