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Motorcycle Safety From a Hells Angel

Sonny Barger talks about 5 things to think about as you ride

Hells Angel and The New York Times best-selling author Ralph "Sonny" Barger, 72, is — how to put this? — notorious. He's also been riding for nearly 60 years, and safety is a big deal with him. So take him seriously, or he may just show up in your driveway.

See also: How to find the motorcycle that's right for you. 

Motorcycle riders on CA road

Vigilance on the road is an integral part of motorcycle safety. — Gregor Halenda

1) Wear proper riding gear.

I value my freedom, just as most other people value theirs. So, rather than tell you what to wear, I'll tell you what I do. I always wear a DOT-approved full-face helmet, a leather jacket, jeans or leather chaps, boots, and gloves. You will never see me riding around in shorts and flip-flops, without a helmet, even if I'm just riding down to the corner and it's 100 degrees out.

2) Don't get complacent.

Research shows that the majority of motorcycle accidents take place within a few miles of home. Take every ride seriously, even if you're going only to the post office or the neighborhood supermarket.

3) Always be aware of your surroundings.

When you ride a motorcycle, you must be conscious of everything around you — the other traffic, the brush alongside the road that may hide a suicidal deer or stray dog, the parked cars that may conceal a kid chasing a ball into the street. Be aware of where you are in your lane, and look for possible escape routes. If you see gravel or other debris on the roadway, slow down before you reach it; never brake on the debris.

4) Don't tailgate.

Create as much safe space around you as you possibly can. The more space between you and the other vehicle, the more time you have to react should something bad happen.

5) Don't lose focus when traffic stops moving.

Just because you've pulled up to a stop sign and stopped moving doesn't mean you're out of danger. In fact, an all-too-common collision between car and motorcycle involves the motorcyclist being struck from behind while sitting at a stoplight or sign. Be aware of other vehicles even when you're not moving, and be ready to get out of harm's way at all times.

Next: Motorcycles: what to look for when buying used. >>

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