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Archive for the ‘Motorcycle Gear’ Category

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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Bikers are like most human beings, even if we don’t admit it, but we love receiving gifts. Christmas is the season for gifts, either giving them, or better yet, receiving them.

Many non-bikers who need to shop for a motorcycle loving friend or relative, never know what to get, a problem most people have during the Christmas shopping spree. But in fact, if you’ve got to get a present for under the Christmas tree for a biker, it’s really simple.

So if you are a biker, and want to make sure you get a motorcycle related gift, print out the article below, and strategically drop it where your relatives and friends can see it.

Cut below this line
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Gifts for motorcycle riders come in different flavors; from simple clothing to complicated & technical pieces for the bike.

Clothing

Clothing for bikers can be as simple as a sweater or t-shirt that can be used for riding. Or even if the weather is too cold, how about a shirt, sweater or other clothing piece that has the logo of their motorcycle manufacturer on it? Like how about one of the dozen or so Harley-Davidson shirts? Or a polo shirt from an accessory maker, like Thor’s Polo shirt You just can’t go wrong.

Or an easy gift, but always welcome, how about a Harley-Davidson baseball cap? Officially licensed by Harley, and worn by Harley lovers around the world. It’s probably one of the easiest and most simple gifts you can get, and you can’t go wrong (unless the biker doesn’t ride a Harley).

For the more adventurous shoppers, you could try something practical in terms of clothing, like gloves, or socks made for motorcycle boots. If your friend / relative rides during the cold weather, how about some silk under-gloves or a balaclava?

Giving boots, helmets and jackets are not only costly, but you’ll need to know the exact size, or at least make sure the item can be exchanged easily. These are gifts any biker will appreciate.

Bikers are always cleaning things, like their motorcycle or their hands. A microfiber towel is an ideal gift, and not expensive. Even when they receive more than one (if someone else had the brilliant idea), it will never go to waste.

If you want to get a bit more intimate, and the receiver is a woman, how about pink pajamas?

Motorcycle Related

Getting something for the motorcycle is tricky. You need to know what’s on the bike, and what can be used for that specific motorcycle model. For example, it’s probably a bad idea to buy a topcase for a Suzuki Hayabusa.

Getting stuff for the motorcycle comes into the realm of customization, and that’s a very personal taste affair. Unless the biker has stated very clearly what is wanted, better stay away.

Something that will always go down well with a biker, is a die-cast model of their ride. You will need to know that manufacturer and preferably the model, but many are available. Click here to see many die-cast models.

Novelty

One gift category that is always welcome is the novelty gift for bikers. You can find things like ties, stickers, parking signs, and literally thousands of items for bikers.

If the biker in question likes pranks, how about a Mohawk for on top of the helmet? These things stay on the helmet until 200 MPH!

As you can see, finding gifts for motorcycle riders is simple, there are so many gifts ranging from a few dollars to 100′s of dollars. You can never say you don’t know what to get for a biker, it’s just impossible.

Happy shopping.

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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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Motorcycle helmets have become a necessity, often a legal requirement when riding a motorcycle or scooter. But not only do helmets come in all shapes and sizes, and more importantly, in good or poor quality, helmets have a reasonably predefined shelf life.

How long do you keep a helmet? A lot depends on the materials used inside the helmet, and the way you treat them. The older helmets used polycarbonate as base material inside the helmet. They were subject to ultraviolet light (UV) and deteriorated quite quickly, so you will not see many of these in circulation anymore. Nowadays, an anti-UV material is used to protect the helmets, but more importantly, helmets are mostly made out of fibers, which are highly resistant to UV light.

Insides of a motorcycle helmet

Insides of a motorcycle helmet

The inside of the helmet is made in great parts out of polystyrene which is a great material to reduce the impact your head will receive in case of an accident. But the material reduces effectiveness over time.

Research has shown that polystyrene loses 2% per year in its effectiveness due to simple evaporation. So with basic mathematics, in 5 years, you’ve lost 10% of your protection, and in 10 year, you’ve lost 20%.

The reduction of the helmet’s effectiveness due to evaporation is a simple rule of thumb. More importantly is how do you treat your helmet, and how often do you use it. If the helmet is used daily, it will deteriorate more quickly then if you leave your helmet in your cupboard for days on end. Not only is there a reduction in the protection, but also the mechanisms deteriorate due to wear & tear, like for flip-up helmets. Leaving your helmet on your motorcycle fuel tank as many people do, will reduce its effectiveness more quickly thanks to the fuel evaporation. The fuel vapors that evaporate attack the materials inside your helmet, and the inside starts shrinking.

Cleaning your helmet is good, but if water gets inside the helmet, specially water with soap mixed in (never ever use anything but water and soap to clean the outside), it will again reduce your protection effectiveness. If you can, get a helmet with a removable liner. That’s easier to wash. Applying a hair dryer to the inside is nice & easy to clean and dry the helmet, but any temperature over 140° F ( 60°C) will deteriorate the helmet.

As you can see, helmets deteriorate by themselves even without using them, but taking care of the helmets will go a long way.

Helmet manufacturers used to state that you needed to change your helmet every five years. But if you treat your helmet carefully and with respect, you can always use your helmet for longer periods. Or if your head is precious to you, get a 2nd helmet and alternate. A 10% loss of protection is survivable, but 20% is not.

To look after your helmet, here are some easy tips:

  1. When not in use, place your helmet inside a dark and dry place (a cupboard for example)
  2. Never place your helmet on your fuel tank, preferably as far away as possible from the tank
  3. Clean the outside with water & soap, taking care that water does not enter the inside of the helmet
  4. If you drop your helmet hard on the floor, seriously consider replacing it

Remember that all helmets are not equal. An expensive helmet is not necessarily better than a cheaper one. One of the main sources for the quality of a helmet is maintained by the British government. The SHARP database is the reference for most helmets. Thanks to a rigorous testing protocol, a comprehensive listing of helmets and their associated quality, is maintained on the site for all to see. And best of all, it’s a free access to all.

So before you splurge on a new helmet, check SHARP to see how good the helmet is. And treat your helmet nicely. This way your helmet will save your life.

Click here to check out the SHARP listing.

 

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Many bikers love riding a motorcycle for the reason that they are alone, not bothered by any noise other than the rumbling of their motorcycle engine, and the sound of rushing winds. Riding the twisting roads, unencumbered by your normal day-to-day life, is a bliss for many.

But on the other hand there are also many bikers who ride with their pillion passenger, and who want to be able to communicate with each other. Particularly on long trips, talking to your pillion can have enormous advantages. No longer are you expected to make all the decisions on you own. “Do we stop here for a bite to eat”, or “shall we go there?” can be asked and answered while riding.

For many years, bikers who wanted to talk with their pillion had either very expensive electronic communication gadgets installed on their motorcycle, usually wired to their helmet, or used simple air tube systems that worked fine until you reached a particular speed that stopped all communication.

BluetoothBut things have changed over the recent years. Wireless technology, particularly Bluetooth, made it more interesting for bikers to use communication facilities on their motorcycles. The equipment is sufficiently small to be installed on your helmet, not on your bike, meaning that you can take the equipment with you no matter which motorcycle you ride. It also means you are not attached to your ride.

But these wireless communication gizmos also offer added advantages over talking with your pillion, like the ability to receive navigation instructions from a GPS equipped with Bluetooth, or to listen to music. Some units even connect with Bluetooth equipped walkie-talkies, allowing you to talk to your riding buddies. The latest wireless communication devices now offer the ability to talk to another biker, also equipped with the same gizmo. It doesn’t really replace a walkie-talkie since the range is very limited, and only allows you to talk to one other rider, but for those that ride in pairs, it is a good and cheap alternative.

Another advantage, or for many a disadvantage, is the ability to use the mobile phone while riding. We all know about the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving a car, and the same danger exists on a motorcycle. Even if you are not taking your hands of the handlebar to talk to someone over the mobile phone, your attention is greatly diminished. But it does give you the opportunity to remain in contact. You can answer a call, and then pull over and talk to the other person.

But one of the biggest advantages of the new generation of wireless equipment is cost. Miniaturization and greatly reduced prices make these gadgets less of a gadget and more a useful add-on for any biker. Take for example one of the most popular brands in wireless communication devices, Scala. The Scala Rider Q2 allows you to communicate for 8 hours non-stop, has a built-in FM radio and a communication range of some 1600 ft (but the other device must be the same brand).

You don’t need to talk to a pillion, and you don’t need to enable the mobile phone, but all the features are there, and it’s up to you to decide which ones you want to use. It beats using hand signals. Bluetooth technology has greatly simplified our lives on the motorcycle.

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