Ranger's Beginner's Safety Rules
I just started riding a motor-bike on Wednesday of this week... and with plenty of scooter experience going in, I thought I'd throw my two cents worth in, based on the past couple of days of getting used to my new motorized bicycle.
Straight away, I'll say this... using a standard kit build... I don't recommend these machines for anyone who has an ego the size of Texas and a brain the size of a walnut. Make no mistake... if you're looking for a creative way to kill yourself in humiliating fashion... these motorized bicycles are a good way to go about it.
For anyone who is NEW to motorized bicycling, no matter whether you've got ions of experience on motorcycles or no experience... the key to surviving your first few days, is to TAKE IT SLOW AND EASY.
Just teaching yourself to clamp on that clutch handle BEFORE you hit the brakes, is a critical skill that could save you from spiking yourself right into the side (or worse, the front grill) of someone's car.
The other matter that 'taking it slow and easy' helps on, is that with these suckers, you REALLY have to be looking ahead and getting on that clutch and beginning your stop WELL in advance of the need to stop. You simply don't stop on a dime on these things... and if the ground's wet... that's even MORE true.
One last area where starting off your riding slow and easy, is that frankly, on a new build, you don't want to go blasting down the pike, only to have that chain come loose and wind up in your spokes, or worse, have that tension wheel bracket lean into your spokes to ruin your day and quite possibly result in some serious road rash or a busted head on your part. (To say nothing of how it'd screw up your bike!)
To put all this forward... here's my top 20 rules to live by on motorized bikes.
1.) Take your TIME putting it together... and check EVERYTHING twice... and then three times, to be sure you've got it built to run as safely as possible before you dump your fuel in and fire it up.
2.) Always 'pre-flight' your ride before you THINK of starting the engine. Check all of your fasteners... and don't be afraid to check em again. (I suggest getting a small backpack and stashing all the hand tools you'd need to put the thing together, in that pack, because you may have to tighten things up or adjust things as you go about your business.)
3.) Get a HELMET... consider a bike helmet a 'bare minimum' and a motorcycle helmet to be more ideal. Even if you just get a 'skull cap' style motorcycle helmet (aka a half-helmet), it's worth it. Costs 20 bucks, and might be the difference between walking away from a crash, and winding up in a morgue. Then... WEAR the son of a gun!!
4.) Get a visibility vest. The more reflective junk on it, the better! Wear it.
5.) GLOVES... Even just good ole mechanic's gloves are nice. They take some of the vibration out of your hands... give you a good grip and offer some protection for your hands, if you take a tumble onto the concrete.
6.) Go SLOW... don't exceed 10 MPH starting out... take your time to get used to the controls and used to dealing with clutching and braking, and learning to start slowing well in advance of your need to stop for lights or conflicting traffic. Let your clutch out SLOW... and once you're moving and the clutch is released fully, accelerate slowly and smoothly. (Especially during your break-in/run-in period.)
7.) ICE your cell phone and KEEP IT ON YOU! Get your next of kin's number in the phone and use the name I.C.E. as their name... If you crash or get smacked by a car, that might be the difference between your next of kin visiting you in the hospital... or you laying there without family around you in that hospital for a while. Also nice to have the cell phone on you, so you can call for help if you are conscious after getting clobbered.
8.) YIELD THE RIGHT OF WAY TO EVERYTHING. Cars, trucks, buses, pedestrians, dogs, squirrels... you name it... any one of those can turn a fun ride, into a real 'smashing experience' with you being what gets smashed up. You spend the cash to motorize the bike... and went through the grief of putting the sucker together, dealing with parts that aren't 'finished' well, and so on. Be a real shame to screw up your ride after all that, just because you rolled the dice, revved that throttle and got yourself into a world of hurt.
9.) Stay OUT of the center of the lane. That's where all the oil is... and if you get a light shower of rain, that oil will become visible and even more dangerous than it already is. The LAST place you want to slam to the ground on your side because your wheels came out from under ya... is right smack in front of some joker in a Volvo with his cell phone in his ear.
10.) Plan your trip with all the dedication and attention, the way an airplane pilot plans and lays out his flight plan before take-off. Check the weather for the day... and know some alternate routes you can take, if traffic gets too heavy to be fully safe for you. You can NEVER win if you wind up in a physical conflict with another vehicle or pedestrian or whatever. So avoid as much traffic as you can, and try to pick the route that's easiest on you from a safety viewpoint.
11.) Think WAY ahead... squeeze that clutch well in advance of stop signs and lights. You MAY have to stop in a hurry, especially if the green light's getting stale. You can ALWAYS re-engage the clutch and accelerate... buy deceleration in an emergency may NOT be an option if you haven't slowed down enough to make that an option. Remember this maxim... accelerations are optional... decelerations are mandatory... and it's not the speed that kills you... it's the impact if you don't stop in time that WILL.
12.) Carry a copy of the laws that deal with motor-bicycles for your state! Tuck em in that helmet, and have em ready, in case you get stopped by the cops and they try to tell you that your rig isn't legal... (And be sure in advance that you're in compliance with those laws!) These machines are still new to most cops... and moped and motorized bike laws are NOT a high teaching priority at the police academy, or even at most police roll calls... so the cops may not know the law!
13.) IF you carry extra fuel... make sure it's secure and in an APPROVED container. IF you dare to do what I did years ago when I mopedded it around on scooters... and wear a backpack with a 1 or 2 gallon fuel can... be sure to modify those straps to have a single quick release that lets you drop that sucker behind you in the event of a crash. You don't want to have that sucker ON if you and your bike slam down on the pavement for that painful little slide and roll!
14.) Rain=BIG TROUBLE... your bike's braking system was NOT designed for a motor to be driving your bike along. Ride much slower and decelerate MUCH sooner... getting there alive is what it's about... not how 'fast' you get there. If you ride fast in crappy weather... your speedy arrival might wind up being at a destination you don't like... like a hospital. (Yes, in my area, and using my bike the way I do, I have to ride in the rain sometimes.)
15.) After you stop and shut down... inspect your ride!! Check your nuts and bolts, and check that chain tension. Check for fuel leaks. Make sure if you're leaving the bike, that you lock it up and lock it up right. Make sure you fuel stopcock is OFF.
16.) Never let anyone use your ride, that you haven't personally TAUGHT how to ride. It's not a good thing for unenlightened hands.
17.) If you're going to go into pedal mode to use some sidewalk, because the traffic's nasty... pull that clutch and kill the engine. Cops won't take kindly to a motorized machine running on the sidewalk.
18.) NEVER trust your kickstand when walking away from your bike. Park it so if that stand fails you, that your bike winds up leaning against a wall or a rack or a stout tree/phone pole.
19.) Wear long pants and secure the cuffs so they don't get caught either of your chains.
20.) Nobody else gives a damn about us out there. Nobody will protect us... so we have to protect ourselves by riding very VERY defensively. When in doubt... power down and review your situation and put your safety first. The life (and motor-bike) you save WILL be your own.
Ride safe gang!