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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?

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?

When you ask people what they think the top 5 motorcycle companies are, they will probably get 2 or 3 right. Most bikers know that Honda is one of the biggest, and that Harley is not a small fish. Some might add to that list Yamaha. And they would not be wrong, but very few bikers will know about 2 other enormous manufacturers: Hero and Bajaj.

But first let’s go back to the Top 5 list. According to Research and Markets the top 5 leading motorcycle companies in performance, strategy and competitive analysis (so not in raw sales figures) are:

  1. Honda
  2. Yamaha
  3. Hero MotoCorp
  4. Bajaj Auto
  5. Harley-Davidson

So again, let me say, it’s not in number of sales, but in their strategy, their performance and how they stack up in a competitive market.

Number 1, 2 and 5 you will know, but 3 and 4 are mostly unknown to most North American bikers, and that is because they are not present in that market. Both manufacturers are from India, and their markets are Asia, Africa and South America. Markets where low displacement bikes that are sturdy and cheap are the chosen form of transportation.

Hero-MotoCorp-logoHero MotoCorp used to be a partner with Honda but in 2011 split from the Japanese company (they used to be called Hero Honda). Now, they are world’s largest motorcycle manufacturer in terms of sales.

They have also bought themselves into Erik Buell‘s company, so this new partnership will probably see Buell’s bikes sold through Hero’s shops, and possibly see Hero’s motorcycle start selling in the USA but with some redesign by Buell.

Bajaj-Auto-LogoBajaj Auto, despite the name having “Auto” is not an car maker but a motorcycle manufacturer from India. They are world’s 3rd largest and India’s 2nd largest in terms of sales.

Both manufacturers make small displacement bikes, typically 150 cc, although 200 cc is not uncommon. Sold for a few thousand dollars, these motorcycles are very strong, designed for the bad roads in many countries. Both manufactures are looking at expanding their sales base, and competing with the other, more known, brands on the Top 5 list.

But is the North American market ripe of brands like Hero and Bajaj. On the plus side, they are not fly-by-night operators, they have been in business for decades. They are enormous and have the money to develop many new bikes. But on the minus side, their bikes are unattractive and low power. But they are …. CHEAP.

Bajaj-Pulsar-200cc

Bajaj-Pulsar-200cc

So would you consider buying a 200 cc motorcycles for let’s say $1500? A bike that is sturdy that you can use as runaround and one that you will not mind if you drop it? Or would you prefer to pay double even triple for a more recognizable name?

If you have been following the online and printed motorcycle press, you will have no doubt noticed the mention of a new motorcycle manufacturer, in this case Lotus. Lotus is an old name in the car racing world, having won many championships ranging from Formula One to Le Mans. But they have always been car makers, and although the manufacturer stopped many years ago, it got revived after its bankruptcy in 1996. The company started by the legendary Colin Chapman, got bought (several times) and is currently in the hands of Proton.

So is this new motorcycle part of the legendary Lotus car maker? In fact, no it is not. The Lotus that has been making a splash with their announced motorcycle is owned by German Kodewa and the tuner Holzer Group. They just licensed the Lotus name. So it’s not a Lotus is the pure sense of the words. But now let’s look at the motorcycle itself.

Lotus Motorcyles C-01

Named the C-01, it’s a stunner in the looks department. The bike was designed by none other than Daniel Simon, a man who worked for Volkswagen, but also Bugatti and he is the man who designed the motorcycles for the remake of the Tron: Legacy movie.

Lotus Motorcyles C-01

At the heart of the bike is a known engine, the KTM 1195 cc V-twin, an engine that has been proven as a reliable and very powerful engine. The Lotus C-01 motorcycle’s version develops an astonishing 200 horsepower.

The chassis itself is made out of aero tech steel, titanium and carbon fibre. The whole weighs a tad under 400 pounds (dry 181 kilos to be exact), so you can imagine its drag race power. If you want to know more about the technical specification, click here.

Lotus Motorcyles C-01

But it’s not just the sheer power that has captured the fancy of many motorcycle-lover, nor the name. It’s the design of this sleek bike and its paint jobs that make this a bike on many bucket list.s You just need to look at a few of the photos here to see why. Almost all the color schemes are based on the former glory of Lotus racing.

And as usual when these high-end motorcycles get launched, if you got to ask for the price, you can not afford it. No price has been disclosed, but when the production starts in a few month, as announced they will only make 100 units, we’ll bet you that it’s not going to be cheap. But were sure that the likes of Brad Pitt, Tom Cruiser and Jay Leno will shortly have a Lotus motorcycle in their garage.

Lotus Motorcyles C-01

Click here to access the Lotus Motorcycles web site for more info.

So, would you want to own this motorcycle?

Traditional thinking see a motorcycle have two wheels, three if it is a sidecar. By why limit yourself to traditional thinking? One company did just that and came up with a single wheel motorcycle (other have as well, but for this article we are concentrating on this one).

Ryno-1

Using more or less the innovation that the Segway brought to the masses, Ryno Motors uses a motion sensing computer to judge whether you are not riding straight up, in other words, about to topple over, and then automatically readjusts the vehicle. So it is the computer that enables you to ride on one wheel without continuously needed to do a balancing act.

You use your body to turn; shift your body mass a bit to the left, and the bike turns left, body to the right, and you bike turns right. It’s very much like riding a normal two wheel motorcycle, shifting your weight causes the bike to turn. Want to accelerate? Shift your weight forward. Slow down? Lean backwards. People who have ridden a Segway should be comfortable with this machine. The “bike” does have handlebars, so you can ride it like a motorcycle.

Ryno-3

Needless to say, the Ryno is an electric motorcycle. Its top speed is pretty low, about 10 mph, and you will not ride an endurance race with it; 10 miles before the battery goes flat (it takes 6 hours to recharge, but it does charge from your car’s 12V outlet). But if all you need is something that would replace a Segway, so short distances without the need for speed, this could be interesting. It requires very little space, and for the motorcycle-die-hard fans, it still feels like a motorcycle.

It costs $5,295.

Ryno-2

So would this be the future technology? Will it replace motorcycles? Have a look at the video below to give you an idea.

No, no way. Not at the price, nor at those speeds, nor at those ranges. But it can and will replace Segways. If I were to require a Segway, I would go for one of these.

Would this vehicle tickle your fancy?

Source: Ryno Motors

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

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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