Get your motor running: Seasonal boat and motorcycle tips

Whether you’re the captain of your own ship or a biker who can’t wait to take to the open road, when the weather turns friendly, it’s time to break out your favorite nice-weather toys. But when the cold winds have died down or the last snowflake has melted, there’s a checklist to follow and some rules to adhere to when it comes to your seasonal toys. Here’s how to play it safe but still get the most out your boat or motorcycle.

Motorcycle mania: Hit the road, but play it safe

Motorcycle enthusiasts are a unique breed — maybe a bit rebellious, passionate about the kind of bike they ride, and often harboring an insatiable desire for the open road. But like other motorists, cyclists have to play by the rules, not only for their own safety, but for the safety of those who share their stretch of road.

Ready, set, go!

If you’re a motorcycle owner, you know it’s always a little bit sad to put your bike away for the winter. As soon as the weather gets nicer, you just want to strap on your helmet and go for a ride in the sunshine. Not so fast — that hog has been stationary for several months, so it’s safe to say she probably needs some TLC and maybe some preventative maintenance. Whether you’re planning a cross-country trip or just tooling over to the grocery store, here are some to-dos before hitting the pavement.

Inspect your helmet. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), your helmet should meet the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) Federal Motor Vehicle Standards, so look for the DOT symbol on the outside back of the helmet. A certified helmet also will have a permanent inside label identifying the manufacturer and providing information about the care and use of the helmet.

Protect yourself. Cyclists should have adequate protection for their eyes, hands, extremities, and feet. Bad weather, bugs, and road debris can wreak havoc on exposed skin. Don some heavy denim or leather to protect you from the elements, and don’t forget the sunscreen!

Check the tires. Make sure the tires are properly inflated, have sufficient tread, and show no signs of dry rot. It’s never a bad idea to take your bike in for an experienced motorcycle mechanic’s once-over.

Perform preventive maintenance. Change the oil and check to your bike’s brake fluid and coolant levels. Inspect the filters (air, fuel, and oil), and don’t forget to lube the chain.

Inspect shocks and brakes. Check for warped discs, listen for squeaks and squeals, and feel for dragging or heavy brakes. You can check the shocks by pushing down on the bike to see if they compress properly.

Consider your passenger. If you’re carrying a friend on the back of your bike, make sure he or she waits until the engine has started before mounting the cycle. They should wear a helmet, too, sit as far forward as possible, and to keep both feet on the foot rests at all times.

Ride responsibly. C’mon, if you’re an experienced cyclist, you know the rules. Obey them. Be mindful about traffic lights and signs, speed limits, and ride with the flow of traffic. According to the NHSTA, careless lane-changing and not practicing defensive driving is the cause of a majority of multi-vehicle accidents, because other drivers didn’t spot a cyclist before it was too late. And consider affixing reflective materials to your motorcycle and riding with your headlights on at all time to increase your visibility.

Get your ticket to ride this season with Grinnell Mutual’ s One Policy, which includes your land-based recreational vehicle for the unexpected detours life sometimes takes. Quit stalling and contact your local agent today.

Set sail safely

If you’re an avid boater, you know there’s really nothing like the first sail of the season — wind in your hair, sun on your face, and maybe a fish or two on your line. Whether you’re charting unfamiliar waters or floating on your favorite pond, any super-sized toy comes with some rules.

Sail sober. You may think that you’re safer behind the wheel of a boat than you are a car after a few beers, but there’s no difference between driving a car intoxicated and captaining a boat intoxicated. Both can lead to property damage, serious injury, or death. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), alcohol is responsible for a third of all recreational boating fatalities, so wait until you’re on dry land (and have a designated driver) for a tall cold one.

Learn the ropes. The CDC cites operator error as the culprit behind seven out of 10 boating accidents. Whether you’re a novice boater or someone who’s skilled at sailing, it’s a great idea to take boating education classes, even if it’s just to refresh your memory. You could save a life — even your own.

Make a fashion statement. Yes, we mean by wearing a life jacket. Before you protest, know that the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) maintains that an appropriately-sized life jacket in good condition can protect you from deadly disasters — no one expects their boat to capsize. To meet USCG requirements, a boat must have a USCG-approved life jacket for each person aboard, and all states have regulations regarding life jackets for children. Make sure the life jackets on board are easily accessible — don’t lock them away or have geared stored on top of them.

Breathe easy. It’s rarely mentioned, but carbon monoxide (CO) — an odorless, poisonous gas — is emitted by all boat engines and onboard motor generators. CO poisoning can easily be mistaken for seasickness and kill quickly. Be aware of the risk, make sure your watercraft has sufficient ventilation, properly install and maintain equipment, and use CO detectors if your boat has living and sleeping areas (lucky you!).

Are you the captain of your own ship? Why chart unfamiliar waters when you’ll know exactly where you are with comprehensive watercraft coverage from Grinnell Mutual? Contact your local agent today to set sail for tomorrow.

…and we didn’t forget about you, ATV aficionados!

Your all-terrain vehicle (ATV) isn’t just a summer toy — you get to play with it whether there’s a fresh blanket of snow on the ground or it’s a perfectly sunny spring afternoon. So we’ve got great information about preparing and riding your ATV, too. Grinnell Mutual understands that adventure isn’t one-size-fits-all, which is why ATV is included in our comprehensive OnePolicy plan, which allows you to focus on fun, not the fuss of multiple policies. Contact your local agent today to get covered, rain or shine.