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SALT LAKE CITY — Ryan Stanley and Taylor Brody have been riding motorcycles together for years.
“It’s you and the road,” Stanley said. “The freedom, the small towns, the people you meet along the way, good times with friends,” all draw Stanley to his bike.
Brody said riding a motorcycle is unlike anything else. “It’s a hobby, it’s a sport, it’s an escape from normal life,” he said.
As much as they love getting away on their bikes together, they put safety at the forefront of their ride.
“Ryan is a fantastic rider with a ton of experience, and he is so focused on safety that you can’t help but feel safer when you ride with him,” Brody said.
Stanley says safety begins before he even jumps on his bike by being in the right mindset. “You’re awake. You’re not distracted. You don’t have a lot of things on your mind,” he explained.
Next, they always conduct a safety check before they jump on their bikes. They double-check the tire pressure, chains, headlights, brake pads and turn signals.
“Give it a good look over. It’s similar to what you learned in driver’s ed,” Stanley said. “You want to have a safe motorcycle — traction control, ABS, extra lights to make you more visible, the gear you wear. You want to have bright colors.”
Marques Varela with Utah's Department of Public Safety says wearing the right gear even if it's hot outside could be life-saving.
“Asphalt doesn’t forgive very much, so obviously you want to have a helmet, jacket, good pants, good boots,” he said.
Stanley said the heat is no excuse for not wearing the right gear. He said riders can buy vented jackets or jackets designed to be soaked in water before riding to keep cool on the road.
Stanley and Brody say they constantly scan the road preparing for the worst to happen.
“It’s not a question of if you could have a fall, it’s a question of when, so be prepared for that,” Brody said.
This year alone, Utah’s seen 24 motorcycle fatalities, Varela said, which is almost twice as high as last year from January to July.
“Fatalities wise, we are on track to set a record year,” Varela said. “Overall, we really want riders to take an increased responsibility for their own safety.”
Varela encourages riders to create time and space to handle an emergency. “I see too many riders that are following too closely. They’re not giving themselves time to react and avoid those conflicts.”
Stanley’s wife and five kids are counting on him to be safe. “I always in the back of my head as I’m pulling out of my driveway make it a goal … that I’m coming back to my family.”
But Varela said motorists also play a crucial role in saving lives. “Pay a little bit more attention. If you are not going to look twice, look once and make it count,” he said.
Varela said many drivers will look before entering the intersection but still won’t see a motorcyclist. He said they travel at a different pace, which makes them more difficult to see.
Varela reminds drivers that they interact with motorists every day. “When we realize that these are our neighbors, these are our co-workers, these are people we associate with … then it increases that empathy and allows us to see them better,” he said.
Varela said it’s easy for riders to lose their skills during the winter when they aren’t riding as much. He encourages riders of all skills to register for a safety course at least every three years.
“Riding courses are very important not only for new riders as you are learning the ropes, Stanley said. "If you haven’t ridden for a month, you are not as sharp as you were. It’s always a good idea to brush up. Take a quick refresher course. There is always something new you learn.”
Visit Zero Fatalities for an approved list of rider education courses the public can sign up for.