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Archive for the ‘Motorcycle safety’ Category

Usually bikers do not like riding the bigger highways or even tollroads/freeways. We prefer the good old country roads, with their winding curves and often better scenery. But sometimes you just can’t escape the bigger roads. To get from point A to point B in a hurry, you might not really have any choice; “it’s the highway or no way”.

But riding these kind of roads bring their own risks and challenges. Speeds are higher, there are more vehicles and you are only a very small spec on the road for many of the cars and trucks thundering along the way.

Tip 1 – Wear Bright Clothes

So the first tip is to make sure you are visible. Often car and truck drivers will have been behind the steering wheel for many hours, and their attention span limited. A motorcycle will just not be seen for that split second they need to react. Wear some high-visibility clothing, or at the least some high-visibility markings on your helmet or jacket.

Lane-Splitting

Tip 2 – Be Visible In Your Movements

Again, speeds are higher on these kind of roads, and you are not as visible as an 18-wheeler truck. So when you are maneuvering, make sure you are seen. Changing lanes, check you mirror on both sides and put out those indicators. Then check the mirrors again. You will find that there is always that car driver that is coming up faster than the traffic and before you know it, you will be intimately acquainted with him or her.

When you need to slow down, and if you have the time, press your brakes intermittently, causing your brake lights to flash. This will warn the distracted car driver behind you that you are slowing down.

Tip 3 – Do Not Let Them Tailgate You

It’s always a bad thing when a car or truck is riding a few feet behind you, but it’s even worse on a highway or tollroad/freeway. Speeds are higher, and if you need to slam the brakes, vehicles behind you will crash into you. Remember that a motorcycle will stop in approximately 50% of the distance of a car. If some idiot is not giving you the space, flash your brake lights a few times or use your arms to tell the driver to back off. But whatever you do, do not do a brake check! If the idiot persists, change lanes and let the car pass.

Note: I’ve seen quite a lot of cases where bikers get road rage towards cars that tailgate. It’s hopeless! You are the weaker one. There is nothing you can do to make sure you survive an encounter of the third kind with a car. Always remember that. You will always lose!

Tip 4 – Choose Your Lane Carefully

This is a difficult one. The right lanes are for slower traffic, but are often used by faster cars who are weaving in and out. It’s also where you will find the most number of trucks. The left lanes are normally used for overtaking, so faster. There is no real theory which lane you should be in, you’ll need to pay attention to all sides of the traffic anyway. But remember Tip #2, if you change lane, make sure you are visible. If there are three lanes, staying safe in the center lane may be a good bet, but some car drivers don’t like seeing it, so they may cut you off.

Motorcycle-on-highway

Tip 5 – Which Part of the Lane

Always try to stick to the left or right of the lane itself. The center of the lane is where it is far more slippery. Not only is that where you will find oil, radiator or brake fluid deposits coming from cars and trucks (engines are in the middle of the vehicles), but it is also the part of the lane where no tires have ran over, so dirtier, wetter and therefore slippery. If there are any objects left on the road, they will be in the center part of the lane. Riding behind a car or truck, you’re going to be running over them, not a nice thing to do.

If I had a choice, I’d stick to the right part of the lane, since most cars when overtaking will pass on the left, leaving some room for me to avoid wind turbulence.

Tip 6 – Passing Trucks

When passing trucks you always need to be aware of wind turbulence. If you are passing on the left, and there is wind blowing from that side, while you are passing, you are sheltered by the truck. But once you are clear of the truck, you will suddenly get a wind blast that could move you to the left – into a car’s passage.

If you are going really slowly, and trucks pass you, not only do you have to worry about wind coming from the right, but also the turbulence the truck creates when he passes you. Just be ready for it.

Tip 7 – Tollroads

It goes without saying, but make sure you have spare changes for the toll booths ready. Putting them in your trousers is going to be difficult to get at. If you’ve got storage space in the front of your bike, or if you are using a fuel tank bag, find a handy and easily accessible area. If not keep them in your jacket pocket. If the toll booths accept credit cards, have the car ready in your pocket or storage space.

And whatever you do, make sure you get the right toll booth and don’t end up having to push back your motorcycle because you took the ‘trucks only’, or ‘cars only’ booth.

toll

Do you have any tips for riding highways, apart from avoiding them?

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For many it’s spring, or almost. Although some parts of the country might still be seeing snow, many have had their first rays of sunshine, warm and more important, motorcycle riding weather. But if you have suffered from PMS (Parked Motorcycle Syndrome), and finally get to ride your bike, there are a few things you are going to want to remember and take into account.

Build-Up

Do remember that you haven’t ridden your motorcycle for months, so your reflexes have slowed down and your “traffic sense” has been reduced. You will need to build it up, like an athlete who has not been able to compete or train for month needs to slowly build up. Don’t get on your bike and peel rubber, take it easy in the beginning.

Spend at least a few days riding a bit slower before falling back on your old habits. Keep a proper distance between you and other vehicles. Watch out for other bikers, they too will be “suffering” from the same reduction in riding habits.

And finally, do some stretching exercises before getting on your bike, since I’m sure that you will not have had that much physical activities during the winter, apart from shoveling snow.

Road Surfaces

Roads that you used to take last year may have, or probably will have, lost a lot of their surface during the hard winter. Potholes will have appeared during the winter where there were none before, and you may find yourself going into one if you don’t pay attention.

Pothole-Cleveland

Surfaces are often slippery after a winter, with leaves, salt, sand and other stuff still on the road surface, making it as slippery as an ice-skate rink.

Also if there still is snow on the ground, particularly on higher locations, it will have started melting, and when snow melts, it becomes water, and that water might just be flowing through that curve you were planning to put your knee down.

Dress Properly

The sun may be out, but that doesn’t mean it’s warm. Do put on a proper motorcycle jacket, wear gloves and be ready for colder weather especially if your ride is going to take a few hours. Come nightfall you will find that it still is very cold out there. You might also want to take some rain gear with you; you never know.

Be careful when you do your first ride of the season. Be patient, and just enjoy the ride. This way you can be sure to enjoy more rides this year. So, are you ready for your spring ride? What plans do you have for riding safe in your spring rides?

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

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

Skully Helmet

Skully Helmet

Jetfighter HUD

Jetfighter HUD

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

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

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

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

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

Robocop

Robocop

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

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

Roundabout

Roundabout

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

4-Way-Stop

4-Way-Stop

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

Paris Arc de Triomphe roundabout with 11 roads

Paris Arc de Triomphe roundabout with 12 roads

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

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

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

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

Multiple roundabouts inside one big roundabout (UK)

Multiple roundabouts inside one big roundabout (UK)

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

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It is that time of the year again, when many parents need to bring their children to school. Many just let them take the school bus, and many stuff their kids in a car and bring them to school. But there are also many of you who have one child and a motorcycle. So they do the easiest thing, and that is ride to school on their motorcycle, drop off their kid and then head for work.

It makes sense, but you do need to take several precautions. Remember that you are responsible for the child, and children do not always behave like adults (in fact they probably behave better than most adults I know, but that is a different topic).

Many-Kids-As-Pillion

The first question you need to ask yourself is at what age should I be able to take my child with me on my motorcycle. A lot of will depend on where you live. Laws are different in each state, even in different countries. But personally as a rule of thumb, if the kid’s legs can reach the foot rest, they should be fine. If not, a child seat will become a necessity but personally I think that is a can of worms. Manufacturing quality of the seat, ability to hold your child in place, legality of the seat, etc, more questions than answers, so I would forgo really small children on motorcycles (and don’t even think about placing your child on your fuel tank).

What not to do!

What not to do!

One thing you need to make sure: that you kid’s limbs do not touch moving or hot parts (wheel spokes, chains and exhausts). Since their legs are small, they have the possibility of moving more easily and get caught or burnt.

If the kid’s feet do not reach the foot rest it means your child is not balanced. One curve and you might just find your child on the ground.

Seat Belt

An alternative is a seat belt. There are a few on the market, and they could save the life of your child. If you buy the right one, you could even use it for an adult pillion. When you are riding long distance, pillions often get bored and can fall asleep. A seat belt will prevent them from keeling over onto the road.

Children-Motorcycle-Harness

One of the better ideas is having a harness. The harness is like a seat belt that holds your child to you.

Click here to read more about it, or to buy one.

Helmet

Get a good and but not too heavy helmet for your child. Even if you live in a helmet-less state, do think about your child; it is so easy to fall from the motorcycle, and for them the pillion seat is high, and the fall long.

It’s preferable to get a full face helmet, or a modular one. Avoid open face helmets, but if you can’t get one of the preferred ones, get a motocross helmet.

A too heavy helmet will bring future problems for your child since the weight will push down on his cervical vertebrae, so unless you want to spend a fortune on chiropractors, keep in mind the easy formula; the weight of the helmet should not be more than 1/25th of the weight of the child.

Click here to have a look at many different children helmets.

ATGATT

Accidents do happen no matter how good a biker you are, and often they are just harmless fender benders. But a small fender bender will probably mean your child will hit the ground, so best to make sure, apart from the helmet, to have a proper trouser, jacket, gloves and preferably boots. So do not bring your child on a motorcycle with a t-shirt, bermuda shorts and sandals.

Click here to look at different kid’s clothing for motorcycles

It is an investment that is for sure, and children tend to grow, so you need to buy replacements every year, but it is a worthy investment. Not only will it mean you will be riding your motorcycle, but it will probably also mean your kid will love going to school. And that is a good thing, isn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington DC Traffic

Washington DC Traffic

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

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

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

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

Source: AllState

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

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

Coffee

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

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

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

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

Tea

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

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

Soda

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

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

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

Energy Drinks

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

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

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

Health and Safety

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

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

Click here for a long list of caffeine per product.

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

Eating/Chewing

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

(c) Hell Ride Movie

(c) Hell Ride Movie

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

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

Head Movements

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

Talking

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

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

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

Stops

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

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

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

Drugs

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

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

Have a safe ride.

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