Safe Riding

Gear and Skills for Improved Safety

Written by  May 13, 2016

While most of us think of May fondly as the month that gave us Cinco de Mayo, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reminds us that it is also the national Motorcycle Safety Awareness month. As part of its motorcycle safety awareness campaign, NHTSA implores drivers to be mindful of motorcyclists, and for motorcyclists to use DOT-approved helmets and not to ride while intoxicated. NHTSA’s mission with this campaign is to help reduce the number of motorcyclist fatalities, and I think all of us would agree that this is a worthy cause, all year around.

Given the spotlight on safety, I wanted to explore a few other ways we can improve survivability on the bike.

Bike Accessories

I will admit that most of the stuff I hang on the bike is not meant to improve safety, but sometimes it just works out so that the stuff that improves safety also looks cool. This is definitely the case with motorcycle lighting. Better or extra lighting can not only help you see better while riding at night, but also greatly improves your visibility to other motorists during the day. New LED-based lighting is bright and also easy on the bike’s battery. Upgrading your lighting can be as simple as replacing your factory bulbs with LED bulbs, or adding auxiliary lighting that also enhances the appearance of your bike. I’ve had good luck with these Custom Dynamics LED bullets that would look good on just about any cruiser.

Protective Gear

I am not in the habit of giving out fashion advise, but I am happy to report that modern science and technology have blessed us with a broad range of protective gear guaranteed to fit anyone’s style. Not that there is anything wrong with denim and leather, but if it’s been a while since you’ve made it past the t-shirt racks at the front of the motorcycle gear store, you should do yourself a favor and explore what else they carry. Here are a few interesting choices for discreet protection:

  • Knee/shin guards that you can wear under your jeans (or, I guess, over them, if you are more of a “skinny jeans” type)
  • D3O armor pads are flexible but harden on impact, and can replace the joke foam pads that may have come with your jacket.
  • Kevlar-lined jeans may not soften the impact, but will help you keep more skin if you have to skid down the freeway.


Motorcycling is a skill, one that we perfect every time we ride. While there is no substitute for experience, if you are ready to take your skills to the next level, consider getting more training. There are many training programs out there, and they offer courses not just for beginners but also for riders who want to hone more advanced skills like two-up riding. If you are not quite ready to head back to riding school, there are plenty of books and DVDs dedicated to advanced riding skills. Here are some more pointers on skills: