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Archive for the ‘Daily Ride’ Category

Motorcycles do break down at times, though much less nowadays then in the past. Bikes are more dependable, but it does happen that one suddenly stops working. If you are riding on a road, even a highway, tollroad or freeway, you will be able to pull over. Head of the emergency lane or to the side of the road, and do whatever you need to do to get your bike going again (remember the times that you had to switch a fuel selector for normal or reserve??).

Tunnel-riding-0

But if your motorcycle stops working inside a tunnel, then it is a whole different matter, especially in a narrow tunnel with only two single traffic lanes. Then it can become a nightmare.

Here are some simple tips to help minimize troubles:

Tunnel-riding-1

  1. The moment you find out your bike is acting up, put on your hazard warning.
  2. Make sure your lights are on (unless of course you are having electrical problems).
  3. Start slowing down before the bike slows you down. This will slow traffic down behind you in a more controlled way.
  4. Pull alongside the right side of the road as far to the right as you can, even if there is an emergency lane.
  5. Keep your light on the bike on.
  6. Make sure YOU are visible (clothing, lights, etc).
  7. If there are emergency call boxes (telephones) inside the tunnel, best is to park your bike several yards further.
  8. If there is no phone in the tunnel, walk against the traffic direction, alongside the wall to the outside (unless of course you are very close to the other side of the tunnel). Remember that it’s dark, and you will be difficult to be seen.
  9. If you are indeed in a narrow tunnel with no emergency lane, DO NOT ATTEMPT to fix the problem yourself, but get the hell out of Dodge City.
  10. Contact authorities or a garage to get your bike out of there.

Tunnel-riding-2

If you think it’ll never happen to you, think again. Every year quite a few bikes break down in a tunnel, and a few result in accidents.

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Usually bikers do not like riding the bigger highways or even tollroads/freeways. We prefer the good old country roads, with their winding curves and often better scenery. But sometimes you just can’t escape the bigger roads. To get from point A to point B in a hurry, you might not really have any choice; “it’s the highway or no way”.

But riding these kind of roads bring their own risks and challenges. Speeds are higher, there are more vehicles and you are only a very small spec on the road for many of the cars and trucks thundering along the way.

Tip 1 – Wear Bright Clothes

So the first tip is to make sure you are visible. Often car and truck drivers will have been behind the steering wheel for many hours, and their attention span limited. A motorcycle will just not be seen for that split second they need to react. Wear some high-visibility clothing, or at the least some high-visibility markings on your helmet or jacket.

Lane-Splitting

Tip 2 – Be Visible In Your Movements

Again, speeds are higher on these kind of roads, and you are not as visible as an 18-wheeler truck. So when you are maneuvering, make sure you are seen. Changing lanes, check you mirror on both sides and put out those indicators. Then check the mirrors again. You will find that there is always that car driver that is coming up faster than the traffic and before you know it, you will be intimately acquainted with him or her.

When you need to slow down, and if you have the time, press your brakes intermittently, causing your brake lights to flash. This will warn the distracted car driver behind you that you are slowing down.

Tip 3 – Do Not Let Them Tailgate You

It’s always a bad thing when a car or truck is riding a few feet behind you, but it’s even worse on a highway or tollroad/freeway. Speeds are higher, and if you need to slam the brakes, vehicles behind you will crash into you. Remember that a motorcycle will stop in approximately 50% of the distance of a car. If some idiot is not giving you the space, flash your brake lights a few times or use your arms to tell the driver to back off. But whatever you do, do not do a brake check! If the idiot persists, change lanes and let the car pass.

Note: I’ve seen quite a lot of cases where bikers get road rage towards cars that tailgate. It’s hopeless! You are the weaker one. There is nothing you can do to make sure you survive an encounter of the third kind with a car. Always remember that. You will always lose!

Tip 4 – Choose Your Lane Carefully

This is a difficult one. The right lanes are for slower traffic, but are often used by faster cars who are weaving in and out. It’s also where you will find the most number of trucks. The left lanes are normally used for overtaking, so faster. There is no real theory which lane you should be in, you’ll need to pay attention to all sides of the traffic anyway. But remember Tip #2, if you change lane, make sure you are visible. If there are three lanes, staying safe in the center lane may be a good bet, but some car drivers don’t like seeing it, so they may cut you off.

Motorcycle-on-highway

Tip 5 – Which Part of the Lane

Always try to stick to the left or right of the lane itself. The center of the lane is where it is far more slippery. Not only is that where you will find oil, radiator or brake fluid deposits coming from cars and trucks (engines are in the middle of the vehicles), but it is also the part of the lane where no tires have ran over, so dirtier, wetter and therefore slippery. If there are any objects left on the road, they will be in the center part of the lane. Riding behind a car or truck, you’re going to be running over them, not a nice thing to do.

If I had a choice, I’d stick to the right part of the lane, since most cars when overtaking will pass on the left, leaving some room for me to avoid wind turbulence.

Tip 6 – Passing Trucks

When passing trucks you always need to be aware of wind turbulence. If you are passing on the left, and there is wind blowing from that side, while you are passing, you are sheltered by the truck. But once you are clear of the truck, you will suddenly get a wind blast that could move you to the left – into a car’s passage.

If you are going really slowly, and trucks pass you, not only do you have to worry about wind coming from the right, but also the turbulence the truck creates when he passes you. Just be ready for it.

Tip 7 – Tollroads

It goes without saying, but make sure you have spare changes for the toll booths ready. Putting them in your trousers is going to be difficult to get at. If you’ve got storage space in the front of your bike, or if you are using a fuel tank bag, find a handy and easily accessible area. If not keep them in your jacket pocket. If the toll booths accept credit cards, have the car ready in your pocket or storage space.

And whatever you do, make sure you get the right toll booth and don’t end up having to push back your motorcycle because you took the ‘trucks only’, or ‘cars only’ booth.

toll

Do you have any tips for riding highways, apart from avoiding them?

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For many it’s spring, or almost. Although some parts of the country might still be seeing snow, many have had their first rays of sunshine, warm and more important, motorcycle riding weather. But if you have suffered from PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome), and finally get to ride your bike, there are a few things you are going to want to remember and take into account.

Build-Up

Do remember that you haven’t ridden your motorcycle for months, so your reflexes have slowed down and your “traffic sense” has been reduced. You will need to build it up, like an athlete who has not been able to compete or train for month needs to slowly build up. Don’t get on your bike and peel rubber, take it easy in the beginning.

Spend at least a few days riding a bit slower before falling back on your old habits. Keep a proper distance between you and other vehicles. Watch out for other bikers, they too will be “suffering” from the same reduction in riding habits.

And finally, do some stretching exercises before getting on your bike, since I’m sure that you will not have had that much physical activities during the winter, apart from shoveling snow.

Road Surfaces

Roads that you used to take last year may have, or probably will have, lost a lot of their surface during the hard winter. Potholes will have appeared during the winter where there were none before, and you may find yourself going into one if you don’t pay attention.

Pothole-Cleveland

Surfaces are often slippery after a winter, with leaves, salt, sand and other stuff still on the road surface, making it as slippery as an ice-skate rink.

Also if there still is snow on the ground, particularly on higher locations, it will have started melting, and when snow melts, it becomes water, and that water might just be flowing through that curve you were planning to put your knee down.

Dress Properly

The sun may be out, but that doesn’t mean it’s warm. Do put on a proper motorcycle jacket, wear gloves and be ready for colder weather especially if your ride is going to take a few hours. Come nightfall you will find that it still is very cold out there. You might also want to take some rain gear with you; you never know.

Be careful when you do your first ride of the season. Be patient, and just enjoy the ride. This way you can be sure to enjoy more rides this year. So, are you ready for your spring ride? What plans do you have for riding safe in your spring rides?

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We have talked about riding when it is cold (part 1part 2part 3), an activity which is not as much fun as riding during the summer to say the least. But with the right clothing (heated jackets, gloves, etc) and equipment (heated grips, saddles) you can ride even when it is freezing.

Apron-Cutoff

But if you have ever been in Europe, even in the summer, you will have with no doubt noticed that many motorcycles and scooters have something over their ride; it is an apron.

Many riders over there buy an apron that gets attached to the handlebar or a central attach point, and then the apron stretches all the way over the rider’s legs and even chest.

Apron-grips

Several aprons even extend over the handlebars covering the rider’s arms. Usually the aprons are leather or thick plastic and you will not be surprised to see the inside made out of fur or wool.

The apron keeps the rider not only warm but also dry. Which is why you also see aprons used during the summer months; the rider wants to be kept dry. It is quite often the couriers / express delivery riders who use aprons, but nowadays business folks who use their two wheels to commute. Remember that in most European countries, people keep riding all year long, and often have their motorcycle as only mode of transportation. So it is a necessity.

Apron-Motorcycle-Taxi

Motorcycle taxi almost all have them now. These taxis transport their passengers all year long, so they need to keep them warm, toasty and happy.

It is an interesting way of keeping warm and dry, even in the winter that does not seem to have caught on in the USA. Maybe one day?

Apron-Motorcycle

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We have already mentioned one of our favorite roads to ride our motorcycles on, the Deal’s Gap also known as the Tail of the Dragon. Of course we are slightly biased since the ride is close to home, but there are many others roads that can equal some of the better known roads in Europe and Asia, and they are all found here in the States.

But instead of researching them, writing them up, and publishing them, we are more inclined to show you a web site that has done exactly that.

Best-Motorcycle-Roads

Motorcycleroads.com is a site that lists the best roads to ride on in the USA, and it is not based on the web master’s opinion but of the readers.

Anyone can list their favorite road, and then others can vote if it is really a nice road. So it is you, the reader, who decides which are the great roads. As democratic as you can get.

Each road on their site is accompanied by a map, a description, the scenery encountered, the quality of the road and the amenities (restaurants, garages, hotels, bars). You can also find several photos and videos of the road. And at the very bottom, you will find the individual reviews of that road.

Just have a look at their Top 100 roads in the USA. Just have a look at what they have to say about Deal’s Gap. In fact, Deal’s Gap is listed as 2nd best road.

But there are many roads I have never heard of, but many look like real fun. So many roads, so little time.

If you plan to ride several of their listed roads, you can also get an app for your iPhone or Android smartphone. This way you can go from road to road.

So head on over to the site and start planning your next fantastic ride.

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It is that time of the year again, when many parents need to bring their children to school. Many just let them take the school bus, and many stuff their kids in a car and bring them to school. But there are also many of you who have one child and a motorcycle. So they do the easiest thing, and that is ride to school on their motorcycle, drop off their kid and then head for work.

It makes sense, but you do need to take several precautions. Remember that you are responsible for the child, and children do not always behave like adults (in fact they probably behave better than most adults I know, but that is a different topic).

Many-Kids-As-Pillion

The first question you need to ask yourself is at what age should I be able to take my child with me on my motorcycle. A lot of will depend on where you live. Laws are different in each state, even in different countries. But personally as a rule of thumb, if the kid’s legs can reach the foot rest, they should be fine. If not, a child seat will become a necessity but personally I think that is a can of worms. Manufacturing quality of the seat, ability to hold your child in place, legality of the seat, etc, more questions than answers, so I would forgo really small children on motorcycles (and don’t even think about placing your child on your fuel tank).

What not to do!

What not to do!

One thing you need to make sure: that you kid’s limbs do not touch moving or hot parts (wheel spokes, chains and exhausts). Since their legs are small, they have the possibility of moving more easily and get caught or burnt.

If the kid’s feet do not reach the foot rest it means your child is not balanced. One curve and you might just find your child on the ground.

Seat Belt

An alternative is a seat belt. There are a few on the market, and they could save the life of your child. If you buy the right one, you could even use it for an adult pillion. When you are riding long distance, pillions often get bored and can fall asleep. A seat belt will prevent them from keeling over onto the road.

Children-Motorcycle-Harness

One of the better ideas is having a harness. The harness is like a seat belt that holds your child to you.

Click here to read more about it, or to buy one.

Helmet

Get a good and but not too heavy helmet for your child. Even if you live in a helmet-less state, do think about your child; it is so easy to fall from the motorcycle, and for them the pillion seat is high, and the fall long.

It’s preferable to get a full face helmet, or a modular one. Avoid open face helmets, but if you can’t get one of the preferred ones, get a motocross helmet.

A too heavy helmet will bring future problems for your child since the weight will push down on his cervical vertebrae, so unless you want to spend a fortune on chiropractors, keep in mind the easy formula; the weight of the helmet should not be more than 1/25th of the weight of the child.

Click here to have a look at many different children helmets.

ATGATT

Accidents do happen no matter how good a biker you are, and often they are just harmless fender benders. But a small fender bender will probably mean your child will hit the ground, so best to make sure, apart from the helmet, to have a proper trouser, jacket, gloves and preferably boots. So do not bring your child on a motorcycle with a t-shirt, bermuda shorts and sandals.

Click here to look at different kid’s clothing for motorcycles

It is an investment that is for sure, and children tend to grow, so you need to buy replacements every year, but it is a worthy investment. Not only will it mean you will be riding your motorcycle, but it will probably also mean your kid will love going to school. And that is a good thing, isn’t it?

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Riding your motorcycle is fun, but when you ride for longer periods of time, your body will start protesting. At least, that is the case for many bikers. Apart from the famous monkey butt, one of the main areas of pain is your back.

If you think about it, or analyze it, your back will take all the strain of your riding posture. A lot depends on several factors; your body measurements, your motorcycle type and some parts of your motorcycle.

Motorcycle Type

Let us start with the type of motorcycle. Basically there are three types, Standard, Sports and Cruiser. Each has a body position, feet position and hands position. These three parts will form a portion of your riding comfort.

Standard

Standard Motorcycle (c) http://www.innova-pain.com/

Standard Motorcycle (c) http://www.innova-pain.com/

In the Standard motorcycle type (typically dual sports, touring bikes), your body is by default straight up, feet are directly below you and your hands straight. This is by far the best position for riding a motorcycle for longer distances.

Cruiser

The second best motorcycle type is Cruiser. Like the Standard type, your body is straight, your hands are straight (unless you are riding an extreme ape handlebar) and your feet are slightly ahead of you. Your legs will “hold” your body less than the Standard type, but your body will remain reasonable straight.

Sports

Sports Motorcycle (c) http://www.innova-pain.com/

Sports Motorcycle (c) http://www.innova-pain.com/

The Sports type requires your body to lean forward, and at higher speeds your torso will be required to fight a strong wind, while your hands are lower and your feet are behind you. In other words, there is a lot of stress on your body, one of the reasons you can not really go that far on a sports motorcycle.

Your Body

Looking at the above motorcycle types, your body measurements will have a big influence on your back. Obviously your body mass (i.e. obesity) will play an enormous factor, but then it will in other aspects of your life.

If you are above average height, you will stoop, hunching your back and thereby creating pain. Raising your handlebars will alleviate that issue. If you are smaller than average, the problem will be different, but the area that will cause your back ache will be your feet. Obviously lower your handlebars (if possible) will help, but few bikes can do that. If your feet reach the ground properly (if they don’t, change your motorcycle), then see if you can raise your foot pegs.

The objective is to straighten your back and keep it straight.

Motorcycle Parts

There are three parts to your motorcycle that can be adapted to make it easier on your back; handlebars, seat and foot pegs.

Handlebars

A motorcycle’s handlebar is made for an average height of the biker. It is obvious that a big percentage of bikers are not the right height, either too small or too big. To make your life more comfortable, and less back aches and hand/finger numbness, you can change the handlebar on your bike for something that fits better. Taller, shorter, wider, etc. When you look at the handlebar make sure it fits your body measurements.

Ask an ergonomics expert for advise what measurements you should take. When you buy a handlebar from a company like Pro Taper, they have an added advantage of usually being lighter and transmit less vibrations.

Seat

Usually the stock seat of a motorcycle is of average quality, and changing the seat for something more comfortable and more adapted towards your body measurements will do wonders towards riding longer distances.

Just adding a Airhawk can make all the difference.

Foot Pegs

Changing the position of your foot pegs will change your body posture. Many bikes allow you to lower or raise foot pegs, and if you buy aftermarket pegs, you can get something that suits your body better.

An alternative to standard foot pegs, depending on your bike are floor boards.

Summary

As you can see, your back ache comes from different areas, and you can help yourself by changing some part of your motorcycle.

Click here to read more about the positions on the three different motorcycles.

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When seasons change, you are always faced with the same question; what to wear. Now that summer is fast approaching, or maybe it has already arrived for you, you need to look at what’s in your closet for riding in the summer. I’ve already written about staying cool in hot weather, but not everyone has extreme temperatures (link). Warm weather does mean adapting your motorcycle clothing.

But whatever you wear, you always need to remember the two important rules; 1) stay protected and 2) stay cool. You do want your body to stay cool, but you also want it protected in case of an involuntary “off”.

Scene from the movie "Waking Ted Devine"

Scene from the movie “Waking Ted Devine”

Helmets

Helmets-ColorsThe biggest winner for summer riding are open faced helmets. They allow the maximum of air coming into your face and head, keeping your head cool.

Obviously they do not protect your face in case of close encounters with the tarmac, but for the rest they will protect you.

The best alternative is a modular or flip-up helmet with lots of vents. Or a crossover helmet. Riding without a helmet is foolish, even if it’s just for bug hits.

Jackets

Nowadays most jackets are well aired, even leather ones. But for sure, a leather jacket is warmer than other materials, except for meshed jackets.

Use jackets that have plenty of vents, so that when it gets warmer during your ride, you just open more and more vents. When riding in the evening, you can close your vents.

Make sure that the jacket is abrasion proof. And since it can rain at any moment (maybe not in Death Valley), bring the rain gear. Just in case!

Trousers

Most bikers like wearing jeans, and although normal jeans are strong, they offer no protection whatsoever against impact or road rash. But there are special motorcycle jeans that do protect you. They will have removable armor and often materials like Kevlar.

But make sure the jeans are well aired, i.e., offer good ventilation. You can also buy trousers that are not jeans, like cargo pants, that are protected and well aired.

Shorts, no matter how welcome they are in the warm weather, are really out of the question. Unless of course you like tattooing your skin with asphalt.

Ad from Utah Department of Public Safety

Ad from Utah Department of Public Safety

Shoes

Obviously motorcycle boots are the best choice, but in warm weather, not very practical. If you insist on sneakers, get some that sits strongly around your ankles, like basketball sneakers.

For the sake of air pollution, yours and people around you, make sure your sneakers are well vented. Because taking them off after hours of riding; you know what I mean.

Gloves

When you take an off on your bike, your first instinct is to protect yourself with your hands. It’s a natural and very human reflex, and it’s the reason we need to wear gloves.

You can get gloves that are thin leather, enough to keep your skin intact after the first impact. They don’t cause much heat build up, and will protect your knuckles from those pesky bug hits.

So when riding your motorcycle in the summer, just be cool; wear protective but well aired clothing. Staying in a hospital in the summer is a real downer.

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There are many types of motorcycles out there. Sports, dual-purpose, cruisers, customs, you name it. One style of motorcycle that became very popular in the 60’s, originally in London, UK is the cafe racer.

The cafe racer is in essence a motorcycle stripped down from cowlings and other items that make it heavy, and used to race between cafe and cafe on London. And with cafe we really mean bar.

Norton Cafe-Racer

Norton Cafe-Racer

One cafe that became very famous the world over because of the cafe racer culture is the London Ace Cafe. The Ace Cafe is an institution for bikers who visit London.

But there’s also another definition of cafe racer, that of the derogatory term thrown at motorcyclists who gather around these cafes and sit on their bike for the whole day, showing off, pretending to be hard-core bikers.

But whatever the origin of the term, the cafe racer motorcycle is unique and has a very special style. Cafe racers are identifiable, and since they are so special, you will often see them in movies.

The cafe racer style quickly spread from the United Kingdom to France, Germany, Italy and other European countries. A whole subculture came into existence because of the cafe racer; the Rockers (balanced by the Mods, a group of scooterist). Rockers were riding cafe racers, dressed in leather jackets, greased hair, and traveling from cafe to cafe usually making as much noise as they could. You can still see many movies about the two rivaling groups, the Mods & Rockers.

As far as style goes, the cafe racer is a motorcycle made for speed, not for comfort. You will not be riding long distances on a cafe racer. Fuel tanks were dented, allowing the knees of the rider to hold on tight, and the handlebars were usually very low, enabling the rider to sit in a very low and crouched position.

Norfield Cafe Racer

Norfield Cafe Racer

Often bikes from different manufacturers were combined, making funny sounding names like Triton (Triumph and Norton) or Norfield (Norton and Royal Enfield).

The first cafe racers, English tradition obliging, were British; Triumph, BSA and Norton were the order of the day, but quickly the other European manufacturers and the upcoming Japanese started producing cafe racer-like bikes. But cafe racers were “custom”, so even if it looked like one in the showroom, it could only be a cafe racer if you modified it yourself.

Cafe-Racer-Triumph

In today’s retro-world, where style from the old days is in again, cafe racers have made a comeback. It has much to do with bikers who raced cafe racers in the 60’s and 70’s, stopped riding to raise a family, and are now BAMBIs (Born Again MotorBIker).

Several web sites have specialized in depicting cafe racers, notably Bike-Exif.com or PipeBurn.com.

Today, a cafe racer doesn’t need to be made in the 60’s. You can make your own cafe racer using whatever motorcycle you want. And many do.

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MIC-LogoDespite gloomy forecasts last year, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) announced that a very strong sales of new motorcycles and scooters was achieved during 2012 in the USA. An increase of 2.6 percent was gained by the leading 19 manufacturers that the council tracks.

A total of 452,386 motorcycles were sold last year.

Almost half of the motorcycles sold were Harley-Davidson, who saw their growth increase by 6.2% in the USA (and +5.6% abroad).

Harley-Davidson-Showroom-Door

All four main segments of the market grew, a first since 2002. The scooter segment had the best increase, with 7.7%, showing that more and more people are turning to scooters for their daily commute, a lot like what has happened in Europe.

Dual-purpose motorcycles also had a spectacular growth, with 7.4 %. Dual-purpose bikes allow bikers to ride on and off road, an attractive proposition for many.

Off-highway motorcycles, i.e. dirt bikes, grew by 2.1%, while on-highway bikes went up 1.8%. All very positive results showing that more and more Americans are using motorcycles & scooters for fun and work.

MIC compared the number of miles travelled during 2009 and 2003, and the difference is astonishing; during 2009 29 BILLION miles were travelled, an increase of 8 BILLION miles over 2003.

Source: MIC

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Tail-of-the-Dragon-mapMany countries have twisting roads, but none are as famous as our Tail of the Dragon in Deals Gap North Carolina bordering with Tennessee. And since Jafrum is from that part of the country (we are headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina), it’s about time we talked about it in more detail.

The Tail of the Dragon, AKA The Dragon, is motorcycle heaven; it’s an 11 mile road (US129) counting no less that 318 (yes, you read it right, three hundred and eighteen) curves. The 2 lane blacktop road brings you through the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in other words a forest with a magic scenery. And since it’s a national park, no sudden intersections that can cause a danger for you. But the road is not meant for the scenery; don’t slow down or stop to take photos. It’s the road itself that attracts bikers.

The 11 mile ride is an incredible motorcycle ride for those of you who love the twisties. It’s one curve after the other. Although speed has been limited to 30 mph since 2005, many bikers still try to run The Dragon as fast as they can (which is not very smart since law enforcement is out in force).

Many of the sharpest curves have received funny sounding names, like Copperhead Corner, Hog Pen Bend, Mud Corner, Sunset Corner or Brake or Bust Bend.

Deals-Gap-Tree-of-Shame

Part of the folklore of Deals Gap is the Tree of Shame, a tree decorated with motorcycle parts of bikers who went just that bit too fast. It’s a reminder that it’s best to ride the road at a moderate speed. You will also need to remember that it’s not just motorcycles riding the road, you will also find many cars.

If you ride The Dragon, chances are you’ll see a photographer taking photos of you. This photographer is an institution; called Killboy you can find many of his photos on his website Killboy.com. Once you’ve done the 11 mile run and you are back safely at home, head on over to his website, since you might find a nice souvenir photo of you riding The Dragon.

If you want to see what The Dragon looks like on a motorcycle, have a look at this video (do turn down the volume before you do).

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The first decision you have to make when buying a new motorcycle is which brand and model. They are important decisions since the manufacturer and model have to please you since you’ll be riding them for years to come. But the second decision is probably as crucial as the first, namely what color.

PigeonIt may sound strange that color would be so important, but according to a recent survey done by British retailing group Halfords, depending on the color of a car, more or less bird droppings may be found. In other words, if you have got the wrong color, be prepared to be cleaning more.

The survey was made on cars, but it applies to motorcycles as well. The surface is just smaller for birds to make their deposits, but make them they will.

The survey of 1140 cars showed that 18% of cars that received bird poop were red. The next in line were blue cars at 14%, black at 11%, white at 7% and grey or silver at 3%.

The lucky ones? Kawasaki owners should be happy, since only 1% of green cars got hit by bird droppings.

Of course this is not a scientific study, but a survey. Color is not the only determining factor for a bird; location, shelter, threats etc all play a factor. But one thing is for sure, if your motorcycle has been targeted by birds, clean it off immediately. Paint will deteriorate if you don’t remove the bird droppings. You will start seeing discoloration, and that is a bad thing. And that goes especially for Ducati and Honda owners, since your motorcycles are predominantly red.

The only thing you can do if your motorcycle “sleeps” outside is put a motorcycle cover over it.

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Polar-Bear-Grand-Tour logoJust because it’s winter doesn’t mean it’s the end of your motorcycle riding fun. Yes, agreed, it’s not easy in snowy conditions, and it will mean you need to wrap yourself up in loads of layers of clothing, but riding in the winter can be much fun. Especially when you join a group of likeminded bikers.

One of these groups constitute the Polar Bear Grand Tour. Some 550 motorcycle riders brave the icy conditions and set out for rideouts. Often the rides have a purpose, like a children’s charity; brining toys to kids.

(c) Polar Bear Grand Tour

The rides are centered around New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Connecticut. Riders met up at a general starting point on Sundays, and from there they head on out in the cold.

Riding in the winter earns you points, as do special awards like giving blood at the blood banks. The accumulated points earn you patches you can wear with pride.

(c) Polar Bear Grand Tour

So not only do you get to ride your motorcycle in the winter, you do some good as well.

Click here to access the Polar Bear Grand Tour web site.

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Many of us have suffered from PMS – Parked Motorcycle Syndrome. In some areas, the winter has been very harsh, and we have not seen our motorcycles for many months. But now the riding season is there, and we are ready to hit the road.

But before we do, we need to check a few things before firing up the engine. The last thing you want is to start your motorcycle, start riding, and 1 mile further up notice that you have a problem and need to push your bike back into the garage. Not fun, and not necessary if you take a few precautions.

Battery

Even if your battery has been hooked up to a trickle charger, or un-hooked, open the filler screws and check the water level, and more importantly, check to see if the plates are straight (plates that have started curving will require you to change the battery).

If your battery was disconnected, top it up with a battery charger. If the water level is low, fill it up with demineralized water.

Oil & Filters

The first thing to check is the engine’s oil and air filter. Your bike has been immobilized for a while, and all oil has gone to the bottom. Start your engine for a few seconds to warm it up and then shut it down. Check the quality of the oil from the dip stick, looking for very small particles embedded in the oil. Best thing you can do if your bike has been out of action for a few months is change the oil and filters. Play it safe.

Tires

Many motorcycles when they are stored in a garage are left on their tires. The weight of your bike will be pressing down for months, so you’ll need to inspect if spots & cracks have started to appear in your tires. Today’s tires are very solid, but you never know. A spot (color difference) in your tire can spell disaster when riding.

Make sure your tires are all up to their proper air pressure.

Leaks

Oil-LeaksCheck below your motorcycle for oil and hydraulic fluid leaks. If you do find some, better find out where it is coming from and fix it.

Lights

Turn on the lights and check all of them, including the blinkers. Bulbs can die off when not in use.

Chain

Check the tension in your chain. Make sure it’s according to the manufacturer’s specifications.

Nuts & Bolts

Its a good idea to go around your bike and tighten all nuts & bolts. It’ s not really necessary, but it’s one of those things that does not cost much time, but can save you a lot of grievance later on.

Zero motorcycle in the sunset

(c) Zero Motorcycles

Now your motorcycle is ready to go out for the first time, but are you? Before you go out, remember that riding a motorcycle requires experience and instinct. This is normally acquired by riding many miles. It’s a good idea to start your first few rides more slowly than you would in mid summer. Take it easy and build up your instincts and traffic sense.

Ride smart, and be safe.

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We have seen what kind of clothing you should wear, and we have looked at what kind of precautions you need to take in order to ride your motorcycle during the winter months.

Now, let us look at the actual ride itself.

Once autumn is in full swing, and then the long winter months have come, roads will have become slippery. At its best, rain will have made them wet, and its worst, black ice will have presented itself, making roads treacherous.

1. Take your Time

The main rule, rule #1, is take your time. Respect the roads! Just because you are riding in a nice part of twisties in the forest, with no ice or humidity, does not mean that in the next curve there will be none. Anywhere where there are shadows, the temperature can be much lower, resulting in ice. If a part of the road is in the shadows (of trees or buildings), while the rest of the road is in the sunshine, chances are that the roads appears to be rideable, when it’s not. So ride carefully.

2. Increase your distance

Roads have become slippery, no matter what the weather conditions are. Keep more distance with the next vehicle.

3. Do Not Take Too Long

Although riding in the winter is nice, especially when you are dressed for it, do not be fooled. If it is really cold out there, no matter what you have got on, your body will start getting colder and colder. So take pauses regularly to heat up.

4. Bring Sunglasses

Sunglasses are great in the summer, and they make you look cool. But in the winter they are often a life saving necessity. Daytime during winter months are short, meaning that the sun is at its lowest. Chances are that you will be blinded faster during winter months than during summer.

5. Unsure? Feet on the ground!

If you are hitting a spot on the road which looks slippery, do not take any risks. Put down your feet to balance the bike. This serves two purposes; 1) in case you start slipping, you can redress the bike, and 2) your center of gravity is lowered, making it easier to correct your movements.

But…..

6. If you drop the bike, let it go!

If you do drop the motorcycle because it slips, and your immediate efforts do not reestablish the position of your bike, LET IT DROP! If you try to keep your motorcycle upright while it is going down, you will hurt yourself. At the very least, you will sprain your back muscles, and the worst, .. you do not even want to think about it. So let it drop.

7. Enjoy

Despite the dangers, you should enjoy yourself. Just remember that car drivers behave differently in the winter as well. They may not see you since the sun is low, and they are mindful of the road conditions. So be visible, pay attention, and just enjoy a winter ride.


If you have taken a liking to riding in the winter, then maybe you would like to participate in the Elephant Rally, or as it is known, the Elefantentreffen, This is a German organized motorcycle event in the Alps, during the winter, and involves camping in the snow, and to get there, you must arrive on a motorcycle.




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Last time we looked at what you should be wearing if you wanted to ride your motorcycle in cold weather. No matter what tips below, dressing properly is the most important one. If you do not dress properly, all other winter riding tips are of no use.

Your motorcycle will also need to dress up warmly for a ride in cold weather. You will not need to worry about putting on warm blankets over your bike, but you will need to be careful that your poor ride does not get frostbite.

Radiator

If you have a water-cooled motorcycle, just like with a car, you will need to put in antifreeze in the radiator. If not, you will have severe problems when you have stopped and the radiator cools down.

Read your motorcycle’s maintenance manual how much, and which kind of antifreeze.

Tires

If you are riding on slicks or race tires, forget it. Just do not bother, you might just as well put on ice skates and go to a skating rink, since that is what you will be doing on your motorcycle. Make sure you have at the very least street tires fitted. Knobbies are much better, since they will bite into snow, but obviously studded tires are the best when you have got snow or ice. At the very least, normal street tires will offer better grip and reach operating temperatures much quicker than slicks.

Oil

The best oil to use during winter months is a thinner oil. They will improve performance, especially right after starting your bike. Get an oil that is made for winter, but do check your motorcycle manual which ones are recommended by the manufacturer, since not all companies allow a different oil type to be used.

When shopping for oil, make sure the viscosity grade has the letter “W” next to it (e.g. 20W or 30W). The “W” denotes Winter use (source).

Protecting Your Bike

When you say winter and snow, I say salt on the roads. In most parts of the world, when it starts snowing or freezing, salt is sprayed on the roads. It’s great to ride, since the roads are far less slippery, but it does mean that you will get salt on your motorcycle, and that means corrosion. If you want to prevent this, spray some WD-40 oil on all the parts that are exposed to salt & slush, typically below your fairing, forks, engine and mudguards.

When you have finished your ride, wash off the salt from your bike. If you leave it on for the rest of the winter, chances are by spring you will find some rust spots.

Lights

It gets dark quickly, and even during daytime, it can get dark, so it’s a very good idea to make sure that your lights are in good working order. Test them out before setting off.

Mirrors (and visor)

Because of big temperature differences, it is wise to spray an anti-fogging spray on your mirrors and helmet visor.

Battery

Check the water level of your battery. If it is lower than normal, you might have a leak, and during the winter, that is not a good thing. Top it up, but make sure you close the tops firmly.

If you will be riding with heated gear, make sure your alternator can handle it. Read your motorcycle manual to see how much wattage gets generated. If the sum of what is used by riding (lights and other components) plus your heated gear exceeds the wattage supplied, your battery will run out. On its own, this will not prevent you from riding, but you will not go a long distance, and you will need to recharge your battery when you are home again.

Brakes

You will need to apply brake grease to your brakes, since sludge and salt will form around the brake pins.

Next, we will look at riding tips.

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Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can not ride your motorcycle, unless you’re living in an area that sees permanent deep frost and deep snow. And even then, depending on your motorcycle, you can still ride, but in this case you’ll need to change the rear tire for a snow track system (like those on tanks), and the front wheel will get some skis.

But if you live in an area where it is cold, rainy and sometimes some snow, you can still ride, but you’ll need to take some precautions.

Trap Heat

The most important factor for riding in the cold, is that you need to trap your body heat. Heat tends to dissipate into the cold, and it is difficult to stoke the fire inside your body to replace the lost heat. So the best way is to insulate your body from heat loss.

In the old days, people would wrap old newspapers against their body to trap the heat. Nowadays you will not need to worry about newspaper ink rubbing against your skin, giving you who-knows-what-kind-of-sickness. A microfiber layer against your skin is the first defense layer against the cold. A microfiber T-shirt is great, better yet a long-john made out of microfiber. If you don’t have microfiber, get a good cotton one. A one-piece is better than two, but having one is better than none.

TIP: You need to put on the first layer, the microfiber, when you are warm, not outside in the cold. In that case, all you will be doing is trapping the cold temperature, so defeating the idea of keeping warm. Put on the microfiber when you are warm!

Next you can put on layers of woolen sweaters or cotton or silk shirts. Don’t put on too much, if not you’ll not be able to operate your motorcycle properly. Alternatively, you can get a heated vest. Plug it into your 12V system, and you’ll be as snug as a bug in a rug.

The final layer, your jacket, needs to be totally windproof; leather or nylon will do the trick, and ideally it should be a one-piece suit. If you don’t have a one-piece suit, get one that can be zipped between the pants and jacket. This way, less heat will escape.

Extremities

Your body extremities will see the fastest heat loss. Feet, hands and very important, your head, will loose heat very fast. It’s important to keep them warm.

Hands: Make sure your gloves are the gauntlet type, i.e., fit over your jacket sleeve. This way, no cold air can come in or out via the top. You might also want to get some silk gloves to wear inside your normal gloves, since they keep the fingers warm & dry. Remember that your hands & fingers are exposed to a very cold air when riding. It’s the reason many all-year riders have heated handlebars, or heated gloves.

TIP: If heated handlebars or gloves are too expensive, consider chemical heat packs.

Feet: Your feet will not be moving much on the motorcycle so they will tend to get cold quickly, but they have a source of natural heating; your motorcycle’s engine (unless you are riding a sports motorcycle).

But you will still need to wear warm socks, preferably with silk under-socks. Make sure your boots are rainproof and do not let wind in (and therefore hot air out). In the worst case scenario, get rain boot covers.

Head: Your head, believe or not, is very important. A head, and therefore brain that is exposed for long periods of time to cold temperatures will not function properly. You will start to loose concentration, and make judgment mistakes; your reaction time will diminish dramatically. At the very least, wear a balaclava, preferably with a silk hood underneath it. An advantage of a balaclava, one that goes up to your nose, is that it will prevent your visor from fogging up, something, no matter how good your visor, will happen in the winter.

Since you will find that cold air will enter your back, get a proper neck warmer that covers your neck, chest and shoulder.

Next we’ll look at what you need to do for your motorcycle in order to ride it in the winter.

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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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Threw my leg over the warmed up Harley at 6:30 a.m. this morning. Kissed Boo goodbye and told her I’ll be back in two weeks. Worked my way on the backroads down to 212 West through Montevideo in the cool of the early morning hours and headed West. Had lunch with a young cop buddy I met a few years ago in Redfield, South Dakota. Just sitting in the park on a bench, munching a sandwich and talking about work and motorcycles. He loves to hear the old stories, and at my age, its all I have left. Now its 2:00 p.m. and I’m cruising West on 14 through the rolling South Dakota prairies. Keeping the bike at 60, I’m in no hurry.

The sunlight warm on my face, the dry wind blowing through my hair, the clock turns back and I feel 40 again. The sun casting cloud shadows on the prairie to my right, teasing me, urging me to kick the bike in the ass and race them, but I don’t. Tried that years ago, they always win. I laugh at them, and they race away, disappearing over the hills ahead. A herd of antelope suddenly appear on my left, loping along inside the fence line, I wave, but they don’t wave back, suddenly veering off down a dry grassy coulee, and disappearing from sight. The good rich smell of hot engine oil comes and goes with the breeze, the Harley has settled into a steady rhythm and the deep throated exhaust mutters along behind me. I haven’t seen another vehicle in about an hour. the last one a truck load of young girls, giggling and daring each other to wave at the biker. In my leathers, and behind the shades and dew rag, and from a distance, I probably look a bit exotic. Boy, would they be disappointed! But now, its just me and the ribbon of road, stretching out ahead of me, winding through the hills and out of sight. Beckoning and promising adventure, somewhere up ahead. Just the way you like it when you want to be alone for a while with your thoughts and just enjoy being alive.

I’ll cruise down, arcing to the South to pick up I-90 West, with a pause for the cause and a cold drink at Vivian. Maybe talk to some other bikers. On a bike, you’re never without new friends when you want them. Eager to swap stories, talk about weather ahead, and enjoy being part of a family, ever ready to stop and help a fellow biker, or share a beer and a laugh about the things we’ve all seen and done on the road. If you’re ever in trouble, call a cop. But if you’re ever in real trouble, call a biker.

I’ll pass through the Buffalo Grasslands and Rapid City, then on up to Sturgis which is just starting to wake up with the Rally just a few weeks away. Then over to Deadwood before picking up 14 to roll through the curves down through Spearfish Canyon to the Spearfish Canyon Lodge for a relaxing late supper. Spearfish Canyon, a spiritual place where God himself must ride a motorcycle on warm Summer days, with the soft, fragrant scent of pine everywhere and the gurgle and splash of Spearfish Creek to keep him, and all the bikers who come here, company.

I take a deep breath, its really good to be here, on the bike headed West. Suddenly, I hear a familiar voice, calling to me. I blink and the prairie fades away. “Hey, I said, are you alright?” Its, Boo, down below me, as I stand on a ladder, propped against the side of the house. My hands are sunk to the wrists in foul smelling glop in the storm gutter. I blink and look down at her. “I said, are you okay? You’ve been standing there motionless for almost ten minutes, just staring straight ahead. I thought you’d had a stroke. Jeez, you scared the crap out of me, you dopey old bastard!”

I clear my throat and drag more glop out of the gutter, tossing it into the bucket tied to my ladder. “No, I’m okay, I was just thinking about something and got caught up in it.” I can sit down with a home brew and tell her about it later. She’ll understand. She’s a biker, like me. She’s rolled the curves through Spearfish Canyon, smelling those pines, and has sat in the warm sunlight, with her feet in the cold, clear water of the creek on many occasions. I’ll finish my task, and then maybe open that homebrew and clean the bike, and maybe the dream will come back and I’ll make the Lodge by early evening, to sit and have a bite to eat and a cold beer before heading to my room and a nice soft bed.

Some people ask me, “Aren’t you scared, riding a motorcycle around like that?” No, I’m not. But the plain and simple truth of it is that what scares me, what really scares the living hell out of me, is what happens when I can’t ride a motorcycle around like that anymore.

What did Frost say? I have miles to go before I sleep.
Author: Jim Fleming (Jafrum.com Customer)

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Motorcycle insurance is one of the most important decisions all motorcycle owners must make. When an insurance company quotes you a rate, many factors figure in to that monthly premium including the type of motorcycle you have, how likely it is to be stolen or damaged, how old and experienced the rider is, and even where the motorcycle is being kept. All of these individual items are assessed in conjunction with each other to determine the level of risk you represent to the company. Your monthly insurance premium that you pay each month is used to offset the risk of loss. The higher the risk you represent, the higher your premium will be.

One sure fire way to lower the cost of motorcycle insurance is to remove coverage. Just like with auto insurance policies, motorcycle insurance policies vary when it comes to what they cover. Basic motorcycle insurance policies cover any damage that you and/or your motorcycle causes to someone else’s property. This is known as liability insurance and is the minimum insurance required by most state laws. Policies that cover theft (comprehensive) and damage to your motorcycle (collision) are much more expensive than liability insurance and will add to the expense of the policy.

Another way to reduce the monthly premium associated with your motorcycle insurance policy is to take a rider’s safety course. This will demonstrate to the insurance company that you have the necessary skills to ride safely, thus reducing the risk of loss. The more classes you can take to improve your riding skills, the better off you’ll be. On the flip side of this, keeping down the number of moving violations you have in both your car and on your motorcycle will also help prove that you are a responsible rider and will help reduce your premium by earning you a safe driver discount.

Insuring multiple vehicles with one insurer, or having more than one policy with a particular company will usually result in a multiple policy discount that you can take advantage of and reduce your monthly insurance bill. Many insurers will be able to offer multiple products including motorcycle insurance, homeowner’s insurance, auto insurance and more.

No matter what kind of bike you ride, having the proper insurance policy is a must. If you are unsure about what different coverages mean or what coverage you need, speak with an experienced insurance agent. These professionals are always ready to help you with all of your insurance needs and will make sure that you have the type of coverage you need and can afford.

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