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Archive for August, 2011

We all know by now that Harley-Davidson motorcycles are known for their potato-potato-potato sound. You can recognize a Harley miles away just from its sound (and probably the loud pipes). The same goes for most BMW and Ducati motorcycles.

But did you know that the sounds are engineered? It used to be that engineers and designers looked after the engine and then the motorcycle frame; the sound came automatically afterward. The only thing the engineers looked at when it came to the sound of the engine, was if it stayed within the legal regulations envelope.

(c) Harley-Davidson

If the sound sounded dull, they adapted the exhaust noise. But Harley wanted more. They continued their research and found that people liked the potato-potato-potato sound, so they set out to replicate it on all their motorcycles. During the ’90s they even went so far as to patent their sound, but despite popular believe, their attempt was unsuccessful.

This brought in a new profession in the motorcycle industry; Acoustic Engineers. Almost all, if not all, manufacturers have at least one. Their job is to ensure that when you fire up your engine, it doesn’t sound like a lame duck with a severe flu. Nothing turns off a biker more than the sound of a lawnmower, not a real motorcycle when starting up their bike.

(c) BMW Motorrad

BMW have a special wind tunnel that generates a wind flow of 200 kph, but is totally silent. This allows their engineers to measure and analyze the sound coming from the motorcycle’s engine, exhaust and frame. Special care is taken with vibrations from different parts of the motorcycle, as to ensure that they do not disrupt the bike’s melody. A test dummy sits on top of the motorcycle, and hears everything a normal biker will. That sound is recorded, and analyzed for further improvements.

(c) AVL

The motorcycle sound is made out of three different parts; the air intake, the engine noise and the exhaust, but other parts of the motorcycle can negatively influence the engineered sound, like a dry clutch. So next time your ride your bike, enjoying the throb and sound of your engine (especially in a tunnel), remember that the sound was made, not an accident.

Of course all this goes away with the coming of the electric motorcycle, unless you use a CD player with the desired sound.

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Motorcycle Injury Areas

Motorcycle Injury Areas - Source: Unknown

Riding a motorcycle is thrilling, but it entails a certain degree of danger. It’s almost impossible to ignore the inherent perils, but unfortunately, some bikers do ignore it. It’s often the thrill that attracts us to riding, but best is to be prepared. If the professionals anticipate problems, who are we to ignore it? Professionals known what’s best, so let’s not ignore what they have to say.

To reduce potential problems, there are a certain amount of steps we can undertake. Mind you, we can never eliminate them. Apart from learning properly how to control the bike under difficult circumstances, riding alert and pro-active, the only other thing we can do is wear a certain amount of protective clothing and gear. Ideally, we’d we wearing a protective bubble, but that’s not realistic. 

Your Egg

Obviously the biggest protective gear we can purchase is the helmet. There are many debates about the use of helmets, many bikers want to have the freedom of not wearing one. But the same bikers have no problem wearing a helmet when playing football! Many see the helmet on a motorcycle as only good for when they have an accident, and since they are “great” riders, they never see themselves having an accident. And it’s not just protecting your head from accidents, but what do you think about your hearing. You may be deaf to those arguments, but that’s probably because of the wind and engine noise in your ears. Not to mention all those bugs hitting you in the face. Add to that sunstroke, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

But numerous bikers have died from head injuries because when they arrived at their destination, or at a stop, their foot slipped from under them, and the bikes went down, taking the rider with it. All you need to do is hit your head on the pavement from your seated position, and you can injure yourself badly, or worse.

Many bikers believe if they ride safely, and don’t speed, they will be fine. The European Constructors Association (ACEM) have spent a long time researching motorcycle accidents in Europe, and they have issued a very detailed report on accidents involving motorcycles. The majority of accidents happened at relatively low speeds, typically lower than 30 mph.

60% of accident involved a car, while 9% involved the biker hitting the pavement by himself, i.e., falling from the motorcycle, often at a low or no speed. As an indication, more than half (54.3%) of all accidents happened at an intersection.

It’s not that the biker was not able to ride properly, since 50.5% of all accidents are caused by a car driver (37.4% are biker error and the remainder are blamed on the environment, like road problems or weather, or technical/mechanical problems). So no matter how good you ride, there’s always someone on the road who is not paying attention, and can cause a (fatal) accident.

So a good helmet, preferably full face, but if not, one that has a visor, and is properly soundproofed is a very first step.

The Emperor’s Clothes

Clothing makes the man, but in our case, proper clothing saves our lives, or at the very least, prevents us from seeking plastic surgery. Usually going off your motorcycle while the bike is still moving is not recommended, but sometimes you just don’t control it. An accident that does not involve another vehicle is usually survivable. The biggest physical risk is the journey you make from your saddle to the ground. After that, just sit down (or lie down) and enjoy the ride. If you’re thrown off from your bike while riding a road, you’ll make an intimate acquaintance with asphalt. If you’re wearing good leathers, both a jacket and trousers, it’s not going to be a big problem. Just hope there’s no traffic behind you and no obstacles to bump into. But if you’re wearing jeans, within a second, the jeans will have burned away and your body will be sliding over the pavement, leaving you with a nice asphalt tattoo.

Normal jeans will not stop road rash. Special motorcycle jeans, usually denim reinforced with Kevlar will prevent road rash, but no material is as resistant as leather. Just look at motorcycle races. A racer gets highsided at 120 mph, and slides along the track and gravel for 5 seconds, and the racer gets up and looks for the crashed motorcycle to get on and continue the race. Try that with motorcycle jeans or other motorcycle trousers. Of course we’re not racing on the roads, so special motorcycle clothes, though not leather, will help us remain beautiful and not scarred. Having armor on your knees is a good thing to have. Maybe not so comfortable to walk in, but if you’re going to go down, your knees will be one of the first points of impact. And knees are not as strong as you think, in fact, they are as fragile as eggs.

The same applies to gloves. Many bikers think gloves aren’t of any use. Apart from protecting your hands from bugs hitting them, and keeping our hands warm in the winter, the obvious one is when you hit the pavement. Going down while riding is going to require medical intervention if you don’t have gloves, it’s guaranteed, but even if you drop the bike while at standstill will involve your hands hitting the ground first. It’s a natural reflex, using your hands to soften the fall. Even then you can scrape your hands resulting in road rash. No matter how minor the road rash, it’s not going to be pleasant.

Jackets, reinforced with armor at the elbows and back are equally important. Falling off your bike when riding usually means the first point of impact is your hands, followed by your elbows and/or back. Your elbows are very fragile, and an elbow fracture will be the least you’ll have on an off. 

Say What?

And finally, one area many ATGATT bikers don’t think about, your ears. When traveling on your motorcycle at a speed of 60 mph, the very best helmets will let through 90 dB of noise. The noise is usually the wind turbulence mixed with engine and traffic sound. Imagine listening to 90 dB noise for hours on end. And that’s for high-end helmets, mediocre ones let through 100 to 110 dB, enough to make you deaf for the rest of your life. Having ear plugs is a good idea. They are small enough to carry in your pocket, and you can either buy generic foam one-size-fits-all, or custom-made ones. You can even buy ones with small loudspeakers in them so you can listen to music. For a few dollars, you can make sure when you get older, you’ll still be able to hear things.


Nonfatal Injuries 2001-2008

Source: CDC

So you may think that riding in a t-shirt and sandals is cool, but the consequences if you go off your bike aren’t. If you think you are too good to have an accident, I’ve got news for you: you’re a prime candidate for one. Better safe than sorry. Get yourself equipped. Read what the Center of Disease Control (CDC) have to say.

Source: CDC


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To most motorcycle riders in the world, Sturgis is a name that is known to all. Even in the most remote places around the globe, bikers will have heard of Sturgis.

Normally throughout the year, Sturgis is a small city located in South Dakota with a population of some 6,600 souls. But once a year the city swells to 400,000 to 750,000 people; all bikers or biker wannabees.

Officially called the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the first rally was held way back in 1938, and consisted of a race with 9 participants and a very small audience.

Over the years it has become world’s largest motorcycle rally and gathering. Not only do bikers from all over the USA visit the hills of South Dakota, but bikers from almost every country in the world attend this pilgrimage.

What To Do And Where To Go During The Rally

There’s always a lot of things happening in and around Sturgis. Once you’re there, your priority will be to find a place to stay (which is something you should have done well in advance). The prime and most “in” place is at the Buffalo Chip camping grounds. It’s pretty close to Sturgis, and not only is it a full service camping ground (meaning showers, toilets), but it also has its own entertainment. Big concerts are given there, and it’s a 24 hour party field. Think of Buffalo Chip as the Woodstock of the 2000′s.

But there are obviously many other places to stay, ranging from hotels to private homes. If you’re planing to attend the event with a RV, there’s plenty of places for those as well. Best is to access the official Sturgis Motorcycle Rally site for a list of places. http://www.sturgismotorcyclerally.com/

Sturgis Main Street (c) Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

As for entertainment in Sturgis, it’s centered around 3 areas. The main gathering point is Main Street. That’s where you’ll find a lot of the bars, saloons and eating places, and where you’ll find thousands of motorcycles parked.

Walk around the streets, gawking at other bikers, and visit the many vendors installed alongside streets and alleys. Or take part in the Beer Belly Contest. At least all the beer drinking is going to pay off.

You’ll find plenty of stuff to buy, from serious motorcycle gear, to souvenirs and if you’re in the market for a tattoo, now’s the time to do it.

Concerts and live music can be found anywhere. The major camping grounds all have big concerts as do several of the big bars.

One of the main motorcycle parades is the Mayor’s Ride, with many thousands attending. The ride is a charity ride, so you’ll need to cough up some money, but the proceeds go to the Fire Department. But if you don’t want to go anywhere but still enjoy the throb of your engine, go to one of the tire burnouts. The better the burnout, the higher the applause, the bigger the chance you get to win the prize.

Another thing you can do, is get married. Of course you can get married almost anywhere, but doing it in presence of 1000′s of like minded bikers can be fun. So what better than two unforgettable events for the price of one.

If you want to try out a new bike, there’s plenty of manufacturers there offering you demo rides. You’ll also find other bikers who have the motorcycle you lust for, so strike up a conversation and find out of the bike is really hot.

Security

Whenever there are crowds, you’ll find problems; it’s a given. Sturgis is no exception, except that the security is provided by police officers from far away (Sturgis’s police force is not big) and almost all of the cops are bikers themselves. So they know what it’s all about. Unless you plan to ride through a busy street at 100 miles per hour, they’re not going to bother you. In fact, they’ll be looking at your bike, comparing it to theirs.

For the rest, remember what you do when you are in a big crowded city. Keep you belongings and valuables close to you. Lock your motorcycle, and don’t leave your helmet and other belongings on the bike. Just because you’re with other bikers doesn’t mean that someone is not honest. You’ll also find many pickpockets working the area.

One item you may not want to forget when attending Sturgis: earplugs! Noise levels can attain very high levels, almost day & night. If there’s something you’ll remember Sturgis by, it’s the constant rumble of motorcycle engines, and the smell of burning rubber. But it’s a well worth visit.

Sturgis Burnout

Sturgis Burnout (c) Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Like most popular events, things have become commercial. Although the main events are free, you will be asked to dish out money almost everywhere. But if you go to Disney, it’s the same. Remember, you’re visiting the Mecca of the motorcycle world. It’s a pilgrimage you need to do at least once in your life.

If you want to attend this mythical and magical event, the next date is August 6th to 12th 2012.

Since Sturgis 2011 is on at this moment, you can catch a glimpse using one of the several webcams installed. This will give you a great idea what to expect.

http://www.sturgismotorcyclerally.com/webcams/

http://sturgiszone.com/sturgis-web-cam/

http://www.wwolf.net/webcam/

http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/app/pages/sturgis_webcam/

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