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Once you have got your motorcycle, you will want to find out how quick it, and you, is. If you have a sportsbike, chances are it’s very fast, and trying it on the streets is not the way to find out. You will probably find out what the inside of a hospital or morgue looks like before finding out how fast you are. The smart thing to do is race your motorcycle on a circuit. And for that, you don’t need to be a Nicky Hayden: anyone can try their skills on a race circuit. Most circuits have track days, days that the race tracks are open to the general public. Click here for a list of many track day organizers.

Find a race track close to you and call them, or check their web site. Track days are usually during the week, since weekends are for races. It’s not going to be cheap, count about $100 per day and that is just for the privilege of riding on the track.

Trackday-1

Instruction

Most circuits will have professional racers available to show you the ropes. They will take you around the track to show you where you need to watch out, when to hit the brakes, where to take your curve etc. It’s a bit like tennis courts of golf links; it’s the circuit pro who knows the track inside out. Pay attention, any advice they give is going to be important, no matter how small the details.

So don’t worry if you have never done it before. Newbies are just as welcome as seasoned track day racers. And if the pro is not available, ask the other users. A good friendship is always to be found on the circuits, people are usually eager to help each other.

When registering for track day, go for the new rider slots & training. Almost every circuit has them, and for your first few times, you will need it. Do not be ashamed to do it, everyone has done it.

Which Motorcycles?

There is no hard and fast rule. Any bike will do, but obviously you are going to be looking a bit silly racing a cruiser. Street bikes and sportsbikes will be the ones seen the most on track days.

Trackday-2b

ATGATT

If there is one rule that should be golden it’s the ATGATT rule. All The Gear, All The Time. Most circuits will not even allow you to race without proper gear. No skimping, your life is going to depend on it.

Get a full face integral helmet. Not even a flip up helmet will do here, it needs to be one piece. And the lighter it is, the more you will enjoy it since your head is going to be pulled by the G-forces.

You will need race gloves. If you do go off the bike, chances are that your speed is going to be very fast, and when sliding, those gloves will need to withstand a long slide. Unless of course you don’t mind some skin grafts.

Best is leather pants and jackets, preferably racing ones, but they are very expensive. Best are of course the one-piece racing suits. Expensive, but worth it. But whatever your have, you will need to have either leather or synthetic anti-abrasion material. Do not go out in jeans.

A spine protector really is a must. You’ve probably seen images of professional racers tumbling across the sand and gravel after a shunt. Now imagine this is you, and what your spine is going to go through!

And finally, get some race boots. They need to fit properly, since if you do go off, you don’t want to see your foot without boots sliding 150 mph over the track, do you?

Check Your Motorcycle

You are going to need to make sure your motorcycle is in racing condition. No, I don’t mean that you have sponsor decals on your bike, and umbrella girls. Tires and brake pads should be new, not worn down. The tires should really be racing tires since they stick better to the surface. But race tires wear down quickly, so be prepared to buy a few.

Remove your mirrors and if possible your indicators. If not the track will do that for you when you drop your bike the first time, but it’s not going to be neat.

Tape up your remaining lights, since if your bike goes down, chances are their is going to be debris on the track.

Your suspension should be set up properly for racing. Usually the firmer, the better. Read the manual for the best settings.

Make sure your bike has had a full maintenance done recently, and that fuel, water, coolants, fluids etc are all topped up.

Trackday-2

Going There

If you have done all of the above, best is to transport your motorcycle on a trailer. Not only does it save time once you are at the circuit, but also in case you wreck your bike, you at least have some form of transportation to get back home.

Alternatively, ask if the circuit rents sportsbikes. Some do, and this way you can wreck someone else’s motorcycle.

Check the sleeping conditions at the track in case you are a bit far away. Many circuits offer sleeping areas, but don’t expect comfort – more likely that they’ll be bunk beds.

Eat & Drink Smart

Obviously the last thing you want to do the night before your track day is go on a drinking (and even eating) bender. Avoid alcohol since you are going to be sweating a lot during the day, even if it’s cold. Make sure you hydrate continuously, so bring plenty of water.

Have a good breakfast since you energy is going to be zapped. It’s like going into combat; your adrenaline is going to be pumping through your veins, so make sure you have proteins and fluid in your tummy and more to top it up during the day. Soldiers don’t fight well on an empty stomach, and neither do racers.

Paperwork

You will be needing to sign all sorts of waiver forms with the circuit, but that’s normal. Do check with your insurance company what they will cover on track days. You’ll be surprised that insurance companies accept track days, since at the end, it improves your riding skills.

In our next episode, we will tell you more about the physical aspects of racing your motorcycle during track days. The “how to race” part.

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.

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

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