Riding Tips

Emergency Contact Information

In an emergency, it is very important to have Medical and contact information available to first responders and fellow chapter members.

By law there are only certain persons (like law enforcement) who can go thru your wallet in an emergency situation. Unfortunately, Chapter members are not included.

Putting contact information on your bike is a good thing but where?

  • Print your information and put it on your bike where it can be easily found.
  • There are companies that make military style stamped "dog tag" type tags for you to carry around your neck. These are typically limited to 5 or 6 lines of 15 characters each. Web search for these companies.
  • There are also companies that make "Road IDs" which are designed for runners or bicycle riders. These tags contain much more information including electronic data. The tags are available for wearting on your wrist, ankle, belt, boot, etc. and are more expensive than a dog tag. Web search for "Road ID" and "FIXX ID".

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Night Riding

It's no surprise that the challenges motorcyclists face multiply when the sun goes down and night prevails. Your field of vision is reduced to the distance of your motorcycle headlight, and other motorists are even LESS likely to recognize a motorcycle at night than they are during daylight hours. To improve your safety, take note of the following precautions.

  • Making yourself visible is always important, but especially so after dark when it's more difficult for others to see you. Improve your visibility by wearing "retro-reflective" clothing and accessories that reflect projected light back to its source (Note: H-D makes highly reflective vests available in Motorclothes). There are many varieties of these available on the market today including "BLACK" retro-reflective stickers that are not easily seen during the day.
  • Wild animals tend to be more active at night and are a serious hazard to motorists. Constantly SCAN the sides of the roadway for the reflection of your headlight off their eyes and use your horn if necessary.
  • Avoid overriding your headlights by riding at a speed that allows you to stop within the distance illuminated by it. You can also use the light cast by the headlights of vehicles in front of you to see further down the road.
  • Make sure the eye protection you choose is suitable for use after dark. Any tinting (including yellow) will lessen the light that reaches your eyes and make it harder to see. Be sure your eye protection is clean and free of scratches.

Reprinted from Winter 2005 Enthusiast®, with editor's permission.

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Choosing Lane Position

Correctly choosing which lane - and where within a lane - to ride your motorcycle is a critical, dynamic process that each of us should carefully consider. Below is some advice from Rider's Edge, the Harley-Davidson Academy of Motorcycling.

  • When determining where to ride within a lane, avoid potentially hazardous road irregularities such as cracks, potholes, groves, debris, water puddles, etc.
  • Constantly scan the upcoming road and be aware of changing conditions due to hills, blind curves, multiple driveways, merge lanes and traffic conditions. Position yourself accordingly
  • Whenever possible, position yourself to allow a safe and quick escape maneuver should any of the above conditions change or present a sudden hazard.
  • In general, when riding alone on a straight road, most people prefer to ride in the left third of the lane. It provides the best line of sight for the road ahead and makes you most visible to oncoming traffic. However, always be prepared to make adjustments based on road conditions and traffic patterns.
  • Always leave a minimum of two seconds between you and the vehicle in front of you.
  • If you can't see 12 seconds down the road, slow down and give yourself as much "space cushion" as possible by choosing a center lane position or one that provides the most available visibility
  • Limited-access highways provide a great opportunity to practice using lane position for visibility and space cushioning. Keep an eye on merge ramps, as drivers don't always check for parallel traffic.
  • Watch for fluid droppings (usually from other vehicles) in the center of the lane at traffic stops such as controlled intersections (stop signs, traffic lights) and at tollbooths. Try to stay left or right of the slippery areas at these locations. In most other circumstances, the center of a lane isn't any slicker than the other parts and should remain an option. (D/FW Safety officer's opinion * If using the right side of center, be mindful of putting your left boot down in the center where it could be slick and you could loose your footing.)

Reprinted from Fall 2004 Enthusiast® with editor's permission.

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Reducing Risk with S.E.E. (Search, Evaluate, Execute)

We all know there are risks in anything we do, driving a car, participating in sporting activities, going out for dinner, and sleeping in our beds at night to name a few. Riding our Harley-Davidson motorcycles is no exception.

Although motorcycle riding is very enjoyable, it generally carries more risk than riding in a large SUV, mainly due to size and lack of metal protecting us.

However, there are a few advantages to riding motorcycles such as better maneuverability and shorter stopping distances. But these advantages are only advantages if you can put yourself in a situation to benefit from them. It is much better to plan ahead and avoid situations in which you have to apply them to the extreme.

I found the following article in the November/December 2004 H.O.G. Tales magazine. I find it to be a particularly valuable tool in order to share the roads in a safe manner. Using the S.E.E. (Search, Evaluate, Execute) mental process for making judgments and taking action in traffic along with the continuing development of your riding skills, can help reduce traffic related risks.

John Woolley
Safety Officer 2004/2005





Maintaining your focus while riding can often be a challenge. But to make it easier, the MOTORCYCLE SAFETY FOUNDATION (MSF) recently introduced a simplified version of the mental process for making judgments and taking action in traffic: S.E.E., for Search, Evaluate, and Execute. This new acronym - an update of the old S.I.P.D.E. approach - is used in the Rider's Edge New Rider Course and the MSF Basic Rider Course.

SEARCH As you ride, scan the area aggressively, including the areas along the road and behind you. Check your mirrors frequently to maintain a constant awareness of your surroundings.
EVALUATE Use that information to evaluate the situation, predict what unexpected hazards and challenges may arise. And actively formulate strategies to deal with them.
EXECUTE Adjust your speed and positioning accordingly, while communicating your intentions to others.


Scanning aggressively provides the information you need to identify potential hazards, make your decisions, and take action. Scanning covers more than just what is in front of you. You must be aware of what is to either side and behind you. Don't let your eyes fix on any one object for more than a split second. This will help you be aware of anything that may affect you.

Scan a 12 to 14 second path of travel. This means looking ahead to an area that will take you 12 seconds to reach. This will give you time to prepare for a situation before it is in your immediate path. The area 4 seconds ahead of you is your immediate path of travel. Situations within this area require your immediate response.

  • Gather information about roadsides and road surfaces: Trees can shelter damp or icy spots in their shade; potholes can spread loose gravel on the road.
  • Look at the movement of the traffic around you: Cars ahead, behind and beside you. Remember that intersections where other vehicles can cross your path of travel, are especially critical. Driveways, parking lots, and side streets can develop quickly into problems.
  • Don't overlook pedestrians and animals.
  • Include your rearview mirrors in your scanning but don't rely on them. Turn your head to check the blind spots your mirrors miss, especially when changing lanes, turning, and stopping.

The hazards your encounter can be divided into 3 groups based on how critical their effect on you may be:

  • Cars, trucks, and other vehicles - They share the road with you, they move quickly, and your reactions to them are critical.
  • Pedestrians and animals - They are characterized by unpredictability and short quick moves.
  • Stationary objects - Potholes, guard rails, bridges, roadway signs, hedges, rows of trees won't move into your path, but may create or complicate situations.

The greatest potential for conflict between you and other traffic is at intersections. An intersection can be in the middle of an urban area or at a driveway on a residential street. Most motorcycle/automobile collisions occur at intersections. IN FACT, THE NUMBER ONE CAUSE OF MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENTS IS AN ONCOMING VEHICLE TURNING LEFT INTO THE PATH OF A MOTORCYCLE. Your use of S.E.E. at intersections is critical. Before you enter an intersection, scan for:

  • Oncoming traffic that may turn left in front of you.
  • Traffic from the Left.
  • Traffic from the Right.
  • Traffic approaching from behind.

Be especially alert at intersections with limited visibility. Be aware of a visually "busy" surrounding that could camouflage you and your motorcycle.


Predict - Anticipate what the hazard might do. The direction of a potential hazard is important. Clearly, a vehicle moving away from you is not as critical as a vehicle moving in your path. Determine what the hazard might do ... where a collision might occur. How critical is the hazard? How probable is a collision? Is there a need to downshift to be able to respond more quickly? This is the "What if ..." phase of S.E.E. that depends on your knowledge and experience. Now estimate the consequences of the hazard. How might the hazard, or your effort to avoid it, affect you and others? Next, determine what you need to do based on your prediction.

The mental process of determining your course of action depends on how aggressively you searched. The result is your action and knowing which strategy is best for the situation. You want to eliminate or reduce the potential hazard. You must decide when, where, and how to take action. Your constant decision-making tasks must stay sharp to cope with constantly changing traffic situations.

No matter the riding situation, establishing the necessary time and space requirements in order to maintain an adequate safety margin is essential. This will maximize your ability to respond to any sudden changes in the situation. Doing so involved three primary limiting factors:

  • The capabilities and limitations of your motorcycle.
  • The capabilities and limitations of the rider (YOU).
  • Roadway/traffic conditions.

Your safety margin is affected if any one of these factors changes. For instance, a rider on a stock Sportster motorcycle will have less ability to accelerate quickly than someone riding, say, a V-Rod motorcycle, limiting his or her ability to escape a situation by quickly increasing speed. Conversely, the Sportster rider may be better able to make quick turns.

The capabilities and limitations of the rider are important factors that can affect your safety margin. A rider with more experience and more formal training is probably better able to avoid an accident by making the proper evasive maneuvers.

Finally, the conditions of the roadway and the amount of traffic both play a major role in your ability to create an adequate safety margin. Unfortunately, this is something you cannot control. You can, however, change your route or decide not to ride. If rush hour traffic or road construction create conditions that make it impossible for you to find a comfort level, consider postponing your ride or changing your route.


Carry out your decision. This is where your riding skills come into play. And this is where they must be second nature. The best decision will be meaningless without the skills to carry it out.

Communication - the most passive action you can take since it depends upon the response of someone else. Use your lights or horn to get the attention of drivers when necessary, but don't rely on them receiving your communication and reacting to it. Instead, focus on more active responses, such as:

Adjustments of speed - acceleration, slowing, or stopping.

Adjustments of position - changing lane position or completely changing direction

The degree of adjustment depends upon how critical the hazard is, and how much time and space you have. The more time and space, the least degree of adjustment, the least amount of risk. In areas of high potential risk, such as intersections, give yourself more time and space by reducing the time you need to react. Cover both brakes and the clutch, and be ready with possible escape routes.

S.E.E. - Search, Evaluate, Execute. The better you learn this approach and the more you use it, the more it will become second nature. And the better chance you have of avoiding an unhappy outcome in a tricky situation.

Reprinted (in part) from the Nov/Dec edition of Hog Tales®, with editor's permission.


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