What can you not do on a motorcycle?

Riding a motorcycle can be an exciting and liberating experience. The feel of the open road, the wind in your hair, and the sense of freedom are some of the things that draw people to motorcycles. However, there are also some limitations to what you can do on a bike compared to a car. Safety should always come first when operating a motorcycle, which means knowing what not to do.

Driving in Inclement Weather

One of the biggest risks of motorcycles is driving in poor weather conditions. Motorcycles lack the stability and protection from the elements that cars provide. Rain, snow, ice, high winds, and other hazardous weather can make riding quite dangerous. The risk of losing traction and control of the bike increases dramatically. It’s best to avoid riding in these types of conditions when possible. If caught in a storm while out on your motorcycle, it’s recommended to pull over and wait it out rather than trying to push on.

Carrying Too Much Cargo

The storage capacity on motorcycles is much more limited than cars. You cannot simply load up the trunk or backseat with items. Carrying too much cargo can alter the balance and handling of your motorcycle and make it harder to control. Oversized or unevenly distributed loads increase your chances of tipping over. It’s best to only carry what can fit in saddlebags or backpack without compromising your ability to safely operate the motorcycle.

Riding With More Than One Passenger

Most motorcycles are designed for only one rider. Having a passenger on the back can exceed the bike’s load limits and make handling difficult. The extra weight shifts the center of gravity and distribution of weight, which can impact braking, accelerating, and turning. Most motorcycle insurance policies do not cover injuries to a second passenger either. If you want to ride with someone, make sure your bike is designed to handle the extra passenger load to stay safe and legal.

Performing Stunts

You’ve likely seen motorcycle stunts in movies and TV shows where riders perform wheelies, stoppies, burnouts, and other tricks. However, executing most stunts requires extensive training and ideal conditions. Attempting them as an amateur on public roads is extremely dangerous. Even small mistakes in judgment can lead to loss of control and crashes. Leave the stunt work to professional riders in controlled environments. Focus on safe operation when riding on the streets.

Lane Splitting

Lane splitting, also known as lane sharing, involves riding a motorcycle in between lanes of stopped or slow-moving traffic. While it’s legal in some states, it remains controversial and carries substantial risk. The narrow space leaves little room for error. Sudden movements by other vehicles can lead to collisions. It also increases your chances of getting hit by a side mirror or door opening. Plus, many drivers aren’t expecting to see a motorcycle suddenly passing between lanes. Consider whether the time saved is worth the added danger.

Drinking and Riding

Consuming alcohol before getting behind the wheel of car is clearly dangerous, illegal, and can have severe consequences if caught. The same rules apply for motorcycles. Drinking impairs your judgment, reflexes, and reaction time which are even more critical when riding a bike. Statistics show approximately one-third of all motorcycle fatalities involve alcohol. Never drink and ride. If you’ve had anything to drink, call a cab or use a ride sharing service, ask a sober friend for a lift, or just wait it out until you are completely sober before getting back on your motorcycle.

Talking or Texting on a Phone

It’s illegal in most states to use a handheld cellphone while operating a motor vehicle. This includes talking, texting, using apps, looking at maps, and taking photos. Doing so diverts your eyes and focus from the road and your surroundings. This distraction is even more hazardous on a motorcycle where you lack safety features like airbags and need full concentration to maintain balance and control. Even using a hands-free device can be distracting to riders due to the conversation itself. Pull over safely to Park to make or take any calls, texts, or other phone use.

Not Wearing Proper Riding Gear

Wearing the proper motorcycle riding gear is essential to protect you in the event of a crash. Unlike a car’s metal frame and airbags, your body is completely exposed on a motorcycle. Using helmets, jackets, pants, gloves, and boots designed for motorcycle safety can prevent or reduce injuries from impact and abrasions. Wearing regular clothes provides little protection. States may also require certain gear be worn when operating a motorcycle. Don’t take chances by riding without the proper clothing and equipment.

Riding Beyond Your Skill Level

It can be tempting when starting out to buy a fast, powerful motorcycle that looks cool. However, speed and handling challenges can quickly overwhelm new riders. A bike too large and powerful is dangerous until you build up your abilities over time. Don’t get overconfident in your skills. Start with a beginner motorcycle and work your way up. Give yourself time to get used to the balance, shifting, and maneuvering of riding before taking on a more challenging machine. Attempting to ride above your current skill level too quickly can easily lead to crashes.

Not Getting Enough Training

Many new motorcycle owners are eager to get out on the open roads and don’t take enough time to train and practice in safe environments first. Operating a motorcycle is much different than a car, both in terms of balance and coordination. Taking a beginner riding course helps you master the basics before venturing into traffic situations. And practice your skills in empty parking lots until everything becomes second nature. Don’t make the mistake of skipping steps in your training. The investment upfront will pay dividends in safety and confidence when riding.

Riding With Impaired Vision or Hearing

Operating any vehicle requires your senses of vision and hearing to stay aware of your surroundings. On a motorcycle, these senses are even more crucial when it comes to spotting potential hazards and reacting quickly. Make sure prescription eyeglasses or contacts provide proper vision correction if needed. Always use clean faceshields or lenses in helmets as well so your view is not obstructed or distorted. Impaired hearing also prevents you from noting horns or sirens of approaching emergency vehicles. Do a check of your vision and hearing abilities to ensure they are up to the demands of riding safely.

Not Doing Regular Maintenance

Motorcycles have more frequent maintenance needs than cars since they are open to the elements and vibrations while riding. Issues like worn tires, brake pads, damaged frames, old oil, and loose cables can lead to catastrophic failures when moving at road speeds. Stay on top of the manufacturer’s maintenance schedule for items to inspect and replace. Do walk around checks before each ride for any problems. And address leaks, odd noises, or shaky performance right away before things deteriorate further. Taking good care of your motorcycle will allow it to take care of you.

Assuming Drivers See You

Due to their smaller profile, motorcycles and riders can easily disappear from the view of drivers in busy traffic conditions. Always ride defensively with the mentality that other motorists do not see you until they make eye contact or signal. Avoid riding in blindspots. Position yourself where you are most visible when stopped next to vehicles. Use reflectors, lights, and bright protective gear to stand out. Ride like you are invisible to grab the attention of distracted drivers. Never assume a driver sees and will yield to you, as that is a recipe for an accident.

Carrying Passengers or Cargo Unsafely

As mentioned before, carrying passengers or cargo on a motorcycle requires caution. Only ride with passengers if you have permanent rear seats, passenger foot pegs, and you stay within load limits. When it comes to cargo, make sure the load is evenly distributed and fastened down so sudden braking or swerving doesn’t cause it to shift. Consider investing in saddle bags, a tail bag, or luggage racks to properly secure items. An improperly arranged passenger or heavy load can cause dangerous handling problems leading to crashes.

Ignoring Weather Conditions

Keep a close eye on the weather before and during motorcycle rides. Rain, snow, and other precipitation reduce traction on the road making handling difficult and braking distances longer. Gusty winds can impact control and blowing debris poses hazards. Foggy conditions reduce visibility greatly. If the forecast looks iffy, postpone your ride or take a car instead. If already caught out on the roads, pull over under an overpass or building until it passes. Don’t risk riding through severe thunderstorms, snow squalls, or other dangerous weather.

Speeding and Racing

It can be tempting to open up the throttle and enjoy the acceleration of a motorcycle. But excessive speeding greatly compounds all the existing risks of riding. At high speeds you have less time to react, more distance is needed to brake, and the consequences of crashes are more severe. Save racing for the track and obey posted speed limits and road conditions while street riding. Don’t let the performance capabilities of the machine lure you into riding faster than reasonable.

Not Wearing a Helmet

Helmets are by far the most critical piece of motorcycle safety gear. In a collision, a helmet protects your head from life-threatening impacts with pavement, other vehicles, and objects. Research shows that helmets reduce the risk of fatal head injuries by 37%. Most states have universal helmet laws requiring all riders wear one, for good reason. Never think you can simply be extra cautious instead of using a helmet. It’s not worth terrible injury or death to avoid minor hassle or helmet hair.

Riding Under the Influence of Medications

It’s not just alcohol that can impair your riding abilities. Many prescription and over-the-counter medications also come with warnings about operating vehicles. Opioid pain relievers, tranquilizers, sedatives, and antidepressants are some of the major culprits. Even antihistamines and cough medicines can potentially affect alertness and reflexes. Consult with your doctor or pharmacist about any side effects if you are taking regular medications. Never mix meds and motorcycle riding without understanding the dangers.

Not Getting Motorcycle Insurance

Riding without insurance is illegal in most states and extremely financially risky. A motorcycle crash, even if you are not at fault, can result in expensive damage and injuries requiring emergency care. Minimum liability coverage is required by law. Comprehensive and collision insurance with high injury protection limits are also recommended given the lack of protection on a bike. Paying out of pocket for a serious accident can be financially devastating for those without adequate insurance. Don’t put your assets at risk by trying to save money skipping coverage.

Riding Too Close to Other Vehicles

Maintaining a safe following distance and cushion of space in all directions is critical on a motorcycle. Rear ending another vehicle can lead to being thrown over the bars or run over by your own machine. Sideswipes are also a major hazard. Avoid riding in blindspots and make your presence obvious when passing. Leave extra braking room between you and the vehicle in front in case of sudden stops. Scan all around frequently for any potential mergers or lane changes. The more space you proactively create, the more time you have to react.

Don’t Do
Drink and ride Stay sober when riding
Carry too much cargo Only carry cargo designed for your bike
Ignore weather hazards Check forecasts and conditions before riding
Perform stunts Ride cautiously within your abilities
Speed and race Obey posted speed limits and road conditions

Not Taking Additional Training Courses

Simply passing your initial motorcycle license exam does not make you an expert rider. There are always more skills to develop no matter what your experience level. Seek out advanced riding courses that teach emergency braking techniques, swerving, proper cornering, and accident avoidance. Taking training geared toward street riding, long trips, night riding, or off-road riding enhances your abilities for those conditions. Staying dedicated to continuous education makes you a better, smarter rider.

Failing to Yield to Larger Vehicles

Sharing the road with large trucks, buses, and SUVs requires extra vigilance on a motorcycle. Their massive size and limited visibility around them can make merging, stopping, and turns tricky. Avoid lingering in blindspots so you are seen. When passing, make sure to have plenty of room to spare. Be ready to brake suddenly if one drifts into your lane. Also take extra care at intersections where their wide turning radius may intrude into your path. The right-of-way rules don’t matter much if they can’t see you.

Not Starting on a Beginner Bike

Purchasing a fast, heavy cruiser or supersport as your first bike may fulfill your styling dreams but lead to disaster. The power and handling of these machines take experience and skill to manage safely. As a new rider, you are better off building fundamental skills on an entry-level motorcycle with less weight, power and sensitivity to control inputs. Resist the urge to jump ahead until you truly have the abilities to handle an advanced bike. Otherwise you risk being overwhelmed and crashing.

Riding When Too Fatigued

Riding a motorcycle demands your full mental and physical attention at all times. Doing so when you are already exhausted or sleep deprived slows reaction time, reduces balance and coordination, and impairs judgments. Long days in the saddle need frequent breaks every couple hours to rest and refresh. Be realistic about your abilities to concentrate when planning longer trips. Prioritize getting adequate sleep before you plan to ride as well. Fighting your body’s needs jeopardizes your safety and the safety of others.

Not Staying Within Your Limits

It’s tempting as your skills improve to push yourself to ride faster, lean deeper, handle more power, and take more risks. But overconfidence can lead you to ride above your true abilities. Be honest with yourself about your current skill level and don’t ride over that limit. Seek out new challenges gradually, not all at once. Small steps outside your comfort zone with room to spare for error are smarter. Don’t let ego lead to riding above your experience. It takes discipline and patience to steadily progress.


Motorcycles provide freedom and excitement that can’t be matched. But they also come with greater risks compared to driving a car. Keeping yourself and others safe requires restraint, smart judgment, and a respect for the limits of both your machine and skills. Don’t push those boundaries too far, too soon. Make sure your equipment is up to the task as well. The keys are proper education, regularly practicing skills, and gaining experience gradually over time. With common sense and patience, you can enjoy a lifetime of safe and responsible riding.

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