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Archive for the ‘Motorcycle safety’ Category

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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