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BLOG: Riding a motorcycle requires responsibility

Wednesday - 3/21/2012, 5:25pm  ET

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WTOP's David Burd visits one of his favorite stops in Frederick, Md. - the Harley Davidson store. (WTOP/David Burd)
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David Burd, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Before I get to the dos and don'ts of motorcycle riding, let me share a true story about the subject with you. In 2006, I decided that I wanted to own and ride a Harley.

Keep in mind that I hadn't been on a bike since I was 16 years old. I started at 14 riding dirt bikes, i.e. Honda 305 Scramblers. Eventually, I graduated to a Triumph 650 Bonneville.

Also keep in mind that at that time I weighed in at a little over 130 pounds, so the Triumph was heavy for a guy my size.

One early evening, I was riding the 650 home through suburban streets when I decided to pass a car that had turned on their right turn signal. I was going to pass to its left. Surprise! The driver turned left instead causing me to lay the bike down and slide all the way into the driver's door.

Needless to say, I got the scare of my life that evening and learned a very valuable lesson when it comes to riding a motorcycle - never assume anything.

Even if they turn a signal on, wait until they make the turn. I share this story with you because riding a motorcycle is fun, but it is also a lot of work - work keeping safe.

Since I hadn't been on a bike in three decades, I took a refresher course on how to ride and how to be safe.

Deb Bower, the motorcycle trainer at the Frederick Harley Davidson provides the pointers in the following list.

Dos and Don'ts of Riding

  1. Never buy a motorcycle without getting professional training.

    You can get this training from some of the dealers, or your dealer can direct you to some companies that do this. It is usually a 2 hour class where they show you how to start the bike, how to stop a bike and various safety tips.

  2. Don't have a relative or friend teach you how to ride a motorcycle - go to the pros.

  3. Once you get your license, ease into riding.

    Get to know your motorcycle. Ride in your neighborhoods; do not go onto the freeway/beltway as a new rider. Go to parking lots and practice.

  4. Never assume other drivers are going to do what they indicate with their automobiles.

  5. Never, ever ride tired or distracted.

    This is the golden rule. You need to be totally alert while riding. Not only do you have to be aware of what you're doing with your bike, but you also have to be aware of what everyone around you is doing. Always be looking around.

  6. Be proactive.

    Look for problems while you're riding. Is that driver going to turn into my lane?

  7. Do not take a passenger on the back of your bike if you are a new rider.

    Wait at least 2,000 miles of personal riding. Deb Bower says, "You might want to think about waiting an entire riding season before putting anyone on the back of your bike."

    Why is this? Motorcycles handle differently with just one on them. With two, it's a whole new ball game. Long story short-get comfortable with your bike first before you invite a passenger.

  8. Wear the right clothes to go on a motorcycle.

    Shorts and sandals are not going to cut it. Wear long pants, shoes that cover your ankles and a jacket. If you have ever had a rock go up your shorts at 60 miles an hour you know shorts are a dumb choice.

  9. Wear a helmet! No exceptions.

    To save a lot of time and space explaining why you should wear a helmet, I'll just say two words, "Gary Busey." The former movie star and now reality show participant thought he didn't need a helmet until he fractured his skull in multiple places in a motorcycle accident in 1988.

Riding a motorcycle can be fun - just know the facts, get the training, and always keep your eyes open.

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