Washington's mountainous, winding roads and mild summer weather are perfect elements for a great motorcycle road trip. But all riders need to remember that staying safe on a road trip is about more than just being a responsible rider while in traffic. There is plenty to consider before and during your ride to keep everyone safe. Consider these motorcycle road trip safety tips before you all hit the road.
Before You Ride, Know the Laws
Everyone, including passengers, on the trip should know Washington's state motorcycle laws. Knowing the laws helps ensure all members of the group follow the rules of the road and do not become hazards to themselves or others. All riders, regardless of experience, should consider taking a motorcycle skills course.
- The law requires DOT-approved helmets for all riders and passengers, regardless of age.
- A passenger may only ride on a bike designed with two seats or with an attached sidecar.
- Once on the road, a maximum of two motorcycles can ride side-by-side while traveling in a group.
Do Some Pre-Planning Research
Once you have familiarized yourself with Washington's motorcycle laws, it is time to start organizing your trip.
Look into buying motorcycle insurance.
Remind all riders they should review their motorcycle insurance and if necessary, buy coverage.
The state of Washington does not require motorcyclists to carry insurance. However, getting motorcycle insurance—especially before a big road trip—is in your best interest regardless of the state law. Look at not only the basic coverage types, but also consider purchasing uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, as well as medical payments coverage and roadside assistance. The latter can come in handy if you experience a breakdown or emergency and need help.
Research your route.
You want to pick a route that is suitable for the least experienced rider in your group to ensure everyone can safely complete the trip. Look for routes with good opportunities to stop for necessities such as gas, food, and restrooms.
You will also want to be mindful of routes with construction or road hazards. While a bump in the road or some loose gravel is no big deal for a motorist, it can be deadly to a rider. You can usually check whether your route has construction on a map app.
Mind the weather.
Rain and wind storms are frequent interrupters of many summer motorcycle road trips in Washington. Watch the forecast starting a few days out from your trip and make sure you plan your route and packing according to the forecast.
Make sure you know where you are staying.
Another thing to consider is lodging if you are going on a multi-day trip. Make sure there are accommodations enough for all riders and their passengers. Having a map for every rider and estimated arrival times is a good way to keep everyone on track in the event you are separated.
Perform a Motorcycle Safety Check
All riders in your group are responsible for making sure their bike is in good working condition. Make any necessary repairs well in advance of the trip so you can test the bike's performance before a long journey. Make sure you have stocked small spare parts like chains and spark plugs in the event of a breakdown.
Make Sure You Have All the Essentials
While the ultimate decisions are up to the rider and passenger on the bike, there are some good recommendations for pertinent items to consider while packing for your trip. Review this motorcycle road trip checklist as you pack.
- Waterproof gear: There is nothing worse than having to sit there in wet clothes until your next stop. Pack rain gear for uncooperative weather.
- Cell phone and charger: Pack your cell phone and its charger. This will allow you to keep in touch with family and friends while traveling, or call emergency personnel in the event of an accident or breakdown.
- GPS: Navigation is important. Unless you know your travel route by heart, bring a GPS system or maps to help you find your way.
- Repair tools: Similarly, having a small set of tools can help you if you need to change a part or make a minor repair while on the road.
- Tire repair and inflation kit: You will be very thankful you packed these if you get a flat tire along the way.
- Emergency flares: In the case of an accident or break down, you can use LED-powered flares to slow down traffic and keep you and your bike safe.
- First aid kit: Bring a first aid kit in case of minor injuries along the way.
- Toiletries: This may seem obvious, but purchasing travel-sized shampoo, soap, and toothpaste can help conserve space for other items.
Meet Before the Trip to Practice Group Riding Skills
Another step to take to make sure everyone is on the same page is to find an empty parking lot and schedule a group practice. Determine the order in which you will ride, who is the ride leader, and the signals you will use.
Include passengers in all planning, including the practice rides, to ensure they can help when necessary.
Communicating During Your Trip
Communication is key to making sure all trip members are safe and comfortable. Some helmets allow hands-free communication with cell phones using special apps and headsets. There are devices on the market that use Bluetooth pairing to connect a group of riders wirelessly with in-ear microphones and speakers.
If you plan on going the less technical route, hand signals are the best way to communicate to fellow riders you will be changing course. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation has a guide to the common hand signals to use when riding in a group.
Ride Safe, Ride Smart
Following motorcycle road trip best practices like those we mentioned above is a great way to allow everyone to enjoy the journey and improve your chances of avoiding accidents.
If you are ever in need of legal help after a motorcycle accident, contact Max Meyers Law PLLC to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation regarding your right to recovery: 425-242-5595.