For many motorcycle owners, living in an urban environment has its ups and downs. It's great because you save money on gas and insurance, your motorcycle can be your main mode of transportation, and navigating busy streets can be a lot easier on a bike versus a car or truck.

But then again, you also need to account for how many distractions there are in the city, and how it can potentially be a much more hazardous riding environment than say the highway or countryside. Cities are more congested, which means more people. That means more pedestrians, more people occupied on their phones, more people driving in their cars, which ultimately leads to more people not noticing or even paying attention to you. Anyone that has ridden their motorcycle in the busy city can speak from experience that one needs to be more aware of their surroundings, and their riding skills need to be above average. For some, it's part of their daily commute. For others, it's their home. Then there are riders that are simply passing through. But for those who find themselves committed to rolling through the concrete jungle, here are some useful tips to help you stay safe and keep your riding skills sharp.

Related: Why Riding A Motorcycle Is Great For Your Physical & Mental Health

1 Wear A Full-Face Helmet

A driving 2022 Harley-Davidson Street Bob
Side and front view of a moving 2022 Harley-Davidson Street Bob

Protecting your noggin is a priority regardless of what kind of environment you are riding in. While there is a plethora of different brands and styles of helmets to choose from, the one that most motorcyclists will forever stand-by is a full-face. It provides you full coverage from all sides, and it comes especially handy for when you ride through an unexpected swarm of mosquitoes.

They have been proven to be more effective at protecting riders from impact forces, which also leads to a reduction in neck injuries that would follow. In the city, a full-face helmet can protect you from any unexpected road debris, exhaust fumes, and irritating sun flares. If you are a fan of art and exciting designs, some helmets are a little more flashy, which is great for getting the attention of others. Some full-face helmets even have glow-in-the-dark patterns printed on them. So you can take comfort knowing that your helmet is protecting your dome, even from a distance at night.

2 Ride Like You're Invisible

2023 Harley-Davidson Sportster S
Press photo for the 2023 Harley-Davidson Sportster S

As mentioned before, in a city with lots of distractions, you are essentially invisible while you're on a motorcycle. In an environment where nearly everyone else is driving a car, truck, utility vehicle, etc., you need to be aware of the fact that at one point or another, someone will not be aware of you. These days distracted driving is the main cause of auto accidents, by way of smartphone use, hands-free devices, automated driving systems, and so on.

This shouldn't suggest that drivers are purposefully ignoring you, but it is your priority to make your presence known for your own safety. Because you don't need to be another statistic. Because you are comparatively smaller than the other vehicles on the road, it may be harder for a city driver to know you exist. So to let others be aware through sight and sound, it is recommended that you use your turn signals like your life depends on it, invest in some louder pipes, make sure your brake lights are working, and always be on the lookout for an emergency escape route should another driver invade your space.

3 Wear Bright Colors

Honda CBR300-2
Action shot of Honda CBR300

Ever notice how traffic cones, safety vests, and parking tickets are a bright shade of orange that is impossible to ignore from any distance? That's because they signify something that you should be aware of. The same goes for motorcycle riders. Because your own safety is your responsibility, you should make it your goal that other drivers know you exist.

That is why there are many kinds of brightly-colored jackets, vests, and helmets purposefully designed to catch people's attention. We all know that your black leather jacket is cool and badass, but if it's dark out, and it's harder for someone to see you, then you are putting yourself at risk. Sure, that lime-green jacket doesn't exude the same cool-factor as a leather jacket would. But at the very least you're much safer with it. And if you are insistent upon wearing that leather jacket, perhaps, wear a reflective vest over it.

Related: Essential Motorcycle Gear Every Ride Must Have

4 Wear All The Gear All The Time

Yamaha MT-09 COMFORT
All new Yamaha MT-09 2023 with futuristic looks

For many newer riders, a motorcycle is an extension of their self-image. They want people to think they're cool, adventurous, and edgy. It's a flex of one's ego, and that can also influence the kind of gear that they wear on the bike. Most motorcyclists check off all the necessary boxes in terms of riding gear: helmet, jacket, gloves, boots. In the event where you're riding through the city, and you get sideswiped by a distracted driver, you want to be able to protect yourself at all times.

Your motorcycle can be replaced. You, however, cannot. Unfortunately, many cocky riders will just strap on a helmet and ride off in their regular street clothes. As in sneakers, basketball shorts, and a tank top. The next time you see someone riding 110 mph in an outfit like this, there is a term used for them... organ donors.

5 Be Assertive, Not Aggressive

2023 Harley-Davidson Nightster
Press photo of a 2023 Harley-Davidson Nightster

Riding through the city can push the limits of one's riding abilities. Drivers are cutting each other off, not using turn signals, making brash and reckless decisions. There is no need for you to copy that same kind of behavior. Letting people know of your presence is all you need to do. That can be shown through using your turn signals, hand signals, revving your engine, and confidently maneuvering yourself through traffic.

There is no need to weave in-and-out of lanes like you're in the highway scene from The Matrix: Reloaded. There is no need to be making those kinds of decisions, and know that everyone else on the road isn't impressed. If anything they'll think you're being stupid and careless. Your attitude should be focused on riding responsibly through your surroundings, not like you are King Badass, Lord of the streets, and you are somehow indestructible (you won't be happy if you test that theory).

6 Practice In A Parking Lot

Black 2022 Honda CB300R cruising through a parking lot
Matte Black Metallic 2022 Honda CB300R cruising through a parking lot

If you have ever taken a motorcycle safety riding course, they are usually held in an empty lot of some kind. Ever wonder why? Parking lots are typically tight and there is limited maneuverability. Even though everyone is traveling at a slow speed, accidents still happen and 20% of auto-related incidents occur in a parking lot. Because you are on a motorcycle, you might be dealing with something a little more serious than a fender-bender.

In an effort to sharpen your skills, find yourself an empty parking lot and practice moving in and out of areas you would expect lots of traffic flow, scan for any potential hazards, park at a distance far away from everyone else, and use some traffic cones to level-up your handling skills. Don't be surprised that the skills you develop riding in a parking lot still resonate in the busy city streets too.

7 Don't Follow Too Closely

Green 2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 114 cruising on the highway
Deadwood Green Denim 2021 Harley-Davidson Fat Bob 114 cruising on the highway

Driving through the busy city streets can cause you to be a little more assertive when it comes to claiming your space. In times when traffic gets really bumper-to-bumper, it can feel like every inch counts. When you're riding on your motorcycle, you want to give yourself as much space as possible. Space equals safety, and if you are tailgating directly behind the vehicle in front of you, there will be very little time and distance to some to a complete stop. Not to mention that you are intentionally riding in someone's blind spot, and making sure other drivers are aware of you is a recurring theme on this list. Giving yourself enough space will also allow more room for you to move and scan your surroundings. You will have more room to keep an eye out for road hazards, street signs, and pedestrians.

Related: Was This The Worst Road Safety Idea for Motorcyclists?

8 Watch For Road Conditions

2022 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S and Low Rider ST
Press shot of a 2022 Harley-Davidson Low Rider S and Low Rider ST

Running over a pothole that you didn't see coming is never a fun experience. Depending on how hard you hit it, you could find yourself with a new suspension, wheels, and a hefty repair bill. The same goes for the physical conditions of the roads themselves. Urban roads go through much more construction due to over-use from thousands of vehicles every day. That means more cracks, bumps, holes, and closed-off lanes creating a ripple-effect of backed-up traffic lanes and increasingly agitated drivers. Not to mention how some city streets can be covered in gravel, steel, planks, asphalt, and polymer. Litter is also a frequent problem many motorcyclists have to deal with when riding through urban areas. It could be something innocent like a paper receipt. Or it could be something more substantial like scrap pieces of wood, plastic grocery bags, garbage, etc.

9 Always Be Scanning

Indian Sport Chief riding shot
Indian Motorcycle
Indian Sport Chief riding in a group

Because the city is a lot more active and energetic than other riding environments like country roads, suburban neighborhoods, and highways, motorcyclists have to be a lot more aware of their surroundings. That means you need to pay attention to the vehicles in front of you, next to you, and behind you, pedestrians crossing the street, emergency vehicles, construction zones, bumpy roads, and so on.

Because you have a lot more obstacles to deal with at once, motorcyclists always need to be on the lookout for potential hazards. The same goes for potential pathways for safety in the event of an emergency. Having a contingency plan for any sort of situation is something every motorcyclist should have in the back of their mind. However, your safety is multiplied for every additional contingency plan you keep in your rolodex.

10 Mind Your Left

yamaha xsr900 cornering
A Yamaha XSR900 cornering up a steep mountain road

Just because somebody doesn't have their turn signal on doesn't mean they're not going to make a turn. The same goes for drivers that leave their turn signals on longer than usual. If they are not willing to show other drivers this basic courtesy, don't expect them to make an exception for motorcycles.

If you are at an intersection, and you're looking to make a left, have that turn signal on and be willing to turn on your high beams just in case the drivers in the opposite lane don't seem to acknowledge your presence. Either let them pass, or wait for a driver to make eye-contact with you, slow down, and give you the go-ahead to make that left.