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MotorcycleOperatorManualPUB 147 (3-17)

PREFACEOperating a motorcycle safely in traffic requires specialskills and knowledge. This handbook will provide you withthe information necessary to enable you to obtain a motorcyclelicense and to help you learn those special operating skills.The purpose of this manual is to enable the reader to avoidcrashes while safely operating a motorcycle. By reading thismanual, you will learn strategies for collision avoidance. Youwill learn how you can improve your riding strategy by usinga system known as SEE (search, evaluate, execute). You willlearn what you can do to be seen by other motorists. Incollisions with motorcyclists, drivers often say they neversaw the motorcycle.When you ride a motorcycle, you should wear properprotective clothing and headgear, ride within your limits,obey the law, and “share the road” with other highway users.Riding a motorcycle can be safe and fun when you act as aresponsible rider.The Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program will teachyou the basic skills necessary to operate a motorcycle. Takeadvantage of this learning opportunity, read the MotorcycleOperator Manual, and become an informed motorcyclist.Remember that your life, and the lives of others, will dependon what you do while operating a motorcycle.Keep this manual for future reference. There may be timeswhen you will want to check on the recommended ways tohandle a situation which you have encountered.

CONTENTSPREPARING TO RIDEWEAR THE RIGHT GEAR.3Helmet Use. 3Helmet Selection. 3Eye and Face Protection. 4Clothing. 5KNOW YOUR MOTORCYCLE.5The Right Motorcycle For You. 5Borrowing and Lending. 6Getting Familiar with the Motorcycle Controls. 6Check Your Motorcycle. 7KNOW YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES.8RIDE WITHIN YOUR ABILITIESBASIC VEHICLE CONTROL.9Body Position. 9Shifting Gears. 9Braking. 10Turning. 10KEEPING YOUR DISTANCE.11Lane Positions.11Following Another Vehicle. 12Being Followed. 13Passing and Being Passed. 13Lane Sharing. 15Merging Cars. 15Cars Alongside. 15SEE.16INTERSECTIONS.17Blind Intersections. 18Passing Parked Cars. 19Parking at the Roadside. 19INCREASING CONSPICUITY.20Clothing. 20Headlight. 20Signals. 20Brake Light. 21Using Your Mirrors. 21Head Checks. 22Horn. 22Riding at Night. 23CRASH AVOIDANCE.23Quick Stops. 23continued on reverse1

CONTENTSSwerving or Turning Quickly. 24Cornering. 25HANDLING DANGEROUS SURFACES.26Uneven Surfaces and Obstacles. 26Slippery Surfaces. 27Tracks and Pavement Seams. 28Grooves and Gratings . 28MECHANICAL PROBLEMS.29Tire Failure. 29Stuck Throttle. 29Wobble. 29Drivetrain Problems. 30Engine Seizure. 30ANIMALS.30FLYING OBJECTS.30GETTING OFF THE ROAD.31CARRYING PASSENGERS AND CARGO.31Equipment. 31Instructing Passengers. 32Riding With Passengers. 32Carrying Loads. 32GROUP RIDING.33Keep the Group Small. 33Keep the Group Together. 33Keep Your Distance. 33BEING IN SHAPE TO RIDEWHY INFORMATION IS IMPORTANT.35ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS INMOTORCYCLE OPERATION.35ALCOHOL IN THE BODY.36Blood Alcohol Concentration. 36PENALTIES FOR DRIVING WHILE UNDER THEINFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL OR DRUGS.37PA Implied Consent Law. 37MINIMIZE THE RISKS.37MAKE AN INTELLIGENT CHOICE.38STEPS TO PROTECT FRIENDS.38FATIGUE.38EARNING YOUR LICENSEEarning Your License. 39Sample Questions. 402

PREPARING TO RIDEWhat you do before you start a trip goes a long way toward determiningwhether or not you’ll get where you want to go safely. Before taking off on anytrip, a safe rider makes a point to:1. Wear the right gear. You must wear a helmet and eye protectionif riding on a permit.2. Become familiar with the motorcycle.3. Check the motorcycle equipment.4. Be a responsible rider.WEAR THE RIGHT GEARWhen you ride, your gear is“right” if it protects you. In any crash,you have a far better chance ofavoiding serious injury if you wear: An approved helmet. Face or eye protection. Protective clothing.Helmet UseCrashes are not rare events —particularly among beginning riders.And one out of every five motorcyclecrashes result in head or neckinjuries. Head injuries are just assevere as neck injuries — and farmore common. Crash analyses showthat head and neck injuries accountfor a majority of serious and fatalinjuries to motorcyclists. Researchalso shows that, with few exceptions,head and neck injuries are reduced bythe proper wearing of an approvedhelmet.Some riders don’t wear helmetsbecause they think helmets will limittheir view to the sides. Others wearhelmets only on long trips or whenriding at high speeds. Here are somefacts to consider: An approved helmet lets you see asfar to the sides as necessary. A studyof more than 900 motorcyclecrashes, where 40% of the riderswore helmets, did not find even onecase in which a helmet kept a riderfrom spotting danger. Most crashes happen on short trips(less than five miles long), just a fewminutes after starting out. Most riders are riding slower than30 mph when a crash occurs. Atthese speeds, helmets can reduceboth the number and the severityof head injuries by 50%.No matter what the speed,helmeted riders are three times morelikely to survive head injuries thanthose not wearing helmets at the timeof the crash.Helmet SelectionThere are two primary types ofhelmets, providing two different levelsof coverage: three-quarter and fullface.Whichever style you choose, youcan get the most protection by makingsure that the helmet:3

HELMETS Is designed to meet U.S.Department of Transportation(DOT) and state standards. Helmetswith a label from the SnellMemorial Foundation gives you anadded assurance of quality. Fits snugly, all the way around. Has no obvious defects such ascracks, loose padding or frayedstraps.Goggles protect your eyes,though they won’t protect the rest ofyour face like a faceshield does. Awindshield is not a substitute for afaceshield or goggles. Mostwindshields will not protect youreyes from the wind; neither willeyeglasses or sunglasses. Glasseswon’t keep your eyes from watering,and they might blow off when youturn your head while riding.Whatever helmet you decide on,keep it securely fastened on your headwhen you ride. Otherwise, if you areinvolved in a crash, it’s likely to flyoff your head before it gets a chanceto protect you.To be effective, eye or faceshieldprotection must: Be free of scratches.Eye and Face Protection Fasten securely, so it does not blowoff.A plastic shatter-resistantfaceshield can help protect your wholeface in a crash. It alsoprotects you from wind, dust, dirt,rain, insects, and pebbles thrown upfrom cars ahead. These problems aredistracting and can be painful. If youhave to deal with them, you can’t devote your full attention to the road.4 Be resistant to penetration. Give a clear view to either side. Permit air to pass through, toreduce fogging. Permit enough room foreyeglasses or sunglasses, if needed.Tinted eye protection should notbe worn at night or any other timewhen little light is available.

ClothingThe right clothing protects you ina collision. It also provides comfort,as well as protection from heat, cold,debris, and hot and moving parts ofthe motorcycle. It can also make youmore visible to others. Jacket and pants should cover armsand legs completely. They should fitsnugly enough to keep from flappingin the wind, yetloosely enough to move freely.Leather offers the most protection.Sturdy synthetic material providesa lot of protection as well. Wear ajacket even in warm weather toprevent dehydration. Many aredesigned to protect without gettingyou overheated, even on summerdays. Boots or shoes should be high andsturdy enough to cover your anklesand give them support. Soles shouldbe made of hard, durable slipresistant material. Keep heelsshort so they do not catch on roughsurfaces. Tuck laces in so they won’tcatch on your motorcycle. Gloves allow a better grip and helpprotect your hands in a crash. Yourgloves should be made of leather orsimilar durable material.In cold or wet weather, yourclothes should keep you warm anddry, as well as protect you frominjury. You cannot control amotorcycle well if you are numb.Riding for long periods in coldweather can cause severe chill andfatigue. A winter jacket should resistwind and fit snugly at the neck, wrists,and waist. Good-quality rainsuitsdesigned for motorcycle riding resisttearing apart or ballooning up at highspeeds.KNOW YOURMOTORCYCLEThere are plenty of things on thehighway that can cause you trouble.Your motorcycle should not be oneof them. To make sure that yourmotorcycle won’t let you down: Read owner’s manual first. Start with the right motorcyclefor you. Be familiar with the motorcyclecontrols. Check the motorcycle before everyride. Keep it in safe riding conditionbetween rides. Avoid add-ons and modificationsthat make your motorcycle harderto handle.The Right MotorcycleFor YouFirst, make sure your motorcycleis right for you. It should “fit” you.Your feet should reach the groundwhile you are seated on themotorcycle, and the controls shouldbe easy to operate. Smallermotorcycles are usually easier forbeginners to operate.At minimum, your street-legalmotorcycle should have: Headlight, taillight and brakelight. Front and rear brakes. Turn signals. Horn. Two mirrors.5

Borrowing and LendingBorrowers and lenders ofmotorcycles, beware. Crashes arefairly common among beginningriders — especially in the firstmonths of riding. Riding anunfamiliar motorcycle adds to theproblem. If you borrow a motorcycle,get familiar with it in a controlledarea. And if you lend yourmotorcycle to friends, make sure theyare licensed and know how to ridebefore allowing them out into traffic.No matter how experienced youmay be, ride extra carefully on anymotorcycle that’s new or unfamiliar toyou. It takes time to adjust, so giveyourself a greater margin for errors.Get Familiar with theMotorcycle ControlsMake sure you are completelyfamiliar with the motorcycle beforeyou take it out on the street. Be sureto review the owner’s manual. This isparticularly important if you areriding a borrowed motorcycle. If youare going to use an unfamiliarmotorcycle: Make all the checks you would onyour own motorcycle. Find out where everything is,particularly the turn signals, horn,headlight switch, fuel-control valve,and engine cut-off switch. Find andoperate these items without havingto look for them.MOTORCYCLE CONTROLSLight Switch (high/low)Choke (varies)Turn-SignalSwitchIgnition Key(varies)Engine Cut-OffSwitchElectricStartButtonHorn ButtonThrottleClutch LeverSpeedometer& OdometerFuel Supply Valve(if equipped)Gear-Change LeverFront Brake LeverTachometer(if equipped)Rear Brake PedalKick Starter(if equipped)6

Know the gear pattern. Work thethrottle, clutch, and brakes a fewtimes before you start riding. Allcontrols react a little differently. Ride very cautiously and be awareof surroundings. Accelerate gently,take turns more slowly, and leaveextra room for stopping.Check Your MotorcycleA motorcycle needs morefrequent attention than a car. Aminor technical failure in a carseldom leads to anything more than aninconvenience for the driver.If something’s wrong with themotorcycle, you’ll want to find outabout it before you get in traffic. Makea complete check of yourmotorcycle before every ride.Before mounting the motorcyclemake the following checks: Tires/Wheels — Check thecondition of tread, wheels, and airpressure. Fluids — Oil and fluid levels. At aminimum, check hydraulic fluidsand coolants weekly. Look under themotorcycle for signs of an oil or gasleak. Controls (levers, cables, throttle)— Check the condition, operation,and routing.Once you have mounted themotorcycle, complete the followingchecks before starting out: Clutch and Throttle — Make surethey work smoothly. The throttleshould snap back when you let go.The clutch should feel tight andsmooth. Mirrors — Clean and adjust bothmirrors before starting. It’s difficultto ride with one hand while you tryto adjust a mirror. Adjust eachmirror so you can see the lanebehind and as much as possible ofthe lane next to you. When properlyadjusted, a mirror may show theedge of your arm or shoulder — butit’s the road behind and to the sidethat’s most important. Brakes — Try the front and rearbrake levers one at a time. Makesure each one feels firm and holdsthe motorcycle when the brake isfully applied. Horn — Try the horn. Make sure itworks. Headlights and Taillight — Checkthem both. Test your switch tomake sure both high and low beamsare working. Turn Signals — Turn on both rightand left turn signals. Make sure alllights are working properly. Brake Light — Try both brakecontrols, and make sure each oneturns on the brake light.7

KNOW YOURRESPONSIBILITIES“Accident” implies an unforeseenevent that occurs without anyone’sfault or negligence. Most often intraffic, that is not the case. In fact,most people involved in a crash canusually claim some responsibility forwhat took place.Consider a situation wheresomeone tries to squeeze through anintersection on a yellow light turningred. Your light turns green. You pullinto the intersection without checkingfor possible latecomers. That is all ittakes for the two of you to tangle. Itwas the other driver’s responsibility tostop. And it was your responsibility tolook before pulling out. Neither of youheld up your end of the deal. Justbecause someone else is the first tostart the chain of events leading to acrash, doesn’t leave any of us free ofresponsibility.As a rider, you can’t be sure thatother operators will see you or yieldthe right of way. To lessen yourchances of a crash occurring: Be visible — wear proper clothing,use your headlight, ride in the bestlane position to see and be seen. Communicate your intentions— use the proper signals, brakelight, and lane position. Maintain an adequate spacecushion — following, beingfollowed, lane sharing, passing andbeing passed. Search your path of travel 12seconds ahead.8 Identify and separate multiplehazards. Be prepared to act — remain alertand know how to carry out propercrash-avoidance skills.Blame doesn’t matter whensomeone is injured in a crash. Thereis rarely a single cause of any crash.The ability to ride aware, makecritical decisions, and carry them outseparates responsible riders from allthe rest. Remember, it is up to you tokeep from being the cause of, or anunprepared participant in, any crash.

RIDE WITHIN YOUR ABILITIESThis manual cannot teach you how to control direction, speed, or balance.That’s something you can learn only through practice, preferably in a formalcourse of instruction like the PA Motorcycle Safety Program. But control beginswith knowing your abilities and riding within them, along with knowing andobeying the rules of the road.BASIC VEHICLECONTROLBody PositionTo control a motorcycle well: Posture — Sit so you can use yourarms to steer the motorcycle ratherthan to hold yourself up. Seat — Sit far enough forward sothat arms are slightly bent when youhold the handlegrips. Bending yourarms permits you to press on thehandlebars without having to stretch. Hands — Hold the handgrips firmlyto keep your grip over roughsurfaces. Start with your right wristflat. This will help you keep fromaccidentally using too much throttle.Also, adjust the handlebarsHOLDING HANDGRIPSRIGHTso your hands are even with orbelow your elbows. This permitsyou to use the proper muscles forprecision steering. Knees — Keep your knees againstthe gas tank to help you keep yourbalance as the motorcycle turns. Feet — Keep your feet firmly on thefootpegs to maintain balance. Don’tdrag your feet. If your foot catcheson something, you can be injuredand it could affect your control ofthe motorcycle. Keep your feet nearthe controls so you can get to themfast if needed. Also, don’t let yourtoes point downward — they mayget caught between the road and thefootpegs.Shifting GearsThere is more to shifting gears thansimply getting the motorcycle to pickup speed smoothly. Learning to use thegears when downshifting,turning, or starting on hills is importantfor safe motorcycle operation.Shift down through the gears withthe clutch as you slow or stop.Remain in first gear while you arestopped so that you can move outquickly if you need to.WRONG9

Make certain you are ridingslowly enough when you shift into alower gear. If not, the motorcycle willlurch, and the rear wheel may skid.When riding downhill or shifting intofirst gear you may need to use thebrakes to slow enough beforedownshifting safely. Work towards asmooth, even clutch release,especially when downshifting.It is best to change gears beforeentering a turn. However, sometimesshifting while in the turn is necessary.If so, remember to do so smoothly. Asudden change in power to the rearwheel can cause a skid.BrakingYour motorcycle has two brakes:one each for the front and rear wheel.Use both of them at the same time.The front brake is more powerful andcan provide at least three-quarters ofyour total stopping power. The frontbrake is safe to use if you use itproperly.Remember: Use both brakes every time youslow or stop. Using both brakes foreven “normal” stops will permit youto develop the proper habit or skillof using both brakes properly in anemergency. Squeeze the front brakeand press down on the rear.Grabbing at the front brake orjamming down on the rear can causethe brakes to lock, resulting incontrol problems. If you know the technique, usingboth brakes in a turn is possible,although it should be done very10carefully. When leaning themotorcycle some of the traction isused for cornering. Less traction isavailable for stopping. A skid canoccur if you apply too much brake.Also, using the front brakeincorrectly on a slippery surfacemay be hazardous. Use caution andsqueeze the brake lever, never grab. Some motorcycles have integratedbraking systems that link the frontand rear brakes together byapplying the rear brake pedal.(Consult the owner’s manual for adetailed explanation on theoperation and effective use of thesesystems.)TurningRiders often try to take curves orturns too fast. When they can’t holdthe turn, they end up crossing intoanother lane of traffic or going off theroad. Or, they overreact and brake toohard, causing a skid and loss ofcontrol. Approach turns and curveswith caution. SLOW — Reduce speed before theturn by closing the throttle and, ifnecessary, applying both brakes. LOOK — Look through the turnto where you want to go.Turn just your head, not yourshoulders, and keep your eyes levelwith the horizon. PRESS — To turn, the motorcyclemust lean. To lean the motorcycle,press on the handgrip in thedirection of the turn. Press lefthand-grip — lean left — go left.Press right handgrip lean right —

go right. The higher the speed in aturn the greater the lean angle. ROLL — Roll on the throttle tomaintain or slightly increase speed.This helps stabilize the motorcycle.In normal turns, the rider and themotorcycle should lean together at thesame angle.NORMAL TURNINGKEEPING YOURDISTANCEThe best protection you can haveis distance — a “cushion of space”— all around your motorcycle. Ifsomeone else makes a mistake,distance offers you: Time to react. Space to maneuver.Lane PositionsIn some ways the size of themotorcycle can work to youradvantage. Each traffic lane gives amotorcycle three paths of travel, asindicated in the illustration.Your lane position should: Increase your ability to see and beseen. Avoid others’ blind spots. Avoid surface hazards.In slow, tight turns,counterbalance by leaning themotorcycle only and keeping yourbody straight.SLOW TURNING Protect your lane from otherdrivers. Communicate your intentions. Avoid wind blast from other vehicles. Provide an escape route.Select the appropriate path tomaximize your space cushion andmake yourself more easily seen byothers on the road.11

LANE POSITIONSIn general, there is no single bestposition for riders to be seen and tomaintain a space cushion around themotorcycle. No portion of the laneneed be avoided — including thecenter.Position yourself in the portion ofthe lane where you are most likely tobe seen and you can maintain a spacecushion around you. Change positionas traffic situations change. Ride inpath 2 or 3 if vehicles and otherpotential problems are on your leftonly. Remain in path 1 or 2 if hazardsare on your right only. If vehicles arebeing operated on both sides of you,the center of the lane, path 2, isusually your best option.The oily strip in the centerportion that collects drippings fromcars is usually no more than two feetwide. Unless the road is wet, theaverage center strip permits adequatetraction to ride on safely. You canoperate to the left or right of thegrease strip and still be within thecenter portion of the traffic lane.Avoid riding on big buildups of oiland grease usually found at busyintersections or toll booths.12Following AnotherVehicle“Following too closely” is amajor factor in crashes involvingmotorcyclists. In traffic, motorcyclesneed as much distance to stop as cars.Normally, a minimum of four secondsdistance should be maintained behindthe vehicle ahead.To gauge your following distance: Pick out a marker, such as apavement marking or lamppost, onor near the road ahead. When the rear bumper of thevehicle ahead passes the marker,count off the seconds: “onethousand-one, one-thousand-two,one-thousand-three, one-thousandfour.” If you reach the marker before youreach “four,” you are following tooclosely.A four-second following distanceleaves a minimum amount of space tostop or swerve if the driver aheadstops suddenly. It also permits a betterview of potholes and other hazards inthe road.

FOLLOWINGA larger cushion of space isneeded if your motorcycle will takelonger than normal to stop. If thepavement is slippery, if you cannotsee through the vehicle ahead, or iftraffic is heavy and someone maysqueeze in front of you, open up afive second or more followingdistance.Keep well behind the vehicleahead even when you are stopped.This will make it easier to get out ofthe way if someone bears down onyou from behind. It will also give youa cushion of space if the vehicleahead starts to back up for somereason.When behind a car, ride wherethe driver can see you in the rearviewmirror. Riding in the center portion ofthe lane should put your image in themiddle of the rearview mirror —where a driver is most likely to seeyou.Riding at the far side of a lanemay permit a driver to see you in asideview mirror. But remember thatmost drivers don’t look at theirsideview mirrors nearly as often asthey check the rearview mirror. If thetraffic situation allows, the centerportion of the lane is usually the bestplace for you to be seen by thedrivers ahead and to prevent lanesharing by others.Being FollowedSpeeding up to lose someonefollowing too closely only ends upwith someone tailgating you at ahigher speed.A better way to handle tailgaters isto get them in front of you. Whensomeone is following too closely,change lanes and let them pass. Ifyou can’t do this, slow down and openup extra space ahead of you to allowroom for both you and the tailgater tostop. This will also encourage them topass. If they don’t pass, you will havegiven yourself and the tailgater moretime and space to react in case anemergency does develop ahead.Passing and Being PassedPassing and being passed byanother vehicle is not much differentthan with a car. However, visibility ismore critical. Be sure other drivers seeyou, and that you see potentialhazards.13

Passing1. Ride in the left portion of the laneat a safe following distance toincrease your line of sight andmake you more visible. Signal andcheck for oncoming traffic. Useyour mirrors and turn your head tolook for traffic behind.2. When safe, move into the left laneand accelerate. Select a laneposition that doesn’t crowd the caryou are passing and provides spaceto avoid hazards in your lane.3. Ride through the blind spot asquickly as possible.4. Signal again, and complete mirrorand headchecks before returning toyour original lane and then cancelsignal.Remember, passes must becompleted within posted speedlimits, and only where permitted.Know your signs and roadmarkings!PASSINGBeing PassedWhen you are being passed frombehind or by an oncoming vehic

The Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program will teach you the basic skills necessary to operate a motorcycle. Take . advantage of this learning opportunity, read the Motorcycle Operator Manual, and become an informed motorcyclist. Remember that your life, and the lives of others, will depend on w

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