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Posts Tagged ‘Safety’

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.

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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

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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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Red-Traffic-SignalNot many people, if any, like red lights. They are a pain; when they are red you have to stop, and when they are green, you need to cross the intersection while keeping a close eye on the other traffic. There are always idiots who run red lights. The only time you might like a red light is when there’s a big glass window close by and you can admire yourself and your motorcycle (if you don’t think this happens, have a close look at what happens at red lights).

“Normal” red lights are okay I guess. They are timed, and after so many seconds they will either turn red or green. It’s the “demand-actuated” red lights that can be bothersome for bikers. These lights will turn green if there’s a vehicle stopped in front of them. And the way they know there’s a vehicle is because they have a metal wire in the ground, and through this inductive-loop traffic detector it can “feel” that there is a vehicle through its magnetic field. That’s because the wire acts like a metal detector.

This means that when a car is stopped above the wire, the wire senses a metal object and turns the light green. It’s handy since if there’s no traffic at the other side, why would you need to wait for the light to turn green. It’s a waste of time, money, gas and CO2.

However motorcycles are at a disadvantage. The metal mass of a bike is far less than that of a car, and often the light is not tripped. Standing on your own as a motorcycle, even a big one, is not enough. There are several types of sensors, from ones that behave very badly for motorcycles, to ones that recognize even the smallest bike or scooter. Click here to read more about the types of sensors and how to spot them.

For those sensors that just don’t change for a motorcycle, there are gadgets out there that say they can change the lights for you. Most are magnetic, but personally I have never seen one work properly.

So you end up moving aside, hoping that a car will drive up and trip the light.

The only saving grace in all this, is that many states in the USA and countries in the world, are allowing more and more for motorcycles to turn on red. You can’t cross the road on red, but at least you can turn on red. But to do that, you really need to pay attention. Vehicles can travel faster than what you may think. And remember, if you do turn on red, even if it’s legal, and someone crashes into you, you’ll be at fault.

So be careful when turning. Also be very careful when crossing a road on green. Many cars don’t pay attention, even for a red light. Have a look at the shocking video below (this is China, but this can happen anywhere in the world). The car runs a red light.

Warning – this is shocking.

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As a rider, even on one of the biggest motorcycles, we remain very small. And when you are in traffic, car drivers might miss seeing us and before we know it, we’ve crashed into them. It’s not that the car driver isn’t looking for us, many actually do try to pay attention to bikers, but at times they just don’t see us. One of the possible reasons is Motion Induced Blindness.

Motion Induced Blindness, also known as MIB, is a recently discovered phenomena. Back in 1991 it was first formulated as something that could cause people in motion not to see certain things. Jet fighters and even airline pilots know about it, since in essence MIB is a result of staring into a space while in motion. With your vehicle’s movement (be it a jet fighter or a car), looking at a spot (like the center of the road) can hide other objects.

Look at the moving diagram below. You see three yellow spots on the outer limits, in the center is a green blinking dot and around it are blue crosses turning. Not exactly a situation you’ll find on the road, but it’s just to illustrate the MIB point (image driving a car on a country road with trees lined on both sides and the yellow dots are motorcycles). If you now stare at the green blinking dot, you’ll suddenly see the yellow dots disappear and reappear. There’s no rhyme or reason behind the timing, it happens at different times for different people. Have look:

Motion-induced blindness demonstration

Motion-induced blindness demonstration

You can say that the dots are too small, that is why you can’t see them, or that they are turning to fast, or slow. Well, head on over to the MSF site and try it there. The same diagram can be changed by increasing or decreasing the size of the spots, or making things go faster or slower. The result is the same; you’ll occasionally not see the yellow objects.

You can see the same in this video, with only one object (top left)

or try this one:

Basically the MIB phenomena means that even if you are wearing high-visibility jackets, a car could not see you.

The only way out of this process is to have the car driver shift eyes continuously, i.e., not stare in one spot (straight ahead). So, no white line fever, something that for sure will involve cars ramming into motorcycles.

Obviously MIB is not the main reason that cars and motorcycle have accidents. There are many factors at play, and as we know from statistics, around 70% of motorcycle accidents are caused by car drivers, and this will be one of them.

What can we do as motorcycle riders? Not much. If the car driver can’t see you because of MIB, maybe the only thing is flashing your headlights and swerving, but that will result in a whole other series of problems and dangers. Nobody ever said that riding motorcycles is a safe hobby.

Click here to read more about Motion Induced Blindness.

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As we all know, riding a motorcycle is great fun, and even if you’re not into the freedom a motorcycle or scooter brings, you have to appreciate the ability to get through busy traffic. But as we also know, riding a two wheeler, be it a powered one or a bicycle entails certain risks.

Risks are something we all face, from the moment we get up from bed, take a shower, shave, you name it, there’s a risk associated to the activity, and motorcycle riding is no exception. As is the case with any other activity, there are certain things you can do to minimize the risks, or their end-results. Many believe in the ATGATT (All The Gear, All The Time – meaning you always wear your protective clothing and helmet), but that is not all that is going to get you to your destination in one piece.

Body Movement & Muscles

Let’s take one very simple thing; – your body movement on the motorcycle! If by bad luck you get highsided, or just simply drop your bike when parking it, your body is going to make a sudden movement. Let’s take the simple and non-lethal maneuver of dropping your motorcycle while trying to put it on a center stand. It’s common place, and it has happened to many of us. You drop the bike, and as a reaction, you try to keep it upright. But with that movement, your muscles and back and now suddenly confronted with a mass of 100’s of pounds.

So at the very least, your muscles will be aching for a few hours, and at its worst, you’ll have a torn ligament.

The same applies when riding. You might be making a sudden movement, and your muscles will protest, and that can be over in minutes, or might involve a trip to the local masseur.

Why? Because your muscles are cold and not stretched.

Tip: Before getting on your motorcycle, stretch your muscles for a minute or so. Enough for them to warm up and stretch gently for a bit. This way, when your muscles are solicited unexpectedly, they’ll be ready for it.

Traffic Attention

Another thing that happens regularly in traffic, is when a car cuts you off. Or a car that has just parked, opens its doors right in your upcoming path. Usually this is followed by you saying (to yourself, unless you have a Bluetooth communication device) “Ohh #&!! The %$¤£ù#@ did not see me!”. It’s a normal reaction.

But if this happens more than once during your trip, watch out: In fact, you’re the %$¤£ù#@, since you’re not paying attention.

Tip: Remember, it’s your responsibility to ensure you arrive sane & sound at your destination, not that soccer mom riding the SUV with 8 screaming kids, while talking on her mobile phone. That is your job, and you have to look at the traffic with as motto that everyone out there wants to kill you. So if you get that reaction a few times during your ride, watch out … you’re not paying attention! You are responsible for your own life!

Tunnel Vision

It’s a proven fact that once you gain speed, even in a car, your field of vision narrows. The faster you go, the less peripheral vision you have. You start with some 190° vision, and at 60 mph, that is reduced to around 40°. The illustration below is just that, an illustration and not exact.

Motorcycle racers, riding at 200 mph only see directly what is happening in front of them. This means when you start your acceleration, you need to remember that you’re seeing less and less of what happening on your left & right. This means when riding a country road, and you open your throttle for some fun (don’t we all?), you’re not going to see that car approaching the upcoming intersection on your right until the very last moment.

Tip: Train yourself to look left & right when reaching speed. It’s a mind-over-matter thing; even if you’re going fast, nothing prevents you from checking what’s happening on the side. It means you can see that car approaching the intersection at a high speed, and it means you can anticipate its movement.

Better safe than sorrow. Be safe!

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Motorcycle Injury Areas

Motorcycle Injury Areas - Source: Unknown

Riding a motorcycle is thrilling, but it entails a certain degree of danger. It’s almost impossible to ignore the inherent perils, but unfortunately, some bikers do ignore it. It’s often the thrill that attracts us to riding, but best is to be prepared. If the professionals anticipate problems, who are we to ignore it? Professionals known what’s best, so let’s not ignore what they have to say.

To reduce potential problems, there are a certain amount of steps we can undertake. Mind you, we can never eliminate them. Apart from learning properly how to control the bike under difficult circumstances, riding alert and pro-active, the only other thing we can do is wear a certain amount of protective clothing and gear. Ideally, we’d we wearing a protective bubble, but that’s not realistic. 

Your Egg

Obviously the biggest protective gear we can purchase is the helmet. There are many debates about the use of helmets, many bikers want to have the freedom of not wearing one. But the same bikers have no problem wearing a helmet when playing football! Many see the helmet on a motorcycle as only good for when they have an accident, and since they are “great” riders, they never see themselves having an accident. And it’s not just protecting your head from accidents, but what do you think about your hearing. You may be deaf to those arguments, but that’s probably because of the wind and engine noise in your ears. Not to mention all those bugs hitting you in the face. Add to that sunstroke, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

But numerous bikers have died from head injuries because when they arrived at their destination, or at a stop, their foot slipped from under them, and the bikes went down, taking the rider with it. All you need to do is hit your head on the pavement from your seated position, and you can injure yourself badly, or worse.

Many bikers believe if they ride safely, and don’t speed, they will be fine. The European Constructors Association (ACEM) have spent a long time researching motorcycle accidents in Europe, and they have issued a very detailed report on accidents involving motorcycles. The majority of accidents happened at relatively low speeds, typically lower than 30 mph.

60% of accident involved a car, while 9% involved the biker hitting the pavement by himself, i.e., falling from the motorcycle, often at a low or no speed. As an indication, more than half (54.3%) of all accidents happened at an intersection.

It’s not that the biker was not able to ride properly, since 50.5% of all accidents are caused by a car driver (37.4% are biker error and the remainder are blamed on the environment, like road problems or weather, or technical/mechanical problems). So no matter how good you ride, there’s always someone on the road who is not paying attention, and can cause a (fatal) accident.

So a good helmet, preferably full face, but if not, one that has a visor, and is properly soundproofed is a very first step.

The Emperor’s Clothes

Clothing makes the man, but in our case, proper clothing saves our lives, or at the very least, prevents us from seeking plastic surgery. Usually going off your motorcycle while the bike is still moving is not recommended, but sometimes you just don’t control it. An accident that does not involve another vehicle is usually survivable. The biggest physical risk is the journey you make from your saddle to the ground. After that, just sit down (or lie down) and enjoy the ride. If you’re thrown off from your bike while riding a road, you’ll make an intimate acquaintance with asphalt. If you’re wearing good leathers, both a jacket and trousers, it’s not going to be a big problem. Just hope there’s no traffic behind you and no obstacles to bump into. But if you’re wearing jeans, within a second, the jeans will have burned away and your body will be sliding over the pavement, leaving you with a nice asphalt tattoo.

Normal jeans will not stop road rash. Special motorcycle jeans, usually denim reinforced with Kevlar will prevent road rash, but no material is as resistant as leather. Just look at motorcycle races. A racer gets highsided at 120 mph, and slides along the track and gravel for 5 seconds, and the racer gets up and looks for the crashed motorcycle to get on and continue the race. Try that with motorcycle jeans or other motorcycle trousers. Of course we’re not racing on the roads, so special motorcycle clothes, though not leather, will help us remain beautiful and not scarred. Having armor on your knees is a good thing to have. Maybe not so comfortable to walk in, but if you’re going to go down, your knees will be one of the first points of impact. And knees are not as strong as you think, in fact, they are as fragile as eggs.

The same applies to gloves. Many bikers think gloves aren’t of any use. Apart from protecting your hands from bugs hitting them, and keeping our hands warm in the winter, the obvious one is when you hit the pavement. Going down while riding is going to require medical intervention if you don’t have gloves, it’s guaranteed, but even if you drop the bike while at standstill will involve your hands hitting the ground first. It’s a natural reflex, using your hands to soften the fall. Even then you can scrape your hands resulting in road rash. No matter how minor the road rash, it’s not going to be pleasant.

Jackets, reinforced with armor at the elbows and back are equally important. Falling off your bike when riding usually means the first point of impact is your hands, followed by your elbows and/or back. Your elbows are very fragile, and an elbow fracture will be the least you’ll have on an off. 

Say What?

And finally, one area many ATGATT bikers don’t think about, your ears. When traveling on your motorcycle at a speed of 60 mph, the very best helmets will let through 90 dB of noise. The noise is usually the wind turbulence mixed with engine and traffic sound. Imagine listening to 90 dB noise for hours on end. And that’s for high-end helmets, mediocre ones let through 100 to 110 dB, enough to make you deaf for the rest of your life. Having ear plugs is a good idea. They are small enough to carry in your pocket, and you can either buy generic foam one-size-fits-all, or custom-made ones. You can even buy ones with small loudspeakers in them so you can listen to music. For a few dollars, you can make sure when you get older, you’ll still be able to hear things.


Nonfatal Injuries 2001-2008

Source: CDC

So you may think that riding in a t-shirt and sandals is cool, but the consequences if you go off your bike aren’t. If you think you are too good to have an accident, I’ve got news for you: you’re a prime candidate for one. Better safe than sorry. Get yourself equipped. Read what the Center of Disease Control (CDC) have to say.

Source: CDC


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