Motorcycle Advice and Training
Riding a motorbike safely requires a high level of skill, concentration and good judgement. Many of us ride motorbikes, whether for daily travel, as part of a job, or as an enjoyable leisure activity. Motorbikes are very appealing, often due to their convenience but also their size, impressive looks and the riding experience they provide. However, as is the case with all forms of transport, riding a motorcycle does come with some level of risk.
Between the years of 2004 and 2020, significant progress was made in reducing motorcycle casualties occurring as a result of collisions on the road, with a 51 per cent reduction in fatalities and a 48 per cent reduction in serious injuries. However, despite excellent progress overall, improvements have stalled in recent years, with the motorcyclist fatality rate increasing by over 8% between 2016 and 2020.
How do I get a motorcycle licence?
There are different categories of motorbike – from mopeds and scooters up to more powerful machines. You’ll need to get the right entitlement on your licence and be old enough to do so.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has produced this useful flowchart, which explains how to get your motorcycle licence.
The Government also has a webpage to help you find your nearest motorcycle training schools running the compulsory basic training (CBT) course for motorcycles and mopeds.
What are the current motorcycling crash statistics?
The following chart shows the numbers of motorcyclists that were slightly injured, seriously injured and killed in reported road collisions in Great Britain between the years of 2016 and 2020.
As can be seen in the above chart, thousands of motorcyclists are injured on our roads each year. In terms of age, 30-39 year olds made up the greatest percentage of motorcyclist casualties in 2020. Between 2015 and 2020:
92 per cent of fatal or seriously injured motorbike casualties are male, with 12 times more male than female casualties overall
‘Driver or rider failed to look properly’ was the most common contributory factor assigned to both motorcyclists and other vehicles involved in motorbike collisions
Of motorcyclist fatalities that occurred in a two vehicle collision, 40 per cent involved a car
66 per cent of motorcyclist fatalities occur on rural roads, despite them carrying only 41 per cent of motorbike traffic
Motorcyclist fatality rates are very high when compared to other modes of transport. For example, although car occupants accounted for the most fatalities on our roads in 2020 (42 per cent), motorcyclists are overrepresented in casualty numbers in relation to the miles ridden. For every billion passenger miles travelled, two car occupants are killed, in comparison to 106 motorcyclists. According to the Department for Transport, the rate of road traffic collisions per billion miles travelled is 25 times greater on a motorcycle than it is for car occupants.
While technologies such as anti-lock braking systems (ABS) can prevent riders losing control and better helmets and riding gear can help to protect riders in a crash, in contrast to occupants of other vehicles that have the benefit of more protection, motorcyclists have to depend much more on their skill and awareness to stay safe. The safest motorcyclist however need be at no greater risk of injury than the average car driver or passenger.
What are the most common reasons for motorbike crashes, and how can I avoid being in a crash?
Failure to negotiate bends, especially on country roads
In 2020, there were 9,667 motorcyclist casualties on urban roads, and of these, there were 101 fatalities. On rural roads, there were 3,817 casualties and 175 of these were fatalities. The fact that there were significantly fewer casualties on rural roads but 74 more fatalities shows that, although there are fewer injuries overall on rural roads, injuries that do occur are much more likely to be fatal. Around a quarter of motorbike fatalities every year happen on a rural road where the road changes direction.
To safely negotiate bends, you should always use clues given to you by the road ahead, so you know what to expect. Look out for any curvature of the white lines in the road, the path of telegraph poles, and any lines of trees or hedges at the side of the road. Always observe any road signs and ensure you decrease your speed enough to safely navigate the bend.
Never travel so fast that you cannot stop safely on your side of the road in the distance you can see to be clear.
RoSPA, alongside a police advanced motorcyclist, has created a video to help with safe cornering, containing crucial information on how to position your motorbike and use limit points.
Collisions at junctions and other vehicles pulling out into the path of motorcyclists
Sometimes, despite the fact that the rider is in plain view and properly positioned, drivers do not see riders, or they fail to judge how fast they are approaching a junction, meaning they pull out in front of the rider. Drivers can have difficulty spotting a small, fast-moving object approaching, in judging its speed correctly and in estimating its time of arrival, and this happens especially often at T-junctions.
Although motorists must give way to traffic on the main road when emerging from a junction with broken white lines across the road, it is still crucial to ride defensively. As you are approaching a junction, make eye contact with the driver and anticipate what they are going to do, for example by checking if their vehicle’s wheels are starting to turn. Always reduce your speed and be prepared to take action, just in case the vehicle pulls out in front of you.
Collisions while overtaking
In 2020, 1,688 motorcyclists were reported to the police as being involved in a collision when overtaking another vehicle. The most common type of overtaking that results in motorbike collisions is overtaking a moving vehicle to the offside. Overtaking is one of the most high-risk manoeuvres, meaning riders should only overtake when it is safe and necessary. You should never overtake when approaching:
- Junctions and entrances
- Pedestrian crossings
- Hills or dips in the road
- Double white lines or other signs prohibiting overtaking.
Safe and successful overtaking requires good judgement of distance and speed, a good level of visibility, and knowledge of your bike’s acceleration. Always be aware of everything going on around you before beginning to overtake, and look at places where a vehicle may be hidden from your view, such as over the brow of a hill, in a dip, around a bend or approaching from a junction or out of an entrance. There could be a high-speed vehicle approaching, hidden from view.
Loss of control
The two most common reasons for collisions that result from a loss of control are shunts and a failure to account for the road surface conditions. Shunts usually occur as a result of riding too close to the vehicle in front, or the vehicle behind you being too close, and can be avoided by leaving plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front, and if a vehicle is travelling too close behind you, giving yourself more room in front.
It is crucial to adapt your riding to the changing conditions around you. Factors such as fuel spills, mud, ice, leaves and surface water can all cause you to lose control. Always look out for changing conditions and road signs that may indicate hazards ahead, allowing yourself sufficient time and space to react safely.
Generally, you should always make sure your bike is roadworthy by carrying out regular POWDER checks:
- Petrol: Make sure your tank is topped up with sufficient fuel or charge for your journey
- Oil: Check your engine oil and brake fluid levels, and make sure everything that needs to be lubricated is, including all levers, cables and the chain. You should also check for oil leaks
- Water: Similarly to oil, check for leaks and check your levels
- Damage: Ensure that your bike is damage-free and in good condition
- Electrics: Check your lights, indicators, the dashboard and the horn
- Rubber: Check your tyres for the correct tread depth and pressure, and to ensure there is no obvious damage such as cracks or foreign bodies. You should also make sure to check the security of your handlebar grips and footrest rubbers.
For more information on avoiding being involved in a crash on your motorcycle, take a look at our Ridesafe advice.
I ride a motorbike for work. What do I need to know?
Legally, employers must treat riding for work in the same way as any other health and safety risk. All employers should prioritise rider safety and encourage training and development to help employees stay safe.
If you ride for work, your employer must ensure that you are:
- Legally entitled to ride the vehicle
- Properly trained
- Fit to ride safely.
For more information about riding for work with a focus on the gig economy, you can read RoSPA’s Driving and Riding for Work in the Gig Economy guide, which covers topics such as you and your employer’s responsibilities, maintaining and loading your bike, and rider safety.
The Scottish Occupational Road Safety Alliance (ScORSA) helps businesses to manage road safety, regularly hosting webinars on key road safety issues at work, including a recent session which discussed powered two wheelers and riding for work.
Should I get post-test training?
A good rider never stops learning. Post-test training can help to improve your riding skills, increasing your confidence and enjoyment whilst reducing your chances of being in a crash. RoSPA strongly recommends that motorcyclists seek out post-test training to improve the safety of themselves and others.
Extra training can significantly improve your ride by helping you to:
Get a superior reading of the road by improving your observation skills
Always be in the right position through enhanced planning
Know how to corner safely to keep your ride smooth and stable
Understand when and how to brake and accelerate safely
Avoid potholes and other surprises.
Where can I find post-test training?
RoSPA offers post-test training under the RoSPA Advanced Drivers and Riders (RoADAR) scheme. RoADAR’s aim is to reduce crashes by encouraging an interest in road safety and by improving driving and riding standards, knowledge and skill. In order to do this, RoADAR has around 55 local groups that can provide training to help you improve your riding skills and prepare you to take an Advanced Test.
To find out more about RoADAR, you can visit via the website or call the team on 0121 248 2099.
You can also click here to find a RoADAR group local to you.
Many other major organisations also offer post-test training. Officially launching in spring 2022, #UnlockYourFreedom is a motorcycle training portal that contains carries details of all key providers, backed by 17 different organisations including RoSPA and the Department for Transport. There is also information about rider training in Scotland on our Better Bikers page.
RoSPA also offers a Level 2 Award in Advanced Riding. This four-day course aims to help qualified riders to develop their skills to an advanced level, which in turn can reduce their risk of being involved in a crash on the road. RoSPA’s Motorcycle Training webpage can be found here, and the Level 2 Award can be found here.