What does riding defensively mean to you? I guess you could look at it as the opposite of riding aggressively. It is riding like you’re invisible and preparing yourself in vulnerable positions.
Motorcycles are considered to be vulnerable road users. We are grouped in with pedestrians and cyclists due to the fact that if we tangle with a larger vehicle like a car, truck or bus, we are going to lose.
The first step to riding defensively starts before the bike does. Wear hi-viz gear to maximize your visibility. Use proper lane positioning and stay out of blind spots. You can gently swerve back and forth in your lane when approaching an intersection to improve allow oncoming vehicles to see you better. When riding with a group of motorcycles only the lead rider should swerve and only when he has room to do so amongst their fellow riders.
Defensive riding means controlling your speed, especially in potentially dangerous situations like intersections and lane merges. The difference in stopping distance at a lower speed can be critical. Covering the brakes in potentially dangerous situations with your fingers and toes can save you a fraction of a second and improve your stopping distance.
100% concentration is also an important part of defensive driving. Tune out distractions like playing with controls or functions like a GPS or phone.
SIPDE is an old acronym that stands for Survey, Identify, Predict, Decide & Execute. To survey is to scan ahead for hazards. Identify is to determine the potential risk. Predict is determine the direction of the hazard in relation to your direction. Decide is determining your best course of action to avoid the hazard and could include braking or swerving. Execute is putting your decision into action to avoid the hazard.
The most important part of defensive riding is the realization that none of the above comes naturally. It all takes conscious decisions and practice. It is your decision to survey the surroundings, cover the brakes, gently swerve at intersections, etc. Proficiency comes from practice to be the best rider that you can be!