6 Things to Check Before Hitting the Start Button

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2014 Aprilia RSV4 Factory

4. Your Schedule
If something’s on the burner, whether it’s a call you’re expecting or a meeting you ought to attend, or even if there’s a chance you might get summoned, please don’t join our leisurely motorcycle ride. You shouldn’t even get on the bike, because even if you’re riding solo, you’ll be so stressed you won’t enjoy it. Worse, you’ll be a distracted rider, and that’s far more dangerous (to you) than a distracted driver.

Me? I don’t even ride when I might be tardy, preferring instead to take the car just in case I need to make the “sorry, I’m running late” call. Look, the two times I’ve kissed the pavement it happened solely because I was in a hurry. If I hadn’t been rushing, I would not have been distracted or taking risks I probably shouldn’t have been taking in an effort to arrive on time.

Make this your mantra: ”Motorcycling is supposed to be fun.” If it’s not fun, it’s probably dangerous and you shouldn’t be doing it right then and there.

Motorcycle Road Block
Photo Credit: Peet Reed

5. Your Route
There’s nothing more maddening than finding a road closed — unless it’s sitting at a roadblock, waiting for a flagman to wave you through. With a bit of preparation, it’s a breeze to spot potential delays — construction or traffic or whatever — and work around them.

I once went out with a coworker who kept insisting I “simply must” ride this one particular stretch of twisties. Only problem was, by the time we arrived at the fabled strip of pavement, after two hours of interstate slog, we discovered the road closed for construction; it had been for weeks, it turns out, and we were forced to turn around and backtrack.

One summer, on a cross-country press ride, our group got caught in the mountains of Idaho, carefully navigating big, brand-new touring bikes over a 30-mile stretch of treacherous gravel road that had been ground up for repaving. We made it through unscathed, but the delay threw us off by hours, and we didn’t arrive at our hotel that night until the bar had closed. The horror!

In both instances, these were long-planned construction projects with warnings posted on the Internet — only no one had bothered to check out the route online beforehand. Once you’re stuck there, there’s no one to blame but yourself. So don’t get stuck there.

Angry Biker
Photo Credit: Ares Tavolazzi

6. Your Head
Whoever made up the slogan “don’t drive angry” was definitely onto something. But it’s more than just anger. There are a million mindsets to avoid while riding: stressed, frazzled, over-caffeinated, and, of course, loaded. All of these and more detract from your ability to focus. And lack of focus on a motorcycle will get you killed.

I mentioned my two crashes, where I was too busy rushing to be properly cautious. Both instances could have had far worse results. I still carry a zipper on my forearm and a titanium rod in my hip as reminders that motorcycling requires full attention to the matter at hand.

Smart, seasoned riders know better than to take risks. Before you ride, check your head.

Everyone’s checklist is different. What’s yours?

  • eddi

    Not just securing your load before you leave. But being sure you remember to bring whatever you need to carry the loot you collect back home. You go shopping with one bungee, you’re gonna have a hard time.

  • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

    Remember to be showered, hair cut, toe and finger nails clipped, and wear clean underwear. You don’t want to be taken out by a car looking any other way. Those ER rooms can be cozy.

  • DrRideOrDie

    Invest in a Mophie battery pack. It has a USB plug power supply that can charge your phone. I did a camping motorcycle trip through the Colorado mountains and the thing turned out to be invaluable. It holds just over 2 iPhone 5 full charges. Also when I ride I usually have my in-ear headphones from Apple that are good at noise cancelling (ear protection) and keeping the tunes going. Also I imagine in a crash situation if they stay intact that I could just ask Siri to call for help.

    • Zanpa

      “Siri, I broke my arm.”
      “I found no results for i broke my arm on google”

      • Rowan

        “Call me an ambulance!”
        Siri: “From now on, I’ll call you ‘An Ambulance’. Okay?”

        • Joe Bielski

          Siri: ……… meh….

        • DrRideOrDie

          I also envisioned this same conversation. Me, “Call an ambulance”. Siri, “Did you mean call a wambulance”. Me, “No Siri call 911″. Siri, “I don’t see anyone by the name of Bryan Juan in your contacts, did you mean Bryan John, Jose and Juan. I’m sorry about this bur I cannot take any requests right now. Please try again later.” Me, “F@$# you Siri, you…………………..”

  • Piglet2010

    Road closed is not a problem on a dual-sport. Unless you get seen by a police/NSA/DHS drone, that is.

    As for the phone battery, pretty much every motorcycle can be fitted with a power-port – unless you are crazy enough to venture solo off the beaten track on something with acetylene headlights and magneto ignition (and likely total loss lubrication).

  • Stuki

    Was your Idaho trip from Boise to Stanley late July? Don’t ask me how I know…..

    Also, don’t rely on time estimates set by GPS units. Ac coring to Garmin, and road signs to be fair, the Dempster has 90kph sped limits… Which, unless you’re either Jimmy Lewis on the latest in KTM trickery, or perhaps some crazy Inuit whose spent his whole life up there, is quite some ways off realistic.

    When pulling off on a logging road to guerilla/distributed camp overnight, finding the quietest and nicest spot with a majestic view, several miles above and away from the main, or any other, road, can be pretty spectacular. Being stuck for two days because rain turned the steep, technical, ‘adventury’ logging road into an equally steep, way past technical mudslide overnight, can be quite a bit less so.

    • Jonny Langston

      No. No it was not. ;)

  • Michael Howard

    I’d suggest that ANY strong emotional state ‒ including good ones ‒ can and will interfere with your judgement. Even happy thoughts are distracting. I’m not saying you can’t be feeling good and enjoying life, but keep your focus on the riding.

  • http://www.motopraxis.com/ Aakash

    +1 on #6.

  • Lee Scuppers

    Phones differ, but with Android I’ve found Sleep mode to eat batteries, and Airplane mode much less so. Worth trying a few things to see what works best with your OS/hardware.

  • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

    Oh and +1 on having your phone on you in case you’re separated from your bike. I’ve heard people say to keep their phone on the bike so it doesn’t get damaged but this is a really bad idea for this reason.

  • Rameses the 2nd

    Make sure that you have your wallet on you. You don’t want to get stuck 150 miles away from home just to find out that you have no money to put gas in your bike. I usually keep some cash in my car, because I often forget my wallet at home and it is pain to leave your finished grocery at the store, but on the bike I don’t have that luxury. I know it is simple, but it is as important as your phone, if not more.

  • Emmet

    Discuss safe group riding tips. Don’t have riders pass on the right. Tell everyone to gas up FIRST THING at stops. Make everyone aware of any areas that will have bad/no cell reception.

  • Stacey

    Legit question, but what pocket do you put your smartphone? When I was younger, I managed to destroy my phone when I wiped out on a moped, and that’s going 30 MPH.

    • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

      breast pocket.

      • http://www.racetrackstyle.com/ Racetrack Style

        …and make sure it is a pocket that is easily accessible even if you are injured

    • Jonny Langston

      Inside breast pocket, pref w/ zipper.

  • Ares4991

    #1 thing to check before hitting the start button:

    Check if the bike you’re sitting on even has one, otherwise your trip might take some time.

  • dtrides

    Most of these items are ‘before I leave the living room’ items.
    Before I start the bike items are ‘ check air pressure in tires, check oil level, check chain, check brakes, check fuel level , ltake a deep, calming breath, there is no hurry, smile , plan to have fun, remember to cover your kill switch :)

  • Jorn Bjorn Jorvi

    “Nothing screams ‘Squid!’ louder than showing up for a group ride.” You missed a period there.