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Archive for the ‘Touring’ Category

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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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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Riding your motorcycle is fun, but when you ride for longer periods of time, your body will start protesting. At least, that is the case for many bikers. Apart from the famous monkey butt, one of the main areas of pain is your back.

If you think about it, or analyze it, your back will take all the strain of your riding posture. A lot depends on several factors; your body measurements, your motorcycle type and some parts of your motorcycle.

Motorcycle Type

Let us start with the type of motorcycle. Basically there are three types, Standard, Sports and Cruiser. Each has a body position, feet position and hands position. These three parts will form a portion of your riding comfort.

Standard

Standard Motorcycle (c) http://www.innova-pain.com/

Standard Motorcycle (c) http://www.innova-pain.com/

In the Standard motorcycle type (typically dual sports, touring bikes), your body is by default straight up, feet are directly below you and your hands straight. This is by far the best position for riding a motorcycle for longer distances.

Cruiser

The second best motorcycle type is Cruiser. Like the Standard type, your body is straight, your hands are straight (unless you are riding an extreme ape handlebar) and your feet are slightly ahead of you. Your legs will “hold” your body less than the Standard type, but your body will remain reasonable straight.

Sports

Sports Motorcycle (c) http://www.innova-pain.com/

Sports Motorcycle (c) http://www.innova-pain.com/

The Sports type requires your body to lean forward, and at higher speeds your torso will be required to fight a strong wind, while your hands are lower and your feet are behind you. In other words, there is a lot of stress on your body, one of the reasons you can not really go that far on a sports motorcycle.

Your Body

Looking at the above motorcycle types, your body measurements will have a big influence on your back. Obviously your body mass (i.e. obesity) will play an enormous factor, but then it will in other aspects of your life.

If you are above average height, you will stoop, hunching your back and thereby creating pain. Raising your handlebars will alleviate that issue. If you are smaller than average, the problem will be different, but the area that will cause your back ache will be your feet. Obviously lower your handlebars (if possible) will help, but few bikes can do that. If your feet reach the ground properly (if they don’t, change your motorcycle), then see if you can raise your foot pegs.

The objective is to straighten your back and keep it straight.

Motorcycle Parts

There are three parts to your motorcycle that can be adapted to make it easier on your back; handlebars, seat and foot pegs.

Handlebars

A motorcycle’s handlebar is made for an average height of the biker. It is obvious that a big percentage of bikers are not the right height, either too small or too big. To make your life more comfortable, and less back aches and hand/finger numbness, you can change the handlebar on your bike for something that fits better. Taller, shorter, wider, etc. When you look at the handlebar make sure it fits your body measurements.

Ask an ergonomics expert for advise what measurements you should take. When you buy a handlebar from a company like Pro Taper, they have an added advantage of usually being lighter and transmit less vibrations.

Seat

Usually the stock seat of a motorcycle is of average quality, and changing the seat for something more comfortable and more adapted towards your body measurements will do wonders towards riding longer distances.

Just adding a Airhawk can make all the difference.

Foot Pegs

Changing the position of your foot pegs will change your body posture. Many bikes allow you to lower or raise foot pegs, and if you buy aftermarket pegs, you can get something that suits your body better.

An alternative to standard foot pegs, depending on your bike are floor boards.

Summary

As you can see, your back ache comes from different areas, and you can help yourself by changing some part of your motorcycle.

Click here to read more about the positions on the three different motorcycles.

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There is nothing more rewarding and pleasurable then riding your motorcycle into the wild, pitching up a tent and camping for a day or two. Find a nice place in the woods, preferably with a great view and a lake, and you might just have a perfect holiday relaxing and enjoying nature.

Motorcycle-Camping

But motorcycle camping has its pitfalls as well, and we are not talking about being bitten by insects, nor not having your morning expresso coffee or sleeping in your comfortable bed. There are real dangers that should never be overlooked while camping, and one of the biggest dangers is fires.

Obviously when you are camping, you will want to eat. And to eat, you will need to make a fire to cook your food (and maybe later on in the evening sing Cumbaya). But fires in forest can cause a wildfires. Nine out of ten wildfires are caused by us humans, and a wildfire can kill people and destroy a lot of property, so you need to take a few precautions:

Fire Pit

Fire Pit

  1. Check if there is already a fire pit or fire ring (an area dug out a bit, often surrounded by stones).
  2. If there is not one, make one, but make sure it is not in an area with dry sticks, branches and leaves. Keep it 15 feet at least away from anything else (your tent, trees). Also watch out for low hanging branches.
  3. It might be a good idea to check where the wind is blowing, because embers and sparks will fly with the wind.
  4. Dig a pit, about 1 foot deep and place rocks around it.
  5. When you have finished putting dry branches in the pit and are ready to get some fire, it is a good idea to get a bucket with water and a shovel:- just in case.
  6. Once your fire is going, do not leave it unattended.
  7. When you are done, and the last Cumbaya song has been sung, if the fire has not died out, drown out the fire with water. You need to do this even if the fire has gone out (unless it is stone cold).
  8. Keep pouring water until you hear no more hissing. Stir the fire, and start pouring water again until it is no longer hot.
  9. If you do not have water, use dirt and sand, but you do need to stir that.

Remember, it is easy to make a fire, but very difficult and expensive to extinguish a wild fire. If the wild fire is tracked down to you, you will need to pay the expenses of all the damage it has cost, and the cost of the firefighters.

So if you go camping on your motorcycle, play it save. For all our sakes. Oh, and don’t forget your rain gear. You do know that Murphy was an optimist!

Click here to read more about fire safety while camping.

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Going on holiday with your motorcycle is twice the fun, first of all you are on holidays, and second, you are on your motorcycle. What more would you want (well, maybe some nice weather)?

But traveling on your bike with your gear requires a few reflections before you set off. Here are a few hints & tips for those of you planning to use your motorcycle to go on vacation.

Heavy-Load

The first thing you really need to do is grab your instructions/owner manual to see what the authorized maximum weight is (if you have lost yours, check the web). These figures are always listed since they represent the weight that your bike can carry safely. Any weight above that and you will forfeit any warrantee claims. You might also want to check your insurance policy what happens if you do not stick to the manufacturer’s restrictions.

Then you will need to add your weight and your pillion’s weight (if you have a pillion), plus any baggage weight. You will then know whether you are safe or not.

In practice, most bikers overload their motorcycles and still ride it safely. But you never know what bad effects it will have on your bike’s health.

Saddlebags, Panniers & topcases

If you have special saddlebags, panniers or topcases, you might want to check their maximum weight restrictions as well. These storage compartments often are limited in weight, and usually it is not for the storage compartment itself but for the compartment’s attachment points (luggage racks).

Suspension & Tires

Again, consult your manual. Each motorcycle has its own setup for heavy loads. You will need to set up your suspension accordingly, making it firmer. The last thing you want is to reach the outer limits of your suspension when taking a curve.

Your tires will need to be inflated to the right pressure. If not you risk bursting your tires while riding.

Ride (More) Safely

Riding with a heavy load on your motorcycle requires a bit more thought and patience to the actual riding itself:

Braking

For example, hitting the brakes while riding two-up and with all your luggage will mean that it is going to take longer to come to a full stop. If you require to brake several times, your brake pads will start suffering as well, and will need to be cooled down.

Your brakes need to slow down a lot of weight now. Remember that.

Handling

The handling of your motorcycle is going to be different. The Center of Gravity (CoG) will have shifted with all the weight, so you will need to take that into account when riding, especially in the tight curves.

The first few miles get to “feel” the bike’s handling.

Wind Sensitivity

Your bike will be more wind sensitive. There is more surface for the wind to push, so you will need to pay attention to that. The same applies to passing (or being passed) by trucks, on both directions (in other words watch out of oncoming trucks as well).

Once your bike starts moving because if the wind, it is going to take longer to get it back to the correct path.

Stopping

When coming to a full stop, remember that you have a lot of extra weight. This might cause your motorcycle to tumble over.

Also watch out when you put the side stand or even central stand out. Your bike is now a lot heavier and can easily dig in, causing your bike to fall over.

Theft

An obvious one that often gets forgotten. When you are in the holiday spirit, riding your heavily loaded motorcycle to your final destination, you stop over for lunch somewhere. Many bikers just leave their bikes parked with all their gear on it. When they come back, they are surprised that all their luggage is gone.

If you need to leave your bike, make sure you can keep an eye on it at all times. It is very easy to take something of your motorcycle.

Now, go out and enjoy your holiday.

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When seasons change, you are always faced with the same question; what to wear. Now that summer is fast approaching, or maybe it has already arrived for you, you need to look at what’s in your closet for riding in the summer. I’ve already written about staying cool in hot weather, but not everyone has extreme temperatures (link). Warm weather does mean adapting your motorcycle clothing.

But whatever you wear, you always need to remember the two important rules; 1) stay protected and 2) stay cool. You do want your body to stay cool, but you also want it protected in case of an involuntary “off”.

Scene from the movie "Waking Ted Devine"

Scene from the movie “Waking Ted Devine”

Helmets

Helmets-ColorsThe biggest winner for summer riding are open faced helmets. They allow the maximum of air coming into your face and head, keeping your head cool.

Obviously they do not protect your face in case of close encounters with the tarmac, but for the rest they will protect you.

The best alternative is a modular or flip-up helmet with lots of vents. Or a crossover helmet. Riding without a helmet is foolish, even if it’s just for bug hits.

Jackets

Nowadays most jackets are well aired, even leather ones. But for sure, a leather jacket is warmer than other materials, except for meshed jackets.

Use jackets that have plenty of vents, so that when it gets warmer during your ride, you just open more and more vents. When riding in the evening, you can close your vents.

Make sure that the jacket is abrasion proof. And since it can rain at any moment (maybe not in Death Valley), bring the rain gear. Just in case!

Trousers

Most bikers like wearing jeans, and although normal jeans are strong, they offer no protection whatsoever against impact or road rash. But there are special motorcycle jeans that do protect you. They will have removable armor and often materials like Kevlar.

But make sure the jeans are well aired, i.e., offer good ventilation. You can also buy trousers that are not jeans, like cargo pants, that are protected and well aired.

Shorts, no matter how welcome they are in the warm weather, are really out of the question. Unless of course you like tattooing your skin with asphalt.

Ad from Utah Department of Public Safety

Ad from Utah Department of Public Safety

Shoes

Obviously motorcycle boots are the best choice, but in warm weather, not very practical. If you insist on sneakers, get some that sits strongly around your ankles, like basketball sneakers.

For the sake of air pollution, yours and people around you, make sure your sneakers are well vented. Because taking them off after hours of riding; you know what I mean.

Gloves

When you take an off on your bike, your first instinct is to protect yourself with your hands. It’s a natural and very human reflex, and it’s the reason we need to wear gloves.

You can get gloves that are thin leather, enough to keep your skin intact after the first impact. They don’t cause much heat build up, and will protect your knuckles from those pesky bug hits.

So when riding your motorcycle in the summer, just be cool; wear protective but well aired clothing. Staying in a hospital in the summer is a real downer.

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