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Since 1999, the #1 Motorcycling Magazine for Women and the Men Who Ride with Them









Riding Right: Space Cushion Riding

Increase your safety margin and minimize risk

By George Tranos

Riding motorcycles is a high-risk, high-reward sport. You have to overcome many factors to get the thrills and excitement while maintaining a safe environment. The goal is to maximize the payoff and minimize the risk to improve your safety and enjoyment.

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One way is to have the right attitude and develop a strategy while riding. Many factors contribute to motorcycle crashes. In most cases the cause is an accumulation of hazards. It is all about time and space. You are in the wrong place at the wrong time, or you don’t have enough time and space to accomplish your maneuver.

One example would be to misjudge the time it takes to brake before hitting an object in the road. You might not have seen the object until it's too late, so you didn't perceive it as a hazard. Once you recognized the hazard for what it was, you may not have reacted quickly enough or been skilled enough to apply the brakes to obtain maximum stopping to avoid the obstacle. 

Even on a desolate two-lane road, you need to leave enough space for potential hazards.  A tractor or cow could be around the next bend.
Even on a desolate two-lane road, you need to leave enough space for potential hazards. A tractor or cow could be around the next bend.

Take a step back from the above scenario and you can see how a number of different issues, if addressed, might have changed the outcome. Let's take a look at some common mistakes that riders make.


Failure to look far enough ahead
Recognizing situations in advance gives you additional time to respond. A rider must first see the potential hazard, realize it's a threat, decide what action to take and then execute a plan.

Lack of situational awareness
Being aware of everything going on around you at all times helps a rider get the big picture. This knowledge will help you decide what to do and where to go when the situation gets tense.

Single point of focus
Focusing only on the road ahead is a recipe for disaster. Riders should keep their eyes moving to scan for hazards on the sides, behind and in front of them. Looking and seeing are two different things – look where you want to go and try to see and understand any possible dangers.


No escape route
Leave yourself an out so that you will have room to stop or a place to go if all else fails. If you box yourself in, you may commit yourself to only one response. By being aware of an escape route, you'll have a plan if all goes wrong and you need to take evasive action.

Bright colors and reflective material on your clothing and the motorcycle help increase your visibility.
Bright colors and reflective material on your clothing and the motorcycle help increase your visibility.

Not allowing others to see you
Riding in blind areas around other vehicles, poor lane positioning, not using your headlight or turn signals and wearing all black make you invisible to other drivers. Bright or reflective clothing, driving lights and signaling your intentions help you be seen more easily.  

By practicing these basics of space cushion riding you will have additional space and time to react. It's a strategy you can use to help minimize the risks of riding your motorcycle. The rewards are worth it.


George Tranos is a New York State and MSF certified instructor, and a freelance writer.You can email him at gtranos@BigAppleMotorcycleSchool.com.

Related Articles
Safe Riding Tips: Lane Positioning
Safe Riding Tips: Riding at Night
Safe Riding: Avoiding Hazards

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