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Archive for the ‘Motorcycle safety’ Category

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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Tennessee is going to be the 32nd state to pass a law that allows bikers to ride a motorcycle without a helmet, unless it gets held up at the last moment. But it’s not likely.

The new bill will allow bikers to ride in the fair state of Tennessee without a helmet if a) they have $25,000 in additional medical coverage, b) a minimum of 2 years motorcycle license, c) have taken a motorcycle training course and d) are at least 25 years old.

So bikers don’t just get to ride without a helmet, they need to fulfill a certain set of criteria. But is this good or not?

The helmet debate is a heated one in the USA (in most other countries it’s not a debate, since it’s mandatory), with as many pro-helmet and anti-helmets opinions. On one side, people say you need proper protection because if you don’t, medical bills for everyone will rise, and on the other side, people want to be left alone to decide themselves what they do to protect their own lives.

Total ATGATT

Total ATGATT

Myself I’m more in the you-can-never-protect-yourself-enough corner. No matter how experienced a rider is, an accident can quickly happened. It doesn’t need to be your fault, it can be anything from a SUV driver who is not paying attention to a bird hitting you in the head (I could say a helicopter crashing on top of you, but that doesn’t matter if you have a helmet or not, you’re going to be very dead).

But there are limits. We’re not going to ride with a metal suit of armor to protect ourselves, so how far are we planning to go to protect ourselves? If we really want total protection, drive an Abrahams tank.

And that is where opinions differ. For some, you don’t really need protection, for others it’s ATGATT.

The Tennessee helmet bill seems like a reasonable compromise. They’ll not let anyone ride without a helmet (particular youngsters), but if you want to, and fulfill the requirements, you can do so at your own (medical and financial) risk. But does that mean only wealthier or well-off bikers can ride without a helmet?

So what do you think? Should this no-helmet law be more widespread, or should it be more like the rest of the world?

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For those of you who use protective clothing when riding your motorcycle, one of the latest advances in safety technologies comes from D3O Labs.

D3O is a material that you will find more and more in all sorts of clothing meant to protect the person dressed in them. It is not only for the motorcycle world, but in any activity that exposes people to sudden shocks (snow sports, horse riding, military, etc). D3O is also know as dilatant non-Newtonian fluid (like a liquid metal), a material that hardens when exposed to a shock.

D30 example

D30 example

What this means, is that the D3O material, an orange putty-like material, is placed in areas that need to absorb a shock. The material itself is soft and deforms easily when moving around. You can barely feel the resistance, in sharp contrast with material like Kevlar.

But when exposed to an impact, for example if you are ejected from your motorcycle and hit the pavement, the D3O material instantly becomes hard as metal and in the process, absorbs the shock. Moments later, it returns to its original soft state.

D3O is slightly more expensive than materials like Kevlar, but because the flexibility and lightweight of D3O, it’s much more usable then other types of protection. You will find D3O nowadays in gloves, jackets, pants and even back packs. Myself, I have a D3O protection for my iPhone, and after having dropped it several times, I’m happy to report that the protection works.

Click here to see all the D3O equipped materials we offer.

If you’re interested in more information about the making, and the usage of D30, here’s a short video that explains it all.

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Motorcycle boots are as important as motorcycle jackets. Many bikers don’t think so, but in my (humble) opinion, the choice of good boots is as important. When you go unintended off your bike, your back will hit the ground, but so will your feet. If your boots aren’t properly tied to your feet, they’ll come off during the first impact, and then the rest of the trip over the pavement will result in severe asphalt rash on your feet, and possibly broken ankles.

Another thing to keep in mind is when you come at a stop for stop lights or at an intersection, and car can easily drive over your feet. It’s not uncommon, and having boots that are sturdy and protected will save you loads of aggravation.

I decided one day to go for a ride during a bit of rain, since boots should be rain proof. I selected the Alpinestars Alpha Touring WP Boots for the ride. The reason I took these is a) touring boots are supposed to be more comfortable, b) rain proof and c) a low price. Here’s what I saw & felt:

Alpinestars Alpha Touring WP Boots

Alpinestars Alpha Touring WP Boots

The Alpinestars boots are made of different materials; synthetic leather, some rubber-like compound and what appears to be a leather-like plastic. For the price, don’t expect a 100% leather boot.

Putting on the boots

Putting on the boots, in contrast with a few others I’ve tried, is easy. Open the zipper all the way, and there’s ample room to slide your foot in (and out when finished).

The fit is, I have to say, very comfortable. There’s an instep that allows your foot to rest comfortably and still allow enough wiggle room not to feel restrained.

The toe and heel area is reinforced, and you do notice it. No fear that some cager is going to drive their SUV over your foot.

Riding Comfort

Riding was fine. The boot is not totally “air locked”, so it breathes properly (something I determined after removing the boots, it wasn’t smelly). My feet stayed warm, despite the “almost-spring” air not being that warm.

There was occasional drizzle, and the boots stayed dry. There’s a waterproof membrane which prevents water from entering your boots. Possibly if you’re riding in a tropical downpour, you’ll get water coming in, but I suspect that it’ll be more a question of ensuring that your trousers block the top part of the boots. The membrane does the job admirably.

Walking

These boots aren’t really meant for hiking. You can easily walk in them, but if you arrive at your destination and plan to hike, bring hiking shoes. You can walk in the boots for a good 20 to 30 minutes, after that it’ll get uncomfortable (which is a pity).

Another thing I liked were the soles. They handle dirt and oil on the road very well, and don’t slip. I needed to fuel up, and the gas station had fuel on the floor, but the boots did not slip.

The rear part of the boot have a light reflecting strip, which adds some visibility at night from vehicles coming behind you.

Click here to read more about the boots or to buy them.

Have a look at the video below:

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It’s getting to be that time of the year again that many bikers are going to start looking for their next motorcycle. Many of you will be opting for pre-owned (better known as secondhand) motorcycles. It is a great way of getting a new-for-you motorcycle at reasonable costs. But as we all know, there are always hidden dangers. Has the bike been properly maintained? Are there any defects? What will the extra costs be during the riding season to repair all these problems that will arise while riding?

Even the most seasoned mechanic cannot determine if a motorcycle is in perfect condition, unless the bike is stripped down totally, but that costs a lot of money and time. But there are some basic steps you can do yourself, even if you’re not mechanically inclined, when looking at a new bike to see if there might be some problems with your new acquisition.

rusty-motorcycle

1. Engine

The engine is obviously the most important part, and the part that can cause the most problems. Before starting the engine open the throttle fully and let go. The throttle should click back instantly, if it doesn’t and goes back slowly, it could mean that the cable needs lubrication or that the gas handle is damaged, or worse, that the butterfly mechanism inside is damaged.

If you are able, drain some of the engine oil. Look to see if there are small metal shaving in the oil. If there are, walk away.

Start the engine. If it starts immediately, you’re fine. If it takes a while it could mean that the battery is dead or almost dead. Once the engine is running and has reached its normal temperature, the idle should decrease. If not, the timing on the engine could be off.

Open the throttle. If the increase is regular, without a gap in between the revs increasing, you’re fine. Same when you let go of the throttle, it should reach idle rapidly without the engine sputtering.

Listen to the engine, if you hear clicks & clacks, the engine could have problems. Engines are meant to be turning effortlessly, the more clicking noises you hear, the worse the engine is.

2. Gearbox

Unless you’ve got an automatic motorcycle, and there are not that many around, you’ll need to pay attention to the gearbox. When you put it into first gear, many bikes will clunk, so don’t worry about that. But when you are riding, all other gears should go in pretty smoothly, without any resistance. Some manufacturers have gearboxes that are more noisy than others, but you should always be able to select a gear without any resistance. If it does prove to be hard to get into gear, you’ll be needing to replace the gearbox.

When pressing the clutch, unless the bike is equipped with a dry clutch system, you shouldn’t hear any noise. If it’s a dry clutch, you might hear some spinning vibrations, which is normal. If you feel shocks or slippage, your clutch will need replacing.

3. Chain

If the motorcycle is equipped with a transmission chain, inspect it closely. Makes sure it’s properly mounted, not too tight, not to flexible. If the chain is on tight, it’ll mean the chain has been exposed to excessive tension and probably is ready to be changed. Go for a ride while selecting a gear higher than normal, i.e., if you should be in 2nd gear, select 3rd or 4th. That’s when you’ll hear the chain noises. The noise should be regular without clunking.

4. Suspensions

Push hard in one swoop the front and then next the rear of the bike. The suspension should contract fluidly, without sound. When you let go, it should go back to its original position fluidly and again without sound. If you hear a clicking sound, it could mean that the suspension is as good as gone. When test riding it, slowly go onto a sidewalk. Feel how the suspension compresses. Is it fluid both ways? If it jerks or bounces, you’re in trouble.

5. Brakes

With the engine off, sit on the bike and press the brakes (front and back) one at a time. You should not hear any noise that resembles suction. If the levers soften, it could be that there’s air in the system, or worse, that there’s a leak.

When riding at a slow speed, brake independently (front and then back). You should hear a soft and regular whistling of the brakes. If not, your brakes will need to be replaced.

At higher speeds, you should not feel any vibrations. If you hear metal grinding, it means you’ll need to replace the brake-pads.

6. Wheels

Best is if the bike has a center stand to put it on the stand, if not you’ll need help. With the front wheel off the ground, spin it. It should turn freely without any lateral movement. You should not hear any clicking sounds. Same with the rear wheel.

Juggle each wheel laterally. There should be no movement or clicking sounds.

If the wheel has spokes, hit each spoke with a metallic object. The sounds of each spoke should be almost identical to the previous one. If not, it’s replacement time.

If the bike has a center stand, sit on the bike so that the front wheel is in the air. Move yourself while pressing the front brakes forward and backward, so that the front wheel presses on the ground and then goes up again, same with the back wheel. You should not feel any “play” in the bike, no movements in the structure. If there is, the structure of the bike is not sound.

7. Paperwork

The best is if the seller has all the maintenance papers, i.e., invoices for each service performed. This way you can be sure it has been maintained to spec. See when the last time the spark plugs were changed, or the battery. Have you got a new chain?

Has the bike maintenance log been kept?

All of these, and many more, will ensure that you get a properly working bike. Remember that some people will sell their bike because it’s not working properly anymore, and they don’t want to be bothered with maintenance bills. Some will just get rid of their bike because they want a new model.

Spending time upfront when buying a new-for-you motorcycle will mean that you’ll be spending more time riding it instead of having it in the shop for repairs.

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Riding your motorcycle, especially in the winter, comes with inherent dangers. Many of them are very obvious; slippery roads, cars not paying attention, speed, etc. They are all well documented, and most bikers are very well aware of them.

Asking for it

Asking for it

But there’s one hidden danger that many bikers don’t think about, and often enough they happen in the winter, though not limited to the winter. And that is the danger of riding with scarfs and other items that can get caught in the motorcycle’s wheel.

If your scarf, or for example a backpack strap, is too long, it stands the chance of intertwining in the spokes of your wheel, or in the chain. While riding, it’s an as-good-as death sentence. The scarf is pulled into the motorcycle wheel and within a second your are being choked to death. It can happen very fast, and there’s very little you can do about it.

One of the first recorded death by scarf on a motorcycle was the famous dancer, Isadora Ducan. Back in 1927, she was riding her motorcycle in the South of France, when her scarf got caught in the spokes of her wheel. She was almost decapitated by the incident, and died on the spot.

Backpack-strap-danger

But there have been several case of this happening, and not always limited to scarfs. A backpack strap that gets caught in the rear tire means you are going to get ejected, pulled off your bike.

The item doesn’t even need to be tied to you, it can be anything that will get caught, Last year, a biker in Ojai, California had a piece of clothing that was tied to his sissy bar get caught in the rear wheel, which resulted in the rear wheel being blocked. The biker was ejected and died from the impact (source).

On January 21 this year in France, a motorcyclist also lost his life when a scarf got caught in the spokes of his wheel (source)

As you can see, they are not isolated incidents, they do happen. So when traveling on your motorcycle with objects that can get caught, make sure they are safe. Stow away any object, better safe than dead.

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Unfortunately, recalls happen all the time. No matter how good the motorcycle manufacturer is, things slip through quality inspection at the factory, and motorcycles get recalled to rectify the problem.

The problem lies in the notification of the recall. Usually the manufacturer will contact the press, and sometimes the press will actually print a small story stating models and problem, but often this is not the case.

So in many cases vehicle owners do not know that their motorcycle or ATV has been recalled. And this can be a big, and often dangerous problem.

Robert Guthrie was one of these people. His Kawasaki ATV got recalled because of a problem with the front wheel that could result in the eventual loss of steering control. And that was exaclty what happened to him. He crashed his ATV, resulting in severe and permanent injuries. So he’s seeking $20 Million in damages from Kawasaki in a lawsuit.

Guthrie’s complaint is that Kawasaki was negligent in warning him that his ATV was not longer safe.

And that’s where the problem lies. Manufacturers often rely on the media to warn users, but as far as news goes, it’s just not interesting enough to print.

Manufacturers have enormous databases with the client lists. They send out mailers offering new models and services all the time. But they rarely involve these mailing campaigns for recalls.

And what happens when you sell your vehicle? The manufacturer will not know who has your bike. So the big question is why manufacturers have no access the DMV databases. There they can quickly scan who has what vehicles, and send a mail recalling the vehicle. It would be the safest way of ensuring that all vehicles get recalled. But that takes time & money, and already the manufacturer is out of pocket running a recall of thousands of motorcycles.

In the USA, there is a government web site with all recalls (Recalls.gov), but this means that the owners need to go and check themselves, and not many people will do that. The responsibility lies with the owner in this case, while it’s should be on the manufacturer’s.

But maybe there’s no choice, and it should become mandatory for all manufacturers. If the DMV doesn’t want to hand over the files, then they should do it. It’s safer, and this way anyone who has that model can be ensured that they get a recall notice.

Also, often the manufacturer will know of a problem, but will only recall when things get really bad, preferring to leave things as is.

Source: DealerNews

 

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You may be a newbie, or a veteran biker, but what’s for sure, our hobby and transportation means is full of jargon. Some terms are a must to know, some are for insiders, but it makes sense to know a few of them.

When frequenting other bikers, it’s good to know a few terms, so here are a few of them. We’ve divided them up in General Terms and Motorcycle Specific ones. Next article is about the motorcycle specific ones.

General Terms

1%er – A biker belonging to an outlaw motorcycle club, like the Hells Angels. The term was coined by the AMA, when they mentioned that these biker gangs represented 1% of the biker population. You will find a “1%” patch often on their vests.

Ape HangersApe hanger handlebars rise far above the mounting location so that the rider must reach up to use them, hence the name. They are popular on choppers. They are available in heights up to 20 inches. Some jurisdictions have regulations on how high the handgrips may be above the seat.

Apex – the line a motorcycle must take in order to minimize the time taken to complete a curve.

Armor – The reinforced parts of your riding gear, often found in motorcycle jackets and trousers. Armor can be made out of different materials, like Kevlar, Foam or plastic, and can often be removed.

ATGATT – All The Gear, All The Time, meaning you should always wear all your protective clothing, no matter when you ride. ATGATT Gear means helmet, gloves, vest, trousers and boots.

BAMBI – Born Again Motorbiker, a biker who having reached middle age, starts riding again after years of not riding.

Belly-Shover – A motorcycle racer who, because of the forward position on a sports bike, has the belly on the fuel tank.

Big Slab – A highway or motorway.

Brain Bucket – A helmet

Bubble Gum Machine – The signal that there is police up ahead. The signal is accomplished by patting the top of your helmet several times so that opposing bikers can see they are riding towards a police trap.

Burnout – By holding the front brake and accelerating, the rear wheel of the bike will start spinning and burning rubber, hence the burnout.

Cage – A car or SUV

Cager – Someone who drives a car.

Century – 100 mph

Doughnut – A burnout done while the front wheel stays in place, and the motorcycle turns 360% on the front wheel, making a complete circle.

Do-Rag – A cloth covering the biker’s head and forehead, avoiding sweat in the eyes and helmet hair. Often used by non-bikers as fashion. Examples

Duck Walking – Sitting on your motorcycle, and pushing it with your feet, usually done when parking your bike, or moving forwards a few feet (like at a gas station).

Eating Asphalt – Crashing your bike

Gearhead – Someone who is very interested and passionate about mechanical objects, like cars and motorcycles.

Hammer Down – Accelerate very quickly.

Heat – The police

Highsider – Being ejected from your motorcycle while riding, above the motorcycle.

Iron Butt – An association that promotes and holds rallies aimed at travelling very long distances. The shortest distance, the Saddle Sore, is 1,000 miles in 24 hours, the longest, the Bun Burner Gold is 1,500 miles in one day. The Iron Butt Rally is 10 days riding 1,000 miles each day.

Lid – A helmet

Lowsider – A motorcycle crash with the bike falling sideways and the biker ejected sideways.

Monkey Butt – When riding for hours on end, your rear end becomes uncomfortable and becomes sore, often the result of chafing.

Newbie – A beginner.

Organ Donor – A biker who rides without a helmet, or rides likes a squid.

Patches – Emblems and symbols sewn on biker jackets and shirts, displaying an affiliation, a club, a brand, or anything that is special to the biker. 1%-ers will always have several patches on their jackets.

Pillion – A passenger on the motorcycle.

PMS – Parked Motorcycle Syndrome, usually the result of not being able to ride in the winter.

Poker Run – A motorcycle run involving usually five stops where you get a card. At the end of the run, the biker with the best hand wins the run. Often used in charity runs.

Popping The Clutch – Letting go of the clutch rapidly, making it possible for the motorcycle to accelerate very quickly.

Poser – A wannabe biker, or a biker with all the gear, shiny and new, but rarely rides. Usually found at motorcycle shows with very low mileage full-chrome motorcycles.

Pucker factor – A very close call when riding.

Ride Captain – The leader of a motorcycle rider-out. The ride captain opens the ride, and is up front.

Ride Lieutenant – An experienced riders who rides as last in a ride-out, making sure that every thing goes according to plan with all the other bikers.

Road Rash – Marks from the asphalt left on your body after you have been thrown off your motorcycle, highside or lowside, a skidded alongside the road.

RUB – Rich Urban Biker, a biker who rides an expensive motorcycle only on the weekend, and never very far. Often RUBs are Posers.

Safety Nazi – A person who rides in absolutely full safety gear, often to an extreme, obeys every law, and wants all others to do the same.

Two Up – Riding with a pillion.

Stoppie – Stopping a motorcycle by pulling only the front brake, resulting in the rear wheel lifting off the ground. Often used in stunts.

Squid – A biker who rides with no protection, and rides very dangerously.

Tank Slapper – A high speed wobble resulting in the handlebars banging against the sides of the fuel tank. Usually an extreme Pucker factor.

Twisties – A part of a road that has many curves, turns and bends. Twisties are very much sought after when riding a motorcycle.

Wannabe – A person who wants to be a real biker, who dresses like one, who tries to behave like one, but probably only drives a SUV or a moped.

Wave – A greeting between bikers on the road, involving raising a hand, usually below the handlebars. The Wave is done to bikers on the opposite direction.

Wheelie – Sudden acceleration and slight pulling of the handlebar (unless your bike has enough torque to do it by itself), resulting in the front wheel of the motorcycle moving up in the air, and riding on the rear wheel alone.

Whoops – An obstacle section on a dirt track that has rows of mounds, requiring expertise to ride within a race.

Wrench – A mechanic.

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Riding motorcycles is fun, but it’s not just about having one. Once you buy one, insure it, put gasoline in it, you’re not done.

There are several things, some indispensable, that you need as a biker if you want to function properly.

Obviously you’ll need a helmet, maybe even two, jacket, boots, gloves and maybe even some good trousers. These are for safety, and although you can go without them (depending on where you live), it’s a good idea to protect yourself.

But that is not all. Before you know it, you’ll be wanting a few other things in your garage or with you on your bike. For example, when you finished a nice ride through the forest and fields, once you take off your helmet, you’ll notice all those bugs splatted over your visor and motorcycle. You’ll need to remove them pretty quick, since they are not good for your material. The bugs will start rotting and damage your fairings and helmet.

Bug remover sprays will work wonders on your motorcycle. Spray it on the bike where the bugs are, get a good cloth (you’ll need to buy one), preferably a microfiber one, and remove the bugs.

Your helmet can use a bit of the spray as well, but preferably not your visor. Helmet visors are a bit strange, remember that they let the light through, so you will need to be extra careful. Bug spray may stain the visor. The best way to remove stains from the visor is the old fashion way; soap and water. Window cleaner spray is the next best option. In my garage, I have a window cleaner spray and paper towels (or use special towelettes) right where I park my bike. The first thing I do when I arrive is clean the visor.

Next thing is cleaning your motorcycle. Depending on how dirty it became during the ride, particularly if you’ve gone off-road, the cleaning effort can involve high pressure water, or just plain running water. If you are using high pressure, remember not to aim it at joints, brakes, levers and anything that can move.

After cleaning off the dirt, you’ll want to wax your bike to protect it from the elements for the next ride. If you’ve got leather on your motorcycle, like saddles and saddlebags, a bit of waterproofing cream will go a long way.

After months of riding, even years, things on your motorcycle will wear out, and even fall off. Two of the handiest and most used items bikers often carry are HD-40 oil and duct tape. As the old saying goes “if it moves and it shouldn’t, use duct tape, if it doesn’t move and it should, use HD-40”.

Your bike probably has a small tool kit hidden somewhere. Usually the tools are for emergency repairs, but it makes sense to get a few tools that will add to the initial kit. Screwdrivers, pliers, Allen keys (make sure they are all the right size for your bike) are always welcome.

Depending on how much cargo space you have on your bike, carry a small first-aid kit. I always have one in my topcase, since you never know what can happen. Just a simple scratch that starts bleeding will require a plaster, and that is not easy to get right away.

If your bike has storage space for one or two helmets, great. But if not, you’ll not want to be carrying your helmet wherever you’ve gone, so a small chain and lock is handy to secure your helmet to your bike. A good chain can be used to secure your bike, but also your helmets.

The last thing you’ll always find on my bike is a tire pressure gauge. Tires should always be properly inflated, depending on the weight you are carrying (solo, with pillion, with cargo). Once a week I’ll check the tire pressure, just to be safe.

Next time we’ll look at the stuff you need in your garage.

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Most of us like riding our motorcycle, even – or maybe only – on long distances. But sometimes it just can’t be helped, you need to put your motorcycle on a truck and pick it up at another part of the world.

For example, many of us like going to Sturgis, it’s an annual pilgrimage, but the ride takes up way too much time to get there, party, and then go back; it eats away at our holiday time. But arriving at Sturgis without a bike is like attending your Prom Night without a date. And shipping a motorcycle is not limited to Sturgis. There are many good reasons to ship a motorcycle.

But if you are going to ship your precious bike, there are a few things you need to take into account before you do so.

Select The Right Transport Company

Getting the right shipping company is important. Your best bet is using one that someone you know has used. There’s nothing better than using references in selecting a service company, and shipping is no exception.

But maybe you know no one who has shipped a motorcycle before, and you just don’t know where to begin to find a trustworthy shipping company.

No worries, there’s a website that can help you. Uship has not only an exhaustive database of motorcycle shipping companies, but they also have user ratings for each. You can find transport companies in your neck of the woods (USA, Canada, most of Europe, Australia and India), find out for how much they are insured (very important), and what recent customers thought of them.

(c) Heritage Motorcycle Shipping

Quotes

Get as many quotes as you can handle. It’s the only way of properly judging not only what it will cost you, but more importantly, what the conditions are.

Check very carefully what the conditions are for delays (imagine that you are heading for Sturgis and the bike gets delayed), and also very important, check what is insured (accidents, fires, etc).

If your motorcycle is immobile, in other words, does not work, you will need to tell the shipping company. Many will drive the bike into a truck, and if the bike doesn’t work, it may raise costs.

uShip detailed shipper information

Preparing Your Transport

You’ll need to do a few things before shipping your bike. It is not a simple matter of putting your bike on a truck.

Photos

Take plenty of photos of your motorcycle before it gets shipped. Make photos from the sides, front, rear and if at all possible, the lower parts of the bike. Specially if there’s existing damage, like scratches, make photos of them.

Print out the photos, and write out a statement of the state of your motorcycle.

Get It Signed

When the transporter comes to pick up your precious bike, make them sign your statement and photos. This way, if your motorcycle is damaged, you have proof what it looked like before it got mauled.

Check List

Here are the things to do and watch for before the bike gets loaded:

  • Remove all personal stuff from your bike, including what may be in your saddlebags, panniers and top case.
  • Check your tire air pressure and make sure it has a proper pressure.
  • Check if there are any oil or fuel leaks. If there are, make sure you mention it to the transporter.
  • Fold your mirrors inwards
  • If you have an anti-theft alarm, deactivate it
  • Set your gear to neutral

Crates

Some companies allow you to ship your motorcycle in a special crate. The advantage of crates, usually a more expensive option, is that your bike is protected from scratches. But to use a crate will mean you will need to drain your fuel tank, and you’ll need to un-hook your battery (you can imagine what happens if the fuel catches fire… you can not move a crate out that quickly from a truck).

(c) Quick Crate

Reception of your motorcycle

When you take delivery of your motorcycle, take a detailed inspection of your bike. Even the smallest scratch is going to be expensive to repair, so pay attention.

Any damage, no matter how small, needs to be reported immediately, in writing, to the shipment company.

Enjoy your ride wherever you sent your motorcycle.

Click here to access uShip

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

Now, let us look at the actual ride itself.

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

1. Take your Time

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

2. Increase your distance

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

3. Do Not Take Too Long

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

4. Bring Sunglasses

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

5. Unsure? Feet on the ground!

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

But…..

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

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

7. Enjoy

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


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




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As we all know, riding a motorcycle is great fun, and even if you’re not into the freedom a motorcycle or scooter brings, you have to appreciate the ability to get through busy traffic. But as we also know, riding a two wheeler, be it a powered one or a bicycle entails certain risks.

Risks are something we all face, from the moment we get up from bed, take a shower, shave, you name it, there’s a risk associated to the activity, and motorcycle riding is no exception. As is the case with any other activity, there are certain things you can do to minimize the risks, or their end-results. Many believe in the ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time – meaning you always wear your protective clothing and helmet), but that is not all that is going to get you to your destination in one piece.

Body Movement & Muscles

Let’s take one very simple thing; – your body movement on the motorcycle! If by bad luck you get highsided, or just simply drop your bike when parking it, your body is going to make a sudden movement. Let’s take the simple and non-lethal maneuver of dropping your motorcycle while trying to put it on a center stand. It’s common place, and it has happened to many of us. You drop the bike, and as a reaction, you try to keep it upright. But with that movement, your muscles and back and now suddenly confronted with a mass of 100′s of pounds.

So at the very least, your muscles will be aching for a few hours, and at its worst, you’ll have a torn ligament.

The same applies when riding. You might be making a sudden movement, and your muscles will protest, and that can be over in minutes, or might involve a trip to the local masseur.

Why? Because your muscles are cold and not stretched.

Tip: Before getting on your motorcycle, stretch your muscles for a minute or so. Enough for them to warm up and stretch gently for a bit. This way, when your muscles are solicited unexpectedly, they’ll be ready for it.

Traffic Attention

Another thing that happens regularly in traffic, is when a car cuts you off. Or a car that has just parked, opens its doors right in your upcoming path. Usually this is followed by you saying (to yourself, unless you have a Bluetooth communication device) “Ohh #&!! The %$¤£ù#@ did not see me!”. It’s a normal reaction.

But if this happens more than once during your trip, watch out: In fact, you’re the %$¤£ù#@, since you’re not paying attention.

Tip: Remember, it’s your responsibility to ensure you arrive sane & sound at your destination, not that soccer mom riding the SUV with 8 screaming kids, while talking on her mobile phone. That is your job, and you have to look at the traffic with as motto that everyone out there wants to kill you. So if you get that reaction a few times during your ride, watch out … you’re not paying attention! You are responsible for your own life!

Tunnel Vision

It’s a proven fact that once you gain speed, even in a car, your field of vision narrows. The faster you go, the less peripheral vision you have. You start with some 190° vision, and at 60 mph, that is reduced to around 40°. The illustration below is just that, an illustration and not exact.

Motorcycle racers, riding at 200 mph only see directly what is happening in front of them. This means when you start your acceleration, you need to remember that you’re seeing less and less of what happening on your left & right. This means when riding a country road, and you open your throttle for some fun (don’t we all?), you’re not going to see that car approaching the upcoming intersection on your right until the very last moment.

Tip: Train yourself to look left & right when reaching speed. It’s a mind-over-matter thing; even if you’re going fast, nothing prevents you from checking what’s happening on the side. It means you can see that car approaching the intersection at a high speed, and it means you can anticipate its movement.

Better safe than sorrow. Be safe!

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Motorcycle Injury Areas

Motorcycle Injury Areas - Source: Unknown

Riding a motorcycle is thrilling, but it entails a certain degree of danger. It’s almost impossible to ignore the inherent perils, but unfortunately, some bikers do ignore it. It’s often the thrill that attracts us to riding, but best is to be prepared. If the professionals anticipate problems, who are we to ignore it? Professionals known what’s best, so let’s not ignore what they have to say.

To reduce potential problems, there are a certain amount of steps we can undertake. Mind you, we can never eliminate them. Apart from learning properly how to control the bike under difficult circumstances, riding alert and pro-active, the only other thing we can do is wear a certain amount of protective clothing and gear. Ideally, we’d we wearing a protective bubble, but that’s not realistic. 

Your Egg

Obviously the biggest protective gear we can purchase is the helmet. There are many debates about the use of helmets, many bikers want to have the freedom of not wearing one. But the same bikers have no problem wearing a helmet when playing football! Many see the helmet on a motorcycle as only good for when they have an accident, and since they are “great” riders, they never see themselves having an accident. And it’s not just protecting your head from accidents, but what do you think about your hearing. You may be deaf to those arguments, but that’s probably because of the wind and engine noise in your ears. Not to mention all those bugs hitting you in the face. Add to that sunstroke, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

But numerous bikers have died from head injuries because when they arrived at their destination, or at a stop, their foot slipped from under them, and the bikes went down, taking the rider with it. All you need to do is hit your head on the pavement from your seated position, and you can injure yourself badly, or worse.

Many bikers believe if they ride safely, and don’t speed, they will be fine. The European Constructors Association (ACEM) have spent a long time researching motorcycle accidents in Europe, and they have issued a very detailed report on accidents involving motorcycles. The majority of accidents happened at relatively low speeds, typically lower than 30 mph.

60% of accident involved a car, while 9% involved the biker hitting the pavement by himself, i.e., falling from the motorcycle, often at a low or no speed. As an indication, more than half (54.3%) of all accidents happened at an intersection.

It’s not that the biker was not able to ride properly, since 50.5% of all accidents are caused by a car driver (37.4% are biker error and the remainder are blamed on the environment, like road problems or weather, or technical/mechanical problems). So no matter how good you ride, there’s always someone on the road who is not paying attention, and can cause a (fatal) accident.

So a good helmet, preferably full face, but if not, one that has a visor, and is properly soundproofed is a very first step.

The Emperor’s Clothes

Clothing makes the man, but in our case, proper clothing saves our lives, or at the very least, prevents us from seeking plastic surgery. Usually going off your motorcycle while the bike is still moving is not recommended, but sometimes you just don’t control it. An accident that does not involve another vehicle is usually survivable. The biggest physical risk is the journey you make from your saddle to the ground. After that, just sit down (or lie down) and enjoy the ride. If you’re thrown off from your bike while riding a road, you’ll make an intimate acquaintance with asphalt. If you’re wearing good leathers, both a jacket and trousers, it’s not going to be a big problem. Just hope there’s no traffic behind you and no obstacles to bump into. But if you’re wearing jeans, within a second, the jeans will have burned away and your body will be sliding over the pavement, leaving you with a nice asphalt tattoo.

Normal jeans will not stop road rash. Special motorcycle jeans, usually denim reinforced with Kevlar will prevent road rash, but no material is as resistant as leather. Just look at motorcycle races. A racer gets highsided at 120 mph, and slides along the track and gravel for 5 seconds, and the racer gets up and looks for the crashed motorcycle to get on and continue the race. Try that with motorcycle jeans or other motorcycle trousers. Of course we’re not racing on the roads, so special motorcycle clothes, though not leather, will help us remain beautiful and not scarred. Having armor on your knees is a good thing to have. Maybe not so comfortable to walk in, but if you’re going to go down, your knees will be one of the first points of impact. And knees are not as strong as you think, in fact, they are as fragile as eggs.

The same applies to gloves. Many bikers think gloves aren’t of any use. Apart from protecting your hands from bugs hitting them, and keeping our hands warm in the winter, the obvious one is when you hit the pavement. Going down while riding is going to require medical intervention if you don’t have gloves, it’s guaranteed, but even if you drop the bike while at standstill will involve your hands hitting the ground first. It’s a natural reflex, using your hands to soften the fall. Even then you can scrape your hands resulting in road rash. No matter how minor the road rash, it’s not going to be pleasant.

Jackets, reinforced with armor at the elbows and back are equally important. Falling off your bike when riding usually means the first point of impact is your hands, followed by your elbows and/or back. Your elbows are very fragile, and an elbow fracture will be the least you’ll have on an off. 

Say What?

And finally, one area many ATGATT bikers don’t think about, your ears. When traveling on your motorcycle at a speed of 60 mph, the very best helmets will let through 90 dB of noise. The noise is usually the wind turbulence mixed with engine and traffic sound. Imagine listening to 90 dB noise for hours on end. And that’s for high-end helmets, mediocre ones let through 100 to 110 dB, enough to make you deaf for the rest of your life. Having ear plugs is a good idea. They are small enough to carry in your pocket, and you can either buy generic foam one-size-fits-all, or custom-made ones. You can even buy ones with small loudspeakers in them so you can listen to music. For a few dollars, you can make sure when you get older, you’ll still be able to hear things.


Nonfatal Injuries 2001-2008

Source: CDC

So you may think that riding in a t-shirt and sandals is cool, but the consequences if you go off your bike aren’t. If you think you are too good to have an accident, I’ve got news for you: you’re a prime candidate for one. Better safe than sorry. Get yourself equipped. Read what the Center of Disease Control (CDC) have to say.

Source: CDC


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Ever since motorcycles have existed, famous people have been riding them. In the beginning, most where maverick actors, or daredevil personalities, who used the motorcycle as a way of expressing themselves, and standing out in a crowd. Many actually loved motorcycles, and their passion grew into their trademark.

Over the years, celebrities who were not part of the movie or TV industry started using motorcycles to create an image of themselves. Only just recently, Republican 2012 Presidential candidate Jon Huntsman came into the news, using promotional material of him on a motorcycle. There is very little doubt that Jon Huntsman is a passionate motorcycle rider, there are plenty of photos of him circulating on the internet from before he became really famous. But is the use of him riding a motorcycle beneficial to us?

But what do motorcycle riding celebrities bring to the motorcycle world? Is it a good thing, or a bad thing?

There is no correct answer for that. Some are positive, some are not. I would say that you can divide famous bikers into two categories; the true riders, and the image riders.

True Riders:

True riders are those people that really love motorcycles. They ride on every occasion they get, and are very much like you and me (except richer and famous). These are people who have been riding since the first motorcycles were produced. Passionate bikers like T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia), or even Royalties like the King Albert II of Belgium, King Juan Carlos of Spain, King Abdullah II of Jordan (as was his father King Hussein) or the recent-in-the-news Prince William of England, are all known for their love for motorcycles. Famous chefs like Jaime Oliver, Gordon Ramsay and Alton Brown are known not only for their food skills, but also for their motorcycles.

You can not imagine people like Jay Leno without a motorcycle, or at least talking about them. Even the corporate world has them; Malcolm Forbes is famous for his motorcycles, and he even started a motorcycle gang called Capitalist Tools. Jacques Nasser, former CEO of Ford was a keen biker, as is the current CEO of Volkswagen. Apple CEO & founder, Steve Jobs for a long time was seen riding around California on his BMW motorcycle. All groups of life, all professions, have famous people, and for some of them, they ride motorcycles. Actors, musicians, sports people, politicians, TV personalities and corporate big wigs.

But what do all theses people bring to the motorcycle world? The answer for that one is quite simple, they bring a certain amount of respect. The biker image, mostly thanks to Hollywood, has been negative. Bikers are seen in movies as trouble; riding fast, fighting, nonconformist and loud people. Hollywood’s image of a motorcycle rider is that of gangs, killers and troublemakers. But when A-list people take to their bikes, it presents some counter image. If they ride motorcycles and they are respected people in their community or profession, then maybe bikers are not that bad after all.

Maybe using an actor/actress or musician as a role model is not so good. After all, acting is not seen as a respectable profession. But seeing politicians like Jon Huntsman, Ann Richards, Mary Peters, Gabrielle Giffords and Ben Nighthorse Campbell riding motorcycles, despite the fact that they are politicians, gives bikers a degree of respect and conformity. Seeing Fortune 100 CEOs ride motorcycles shows a certain responsibility that you and me can never match. But unfortunately, not all famous people are real bikers, and therefore are responsible riders.

Image Riders

The image riders are famous people who ride motorcycles because it’s good for their image, or at least they think so. Motorcycles are not a passion, but a tool. It’s often these people who have accidents because they were not able to control their bike and make the headlines. Usually, they are in the acting or music business. Names like David Hasselhof or Arnold Schwartzenegger make big headlines when they crash, and it’s never good headlines. Arnold went off his motorcycle, and then they discovered that he didn’t even have a motorcycle endorsement. How can anyone take motorcycles riders serious when the Governator is riding around on a motorcycle without a valid license? Hasselhof blew off his motorcycle with his girlfriend after a wind gust hit him. Most bikers know how to control a motorcycle in heavy wind, but apparently Hasslehof had problems.

Some, unfortunately often musicians, ride a motorcycle badly, sometimes without proper protection, or under influence, and that deters from the image of bikers to the non-biker world.

Of course real bikers have accidents too. Big names like Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves, Adrian Brody, Lauren Hutton and Liam Neeson all had accidents, but that’s motorcycles for you. Motorcycles are dangerous, but they all went back to riding their bikes. They ride with proper protection, and all know how to ride.

So motorcycle riding celebs can bring a better image to the motorcycle world, while image riders detract. Having an accident on a motorcycle when they are famous, and if they’re not wearing a helmet and other safety gear, or DUI, sets a bad image. It also sets a bad example for impressionable people (often youngsters) who will emulate their idol. If their idol doesn’t ride with a helmet, why should they?

Motorcycle riding celebrities have a responsibility, and should set an example. Show the world how it’s done properly. That will build goodwill with non-motorcycle riding people.

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

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

Insides of a motorcycle helmet

Insides of a motorcycle helmet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to check out the SHARP listing.

 

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About the time the warm spring winds finish the job of blowing out the rest of the winter chill, restlessness takes root in the heart of every motorcycle rider. Spring has sprung; it’s time to ride.

Typically, enthusiasts tend to focus on the driver enjoying the thrill of curve hugging rides through open country. The feel of raw power in the throttle hypnotizes motorcyclists across the globe. But, there is one point of view not often written about. It is the view from the rear seat.

True enough, there is a scintillating thrill that shoots up the spine when that V-twin roars to life. For the rider, the experience allows for a unique view of the road. Settled comfortably against the sissy bar, feet planted securely on the foot pegs, the sky looms wide and unrestrained. The rider is free take in the beauty of the ride with a freedom not afforded the motorcycle driver.
As with any aspect of motorcycle riding, safety is the number one consideration for the driver and rider as well. How does the back seat motorcycle rider contribute to the safety of the ride? The following tips are a good place to begin..

Learn the Moves
Learn to lean with the driver on corners. If the driver veers left, the rider should veer left as well, matching the movement of the driver. Basically, the rider’s actions ought to mirror that of the driver. A sudden shift in weight throws off the balance of the bike causing the driver to struggle to keep it on the road. At a high rate of speed, a shift could be devastating.

Distractions
Keep distractions to a minimum. Riding is a solitary event. Unless there is something pressing that cannot wait, resist the urge to tap the driver on the shoulder. Chances are he will not be able to hear anyway. The tap may be distracting and cause an unfortunate jerk on the steering. It is a good idea to discuss pit stops before climbing on the back of the bike.

Group Etiquette
There is an unwritten code among bikers to keep an eye out for other riders. When riding in groups, the lead bike has a responsibility to keep an extra watch for debris and other hazards in the road. When he spots something, the universal sign for danger consists of pointing a free hand down at the road, signaling the object. As a passenger, mirror this move. This will give the riders bringing up the rear an added indication to watch out for the danger on the road.

Dig out the helmets; dust off the leather. A long ride down the open road is the perfect initiation rite to usher in the springtime. For some, the seat behind the driver is the best seat in the house.

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Silver City New Mexico
Silver City, New Mexico

When I enlisted in the Marine Corps Infantry, I was surprised with the responses I received when others learned the news. Most, probably envisioning me marching away to war, expressed concern for my safety, a handful indicated they were proud of me, and the vast majority tried to relate: “hey, I have a cousin in the Army. He says he likes it, I guess.” A few, however, blurted that I was going to get myself killed. Thankfully, that reaction (a disconcerting one) was rare. But when I purchased a motorcycle, it was the norm.

 “So you just got a motorcycle, huh? Well, you’re gonna crash and die.”

 An incredible number also felt compelled to tell me about specific incidents where that had happened, too. It was always somebody distant to them, like the husband of a cousin’s neighbor’s niece. Invariably, something horrible had taken place. That, too, was disconcerting. It was always bad news…

  “You got a motorcycle? Yeah, I just had a patient who ground his entire lower body to a nub when he skidded off his bike doing 100mph on a back road. Have fun riding.”

 “You got a motorcycle? Our prayer requests in Bible study yesterday were for the surviving family of a man killed when he was riding his motorcycle on his farm.”

 “Motorcycle, huh…..you ever seen that video of Evil Knievel hitting the pavement after his jump? I think he broke every bone in his body – at least twice. It was heinous. He looked like a rag doll.”

 “Yeah, my cousin bought a bike, but he crashed it on his first ride and now he’s in a wheelchair.”

 “One of the neighbor’s kids used to ride, but then he wrapped himself around a tree and died. I think he was about 20.”

 “Well, bikes are neat, but I’m too afraid to ride. I’m terrified that somebody will open a car door and I’ll go flying off. Have you seen that movie where there’s this scene….the guy landed in an intersection and got run over. It was pretty cool. But I don’t want to ride a bike, though. Too risky.”

I even had one person offer to pay me NOT to purchase a motorcycle. Naturally, I declined.

 Yes, it may be dangerous, but so is life itself. Besides which, there are number of measures one can easily take to mitigate the risks – beginning with a motorcycle safety course, leathers, and a motorcycle helmet. Furthermore, most other risks can be drastically reduced if riders set aside their pride, ignore the compulsion to exceed the speed limit, and simply enjoy the road. That you have a bike – a sleek, powerful beast with lots of shiny parts – is showing off enough. Respect it, be hyper-vigilant, and you’ll be just fine. You have a greater risk of injury riding a horse (according to the Hughston Sports Medicine Foundation).

In looking back on the whole ordeal, I’ve reached the conclusion that the first thing that comes to mind with a non-rider is the dangers of motorcycling. Thus, that’s what comes out of their mouths. For a rider, however, is the freedom, the road, the roar of the pipes inside your helmet, and the known fact that people in their boring little cars are staring at you with envy. All their kids are waving, too, much to the horror of their mothers. Maybe everybody’s a killjoy because they’re jealous that I’m going to have a lot of fun and they’re not. 

And here’s the best part: Now only two years after purchasing my first motorcycle, nearly every person who said something negative about riding has since gone riding with me and thoroughly enjoyed it – to include the person who offered to pay me to not buy the bike. At least one has purchased a bike of his own, and several more have expressed interest in buying them in the future. I win, folks. Well, motorcycles win. (I will note that one passenger kept peering over my shoulder to monitor the speedometer, but I think she still had fun.)

 There’s something about a motorcycle that’s almost universally appealing. Something about the way it hugs the road in curves and bolts up the long inclines that cars struggle to climb. Or the deep rumble as you cut through tunnels and under overpasses. Maybe it’s the subtle statement that, “I can go fast if I want to, but I’m happy just relishing the ride.” All you naysayers, we’ll win you over yet. And then, we’ll see you out there on a bike of your own. You can’t help it; it’s just fun.
About Ben Shaw, the author

Motorcycle Trip Planning-To Plan or Not To

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