The arrival of warm weather has justifiably been associated with romance, blooming foliage and baseball. But anyone living north of the Mason-Dixon line knows that something else should be just as closely tied to the arrival of spring: Motorcycle riding.

It is a certainty that warm weather following a long, dreary winter is going to result in an explosion of motorcycles on the road. Motorcycling is a warm-weather activity for most us, and there is precious little warmth around here between November and April. For riders, that translates to months of frustration as their steeds sit unridden in garages, sheds and motorcycle trailers or under a tarp. Many riders spend the winter polishing, tuning or upgrading their bikes, anxiously anticipating the first day warm enough to ride them.

If you’re not one of estimated 8.5 million motorcyclists in the United States, you probably can’t fully appreciate the joy of rolling onto the road when that day arrives. There’s nothing quite like the sensory experience of riding a motorcycle, and those senses tingle the most on the first few rides of the year.

What most riders fail to appreciate, however, is that these first rides of the year also can be the most dangerous. Street corners and intersections often are coated with sand, and sand-covered roads can be treacherous for turning motorcycles.

So can the operators of other vehicles. After seeing almost no motorcycles on the road for four to six months, drivers aren’t used to the smaller vehicles. When the mind is conditioned to contending with much larger vehicles, it can underestimate the distance to a motorcycle or subconsciously ignore it. “I never saw him” is a common refrain of drivers who plow into motorcyclists.

Finally, months of not riding can diminish the skills required to operate a motorcycle safely. Riding a bike on the street doesn’t demand the balance, coordination and reflexes of, say, riding a skateboard or surfboard. But like any physical activity, rust can develop from months of inactivity. And when you’re the smallest and most vulnerable vehicle on the road, you need all the tools at your disposal to remain safe.


One of those “tools” is a helmet. That statement will no doubt ignite a litany of arguments that helmets are uncomfortable and ineffective. Some will argue that it’s safer riding without a helmet because riders can better see and hear what’s going on around them.

We don’t buy those arguments. And we are convinced that a helmeted motorcyclist who gets into a collision has a better chance of surviving than one who is not wearing a helmet.

But this editorial isn’t intended to further the debate about motorcycle helmets. It’s about riding safely.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that motorcyclists are 30 times more likely to be killed in an accident than car drivers. And according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 88,000 motorcyclists were injured and nearly 4,700 motorcyclists died in crashes in 2013, the last year for which complete statistics are available.

Don’t become one of those statistics in 2015. Remember that your riding skills aren’t sharp yet, and try to ride as if nobody driving a car or truck sees you. And if you’ve never done so — or haven’t done so — in years, please take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation ( riding course. It can save you a few bucks on your insurance and may save your life.

Editorial by Foster’s Daily Democrat, Dover, N.H.

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