No, motorcycles don’t have seatbelts. And it’s a good thing for us that they don’t. Unlike cars, motorcycles are much safer without them.
Why Don’t Motorcycles Have Seatbelts?
Motorcycles don’t have seatbelts because they’re safer that way. There are a few reasons for that.
Motorcycles require a lot more nuanced control. You need to be able to shift your weight and lift your legs up and down. You also have to manipulate the handlebars. A seatbelt could restrict your ability to handle all these controls on your motorcycle.
It’s also possible that you might have to stand up at a stop to get more leverage and keep the bike balanced. A seat belt would keep you from doing this in time, which could cause you to tip the bike. Speaking of which…
Cars stay upright by themselves, but motorcycles have to be balanced. Because tipping over is a possibility, the rider needs to be able to bail if the bike is starting to fall.
Imagine you’re rolling up to a stop, and the motorcycle starts to lose forward momentum earlier than you expected. You don’t have time to balance it with your feet before it tips over. If you have a seatbelt on, there’s no way you can unbuckle it in time. You’re going down with the bike.
At the very least, this means you’ll get your leg crushed under the bike. And if you’re still moving at a decent speed, it’s going to pull you across the pavement for a while too. It’s better for you to be able to bail off. Whether you land on your feet or your side, you’ll fare better than falling under bike.
Most importantly, not having a seatbelt on your motorcycle is much safer in case of a collision with another vehicle.
In a car, you want a seatbelt because, in a crash, you could be flung through the windshield without it. You may also hit the other car and end up in the middle of the crash itself, and the windshield isn’t exactly soft and squishy either.
With a seatbelt, though, you stay inside the car. The car then acts like a protective box that absorbs the impact instead of you.
That definitely isn’t the case on a motorcycle. Instead, a seatbelt on a motorcycle would keep you in the crash.
Without a seatbelt, you can put the bike down and slide off, and even if you forget to crash correctly, you’re more likely to be flung away from it. And while hitting the ground and rolling across it isn’t going to be fun either, it’s a lot better than getting trapped under your motorcycle, a car, or both.
A Note on Big Bikes and Trikes
You might be thinking, okay, that makes sense for a 250cc crotch rocket, but I have a 2,000cc Harley that’s heavier than some cars out there. Isn’t it big enough to protect me? Plus, my windscreen is so tall, I’m not sure I’d be flung free of the crash anyway.
Some bikes actually do have safety systems more similar to cars for this reason. For example, Honda has included airbags on some of its Gold Wing models for years. (Read: Do motorcycles have airbags?)
In fact, they even patented a motorcycle seatbelt, though they haven’t actually installed it on any of their models.
Nevertheless, it’s possible that as motorcycles continue to get bigger with more safety features, seatbelts may be included if manufacturers determine them to be safer than otherwise.
How to Be Safe Without a Seatbelt
Just because seatbelts aren’t safe on a motorcycle doesn’t mean there aren’t other precautions you should take.
If you’re concerned about staying safe on your motorcycle, there are a lot of things you can do to minimize your risk.
Wear Your Helmet
Helmets are to motorcycles what seatbelts are to cars. In many jurisdictions, a helmet meeting certain standards is actually required, but even if it’s not, you should wear one.
Not only that, but you should consider buying a helmet that meets higher safety standards like SNELL.
Wear Other Safety Gear
Helmets are usually the only safety gear required by law, but there are lots of other pieces of equipment that can protect your body in case of a crash. These include:
- Jackets and armored hoodies
- Motorcycle boots
- Elbow and knee pads
- Reflective vests
- Motorcycle gloves
Maintain Your Motorcycle
Take your bike in for regular maintenance and make sure the oil, air filter, and tires are replaced as necessary. Make sure to keep the chain clean as well.
In addition to these regular maintenance tasks, you should also check the following things before each ride:
- Tire pressure – (Read about motorcycle TPMS systems)
- Lights and signals
- Gas level
If you forgot about them after reading through your state’s motorcycle license manual, there are a number of smart riding habits you should practice to stay safe:
- Check the weather before your ride and don’t ride in rain or snow.
- Don’t ride if you’re intoxicated.
- Don’t ride if you’re emotionally stressed and distracted. Stay relaxed and focused.
- Drive defensively and assume other drivers may not see you.
- Pay attention and stay aware of your surroundings.
It might seem strange to think there’s a right way to crash and a wrong way, but there is.
Most importantly, you want to fall with the bike, not over the top of it, which will send you into the center of the collision and/or make your impact with the ground that much harder.
However, crashing correctly is really a whole process:
(Disclaimer: I am not a driving instructor or professional driver. The following advice is based on my personal experience learning to ride and riding motorcycles.)
- Slow down. This may seem obvious, but it isn’t. Especially because, generally speaking, you should actually accelerate your motorcycle out of danger. However, if you’re positive you’re going to crash, slowing down will minimize the force of the impact.
- Put the motorcycle down before you crash. You’re going to hit the ground anyway, so do it on your terms. Tip the motorcycle onto the ground so that it slides into the other vehicle rather than hitting head on. And as I mentioned, you should fall with the bike as you do it.
- Fall off. This part should be easy, right? Once you’ve fallen with your bike, let go of it so that it keeps sliding toward the collision and you don’t.
- Go limp. Relax your body as much as you can. If you tense up, you’re more likely to suffer serious injury.
- Get up calmly. A lot of people try to get to their feet while they’re actually still moving. This could injure you’re legs and cause you to fall. So be calm, breath, and get up when you’re stable.
- Use common sense. Situations are always unique and have their own risks. For instance, just because I said to get up calmly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t jump out of the way if a semi-truck is headed for you.
So no, motorcycles don’t have seatbelts. They’re safer without them. You can also improve on that safety by having good safety habits while you’re riding.