You are on page 1of 44



Division of Motor Vehicles

Tenth Edition, April 2002

Dear Motorist:
Operating a motor vehicle on the highways of North Carolina is
a privilege that must be earned. How carefully you exercise your
responsibility as a citizen determines your ability to retain your
North Carolina’s driver license program is designed to protect
motorists. It’s goals are to prevent traffic crashes and fatalities and
reduce injuries.
What you learn from this handbook is necessary for safe driving.
How well you remember what you learn will enable you to be a
safe motorcyclist.
I urge you to obey the laws and observe the rules of safe driving
each time you ride your motorcycle. Remember, your life and the
lives of others depend on you.


Michael F. Easley

Lyndo Tippett
Secretary of Transportation
From the Commissioner

Motor vehicle operation in the state of North Carolina is not,

and never has been, an issue to take lightly. Motorcycle riding is
no different.
When operating any motor vehicle on North Carolina’s high-
ways, we must be aware of all laws governing that action. And
before you take to the road, our state has several rules for you to
heed. Regardless of your past experience riding motorcycles,
there’s always more to learn.
North Carolina’s Motorcyclists’ Handbook is a compilation of
information you need to know before operating your motorcycle
on our highways. This handbook suggests many techniques for
safe driving and discusses motor vehicle laws. Adequate review
and application of the outlined practices within this handbook
will aid you in obtaining your motorcycle endorsement.
It is my sincere wish that you will thoroughly review all this
information before “taking to the road”. Keep in mind, “sharing
the road” and safe driving is everyone’s responsibility.


George Tatum

The law in North Carolina requires the operator of any motor-

cycle to have a motorcycle endorsement shown on their driver’s
license. An endorsement may be obtained upon initial issuance of a
driver’s license, or any time thereafter, by taking a knowledge test
that includes questions on motorcycling, and an off-street motor-
cycle skills test. The knowledge test will be waived on a renewal.
A duplicate license may be issued to add an endorsement to your
present license if the above testing requirements are satisfied.

If you are not prepared to take the skills portion of the test, you
may apply for a motorcycle learner permit if you possess a full pro-
visional, regular or commercial license. The knowledge, road sign
identification and vision test are required.

When you register a motorcyle with the Division of Motor

Vehicles, you will receive a license plate to be placed on the back of
the motorcycle. Keep the plate clean and readable. The registration
fee for a private motorcycle is $12.00, or an additional $20.00 for a
personalized plate. Some counties may require a Regional
Transportation Authority Registration Tax of an additional $5.00.
TO RIDE Uneven Surfaces and Obstacles...29
Slippery Surfaces .........................30
WEAR THE RIGHT GEAR ...................6 Railroad Tracks, Trolley Tracks
Helmet Use ....................................6 and Pavement Seams ...................31
Helmet Selection............................6 Grooves and Gratings .................31
Eye and Face Protection ................7 MECHANICAL PROBLEMS .................32
Clothing .........................................8 Tire Failure...................................32
KNOW YOUR MOTORCYCLE ..............8 Stuck Throttle ..............................32
The Right Motorcycle for You ......8 Wobble .........................................32
Borrowing and Lending.................9 Chain Problems............................33
Get Familiar with the Engine Seizure .............................33
Motorcycle Controls ......................9 ANIMALS ...........................................33
Check Your Motorcycle...............10
FLYING OBJECTS ..............................34
GETTING OFF THE ROAD .................34
RIDE WITHIN AND CARGO ......................................34
YOUR ABILITIES Equipment ....................................34
BASIC VEHICLE CONTROL ...............12 Instructing Passengers..................35
Body Position...............................12 Riding With Passengers ...............35
Shifting Gears ..............................12 Carrying Loads ............................35
Braking.........................................13 GROUP RIDING.........................36
Turning.........................................13 Keep the Group Small .................36
KEEPING YOUR DISTANCE ...............14 Keep the Group Together ............36
Lane Positions..............................14 Keep Your Distance .....................36
Following Another Vehicle..........15
Being Followed............................16 BEING IN SHAPE
Passing and Being Passed............16 TO RIDE
Lane Sharing ................................18 WHY THIS INFORMATION IS
Merging Cars ...............................18 IMPORTANT ...................................38
Cars Alongside.............................18 ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS IN
SEE ..................................................19 MOTORCYCLE OPERATION...............38
INTERSECTIONS ................................20 ALCOHOL IN THE BODY ...................39
Blind Intersections .......................21 Blood Alcohol Concentration ......39
Passing Parked Cars.....................22 ALCOHOL AND THE LAW ..................40
Parking at the Roadside ...............22
Consequences of Conviction .......40
MINIMIZE THE RISKS .......................40
Clothing .......................................23
Headlight......................................23 STEP IN TO PROTECT FRIENDS.........41
Signals..........................................23 FATIGUE ............................................41
Brake Light ..................................24
Using Your Mirrors......................24
Head Checks ................................25 EARNING
Horn .............................................25 YOUR LICENSE
Riding at Night ............................26 Knowledge Test ..............................42
CRASH AVOIDANCE ..........................26 On-Cycle Skill Test..........................43
Quick Stops..................................26
Swerving or Turning Quickly......27
Cornering .....................................28
What you do before you start a trip goes a long way toward
determining whether or not you’ll get where you want to go safely.
Before taking off on any trip, a safe rider makes a point to:
1. Wear the right gear.
2. Become familiar with the motorcycle.
3. Check the motorcycle equipment.
4. Be a responsible rider.

WEAR THE RIGHT GEAR • An approved helmet lets you

see as far to the sides as neces-
When you ride, your gear is sary. A study of more than 900
“right” if it protects you. In any motorcycle crashes, where 40%
crash, you have a far better chance of of the riders wore helmets, did
avoiding serious injury if you wear: not find even one case in which
• An approved helmet. a helmet kept a rider from spot-
• Face or eye protection. ting danger.
• Protective clothing. • Most crashes happen on short
trips (less than five miles long),
just a few minutes after starting
• Most riders are riding slower
Crashes are not rare events —
than 30 mph when a crash
particularly among beginning riders.
occurs. At these speeds, helmets
And one out of every five motorcycle
can cut both the number and the
crashes result in head or neck injuries.
severity of head injuries by half.
Head injuries are just as severe as
neck injuries — and far more com- No matter what the speed, helmet-
mon. Crash analyses show that head ed riders are three times more likely to
and neck injuries account for a majori- survive head injuries than those not
ty of serious and fatal injuries to wearing helmets at the time of the
motorcyclists. Research also shows crash.
that, with few exceptions, head and
neck injuries are reduced by the prop-
er wearing of an approved helmet. HELMET SELECTION
Some riders don’t wear helmets There are two primary types of
because they think helmets will limit helmets, providing two different levels
their view to the sides. Others wear of coverage: three-quarter and full
helmets only on long trips or when face.
riding at high speeds. North Carolina Whichever style you choose, you
law requires the operator and all can get the most protection by making
passengers to wear a helmet when sure that the helmet:
riding a motorcycle. Here are some
facts to consider:


• Meets U.S. Department of Goggles protect your eyes,

Transportation (DOT) and state though they won’t protect the rest of
standards. Helmets with a label your face like a faceshield does. A
from the Snell Memorial windshield is not a substitute for a
Foundation give you an added faceshield or goggles. Most wind-
assurance of quality. shields will not protect your eyes
• Fits snugly, all the way around. from the wind. Neither will eyeglass-
es or sunglasses. Glasses won’t keep
• Has no obvious defects such as
your eyes from watering, and they
cracks, loose padding or frayed
might blow off when you turn your
head while riding.
Whatever helmet you decide on,
keep it securely fastened on your head To be effective, eye or faceshield
when you ride. Otherwise, if you are protection must:
involved in a crash, it’s likely to fly • Be free of scratches.
off your head before it gets a chance • Be resistant to penetration.
to protect you. • Give a clear view to either side.
• Fasten securely, so it does not
blow off.
EYE AND FACE PROTECTION • Permit air to pass through, to
A plastic shatter-resistant reduce fogging.
faceshield can help protect your • Permit enough room for
whole face in a crash. It also eyeglasses or sunglasses, if
protects you from wind, dust, dirt, needed.
rain, insects, and pebbles thrown up
Tinted eye protection should not
from cars ahead. These problems are
be worn at night or any other time
distracting and can be painful. If you
when little light is available.
have to deal with them, you can’t
devote your full attention to the road.

The right clothing protects you in
a crash. It also provides comfort, as There are plenty of things on the
well as protection from heat, cold, highway that can cause you trouble.
debris and hot and moving parts of Your motorcycle should not be one of
the motorcycle. them. To make sure that your motor-
• Jacket and pants should cover cycle won’t let you down:
arms and legs completely. They • Read the owner’s manual first.
should fit snugly enough to keep • Start with the right motorcycle
from flapping in the wind, yet for you.
loosely enough to move freely. • Be familiar with the motorcycle
Leather offers the most protec- controls.
tion. Sturdy synthetic material • Check the motorcycle before
provides a lot of protection as every ride.
well. Wear a jacket even in • Keep it in safe riding condition
warm weather to prevent dehy- between rides.
dration. Many are designed to • Avoid add-ons and modifications
protect without getting you over- that make your motorcycle harder
heated, even on summer days. to handle.
• Boots or shoes should be high
and sturdy enough to cover your
ankles and give them support. THE RIGHT MOTORCYCLE
Soles should be made of hard, FOR YOU
durable, slip-resistant material.
Keep heels short so they do not First, make sure your motorcycle
catch on rough surfaces. Tuck is right for you. It should “fit” you.
laces in so they won’t catch on Your feet should reach the ground
your motorcycle. while you are seated on the motor-
• Gloves allow a better grip and cycle.
help protect your hands in a
crash. Your gloves should be
made of leather or similar durable
In cold or wet weather, your 1 Test Yourself
clothes should keep you warm and
dry, as well as protect you from injury. A plastic shatter-resistant face
You cannot control a motorcycle well shield:
if you are numb. Riding for long peri- A. Is not necessary if you have a
ods in cold weather can cause severe windshield.
chill and fatigue. A winter jacket B. Only protects your eyes.
should resist wind and fit snugly at the C. Helps protect your whole face.
neck, wrists, and waist. Good-quality D. Does not protect your face as
rainsuits designed for motorcycle well as goggles.
riding resist tearing apart or balloon-
Answer - page 42
ing up at high speeds.

At minimum, your street-legal are licensed and know how to ride
motorcycle should have: before allowing them out into traffic.
• Headlight, taillight and No matter how experienced you
brakelight. may be, ride extra carefully on any
• Front and rear brakes. motorcycle that’s new or unfamiliar to
• Turn signals. you. More than half of all crashes
• Horn. occur on motorcycles ridden by the
• Two mirrors. operator for less than six months.


Borrowers and lenders of MOTORCYCLE CONTROLS
motorcycles, beware. Crashes are Make sure you are completely
fairly common among beginning familiar with the motorcycle before
riders — especially in the first you take it out on the street. Be sure
months of riding. Riding an to review the owner’s manual. This is
unfamiliar motorcycle adds to the particularly important if you are riding
problem. If you borrow a motorcycle, a borrowed motorcycle.
get familiar with it in a controlled
If you are going to use an unfamil-
area. And if you lend your
iar motorcycle:
motorcycle to friends, make sure they

Light Switch (high/low) Engine Cut-Off
Choke (varies) Switch
Turn-Signal Electric
Switch Start
Ignition Key

Horn Button Throttle

Clutch Lever Front Brake Lever

& Odometer
(if equipped)

Fuel Supply Valve

(if equipped) Rear Brake Pedal
Gear-Change Lever
Kick Starter
(if equipped)

• Make all the checks you would • Brake Light — Try both brake
on your own motorcycle. controls, and make sure each one
• Find out where everything is, turns on the brake light.
particularly the turn signals, horn, Once you have mounted the
headlight switch, fuel-control motorcycle, complete the following
valve, and engine cut-off switch. checks before starting out:
Find and operate these items • Clutch and Throttle — Make
without having to look for them. sure they work smoothly. The
• Know the gear pattern. Work throttle should snap back when
the throttle, clutch and brakes a few you let go. The clutch should
times before you start riding. All feel tight and smooth.
controls react a little differently. • Mirrors — Clean and adjust
• Ride very cautiously and be both mirrors before starting. It’s
aware of surroundings. difficult to ride with one hand
Accelerate gently, take turns while you try to adjust a mirror.
more slowly, and leave extra Adjust each mirror so you can
room for stopping. see the lane behind and as much
as possible of the lane next to
you. When properly adjusted, a
CHECK YOUR MOTORCYCLE mirror may show the edge of
A motorcycle needs more frequent your arm or shoulder — but it’s
attention than a car. A minor techni- the road behind and to the side
cal failure in a car seldom leads to that’s most important.
anything more than an inconvenience • Brakes — Try the front and rear
for the driver. brake levers one at a time. Make
sure each one feels firm and
If something’s wrong with the holds the motorcycle when the
motorcycle, you’ll want to find out brake is fully applied.
about it before you get in traffic.
• Horn — Try the horn. Make
Make a complete check of your
sure it works.
motorcycle before every ride.
In addition to the checks you should
Before mounting the motorcycle, make before every trip, check the fol-
make the following checks: lowing items at least once a week:
• Tires — Check the air pressure, Wheels, cables, and fasteners and
general wear and tread. fluid checks. Follow your owner’s
• Fluids — Oil and fluid levels. manual to get recommendations.
At a minimum, check hydraulic 2 Test Yourself
fluids and coolants weekly. Look
under the motorcycle for signs of More than half of all crashes:
an oil or gas leak. A. Occur at speeds greater than
• Headlights and Taillight — 35 mph.
Check them both. Test your B. Happen at night.
switch to make sure both high C. Are caused by worn tires.
and low beams are working.
D. Involve riders who have ridden
• Turn Signals — Turn on both their motorcycles less than six
right and left turn signals. Make months.
sure all lights are working Answer - page 42
KNOW YOUR • Be visible — wear proper cloth-
RESPONSIBILITIES ing, use your headlight, ride in
“Accident” implies an unforeseen the best lane position to see and
event that occurs without anyone’s be seen.
fault or negligence. Most often in • Communicate your intentions
traffic, that is not the case. In fact, — use the proper signals, brake
most people involved in a crash can light, and lane position.
usually claim some responsibility for • Maintain an adequate space
what takes place. cushion — following, being fol-
lowed, lane sharing, passing and
Consider a situation where some-
being passed.
one decides to try to squeeze through
an intersection on a yellow light turn- • Scan your path of travel 12 sec-
ing red. Your light turns green. You onds ahead.
pull into the intersection without • Identify and separate multiple
checking for possible latecomers. hazards.
That is all it takes for the two of you • Be prepared to act — remain
to tangle. It was the driver’s responsi- alert and know how to carry out
bility to stop. And it was your proper crash-avoidance skills.
responsibility to look before pulling
out. Neither of you held up your end Blame doesn’t matter when some-
of the deal. Just because someone one is injured in a crash. There is
else is the first to start the chain of rarely a single cause of any crash.
events leading to a crash, it doesn’t The ability to ride aware, make criti-
leave any of us free of responsibility. cal decisions, and carry them out sep-
arates responsible riders from all the
As a rider you can’t be sure that rest. Remember, it is up to you to
other operators will see you or yield keep from being the cause of, or an
the right of way. To lessen your unprepared participant in, any crash.
chances of a crash occurring:

This Manual cannot teach you how to control direction, speed, or balance.
That’s something you can learn only through practice. But control begins with
knowing your abilities and riding within them, along with knowing and obeying
the rules of the road.

too much throttle. Also, adjust

BASIC VEHICLE the handlebars so your hands are
CONTROL even with or below your elbows.
This permits you to use the prop-
er muscles for precision steering.
BODY POSITION • Knees — Keep your knees
To control a motorcycle well: against the gas tank to help you
keep your balance as the motor-
• Posture — Sit so you can use cycle turns.
your arms to steer the motorcycle
• Feet — Keep your feet firmly on
rather than to hold yourself up.
the footpegs to maintain balance.
• Seat — Sit far enough forward so Don’t drag your feet. If your
that arms are slightly bent when foot catches on something, you
you hold the handlegrips. can be injured and it could affect
Bending your arms permits you your control of the motorcycle.
to press on the handlebars with- Keep your feet near the controls
out having to stretch. so you can get to them fast if
• Hands — Hold the handlegrips needed. Also, don’t let your toes
firmly to keep your grip over point downward — they may get
rough surfaces. Start with your caught between the road and the
right wrist flat. This will help footpegs.
you keep from accidentally using


There is more to shifting gears
than simply getting the motorcycle to
pick up speed smoothly. Learning to
use the gears correctly when down-
shifting, turning, or starting on hills is
important for safe motorcycle opera-
Shift down through the gears as
you slow or stop. Remain in first gear
WRONG while you are stopped so that you can
move out quickly if you need to.

Make certain you are riding slowly tion is available for stopping. A
enough when you shift into a lower skid can occur if you apply too
gear. If not, the motorcycle will lurch, much brake. Also, using the front
and the rear wheel may skid. When brake incorrectly on a slippery
riding downhill or shifting into first surface may be hazardous. Use
gear you may need to use the brakes caution and squeeze the brake
to slow enough before downshifting lever, never grab.
safely. Work toward a smooth, even • Some motorcycles have integrat-
clutch release, especially when down- ed braking systems that link the
shifting. front and rear brakes together by
applying the rear brake pedal.
It is best to change gears before (Consult the owner’s manual for a
entering a turn. However, sometimes detailed explanation on the opera-
shifting while in the turn is necessary. tion and effective use of these
If so, remember to do so smoothly. A systems.)
sudden change in power to the rear
wheel can cause a skid. TURNING
Riders often try to take curves or
BRAKING turns too fast. When they can’t hold
Your motorcycle has two brakes: the turn, they end up crossing into
one each for the front and rear wheel. another lane of traffic or going off the
Use both of them at the same time. road. Or, they overreact and brake too
The front brake is more powerful and hard, causing a skid and loss of con-
can provide at least three-quarters of trol. Approach turns and curves with
your total stopping power. The front caution.
brake is safe to use if you use it prop- Use four steps for better control:
erly. • SLOW
Remember: • LOOK
• Use both brakes every time you • LEAN
slow or stop. Using both brakes • ROLL
for even “normal” stops will per-
• SLOW — Reduce speed before
mit you to develop the proper
the turn by closing the throttle and,
habit or skill of using both brakes
if necessary, applying both brakes.
properly in an emergency.
Squeeze the front brake and press • LOOK — Look through the turn
down on the rear. Grabbing at to where you want to go. Turn
the front brake or jamming down just your head, not your shoulders,
on the rear can cause the brakes and keep your eyes level with the
to lock, resulting in control prob- horizon.
lems. • LEAN — To turn, the motorcycle
• If you know the technique, must lean. To lean the motorcycle,
using both brakes in a turn is pos- press on the handgrip in the direc-
sible, although it should be done tion of the turn. Press left — lean
very carefully. When leaning the left — go left. Press right — lean
motorcycle some of the traction right — go right. Higher speeds
is used for cornering. Less trac and/or tighter turns require the
motorcycle to lean more.
• ROLL — Roll on the throttle 3 Test Yourself
through the turn to stabilize sus-
pension. Maintain steady speed or When riding, you should:
accelerate gradually through the A. Turn your head and shoulders to
turn. This will help keep the look through turns.
motorcycle stable. B. Keep your arms straight.
In normal turns, the rider and the C. Keep your knees away from the
motorcycle should lean together at the gas tank.
same angle. D. Turn just your head and eyes to
look where you are going.
NORMAL TURNING Answer - page 42

The best protection you can have
is distance — a “cushion of space” —
all around your motorcycle. If some-
one else makes a mistake, distance
permits you:
• Time to react.
• Space to maneuver.

In some ways the size of the
In slow tight turns, counterbalance
motorcycle can work to your advan-
by leaning the motorcycle only and
tage. Each traffic lane gives a motor-
keeping your body straight.
cycle three paths of travel, as indicat-
ed in the illustration.
NORMAL TURNING Your lane position should:
• Increase your ability to see and
be seen.
• Avoid other’s blind spots.
• Avoid surface hazards.
• Protect your lane from other
• Communicate your intentions.
• Avoid wind blast from other
• Provide an escape route.
Select the appropriate path to maxi-
mize your space cushion and make
yourself more easily seen by others
on the road.

In general, there is no single best FOLLOWING ANOTHER

position for riders to be seen and to VEHICLE
maintain a space cushion around the “Following too closely” could be
motorcycle. No portion of the lane a factor in crashes involving motorcy-
need be avoided — including the clists. In traffic, motorcycles need as
center. much distance to stop as cars.
Position yourself in the portion of Normally, a minimum of two
the lane where you are most likely to seconds distance should be main-
be seen and you can maintain a space tained behind the vehicle ahead.
cushion around you. Change position To gauge your following
as traffic situations change. Ride in distance:
path 2 or 3 if vehicles and other • Pick out a marker, such as a
potential problems are on your left pavement marking or lamppost,
only. Remain in path 1 or 2 if hazards on or near the road ahead.
are on your right only. If vehicles are
• When the rear bumper of the
being operated on both sides of you,
vehicle ahead passes the marker,
the center of the lane, path 2, is
count off the seconds: “one-
usually your best option.
thousand-one, one-thousand-two.”
The oily strip in the center portion • If you reach the marker before
that collects drippings from cars is you reach “two,” you are follow-
usually no more than two feet wide. ing too closely.
Unless the road is wet, the average
center strip permits adequate traction A two-second following distance
to ride on safely. You can operate to leaves a minimum amount of space to
the left or right of the grease strip and stop or swerve if the driver ahead
still be within the center portion of the stops suddenly. It also permits a
traffic lane. Avoid riding on big better view of potholes and other haz-
buildups of oil and grease usually ards in the road.
found at busy intersections or toll A larger cushion of space is need-
booths. ed if your motorcycle will take longer
than normal to stop. If the pavement


is slippery, if you cannot see through BEING FOLLOWED

the vehicle ahead, or if traffic is heavy Speeding up to lose someone
and someone may squeeze in front of following too closely only ends up
you, open up a three-second or more with someone tailgating you at a
following distance. higher speed.
Keep well behind the vehicle A better way to handle tailgaters
ahead even when you are stopped. is to get them in front of you. When
This will make it easier to get out of someone is following too closely,
the way if someone bears down on change lanes and let them pass. If
you from behind. It will also give you you can’t do this, slow down and
a cushion of space if the vehicle ahead open up extra space ahead of you to
starts to back up for some reason. allow room for both you and the
When behind a car, ride where the tailgater to stop. This will also
driver can see you in the rearview encourage them to pass. If they don’t
mirror. Riding in the center portion of pass, you will have given yourself and
the lane should put your image in the the tailgater more time and space to
middle of the rearview mirror — react in case an emergency does
where a driver is most likely to see develop ahead.
Riding at the far side of a lane PASSING AND BEING PASSED
may permit a driver to see you in a
sideview mirror. But remember that Passing and being passed by
most drivers don’t look at their side- another vehicle is not much different
view mirrors nearly as often as they than with a car. However, visibility is
check the rearview mirror. If the more critical. Be sure other drivers
traffic situation allows, the center por- see you, and that you see potential
tion of the lane is the best place for hazards.
you to be seen by the drivers ahead
and to prevent lane sharing by others.

PASSING stay in the center portion of your lane.
Riding any closer to them could put
1. Ride in the left portion of the
you in a hazardous situation.
lane at a safe following distance
to increase your line of sight and Avoid being hit by:
make you more visible. Signal • The other vehicle — A slight
and check for oncoming traffic. mistake by you or the passing
Use your mirrors and turn your driver could cause a sideswipe.
head to look for traffic behind. • Extended mirrors — Some driv-
2. When safe, move into the left ers forget that their mirrors hang
lane and accelerate. Select a lane out farther than their fenders.
position that doesn’t crowd the • Objects thrown from windows
car you are passing and provides — Even if the driver knows
space to avoid hazards in your you’re there, a passenger may not
lane. see you and might toss something
3. Ride through the blind spot as on you or the road ahead of you.
quickly as possible. • Blasts of wind from larger
4. Signal again, and complete vehicles — They can affect your
mirror and headchecks before control. You have more room for
returning to your original lane error if you are in the middle por-
and then cancel the signal. tion when hit by this blast than if
Remember, passes must be com- you are on either side of the lane.
pleted within posted speed limits, Do not move into the portion of the
and only where permitted. Know lane farthest from the passing vehicle.
your signs and road markings! It might invite the other driver to cut
back into your lane too early.
When you are being passed from
behind or by an oncoming vehicle,

LANE SHARING another lane if one is open. If there
is no room for a lane change, adjust
Cars and motorcycles need a full speed to open up space for the
lane to operate safely. Lane sharing is merging driver.
usually prohibited.
Riding between rows of stopped
or moving cars in the same lane can CARS ALONGSIDE
leave you vulnerable to the unexpect- Do not ride next to cars or trucks
ed. A hand could come out of a win- in other lanes if you do not have to.
dow; a door could open; a car could You might be in the blind spot of a car
turn suddenly. Discourage lane shar- in the next lane, which could switch
ing by others. Keep a center-portion into your lane without warning. Cars
position whenever drivers might be in the next lane also block your escape
tempted to squeeze by you. Drivers if you come upon danger in your own
are most tempted to do this: lane. Speed up or drop back to find a
• In heavy, bumper-to-bumper place clear of traffic on both sides.
• When they want to pass you.
• When you are preparing to turn
at an intersection.
• When you are getting in an exit
lane, or leaving a highway.

Drivers on an entrance ramp may
not see you on the highway. Give
them plenty of room. Change to


4 Test Yourself
Usually, a good way to handle
tailgaters is to:
A. Change lanes and let them pass.
B. Use your horn amd make
obscense gestures.
C. Speed up to put distance
between you and the tailgater.
D. Ignore them.
Answer - page 42

SEE • Road and surface characteristis
— Potholes, guardrails, bridges,
Good experienced riders remain telephone poles and trees won’t
aware of what is going on around move into your path but may
them. They improve their riding strat- influence your riding strategy.
egy by using SEE, a three-step
process used to make appropriate • Traffic control devices — Look
judgments, and apply them correctly for traffic signals, including
in different traffic situations: regulatory signs, warning signs,
and pavement markings, to help
• Search you evaluate circumstances
• Evaluate ahead.
• Execute • Vehicles and other traffic —
Let’s examine each of these steps. May move into your path and
increase the likelihood of a crash.
SEARCH Think about your time and space
requirements in order to maintain a
Search aggressively ahead, to the
margin of safety. You must leave
sides and behind to avoid potential
yourself time to react if an emergency
hazards even before they arise. How
assertively you search, and how much
time and space you have, can elimi-
nate or reduce harm. Focus even more
on finding potential escape routes in
or around intersections, shopping Carry out your decision
areas, school and construction zones. To create more space and mini-
Search for factors such as: mize harm from any hazard:
• Oncoming traffic that may turn • Communicate your presence
left in front of you. with lights and/or horn.
• Traffic coming from the left and • Adjust your speed by
right. accelerating, stopping or slowing.
• Traffic approaching from behind. • Adjust your position and/or
• Hazardous road conditions.
Apply the old adage “one step at a
Be especially alert in areas with time” to handle two or more hazards.
limited visibility. Visually “busy” Adjust speed to permit two hazards to
surroundings could hide you and your separate. Then deal with them one at
motorcycle from others. a time as single hazards. Decision
making becomes more complex with
EVALUATE three or more hazards. Weigh the
consequences of each and give equal
Think about how hazards can
distance to the hazards.
interact to create risk for you.
Anticipate potential problems and
have a plan to reduce risk.

In potential high-risk areas, such INTERSECTIONS
as intersections, shopping areas and The greatest potential for conflict
school and construction zones, cover between you and other traffic is at
the clutch and both brakes to reduce intersections. An intersection can be
the time you need to react. in the middle of an urban area or at a
driveway on a residential street —
anywhere traffic may cross your path
of travel. Over one-half of motor-
cycle/car crashes are caused by drivers
5 Test Yourself
entering a rider’s right-of-way. Cars
To reduce your reaction time, you that turn left in front of you, including
should: cars turning left from the lane to your
A. Ride slower than the speed limit. right, and cars on side streets that pull
B. Cover the clutch and brakes. into your lane, are the biggest dangers.
C. Shift into neutral when slowing. Your use of SEE [p. 19] at intersec-
tions is critical.
D. Pull in the clutch when turning.
Answer - page 42 There are no guarantees that
others see you. Never count on “eye
contact” as a sign that a driver will
yield. Too often, a driver looks right
at a motorcyclist and still fails to
“see” him. The only eyes that you
can count on are your own. If a car
can enter your path, assume that it
will. Good riders are always “looking
for trouble” — not to get into it, but to
stay out of it.
Increase your chances of being
seen at intersections. Ride with your
headlight on in a lane position that
provides the best view of oncoming
traffic. Provide a space cushion
around the motorcycle that permits
you to take evasive action.



As you approach the intersection, — so the driver on the cross street can
select a lane position to increase your see him as soon as possible.
visibility to the driver. Cover the
clutch and both brakes to reduce BLIND INTERSECTIONS
reaction time.
Reduce your speed as you
approach an intersection. After
entering the intersection, move away
from vehicles preparing to turn. Do
not change speed or position radically.
The driver might think that you are
preparing to turn.

If you approach a blind intersec-
tion, move to the portion of the lane
that will bring you into another
driver’s field of vision at the earliest Remember, the key is to see as
possible moment. In this picture, the much as possible and remain visible
rider has moved to the left portion of to others while protecting your space.
the lane — away from the parked car

If you have a stop sign or stop line,

stop there first. Then edge forward
and stop again, just short of where the
cross-traffic lane meets your lane. In either event, the driver might
From that position, lean your body for- cut into your path. Slow down or
ward and look around buildings, change lanes to make room for some-
parked cars, or bushes to see if any- one cutting in.
thing is coming. Just make sure your Cars making a sudden U-turn are
front wheel stays out of the cross lane the most dangerous. They may cut
of travel while you’re looking.
you off entirely, blocking the whole
roadway and leaving you with no
PASSING PARKED CARS place to go. Since you can’t tell what
When passing parked cars, stay a driver will do, slow down and get
toward the left of your lane. You can the driver’s attention. Sound your
avoid problems caused by doors open- horn and continue with caution.
ing, drivers getting out of cars, or
people stepping from between cars. If PARKING AT THE ROADSIDE
oncoming traffic is present, it is Park at a 90o angle to the curb
usually best to remain in the center- with your rear wheel touching the
lane position to maximize your space
A bigger problem can occur if the PARKING AT CURBS
driver pulls away from the curb with-
out checking for traffic behind. Even
if he does look, he may fail to see you.
6 Test Yourself
Making eye contact with other drivers:
A. Is a good sign they see you.
B. Is not worth the effort it takes.
C. Doesn’t mean that the driver will
D. Guarantees that the other driver
will yield to you.
Answer - page 42

INCREASING Reflective material on a vest and
CONSPICUITY on the sides of the helmet will help
drivers coming from the side to spot
In crashes with motorcyclists,
you. Reflective material can also be a
drivers often say that they never saw
big help for drivers coming toward
the motorcycle. From ahead or
you or from behind.
behind, a motorcycle’s outline is much
smaller than a car’s. Also, it’s hard to
see something you are not looking for,
and most drivers are not looking for The best way to help others see
motorcycles. More likely, they are your motorcycle is to keep the
looking through the skinny, two- headlight on — at all times (although
wheeled silhouette in search of cars motorcycles sold in the USA since
that may pose a problem to them. 1978 automatically have the head-
lights on when running). Studies
Even if a driver does see you
show that, during the day, a motorcy-
coming, you aren’t necessarily safe.
cle with its light on is twice as likely
Smaller vehicles appear farther away
to be noticed. Use of the high beam
and seem to be traveling slower than
during the day increases the likelihood
they actually are. It is common for
that oncoming drivers will see you.
drivers to pull out in front of motorcy-
Use low beam at night and in cloudy
clists, thinking they have plenty of
time. Too often, they are wrong.
However, you can do many things to
make it easier for others to recognize
you and your cycle. The signals on a motorcycle are
similar to those on a car. They tell
others what you plan to do.
Most crashes occur in broad SIGNALING
daylight. Wear bright-colored
clothing to increase your chances of
being seen. Remember, your body is
half of the visible surface area of the
rider/motorcycle unit.
Bright orange, red, yellow or
green jackets or vests are your best
bets for being seen. Your helmet can
do more than protect you in a crash.
Brightly colored helmets can also help
others see you.
Any bright color is better than
drab or dark colors. Reflective,
bright-colored clothing (helmet and
jacket or vest) is best.

However, due to a rider’s added • You slow where others may not
vulnerability, signals are even more expect it (in the middle of a block
important. Use them anytime you or at an alley). If you are being
plan to change lanes or turn. Use followed closely, it’s a good idea
them even when you think no one else to flash your brake light before
is around. It’s the car you don’t see you slow. The tailgater may be
that’s going to give you the most trou- watching you and not see some-
ble. Your signal lights also make you thing ahead that will make you
easier to spot. That’s why it’s a good slow down. This will hopefully
idea to use your turn signals even discourage them from tailgating
when what you plan to do is obvious. and warn them of hazards ahead
they may not see.
When you enter onto a freeway,
drivers approaching from behind are
more likely to see your signal blinking USING YOUR MIRRORS
and make room for you.
While it’s most important to keep
Turning your signal light on track of what’s happening ahead, you
before each turn reduces confusion can’t afford to ignore situations
and frustration for the traffic around behind. Traffic conditions change
you. Once you turn, make sure your quickly. Knowing what’s going on
signal is off or a driver may pull behind is essential for you to make a
directly into your path, thinking you safe decision about how to handle
plan to turn again. Use your signals trouble ahead.
at every turn so drivers can react
Frequent mirror checks should be
accordingly. Don’t make them guess
part of your normal searching routine.
what you intend to do.
Make a special point of using your
BRAKE LIGHT • When you are stopped at an
intersection. Watch cars coming
Your motorcycle’s brake light is
up from behind. If the driver
usually not as noticeable as the brake
isn’t paying attention, he could
lights on a car—particularly when
be on top of you before he sees
your taillight is on. (It goes on with
the headlight.) If the situation will
permit, help others notice you by • Before you change lanes. Make
flashing your brake light before you sure no one is about to pass you.
slow down. It is especially important • Before you slow down. The
to flash your brake light before: driver behind may not expect you
• You slow more quickly than to slow, or may be unsure about
where you will slow. For exam-
others might expect (turning off a
ple, you signal a turn and the
high-speed highway).
driver thinks you plan to turn at a
distant intersection, rather than at
a nearer driveway.

Checking your mirrors is not
enough. Motorcycles have “blind
spots” like cars. Before you change
lanes, turn your head, and look to the
side for other vehicles.
On a road with several lanes,
check the far lane and the one next to
you. A driver in the distant lane may
head for the same space you plan to
Frequent head checks should be
your normal scanning routine, also.
Only by knowing what is happening
all around you are you fully prepared
to deal with it.

Some motorcycles have rounded

(convex) mirrors. These provide a Be ready to use your horn to get
wider view of the road behind than do someone’s attention quickly.
flat mirrors. They also make cars It is a good idea to give a quick
seem farther away than they really beep before passing anyone that may
are. If you are not used to convex move into your lane.
mirrors, get familiar with them. Here are some situations:
(While you are stopped, pick out a
• A driver in the lane next to you
parked car in your mirror. Form a
is driving too close to the vehicle
mental image of how far away it is.
ahead and may want to pass.
Then, turn around and look at it to see
how close you came.) Practice with • A parked car has someone in the
your mirrors until you become a good driver’s seat.
judge of distance. Even then, allow • Someone is in the street, riding
extra distance before you change a bicycle or walking.
lanes. In an emergency, press the horn
button loud and long. Be ready to stop
or swerve away from the danger.
Keep in mind that a motorcycle’s
horn isn’t as loud as a car’s —
therefore, use it, but don’t rely on it.
Other strategies may be appropriate
along with the horn.

At night it is harder for you to see No matter how careful you are,
and be seen. Picking your headlight there will be times when you find
or taillight out of the car lights around yourself in a tight spot. Your chances
you is not easy for other drivers. To
of getting out safely depend on your
compensate, you should:
ability to react quickly and properly.
• Reduce Your Speed — Ride
Often, a crash occurs because a rider
even slower than you would dur-
ing the day — particularly on is not prepared or skilled in crash-
roads you don’t know well. This avoidance maneuvers.
will increase your chances of Know when and how to stop or
avoiding a hazard. swerve, two skills critical to avoiding
• Increase Distance — Distances a crash. It is not always desirable or
are harder to judge at night than possible to stop quickly to avoid an
during the day. Your eyes rely obstacle. Riders must also be able to
upon shadows and light contrasts swerve around an obstacle.
to determine how far away an Determining the skill necessary for the
object is and how fast it is com-
situation is important as well.
ing. These contrasts are missing
or distorted under artificial lights Studies show that most crash-
at night. Open up a three-second involved riders:
following distance or more. And • Underbrake the front tire and
allow more distance to pass and overbrake the rear.
be passed. • Do not separate braking from
• Use the Car Ahead — The swerving or did not choose swerv-
headlights of the car ahead can ing when it was appropriate.
give you a better view of the road The following information offers
than even your high beam can. some good advice.
Taillights bouncing up and down
can alert you to bumps or rough
pavement. QUICK STOPS
• Use Your High Beam — Get all To stop quickly, apply both brakes
the light you can. Use your high at the same time. Don’t be shy about
beam whenever you are not fol- using the front brake, but don’t “grab”
lowing or meeting a car. Be visi-
it, either. Squeeze the brake lever
ble: Wear reflective materials
when riding at night. firmly and progressively. If the front
wheel locks, release the front brake
• Be Flexible About Lane Position.
Change to whatever portion of immediately then reapply it firmly. At
the lane is best able to help you the same time, press down on the rear
see, be seen, and keep an ade- brake. If you accidentally lock the
quate space cushion. rear brake on a good traction surface,
7 Test Yourself keep it locked until you have com-
pletely stopped. Even with a locked
Reflective clothing should:
rear wheel, you can control the motor-
A. Be worn at night.
cycle on a straightaway if it is upright
B. Be worn during the day. and going in a straight line.
C. Not be worn.
D. Be worn day and night.
Answer - page 42

STOPPING DISTANCE few feet of stopping. The motorcycle
should be straight up and in balance.

Sometimes you may not have
enough room to stop, even if you use
both brakes properly. An object might
appear suddenly in your path. Or the
car ahead might squeal to a stop. The
only way to avoid a crash may be to
Always use both brakes at the turn quickly or swerve around it.
same time to stop. The front brake
can provide 70% or more of the A swerve is any sudden change in
potential stopping power. direction. It can be two quick turns, or
a rapid shift to the side. Apply a small
If you must stop quickly while amount of hand pressure to the han
turning or riding a curve, the best dlegrip located on the side of your
technique is to straighten the bike intended direction of escape. This will
upright first and then brake. cause the motorcycle to lean quickly.
However, it may not always be possi- The sharper the turn(s), the more the
ble to straighten the motorcycle and motorcycle must lean.
then stop. If you must brake while
leaning, apply light brakes and reduce Keep your body upright and allow
the throttle. As you slow, you can the motorcycle to lean in the direction
reduce your lean angle and apply of the turn while keeping your knees
more brake pressure until the motor- against the tank and your feet solidly
cycle is straight and maximum brake on the pegs. Let the motorcycle move
pressure is possible. You should underneath you. Make your escape
“straighten” the handlebars in the last route the target of your vision. Press


on the opposite handlegrip once you CORNERING
clear the obstacle to return you to your
original direction of travel. To swerve A primary cause of single-vehicle
to the left, push the left handlegrip, crashes is motorcyclists running wide
then press the right to recover. To in a curve or turn and colliding with
swerve to the right, press right, then the roadway or a fixed object.
left. Every curve is different. Be alert
IF BRAKING IS REQUIRED, to whether a curve remains constant,
SEPARATE IT FROM SWERVING. gradually widens, gets tighter, or
Brake before or after — never while involves multiple turns.
swerving. Ride within your skill level and
posted speed limits.
Your best path may not always fol-
low the curve of the road.

Change lane position depending on HANDLING DANGEROUS
traffic, road conditions and curve of
the road. If no traffic is present, start
at the outside of a curve to increase Your chance of falling or being
your line of sight and the effective involved in a crash increases
radius of the turn. As you turn, move whenever you ride across:
toward the inside of the curve, and as • Uneven surfaces or obstacles.
you pass the center, move to the out- • Slippery surfaces.
side to exit.
• Railroad tracks.
Another alternative is to move to
• Grooves and gratings.
the center of your lane before entering
a curve — and stay there until you
exit. This permits you to spot UNEVEN SURFACES AND
approaching traffic as soon as possi- OBSTACLES
ble. You can also adjust for traffic
Watch for uneven surfaces such as
“crowding” the center line, or debris
bumps, broken pavement, potholes, or
blocking part of your lane.
small pieces of highway trash.
Try to avoid obstacles by slowing
or going around them If you must go
8 Test Yourself over the obstacle, first determine if it
is possible. Approach it at as close to
The best way to stop quickly is to:
a 90° angle as possible. Look where
A. Use the front brake only.
you want to go to control your path of
B. Use the rear brake first. travel. If you have to ride over the
C. Throttle down and use the front obstacle, you should:
brake. • Slow down to reduce the jolt if
D. Use both brakes at the same time permits.
• Make sure the motorcycle is
Answer - page 42
straight up.


• Rise slightly off the seat with brake lever gradually to avoid
your weight on the footpegs to locking the front wheel.
absorb the shock with your Remember, gentle pressure on the
knees and elbows, and avoid rear brake.
being thrown off the motorcycle. • The center of a lane can be
• Just before contact, roll on the hazardous when wet. When it
throttle slightly to lighten the starts to rain, ride in the tire
front end. tracks left by cars. Often, the
If you ride over an object on the left tire track will be the best
street, pull off the road and check your position, depending on traffic and
tires and rims for damage before other road conditions as well.
riding any farther. • Watch for oil spots when you
put your foot down to stop or
SLIPPERY SURFACES park. You may slip and fall.
Motorcycles handle better when • Dirt and gravel collect along the
ridden on surfaces that permit good sides of the road — especially on
traction. Surfaces that provide poor curves and ramps leading to and
traction include: from highways. Be aware of
• Wet pavement, particularly just what’s on the edge of the road,
after it starts to rain and before particularly when making sharp
surface oil washes to the side of turns and getting on or off free-
the road. ways at high speeds.
• Gravel roads, or where sand and • Rain dries and snow melts
gravel collect. faster on some sections of a road
than on others. Patches of ice
• Mud, snow, and ice.
tend to crop up in low or shaded
• Lane markings, steel plates and areas and on bridges and over-
manhole covers, especially when passes. Wet surfaces or wet
wet. leaves are just as slippery. Ride
To ride safely on slippery sur- on the least slippery portion of
faces: the lane and reduce speed.
• Reduce Speed — Slow down Cautious riders steer clear of roads
before you get to a slippery sur- covered with ice or snow. If you can’t
face to lessen your chances of avoid a slippery surface, keep your
skidding. Your motorcycle needs bike straight up and proceed as slowly
more distance to stop. And it is as possible. If you encounter a large
particularly important to reduce surface so slippery that you must
speed before entering wet curves. coast, or travel at a walking pace,
• Avoid Sudden Moves — Any consider letting your feet skim along
sudden change in speed or the surface. If the motorcycle starts to
direction can cause a skid. Be as fall, you can catch yourself. Be sure
smooth as possible when you to keep off the brakes. If possible,
speed up, shift gears, turn or squeeze the clutch and coast.
brake. Attempting this maneuver at anything
• Use Both Brakes — The front other than the slowest of speeds could
brake is more effective even on a prove hazardous.
slippery surface. Squeeze the
CROSSTRACKS-RIGHT enough away from tracks, ruts, or
pavement seams to cross at an angle
of at least 45°. Then, make a quick,
sharp turn. Edging across could catch
your tires and throw you off balance.


Riding over rain grooves or bridge
gratings may cause a motorcycle to
weave. The uneasy, wandering feel-
ing is generally not hazardous. Relax,
maintain a steady speed and ride
straight across. Crossing at an angle
forces riders to zigzag to stay in the
lane. The zigzag is far more haz-
ardous than the wandering feeling.
Usually it is safer to ride straight
within your lane to cross tracks.
Turning to take tracks head-on (at a
90° angle) can be more dangerous —
your path may carry you into another
lane of traffic.
For track and road seams that run GRATE CROSSINGS-WRONG
parallel to your course, move far


9 Test Yourself
When it starts to rain it is usually best
A. Ride in the center of the lane.
B. Pull off to the side until the rain
C. Ride in the tire tracks left by
D. Increase your speed.
Answer - page 42

PROBLEMS Twist the throttle back and forth
You can find yourself in an several times. If the throttle cable is
emergency the moment something stuck, this may free it. If the throttle
goes wrong with your motorcycle. In stays stuck immediately operate the
dealing with any mechanical problem, engine cut-off switch and pull in the
take into account the road and traffic clutch at the same time. This will
conditions you face. Here are some remove power from the rear wheel,
guidelines that can help you handle though engine noise may not immedi-
mechanical problems safely. ately decline. Once the motorcycle is
“under control,” pull off and stop.
TIRE FAILURE After you have stopped, check the
throttle cable carefully to find the
You will seldom hear a tire go flat. source of the trouble. Make certain
If the motorcycle starts handling the throttle works freely before you
differently, it may be a tire failure. start to ride again.
This can be dangerous. You must be
able to tell from the way the motor-
cycle reacts. If one of your tires sud- WOBBLE
denly loses air, react quickly to keep A “wobble” occurs when the
your balance. Pull off and check the front wheel and handlebars suddenly
tires. start to shake from side to side at any
If the front tire goes flat, the steer- speed. Most wobbles can be traced to
ing will feel “heavy.” A front-wheel improper loading, unsuitable
flat is particularly hazardous because accessories, or incorrect tire pressure.
it affects your steering. You have to If you are carrying a heavy load,
steer well to keep your balance. lighten it. If you can’t, shift it.
Center the weight lower and farther
If the rear tire goes flat, the back
forward on the motorcycle. Make
of the motorcycle may jerk from side
sure tire pressure, spring pre-load,
to side.
air shocks, and dampers are at the
If either tire goes flat while settings recommended for that much
riding: weight. Make sure windshields and
• Hold handlegrips firmly, ease fairings are mounted properly.
off the throttle, and keep a Check for poorly adjusted
straight course. steering; worn steering parts; a front
• If braking is required, however, wheel that is bent, misaligned, or out
gradually apply the brake of the of balance; loose wheel bearings or
tire that isn’t flat, if you are sure spokes; and swingarm bearings. If
which one it is. none of these are determined to be
• When the motorcycle slows, the cause, have the motorcycle
edge to the side of the road, checked out thoroughly by a
squeeze the clutch and stop. qualified professional.

Trying to “accelerate out of a ENGINE SEIZURE
wobble” will only make the
When the engine “locks” or
motorcycle more unstable. Instead:
“freezes” it is usually low on oil. The
• Grip the handlebars firmly, but engine’s moving parts can’t move
don’t fight the wobble. smoothly against each other, and the
• Close the throttle gradually to engine overheats. The first sign may
slow down. Do not apply the be a loss of engine power or a change
brakes; braking could make the in the engine’s sound. Squeeze the
wobble worse. clutch lever to disengage the engine
• Move your weight as far forward from the rear wheel. Pull off the road
and down as possible. and stop. Check the oil. If needed,
• Pull off the road as soon as you oil should be added as soon as possi-
can to fix the problem. ble or the engine will seize. When this
happens, the effect is the same as a
10 Test Yourself
locked rear wheel. Let the engine
If your motorcycle starts to wobble: cool before restarting.
A. Accelerate out of the wobble.
B. Use the brakes gradually. ANIMALS
C. Grip the handlebars firmly and
Naturally, you should do every-
close the throttle gradually.
thing you safely can to avoid hitting
D. Downshift. an animal. If you are in traffic,
Answer - page 42 however, remain in your lane. Hitting
something small is less dangerous to
you than hitting something big —
CHAIN PROBLEMS like a car.
A chain that slips or breaks while Motorcycles seem to attract dogs.
you’re riding could lock the rear If you are chased, downshift and
wheel and cause your cycle to skid. approach the animal slowly. As you
Chain slippage or breakage can be approach it, accelerate away and leave
avoided by proper maintenance. the animal behind. Don’t kick at an
• Slippage — If the chain slips animal. Keep control of your motor-
when you try to speed up quickly cycle, and look to where you want to
or ride uphill, pull off the road. go.
Check the chain and sprockets. For larger animals (deer, elk,
Tightening the chain may help. cattle) brake and prepare to stop —
If the problem is a worn or they are unpredictable.
stretched chain or worn or bent
11 Test Yourself
sprockets, replace the chain, the
sprockets, or both before riding If you are chased by a dog:
again. A. Kick it away.
• Breakage — You’ll notice an B. Stop until the animal loses
instant loss of power to the rear interest.
wheel. Close the throttle and C. Swerve around the animal.
brake to a stop. D. Approach the animal slowly,
then speed up.
Answer - page 42

From time to time riders are struck AND CARGO
by insects, cigarettes thrown from Only experienced riders should
cars, or pebbles kicked up by the tires carry passengers or large loads. The
of the vehicle ahead. If you are wear- extra weight changes the way the
ing face protection, it might get motorcycle handles, balances, speeds
smeared or cracked, making it difficult up, and slows down. Before taking a
to see. Without face protection, an passenger or heavy load on the street,
object could hit you in the eye, face, practice away from traffic.
or mouth. Whatever happens, keep
your eyes on the road and your hands
on the handlebars. When safe, pull
off the road and repair the damage. To carry passengers safely:
• Equip and adjust your motor-
cycle to carry passengers.
GETTING OFF THE ROAD • Instruct the passenger before
If you need to leave the road to you start.
check the motorcycle (or just to rest • Adjust your riding technique for
for a while), be sure you: the added weight.
• Check the roadside — Make
sure the surface of the roadside is Equipment should include:
firm enough to ride on. If it is • A proper seat — large enough
soft grass, loose sand, or if you’re to hold both of you without
just not sure about it, slow way crowding. You should not sit
down before you turn onto it. any farther forward than you
• Signal — Drivers behind might usually do.
not expect you to slow down. • Footpegs — for the passenger.
Give a clear signal that you will A firm footing prevents your
be slowing down and changing passenger from falling off and
direction. Check your mirror and pulling you off, too.
make a head check before you • Protective equipment — the
take any action. same protective gear
• Pull off the road — Get as far recommended for operators.
off the road as you can. It can be Adjust the suspension to handle
very hard to spot a motorcycle by the additional weight. You will
the side of the road. You don’t probably need to add a few pounds of
want someone else pulling off at pressure to the tires if you carry a
the same place you are. passenger. (Check your owner’s
• Park carefully — Loose and manual for appropriate settings.)
sloped shoulders can make While your passenger sits on the seat
setting the side or center stand with you, adjust the mirror and
difficult. headlight according to the change in
the motorcycle’s angle.

INSTRUCTING PASSENGERS • Ride a little slower, especially
when taking curves, corners, or
Even if your passenger is a bumps.
motorcycle rider, provide complete
• Start slowing earlier as you
instructions before you start. Tell
approach a stop.
your passenger to:
• Open up a larger cushion of
• Get on the motorcycle only after
space ahead and to the sides.
you have started the engine.
• Wait for larger gaps to cross,
• Sit as far forward as possible
enter, or merge in traffic.
without crowding you.
Warn your passenger of special
• Hold firmly to your waist, hips,
conditions — when you will pull out,
or belt.
stop quickly, turn sharply or ride over
• Keep both feet on the pegs, even a bump. Turn your head slightly to
when stopped. make yourself understood, but keep
• Keep legs away from the muf- your eyes on the road ahead.
fler(s), chains or moving parts.
• Stay directly behind you,
leaning as you lean. CARRYING LOADS
• Avoid unnecessary talk or Most motorcycles are not designed
motion. to carry much cargo. Small loads can
be carried safely if positioned and
Also, tell your passenger to
fastened properly.
tighten his or her hold when you
• Keep the Load Low — Fasten
• Approach surface problems,
loads securely, or put them in
• Are about to start from a stop, saddlebags. Piling loads against
• Warn that you are going to a sissybar or frame on the back of
make a sudden move. the seat raises the motorcycle’s
center of gravity and disturbs its
• Keep the Load Forward —
Your motorcycle will respond Place the load over, or in front of,
more slowly with a passenger on the rear axle. Tankbags keep
board. The heavier your passenger, loads forward, but use caution
the longer it will take to slow down, when loading hard or sharp
speed up, or turn — especially on a objects. Make sure the tankbag
light motorcycle. does not interfere with handle-
bars or controls. Mounting loads
12 Test Yourself behind the rear axle can affect
Passengers should: how the motorcycle turns and
A. Lean as you lean. brakes. It can also cause a
B. Hold on to the motorcycle seat.
• Distribute the Load Evenly —
C. Sit as far back as possible. Load saddlebags with about the
D. Never hold onto you. same weight. An uneven load
Answer - page 42 can cause the motorcycle to drift
to one side.

• Secure the Load — Fasten the • down a little to stay with the
load securely with elastic cords tailender.
(bungee cords or nets). Elastic • Know the Route — Make sure
cords with more than one attach- everyone knows the route. Then,
ment point per side are more if someone is separated they
secure. A tight load won’t catch won’t have to hurry to keep from
in the wheel or chain, causing it getting lost or taking a wrong
to lock up and skid. Rope tends turn. Plan frequent stops on long
to stretch and knots come loose, rides.
permitting the load to shift or fall.
• Check the Load — Stop and KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
check the load every so often to
Maintain close ranks but at the
make sure it has not worked
same time keep a safe distance to
loose or moved.
allow each rider in the group time and
space to react to hazards. A close
GROUP RIDING group takes up less space on the high-
If you ride with others, do it in a way, is easier to see and is less likely
way that promotes safety and doesn’t to be separated. However, it must be
interfere with the flow of traffic. done properly.
Don’t Pair Up — Never operate
KEEP THE GROUP SMALL directly alongside another rider.
Small groups make it easier and There is no place to go if you have
safer for car drivers who need to get to avoid a car or something on the
around them. A small number isn’t road. To talk, wait until you are
separated as easily by traffic or red both stopped.
lights. Riders won’t always be hurry- Staggered Formation — This is the
ing to catch up. If your group is best way to keep ranks close yet
larger than four or five riders, divide it maintain an adequate space
up into two or more smaller groups. STAGGERED FORMATION


• Plan — The leader should look
ahead for changes and signal
early so “the word gets back” in
plenty of time. Start lane
changes early to permit everyone
to complete the change.
• Put Beginners Up Front —
Place inexperienced riders behind
the leader, where more experi-
enced riders can watch them.
• Follow Those Behind — Let the
tailender set the pace. Use your
mirrors to keep an eye on the per-
son behind. If a rider falls
behind, everyone should slow
cushion. The leader rides in the left Some people suggest that the
side of the lane, while the second leader should move to the right side
rider stays one second behind in the after passing a vehicle. This is not a
right side of the lane. good idea. It encourages the second
A third rider maintains in the left rider to pass and cut back in before
position, two seconds behind the first there is a large enough space cushion
rider. The fourth rider would keep a in front of the passed vehicle. It’s
two-second distance behind the simpler and safer to wait until there
second rider. This formation keeps is enough room ahead of the passed
the group close and permits each rider vehicle to allow each rider to move
a safe distance from others ahead, into the same position held before
behind and to the sides. the pass.
• Passing in Formation — Riders Single-File Formation — It is best
in a staggered formation should to move into a single-file formation
pass one at a time. when riding curves, turning, enter-
ing or leaving a highway.
• First, the lead rider should pull
out and pass when it is safe.
After passing, the leader should 13 Test Yourself
return to the left position and When riding in a group, inexperienced
continue riding at passing speed riders should position themselves:
to open room for the next rider.
A. Just behind the leader.
• After the first rider passes
B. In front of the group.
safely, the second rider should
move up to the left position and C. At the tail end of the group.
watch for a safe chance to pass. D. Beside the leader.
After passing, this rider should Answer - page 42
return to the right position and
open up room for the next rider.

Riding a motorcycle is a demanding and complex task. Skilled riders pay
attention to the riding environment and to operating the motorcycle, identifying
potential hazards, making good judgments, and executing decisions quickly and
skillfully. Your ability to perform and respond to changing road and traffic con-
ditions is influenced by how fit and alert you are. Alcohol and other drugs, more
than any other factor, degrade your ability to think clearly and to ride safely. As
little as one drink can have a significant effect on your performance.
Let’s look at the risks involved in riding after drinking or using drugs. What
to do to protect yourself and your fellow riders is also examined.

WHY THIS INFORMA- By becoming knowledgeable

about the effects of alcohol and other
TION IS IMPORTANT drugs you will see that riding and sub-
Alcohol is a major contributor to stance abuse don’t mix. Take positive
motorcycle crashes, particularly fatal steps to protect yourself and prevent
crashes. Studies show that 40% to others from injuring themselves.
45% of all riders killed in motorcycle
crashes had been drinking. Only one-
third of those riders had a blood ALCOHOL AND OTHER
alcohol concentration above legal DRUGS IN MOTORCYCLE
limits. The rest had only a few drinks OPERATION
in their systems — enough to impair
No one is immune to the effects
riding skills. In the past, drug levels
of alcohol or drugs. Friends may brag
have been harder to distinguish or
about their ability to hold their liquor
have not been separated from drinking
or perform better on drugs, but
violations for the traffic records. But
alcohol or drugs make them less able
riding “under the influence” of either
to think clearly and perform physical
alcohol or drugs poses physical and
tasks skillfully. Judgment and the
legal hazards for every rider.
decision-making processes needed
Drinking and drug use is as big a for vehicle operation are affected
problem among motorcyclists as it is long before legal limitations are
among automobile drivers. reached.
Motorcyclists, however, are more
Many over-the-counter,
likely to be killed or severely injured
prescription, and illegal drugs have
in a crash. Injuries occur in 90% of
side effects that increase the risk of
motorcycle collisions and 33% of
riding. It is difficult to accurately
automobile crashes that involve abuse
measure the involvement of particular
of substances. On a yearly basis,
drugs in motorcycle crashes. But we
2,100 motorcyclists are killed and
do know what effects various drugs
about 50,000 seriously injured in this
have on the process involved in riding
same type of crash. These statistics
a motorcycle. We also know that the
are too overwhelming to ignore.
combined effects of alcohol and other
drugs are more dangerous than either
is alone.

ALCOHOL IN THE BODY Other factors also contribute to
the way alcohol affects your system.
Alcohol enters the bloodstream Your sex, physical condition and
quickly. Unlike most foods and food intake are just a few that may
beverages, it does not need to be cause your BAC level to be even
digested. Within minutes after being higher. But the full effects of these
consumed, it reaches the brain and are not completely known. Alcohol
begins to affect the drinker. The may still accumulate in your body
major effect alcohol has is to slow even if you are drinking at a rate of
down and impair bodily functions — one drink per hour. Abilities and
both mental and physical. Whatever judgment can be affected by that one
you do, you do less well after drink.
consuming alcohol. A 12-ounce can of beer, a mixed
drink with one shot of liquor and a 5-
BLOOD ALCOHOL ounce glass of wine all contain the
CONCENTRATION same amount of alcohol.
Blood Alcohol Concentration or The faster you drink, the more
BAC is the amount of alcohol in alcohol accumulates in your body. If
relation to blood in the body. you drink two drinks in an hour, at the
Generally, alcohol can be eliminated end of that hour, at least one drink
in the body at the rate of almost one will remain in your bloodstream.
drink per hour. But a variety of other Without taking into account any of
factors may also influence the level of the other factors, the formula below
alcohol retained. The more alcohol in illustrates the LEAST amount of
your blood, the greater the degree of drinks remaining in the bloodstream:
Three factors play a major part Total # hours drinks
drinks LESS since last EQUALS left
in determining BAC: consumed drink in body
• The amount of alcohol you con- - =
________ ________
• How fast you drink.
• Your body weight.


A person drinking small fine and participation in alcohol-
• 8 drinks in 4 hours would have abuse classes. Today the laws of most
at least 4 drinks remaining in states impose stiff penalties on drink-
their system. ing operators. And those penalties are
• 7 drinks in 3 hours would have mandatory, meaning that judges must
at least 4 drinks remaining in impose them.
their system. If you are convicted of riding
There are times when a larger under the influence of alcohol or
person may not accumulate as high a drugs, you may receive any of the
concentration of alcohol for each following penalties:
drink consumed. They have more • License Suspension —
blood and other bodily fluids. But Mandatory suspension for
because of individual differences it is conviction, arrest or refusal to
better not to take the chance that submit to a breath test.
abilities and judgment have not been • Fines — Severe fines are another
affected. Whether or not you are aspect of a conviction usually
legally intoxicated is not the real levied with a license suspension.
issue. Impairment of judgment and • Community Service —
skills begins well below the legal Performing tasks such as picking
limit. up litter along the highway,
washing cars in the motor-vehicle
ALCOHOL AND THE LAW pool, or working at an emergency
In most states, a person with a ward.
BAC of .10% or above is considered • Costs — Additional lawyer’s
intoxicated; in others the legal limit is fees to pay; lost work time spent
.08% or .05%. It doesn’t matter how in court or alcohol-education
sober you may look or act. The breath programs; public transportation
or urine test is what usually deter- costs (while your license is
mines whether you are riding legally suspended); and the added
or illegally. In North Carolina, if psychological costs of being
your intoxication test shows an tagged a “drunk driver.”
alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent
or more (0.04 or more, if you are
driving a commercial motor vehicle),
your driving privilege will be revoked Your ability to judge how well you
immediately for a minimum of 30 are riding is affected first. Although
days. you may be performing more and
more poorly, you think you are doing
Your chances of being stopped for
better and better. The result is that
riding under the influence of alcohol
you ride confidently, taking greater
are increasing. Law enforcement is
and greater risks. Minimize the risks
being stepped up across the country in
of drinking and riding by taking steps
response to the senseless deaths and
before you drink. Control your drink-
injuries caused by drinking drivers
ing or control your riding.
and riders.


Years ago, first offenders had a start, your resistance becomes weaker.
good chance of getting off with a
Setting a limit or pacing yourself It helps to enlist support from
are poor alternatives at best. Your others when you decide to step in.
ability to exercise good judgment is The more people on your side, the
one of the first things affected by easier it is to be firm and the harder it
alcohol. Even if you have tried to is for the rider to resist. While you
drink in moderation, you may not may not be thanked at the time, you
realize to what extent your skills have will never have to say, “If only I
suffered from alcohol’s fatiguing had...”
Or Don’t Ride — If you haven’t FATIGUE
controlled your drinking, you must
Riding a motorcycle is more
control your riding.
tiring than driving a car. On a long
• Leave the motorcycle — so you trip, you’ll tire sooner than you would
won’t be tempted to ride. in a car. Avoid riding when tired.
Arrange another way to get Fatigue can affect your control of the
home. motorcycle.
• Wait — If you exceed your limit, • Protect yourself from the
wait until your system eliminates elements — Wind, cold, and rain
the alcohol and its fatiguing make you tire quickly. Dress
effects. warmly. A windshield is worth
its cost if you plan to ride long
STEP IN TO distances.
PROTECT FRIENDS • Limit your distance —
People who have had too much to Experienced riders seldom try to
drink are unable to make a responsible ride more than about six hours
decision. It is up to others to step in a day.
and keep them from taking too great a • Take frequent rest breaks —
risk. No one wants to do this — it’s Stop, and get off the motorcycle
uncomfortable, embarrassing and at least every two hours.
thankless. You are rarely thanked for • Don’t drink or use drugs —
your efforts at the time. But the Artificial stimulants often result
alternatives are often worse. in extreme fatigue or depression
There are several ways to keep when they start to wear off.
friends from hurting themselves: Riders are unable to concentrate
• Arrange a safe ride — Provide on the task at hand.
alternative ways for them to get 14 Test Yourself
• Slow the pace of drinking — If you wait an hour for each drink
Involve them in other activities. before riding:
• Keep them there — Use any A. You cannot be arrested for
excuse to keep them from getting drinking and riding.
on their motorcycle. Serve them B. Your riding skills will not be
food and coffee to pass the time. affected.
Explain your concerns for their C. Side effects from the drinking
risks of getting arrested or hurt, may still remain.
or hurting someone else. D. You will be okay as long as you
• Get friends involved — Use ride slowly.
peer pressure from a group of Answer - page 42
friends to intervene.
Safe riding requires knowledge and skill. Licensing tests are the best measurement of
the skills necessary to operate safely in traffic. Assessing your own skills is not enough.
People often overestimate their own abilities. It’s even harder for friends and relatives to
be totally honest about your skills. Licensing exams are designed to be scored more objec-
To earn your license, you must pass a knowledge test and an on-cycle skill test.
Knowledge test questions are based on information, practices, and ideas from this manu-
al. They require that you know and understand road rules and safe riding practices. An
on-cycle skill test will either be conducted in an actual traffic environment or in a con-
trolled, off-street area.

KNOWLEDGE TEST 4. If a tire goes flat while riding,

(Sample Questions) it is usually best to:
1. It is MOST important to flash your A. Relax on the handlegrips.
brake light when: B. shift your weight toward the
A. Someone is following too closely. good tire.
B. You will be slowing suddenly. C. brake on the good tire and steer to
the side of the road.
C. There is a stop sign ahead.
D. Use both brakes and stop quickly.
D. Your signals are not working.
5. The car below is waiting to enter the
2. The FRONT brake supplies how intersection. It is best to:
much of the potential stopping A. Make eye contact with the driver.
power? B. Reduce speed and be ready to
A. About one-quarter. react.
B. About one-half. C. Maintain speed and position.
C. About three-quarters. D. Maintain speed and move right.
D. All of the stopping power.

3. To swerve correctly:
A. Shift your weight quickly.
B. Turn the handlebars quickly.
C. Press the handlegrip in the direc
tion of the turn.
D. Press the handlegrip in the
opposite direction of the turn.

Answers to Test Yourself (previous pages)

1-C, 2-D, 3-D, 4-A, 5-B
6-C, 7-D, 8-D, 9-C, 10-C, Answers to above Knowledge Test:
11-D, 12-A, 13-A, 14-c 1-B, 2-C, 3-C, 4-C, 5-B

ON-CYCLE SKILL TEST • Stop, turn and swerve quickly.
• Make critical decisions and carry
Basic vehicle control and collision- them out.
avoidance skills are included in on-cycle
tests to determine your ability to handle Examiners may score on factors related to
safety such as:
normal and hazardous traffic situations.
• Selecting safe speeds to perform
You may be tested for your ability to:
• Know your motorcycle and your • Choosing the correct path and staying
riding limits. within boundaries.
• Accelerate, brake, and turn safely. • Completing normal and quick stops.
• See, be seen and communicate with • Completing normal and quick turns,
others. or swerves.
• Adjust speed and position to the traf-
fic situation.



2 Jenner Street, Suite 150
Irvine, California 92718-3812