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Safety for bikers is something many look for. Helmets, body armor, gloves, special boots, all are items that most would consider normal in a biker’s everyday life.

But for the last few years, airbags have made an entry in the motorcycle world. They started with big motorcycle jackets with incorporated airbags. The first models had a wire attached to the motorcycle, and if the biker left the motorcycle unexpectedly, the wire pulled a CO2 canister that pumped air into the jacket within milliseconds. This way, if the biker was flung from the bike, the body was pretty well protected from impact.

Michelin Man

Michelin Man

The first models were a bit slow, and when the airbag was deployed you looked like the Michelin man. But in recent years, airbag technology evolved. Much of that is thanks to the efforts of MotoGP racers who tested such airbags, and are currently using them when racing.

The first airbag jackets were made by manufacturers who made nothing else than airbag jackets, but soon big names, like Dainese (D-Air series), Alpinestars (Tech Air), Spidi, etc. came into the game.

Now airbag jackets are high-tech. Many of them don’t have a string attached to the bike, but use sophisticated electronics to determine if a biker is leaving the motorcycle unplanned. Of course, it means that there are counter electronics installed on the bike, which communicates with the jacket. And when we say sophisticated electronics, it also means sophisticated price; a big price. The Alpinestars Tech Air Racing Replica 1 cost for example US$2,899.95

Spidi DPS Airbag vest

Spidi DPS Airbag vest

But if you’re not a racer, or not someone who makes full use of open track days, it doesn’t need to be that expensive. If all you’re looking for is some added protection without having to spend a fortune on new jackets, you can buy a vest that is put over your current jacket. So you keep your current jacket, and have the added protection of an airbag.

The technology is still not that cheap that anyone can purchase it, count a couple of 100’s of dollars for a vest. But if you can afford it, what’s the price of safety?

Since more and more manufacturers are now making airbag jackets, the concept is becoming mainstream. In the next few years, prices will become competitive, and most manufacturers will offer airbag models.

Have a look at this video to see how effective the airbag jacket is.

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You’ve probably heard of chicken strips, or maybe you haven’t. Chicken strips is a term used in the motorcycle world for the edge of the motorcycle tires.

Chicken-Strips-1

Each tire when it rolls out of the manufacturing plant has small strips on the side. These strips, depending on the tire type, are the small little cones that stick out of a tire, which can be found on the edge (like in the photo above). Normally speaking, these strips get worn off when you ride, particularly when you use the bike a lot in curves while maintaining a high lean angle. The more you put your knee closer to the road, the less chicken strips will be visible.

Chicken-Strips-2

For other types of tires, particularly sportstires (like the photo above), the chicken strip is the edge of the tire that has not been used, and is therefore still raw.

For many clubs and discussion forums, chicken strips therefore indicate whether you are afraid to take curves aggressively. The less chicken strips you have, the more you are willing to attack a curve.

With many bikers it has become a thing of honor; no chicken strips. So much so that they have started using sandpaper to remove the strips, in other words……. cheating.

Obviously it’s a question of how far you are comfortable in putting your knee down. Never try to outdo your own capability, no matter how many chicken strips you have left on your tires.

Jafrum.com

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Wanna get this poster? Check out this Motorcycle Quotes Poster Giveaway

Motorcycle Quotes Poster

Motorcycle Quotes Poster

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When I went for the test ride of the before mentioned Tour Master Synergy 2 Heated Liner (click here to read the review), I also wanted to test my Bell Vortex Helmet.

The Bell helmet is one of the better helmets that you can buy for a moderate price. Snell and DOT approved, it only weighs 1600 grams thanks to the lightweight composite polycarbonate allow shell.

Bell Vortex Helmet

Bell Vortex Helmet

An important aspect I wanted to test in the cold weather was the air circulation, since when it’s cold outside, my body was being heated by the Tour Master Heated Liner, so you can count on your visor fogging up.

The Bell Vortex helmet has a special area reserved for loudspeakers, and I am using it for my Cardo Scala Rider G9 headset. I just love listening to music while I ride.

When you put on the helmet the first thing you notice is the magnetic strap keeper mechanism. It’s handy, but I’m worried for long usage, but that is something we’ll see over time. But what the strap keeper does is keep the remainder of the strap from flapping in the wind. On its own, a great idea, but time will tell how it holds up.

As mentioned before, the weather was pretty cold, about 32°F, and the Tour Master was doing its job in heating my body.

The collar of the helmet is padded, which means that there’s less cold air entering the helmet from below, and the noise is reduced as well, although I have to say the helmet, for its price, is quite silent. Obviously when you open the air vents, more noise comes in, but when the vents are closed the helmet is surprisingly quite.

I started with the air vents closed, but quickly the heat coming from my body started putting patches of fog on the visor, so I opened up the vents. That not only cleared the visor, although I did have to open the visor once or twice, but the air flow was comfortable over my head. I was afraid it would freeze my brain, but it didn’t and it felt nice. The helmet fit is snug, but that will depend on your own head size and shape.

Noise levels with and without air vents were more than adequate. I was listening to the Cardo Rider built-in FM radio, and had no problems hearing anything. Even with the radio switched on, noise levels are kept to a minimum. Remember, this is a sub-200 dollar helmet!

The one thing I didn’t like about the Bell is its size. It’s bigger than my other helmets and has a problem fitting in the top case. But for the price, I can live with that. On the other hand, you can get many different colored visors and other accessories.

Click here to buy the Bell Vortex Helmet

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

Asking for it

Asking for it

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

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

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

Backpack-strap-danger

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

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

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

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

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We’re right in the middle of world’s biggest and greatest race, one of the toughest rallies known to mankind. We’re talking about the famous, or should I same notorious, Dakar rally.

Back in 1978, Frenchman Thierry Sabine (already know for organizing the wacky Le Touquet beach race) got lost in the Libyan desert on his motorcycle while racing in the Abidjan-Nice rally. He spent many days & nights digging himself out of the sand, and thought this could be a great idea for a motorcycle race. So next year he organized a race for his friends, all amateurs, to race from Paris to Senegal’s capital, Dakar.

Trucks were required to give assistance to the weary riders, and cars also entered the rally. A legend was born, the Paris-Dakar rally.

Although even today the majority of races have finished in Dakar, it wasn’t always the route Paris to Dakar. The last time Paris was used as departure was in 2001, and even before that, 3 times Paris was avoided. The reason for that was simple; weather. The Dakar rally starts in January, and often it snows at that time in France.

The routes were different each year, and eventually Dakar was left out of the destination. With more and more terrorist activities taking place in the Northern part of Africa, eventually in 2009 the organizers, ASO (organizers a.o. of the famous bicycle race the Tour de France), decided to move the race to South America, where it is still being held today.

Cyril Depres in the 2012 Dakar

Cyril Depres in the 2012 Dakar

The motorcycle portion of the race (the rally is divided into cars, quad, trucks and motorcycles) generates the most interest from the public. And there’s a good reason for it; the efforts required to ride a motorcycle through deep sand, dunes, mountains, plaines and the feared fesh-fesh (a thin ash), often for hours on end, are practically inhuman. Riders at times don’t get to see their beds (which are small pup-tents) for days, requiring major physical efforts to dig out their bikes from the sand, repair & maintain and provide their own assistance. And all that while high speed cars and trucks blast past them, often missing them by a hair (and sometimes they do crash with deadly results – 62 people have died in the Dakar, but not all in the race, sometimes in “normal” traffic accidents).

The dream of most is just to finish the race and arrive at the final destination in one piece. Forget about winning the race, that’s left to super professionals like Cyril Despres, Marc Coma and a few others. Usually more than 50% of the entered bikes don’t arrive at their destination, some even ending their dreams in the first day.

The professionals, all riding for manufacturers’ teams, require big budgets to win. Millions are spent on the race, since it’s a showcase for the motorcycle manufacturer if they win world’s toughest race.

Dakar-1980-Vespa

Dakar-1980-Vespa

Since 2001, Austrian manufacturer KTM has won every single race. Before that, the bikes that won most races were BMW, Honda and Yamaha. But all sorts of bikes have entered the race, Moto Guzzi, Cagiva and even a Vespa scooter.

Entering the race, even as an amateur costs a lot of money, so much that some have even mortgaged their homes to be able to race. ASO figure that you need a budget of €75,000 to race as amateur.

Alpinestars Tech 8   Gaerne Balance   Tourmaster synergy

Stephane Peterhansel is by far the racer with the most victories. He won the race on a Yamaha motorcycle 6 times, and then went racing in a car, winning the Dakar 4 times. It shows how tough the race is for motorcycles, since several motorcycle winners have gone to race cars in the Dakar.

Thierry Sabine had a slogan for his race, a slogan is means something to competitors and spectators alike: “A challenge for those who go. A dream for those who stay behind.”.

Unfortunately, Thierry Sabine died in a helicopter crash during the 1986 rally. Today, the legend still lives, and millions (according to ASO statistics, 1 billion people will have seen images of the race each year) enjoy and dream of this race.

Will you be one of the next competitors?

Alpinestars Tech 8

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We all do it when the new year strikes midnight. We make some resolutions, or promises to ourselves that we plan to do for the year.

Often they are about losing weight, doing more exercise, being nice to neighbors or learning to make that special meal for your loved one. But how about new year resolution for you & your motorcycle?

Here are a few you may want to consider. Don’t take all of them, since you’ll never get all done, and it’ll end a disappointment.

  1. Clean the motorcycle regularlyIt’s a pain, but it’s the best for you and your bike. Often we start cleaning at the beginning, but towards the end of the season, it’s quickly forgotten.
  2. Check your tire pressure before setting out – alwaysTire pressure is important, and even if it’s a visual inspection, it’s better than nothing. You should really do it every ride, but as humans we’re lazy. Better commit to doing it.
  3. Ride more, preferably to workNothing beats riding, even to work. But when we get tired from work, you get lazy and take a cage. But remember when riding your motorcycle you will feel so much better.
  4. Make those long awaited upgradesOften put off, why not get that extra gear or upgrade and install it. You’ll thank yourself afterwards?
  5. Learn to fix and maintain your bikeIf you don’y know how, how about a course to learn to fix your own bike? It’ll save you money in the long run, and it’s gratifying.
  6. Take advanced or refresher motorcycle riding courseYou can never learn enough or train enough. Be a safe rider.
  7. Get your racing licenseEven if you don’t plan to race, learning to race means you learn to control your bike under difficult circumstances.
  8. Do more track timeIf you like riding fast, knock yourself out (not physically please) on a track. Get your adrenaline flowing.
  9. Go to a big motorcycle event (Sturgis, MotoGP, Le Mans)If you’ve never been, GO! It’s like going to Mecca for your once in a lifetime pilgrimage.
  10. Ride a motorcycle charity run (like Toys for Tots, etc)Be good and help others.

New-Year-2013

No matter what your new year’s resolutions are, have a great and happy new year, and most important, ENJOY.

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