Switching Bikes Can Lead to Trouble

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Even experienced riders can be pretty wobbly when they hop on an unfamiliar bike, according to data from the country's largest motorcycle insurer, Progressive.

The study of almost 2 million motorcycle policies over a five-year period finds that riders who switch bikes are nearly 70 percent more likely to crash than riders who keep the same bike.

"Most people already know that riding can be especially dangerous for new bikers," said Rick Stern, a Progressive motorcycle product manager who is also a rider. "But our data shows that the less familiar you are with your bike, the more likely you are to be involved in a collision, regardless of your experience."

The study also found cruiser riders who switch to sport bikes are three-and-a-half times more likely to crash. That's more than double the risk they'd have than if they just switched to another cruiser.

Sport bikers, on the other hand, can reduce their risk by more than a third just by switching to a cruiser.

"We want experienced riders to know their risks so they can take extra precautions when they replace their bikes," said Stern. "It's a good idea for riders to take their new bike out for a couple of shake down cruises in a parking lot before hitting the open road."

Even people who have been riding for years can benefit from practicing the basics on their new bike, Stern said, including low-speed riding, turning, shifting and swerving, and higher-speed panic stopping.

After all, if the goal is to keep the dirty side down and the shiny side up, there's no substitute for experience-and not just experience on the road, but also on the bike.