Thursday, 29 November 2018

8 Tips To Stay Alive on A Motorcycle Wherever You Are

Singapore is blessed to be able to have a really organised traffic road system where most road users obediently abide by it, don’t you think?

After all, we are taught to drive/ride diligently in driving schools, not having mention the law that heavily enforces traffic rules and regulations.

If you don’t already know, our country is proud to have one of the highest and strictest standard of driving / riding tests which isn’t easy to pass, before we can painstakingly achieve our precious license.

To legally ride a motorcycle above 400CC, the process would take a minimum of 2.5 years and could even stretch to 3.5 years if you fail to pass the test on first attempt.

But does all that really make us “good” road users?

PC: Traffic Police
Apart from the respective authority organisations patrolling our roads regularly, making sure everything’s in place, we are also lucky to rarely witness a traffic light malfunction, a broken signboard left on the highway, or struggle with directions and lanes not marked properly.

In a foreign land, on the other hand, things might be (or most certainly) a completely different story.

You may see animals crossing the road whenever they feel like it, non-functioning traffic lights that no one obeys even if it is working, fast-paced traffic going in all direction etc.

PC: onemotoring
Now, do you think there is a possibility where we Singaporeans are too pampered with our organised system that causes us to subconsciously slip into rigidity? So much so that the minute something slight goes out of order, or if we drive/ride overseas where we’re unfamiliar with the traffic flow, we'd be thrown into a state of loss, increasing our risks of getting involved in an accident?

It may not be much.. but having ridden/driven in over 40 different cities across 15 countries, I’d strongly advise you to adapt quickly to your surroundings because every country, every city that we travel to, may face different traffic and road conditions.

Observe, learn and try to blend in as much as possible.  

Here are 8 defensive riding tips I picked up that I hope could help keep you alive on a motorcycle wherever you are:

1. Do Your Research

Before you start your holiday, it’s definitely wise to do some research; like where to go, what to eat and do etc. 

Similarly for road trips, say if you’re going to rent a motorcycle and ride in the foreign country, it’s good to find out if it’s left-hand drive because when we Singaporeans get too used to right-hand driven roads, it could get a little confusing when all the turns and signs are on the opposite.  You may like to check out the list of countries that are left-hand drive here for reference.

There are a couple of countries that does not permit motorcycles on highways, such as Bangkok and certain states in China. 

Then, there are countries like Taiwan that permit only motorcycles above a certain capacity to enter expressways, while smaller capacity bikes are forbidden. 

It would be helpful to learn the terms used in the respective country and know the differences between highways, expressways and motorways because each may have a different rule of its own.

Not proud to share that I’ve been stopped by the police in Taiwan before for riding on the highway as I wasn’t aware that motorcycles weren’t permitted, and I hope that you guys could learn from my mistake!

2. Do Not Speed

If you want to speed, be it locally or overseas, head to the tracks. Otherwise, I’d advise you not to although I must admit it can be pretty tempting when the roads are so long and straight, like it almost never ends.

From a safety aspect, especially riding in a foreign place where you are unfamiliar with the surrounding and traffic conditions, speeding is the last thing you want to do simply because it doesn’t give you enough time to react to something you did not expect. And trust me, when you’re on the roads overseas, ANYTHING can happen.

Take note of speed limit signs around too, and abide by it because unlike Singapore where sometimes grace is extended to those who exceed the limit by 5km/h – 8km/h, other countries such as Australia has zero tolerance for it.

There was once I was driving along the Great Ocean Road towards the Twelve Apostles where the speed limit was 50km/h, I received a fine of AUD200 for a speed recorded at 52km/h. 

Yeap, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

3. Do Not Hog Either

Speeding kills, but hogging can get you into trouble too. If you’re unsure about directions, it’s better to stop your vehicle at some place safe and figure it out before getting back on the roads. 

When you’re traveling at a speed too slow that other road users don’t expect, they might hit into you or overtake you dangerously, which increases your risks of getting into an accident. 

Falling back to what I highlighted earlier, try your best to adapt and blend into the traffic flow to avoid any unwanted disruptions.

4. Anticipate

This is a major key factor in riding defensively which could significantly reduce your risks of  getting involved in an accident. When you’re able to anticipate what is about to happen, you can take certain measures to avoid it. 

For example, if you realize the vehicle in front of you is drifting left and right, identify the danger where the driver may have dozed off or is using his mobile phone, and steer clear by overtaking swiftly.

It is beneficial to practice high level of anticipation towards other road users, considering the multiple possibilities of their actions while observing their driving behavior, then only you will be able to make a decision that can land you in the safe zone.

5. Blind Spot

Unless you’re roaring down the streets with a Harley Davidson, we bikers unfortunately have lower road presence due to size and we tend to fall into the blind spots of drivers who may make an abrupt lane switch without even knowing you are there. 

Never stay in their blind spots. Let's help prevent the driver from unintentionally killing you, yeah?

6. Take Breaks

I thoroughly enjoy my road trips and sometimes they can stretch up to 700KM a day. With so much to focus on the roads, being subjected to different weather conditions such as the unbearable heat during the day, it is good to take a short 5 – 10 minute break at regular intervals to hydrate and freshen up before hitting the roads again.

Careful not to spend too long of a break as your body may settle into lull state and that would require more effort to get all energized again, which could result in more fatigue in the end.

7.  Avoid Riding At Night

I know of many bikers who enjoy the night breeze as much as I do, where traffic is less busy and the roads are quieter. Back home, I frequently take my bike out for a late night spin or quick supper runs as and when I feel like it.

However if you’re on a road trip overseas, I would advise avoid riding at night. 

Apart from lower visibility considering some areas that may not even have street lamps, night is also a time where big industrial trucks commute as they usually want to avoid getting congested in traffic during the day. It’s always better to avoid riding along such vehicles as they may drop debris on the way and that tiny piece of metal or something could be consequential to us bikers.

8. Be Insured

Lastly, or should I say, firstly, before you even start your trip, always be insured when you’re traveling to safeguard yourself from any unforeseen circumstances.

If you are riding, always ensure that the travel policy you’re paying for covers leisure motorcycling like what DirectAsia offers, because there’s no point getting the highest coverage yet it does not cover personal injury while riding overseas, resulting in an unsuccessful claim should an unfortunate incident happen during your ride trip. 

As for riding locally, you can be covered with an NCD Protector Plus by DirectAsia motorcycle insurance because your NCD is protected and advanced the following year even with 1 at-fault claim! How cool is that?!

Knowing that you are sufficiently covered gives you an assurance that helps you have a more confident ride on the roads.

Now that you’ve picked up some tips on how to stay alive on a motorcycle whether you’re in your hometown or overseas, go forth; Feel the winds on your skin, embrace that invigorating sensation of freedom unleashing on wide-open roads, sing within your helmet and enjoy the road trip of your life!

Have fun, be safe, and let’s live another day for another ride!