SALT LAKE CITY — As the weather warms up, more motorcycle riders will hit the road, many of them with little experience and a new motorcycle to ride.
"If we can have a weekend, or a few days, with somebody and can teach them the proper way to ride, we're going to give them a huge advantage," said Joe Timmons, the owner of Salt Lake City Harley Davidson, which just opened a new motorcycle safety instruction course.
Timmons loves the sun on his face and the feel of his Harley on the open road. But the avid rider and motorcycle dealer paves the way for that enjoyment by making sure he's safe.
"We need to have a good motorcycle to start with," he said.
Timmons thinks of safety in terms of several cornerstones, starting with a well-maintained motorcycle with good brakes and properly inflated tires. He said the safe rider should wear a helmet, goggles, boots over the ankles, gloves and a jacket made of leather or another protective material.
A helmet is not mandatory in Utah.
"You can improve your chances of surviving an encounter on the roadways significantly by wearing proper gear," said Daniel Terry, who teaches motorcycle safety at Salt Lake Community College.
Terry said more than 90 percent of riders who crash have not been professionally trained. Terry and Timmons agree that training is essential.
Salt Lake Community College and Salt Lake City Harley Davidson teach the same principles and riding strategies on courses qualified by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. The dealership has been teaching safety classes for six years and had an opportunity to buy property and set up a safety course at 2700 South 300 West called Rider's Edge.
Cornerstones of safety:
- A well-maintained motorcycle
- Good brakes
- Properly inflated tires
- Safety gear
- Wear a helmet, goggles, boots over the ankles, gloves and a jacket made of leather or another protective material.
Timmons said the real key to the professional training is gaining confidence.
"They're going to be able to go out and maneuver safely in traffic and have the confidence to be in control of the motorcycle," he said.
That's where riders learn that most motorcycle crashes are not with other vehicles — they happen when the rider goes into a curve to fast, "or, improper braking prior to curves, and those basic skills," Terry said.
Run-ins with cars do happen, though. Last year, 33 motorcycle riders died on Utah roads; that's one in every six Utah highway fatalities. That's why it's so critical that when you're riding a motorcycle, you ride defensively, instructors said.
"Always watch out for the other guy," Timmons said. "It's really a game of pretending that everybody is out to get you, and just make it so that they can't."
He said to never put yourself in a position where a car or truck can hurt you, and always be on the look-out for distracted drivers.
"You can't assume that anybody is going to see you," says Terry. "You can't assume that they're going to care that you're there."
He said that's how motorists can help: keep your eyes open for that motorcycle.