Archive for September, 2008

Report from MotM: A Failed Safety Paradigm

Monday, September 29th, 2008

Let’s start with two statements that I think we can all agree on:

1. Helmets would not be an issue if motorcycles did not get in crashes.

2. It is crashes, not the failure to wear a helmet, that kills motorcyclists.

Speaking Friday at the Motorcycle Riders Foundation‘s Meeting of the Minds here in Denver, “Doc Ski” Wasileski, Ph.D., addressed the issue of rider safety in a talk titled “A Failed Safety Paradigm.” And the point Doc Ski made can be summed up as such: “If you get in a bad enough crash, you’re gonna die. Crashes kill bikers. Crash prevention saves lives.”

Doc Ski argued that ever since the Hurt Report, “Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures,” the government agencies involved in transportation safety have followed the approach of working for crash mitigation. That is, safer crashes. In cars that means seat belts and air bags and other clearly effective means. When it comes to motorcycles, however, the idea of safer crashes does not work as well. As Doc Ski said, you will die if you get in a bad enough accident, regardless of whether you’re wearing a helmet.

Thus the failed paradigm. Doc Ski, who serves as the MRF’s resident statistician, quoted his own studies that show no statistical difference in fatality rates between states with mandatory helmet laws and states with no helmet laws. And he echoed the MRF’s position that rider training, motorist share-the-road training, and impaired riding programs are what lower fatality rates, not stricter protective requirements and vehicle design modifications.

Nevertheless, as many speakers stated repeatedly over the course of the conference, stricter regulation is coming. The form that that regulation takes will be determined at least in part by how effectively the motorcycling community’s voice is heard. One purpose of the Meeting of the Minds is to ensure that that voice is heard, and effectively.

Issues the MRF is expecting to address in the near future include mandatory rider education, graduated licensing, and restricted access for motorcycles on some roadways.

Be grateful that someone is out there fighting for your rights. Consider joining them in the effort. You’ve got nothing to lose but your rights.

Biker Quote for Today

We want to be free to ride our machines without being hassled by the man. — Peter Fonda, The Wild Angels, 1966

Report from MotM: Update on Sec. Mary Peters

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Meeting of the MindsI’ve been at the Motorcycle Riders Foundation Meeting of the Minds, which is currently in progress here in Denver, and I’ll have a lot to report over the next several posts. I figure I’ll start with U.S. Dept. of Transportation Sec. Mary Peters considering that I’ve written about her here on several previous occasions.

The word is cautiously good. As I’ve stated before, Peters is a biker herself but, having had a bad spill and escaping more serious injury due to her helmet, she had become somewhat of a helmet zealot. More specifically, she was urging that funds designated for rider training be diverted to efforts to pass helmet laws in all states. I won’t go into all the issues that raises, I did that earlier. Go read that post to get the details.

Her proposal was met with solid opposition from the various biker organizations, including the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA), the MRF, and numerous ABATE groups, to name several. Speaking today with Kirk “Hardtail” Willard, the MRF’s president, I asked about the status of this dispute.

As Hardtail tells me, Peters first backed off saying that the rider training money should not be spent to promote mandatory helmet laws but rather to promote voluntary helmet usage. That was an improvement but still evoked some of the same issues as her original proposal.

After further discussion, Hardtail said, she backed off further, apologizing for the whole misguided proposal and promising to send letters to all state governors explicitly nullifying her proposal.

The reason the word is cautiously good is that those letters have not been sent yet. “We want to see those letters,” said Hardtail. He added that Sec. Peters is planning a press conference today or tomorrow and the MRF is interested to see what she plans to discuss.

As for rider safety, the MRF president reiterated the organization’s position that the goal of lowering motorcycle fatality rates will be accomplished more successfully by working to reduce accidents through rider training, share the road programs for motorists, and impaired riding programs, rather than increasing helmet use. Fewer accidents, not safer accidents, will save riders’ lives.

Biker Quote for Today

Well-trained reflexes are quicker than luck.

How Much Riding Do I Do?

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

Every year at the start of the year I make note of how many miles I’ve ridden my bikes and driven my car in the previous year. Then I set goals for myself, high goals for the bikes and low goals for the car. I figured it was time to check and see how I’m doing so far this year.

The answer is, very nicely thank you. In the first nine months of 2008 I have put 2,305 miles on my Honda CB750 Custom, 1,278 on my Kawasaki Concours, and only 3,739 miles on my Hyundai Elantra. My goals for the year are, respectively, 1,000; 2,500; and 11,000.

So I’m already way over on the Honda, due primarily to the fact that I took it on the summer OFMC trip rather than the Kawi. The numbers on the two bikes would be approximately reversed if I had ridden the Kawi. That would be right in line with my goals. And there are still three months left in the year!

Of course the big deal is the car. Fewer than 4,000 miles so far, with a goal of not exceeding 11,000. I think I’ll make it. That current 3,739 on the car compares with a total of 3,583 miles on the two bikes. That was really why I wanted to check these numbers now. I wondered if I’d been putting more miles on the bikes than on the car. No, but darn close. I figure it will be really cool if I do put more on the bikes. This gives me incentive to try just a little harder. We’ll see at the end of the year where it all stands.

Biker Quote for Today

I don’t need a reason to ride . . . just a direction.

And Now for Another Completely Different Motorcycle

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

I find it amazing the way so many exotic and unique motorcycles are created and even produced. Take a look at this. It’s the Travertson Rex and it is for sale now.

Travertson Rex

The engine is a 1250cc Harley-Davidson Revolution V-Twin VRSC. And that’s about the only thing on this bike that you’ve ever seen before.

The front fork is more like a swing arm and the gas tank is a stressed member that forms the backbone connecting the fork to the rear swing arm.

The bike sells for about 40 thou and is available in red or black. It has a claimed 120 horse power and 74 foot-pounds of torque.

If you want to read more, check out this article from motorcyclecruiser.com.

Biker Quote for Today

My bike is beyond sexual… It is viagra for the soul.

Latest Tales of Flying Object Encounters

Friday, September 19th, 2008

All of us have encountered flying objects or objects in the road ahead of us. It comes with the territory. Awhile back I found a thread on a motorcycle forum where people were asked to tell about their encounters. I did two posts back then, sharing some of the postings with the readers of this blog: Motorcycles and Flying Objects, and More Flying Object Tales.

Well, it’s time for another batch. The thread is alive and continues to receive posts.

**********
Back in my youth, in the mid 70’s – I was coming back into town from some cowtrailing on my Yamaha 175. Just got to where the road opened up to 4 lane, saw that I was closing in on some oil field trash (top level Merc with dried mud halfway up the windows). They were shedding little bits of mud as they went, so I decided to move to the other lane to miss that – when they hit a bump and let loose quite a mud-clod storm, and this long tubular object the width of the car….that turned out to be a rattlesnake! That bad boy had apparently been all cozy inside their back bumper, all stretched out.

He was doing some interesting spirals as he rolled down the road, and I passed him. Not much other traffic, so he had time to get clear – just glad I didn’t leave near there!

**********
On the bike I hit a bat that was flying through the woods, hit me in the shoulder, actually hurt a Lot, but didn’t dislodge me, and didn’t kill the bat – which after a moment departed my shoulder.

In the car I drove through a plate glass window which came off the back of a truck.. had it not fallen the way it did – I drove through it like it was a wall before it hit the ground – had it not – had it stayed parallel to the road I’d have been dead.

**********
I was riding some very curvey roads in east TN and was following a buddy of mine. He scared a hawk that had just made a kill on the side of the road. Who knows, maybe a mouse or something. When my buddy startled it, it took to the sky and came across the road right at me. It swooped up, I ducked down. All I heard were its talons clicking when they hit my helmet. No injuries to either of us.. Just a good story (of course better told in person).

**********
3 lane highway…noticed a truck about 2 cars ahead in the slow lane…full of old furniture…that “gut” voice said move over to the fast lane…fast…

About 2 min later a coffee table came out and shattered in the middle lane…I missed it completely…

WHEW!!

**********
Tuesday after work I took my usual dirt detour on the way home over Hog Creek. Right off the bat, had a couple deer run across the road, no biggie, usually see at least a half dozen on this trip.

I get over the first good hill and start down the other side. It’s a pretty good slope with sharp twisty corners and lots of loose gravel. I’m running about 40 mph when all of the sudden a fairly large black bear comes out of nowhere up the bank and almost T-bones me!

I locked the rear and started fish tailing and I yelled out WHOOOOAAAA! The bear turned and ran a few yards in front of me before heading down a near vertical cat slide.

I got off the brakes and gave her some throttle and saved myself from going down. I was feeling a little edgy though and the ol’ ticker was getting a good workout
So I stopped up on the next hill and drank an Obsidian Stout to calm the nerves.

**********
* Sheet of plywood, skimming along in front of me at about 50mph – when I swerved, it drifted my way, etc – Wonder what would have happened if I’d tried to ride straight over it?
* Burning truck tire in the middle lane of a near-deserted M4 at 1:00am in the pouring rain – Wafting smoke obscured it until I was almost right on top of it – Smelled it before I could see it. – Caused a bit of a pucker
* Found a box of high-explosive shaped charges laying by the side of I-10 on my way to work one day – Didn’t nearly hit them and wasn’t on bike but it was certainly unusual – Picked them all up, put them back in the box and in back of my truck then called State Police. Had an interesting conversation with trooper when he finally got there.
* Empty plastic garbage can blew right in front of me on a city street at about 45 mph – Big GS and I blasted right through it with a bang – Saw lots of bits in mirror – No damage to me or bike.

Biker Quote for Today

Everyone is trying to kill you. Really TRYING.

Motorcycle Camping: The Ultimate in Low-Cost Travel

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Are you a camper? Is sleeping on the ground in a tent something you like to do? I know that for a lot of people the answer is no. Heck, even for the guys I’ve gone camping with for 30 years the answer lately is no.

That’s really too bad because motorcycle camping is a great, and incredibly inexpensive way to do some terrific traveling. It also allows you to be more flexible in your trip. With hotels and motels you usually need to have a reservation, which locks you in.

In the earlier days of the OFMC we didn’t plan. Before we left we picked a direction to head and we took off. Then we would just go until we decided to stop. Or we’d go in this direction until we decided to go in that direction. Two things made this possible: there were only three of us and we all carried tents, sleeping bags, and foam pads or air mattresses. On more than one occasion that gear was a life saver when we rolled into some town late at night and found no room at the inn. There’s always some place to set up your tent.

And it’s not like you need a lot of gear. We never carried things like stoves or cooking implements. We would just eat in town before riding on to the camping site we chose, or, if close enough, we would set up camp and ride back in for dinner. Then in the morning we’d get up in a pretty quick manner, load up, and head into town for that cup of coffee we all had foremost in our minds.

Some people do carry more than we did. I know some folks on the big rigs have room for cooking gear. And then there are people like Rider magazine’s Clement Salvadori who likes to travel alone and pull off somewhere in the wild and drink wine with his campfire dinner. Clem really knows how to do motorcycle camping.

If you’re even remotely interested in camping on your bike you really ought to give it a whirl. I’ve made a point on the website to help anyone so inclined to find good motorcycle-accessible campgrounds. There are a lot of campgrounds in Colorado that are not motorcycle-accessible and they’re not included. If I’ve included it you can be assured that a campground is accessible on two wheels. There’s no better way to really experience Colorado.

Biker Quote for Today

The best alarm clock is sunshine on chrome.

Spread the Word: Abolish Traffic Signs and Signals

Monday, September 15th, 2008

This may sound strange at first but give it time to sink in. I know it can work because I’ve seen it in action.

We were struck this summer when we were over in Europe by how in the entire city of Rotterdam there must not be more than 30 traffic signals. Contrast that to any city in the U.S. where almost every single intersection has either a signal or stop signs. And yet pedestrians, bicyclists, cars and trucks, and people on scooter and motorcycles mingled easily and safely. How can this be?

plaza in BrugesIf you want a better discussion of the concept than I can give, I refer you to this article in the Christian Science Monitor. It tells about a small town in Germany where the main street is a busy highway and yet they removed all signs and signals and also removed all curbs and sidewalks, making the whole thing into a “naked” square. And it works!

We saw the same thing in Bruges, Belgium. Bruges has several large plazas where the entire area is cobblestone, with no lanes or anything. Each person, whether on foot, bike, car, or what have you, takes the most direct route to where they’re going. The key is, rather than paying attention to traffic signals and such, everyone pays attention to everyone else. You have to pay attention to where you’re going and make eye contact with the other person when your two paths intersect. And it does work.

This excerpt from the article shows in part just how it works:

Two months into the experiment, “Instead of thinking, ‘It’s going to be red, I need to give gas, people have to slow down, to look to the right and the left, to be considerate” says Ms. Rubcic.

The bonus? Town people recognize they have become a bit closer to one another. “The whole village has become more human. We look at each other, we greet each other,” she says.

There are some issues, as there are with all changes. In particular, the new “shared space,” as it is called, can be difficult to navigate by those who are blind and who previously depended on sidewalks and signals. Efforts would surely be needed to address such issues, but surely answers can be found.

In the meantime, shared space experimentation is a variety of European countries has resulted in a reduction of accidents, and the idea is spreading. As high gas prices prompt changes in American transportation choices it seems inevitable that we will need to revise our thinking, too. I look forward to the discussion.

Biker Quote for Today

When everything is coming your way, you’re in the wrong lane.

Colorado Program Promotes Rider Training

Friday, September 12th, 2008

Live to ride. Ride to live.

That’s a slogan we all know and appreciate. And clearly the first half of it is especially important. In Colorado last year there were 90 riders and passengers killed in motorcycle crashes, the highest ever recorded. You’ve got to live or you’re not going to ride.

Live to RideIt seems appropriate then that when the State of Colorado set up a motorcycle rider training program they named it the Live to Ride Program. Here’s a look at what the state put together.

The Live to Ride program is based around what is called “MOST,” which stands for Motorcycle Operator Safety Training. The MOST mission is “to provide high-quality, low-cost motorcycle training to residents and active-duty military personnel.” The fees we pay for motorcycle endorsements on our driver’s licenses and motorcycle vehicle registration fees fund MOST. The law that set all this up specifies certain minimum requirements for trainers who wish to participate in the program. MOST training classes are based on the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) model.

A list of certified MOST trainers is listed on the site. Currently there are 12 organizations on the list, including, not surprisingly, ABATE, and a bunch of others that I have frankly never heard of. That sort of raises my interest. Maybe I’ll have more to tell you about some of them later.

So anyway, Colorado is putting our money where our mouths are by setting up this program. Now it’s up to us. I know I took an Advanced Rider course through the MSF some years ago, as well doing a training day at a racetrack that was set up through the Concours Owners Group. It’s probably time for a refresher.

If we don’t want the state imposing safety measures we don’t want, such as helmet laws, we have to make it our duty to bring down these accident statistics. Helmets are great if you go down but it’s more important to not go down in the first place. Fewer accidents, not safer accidents, should be the primary goal.

Biker Quote for Today

Ride To Eat! Eat To Ride!

Interesting Article About the Future of Alternative Motorcycles

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Today I just want to point you to an interesting article I ran across on the MotorcycleUSA.com website. It discusses the many variations on the motorcycle theme that have been tried over the last 140 years and then turns to what future bikes may look like. Now, I’m not saying visually, I’m talking about their power plant and methods of motivation.

Bart Madson, the writer, starts out describing what is believed to be the first motorcycle ever invented, which ran on a twin-cylinder steam engine. A charcoal-fired stove sat under the seat to create the steam.

Then he continues saying:

Due to environmental concerns and the fact that $4/gallon gas is now a reality, the desire for alternatives to the internal combustion engine are more in demand than ever before. So, like automobiles, future motorcycles figure to be greener, more efficient machines.

He then goes on to talk about electric bikes, fuel-cell powered bikes, and even bikes that run on compressed air. All of these are under development somewhere, and some are available now.

Madson focused specifically on bikes such as the Suzuki Crosscage, the Piaggio HyS Hybrid, the Killacycle, the electrobike Pi, the Zero X, the Brammo Enertia, the Vectrix ZEV, and the Yamaha BOBBY. Never heard of any of those? Neither had I. Interesting stuff.

Go check them out. You could be riding one of these some day.

Biker Quote for Today

The best modifications cannot be seen from the outside.

More and More, That’s a Woman on That Bike

Monday, September 8th, 2008

If, like me, you’re a guy, you may not be aware what a large group of women riders there is out there. Believe me, though, they know. And they’re in touch with each other.

It’s not until you wander into some community page that your eyes open. This happened for me recently when I got a link exchange request from Kristen at VaVaVroom, a website where they sell “motorcycle clothing and gear for her.” Not being female, and my wife having all the gear she needs, I wasn’t much interested in the main part of the site but they have a link for “Community” where they say “The VaVaVroom Community Pages are a great resource for women riders (including those of you who ride two-up) to connect, learn what’s going on in the industry, find out about upcoming events, meet other women riders and unearth whatever you may need to enhance your overall riding experience.”

Going one step deeper for “Links,” when I clicked there it hit me. Here were links for a whole world of organizations I didn’t know existed. These included, to name just a few:

Plus a whole lot more, including some that are relevant for bikers of either sex.

Now, I’m not naive, I’ve known that there are plenty of women riders out there, and especially at Sturgis in 2006, I saw more women on bikes of their own than I had ever seen before. I just didn’t realize the size and extent of the group.

All I can say is, that’s great! More power to all of you. It seems like more often than not it is women who say “But motorcycles are so dangerous.” The more women who ride and know the true nature of the experience the better for all of us.

Biker Quote for Today

You’re a lucky guy if your woman rides her own.