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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.

Now that we are in the holiday period, many of us will take our motorcycles for spins in the countryside and end up somewhere at a restaurant for a bite to eat. Life is pleasant; a great motorcycle ride, sunshine, friends and good food, what more do you wish for?

There is however one thing you need to take into account when ordering food, and let me tell you I would be the last person to caution you on any food, but there you go; you need to take a few things into account. This is even more recommended if you live in an area where authorized alcohol levels are very low, and the police force unforgiving.

Flambe2

For example a fruit salad is a nice dessert to eat during the summer. It is light and full of vitamins. But watch out! Often fruit salads have been marinating for hours in wine. Even if the fruit have been sitting in red wine overnight, still 70% or so of the alcohol levels remain. Not enough to make your drunk, but enough to get you into trouble with the local cops.

FlambeSome main dishes and desserts (like delicious crepes suzettes) are “flambe”, in other words, alcohol poured over and then set on fire. Despite that the alcohol is set on fire, a good 75% will remain.

Some dishes are cooked with alcohol. They can stew for hours, but often the alcohol level remains high. High enough for a nasty surprise if you get stopped on your way home.

Even those nice chocolate & rum “beans” have alcohol in them, and if you eat a few, your alcohol blood level will rise.

So you have been warned. A nice meal with some biker friends can be ruined if you get stopped by the police and they decide to check to see if you have been drinking. You may think you are not drunk because you wisely did not drink any beer or wine, just water, but your food had alcohol in it. So you go to jail, and you do not receive $200.

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.

Motorcycle helmets have been unchanged for decades. Apart from new materials, and even new designs, not much has changed. But if one Russian designer, Andrew Artishchev, were to be believed, that is now going to change.

Called LiveMap, the idea is to give the motorcycle rider all the information she or he needs without requiring the biker to look away from the road. Navigational instructions, telemetric data, performance, maybe even that important email from your mother.

LiveMap uses a technology that fighter pilots (and upmarket cars) have had at their disposal for many years now; HUD, or Heads Up Display. The important data is projected inside the helmet’s visor, but obviously not 100% but just enough that it’s transparent but you can still read the data and see the road:

LiveMap-1

This way, while riding your motorcycle, you can see where you need to go without looking at your GPS, and you can see at what speed you are traveling. It’s therefore much safer for everyone involved.

LiveMap-2

The helmet would incorporate all the technology; display, electronics, batteries and even microphone. Why a microphone? Because you will be able to talk to your equipment. The helmet will be able to receive your vocal instructions to change, for example, a destination on your GPS. For example, while riding to Sturgis, the GPS is showing you the way, but then on the display you notice that you are running out of fuel. You simply tell the helmet to route you to the nearest gas station. All that without your hands leaving the handlebar and your eyes leaving the road.

LiveMap-3

The helmet will be equipped with G-sensors, gyroscope and even a digital compass. You move your head, the image on your visor changes, very much like fighter pilots in their cockpits. With light sensors on the outside, the display will brighten if there’s more outside light and dim at night.

Does this sound farfetched? You think it’s not going to happen shortly? Well think again. The Russian designer has already receive a 1 million $ grant from the Russian government, and he is currently looking for additional funding at the crowd-funding site Indiegogo.

The idea is to start making the helmets and sell a basic version for $1500 to $2000. They hope to have North American certification by mid 2014 and European ones by 2015.

Have a look at the video below for much more detail and examples:

Click here to read more about LiveMap

The latest thing in the technology world is 3D printing (although 3D printing exists since the late 70′s). For you who don’t know what that is, it’s the possibility to “print”, more sculpt, 3D images. Instead of printing a 2D image on paper as we do now, the printer adds resin (or other materials) upon resin forming layers. These layers can be almost anything. You can read more about 3D printing at the Wikipedia, click here to read it.

3D-suspension-model

Many things have already been printed nowadays while the 3D printing technology keeps advancing. But can you for example print a motorcycle?

The answer is “why not?”. The only problem is that the material used the most frequently for printing is plastic, so you would have problems with heat. But people have already made a 3D printed gun, and guns generate heat, so eventually you might even see engines and exhausts printed in 3D. But for the mean time, we’re stuck with other uses inside the motorcycle world.

One very good application of 3D printing for motorcycles is for motorcycle designers. They can now design their motorcycle on a computer, and after pressing a button, see what the motorcycle will look like in real life.

See this video of a 3D printed motorcycle. It looks real, but it isn’t. But imagine being a designer. Now you can see very quickly what your new bike will look like. You can sit on it, feel it, test it in a wind tunnel. What this means to us bikers, is that we will be seeing new motorcycles hitting the market faster. The time-to-market can be drastically reduced with this technology.

3D-Printed-object

But another application of 3D printing can benefit individual bikers. That is the printing of custom-made parts. Now if you want a special part, you need to either find it, which might be very difficult if it’s rare, or you have to have it made (or make it yourself if you are handy enough).

But with 3D printing, you can look up the specs of the part, put it in a computer, and print it out. There are more and more companies being created that will do exactly that. Tell them what you want, they put it in a computer, and then print it out.

Here’s a video showing you a 3D printer printing (not a motorcycle related object, but you get the picture):

3D-printed-toolImagine requiring a tool to work on your bike, and you don’t have it. Jump on the computer, download the specs and drawing and print the tool.

It’s crazy, I admit it, but why not?

So these are exciting times. We can now already design parts for our motorcycle and have them printed, and very shortly, you will be able to do so yourself at home. Then all bets are off for custom made motorcycles. You can really have your creative juices go wild. 3D printers are becoming more and more affordable.

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.

Riding your motorcycle alone is fun, but sometimes it’s fun to share. Or you might just need to bring someone somewhere. But whatever the reason, riding with a pillion behind you has its own set of rules and customs.

Remember when you have a pillion, you are the captain of a vessel and the safety of your passengers is in your hands. So always, and I mean always, be responsible.

When I travel with a pillion, I do pretend I am the captain of an airplane. I give my passenger a safety “lesson”. Not the kind that says “this is where the emergency exits are”, and “this is how you put on your life jacket”, but more a do and do not.

(c) BMW

(c) BMW

Here are “my” rules:

Before Riding Off

  • Always ensure that your pillion is properly equippedhelmet and jacket are the minimum, gloves would be very nice as well.. Do remember that in a situation, your passenger probably doesn’t see it coming so can’t brace. The better their body is protected the safer it is for them.
  • Tell them the following:
  1. Getting on or off the motorcycle, always check with the rider first. The motorcycle is suddenly going to get or loose weight which will destabilize the bike. If the biker is not prepared, everyone is going to go down.
  2. Sit straight, not sideways.
  3. When going into a curve, either sit straight, or look over the shoulder that is inside the curve. By moving your head to the biker’s shoulder that is on the inside of the curve, the center of gravity remains the same, doing the opposite means the bike will wobble.
  4. When riding at low speeds, or in between lanes, do not fidget in your seat. Until you have reached gyroscopic speed, the bike will not be stable. Fidgeting will cause the bike to wobble, and you will all fall.
  5. No sudden movements. Moving is fine, but no sudden or jerky movements because the rider will not be prepared to counter. You can turn back, but only from the waist up.
  6. Explain some basic signals and communication. It’s up to you to “invent” them, but you can say “two taps on the shoulder means slow down” or “a shoulder squeeze means I need to stop”.
  7. They are allowed to wave at other motorcycles, but all other communication to other vehicles is up to the captain (i.e. you).

While Riding

(c) BMW

(c) BMW

  • Do NOT try to impress or scare the pillion.
  • Do not accelerate like a madman. The pillion’s head is going to be whiplashed since they don’t control the bike.
  • Do not brake strongly (unless you need to for emergencies). Strong braking is not only uncomfortable for your pillion, but the pillion will most probably slam into you.
  • Speed kills, especially when you are a pillion. It’s also very uncomfortable for them.

Things To Check Before Riding Off

  • Check the tire pressure. Usually when you have added a pillion, the weight of the bike will be such that you need to add air to your tires. Check your manual, it usually says what the tire pressure should be for pillion riding.
  • Adjust your mirrors
  • If you’ll be riding a night, check your headlights. The extra weight might be moving the headlights upwards, so you will be blinding oncoming vehicles.

Riding with a pillion can be fun since it’s two people sharing something nice. But always remember you are responsible for the pillion’s wellbeing.

If you will be riding often with a pillion, and if you bike allows it, get a sissybar. Your pillion will thank you.

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