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Archive for the ‘Touring’ 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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We have talked about riding when it is cold (part 1part 2part 3), an activity which is not as much fun as riding during the summer to say the least. But with the right clothing (heated jackets, gloves, etc) and equipment (heated grips, saddles) you can ride even when it is freezing.

Apron-Cutoff

But if you have ever been in Europe, even in the summer, you will have with no doubt noticed that many motorcycles and scooters have something over their ride; it is an apron.

Many riders over there buy an apron that gets attached to the handlebar or a central attach point, and then the apron stretches all the way over the rider’s legs and even chest.

Apron-grips

Several aprons even extend over the handlebars covering the rider’s arms. Usually the aprons are leather or thick plastic and you will not be surprised to see the inside made out of fur or wool.

The apron keeps the rider not only warm but also dry. Which is why you also see aprons used during the summer months; the rider wants to be kept dry. It is quite often the couriers / express delivery riders who use aprons, but nowadays business folks who use their two wheels to commute. Remember that in most European countries, people keep riding all year long, and often have their motorcycle as only mode of transportation. So it is a necessity.

Apron-Motorcycle-Taxi

Motorcycle taxi almost all have them now. These taxis transport their passengers all year long, so they need to keep them warm, toasty and happy.

It is an interesting way of keeping warm and dry, even in the winter that does not seem to have caught on in the USA. Maybe one day?

Apron-Motorcycle

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We have already mentioned one of our favorite roads to ride our motorcycles on, the Deal’s Gap also known as the Tail of the Dragon. Of course we are slightly biased since the ride is close to home, but there are many others roads that can equal some of the better known roads in Europe and Asia, and they are all found here in the States.

But instead of researching them, writing them up, and publishing them, we are more inclined to show you a web site that has done exactly that.

Best-Motorcycle-Roads

Motorcycleroads.com is a site that lists the best roads to ride on in the USA, and it is not based on the web master’s opinion but of the readers.

Anyone can list their favorite road, and then others can vote if it is really a nice road. So it is you, the reader, who decides which are the great roads. As democratic as you can get.

Each road on their site is accompanied by a map, a description, the scenery encountered, the quality of the road and the amenities (restaurants, garages, hotels, bars). You can also find several photos and videos of the road. And at the very bottom, you will find the individual reviews of that road.

Just have a look at their Top 100 roads in the USA. Just have a look at what they have to say about Deal’s Gap. In fact, Deal’s Gap is listed as 2nd best road.

But there are many roads I have never heard of, but many look like real fun. So many roads, so little time.

If you plan to ride several of their listed roads, you can also get an app for your iPhone or Android smartphone. This way you can go from road to road.

So head on over to the site and start planning your next fantastic ride.

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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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Some of world’s motorcycle museums are very good, full of old bikes we have never seen. Usually the manufacturers have their own museums, where they have kept the models they have made over the ages in mint condition.

World’s biggest motorcycle manufacturer Honda has an incredible museum based in Montegi, and although Japan is a bit far away, you can visit this beautiful museum for free. Yes, you read that right, for free.

Thanks to Google and their Street View, you can now walk through the 3 floors that constitute the Honda Museum.

Honda-Museum-Montegi-3

Want to see what Honda merchandising they have? Just visit the shop on your way out. Just do not forget to tip the guide.

Honda-Museum-Montegi-2

What’s more, if you have 3D glasses, press the “3” on your keyboard to see the museum in 3D. It’s almost as good as being there, and it doesn’t cost you a cent.

Honda-Museum-Montegi-1

On the top left you will see the numbers 1,2 and 3. Press those to go to that floor. When “walking” through the interesting museum, you will also see a collection of their race cars.

Visit the Honda Museum by clicking here

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Motorcycle Camping Do’s & Don’ts

We have written not so long ago about the dangers of camping fires, but we forgot to mention the “camping” aspect. Camping is a popular activity for motorcycle riders the world over. Not only is it cheaper than hotels, but we continue enjoying a certain amount of freedom that hotels or motels do not offer. The brotherhood (and sisterhood) of bikers often continue when camping. What can be more fun that living “outdoors” with likeminded bikers?

So here are few things you need to take into consideration when camping.

What To Take?

That is always the big question; what can you take with you. If you are traveling in a cage, it is less of a problem, but traveling on a motorcycle, especially when you are riding two-up, it becomes a real issue. Space is at a premium, and you need to have good motorcycle bags.

If you are planning on cooking yourself (I don’t, since there are always nice and cheap places to eat along the way), you will need to bring cooking gear. That takes up an enormous amount of space; stove, pans, plates, cutlery, cups and some form of drinks (coffee, tea). The food itself you can buy locally, if not you will need to bring cans of food.

The other thing that you need to bring is clothing. Again, it’s a space issue, you can not bring your whole wardrobe, just some basic stuff. But you do need to take into account your destination’s climate. If you will be traveling between different temperatures, be smart in your clothing choice. Bring stuff that can be added, not replaced. In other words if you are in a warmer climate and going to a colder one, do not bring warm clothes and cold weather clothes. Bring warm weather clothes and then add extra clothes that can be put on top of the warm weather clothes to resist the cold weather. This way your clothing is not going to be (that) bulky. A turtleneck sweater takes up more room than two shirts that can be put on on top of each other.

Shoes take up a lot of space. Motorcycle boots can do the trick, depending on the boots, and I would add one pair of easy shoes to be used around the camping. So boots for trekking or walking, light shoes for around the camping. Since you will be wearing the boots while riding, they take up zero space.

Do not forget a towel. Drying yourself off with t-shirts is messy. Nowadays you can buy microfiber towels that take up very little space but are great for drying yourself off.

Another handy thing to have is a first-aid kit. You never know, and they are usually very small. Just the basic stuff, and of course, depending on where you are going, anti-mosquito sprays.

Nomad motorcycle tent

Nomad motorcycle tent

Tent, sleeping bag and mattress are obvious, unless you are planning to sleep under the stars (good luck). The more compact, the lighter, the better. Tents, sleeping bags and mattresses take up a lot of space, so choose carefully. This is where money spent is money well spent. But do again remember your destination’s climate. Your sleeping bag’s choice is going to determine if you are going to sleep well at night.

The last thing to bring is a personal choice: guides and maps. Some people do not care, and just enjoy what they are seeing, while others want to read all about the area they are in. But a paper map can be quite handy, especially if your GPS quits on you.

Packing the motorcycle

Now you need to pack everything. There are really no rules of thumb about packing. Obviously best is to keep stuff together so you know where everything is. So cooking gear in one bag, clothes in the other. The last thing you want is that cooking oil seeping into your clothes.

Do not take unnecessary stuff

Do not take unnecessary stuff

But one thing you do need to keep into account; your motorcycle’s center of gravity. Best is to keep as much stuff as you can, particularly the heavy stuff, as close to the bike’s center of gravity as you can. The heavier stuff goes low, the lighter stuff higher up. So if you are bring a cast iron frying pan (why would you?) place it at the bottom of your pannier/side case/saddlebag. Use as much as you can a fuel tank bag. It’s limited in volume but sits in the center of the bike.

Sissy bar bags hold a lot of space, but do catch wind and will slow you down, and use up petrol. But they are handy to carry a lot of space, especially two-up.

Make sure your clothes are in a rain proof bag. The last thing you want is to arrive at your destination and find your clothes soaking wet.

At your destination

When you have arrived at your destination, whether it is an official camping site, or just somewhere along the road or in the wild nature, be sure to secure your motorcycle. The last thing you want is to wake up in the morning to find your ride gone. It’s going to be a long walk back home. Chains and padlocks are your friends here.

Being able to keep your motorcycle close to your tent, even using your motorcycle as part of your tent is great, but some camping ground do not allow that. Better safe than sorry. But if you do, make sure your motorcycle will not tip over.

Make sure your motorcycle will not sink into the ground, especially when it has been raining. Put a plastic or metal coaster under your side stand, or put your bike on a center stand.

If you are staying at a camping ground, you will need to respect the rules. One of them is not to fire up your engine and revving it. I do not think other campers are going to like you very much if you do.

If you do plan to cook, or just make a fire, read these points about camping fires. The last thing you want is to be held responsible for creating the worst fire known to mankind.

Now just enjoy your freedom and camp to your heart’s content. I just hope it is not going to rain.

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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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