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What is the safest way to ride a motorcycle downhill?

While you may have no trouble wending your way around twisting roads, you still feel a little uneasy every time you approach a steep hill. You know that no matter how slowly you go, you will still have less control over your bike while going down than you do going up—and if you’re not careful, you could quickly end up off the road.

Here are a few safety tips to help you stay in control of your motorcycle while riding downhill:

  • Distribute your weight. As you approach the top of the hill, slide back on the seat to place more of your weight at the back of the bike. This will help you maintain balance and lessen the weight on the handlebars, which will improve your steering.
  • Reduce your speed. Just as when you are riding in a car, the force of gravity will increase your speed on the back end of a slope, meaning you won’t need much throttle to move forward. It’s best to ease off the throttle at the top of the hill, since your weight and gravity will push you along (and braking late can over-stress the front tire and cause you to flip or swerve).
  • Grip the bike. Just before you start your descent, use your upper thighs to grip the bike and keep you firmly in place with your weight at the back. Controlling your center of gravity will give you the most control over your momentum, and sitting back leaves your wrists weight-free to perform emergency braking.
  • Look ahead. A steep slope will aim a biker’s body downhill, forcing him to look straight at the road in front of his wheels. As you sit back in the seat, keep your eyes up and open your field of vision to include the road all the way down and past the slope. This will help stop the feeling that the ground is “rushing” toward you and discourage panicked maneuvers or overcorrection.
  • Resume your speed—gradually! You should be able to resume your speed at about three-quarters of the way down an average slope. However, gravity will still be pulling on you as you leave the hill, so a small amount of gas will go a long way. Gently accelerate until you can gauge your bike’s response, and fold back into the flow of traffic.

Unfortunately, no matter how well bikers work to master the art of riding, they are always at risk of collisions with passenger cars. If you were injured when your motorcycle was struck by a car, you should know that you are more likely to be blamed for the crash than another driver. Get the facts on the bias against motorcyclists in our free book, The Devil's Advocate: A Biker's Guide to Accidents & Injuries.

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