Archive for February, 2013

Five Newbie Biker Errors and My Take

Thursday, February 28th, 2013
Bikers On Independence Pass

Bikers on Independence Pass.

I heard from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation today and one of the things they sent along was an article titled, “Most Common Mistakes Among Novice Riders.” It got me thinking about my own experiences in these situations.

The first thing they listed was, “Selecting a motorcycle that’s too large or heavy.” There’s no question that happens. We’ve all heard stories about someone who decided they wanted to ride and went and bought a big, heavy cruiser. And then proceeded to dump it leaving the parking lot.

My experience was a little different. I was one of those people who was inclined to buy something pretty small at first. My friend John told me if I did that I’d outgrow the thing and be back buying something bigger in six months. So I got this really sweet 1980 Honda CB750 Custom, which I still have and still ride. That was about 25 years ago. So I guess the key is to find the sweet spot, the Cinderella spot: not too big, not too small, just right.

Number two is “Getting into complex situations too soon.” Heck, for me, riding that “big” 750 was getting into too complex a situation too soon. But I was exceedingly careful and took it very, very easy for the first while. I sure didn’t ride in rush-hour traffic any time soon. So I think I did what the MSF is saying.

Next is “Failing to maintain a 360-degree mental picture of traffic.” I’m sure I was guilty of that a lot at first. But you don’t ride for long without learning that you have to be on your toes at all times. I think my first scare was one day going north on Federal around sundown when a woman headed west, wanting to turn south, pulled right out in front of me. I hadn’t paid her any attention at all. After it happened I realized that she had the setting sun right in her eyes and she was essentially driving blind. I definitely learned from that one.

Fourth is, “Overestimating one’s own visibility.” Well, that same situation applies to this as well. I figured it was daylight and I was in the middle of a major street. How could anyone not see me? I hadn’t learned yet that I was actually invisible.

And the final one is, “Carrying passengers or participating in a group ride too soon.” I can definitely relate to this one. It was awhile after I started riding before I felt confident enough to take anyone for a ride, but even at that point I wasn’t really comfortable. It wasn’t until we took our first summer road trip and I spent a week in the saddle with a load on behind me that I really felt good about it. From that time on I finally felt I was ready to carry passengers.

So anyway, those are supposed to be five of the biggest novice errors. I’ll bet any one of us could come up with another five or more errors we made as newbies. But we got through it, didn’t we.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Motorcycle safety studies continue

Biker Quote for Today

Experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.

A Look At The MSF ‘Naturalistic’ Motorcycle Study

Thursday, February 21st, 2013
clip from a video about the MSF 'naturalistic' motorcycle study

A clip from a video about the MSF 'naturalistic' motorcycle study.

Time passes and things slip our minds but out of view from the rest of us things do get done. In this case I’m speaking of the two different motorcycle safety studies currently under way around the U.S. One is the new version of the Hurt study that is being conducted by Oklahoma State University. I haven’t heard anything at all about that one since the guy running it, Samir Ahmed, announced that he was leaving the project, and said he had doubts that it could achieve its intent.

The other is the “naturalistic” study being conducted by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, and it is moving along on schedule.

I got an email recently from Mike Ginocchi, a guy I ran into who was interested in the OSU study. Mike is a retired accident investigator and he felt he was a natural choice to be brought on the team but the OSU guys apparently had other ideas. So he petitioned the MSF to be one of the 100 riders they would equip with tracking devices so as to observe their riding behavior, particularly when it comes to getting into or avoiding crashes. The MSF was interested, so every time he rides now he is being recorded.

A local TV station thought this was pretty interesting so they did a piece on him and the study. You can go watch it here and see just what it’s all about. I agree with the TV staion–it’s pretty interesting.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Lojack announces top five motorcycle recoveries for 2012

Biker Quote for Today

Everyone I know predicted my death when I bought my bike. I say it’s done just the opposite. Even if it does kill me, it wouldn’t take too many days like today to make it worth it.

Hawk Helmet Partial Report

Monday, February 18th, 2013
Hawk H-6607 Glossy Black Dual-Visor Modular Motorcycle Helmet with Bluetooth

I've been using this Hawk helmet and while I like it, it has issues.

I mentioned previously that I had been given this Hawk modular, bluetooth-equipped helmet to test and review, but with winter upon us the opportunities for testing have been limited. This is an intermediary report.

Yesterday (Sunday) was a great day for riding so Judy and I were finally going to sync up the bluetooth in the helmet with the UClear bluetooth communicator she has in her helmet. The bad news is, as far as I can tell, it can’t be done. Both communicators have instructions for syncing to identical devices, as well as to your smartphone and your iPod. But as many different approaches as we took to sync them to each other we were unsuccessful. Bummer. So now all I guess I can do is call a friend with a bluetooth-enabled cell phone and give the helmet that sort of test. That’s the later report that will follow this intermediary report.

badly bent connector prong on Hawk helmet

You can see how the prong is bent improperly.

I have more to report about the Hawk helmet, however. To put things in simple, direct terms, it seems to be a fairly cheap helmet. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a DOT helmet so it should offer protection. And let’s face it, it currently retails for $160–with the bluetooth!–so it’s probably inevitable that the helmet itself is not great. So the question is, with that acknowledgement, is it a good investment if you want the communicator option (though you’d need to get one for each of you)?

This is where the inability to try out the communicator is an issue. Until I can test the sound quality I can’t answer this question. But if it is good sound quality I would say yes, it is worth it. I mean, it’s a nice enough inexpensive helmet. The modular (flip-up) aspect of it is nice. Not having to fuss with wires and speakers is nice. Having the drop-down sun visor built in is nice. All for an outrageously good price.

But there’s a caveat here. If you buy this helmet you’re going to want to inspect it carefully when it arrives and be prepared to send it back if it does not meet quality standards. Let me tell you about the one I received.

Hawk helmet with properly shaped prongs.

This is the other side, which is properly shaped.

Where the flip-up portion meshes with the rest of the helmet it is intended to meet smoothly. On one side of the helmet it did; on the other side it did not. There was about an eighth of an inch gap. Trying to figure out what the story was, I concluded the flip-up part must snap off if you’re going to replace the visor, so I snapped it off. Then I saw the problem, as you can see in the photos. Those two prongs are supposed to slide into a couple slots. On the side where you see that one is bent wrong, the slots that were cut into the helmet were much smaller than on the other side. And obviously one prong did not make it into that too-small slot, and it bent. This is a quality control issue. This helmet should never have left the factory in this condition.

Now, I bent the prong back and with a little shaping was able to get it to where it would slip in, and now it’s just fine. But I shouldn’t have had to do that.

Another issue was with the drop-down sun visor, though I believe that was tied to this other problem. As it was, the visor would not stay up. It was just too loose and vibration from riding would cause it to creep down. Now that the two pieces mesh the way they are supposed to, however, this problem seems to have been eliminated.

The third issue is with the piece–I don’t know what it’s called–that rises up in the front, on the inside, to either keep your nose from getting sun-burned or perhaps to deflect your breath from fogging the visor on cold days. I’m not sure what its purpose is, but a lot of helmets have them. The problem with this piece is that it won’t stay in place; it just falls out. I considered using some epoxy to glue it in place permanently but decided instead just to set it aside and not use it. It’s not in any way essential.

So you see what I mean about cheap. Nevertheless, I really want to like this helmet. As long as it does in fact protect my head–which is the true reason for wearing a helmet–the idea that you get all these extra features for such a crazy low price is just amazing.

That brings it down to the question of how well the communicator works. If I finally get that tested and it works well, then I will be offering this helmet a positive recommendation with reservations regarding the quality control. Till then, I do continue to wear it. After all, it’s not a bad helmet.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Motorcycle safety studies continue

Biker Quote for Today

Have maximum fun while preserving bike and body.

Free App Provides State Helmet Law Info And More

Thursday, February 14th, 2013
Helmet Law App

You can get a free app that will tell you the helmet laws in every state.

I guess if you always wear your helmet it doesn’t matter what the helmet laws are in different states. But if you sometimes like to go without, you know how important it is to laws in different states you might ride in. There’s an app for that.

I got an email yesterday from Catherine Kazda at Buckfire & Buckfire, PC–which is to say they are attorneys–plugging this new app they have made available on their site for no charge. It will give you not only the state by state laws in the U.S., but also has information on Canada and Europe. Maybe some other places as well–I forget. The video goes into all that but my memory isn’t that good.

So it’s kind of a good idea. And I think it’s probably a great promotional idea for them. They apparently deal in motorcycle crash litigation so of course they want bikers coming to their website.

The app offers other information as well. It basically covers motorcycle laws in general, not just helmet laws. And they have a link on it to information on what to do if you’re involved in a crash. I’m sure one of the things it tells you to do is call an attorney, preferably Buckfire & Buckfire. But OK, it’s still probably good information.

So hey guys, your marketing plan is working. I’m passing this along, and I have already seen a link to some other site that did so, too.

Of course there is one other way to get all this information, though I don’t know if it’s quite as easy as a smartphone app. You can go to the American Motorcyclist Association site, to their page where they list all the state-by-state info.

And I guess I might as well tell a couple stories here because they’re totally related.

The first time John and Bill and I came down into Nebraska from the Black Hills we stopped at a wayside picnic area and got to talking to a guy there. Somewhere along the way he mentioned that we ought to be aware that “Nebraska is a bucket state.” He had seen us ride in without our helmets on. OK, thanks.

Another time, our first time in Nevada, we pulled into Vegas–coming from Arizona, I guess–and it wasn’t until after we had checked in to a hotel that we learned Nevada is a helmet state, too. We hadn’t been wearing ours. Oops. After that we made it a point to find out about states we were going to before we went there.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Motorcycle safety studies continue

Biker Quote for Today

You’re a biker wannabe if you grab for your hairbrush before your old lady.

Kickstarting A ‘Going Green’ Electric Motorcycle Project

Monday, February 11th, 2013
Dan Patino's Kickstarter page for his Going Green project

Dan Patino's Kickstarter page for his Going Green project.

One of the more entrepreneurial people I know is Dan Patino, and Dan is back now with his latest project. Working through the crowd-funding website, Dan is seeking to raise money to do a documentary film about going green on an electric motorcycle.

As Dan’s page on Kickstarter tells it, this is to be “An Electric Motorcycle, HD POV Cameras, Social Media, The Wild West, and 7 Months of Filming. Discovering innovative and creative ways to be, “Going Green.”

This Documentary Film is a creative and innovative Project. With the goal of documenting and discovering that being, “Green” can be fun! While filming this documentary, I will be on a 100% Electric Motorcycle. Sharing with the public how fun, practical, and rewarding riding an electric motorcycle can be. We will be traveling to the latest innovative “Green” programs being implemented today. Seeing what is being done about reducing carbon emissions. As I travel along, I will be documenting the public’s views on carbon emissions, and the greater issue of Global Warming.

Join me in the beautiful Western US in making this film. Filming begins on Earth Day April 22, 2013 and ending Nov 1, 2013. The Film will be produced and release on Earth Day, 2014.

In case you’re not familiar with how crowd-funding via works, the person seeking the funding puts up their proposal with a set amount needed to get going. If that amount is not pledged within the specific time allotted, nobody hands over a penny. In return for their money, presuming the project does get funded, the fundee commits to specific rewards or product or whatever to those who pledge, and usually the more you pledge the more stuff you get.

In Dan’s case, this ranges from a $10 donor receiving a thank-you note and a signed photo (electronic) all the way up to a $10,000 donor who would get everything smaller donors receive plus an invitation to come to the filming and be in the film, as well as being listed as “Executive Director” in the credits.

Dan figures that he will need to raise $49,777 to carry out this project and he has until March 11 to raise the money. So far he has two backers who have pledged a total of $110. So he has a ways to go and just a month to get there.

I certainly wish Dan the best in this latest venture, and I told him that if he gets it going I want a chance to ride the electric bike. I’ve ridden Zeros but have never ridden a Brammo, and I presume from the photos he posted that he plans to use a Brammo.

But as of this moment, the clock is ticking. Gonna be interesting to see if he can make this work.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Motorcycle safety studies continue

Biker Quote for Today

Bikes are better than women because motorcycles don’t mind if you look at other motorcycles, or if you buy motorcycle magazines.

Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route Is On The Map

Thursday, February 7th, 2013
Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route map

A section of the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route map.

I eagerly unfolded my copy of the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route map, from Butler Maps. What roads would it take, which ones have I been on, and which ones might I realistically consider riding at some point?

To refresh your memory, the Backcountry Discovery Route series is sponsored by Touratech, makers of adventure motorcycling gear. What these guys do is go out and develop a route that crosses an entire state, generally north to south, and then they make the GPS logs available for free. Butler Maps has partnered with Touratech on this, producing maps of the routes.

And what do you know, I actually have ridden parts of this route.

The Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route with elevation indicated.

A bit of what the Colorado Backcountry Discovery Route has to offer.

Of course part of it was easy. The route starts at Four Corners and comes up through Cortez and up to Dolores on paved roads. I’ve done all that. Then it gets off on the more gnarly stuff. The route parallels CO 145 along over Lizard Head Pass, taking the west side of the San Miguel Mountains and the lizard head, up to where CO 145 has now passed Telluride. Dropping back south of Telluride almost to Lizard Head Pass, it leaves the paved road again through Ophir and over Ophir Pass to connect to US 550 a little north of Silverton. Jogging north, it then crosses Cinnamon Pass over to Lake City (ridden that one) and then heads up Slumgullion Pass before getting off on the dirt again all the way to Cochetopa Pass, south of Gunnison, and on to meet up with US 50 east of Gunnison at Doyleville.

I’m not going to describe the entire route. In brief it goes something like this: Tin Cup, Taylor Reservoir, Cottonwood Pass (ridden that), Buena Vista, Weston Pass (been there), Leadville, Hagerman Pass, Crooked Creek Pass (been there), Gypsum, Colorado River Road (ridden that), State Bridge, the Trough Road (ridden that one), Lynx Pass, Steamboat Springs, Columbine (been there on the bike), and on to the Wyoming state line at Battle Creek.

The route is broken up into sections and gas stops are indicated on the map. That’s pretty handy when you’re going off the pavement and don’t run into a lot of stations, I’m sure. Alternate routes are pointed out that are a little easier (or possibly simply passable when things get wet), and nice sidetrips to places such as hot springs are pointed out. Lodging is pointed out.

Altogether this route covers 675 miles. As the map states, “It is intended for intermediate to advanced riders and can be ridden on most street legal dual-sport and adventure motorcycles.”

Hey, if you’re looking for some adventure riding, this is Colorado, after all. Go ride!

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Lojack announces top five motorcycle recoveries for 2012

Biker Quote for Today

It’s not how fast you’re going, its about how fast your fast comes to a stop.

February Riding, Heated Gear Testing

Monday, February 4th, 2013
odometer showing all 5s

By the time I got stopped I almost missed my shot of my Kawi odometer with all 5s showing.

I got out on both bikes yesterday so I have checked off February 2013 in my unbroken string of months that I have ridden each bike ever since I bought them. I lose track of when I bought the Honda CB750 Custom–25 years ago or so–so that’s about 300 consecutive months for that bike. The Kawasaki Concours is at about half that.

Of course every ride lately is a test of heated gear in one way or another. Today the temps were in the 40s so I decided to wear the heated vest but not the heated gloves. After all, one key to seeing how well the heated gloves do is to periodically ride without them.

I took off on the Kawi first. With its full fairing it’s a warmer bike to ride in any conditions. I didn’t feel the need to turn the vest on until the point where I was headed home and was getting chilly. My hands were fine.

The Honda offers a lot less protection so I very soon turned the vest on. Going on a longer ride than I had on the Kawi, my hands eventually were pretty dang chilly. I was wishing I had the electric gloves.

Back home again I wanted to take the Kawi out again just because I noticed that I was only about 3 miles away from the odometer reading 55555.5 (see the photo above). At this point I put on the Gerbings. That warmth on my hands felt really good instantly.

Up till now, when I’ve used these gloves I’ve been interested in determining how long the battery power will last. I’ve been using them at the lowest setting that was comfortable, which has meant that my hands were not toasty warm but they were not cold either. This time I figured I’d just crank them all the way up and see how they feel like that.

In a word: toasty. At full power my hands were not only not cold, they were downright warm. In fact, after awhile I’d have to say they were too warm. I didn’t bother dialing them back because I wasn’t going a long way, but yes indeed, they put out the heat.

Through all of this, of course, I was loving the heat from the vest. I’ve had that vest for many years and have loved it ever since I bought it. I know people who just put their bikes away for the winter because they just don’t like riding in the cold. If I could only get them to understand that it doesn’t have to be that way. Get some heated gear and dress for the weather and you really can ride all year round. Don’t tell me you’re just a fair-weather biker. Come on, don’t tell me that. Get out and ride that thing.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Only a biker knows . . .: Motorcycle wit and wisdom, #25

Biker Quote for Today

“…I am a motorcycle-Samurai, and I have beat my Demons.” -YK