Abstract The popularity of motorcycle riding and the results from accident analyses constitute it as a major area of concern in road safety. Despite the importance of the human factor in motorcycle crashes, the need for a better understanding of the riding activity is not yet satisfied by academic research. Focus group discussions have been carried out with riders so as to obtain insights into the nature of riding, the risk factors that underlie this activity, as well as strategic and tactical issues. Results concern key areas of interest in motorcycle riding behaviour: rider’s individual behaviour, interactions among riders or with other road users, environment-related hazards and improvement suggestions for riding safety. The hazards originating from the environment and other road users that have been identified by the riders should be considered in further quantitative research and the implementation of corresponding countermeasures needs to be promoted. More communication is needed among road user groups and stakeholders, taking into account the needs of riders. On the other hand, the results reveal that riders might be reluctant to acknowledge the necessary contribution to the improvement of riding safety by changes in individual riding behaviour. Self-reflection should be encouraged, considering to role hedonistic objectives may play in this context. The outcome of this study permits giving preliminary recommendations on potentially beneficial education and training measures, and identifying specific topics that should be further investigated by quantitative research, such as naturalistic riding studies.