Friday, March 28, 2008
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Friday, March 21, 2008
Friday, March 14, 2008
This is the official logo for my forum(kakimotodotcom) sorry as this forum using malay language,but you can still browse the pictures showing the activities by borneo bikers.The othe 2 logo is the suggested logo made by one of the member.(tribute to syammb)
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
When you want to buy a new helmet, motorcycle jacket, trousers, gloves or boots, what are the requirements? What are the different materials and what are the differences?How do you protect yourself against cold, heat and rain?
Difference way to enhance your safety
When talking about ways to enhance your safety on a motorcycle, most people think of helmets, knee- or elbow protectors or leather suits.
True, all these things are meant to make you safer. But don't forget that there is a more direct way to enhance your own safety.
You can enhance your safety by doing everything possible to avoid an accident (primary safety), or by making sure that the damage, in case of an accident, is as minimal as possible (secondary safety).
Car versus motorcycle
In fact, the big difference between driving a car and riding a motorcycle, with respect to safety, is that in cars the secondary safety is enormous (the car is a sort of safety cocoon around you), while on a motorcycle, the safety is almost entirely in your own hands (which means primary safety).
Fortunately, motorcycles are very good at primary safety: you need much less space to escape a dangerous situation.
One of the functions of clothing for motorcyclists is safety; another function is to ensure that your body doesn't get too cold or too hot. In fact, that function adds to your primary safety, because a well-functioning body is needed in order to be able to anticipate in traffic.
Secondary safety:Helmet and clothing
Objective and subjective safety
Only at the moment that you blew it, secondary safety comes into the game.
There is a danger in the many labels with "protection" and "safety" that are attached to motorcycler's clothing: it becomes easy to forget that safety is for the most part primary safety, that you yourself have to actively prevent accidents.
There is a second danger:many people are inclined to take more risk when they feel protected. Most people will ride more cautiously when they ride in shorts than in a full leather racing-suit.
Don't feel safer than you are
These are not arguments against clothing with protection, but is is good to be aware of these tendencies, and to keep in mind not to be trapped by them.
So, when your (secondary) safety is concerned, it is good to get as much objective information as you can: the wish of people to be "safe" inspires sellers to sell with "safe" sounding words and labels and materials. A lot of those words have no meaning at all!
By far the most important aspect of a helmet is whether it fits well. The best advice therefore is to go to a shop where people know about helmets and can help you to check whether a helmet fits well.The helmet should fit rather tightly when you try it for the first time: when you shake your head, the helmet shouldn't move around.
Each helmet that is sold in Europe should be approved according to the ECE 22.05 norm. If a helmet doesn't show that it's approved, don't buy it.
Concerning the materials: a helmet has an outer scale that shouldn't break, and an inner scale that is there to absorb energy of the impact.
Very cheap helmets have an outer scale of ABS or polycarbonate. Don't buy them:they get damaged by UV-light, and you should throw them away after less than two years, and during those years their strength lessens.
More expensive helmets have an outer scale with a basis of glass fibre. Often, this is used in a composite together with fibres such as Dyneema, a special sort of polyethylene fibre, Aramide, a special sort of polyamide fibre (there are many kinds of aramide fibres, Kevlar is most widely known), and Carbon fibres (a sort of nylon that consist mostly of carbon). Those fibres have in common that they are light and strong at the same time.
The inner scale is in general of styropor.
The weight of a helmet is not only a matter of comfort; it is important with respect to safety as well.
A heavy helmet enhances, as you may imagine, the chance of a broken neck in case of an accident.
So, when you don't know which of two helmets to choose, choose the lightest one.
These more expensive helmets stay good for 5 years. Buy a new one after those 5 years!
Full-face, cross or jet
At last, you have to choose between a full-face helmet, a jet helmet (see photo), or a cross helmet.Don't buy a "police helmet" that doesn't cover your temples: they don't offer enough protection.
There are hot arguments between fans of full-face helmets and fans of jet helmets. In short: the full-facers point at (theoretically) lesser safety for the face in a jet helmet; The jet helmeteers on the other hand never have fogged visors (and point to the theoretical extra chance of braking your neck with a full-face helmet).I think: buy the helmet with which you feel most comfortable.
Always wear a visor or goggles or safety glasses (or a combination) to protect your eyes againts stones or insects.
Hands are important
Second in importance to keep well protected are you hands: the risk that they are damaged in case of a fall is fairly big, and you don't want to have to live with non-working hands.
So always wear at least a helmet and gloves.
Your gloves should allow you to feel the handlebars very well, to feel what you are doing, and at the same time, they should protect against sliding.
In warm weather, nothing beats leather gloves. Kangarooleather is used more and more for the palm-side of gloves. It is strong and light at the same time, and slightly elastic, so you feel very well what you are doing.
In colder circumstances, you are better equipped with gloves with a Goretex lining to keep dry hands.
If you want really warm hands: a glove with a separate inner glove made from for instance Windstopper keeps you hands much warmer than a glove with a stitched in bulky liner, and at the same time, allows you the feel of the handlebars.
Around your wrist
An often overlooked aspect of gloves is how they fit around your wrist. It is very important that they will not just slide off your hands in case of a fall: otherwise, you could just as well ride without gloves.
So, test them by trying to get them off your hands without opening the adjustment around your wrist. If they just go off, don't buy them.'
The third place, considering risk on damage and amount of damage, is taken by your feet and ankles.
Shoes or boots that you wear on your motorcycle should cover your ankles. Further on, they should be sturdy enough to prevent your feet and ankles from getting broken in case of an accident.
Whether boots with metal plates inside, covering your toes, are a good form of protection is questionable: these metal plates could protect your toes, but they are able to cut them in two as well.
You don't have to buy boots that are manufactored especially for motorcycling: general safety boots or shoes work well (but mind metal plates), as do sturdy walking boots.
When buying shoes or boots that are not made with motorcycling in mind, check the material of the top of the left shoe: it should be tolerant of changing gears.
Protecting against sliding: Clothing
The surface of the road
Motorcycle clothing should protect you when sliding over the surface of the road, and against the impact of collisions with the same surface and with other objects. Those are two different stories.
The problem of sliding is that the surface of the road works as an enormous grater, and on top of that, much heat will be generated.So you need something that can withstand a grater, that takes long to get hot, and that doesn't melt at relatively low temperatures, or does something else nasty.
Nothing still comes close to leather, concerning those properties.Only keep in mind that it should be good leather: minimal 1.2 mm thick, and of good quality.The stitches are also worth attention: they have to be double-stitched (always covered by a piece of leather): if leather trousers torn at the stitches it doesn't help you.
After leather comes, concerning the anti-slide-properties, at a great distance, Kevlar.Kevlar sounds like magic, so manufacturers have the tendency to add a few patches of Kevlar here and there because it sells well. But Kevlar doesn't save you when it's used in that way!Kevlar breaks easily, and only works to protect you in case of sliding when it is woven into other material. Only then does it serve to your protection. An example is Keprotec.
Most synthetic suits are made of Cordura, which comes at a distance after leather and again after Kevlar concerning the properties that we are looking for. There is always a number, 700 or 500 for instance. That's a measure for the thicknes of the fibre that is used.
Dynatec is a comparable material.
In short: nothing beats a good leather suit. When you want a synthetic suit, choose one of Cordura or Dynatec, preferrably strengthened with leather or (woven-in) Kevlar on the right places.
Remember that a fancy label doesn't tell you anything: try to find out what they mean (sometimes they don't mean anything at all).
Protection Against Impact: Clothing
Impact of a collision
Beside protection when sliding, it would also be good if you had any protection against the impact of a collision. A collision with the road, with a car, or with whatever you encounter.
Protection against impact works in two ways: the impact can be distributed over a bigger area, or the impact can be absorbed.
Hard protection, like you see in protection for crossers, distribute the impact. Soft protection absorbs as much as possible of the impact.
The word "soft" protection is misleading: a piece of soft foam doesnt' do a thing. It should cost energy to squeeze such a piece of protection: only then it is able to absorb energy in case of a collision.
Those pieces of protection only work when they are at the right place at the right time, that is, when you get involved in an accident. Often, they are not in the right place, because people are built differently, and many suits are wide so you can wear them over your clothing.You might think about buying a "protection vest": an elastic vest with protection for shoulders and elbows. The only problem with such protection is that you will often let it stay at home probably...
Active safety means that you protect yourself by avoiding accidents, by anticipating.In order to be able to do that, you should be comfortable. As such, protecting yourself against the cold, helps to enhance your safety.
Everybody knows, I suppose, that many different layers of clothing work better in the cold than one thick layer. An outer layer that protects you and keeps the wind outside, a layer to keep you dry, and then layers to keep you warm, such as fleece.
Head and neck
The area of your body that dissipates most of your body heat is your head, and your neck. So your first concern should be to keep your head and neck warm: always wear something of Windstopper Fleece around your neck, when it is cold, and make sure there are no openings between such a shawl and your helmet.
Hands and feet
Your extremities (hands and feet) stand, unfortunately, at the lowest point of the priority list that your "control center" keeps about your body. That means that the blood vessels towards your hands and feet are closed when your body temperature threatens to get lower than your body wants it to be.
So, the solution for cold hand and feet is not always to keep them warm: in the first place, you should keep the rest of your body warm!
After your body has been cared for, your hands and feet should be protected against the cold. Again, different layers are the key, and especially in the case of your hands, protection against the wind is very important.
Hand protectors can make a difference. For gloves, it is important that they don't get too bulky because in that case they will hinder your ability to handle the controls.Gloves with an inner layer of windstopper fleeece are better than gloves with a thick bulky lining.
Your boots or shoes should be wide enough to wear at least one pair of warm socks. You can also think about Canadian boots, lined with wool.
At last: don't be afraid to buy eletrical vests, inner gloves or liners for your boots! As said before, your body should come first, so your first option would be an electrically heated vest. Because that really add warmth, they make it much more easy for your body to keep the right temperature.
When the weather is not really hot, you will get very cold when it's raining, and you get soaked. So don't get soaked!
Goretex is "guaranteed to keep you dry", and because that guarantee is imposed on everyone using Goretex in clothing, by Gore, you can be certain of that guarantee. I don't know of any other waterproof liner with the same guarantee.
Gloves and cuffs
You should experiment with your gloves: in some cases, you keep your hands dry by wearing your gloves over the cuffs of your sleeves; in other cases you should tuck your gloves inside your sleeves.More and more jackets are sold with double cuffs: with a waterresistant outer and inner cuff. You tuck your gloves inbetween.
Concerning you feet: when you wear shoes (instead of high boots), it's important that your trousers are long enough to cover your ankles. Otherwise your feet will get wet from above, no matter how waterproof your shoes are.
When the weather really gets hot, there comes a time when you will have to choose between primary and secondary safety: shoulder and knee protectors or Kevlar woven into the fabric of your jacket or trousers will result in an overheated body, eventually.
Manufacturers of motorcycle clothing use different ways for ventilation in clothing.
One such a way is an extensive use of zippers. In general, that is a bad idea:When sliding over tarmac, you don't want zippers between your skin and the tarmac. Also, the weakest point of clothing, most of the time, is formed by the stitches, and zippers require many stitches.
The use of mesh fabrics are another way to increase ventilation, although these materials of course never provide the same amount of protection as "solid" fabrics.
In general, leather will be cooler than synthetic suits, when there is wind. There are even jackets made out of perforated leather (though the same applies as for mesh fabric: don't expect the same amount of protection of them as from ordinary leather). But in some circumstances, leather is too hot, even when riding (as opposed to standing still).
When you would decide to ride with bare arms or legs, keep in mind that in the first place, you get very easily burnt without an adequate sunblock.In the second place, you will loose water in huge quantities that way, without noticing. Drinking enough water (and supply salt) becomes very urgent. In general, covering up your skin is better when the weather is really hot (remember the bedouins).
An open-face helmet, or one that can be ventilated, really helps keeping your head cool.
At last, soaking a bandana in water, and wearing that around your neck, really helps as well.
How do i choose gear?
A leather suit should fit perfectly, especially when you are sitting on the bike.
In a suit for all circumstances (watertight, winter lining, fitting over your daily clothes), practical matters are more important.
When trying on a suit, you can pay extra attention to:
The collar should fit snugly around your neck, without space where the wind will go through.
The front should be as watertight as the rest. That means that there should be a watertight layer beneath the zippers: water will leak through the zippers, and you don't want that water to reach your clothes underneath.
A coat has never enough pockets. I would like at least four pockets in the front, a long pocket in the back along the lower seam, at least one inner pocket, and preferrably one pocket that you can reach without opening the zipper, and is watertight (to put your wallet).
The more pockets are watertight, the better.
In the same way as the collar, the sleeves should fit around your wrists without openings.
It should be possible to wear the sleeves both over or under your gloves.
About the trousers: they should be longer than you expect, because your knees will be bent on your motorcycle.
Motorcycling with a Passenger: Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun
Some simple preparations and communications can make the difference between a pleasant motorcycle passengering experience and a disaster.
Dear Rider,If you're lucky enough to have someone you care for on the back of your motorcycle, you should consider it a gift in trust. Even if you are an experienced rider, there is much to know about carrying a passenger. I'm not speaking solely of how riding double affects the behavior of your machine, I'm also talking about simple comfort and convenience factors that will make any ride more pleasant for both of you.
Adjust your bike's rear suspension for the extra load (see your owner's manual).
Always make sure your passenger has proper riding gear, even if it isn't a perfect fit. Have her arrive bikeside in her own over-the-ankle boots, jeans and layers on top. If she doesn't have the following, provide them: a decent-fitting helmet, leather gloves that fasten around the wrist and a protective jacket (leather or heavy Cordura).
Educate her about the bike -- what's hot, where to hold, where she'll put her feet and also how she'll mount. You obviously want to make sure she waits until you're braced. When you're ready, do you want her to use the footpeg as a step, or swing a leg from the ground? Can she use your shoulders for balance?
Before you even get on the bike, tell her how she'll hold on. Both arms around the waist? Or do you have a real grab rail where she can place one hand? Unless you have a backrest, she must hold your waist with at least one hand. Warn her not to use the strap across the seat, which is a worthless style element.
If you're dealing with a virgin, advise her ahead of time not to put her feet down at stops or grab your arms or shoulders while you're riding. Explain that when you corner she needs to relax and not lean against the turn, which is the usual impulse.
Devise a system of communication before you ride away. Maybe it's one tap on the right shoulder to say, "When you get a chance I'd like to stop." Two taps for, "It's urgent." Maybe a tap on the left shoulder could mean, "Please slow down." It's easy and fun to come up with your own language.
Anticipate that your bike will handle differently. It may steer less readily on initial lean, but once in a turn, the addition of weight up high may cause a more abrupt dip. You will also lose some braking efficiency, so start stopping sooner.
While it's easy to adapt to these changes in your bike's handling, it is more challenging to actually improve your skill to enhance the two-up experience. Approach every maneuver -- accelerating, shifting, cornering, braking -- with an eggshell-smoothness, and you'll help your passenger keep her seat. (Remember that if she bumps your helmet with hers on shifting or braking, it's entirely your fault. When you're riding well, she'll be able to stay neutral.)
Know that your bike will drag more readily with the added weight. Remind your passenger (and yourself) not to panic when it happens.
Plan to stop every so often just to check her comfort and emotional state.
As an occasional passenger, I can tell you that the one most affirming and endearing gesture a rider can give his co-pilot midride is an adoring pat on the thigh. For the best results, repeat this act of appreciation once each hour, or every 50 miles, whichever comes first.
First things first. Do you really trust this guy? That's the number-one thing we want passengers to mull over before they accept a ride on the back of a motorcycle. It doesn't matter if he's your father, a first date or your husband of 20 years; you must not take this question lightly. You're gambling your very life on faith in his skill. If you doubt it, say no. If you're not sure, ask questions: How long have you been riding? How long riding this particular bike? Have you ridden with a passenger before?
Riding as a passenger can be a very fun, relaxing experience, not to mention a fulfilling, intimate way to connect with the person you care about. So once you're comfortable with his abilities, here's what you need to know to develop your own.
Aside from trust, proper gear is the second most important component of a safe, comfortable ride. A full-face helmet is essential to avoid head and facial injuries, but it's useless in a crash if it does not pass the following test: Fasten the chin strap snugly, then grab the rear of the helmet and pull it up and forward simultaneously, trying to pull it off over your chin. If it comes off, it fails.
Arrive bikeside with over-the-ankle boots, but not the type that slide off easily (for obvious reasons). If you are wearing laces (zippers or hook-and-loop fasteners are better), carefully double-knot and tuck the bow under your pant cuff to lessen the chances of the laces coming loose and getting wrapped on the peg or, disastrously, in the rear wheel. Gloves should be leather, your size, and fasten snugly around the wrists. You are not wearing these for comfort, you know, so forget the cute mittens.
Denim is popular, but just so you know, it sucks at protecting you. We are all guilty for wearing it for its comfort, versatility and affordability, but you can do better. Leather is always the first choice, followed by heavy-weave Cordura nylon. Strategically placed armor inserts, of course, are like IQ scores. Einstein would have worn plenty.
It's good to wear layers under your protective jacket. Motorcycling is a debate with the elements, and there is no way to predict turns in temperature.
Make sure you and your partner are clear about what you expect from any ride, whether a short initiation, weekend getaway or cross-country adventure. How long will you be on the bike? How often will you stop? What type of roads will you be traveling on? City streets? Winding back roads? A high-speed freeway?
Make sure your pilot has instructed you on how and when to mount the bike, where to place your feet, how to hold on, and also how to communicate while you're moving, since you won't be able to talk.
When you're on a new bike, check to make sure your heels will not contact the exhaust pipes. Most rubber will melt readily, which ruins the boots for walking and mucks up the chrome, too.
Once you're on the road, relax. It's hugely important for a passenger to be physically in tune with the movements of both the pilot and bike. We call this being "neutral." Especially in turns, when your impulse is to sit up, away from the lean, keep your body fluid and in line with the bike. It cannot just fall over, but if you make abrupt moves on the back during cornering, you will unsettle the machine, which can cause dangerous handling issues.
Balancing your upper body will make the ride more pleasant for you and the rider. This goes hand-in-hand with predicting how the bike's movements will affect you. Shift and hold your weight over the hips when the bike accelerates, for example, and lean oh-so-slightly backward on braking. You'll learn to predict when the rider shifts as well, and you'll be able to absorb the movement in your torso. By the way, the smoother (read: better) he is, the easier this will be for you.
Never put your feet down at stops. If your pilot asks you to, he shouldn't be riding motorcycles.
Don't panic if the extreme lower parts of the bike scrape on the ground during hard cornering. It will make a loud noise, which can be alarming even to veteran passengers. While this isn't a good design characteristic, it's a quite common occurrence on cruisers. If you become alarmed and jump or shift your weight, that might cause a real problem, however.
Never be uncomfortable telling your pilot how you are really feeling. If you are uncomfortable, he should be understanding and make adjustments, whether it's a shortened ride, a change of seats or the addition of a backrest. It's all about finding solutions. Don't just suck up your discomfort, because the memory will affect your decision to ride again. Keep an open mind. Fine-tuning is infinite.
The whole idea behind these tips is to increase your chances of a next time. And a time after that. We too often hear stories about passengers who tried it once and said, "Never again." The number-one cause is poor communication up front. (Number two is a dumb-ass rider trying to impress his passenger with speed and antics, but we know that's not you.) Nail down your expectations before you ride, and you'll both prosper.
Behind every successful man is a strong woman? Eh, maybe. Behind every contented man is a happy motorcycle passenger? More likely.
Speed and Motorcycles
Accident reports frequently note that the motorcycle rider was going "too fast for conditions." Too often the condition the motorcyclist had overrun was his own skill level. Can you really handle the speed you normally travel when things go wrong? If not, what can you do about it? From the October 2003 issue of Motorcycle Cruiser magazine.
Read traffic accident reports, summaries or statistics, and you will often see the comment that "speed was a factor." That presumably means that somebody was moving too fast. But if you think about it, speed is always a factor in an accident. After all, if nobody is moving, there is no accident, right?
The report may also read "too fast for conditions." That seems to mean that although there are times when one may safely ride or drive at a higher speed than the accident-involved vehicle was going when things went wrong, at this time going that speed was dangerous, although the conditions are often not specified. Traffic, rain, or road construction might be "conditions" that would dictate that you slow down. However, if a car turns right in front of you, almost any velocity is too fast for that condition.
I have experienced conditions, like freezing rain, where any movement in almost any vehicle, and even on foot, could be too fast to reliably maintain control. However, there are also situations where you could be going too slow for conditions. Anybody who has ridden on a soft dirt or sand road has experienced this. You simply can't steer a motorcycle until you get up enough speed to get on top of the sand. Going the speed limit on some major highways can also be too slow for safety, if everybody is going 20 mph faster. I recently passed a Valkyrie rider on I-10 who was going 55 in a 65-mph zone and was a danger to himself and those around him as cars came up on him going 10 to 20 mph faster and braked hard or swerved to get around the unexpected rolling roadblock.
One of the "conditions" you never see mentioned is rider skill. How many people riding along at 70 mph have even attempted a panic stop from that speed? Have you? I mean, a real, both-brakes, front-tire-howling panic stop, like you'd need to perform if a vehicle came over the median, an elk walked onto the road ahead (been there), or an SUV rolled while its supposed driver was trying to juggle a cell phone, a notebook, and a Big Mac? How about a full-tilt swerve at that speed? Can you comfortably wrench the handlebar for a full-performance countersteering swerve around an obstacle at the speed you routinely ride on the highway and then immediately wrench it back to stay on the road? Are you sure? Have you practiced...recently? (If you have no idea what countersteering is, call 800/446-9227 or go to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's website immediately and sign up for a rider-training session right now. Don't ride until you do.) If you can't answer "yes" to those questions, then you are probably riding too fast for your condition.
Does the idea of really slamming on both brakes at 70 mph scare you? Do you think that if you can stop hard at 30 mph that you are good to go...er, stop at twice that? Don't count on it, especially if you haven't practiced high-speed stops. Do you know how much distance you need to stop at 60 mph? Did you know that while your reaction distance only doubles when your speed doubles, the actual distance needed to stop -- once you get to max braking -- is about four times greater? A typical cruiser with an expert rider stops in 30 to 35 feet from 30 mph but requires 120 to 140 feet from 60 mph. That's with someone who does it routinely, picks his spot, covers the controls going into the stop, and is mentally and physically prepared to hammer on the brakes, and is dressed for the fall if he screws up.
However, Calvin Cruiser, who is rumbling down the a somewhat unevenly paved road with his feet on the highway pegs, his right hand loosely on the friction-damper-held throttle, his left hand on his hip, thinking about that hottie he met least night, carefully dressed for what will soon become excess in his Nikes, fingerless gloves, muscle T, leather vest, and head protection by Ray-Ban, and who last practiced high-speed stops never, is likely going to take at least twice that distance, and it could be much more if he isn't comfortable really yanking on that front brake lever. And he can die or be turned into a zucchini if he comes up just 15 feet short...er, long.
The same goes for corners. In college, I used to hang around with a bunch of guys who categorized states by how to interpret the recommended-speed signs posted as you approached corners. "Indiana," Dave would tell the other Dave, "Is a double-it-and-add-30 state, like Florida. Now, Ohio is a double-it-and-add-15 state. In Colorado, you just double it, unless you are riding a Metralla or Commando..." The problem with that logic showed up one afternoon when the girlfriend of Dave Mk. II put his dad's car in an Ohio cornfield. Dave knew how to comfortably negotiate that marked-for-25-mph turn at 65, and had done so many times, but his soon-to-be-ex-girlfriend (to whom he'd just recommended that speed) didn't have a clue.
The same thing shows up in motorcyclists. The guy ahead knows how to manage that turn at 50 and has done so before. He doesn't freak when his floorboard drags. But the guy behind him, who just rode into the corner at the same speed, always thought that leaning over more than needed to leave the driveway was dangerous, really scary, or maybe even irresponsible, and never tried it. Now, suddenly realizing that he's faced with a corner that's beyond his experience, he:
1. Gets on the brakes, which makes it hard to turn, and runs off the road.
2. Gets into the turn, drags his footrest, freaks, straightens up and runs off the road.
3. Resists turning at first, gets too close to the outside edge of the road, then turns too hard, perhaps with the brakes on, and crashes.
4. If it's a right-hand turn, he does one of the above and crosses the centerline, becoming the hood ornament on an Escalade going the other way. (And, although this will be counted as a two-vehicle accident, the car driver has contributed nothing except his presence, though most riders upon hearing that a car was involved with no other details will assume that the driver was at fault.)
This is becoming the most common accident scenario in American motorcycling. Riders run off of turns that their bikes are easily capable of handling at the speed they were going and crash. The bike could do it, but the rider didn't know how. The condition he was going too fast for was his own sad skill level. Of course, the same rider is no more prepared for that common other-guy scenario and won't be able to effectively swerve or brake when a car turns in front of him.
I'm not sure why so many riders refuse to work on their skills. Some will tell you they have been riding for decades and never had a crash, but if you follow a typical example, you wonder how that's possible. You see him lock up the rear wheel with no front brake applied at a stop sign, sawing at the handlebar in a corner as he tries to find a lean angle that will complete the turn but doesn't scare him, dragging a foot up to and away from every stop, and blowing through lights that turned red way before he got to the intersection because he was going a bit fast and is afraid to brake hard.
He probably has never taken any training and certainly hasn't taken any advanced training this century. (He says it's because he feels like he's a pretty good, safe rider, but it sounds suspiciously like it's because he's afraid he might get criticized -- even though most of the rest of the class members aren't any different.) He won't wear anything conspicuous, and he certainly isn't going to impinge on his own freedom by forcing himself to wear a DOT helmet. (A guy actually told me that.) Yet, when you ask him why he has loud pipes that are obviously irritating almost everyone around, it's because "they save lives." Right, his concern for safety is real convincing.
But he thinks nothing of running down the road at 80 or 90. Nothing can happen out here on the open road, he tells you. And 20 mph over the limit in town is no big deal to me, he says. I can handle it. Too bad that's not true. But the really sad part is that with a bit of work on his skills, he might have turned that awful, unseen event into a non-event -- if he'd taken some time to become as good rider as he pretended to be. (If you don't believe things actually go wrong very often, go to Google News Search some Monday and have it search for "motorcyclist." You'll read about some of the riders who didn't think it would happen to them that weekend.)
Improving your skills, either in a racetrack course (see www.motorcyclecruiser.com/streetsurvival/Skool/ for info on cruiser-friendly schools), at a Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCourse (see www.msf-usa.org), or simply practicing on your own in a safe environment, can be fun and confidence-inspiring. Spending a couple of hours with your cruiser (or any bike) on a racetrack will open your eyes to motorcycling vistas you probably never knew existed and can expand your abilities and self-assurance enormously. Repetition every 6 to 18 months will reinforce the experience and the lessons.
Unfortunately, cruiser riders tend to lack the attitude that solid or even superior riding skills make you cool, an attitude which tends to prevail among sportbike and dirtbike riders. The "biker" segment of motorcycling too often tends to dismiss mastering your machine as showing off or as displays of speed and anything concerning safety (starting with helmets) as dorky. But there is nothing excessive -- or dorky -- about knowing the basic limits of your motorcycle's turning or stopping capability or being able to ride to them when that thing that can't happen actually does. Taking the first step may be intimidating, but you owe it to your relatives and friends to ride as well as they think you can.
It's considered good practice to give your motorcycle a quick check-over before you ride. The Motorcycle safety Foundation has developed an acronym for the basic checklist -- T-CLOCK. That stands for: Tires, wheels and brakes; Controls; Lighting and electrical; Oil; Chain and chassis; and Kickstand. Even if you are getting on to continue a ride, before you trust your life to them, it's prudent to give a quick once-over to components, such as tires, which can change suddenly. I found a front brake system that had gone flat for unknown reasons just the other day. I have pulled nails out of tires on a few occasions, sometimes before they actually punctured the tire. On two occasions when picking up recently serviced motorcycles, I have discovered loose drain plugs. It didn't cost anything but a few seconds to look, but the penalty for not doing so could have been severe.
But how about one other vital component? Do you conduct an attitude check of the rider before you hit the starter button? Do you ever stop to ponder whether you are as ready as your bike? Mechanical problems rarely cause motorcycle accidents. Rider errors, on the other hand, causes most accidents and contribute to many more.
Human factors in motorcycle operations could fill a few books (and they have). But for all the attention the subject gets, we motorcyclists still continue to do things that make accident investigators scratch their heads and wonder. There are a few common themes that show up.
The most common method of preparing to have an accident is to have a few drinks first. A bit over half of all fatal motorcycle accidents involves riders who have been drinking. The law prohibits a pilot from flying an airplane within eight hours of drinking. Though flying an airplane involves more judgement before taking action than riding a motorcycle, it rarely requires the instant response to a problem that piloting a motorcycling does. It's rare to have someone turn left in front of your airplane. Yet many riders think nothing of riding home in traffic after a couple of beers.
Illegal drugs also take a toll, but people who use them and ride probably don't read a column like this anyway. But how about legal drugs? There was quite a stir of resentment several years ago when the maker of a cold remedy showed a TV ad with a rider impaired by a cold medication, but few of the protesters pointed out that all vehicle users, motorcyclists included, have a responsibility to know about the stuff they use. If you have taken a cold medication, there is more than one reason to follow a doctor's advice and stay in bed.
There are other ways you can chemically alter yourself, like cleaning parts in strong solvent without gloves or breathing protection. Or standing in a closed garage with the engine running. Even out in the great outdoors you might compromise yourself. Consider a flat-lander who visits Colorado and spends a few hours in the Independence Pass area, stopping to admire the view, take pictures and have lunch. He might be a bit oxygen-deprived by the 11,000-foot-plus altitude, but not recognize it before he has trouble negotiating a corner.
Just riding can cause problems. I sometimes forget that not everyone is used to spending hours on a motorcycle. A few years ago a friend who had joined us for par wat through transcontinental ride apparently fell asleep and ran off the road and through a fence a few days into the ride. Don't plan schedules that your body can't keep.
Long days of motorcycling can be more fatiguing than you might anticipate. Besides the fatigue created by just sitting in one position, you have the wind pressure to combat, vibration, and the occasional adrenaline rush, glare, all of which tire you. The air rushing past can also tire you. You can become dehydrated much more quickly than you would while standing still. The noise of the wind is also tremendously fatiguing, though few people recognize the toll it takes. A good windshield, a top-quality helmet and earplugs can do much to lessen the mental drain created by the noise. So will a quiet exhaust system.
If you are planning a long trip this summer, work up to it by riding to work every day and taking progressively longer weekend rides in the month or two leading up to it. Don't schedule a long ride your first day. The second and third days are probably the ones where you can rack up the most mileage. After that you will probably get more tired each day, unless you take a break for a few days and relax. During the trip, eat lighter breakfasts and lunches that won't make you sleepy, and allow time for breaks. Drink water before you get thirsty. Schedules should be even looser if you are riding with other people. You should all discuss your plans ahead of time and be prepared to accommodate anyone who is feeling tired or stressed. One rider's problem can be dangerous for the entire group.
These days "road rage" is hot topic. Consider a day I had recently. It was the day before I left for Daytona, and I had an overwhelming number of things to finish. That morning El Nino had finally overwhelmed our roof. A camera I'd just bought for the trip wasn't working, and the maker's customer-service people didn't seem to care. The battery in my wife's car had chosen that day to become reluctant. By the time I'd dealt with those pleasures, I was late for a meeting. Naturally, I got behind the president of the local Speed Kills chapter, who apparently felt that anything over 60 percent of the speed limit was an affront to man and nature. It would have been easy to go psycho on her. Instead I converted my annoyance to amusement by shouting to myself in my helmet, "It's the pedal on the right!" When she finally decided to stop completely and get out of the way, I didn't get a half mile before a bozoid in a Buick attempted to bunt the Yamaha and myself across the median. I could have loudly raised questions about his ancestry, and I considered directing him to a Remedial Driver Clinic when he pulled up next to me at a light shortly thereafter, instead I just ignored him.
A friend once told me about a motorcycle crash she'd had. She started the account by saying, "Well, the first thing I did wrong was get mad." Anger and similar emotions, such as fear, have no place on a motorcycle. A high stress level should also disqualify you. If something untoward happens to raise your pulse rate while you're riding, pull over and cool down before continuing. Don't risk your life to express your annoyance. Think about the wife and kids, or make a joke to suppress your anger. If you're stressed out, cool down before you ride.
And don't drive either. I always figure that if I'm not ready to ride a bike, there is no way I'm going to pilot a vehicle that weighs at least five times as much, isn't as maneuverable, takes longer to get places and will do much more damage if I screw up. Too bad not everyone feels the same.
Anyway, before you climb on your motorcycle, check that the nut that connects the handlebar to the seat is neither too tight nor too loose.