Although the winters are cold and long, Western South Dakota and Eastern Wyoming are still great places to ride a motorcycle. There is plenty of open road and beautiful scenery to take in while you ride.

If you’ve been meaning to take up motorcycling for the first time or revive a practice you once loved, you may be hesitating for safety reasons. It is well documented that riding a motorcycle is considerably more dangerous than driving in a car. That being said, there are three factors that can greatly increase your safety on two wheels without sacrificing the thrill that comes with riding a motorcycle.

The class of motorcycle you ride impacts crash and fatality risk

If you include motor scooters, there are at least eight classes of motorcycles in the United States, all with slightly different purposes and different safety records.

The safest and most user-friendly motorcycles are standards, cruisers, and touring bikes. Cruisers and touring bikes tend to be bigger and heavier, with extra comfort features and the ability to store luggage/cargo. Most importantly for safety reasons, they balance the ratio of power to weight, making them easy to use and reducing the chances that the rider will lose control of the bike.

Some riders crave raw power and speed, so they opt for motorcycles with “sport” in the description. These are modified versions of racing motorcycles and include the unclad sport, the sport and the supersport classes. Generally, these bikes are characterized by low weight and high power, which gives them the ability to accelerate quickly and travel at higher speeds. For these reasons, they are also much more dangerous. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the death rate among riders of supersport motorcycles is about 4 times higher than that of standards and cruisers.

In short, the choice is pretty simple. Sport bikes are exciting, but unless you’re a professional rider, you are much safer choosing a non-sport model.

The one safety feature that you shouldn’t go without

Motorcycles offer as many features and comfort options as cars do. Many are just a matter of preference and budget, but certain safety features are worth the extra money. The one feature you should definitely look for is an antilock braking system. The IIHS says that even when comparing the same model with and without an ABS, having ABS brakes reduces the risk of a fatal crash by 31 percent. Brakes that lock can cause a skid, which is dangerous enough in a car. On a motorcycle, however, it is likely to be deadly.

No matter what you ride, always wear a helmet

South Dakota and Wyoming have what are known as partial helmet laws, meaning that not all riders are required to wear them. Despite what the law says, however, wearing a helmet is perhaps the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of death or serious brain injury.

Statistics show that riders who don’t wear helmets are three times more likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury in a crash – and that’s if they survive the crash. Wearing a helmet can lower a rider’s fatality risk between 37 and 42 percent.

Remember: even if you are a well-trained and skilled rider, you can’t control road conditions or the actions of other motorists. Wearing a helmet is the most effective way to protect yourself against the factors that are out of your control.

Motorcyclists have the same rights as other drivers

The information above is meant to help you make the safest choices when it comes to your vehicle and safety equipment. But much of the danger motorcyclists face is related to the negligent drivers that they encounter. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured by the driver of a car or truck, please remember that you have the right to pursue fair and full compensation for your injuries.