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Archive for the ‘Motorcycle safety’ Category

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’ve talked a few months ago about a new technology helmet coming from Russia, the Livemap helmet. But in the mean time, several other companies have announced the design of these kind of high-tech helmets.

One of the latest is from California and is called Skully Helmets. Skully Helmets, like Livemap, is stuffed with technologies; Heads Up Display, GPS, 180° video camera, Bluetooth connection, etc. (but it’s not limited to Skully; Nuviz, BikeHUD and even Reevu)

Skully Helmet

Skully Helmet

Jetfighter HUD

Jetfighter HUD

The technology used is what you will keep seeing, either integrated inside the helmet, or standalone like Google Glass. The idea is to provide essential information to the rider without overloading the biker.

Safety-wise it’s a double edge sword; the technology allows the rider to receive important information, like telemetry data (speed, revs, temperature, etc), navigation instructions (GPS), road & traffic data and other information without their eyes leaving the road. It’s safer since the rider can concentrate on the road and traffic.

But on the downside is the fact that there is more and more information given to the rider, with is not only a distraction but also an information overload. And furthermore, developers will not stop there. What about that important email from your boss? Shouldn’t that be displayed as well? Or the latest stock prices?

It is one of the reasons that Google Glass has been forbidden to be used while driving almost everywhere in the world.

So on one side, it’s handy to have a Robocop-like helmet, but on the other side, it the development is not strictly controlled, it will become a danger.

Robocop

Robocop

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Europe has predominantly roundabouts, while North America sees mostly 4-Way Stops at intersections. But the question is which is more efficient, and which is safer.

MythBusters tackled this hot issue by measuring throughput using both methods. You can see the results in the video below. But before you do….

Roundabout

Roundabout

For those who are not used to riding with roundabouts, the scope is that you have two types of roundabouts; one where priority is given to vehicles on the roundabout, the other is priority is given to vehicles coming onto the roundabout. The usage will depend on the traffic layout and road density. The most commonly used one, is for priority is given to vehicles on the roundabout.

4-Way-Stop

4-Way-Stop

The advantages of the 4-Way Stops are they require less money to make since roundabouts take up more space and use up more road materials. A 4-Way Stop is also built much quicker than a roundabout. Roundabouts can also be used for more than 2 roads, they can have as many as are required.

Paris Arc de Triomphe roundabout with 11 roads

Paris Arc de Triomphe roundabout with 12 roads

But as you will see from the video, the efficiency of a roundabout is a lot, and I mean A LOT, more efficient.

Ecology-wise, a roundabout makes vehicles use less gasoline. With a 4-Way Stop, even if you are the only vehicle, according to the law, you MUST come to a full stop. Then you start rolling again. Even with a motorcycle, that will use more petrol. With a roundabout, if there is no traffic on the roundabout itself, you do not need to stop, you just keep on rolling. So less petrol is used.

As a biker, I prefer roundabouts. They are a bit safer than 4-Way Stops since I am always afraid that some SUV is going to forget it was my turn to enter the intersection. I’m not talking about malicious intent, just a mis-communication. With roundabouts, there is no problem with mis-communication; if you are on the roundabout, you have priority. So it’s relatively safer. I say relatively, since on roundabouts with more than 1 lane, it is not unusual to see accidents with vehicles in the inner lane suddenly turning out of the roundabout. And that can cause crashes, as I have experienced firsthand.

But on a whole, roundabouts are the way forward. Traffic becomes more fluid, safer and more ecological. So what are we waiting for? However, sometimes planners go wild with roundabouts. Here is one you do not want to take with a motorcycle:

Multiple roundabouts inside one big roundabout (UK)

Multiple roundabouts inside one big roundabout (UK)

What do you think? Are you for the American system or the European?

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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 in a city, big or small, brings many more risks for us motorcycle riders. Cities have more traffic, therefore more cars that can bump into us like strangers in the night. But not all cities are equal in the risk you undertake when riding there. It is strange that some cities are consistently bad to drive, while others are more or less a pleasure. What causes this? Is it the city itself that makes people drive their car badly, or is it the air they breath?

We can not really answer that question, if we could, we would probably be very rich. But what we can do is tell you which cities are great to ride your motorcycle in, and which you should avoid like the bubonic plague.

Insurance company AllState research every year where the most claims for car accidents are filed. They look at 200 cities in the USA, and correlate the data into a comprehensive report, showing what are the safe cities, and which are not.

Obviously there are differences in driving ethics between big and smaller cities. In bigger cities, people spend longer times in their cars, and therefore are more frequently annoyed. In smaller cities, speeds tend to be faster.

According to AllState, the best place to drive is Fort Collins in Colorado. Compared to the national average, you have 28.2% less chance to have an accident there. For an individual person, they will have on average an accident every 13.9 years. That means almost 14 years between accidents.

The safest “big” city to drive in is Phoenix, Arizona, with a 2% less chance of an accident, and an average accident every 9.8 years. Not bad, plus you can ride your motorcycle all year there.

Washington DC Traffic

Washington DC Traffic

The worst city in the USA, therefore the unsafest, is Washington, DC. There the chance of having an accident is 109.3%, so it’s almost a guarantee that you will be in some sort of an accident. The average number of years between accidents there is 4.8 years. Washington in particular is probably the city where the air you breath makes you an aggressive and bad driver. All that testosterone in the air.

You can read the data and explanations by clicking here. And if you want to read the whole report, click here to read the PDF report.

Remember that when you ride your motorcycle, it is always best to be ATGATT (All the Gear, All The Time). This is always important, but riding in a city brings so many more dangers with cars all around you that can hit you.  Wearing a Helmet, jacket, boots and gloves are the only way you can escape these kind of dangers.

So ride safe, even if you have to ride in Washington.

Source: AllState

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Riding your motorcycle as we all know requires you to be and stay alert. If your concentration goes, or even worse, you fall asleep, you are going to be in deep trouble. So on long motorcycle trips you need to make sure you stay alert. Imagine riding from or to Sturgis? You could be in for a couple of days with 100′s of miles of road per day, and at times the roads are boring. Your attention starts slipping, and you are going to miss that truck about to cut you off.

The obvious choice for many bikers is to drink some coffee, and it is a wise choice. But remember on all the drinks mentioned below, a lot will depend on your own body but more importantly, your health. If you have a weak heart, think twice before taking any special drinks, or better yet, consult your doctor.

Coffee

Biker-Blend-CoffeeCoffee is easy to get, but for it to make any sense it needs to be pretty strong. Typically an Italian or French expresso coffee (the small cups, typically 2 fl oz.) contains an average of 100 mg of caffeine.

It is the caffeine that will keep your mind active for a few hours. But it will also increase your heart rate and might also give your muscles some cramps, so there are downsides.

But mind you, if you are a regular coffee drinker, 100 mg of caffeine will probably not do the trick, and you might want to drink 2 or 3.

Normal coffee cups, the good old java, is fine too, but you will need a cup or two, and there is an additional downside to this: you are going to need a toilet break faster than normal. Obviously caffeine-free coffee or instant coffee has far less of the good stuff to keep you going for miles and miles.

Tea

You can consider that tea has caffeine though it is called theine. An added advantage is that theine lasts a few hours longer. But that applies only to normal tea (green or black), herbal teas have no theine or caffeine at all.

So if you want to drink something warm and stay awake, a green or black tea is better than coffee since the effects last longer.

Soda

The most known caffeine-induced soft drinks are Coca-Cola and Pepsi, both do indeed have plenty of ingredients to allow you a few more miles on the road. Apart from the many ounces of sugar, Pepsi Max has the most caffeine, with 69 mg per can, while Coke has 35 mg for 12 oz.

All transparent sodas, like Seven-up, Fanta and even root beer have no caffeine.

The normal side effect of having to make a potty-break is obvious, but the other effect is adding a few inches to your waistline.

Energy Drinks

Red-BullThe one type of drink that can be taken quickly since it is not hot, and nice to drink on a hot day, are the energy drinks like Monster and Red Bull. These drinks are made for keeping you focussed on riding your motorcycle. It is what a lot of people drink when they are doing something that needs 100% focus.

A 23.5 fl oz Jolt Energy Drink will supply you with 280 mg of caffeine, a 16 fl oz Rockstar Citrus will deliver 240 mg, while 16 fl oz Monster will give you 160 mg and Red Bull 8.4 fl oz will deliver 80 into your blood stream.

These drinks jolt the system wide awake. They will also make your heart run a lot faster. Health officials in Europe are advising people not to drink more than 2 cans per day, maximum.

Health and Safety

You do need to take into account that too much caffeine is very bad for your health. The older you get, the quicker you will loose focus, the more caffeine you will be inclined to drink. But that is when your own personal engine (heart) will suddenly quit, and before you know it you wake up with EMS staff performing cardiac arrest procedures.

So if your ride is long, and you need to stay awake, try to keep it under 100 mg of caffeine.

Click here for a long list of caffeine per product.

But to keep awake and alert on your motorcycle, coffee and other drinks are not the only way. As I said, caffeine and theine do have some undesired effects on your health. So apart from drinking cups of hot java before setting out again, what can you do?

Eating/Chewing

One simple way of keeping focus is chewing gum. That is right, just by chewing gum you keep your mouth busy and therefore your brains. It is a trick many professional long distance drivers use, so why not you? But remember, you can not blow bubbles if you are wearing a helmet!

(c) Hell Ride Movie

(c) Hell Ride Movie

An alternative is to eat something very (and I mean VERY) bitter. Imagine eating a lemon; your mouth probably grinches just now of the thought of eating a whole lemon. The pucker factor will keep your brains in gear.

For some people, chewing on ice cubes help, but the problem with ice cubes is that they melt, requiring you to stop to get new ones. So maybe it is really the stopping that helps, not the chewing of ice cubes. Maybe one day a scientist will analyze it.

Head Movements

Another way is to shake your head from side to side with enough force to push blood around. In a car you could slap your own face for the same effect, but on a motorcycle that becomes a bit more tricky using a helmet. By shaking your head, you force blood from one side to the other and back. That action will regain you a few minutes of attention and focus.

Talking

If you are riding with a pillion, and you have an intercom/communication device (like the Chatterbox), talking to someone helps keep focused. Just the fact that you talk requires your brain to function, and with that, you gain more attention span.

Listening does not necessarily work, since a smoothing voice will work the opposite way. So tell your pillion your life story.

If your communication device plays music, maybe listening to one of your favorite tunes is not the way forward. In fact, listen to awful music; the fact that you don’t like it will make your brain more active, while on the other hand, when you are listening to great music, your brain goes to “sleep” while listening (that is why many people listen to music before going to sleep).

Stops

StretchingOne of the most important and easy way of staying awake, apart from coffee, is stopping. It may seem strange that in order to stay awake on your motorcycle you need to stop, but by pulling over, getting off the bike, and stretching for 5 or 10 minutes, you will be able to go on for an extra hour or two.

Doctors and other specialists recommend that you stop every 2 hours. Luckily our precious motorcycles do not hold that much gasoline, so we are forced often enough the stop to tank up. But use that time, after you have filled up the fuel tank, to do some stretching exercises.

If you are not in an enormous rush, take a 10 minute nap. Power naps will allow you to go on for hours of riding. If you read more about Iron Butt rally riders, you will see that all the top riders take 10 minute power naps, allowing them to ride 1000+ miles each day.

Drugs

You will have noticed that I have stayed away from drugs, either legal or illegal kinds. Personally I believe that if you need to resort to drugs, you are going to far, and then things escalate.

Stay on the safe side, and as some famous politicians said years ago “just say no”.

Have a safe ride.

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Now that we are in the holiday period, many of us will take our motorcycles for spins in the countryside and end up somewhere at a restaurant for a bite to eat. Life is pleasant; a great motorcycle ride, sunshine, friends and good food, what more do you wish for?

There is however one thing you need to take into account when ordering food, and let me tell you I would be the last person to caution you on any food, but there you go; you need to take a few things into account. This is even more recommended if you live in an area where authorized alcohol levels are very low, and the police force unforgiving.

Flambe2

For example a fruit salad is a nice dessert to eat during the summer. It is light and full of vitamins. But watch out! Often fruit salads have been marinating for hours in wine. Even if the fruit have been sitting in red wine overnight, still 70% or so of the alcohol levels remain. Not enough to make your drunk, but enough to get you into trouble with the local cops.

FlambeSome main dishes and desserts (like delicious crepes suzettes) are “flambe”, in other words, alcohol poured over and then set on fire. Despite that the alcohol is set on fire, a good 75% will remain.

Some dishes are cooked with alcohol. They can stew for hours, but often the alcohol level remains high. High enough for a nasty surprise if you get stopped on your way home.

Even those nice chocolate & rum “beans” have alcohol in them, and if you eat a few, your alcohol blood level will rise.

So you have been warned. A nice meal with some biker friends can be ruined if you get stopped by the police and they decide to check to see if you have been drinking. You may think you are not drunk because you wisely did not drink any beer or wine, just water, but your food had alcohol in it. So you go to jail, and you do not receive $200.

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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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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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Time for some riding, and a review of the fabulous Icon Field Armor Stryker Vest. Although I remain quite fanatic about wearing safety gear all the time (the famous ATGATT), I at times feel stifled with my heavy leather jacket, armor, gloves, boots etc. The Top Gear term of Power Ranger comes to mind. For a nice spring ride, with pleasant temperatures, no rain forecasted, a slight wind, there’s nothing more comfortable and easy going than going for a motorcycle ride wearing a hoodie. But if you do fall from your bike, a hoodie is not going to protect you whatsoever. You might as well ride naked.

So what I do is wear some armor under my hoodie (or summer jacket). This way I don’t feel like a giant rubber man but I’m still protected.

Icon Field Armor Stryker Vest

Icon Field Armor Stryker Vest

My armor of choice for this is the above mentioned Icon Stryker Vest. It’s a vest that’s thin enough to slip under your normal street clothing, but with some real protection.

The Stryker vest protects your back and front, and what I love about the product is the liquid metal d3o insert for your back. I love that d3o material since it’s soft, it takes any shape, and when subjected to a sudden impact, it becomes as hard as metal.

IconStrykerVest-back

Mind you, the Stryker Vest is not a t-shirt, so do accept that even under a hoodie it’ll show, but it’s not enormous, and more important, it’s not heavy.

Air flows quite good through the vest, although I’d prefer to have a bit more air since when the sun is hitting you in full force I start to sweat. It’s not a biggie, but it would be nice to have a few more vents.

I can’t tell you about the Stryker protection since I haven’t crashed, and I’m not planning to. If I do, I’ll let you know how I faired.

I do recommend that you complement the vest with some elbow protection, since if you’re going to go down, your elbows will for sure be hit. Try the Icon Stryker Elbow Field Armor.

Have a look at the video below about the Icon Stryker range of protection:

Click here to buy or learn more about the Icon Field Armor Stryker Vest

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Having good manners is the right thing to do, in any situation. We’re not savages that only think about ourselves. We don’t exactly need to behave the way Emily Post told us to at the dinner table, or when entertaining, but there should be some form of manners, even protocols or etiquettes, when riding your bike.

Manners are usually a two-way street. It’s like a good stereo system; it needs to come from both sides. A bit like, treat people the way you want to be treated yourself; respect.

Riding

When coming up behind another biker, don’t honk, and don’t immediately overtake. At a red light when the other biker is stopped, don’t pull up beside him/her, but staggered behind the bike. The reasons for this, is that you don’t know the rider’s abilities and street smarts. Coming up behind a biker and continuing fast, may result in the biker suddenly pulling out to accelerate and bump into you. Coming up behind the other biker and staying a few seconds will ensure that the other biker has seen you. Sitting behind the biker at a red light, staggered, will give the biker time to see that there’s someone behind.

MANNER: Don’t suddenly overtake another biker. Don’t honk.

When you ride up to another slower bike and there’s no lanes available to pass, wait. The slower bike will hopefully see you and wave you through on the same lane. If you don’t, you stand the chance of crashing.

MANNER: Don’t pass in the same lane if you don’t have space to pass on the road. Wait for an acknowledgement.

If you are behind a slow car which goes out of its way to let you pass, remember to wave to the car as a thank-you.

MANNER: Wave a “thanks” to cars that go out of their way for you.

If you see another motorcycle that has broken down, it can be a good idea to stop and see if they need help. We’re on our own out there in SUV land, and the more help we get from our brothers & sisters, the easier and safer our lives will be. The same obviously applies to bikers who are in trouble with car drivers. Go and help them.

MANNER: When possible, help out other bikers on the road who are in trouble.

Motorcycle-wave

The Wave

One of the most common forms of manners, or protocols (etiquette) is the famous wave between bikers. When you are riding and come upon other bikers, give them a wave, or at the least a nod with the head. The “wave” shouldn’t be just to motorcycle riders who are riding your favorite motorcycle. The wave is to any motorcycle, even scooters. It’s a form of respect, a respect to their chosen form of transportation. We are a brotherhood.

The actual form of wave is not that important, it could be a high held hand, a low one, one, two or all fingers, whatever the “wave”, as long as the others can see it. Obviously when you are riding in a dense motorcycle area, like Sturgis, you don’t need to wave, or even nod. In cities where there are many more motorcycle riders, you could be spending all your time waving. Here maybe a nod will do, or nothing at all.

MANNER: If you can, wave or nod to other bikers riding any brand or type of motorcycle.

Group Riding

When riding in a group, if there’s a smoker out there, would you like to ride behind that person and receive their cigarette in the face when they flick it away;

MANNER: Don’t throw away cigarettes when riding (it’s illegal anyway). Remember the bikers behind you.

Don’t try to get others to ride at your pace, especially when your pace is fast. It’s nicer for everyone to ride at their average pace.

MANNER: Don’t force the pace.

Motorcycle-lane-splitting

(c) Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times

Lane Splitting

If you are in an area that allows lane splitting, don’t race your bike through the lane, ride at a leisurely pace, but keep an eye on your mirrors. Other bikers may come up to you faster than you. That is their concern and safety, but to ensure good harmony, when you get a chance, move over and let them pass. When you move over, signal the other rider that they can pass, thereby eliminating confusion and misunderstandings.

MANNER: Let faster motorcycle pass when lane splitting.

Parked

When you see a parked motorcycle, even if the owner is right there, never, ever, sit on the parked motorcycle. If you want to sit on it, ask permission. You don’t see people go into someone else’s car to sit in it. It’s just not done.

MANNER: Never sit on someone’s motorcycle without asking for permission.

When you have to park in car spots, if the spot is taken up by another motorcycle, do not put your bike in that slot. You are going to give the other biker problems taking out his/her ride. Only put multiple bikes in one parking slot if you are all riding together.

MANNER: Do not park in the same car parking space as another motorcycle.

Motorcycle-bear-Pillion

Pillions

When you get a new pillion, tell them what is expected from them. Tell them where to get on or off the bike, what to do when you are in a curve and what not to do. Even if the pillion has been riding as pillion with others, just remind them of “your” rules. Why do you think airlines keep telling you about the safety procedures?

MANNER: Instruct a new (to you) pillion on your rules and procedures.

Remember that you have got the pillion’s life in your hands. Be extra careful. Now is not the time to show off, or the scare the pillion. Ride responsible.

MANNER: Ride extra careful.

These are just a few common sense manners. Keep civil, be nice. Let’s all enjoy the ride.

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Red-Traffic-SignalNot many people, if any, like red lights. They are a pain; when they are red you have to stop, and when they are green, you need to cross the intersection while keeping a close eye on the other traffic. There are always idiots who run red lights. The only time you might like a red light is when there’s a big glass window close by and you can admire yourself and your motorcycle (if you don’t think this happens, have a close look at what happens at red lights).

“Normal” red lights are okay I guess. They are timed, and after so many seconds they will either turn red or green. It’s the “demand-actuated” red lights that can be bothersome for bikers. These lights will turn green if there’s a vehicle stopped in front of them. And the way they know there’s a vehicle is because they have a metal wire in the ground, and through this inductive-loop traffic detector it can “feel” that there is a vehicle through its magnetic field. That’s because the wire acts like a metal detector.

This means that when a car is stopped above the wire, the wire senses a metal object and turns the light green. It’s handy since if there’s no traffic at the other side, why would you need to wait for the light to turn green. It’s a waste of time, money, gas and CO2.

However motorcycles are at a disadvantage. The metal mass of a bike is far less than that of a car, and often the light is not tripped. Standing on your own as a motorcycle, even a big one, is not enough. There are several types of sensors, from ones that behave very badly for motorcycles, to ones that recognize even the smallest bike or scooter. Click here to read more about the types of sensors and how to spot them.

For those sensors that just don’t change for a motorcycle, there are gadgets out there that say they can change the lights for you. Most are magnetic, but personally I have never seen one work properly.

So you end up moving aside, hoping that a car will drive up and trip the light.

The only saving grace in all this, is that many states in the USA and countries in the world, are allowing more and more for motorcycles to turn on red. You can’t cross the road on red, but at least you can turn on red. But to do that, you really need to pay attention. Vehicles can travel faster than what you may think. And remember, if you do turn on red, even if it’s legal, and someone crashes into you, you’ll be at fault.

So be careful when turning. Also be very careful when crossing a road on green. Many cars don’t pay attention, even for a red light. Have a look at the shocking video below (this is China, but this can happen anywhere in the world). The car runs a red light.

Warning – this is shocking.

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Rain-RidingIn all the years that I have been riding a motorcycle, I can honestly not remember one biker who loves riding in the rain. I do not think that there’s anyone out there who, when looking out the window and seeing a downpour, will say “ohhh great, it’s raining, let’s go for a bike ride”.

However I do know a lot of bikers who flatly refuse to go out riding when it rains. Personally, I think that is a mistake. Rain is nothing but water, and as long as a) it’s not raining very hard, b) falling horizontally (in other words a strong wind) and c) you wear the proper clothing, then the ride will be fine.

High Visibility Rain jacket

High Visibility Rain jacket

There are a lot of things to take into account when riding a motorcycle in the rain, but one of the most important ones is that you have to dress appropriately. Having your normal jacket and trousers might not be enough. If there’s a light drizzle, it probably will not be a problem, but when there’s consistent rain, water (usually cold) will seep through your clothes onto your body, and that is not fun! Getting wet, or at least humid, when riding is distracting and very uncomfortable. It’s also when you will get a cold, or worse.

Rain-Boot-CoverSo whatever you do, make sure the clothing (jacket, trousers and boot covers) you use during a rain ride is rain proof.

This is the most important tip for riding in the rain, all other tips are more or less common sense. The clothing doesn’t need to be a diver’s suit you use for deep sea diving, but it needs to keep the water away.

  1. Wear proper rain gear, preferably Gore-Tex or equivalent. It needs to be able to breath but still not allow water to creep in. Make sure your helmet covers your face, since rain above 30 mph is going to hurt you.
  2. Make sure your tires are correct for riding in the rain, in other words, do not go out riding in the rain with slick tires.
  3. Watch the road. What used to be kind-of slippery is now very slippery. White lines on the roads will have become ice rinks, metal plates/manholes are super dangerous, avoid them like the plague.
  4. Watch out for puddles. Yes, it can be fun riding through one, but since the water hides the surface you just don’t know what you are riding into. Can the puddle in fact be a 3 feet deep hole? Do you want to find out the hard way?
  5. When riding and you see a colored rainbow on the ground, watch it. It’s got nothing to do with the gay movement, chances are it’s oil.
  6. When rain first starts after many days of dry weather, it’s when it’s the most dangerous since there’s a lot of oil and dirt on the road. Wait an hour or two for the rain to wash away the oil/dirt before riding since the road surfaces are at their slipperiest. If it’s just drizzle, then the road will remain slippery.
  7. Railway crossing are to be taken as straight as possible. Remember the railway tracks are metal, and wet metal is slippery. Straighten your bike.
  8. When you need to brake, apply more rear brake than normal. If your front wheel starts sliding you’re done for, if your rear wheel slides you can easily correct.
  9. Do not brake strongly if possible.Brake gently. If you need to urgently apply your brakes, pump them so that you do not start aquaplaning.
  10. Give yourself more space between you and the vehicle in front of you. Braking distances are much longer in the rain.
  11. Relax when riding. Getting all cramped and bunched up is not good. First of all you will get tired real quickly and it is dangerous. Relaxed riding is much better.
  12. Be visible. Rain makes it difficult for cars to see you. If you have high visibility clothing, now it is the time to put them on.
  13. An obvious advice, but here it is anyway: reduce your speed! In many countries legally you need to reduce speed by some 10-20% when it rains, and there are good reasons for it.
  14. Since we don’t have wipers on our helmets (well, maybe some do) you can easily spray something like Rain-X on the visor to help you with your visibility. Rain-X keeps the rain from the visor.
  15. When lightning starts up, stop riding. Head for cover (don’t stop below a tree).

Riding in the rain will at times be necessary, and you should not stop riding just because it is raining. Relax and enjoy the ride. You are after all riding a motorcycle and that is fun. ENJOY IT.

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As a rider, even on one of the biggest motorcycles, we remain very small. And when you are in traffic, car drivers might miss seeing us and before we know it, we’ve crashed into them. It’s not that the car driver isn’t looking for us, many actually do try to pay attention to bikers, but at times they just don’t see us. One of the possible reasons is Motion Induced Blindness.

Motion Induced Blindness, also known as MIB, is a recently discovered phenomena. Back in 1991 it was first formulated as something that could cause people in motion not to see certain things. Jet fighters and even airline pilots know about it, since in essence MIB is a result of staring into a space while in motion. With your vehicle’s movement (be it a jet fighter or a car), looking at a spot (like the center of the road) can hide other objects.

Look at the moving diagram below. You see three yellow spots on the outer limits, in the center is a green blinking dot and around it are blue crosses turning. Not exactly a situation you’ll find on the road, but it’s just to illustrate the MIB point (image driving a car on a country road with trees lined on both sides and the yellow dots are motorcycles). If you now stare at the green blinking dot, you’ll suddenly see the yellow dots disappear and reappear. There’s no rhyme or reason behind the timing, it happens at different times for different people. Have look:

Motion-induced blindness demonstration

Motion-induced blindness demonstration

You can say that the dots are too small, that is why you can’t see them, or that they are turning to fast, or slow. Well, head on over to the MSF site and try it there. The same diagram can be changed by increasing or decreasing the size of the spots, or making things go faster or slower. The result is the same; you’ll occasionally not see the yellow objects.

You can see the same in this video, with only one object (top left)

or try this one:

Basically the MIB phenomena means that even if you are wearing high-visibility jackets, a car could not see you.

The only way out of this process is to have the car driver shift eyes continuously, i.e., not stare in one spot (straight ahead). So, no white line fever, something that for sure will involve cars ramming into motorcycles.

Obviously MIB is not the main reason that cars and motorcycle have accidents. There are many factors at play, and as we know from statistics, around 70% of motorcycle accidents are caused by car drivers, and this will be one of them.

What can we do as motorcycle riders? Not much. If the car driver can’t see you because of MIB, maybe the only thing is flashing your headlights and swerving, but that will result in a whole other series of problems and dangers. Nobody ever said that riding motorcycles is a safe hobby.

Click here to read more about Motion Induced Blindness.

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We’ve said it many times before, riding a motorcycle is one of world’s greatest pleasures, but it’s also one of the most dangerous ones – maybe it’s a pleasure because it’s so dangerous. You need to take some precautions when riding a bike. You do not need to dress up in an airbag balloon or some sort of a space suit. You don’t need to be looking like a mad person around you to see if there’s someone coming to kill you. But there are many points you need to look for when riding that will keep you safe. Some are common sense, some are built around experience.

Here are 20 pointers that may save you life. Read on, especially after point 1, a point many people’s eyes just glaze over.

  1. The most common one is wear a helmet, even when you are riding only 100 yards. A full face integral helmet is better than a half helmet. Just pulling up and having your foot go out from under you is enough to bang your head against the pavement.
  2. Learn the counter steering technique. In Europe it’s mandatory to learn and there’s good reason for it.. Counter Steering will enable you to quickly and safely avoid sudden obstacles on the road without falling. It should become second nature.
  3. Watch out of those white lines on the road, and watch out even more for those pedestrian crossing lines. White lines, although very visible, are very, very slippery. When it rains, avoid them at all costs. If you have to ride over them in a curve and it’s wet, straighten your bike while riding over the line. If not, your bike will go horizontal.
  4. When you cross a railroad track, cross it straight. Railroad tracks are slippery as well, and if you take them at an angle, your bike might go out from under you. This applies doubly when it’s raining.
  5. Tire pressure on a car is important, but on a motorcycle is essential. Read the owner’s manual to see what pressure under what circumstances. Riding 2 up, with cargo? You’ll need to adjust the pressure. I’ve put Dymo labels on the side of my bike giving me 3 numbers: Normal pressure, with pillion and pillion & cargo.
  6. Watch out when entering a place where there have been cars idling: gas stations, fast food drive-ins, toll booths etc. There’s always oil, gasoline and dirt. Watch where you put your foot.
  7. When following cars, trucks, trailers, etc, best is to stay behind one of the wheels. First of all, in the middle of the lane, that’s where you’ll find the most oil, gasoline and dirt coming from the cars. Also, if there’s something on the road, like roadkill, if you are riding behind the wheel of the vehicle in front of you, it’ll get squashed. If not, you’ll hit it and you don’t know what will happen then (I think I do). If you’re following a big truck, keep well away. Truck tires can (and do) shred regularly, leaving big bits of rubber flying. At highways speeds, if a large chunk of truck tire hits you, you’ll be badly injured, or worse.
  8. Always have the helmet visor down when riding, or have something to protect your eyes (like goggles or glasses). A bug that hits you at 60 mph is going to hurt, if it hits you in the eye, it’s goodbye eye.
  9. You know why fighter planes attack with the sun in their back? Because they can’t be seen. The same happens when the sun is in your back, low, you’ve become invisible for the cars driving in front of you. Even if they pay attention, they’ll not see you when you overtaken them. So watch out. The same applies when riding into a low sun. Drivers behind you will not see you. I often just nudge my brakes so that the brake light goes on, this way the car has a better chance of seeing you when they approach.
  10. If it’s warm drink plenty of water; if it’s cold, dress properly. Hydration and hypothermia are more dangerous than DUI.
  11. Road rage on its own is pretty bad, but having road rage on a motorcycle, especially against a car puts you in the danger spot. Unless of course you’re riding with the Hells Angels. Believe me, you’ll not be teaching car drivers a lesson, unless it’s cemetery ethics.
  12. Try to avoid the right most lane on highways, motorways and other fast moving roads. You’ll find that some soccer-mother driving a SUV forgot to take the off-ramp and will try to exit anyway. Don’t get in her path.
  13. If you’re having problems at home or work, taking the bike might not be a good idea. People think they’re clearing their heads, but in fact they’ll not pay as much attention as they should. One of the highest factors for motorcycle accidents is divorce. The next highest is getting fired.
  14. One of the old sayings for motorcycle riders is that your bike will go where you are looking. In a curve look as far as you can, not in front of you. If you see a pot hole, and you’re looking at it, you will ride through it.
  15. When you stop at an intersection or for traffic lights, keep your bike in first gear and keep a close look in your mirror until cars behind you have come to a stop. Keep your steering-wheel pointed in the direction of the first lane you will encounter (ie in the US, from left to right); This way, if you are “nudged” by a car behind you, your bike will go with the crossing traffic.
  16. When traffic is suddenly stopping or slowing down dramatically on a highway or interstate, ride in between the cars, even if your area does not allow lane-splitting. Cars coming up behind you may not have seen the slowdown or stoppage and slam into the rear of the traffic – you.
  17. When slowing down in traffic using your motorcycle engine (ie downshifting), best is to gently hit the brakes so that your brake lights go on. Remember that motorcycle engines usually have high compression and can therefore brake much harder with just their engine. Cars coming up behind you are going to be surprised (and so will you when they rear-end you).
  18. There’s no such thing as Green means Go, or a Stop sign that means other traffic will stop. Always assume that some idiot of going to run a red light, or stop sign and proceed accordingly.
  19. Motorcycles are small, and it takes an effort to be seen. Make sure you’re visible. Apart from high-visibility clothing, turn on your motorcycle’s lights. Even during the day. In many countries, it’s mandatory for motorcycles to ride with their lights on. You can guess why.
  20. Wear proper equipment. As mentioned helmets, but also gloves, jackets and boots. No one plans to leave their motorcycle while still riding, but if you do, best is be prepared. ATGATT is not just a saying, it’s vital. All The Gear, All The Time. Be a firm believer.

Just keep your head screwed on your body, use it and ride safe. Enjoy your ride. Your best safety factor is you. The more miles you put on your bike, the safer you become.

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