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Archive for the ‘Motorcycle safety’ Category

Motorcycles do break down at times, though much less nowadays then in the past. Bikes are more dependable, but it does happen that one suddenly stops working. If you are riding on a road, even a highway, tollroad or freeway, you will be able to pull over. Head of the emergency lane or to the side of the road, and do whatever you need to do to get your bike going again (remember the times that you had to switch a fuel selector for normal or reserve??).

Tunnel-riding-0

But if your motorcycle stops working inside a tunnel, then it is a whole different matter, especially in a narrow tunnel with only two single traffic lanes. Then it can become a nightmare.

Here are some simple tips to help minimize troubles:

Tunnel-riding-1

  1. The moment you find out your bike is acting up, put on your hazard warning.
  2. Make sure your lights are on (unless of course you are having electrical problems).
  3. Start slowing down before the bike slows you down. This will slow traffic down behind you in a more controlled way.
  4. Pull alongside the right side of the road as far to the right as you can, even if there is an emergency lane.
  5. Keep your light on the bike on.
  6. Make sure YOU are visible (clothing, lights, etc).
  7. If there are emergency call boxes (telephones) inside the tunnel, best is to park your bike several yards further.
  8. If there is no phone in the tunnel, walk against the traffic direction, alongside the wall to the outside (unless of course you are very close to the other side of the tunnel). Remember that it’s dark, and you will be difficult to be seen.
  9. If you are indeed in a narrow tunnel with no emergency lane, DO NOT ATTEMPT to fix the problem yourself, but get the hell out of Dodge City.
  10. Contact authorities or a garage to get your bike out of there.

Tunnel-riding-2

If you think it’ll never happen to you, think again. Every year quite a few bikes break down in a tunnel, and a few result in accidents.

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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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