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Motorcycle Season in Minnesota: Safe Rider Training and Tips

April 2014

After a long, cold winter, many motorcycle owners enjoy nothing more than venturing out for a pleasant spring ride at the first sign of warm weather, leading to an increase in motorcycle traffic on Minnesota roads. Unfortunately, 2014 has seen the second earliest motorcycle-related death. On March 11, a 30-year old man lost his life after he hit a pothole while riding at an illegal speed and was ejected from his motorcycle. In the wake of such an accident, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Motorcycle Safety Center (MMSC) is advocating that all riders, regardless of skill level, participate in a motorcycle rider training course.

Training Courses

Through training courses, riders can help ensure their own safety on the roads. Many courses are affordable and are taught from April to October. The three types of courses offered are the essential beginning rider course, the Basic Rider Course, and the Civilian Police Motorcycle Course, which allows experienced riders to learn the techniques police motor officers use. All three courses will focus on sharpening riders’ skills and enhancing their crash-avoidance techniques.

Motorcycle training courses will also discuss the importance of wearing a proper Department of Transportation approved helmet, eye protection, motorcycle-specific boots, a brightly colored jacket, gloves and pants. As with all driving classes, the motorcycle courses will emphasize that riders should not operate their motorcycles if they are not sober. Campuses that host the courses are located throughout Minnesota, including St. Cloud, Duluth, Mankato, Moorhead, Grand Marais, and the Twin Cities area.

Spring Hazards

Warmer weather of the spring season comes with deadly hazards that motorcyclists should be aware of. Sand and gravel at intersections are common problems, and the spring thaw also results in an increased number of potholes that can be dangerous for motorcyclists. Frozen snow run-off can be difficult to see at night, so riders should use caution when out in the late evening. Additionally, motorists are becoming reacquainted with motorcycles on the road, and safety officials encourage motorists to be alert and watch for motorcycles, looking twice before changing lanes or turning.

Riding Strategies

Motorcyclists can protect themselves by keeping the following tactics in mind.

General Safety

  • Use visual directional control – Riders should keep their gaze trained on where they want to go.
  • Assume invisibility – Motorcyclists should never assume another driver is aware of their presence.
  • Use both brakes – Because a motorcycle’s front brake often provides the majority of the bike’s emergency stopping power, riders should learn how to correctly use it. To stop a motorcycle using the front brake, the rider should squeeze the brake, gradually increasing the pressure until the bike has slowed.
  • Countersteer – Riders use countersteering to lean a motorcycle. Pressing forward on the right handgrip causes the bike to lean to the right, and pressing forward on the left grip likewise causes the bike to lean left.

Group Riding Strategies

  • Hold a meeting – Riders should assign lead and tail riders and discuss the route, fuel stops and rest stops.
  • Consider group size – A group of five to seven motorcyclists is generally deemed a manageable size.
  • Arrive prepared – Motorcyclists should arrive with a full tank of gas.
  • Ride prepared – At least one rider in the group should have a cell phone and an emergency first aid kit.
  • Ride in Formation – The proper formation, taking into account adequate spacing between riders, can help keep the group safe.
  • Check the group – Motorcyclists at the head of the group should periodically check their mirrors to ensure that no rider is falling behind.

Animal Safety

  • Slow down – If riders come across an animal, they should proceed with caution and slow down before they reach the animal.
  • Use both brakes – When an animal suddenly jumps in front of riders, they should use their emergency braking, the front and rear brakes, to stop.
  • Be Aware – The number of deer-motorcycle collision fatalities has increased by five times compared to the previous decade.

About the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS)

The Minnesota DPS is responsible for educating the public with statewide programs in emergency management, victim assistance, alcohol and gambling, traffic safety, driver licensing, vehicle registration, pipeline safety, fire safety, emergency communications and law enforcement. The DPS operates under three chief principles: education, enforcement, and prevention.

About the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center (MMSC)

The MMSC has been educating, training, and licensing motorcyclists with the goal of reducing motorcyclist fatalities since the early 1980s. For more information about motorcycle safety, riders should visit the MMSC website.

Contact a Motorcycle Accident Attorney

Though motorcyclists take numerous steps to protect themselves on the road, accidents sometimes occur. Riders or loved ones of riders who were involved in a motorcycle accident should contact the experienced motorcycle accident attorneys at Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben. For a free consultation call (612) 377-7777 or 1-800-752-4265 (toll-free).

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