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Going on holiday with your motorcycle is twice the fun, first of all you are on holidays, and second, you are on your motorcycle. What more would you want (well, maybe some nice weather)?

But traveling on your bike with your gear requires a few reflections before you set off. Here are a few hints & tips for those of you planning to use your motorcycle to go on vacation.

Heavy-Load

The first thing you really need to do is grab your instructions/owner manual to see what the authorized maximum weight is (if you have lost yours, check the web). These figures are always listed since they represent the weight that your bike can carry safely. Any weight above that and you will forfeit any warrantee claims. You might also want to check your insurance policy what happens if you do not stick to the manufacturer’s restrictions.

Then you will need to add your weight and your pillion’s weight (if you have a pillion), plus any baggage weight. You will then know whether you are safe or not.

In practice, most bikers overload their motorcycles and still ride it safely. But you never know what bad effects it will have on your bike’s health.

Saddlebags, Panniers & topcases

If you have special saddlebags, panniers or topcases, you might want to check their maximum weight restrictions as well. These storage compartments often are limited in weight, and usually it is not for the storage compartment itself but for the compartment’s attachment points (luggage racks).

Suspension & Tires

Again, consult your manual. Each motorcycle has its own setup for heavy loads. You will need to set up your suspension accordingly, making it firmer. The last thing you want is to reach the outer limits of your suspension when taking a curve.

Your tires will need to be inflated to the right pressure. If not you risk bursting your tires while riding.

Ride (More) Safely

Riding with a heavy load on your motorcycle requires a bit more thought and patience to the actual riding itself:

Braking

For example, hitting the brakes while riding two-up and with all your luggage will mean that it is going to take longer to come to a full stop. If you require to brake several times, your brake pads will start suffering as well, and will need to be cooled down.

Your brakes need to slow down a lot of weight now. Remember that.

Handling

The handling of your motorcycle is going to be different. The Center of Gravity (CoG) will have shifted with all the weight, so you will need to take that into account when riding, especially in the tight curves.

The first few miles get to “feel” the bike’s handling.

Wind Sensitivity

Your bike will be more wind sensitive. There is more surface for the wind to push, so you will need to pay attention to that. The same applies to passing (or being passed) by trucks, on both directions (in other words watch out of oncoming trucks as well).

Once your bike starts moving because if the wind, it is going to take longer to get it back to the correct path.

Stopping

When coming to a full stop, remember that you have a lot of extra weight. This might cause your motorcycle to tumble over.

Also watch out when you put the side stand or even central stand out. Your bike is now a lot heavier and can easily dig in, causing your bike to fall over.

Theft

An obvious one that often gets forgotten. When you are in the holiday spirit, riding your heavily loaded motorcycle to your final destination, you stop over for lunch somewhere. Many bikers just leave their bikes parked with all their gear on it. When they come back, they are surprised that all their luggage is gone.

If you need to leave your bike, make sure you can keep an eye on it at all times. It is very easy to take something of your motorcycle.

Now, go out and enjoy your holiday.

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Motorcycle helmets have been unchanged for decades. Apart from new materials, and even new designs, not much has changed. But if one Russian designer, Andrew Artishchev, were to be believed, that is now going to change.

Called LiveMap, the idea is to give the motorcycle rider all the information she or he needs without requiring the biker to look away from the road. Navigational instructions, telemetric data, performance, maybe even that important email from your mother.

LiveMap uses a technology that fighter pilots (and upmarket cars) have had at their disposal for many years now; HUD, or Heads Up Display. The important data is projected inside the helmet’s visor, but obviously not 100% but just enough that it’s transparent but you can still read the data and see the road:

LiveMap-1

This way, while riding your motorcycle, you can see where you need to go without looking at your GPS, and you can see at what speed you are traveling. It’s therefore much safer for everyone involved.

LiveMap-2

The helmet would incorporate all the technology; display, electronics, batteries and even microphone. Why a microphone? Because you will be able to talk to your equipment. The helmet will be able to receive your vocal instructions to change, for example, a destination on your GPS. For example, while riding to Sturgis, the GPS is showing you the way, but then on the display you notice that you are running out of fuel. You simply tell the helmet to route you to the nearest gas station. All that without your hands leaving the handlebar and your eyes leaving the road.

LiveMap-3

The helmet will be equipped with G-sensors, gyroscope and even a digital compass. You move your head, the image on your visor changes, very much like fighter pilots in their cockpits. With light sensors on the outside, the display will brighten if there’s more outside light and dim at night.

Does this sound farfetched? You think it’s not going to happen shortly? Well think again. The Russian designer has already receive a 1 million $ grant from the Russian government, and he is currently looking for additional funding at the crowd-funding site Indiegogo.

The idea is to start making the helmets and sell a basic version for $1500 to $2000. They hope to have North American certification by mid 2014 and European ones by 2015.

Have a look at the video below for much more detail and examples:

Click here to read more about LiveMap

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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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Riding your motorcycle alone is fun, but sometimes it’s fun to share. Or you might just need to bring someone somewhere. But whatever the reason, riding with a pillion behind you has its own set of rules and customs.

Remember when you have a pillion, you are the captain of a vessel and the safety of your passengers is in your hands. So always, and I mean always, be responsible.

When I travel with a pillion, I do pretend I am the captain of an airplane. I give my passenger a safety “lesson”. Not the kind that says “this is where the emergency exits are”, and “this is how you put on your life jacket”, but more a do and do not.

(c) BMW

(c) BMW

Here are “my” rules:

Before Riding Off

  • Always ensure that your pillion is properly equippedhelmet and jacket are the minimum, gloves would be very nice as well.. Do remember that in a situation, your passenger probably doesn’t see it coming so can’t brace. The better their body is protected the safer it is for them.
  • Tell them the following:
  1. Getting on or off the motorcycle, always check with the rider first. The motorcycle is suddenly going to get or loose weight which will destabilize the bike. If the biker is not prepared, everyone is going to go down.
  2. Sit straight, not sideways.
  3. When going into a curve, either sit straight, or look over the shoulder that is inside the curve. By moving your head to the biker’s shoulder that is on the inside of the curve, the center of gravity remains the same, doing the opposite means the bike will wobble.
  4. When riding at low speeds, or in between lanes, do not fidget in your seat. Until you have reached gyroscopic speed, the bike will not be stable. Fidgeting will cause the bike to wobble, and you will all fall.
  5. No sudden movements. Moving is fine, but no sudden or jerky movements because the rider will not be prepared to counter. You can turn back, but only from the waist up.
  6. Explain some basic signals and communication. It’s up to you to “invent” them, but you can say “two taps on the shoulder means slow down” or “a shoulder squeeze means I need to stop”.
  7. They are allowed to wave at other motorcycles, but all other communication to other vehicles is up to the captain (i.e. you).

While Riding

(c) BMW

(c) BMW

  • Do NOT try to impress or scare the pillion.
  • Do not accelerate like a madman. The pillion’s head is going to be whiplashed since they don’t control the bike.
  • Do not brake strongly (unless you need to for emergencies). Strong braking is not only uncomfortable for your pillion, but the pillion will most probably slam into you.
  • Speed kills, especially when you are a pillion. It’s also very uncomfortable for them.

Things To Check Before Riding Off

  • Check the tire pressure. Usually when you have added a pillion, the weight of the bike will be such that you need to add air to your tires. Check your manual, it usually says what the tire pressure should be for pillion riding.
  • Adjust your mirrors
  • If you’ll be riding a night, check your headlights. The extra weight might be moving the headlights upwards, so you will be blinding oncoming vehicles.

Riding with a pillion can be fun since it’s two people sharing something nice. But always remember you are responsible for the pillion’s wellbeing.

If you will be riding often with a pillion, and if you bike allows it, get a sissybar. Your pillion will thank you.

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With the hot days ahead of us, or maybe you are already riding your motorcycle in warm weather, it’s time to think about what hot temperatures do to us, and what we can do about it.

When temperatures get really warm, let’s say anything above 100°F, you need to realize that riding your motorcycle for hours on end, can result in the same dangers as riding intoxicated. Once your body heat increases and stays high, if you don’t hydrate and keep cool, your head will become drowsy and you will not longer be able to focus on traffic and riding. And that is dangerous.

There are a few things you can do about it. The easiest, but definitely the less fun, is to ride only when it’s cooler, like at night. But let’s face it, who wants to do that?

Thor Vapor Hydration Pack

Thor Vapor Hydration Pack

The first thing you got to do is ensure that you are well hydrated. Drink plenty of water (no, beer is of no help, and I’d forget about drinking sugar water like Coke). Plain old tap (or mineral) water and plenty of it. One of the best ways of keeping hydrated is using a hydration pack, also called a camelback. Hydration packs are usually used for off road riding, endurance and even by track racers, but you can use one as well for normal riding. The hotter it gets, the more you need to hydrate yourself.

Instead of buying a jacket with a built-in bladder, just get a backpack hydration pack. Fill it with water, and drink while riding. Easy and you will feel much better suited for riding in hot weather. You will thank me, trust me. You will feel that you can ride for miles, even in extreme hot days.

Now let’s look at what we can do to keep your body cool. One way, an extreme way, is to buy an external device that gets mounted on your motorcycle that blows cold air on your body. In other words, an air-conditioning for motorcycles. Believe it or not, they do exist.

Entrosys airco

Entrosys airco

In Israel, a country that is usually very hot (and I don’t mean political), they are building exactly such a device. Called Entrosys, it’s an airco that sits on your bike and blows cold air inside your jacket. But it’s a very expensive solution, you can’t take a pillion and it can really only be used if you commute everyday through Death Valley.

So if you are not in the market for a portable air-conditioning unit, the next best thing is your jacket. Riding without a jacket is not an option for me, not matter how warm it is. Riding in a t-shirt or with nothing is just inviting problems, and it’s not only the dreaded road rash; what do you think your body is going to say when a bug hits it at 55 mph?

The easy way if you don’t want to end up with multiple jackets is to ensure that when you buy a jacket it has many ventilation slots. One or two slots is not enough. You need a jacket that allows you to open your arm ventilation, two or more ventilation slots in the front and let’s not forget the back. If you don’t have any ventilation in the back, air will not circulate and that is the whole idea. Air should come in the front and exit out the back, cooling you down in the process.

When shopping for a jacket, make sure you get a jacket that is to be used for summer, since they usually have vents. Even multi-season jackets will do, as long as they are okay for riding in the summer. It does mean stripping out the liner and probably the rainproofing layer, but at least you will get fresh air on your body. Wear a t-shirt underneath.

Joe Rocket meshed jacket

Joe Rocket meshed jacket

The ultimate in warm weather gear is a mesh jacket. Mesh jackets are jackets that have tiny holes all over them. They have them in male and female styles. When you put one on, once you start riding it’s like you don’t have a jacket on. You will feel air all over your body, cooling you down in the process. Most of them feel like you’re riding with a jacket.

You can get many types of jackets that are meshed, from full riding jackets with all the protection and visibility you want, to just plain jackets with the minimum of protection.

Take a look at this jacket, it’s the Joe Rocket Reactor 3.0. It’s a leather jacket that is meshed, it’s has armor and reflective stripes. If you look at the photo closely, you’ll see the mesh in the front – lots of little holes.

These meshed (or ventilated) jackets will keep you cool while riding. For the rest, wear sensible shoes (you don’t need socks) and pants. Try not to ride with shorts, unless you don’t mind bug hits and possible road rash.

Now go out and enjoy your ride.

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If you have been using your motorcycle for a few years, and you have been riding safely with a helmet, you know that after a while, your helmet starts to smell.

The odor has nothing to do with your personal hygiene, but from the fact that your skin and hair breathe and at the same time ooze an oily substance. There is very little you can do about it, and after a few years, you will be able to notice it inside your helmet. Even wearing a bandana will not prevent your helmet from smelling, it just takes longer.

So if you like having that “new helmet smell” you can either buy a fragrance especially made for helmets, or you can just clean your helmet. I much more prefer to clean my helmet and not put in some chemicals.

There are two types of insides for helmets, one is very easy to clean, the other requires a bit more work.

Removable Lining

The easy one is removable liners. This means you can remove, usually by gently pulling out, the cheekpads and lining. They are mostly held by Velcro or push-buttons, so just pull out.

Helmet Inside

Then your next step is put the removed linings and other bit & bobs into your washing machine (laundry) and set it to the “delicate” cycle. This will ensure that the linings don’t get boiled. Don’t forget to add your detergent before starting the washing machine.

When finished, just hang out to dry. Do not put in the dryer. That’s all there is to it.

Not Removable Lining

In some helmets, you can not remove the insides. For those you need a bit more work. For best working conditions, I recommend doing this in the shower.

CheekpadRemove all removable parts like your visor, cheekpads, or anything that moves. Get a big basin or bucket that is big enough for your helmet to fit in, fill it with lukewarm water and put a generous portion of good shampoo in it. Stir the water so that soap suds appear.

Use your shower to wet your helmet, in and outside. This rising operation will ensure that a) bits & dirt are removed and b) it’s ready to be cleaned.

Now place your helmet, bottom first, inside the bucket or basin. Make sure it is all in. After soaking it in, pull out the helmet and turn in around so you have access to the inside.

With your hand rub the inside. It should be covered with shampoo suds, so easy to clean. Rub the shampoo all over the inside. Be gently but firm.

Then using your shower, rinse out the shampoo thoroughly. Make sure that you have removed all shampoo, because if you don’t, you’ll have dundruff…. ;)

Place the helmet, bottom below on a surface that is well aired and let it dry naturally. I do NOT recommend using a hairdryer.

Cleaning The Outside

Although it has nothing to do with the smell you may experience when you are wearing your helmet, since you are in a cleaning mood, why not spend some time cleaning the outside?

Use a mild detergent, usually a shampoo or even a mild dish-cleaning liquid. Wet a cloth, (cotton or microfibre) put some drops of the detergent on it and gently wipe the shell. Once you have cleaned off all the dirt and dead bugs, use another wet cloth to wipe the helmet.

Helmet-Fresh-SprayRemember to clean the outside of your visor, although I prefer to do that with paper towels since they don’t leave any marks.

Using a spray cleaner

If you don’t want to spend the time cleaning your helmet, get a spray cleaner that eliminates odors.

It is not the same, but it does work, though you will need to at one time do a proper cleaning.

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It does happen, even if many of us think it’ll never happen to us. Accidents, either your fault or someone else’s, happen and you need to be prepared. Obviously making sure no accidents happen is the best thing you can do, but they do happen.

So what do you need to do after an accident. Imagine a car just ran a red light and bumped you, causing you to crash.

Car_vs_motorcykle_accident

Everyone Okay?

The first thing you need to do is ensure that everyone is okay physically, even the car driver. Take note, that even if you think you’re fine, it might be later that you discover that you are not fine.

It’s advisable to call for medical help, unless of course it was only a small fender bender. But if you have been flung to the ground, your adrenaline is preventing you from knowing that you may have cracked a rib or elbow, or worse. Even if you had on proper riding gear, with jackets, full body armor and helmets, you might still have problems and you just don’t know it yet.

In many cases, it’s wise to call in the cops, but you need to judge the situation. If the police do show up, ask them to fill out an accident report. This will help you with your insurance company.

car-motorcycle-accident-1

Take Many Photos

When you can, take out a camera or better yet, a smartphone that can take photos, and take several photos from different angels. The reason I say smartphone, is because most of them have a built-in GPS that records the exact spot. Handy if things go South afterwards and you end up in court. Take photos from different angels, distances and make sure you get the license plates. It also helps making photos of bystanders.

Now that you have recorded the accident spot from several angels you can ….

Clear The Road

If at all possible, move your motorcycle away from the road, and if possible, help the other vehicle off the road. Obstructions on the road are dangerous for you and other road users. Others might not be pleased with a traffic jam and seek ways to speed through, endangering you and others.

So clear the road as quickly as you can. The photos you took will help prove where all vehicles where and in what shape, so no worries there.

motorcycle-accidentsignExchange Contact and Insurance Info

Make sure you get the other person’s contact details, preferable from something like a driving license or ID card. Get the other person’s insurance details (hoping that they have insurance).

Write down their names, address, phone numbers, license plates and if you have witnesses, their names, addresses and phone numbers.

In many countries, you can fill out an accident form supplied by the insurance company. The form only gets filled in if both parties agree, if not, you fill out your own form.

Draw A Diagram

Whether you use a specially supplied insurance form, or just on paper, make a diagram of the accident, including names of the street. Note where each vehicle was, and where it was going.

If you do end up in court, it’s not going to be the following day, but months from now. Your memory will be hazy, so the more you have written down the better for you.

NEVER, EVER Admit Guilt

Even if it was your faulty, you never, ever, admit to it. If you do, your insurance company may (and probably will) not cover your expenses. You will be out of pocket, and the costs can be very high.

You may think it was your fault, but the insurance company’s lawyers may not. If you admit to the fault, there’s nothing they can do, so they will disown you.

Contact Your Insurance Company

As quickly as you can, preferably right after the accident, or even when you are still there, contact your insurance agent or company. Each insurance company has its own deadlines by when you need to report an accident, but the faster the better.

If you call them while you are still on the scene, they will still be able to give you instructions what you need to do.

After the Accident

If you have been knocked off your motorcycle, you may want to get on one as soon as possible. Even if your bike is badly broken and needs to be repaired, borrow/rent a bike. If you let it rest for a few days you may develop a fear that will prevent you from riding ever again. When you’ve fallen from a horse, best is to get back on one immediately. The same applies to motorcycles.

So let’s hope you never have to follow these instructions, but you never know.

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