Archive for the ‘Biker Issues’ Category

Letting It Rip On Track Day

Thursday, November 9th, 2017
Do yourself a favor and do a track day.

Do yourself a favor and do a track day.

Have you ever wished you could get out on your motorcycle and just let her rip? No worry about speeding tickets. No worry about hitting that pocket of gravel as you carve that turn. No worry about that idiot cager who’s just about to pull out in front of you at the intersection.

That’s why God invented race tracks.

The really cool thing is that race tracks are not just for the pros. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of days when race tracks sit idle and you’d better believe the people running them welcome additional users. The perfect scenario is for your riding club to hire the track for a day, bring in a couple riding instructors to give pointers and offer critique, and then each of you pay your share of the cost to go ride the track for a day. Alternatively, sometimes the tracks themselves set it up and provide the instructors. Then all you have to do is sign up and pay.

The Concours Owners Group that I have intermittently belonged to organized a track day at one point and I jumped at the chance. The day was set up in segments, alternating classroom instruction and parking lot practice with track time. They divided us up into three groups based on skill level. I knew I wasn’t in the top tier but I sure didn’t want to think of myself as bottom tier, so I went for the middle. My thinking seemed to predominate, so there were more than could be accommodated in the middle, but I was not one of the ones forced to join the lower group.

My group started in the classroom, and in many ways it was very much like the Experienced Rider Course (ERC) sanctioned by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, just omitting the portions on looking out for other traffic. They talked about braking before entering the turn, late apexing, where you go deep into the turn before initiating a sharp turn, and other such techniques.

Then we moved out into the parking lot. We practiced swerving, turning our heads to look as far into the curve as possible, standing the bike up before braking, and modulating braking to achieve maximum stopping power without skidding. Then it was time for the track. Hot dang!

As each group took to the track, the instructors also mounted up and rode with us. Singling out each rider individually, at times they would ride behind and observe your technique, and at other times they might pull ahead and motion for you to follow them as they demonstrated what you should do.

It turned out you really couldn’t blast your way down the track at warp speed because the straightaway was not long enough to reach that speed before you needed to start backing off. And no, there were no worries of gravel in the curves but there was one spot coming into a curve where an asphalt patch was much softer than the area around it and, of course, target fixation lead me to hit that spot consistently. One of those times my rear wheel would have slid out from under me in a low-side get-off but I planted my left foot well enough to recover and stay up.

I also found that my riding ego was a bit puffed up. While I had not wanted to be relegated to the low-skill group, I was the slowest rider in the middle group. Everyone else kept passing me, and I never passed anyone. Time for a little humility.

After lunch we repeated the circuit, with the added input of the instructors’ critique of our earlier riding. We each now had a better understanding of our strengths and weaknesses, and what we needed to work on. But the track day is only a beginning. Techniques do not become skills unless you continue to practice them. I have, and I believe I’m a better rider because of it, but nothing beats a refresher course once in a while.

Biker Quote for Today

This is a motorcycle rock. Throw the rock into the air. If it hits the ground, go ride.

Link for Today

Heading to Australia? Check out Procycles.

Riders Who Don’t Ride Any More

Monday, November 6th, 2017

We don’t stop riding because we get old, we get old because we stop riding.

I’ve heard that line for years but now I’m starting to question it. People I know are no longer riding and while age is not the reason in and of itself, the more specific reasons are directly related to age.

John with his bikeJohn is the perfect example. John had a Cushman scooter when he was a kid but then went years without a bike. Later, when he bought a 750cc Virago he opened the door for a lot. First he took me riding on behind and then before long I bought my own bike, my CB750 Custom. Then Bill got a Shadow and the OFMC was born.

That was a long time ago. Well, John has hung up his spurs. More specifically, he sold the Harley. He’s done riding.

John’s decision is based on health. He has started suffering from esophageal cramps, which basically render him almost comatose. He got hit by one while riding on this year’s OFMC trip. Scary situation. On top of that, he is suffering macular degeneration, which is causing him to lose the vision in the center of his eyes. He sees around the edges but when he looks directly at something it disappears.

This is very sad, and the OFMC will not be the same. This might be John’s motto: When I was younger I was afraid I’d die riding. Now that I’m old and falling apart, I’m afraid I won’t.

Dan with Iron Butt medallionThen there’s Dan. With Dan it was more direct–he suffered a stroke. More than a year later he’s still struggling to perform everyday functions; riding a motorcycle is out of the question, and the bike was sold long ago.

Mind you, this is a guy who used to routinely ride more than 30,000 miles every year. Dan had a decal on his bike that showed a map of the 48 states with the label, “My riding area.” He meant it. But now he doesn’t ride. So very sad, and so unfair. He had seemed to be in great health until one day he wasn’t.

This might have been Dan’s motto: Young riders pick a destination and go. Old riders pick a direction and go.

I know a bunch of other guys who used to ride but don’t any more but for them it was a decision; in some cases the dad decision, as in “I have a child and he needs a father–I’m giving up the bike.” Maybe in later years they will be back.

What this has meant for the OFMC is that this year there were only 6 riders on the trip. Not long ago we had had 10-11.

So don’t take it for granted. Get out there and ride every chance you get. And I’m going to take seriously the motto Roy told us he has subscribed to all his life. Roy just turned 86 but he’s as spry and active as someone 40 years younger. Here’s his take on life: Does as much as you can for as long as you can.

Yeah, what he said.

Biker Quote for Today

Hop on your steel horse and go find your soul in the wind.

Staying Awake On The Motorcycle

Thursday, August 24th, 2017
motorcyclist with passenger

OK, she better not fall asleep because if she does she’s falling off.

When I first started riding I found after awhile that unlike driving a car, there was no way I could conceivably get drowsy and be in danger of falling asleep. There was so much demanding my attention, my focus was constantly being called to steering, to braking, to potential traffic issues, and to so much else. No way would I have to slap my face or shake my head vigorously to keep my eyes open, as I sometimes do in a car.

That was then. This is a long time later. Although I still maintain constant alertness, these things have become much more second nature now and are not so demanding on my focus. Do I sometimes find myself wanting to close my eyes and sleep while riding? Oh yeah.

Of course, sleeping on a bike in motion is not such a strange concept. I know various guys whose lady friends have fallen asleep while on the back of the bike. Usually their heads fall forward and their helmets crack together and she wakes up. Sometimes the rider seat is a lounge chair with back and arms and they just safely drift off. Once Johnathon had to catch Felicia as she started to fall off the side. These things happen.

So what do I do when I start struggling to keep my eyes open? It’s easy if I’m riding alone–I pull over and take a break. And if I’m riding with just one or two other people I’ll probably do the same, telling them I just need to stop for a few minutes.

It’s a more complex situation when you’re with a larger group. Any time a big group stops you just know it is going to be a more lengthy stop because there is inevitably at least one person who is constitutionally incapable of getting going again without going through an extended rigamarole. Friggs is that guy with us. Everything has to be adjusted and made just right and he takes his time. The rest of us hardly start getting ready until he’s putting his helmet on.

So making the decision to stop the group just because only I am drowsy is a hard call to make at times. Especially if I know there is a stop planned not that far ahead, I just do my best to keep going, and wish the miles would pass more quickly. And then yes, I shift my body position, shake my head vigorously to try to rattle my brains, and do anything else that seems like it might work to keep me going until the drowsiness passes.

But sometimes you just have to stop. I tend to ride at the back of the group so pulling out in front to indicate a stop is generally a problematic proposition. So I just pull off and trust the guy in front of me to notice and pull off, too, starting a chain reaction. But with the guys I ride with this is not guaranteed. So sometimes I just take my break and catch up to them as I’m able. I’m OK with that. The only thing is, I wish these guys were more observant because maybe I’m back behind them with a flat tire. That happened once and they never did come back for me.

I don’t care, though. If you can’t keep your eyes open you should not be on the road. I have no desire to crash, and I’ll take whatever results from a safe decision over being totally foolish.

Biker Quote for Today

You’re a biker wannabe if all your leathers match.

What Happens When Motorcycles Are Not Included In Planning

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017
motorcycle with DIA in the background

Riding your motorcycle to DIA was not something the planners ever even considered.

I took Judy to the airport early on Tuesday and as I drove home I thought about one of my first visits to Denver International Airport when it was just new.

I actually had been out there even before it was completed. One day I led John and Bill on our bikes riding out on the then under construction Pena Boulevard, going past areas where it was posted to stay out, this being a Sunday with no one to stop us. It was the first any of us had had the chance to see what was taking shape way out there northeast of the city.

But then the airport opened so we decided one day to ride out there again and see this new creation now functioning. If you were around back then you may recall that initially they set things up a bit differently than they are today. That’s because this bright idea about controlling traffic turned out to be a really bad idea and they quickly revamped things.

That is to say, it was set up so that all road traffic to DIA had to stop at a row of toll booths about a mile from the terminal. You were issued tickets and as you exited you handed over your ticket and paid for any time you were there beyond half an hour. Everybody did this, every time. What a waste of time. Now you drive in and drop off or pick up your passenger(s) and there’s no stopping. You only pay something if you park. Who had that dumb idea in the first place?

But it was worse if you were on a motorcycle. Apparently they figured that no one on a motorcycle would ever drop someone off or pick someone up. So when you pulled up to the toll booths there were signs saying “No Motorcycles.” I’m not sure we noticed those signs this day but either way, we pulled up to the toll booth and I don’t remember if we got one ticket for all of us or one apiece or what. Whatever, we drove on in, made the loop past the terminal, and then headed out.

That’s when we really hit trouble.

At the exit toll booth they didn’t know what to do with us. The equipment was not set up to deal with motorcycles, so either the weight or the mass of one bike was not enough to alert the machines that someone was there seeking to exit. Plus, the system was set up so when you picked up your ticket on entry a photo was made of your license plate and the person at the exit booth confirmed that this was the same vehicle.

So when one bike wasn’t enough, they had us pull all three bikes up to increase the mass. That worked but then they had to confirm that this “one vehicle”–really three–was the same “one vehicle” that had come through the entry gate. What a total mess! What a fiasco!

Needless to say, this whole procedure did not last very long. Somebody with authority realized how idiotic it was and the toll booths were eliminated.

And you have to wonder, what might have been different if they had included motorcyclists in the planning process. Surely there would have been extreme protest over the “no motorcycles” part of the plan. And maybe that would have triggered some other thinking about the necessity of inconveniencing every single person coming out there. Isn’t it amazing how generally smart people can have such stupid ideas?

Biker Quote for Today

She told me to whisper something sexy in her ear, so I said, “I ride a Harley.”

Examiner Resurrection: Learning Dirt-Biking Techniques

Monday, July 31st, 2017

Dirt Riding Training

This Examiner Resurrection is dated in that I have since acquired a dual-sport bike and have a lot more dirt riding under my belt. Still, the points it makes are timeless and it was not a bad thing even for me to reread the material.

Learning Dirt-Biking Techniques

Riding motorcycles in the dirt is not the same as riding on the street. That may not come as a surprise to a lot of people but until you try riding in the dirt you may not realize how different it is.

I had the opportunity yesterday to receive some dual-sport dirt-riding training. I’m doing some coverage of the Adventure for the Cures ride that kicked off today and Sue Slate, the organizer, invited me to participate in the training session. Let me backtrack: The “Dirty Dozen” riders participating in this breast/ovarian cancer research fundraising event are all experienced street riders who have not ridden on dirt before. Thus the training.

Of course I accepted the invitation. So at 6:30 a.m. I was headed up the hill to Keystone in order to be there for an 8 a.m. “working breakfast.” You might be amazed how cold it is on an August day at 7 a.m. at 10,000 feet. My fingers were ice cubes.

The training took place, as so much motorcycle rider training does, in a parking lot, although this one, of course, was unpaved. The trainers were Andrea Beach and Bonnie Warch, of Coach2Ride, a south California riding school specializing on dual-sport riding.

Having only recently taken a refresher Beginning Rider Course (BRC) from T3RG Motorcycle Schools, where they told us to grab the brake lever with all four fingers–a practice I was working on adopting–I was surprised to be told that in dirt biking you want to always cover the lever with two fingers in order to quicken your response time. OK, so now I unlearn.

Andrea also told us you don’t counter-steer on the dirt; you turn by putting your weight on the opposite peg from the direction you want to go. You also shift your weight. That is, if you want to steer left, you lean the bike to the left but counter the lean by moving your weight to the right. This initiates the turn while keeping the bike’s center of gravity stable.

The fact is, this is the technique they taught us in the BRC for tight turns at slow speeds. That’s something else I had been practicing since I took the class so this was good reinforcement.

Another difference is that when you go dirt-biking you tend to stand up on the pegs a lot. Not exactly a recommended practice on the road. First off, standing up serves the same purpose it does on the street where you momentarily stand up to cushion a hard bump. Cruisers, with their pegs way out front, aren’t suitable for this, which is why I always prefer a bike with the pegs underneath me. And on the dirt you’re always dealing with bumps so the need to be able to stand on the pegs is obvious.

Secondly, you get better control of the bike when you stand on the pegs because it shifts the center of gravity down. Dirt bikes tend to be very tall because of the suspension, and this counteracts that situation, which is good.

So after a couple hours of training we took off up a fire road to put it all into practice. This was only the second time I’ve ever ridden dirt but I remember the first time being a lot of fun. This was a lot of fun, although way too short.

We rode up, making a point to steer around some potholes and obstacles for the steering practice, and deliberately hitting others for the practice that afforded. By the time we got back down I was really getting into standing and steering with my weight. It had taken awhile but I had found the comfortable–read “less tiring”–standing position and had developed an understanding for the direction to grip the tank with your knees. Some things you can hear about forever but not really understand until you have a chance to do it.

Will I do more dirt riding? Man, I’d love to, although not having a dirt bike or trailer is a bit of an issue in that regard. Or any place to store them. We’ll have to see what I can figure out.

Biker Quote for Today

When you’re on a motorcycle you’re never lost if there is still gas in the tank–you’re just finding new roads!

Ride Your Motorcycle To Work On Monday

Thursday, June 15th, 2017

Drivers are cruising along thinking, “My gosh, there are a lot of motorcycles on the road. I better be extra careful I don’t change lanes without seeing one, or turn in front of one!”

Ride to Word Day banner

Monday is a day when you should make it a
point to ride to work.

That’s the kind of thinking we would love all drivers to have going on in their heads, isn’t it? Well what are you–yes, YOU!–to make them think that way?

How about this. Ride your motorcycle to work on Monday, June 19. That’s this coming Monday.

Monday, June 19 is Ride Your Motorcycle to Word Day. The idea of this effort is to inculcate exactly the sort of thinking described above. Flood the streets with bikes and make drivers shake their heads in surprise at how many motorcycles there are out there. Make them aware we are there and hope that they will connect the dots to realize that they need to do that head check rather than just glance in their mirror. That kind of thing.

I could go on about the whole philosophy behind this event but why bother? This is the gist of it. Just ride your bike on Monday.

Biker Quote for Today

Hospital gowns don’t come in black leather. Ride aware.

Examiner Resurrection: Sportbikers And ABATE: ABATE Actions That May Sway Sportbikers

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

motorcyclist gearing up

Can ABATE achieve significant gains in reaching out to sportbikers? From what I’ve seen, it remains a daunting task. TwoColorShoe (SBN) cautioned me about painting too rosy a picture.

I can tell that you’re going to try to spin the article towards a positive light in the end; speaking about how even though some may not agree with ABATE’s confusing position on helmet use sportbikers/cruisers/etc. can still all get along and support a group that is really just trying to fight for our rights. I do not think it’s a very realistic position. — TwoColorShoe (SBN)

Rather than try to forsee the future, I will list the changes or actions that these sportbikers say that ABATE would have to make if they are to succeed. “SBN” identifies the speaker as coming from The Sportbike Network, and “CSC” identifies them as coming from the Colorado Sportbike Club. (I was informed this group prefers CSC to the CSBC that I was using previously.)

Without a real change in policy through ABATE, by being much more safety conscious and by trying to appeal to the younger sport bike crowd, only then will people start to recognize the organization’s real worth. Right now, it doesn’t seem like there is much appeal. If ABATE doesn’t change, then the ever growing idea of safety consciousness through the motorcycling world will only keep more people away. They need to really change some stuff, and if they don’t, there’s a good chance they’ll just die out and another pro-motorcycling organization will take their place. — TwoColorShoe (SBN)

ABATE is better than nothing, but…

  • They need to align the membership on their stance regarding helmet use.
  • They need to align the membership on how to interact with other riders.
  • Increase exposure to what they do, other than fight helmet laws.

Getting sportbike riders to buy into ABATE’s agenda means welcoming sportbike riders and possibly changing the agenda to include the beliefs of sportbike riders. Right now that just isn’t happening. — bimmerx2 (SBN)

If they want to garner support from the sportbike community, they need to broaden their advocacy to include other issues like punitive insurance rates for sportbikes, and police profiling of sportbike riders. — TFOGGuys (CSC)

ABATE needs a PR makeover. Sponsoring an MRA rider is one step. So will support for local sportbike events. The only things I’ve seen are ABATE patches on leather jackets and their name attached to poker runs and cruiser events. That could be part of the perception problem. — asp 125 (CSC)

That’s my one minor quibble with ABATE. While they push AGATT in class, they often don’t “walk the walk” and personally set a good example to the new riders who should be coaxed and reminded every second they’re around experienced riders to wear gear. — Wintermute (CSC)

I took, what I seem to remember was, an ABATE class last year and the instruction itself benefitted me greatly. What helped just the fact that I had a chance to practice pretty much any type of maneuvers on a closed course while someone watched with a critical eye. That said, I am very interested in seeing a more sportbike oriented version of the class that features more advanced & real world-type situations. I felt the class was more cruiser oriented, but even more disappointingly, it was merely a reproduction of the original class I took to achieve my endorsement, with the exception of my being allowed to use my own bike. — MetaLord 9 (CSC)

When you look at the “majority” of Sportbike riders (not just on this forum) most of them are younger (18-30) and not interested in being active participants in the legislative process. Take a look at the “majority” of cruiser riders, they are mostly above 30+. — Zuhalter Vati (CSC)

All the more reason for ABATE to get involved. If rider apathy means anti-sportbike laws get passed unopposed, the presence of an organization to give some voice might be a good thing. — asp 125 in response to Zuhalter Vati (CSC)

Show me that you are lobbying to allow lane splitting in all fifty states, or in FL for that matter. I’ll cut you guys a check today. — Jim Moore (SBN)

I like that ABATE does charity work and have participated in one of their charity rides for a friend’s father. He was killed during a poker run by an ambulance that ran a red light. We went from bar to bar on the charity ride. Not really my crowd. As previously expressed, if they started actively advocating for lane splitting, then I may be interested in membership but I don’t see enough from them right now. — cbartz (SBN)

I’ll refer back to my previous post – ABATE itself is nothing but a name, the organization is made up of real live breathing human beings. It is how those human beings act that defines the true beliefs of the group. So, the policies of ABATE are meaningless unless the people who make up the group actually believe in and support those policies. The fact that ABATE has such a well defined reputation as helmet haters (not helmet law haters) means they have a lot of members who are not aligned with the stated goals. Let’s face it, those are pictures of helmets being roasted, not a book of helmet laws. — bimmerx2 (SBN)

Where do things go from here? The ABATEs are not one organization, but a collection of separate organizations. Some may be willing to make the efforts that will be needed to draw in sportbikers as members. Others may conclude that the division on helmets is too wide to bridge, not to mention a position they have no intention of changing. Who knows, perhaps an especially egregious assault on motorcyclist rights will force the two groups together despite their differences. Politics often makes for strange bedfellows.

I will remain an interested observer and will report back with updates as this dynamic evolves. The one thing I am confident of is that only time and hard work will significantly alter this status quo.

Update: After I published this series, Terry Howard, at that time the ABATE of Colorado state coordinator, initiated a conversation with members of one of the Colorado sportbike organizations whose members had expressed conciliatory views and the two groups started working cooperatively for the benefit of all motorcyclists in Colorado. Sadly, some ABATE members were not happy about this new direction. Since Terry’s departure the two groups have gone their separate ways.

Biker Quote for Today

Some call it a tunnel; bikers call it a concert hall.

Examiner Resurrection: Sportbikers And ABATE: Is There Common Ground?

Monday, May 8th, 2017

motorcyclist gearing upIn Part One and Part Two of this series of articles we looked at sportbiker attitudes toward ABATE and the reasons behind the attitudes. Here we consider whether the common ground any two groups of motorcyclists would seem to share is enough to get past the rancor.

OldSchlPunk (SBN) referred me to another thread on the Sportbike Network forum where Kevin Snyder, ABATE of Pennsylvania’s state coordinator, posted inquiries to the group in the same way I did. His interest, like mine, was in understanding sportbiker attitudes. Here’s what he told the forum:

My original questions were prompted by a report I got from the Florida Senate Transportation Committee hearing on their SB-802. The bill was passed unanimously out of committee. I believe it has to go through two more committees before reaching the floor.

The basics of this bill are dramatically increased penalties for certain moving violations such as exceeding the speed limit by 50 mph, failing to keep both wheels on the pavement, etc. First offense is $1000, second is $2500 and loss of license for one year, third becomes a felony with 10 year loss of license and forfeiture of the vehicle.

Three things troubled me about this bill.

First, the bill is squarely aimed at a segment of the motorcycling community (sportbike riders).

Second, this is the first time I have seen vehicle forfeiture prescribed as a penalty for a moving violation.

The third, which prompted my initial post, was that (from the report I got) the sportbike community was under-represented at the hearing. Florida ABATE was there and two other motorcyclists who testified.

Here in PA, we (A.B.A.T.E. of PA) have been pretty successful in the state capital. Thirty years of hard work has paid off, and not much happens related to motorcycles in the legislature without us having a chance to influence the outcome. But (as stated in the initial post) one of our weaknesses has been our inability to engage other segments of the motorcycling community.

It’s not that we’re competing with other groups. While we work closely with the AMA and the MRF (Motorcycle Riders Foundation) on national issues, there is no one else in Harrisburg advocating the rights of motorcyclists. We’re it.

Incidentally, the anti-ABATE remarks on Kevin’s thread were also quite harsh:

To even get me remotely involved with a group like ABATE, you’d probably have to stop encouraging riders to be complete idiots. You’re going to have a VERY VERY hard time getting ANY Support from the sportbike community, where generally safety is a top priority as well as the ability to live through a crash. I can’t believe for one second that ABATE is in anyway confused as to why Sportbike Enthusiasts want nothing to do with people who make excuses for suicidal behavior. — Nefarious SV (SBN)

Join a group that wants to STOP NOISE ORDINANCES? ARE YOU KIDDING? HARLEY DAVIDSONS and all those blatting cruisers ARE THE MOST ANNOYING PIECES OF CRAP EVER. DRAG PIPES AND ALL THAT. I HATE HEARING THEM – they have ruined many peaceful towns. I PUT A SLIP ON ON MY BIKE AND IT WAS TOO LOUD. I TOOK IT OFF CUZ IM NOT A COMPLETE TOOL. UNFORTUNATELY TOO MANY OF THESE 45 YR OLD MENOPAUSE MEN ARENT USING THEIR BRAIN. the world exists outside of your motorcycle, so you have to acknowledge that. Unfortunately many people cant see that, especially HD riders. Oh, btw, Helmets save lives, not loud pipes. — DaleCaliente (SBN)

Kevin’s argument about ABATE being the only group working for biker rights on the state level tied in precisely with the primary question I sought to answer. As I put it to the SBN forum, if it is a good thing to have an organization working on behalf of motorcyclists in the legislatures, and if it is acknowledged that ABATE works on behalf of other issues besides fighting helmet laws.

Is it at all possible for sportbikers to find any common ground with ABATE, even if you despise some of their policies? Isn’t it better to support them in areas where you agree and fight them in areas where you don’t? Rather than attacking the group across the board? If sportbikers had a lobbying organization of their own that worked on legislative matters I can see it would be different, but to my knowledge there is no such organization. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Is ABATE at least better than nothing?

For PAFizzer (SBN), the answer is no:

Well I think your whole thing sums that right up. We don’t have one because for some reason we don’t feel the need to bunch together and roast helmets. Basically you fill a need when it’s needed, and we don’t have any spots to fill in the legislative department. Therefore, it’s not needed.

SlowGoose (SBN), while agreeing that motorcyclists need a lobbying arm, also responded negatively.

Their asinine emphasis on overturning helmet laws makes them an organization that I will never be comfortable with speaking on my behalf. Any organization that purports to promote safe-motorcycling yet holds helmet roasting parties is one that doesn’t know its ass from a hole in the ground.

To sum it up, I really don’t feel like ABATE does me any good. I don’t fight them because they are not an organization that speaks for me, about me, or in any way, that I’m aware of, has made my life better as a motorcyclist in any way. The AMA is enough for now. I am glad that ABATE and its notions have no real hold in my particular motorcycle culture.

bimmerx2 (SBN) was a bit more conciliatory.

I don’t have enough first-hand knowledge of how effective ABATE is at influencing policy but at least it’s something. Common ground yes. Support? Not in my book… While I support some of the things they do I don’t think an organization can have it both ways – in this case being for safety but against things that are proven to enable safety. I can support specific actions but I can’t sanction the organization as a whole just because we have ‘some’ ideas in common.

Biker Quote for Today

The first motorcycle race began when the second motorcycle was built.

Examiner Resurrection: Sportbikers And ABATE: Helmet Issue Is Primary Dividing Point

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

Harley riders wearing helmets

Summing up from Part One of this report, the helmet issue appears to be the primary point of contention between ABATE groups and sportbikers, with some also feeling that ABATE simply doesn’t concern itself with issues of concern to the sportbike community. Pursuing that point, I posed new questions to the national Sportbike Network (SBN) forum. (I’ll touch back in with the Colorado Sport Bike Club (CSBC) later.

For starters, I asked if someone could point me to anything that supports their claim that ABATE is anti-helmet. “Is it really ABATE itself, or are you perhaps speaking of some particular ABATE members?” I asked.

TwoColorShoe (SBN) pointed me to a flyer posted by the South Suburban Chapter of ABATE of Illinois for its upcoming “Helmet Roast.” Yes indeed, that poster shows helmets on weenie sticks being roasted over a fire. Curious, I emailed several officers of the chapter to see what they could tell me about the event. I received a response from Dennis Byron, who is the Activities Co-coordinator for the chapter. Dennis sent something written by another member, David Lynch, which he said is not an official response, just his own. David wrote:

As far as the Helmet Roast goes, this was an idea conceived for a chapter event to raise funds for the chapter and to celebrate the defeat of a mandatory helmet law that came out of nowhere over twenty years ago. The helmets roasting in the fire of the current flyer are an homage to tradition, where the original design was a tongue and cheek image of a biker roasting a helmet on a spit over a campfire.

Two others on the forum mentioned ABATE members who expressed outright anti-helmet opinions, and bimmerx2 (SBN) had this to say:

I don’t think one can separate the ‘organization’ from the people who make up that organization. ABATE itself is nothing more than a name for the group of people. If the majority of those people have an opinion then by definition the organization has that same opinion.

While I’m sure ABATE’s official stance is anti-helmet LAW the membership simply does not behave that way – they are anti-HELMET. Wear full gear to a Harley dealership on a weekend and there is VERY good chance that you be asked if you think you’re an astronaut, if you’re planning to crash, etc. There is virtually no chance that someone will ask if you support helmet LAWS. I have first hand experience with that and so do a lot of riders I know.

I also did a search on my own, visiting the websites of about 40 ABATEs across the country. I found that opposition to helmet laws is universal, but my admittedly limited search found very little that could be characterized as being anti-helmet. ABATE of Virginia did have one page where it stated that, in crashes, helmets “can also snap necks and cause basal skull fracture. NASCAR now requires helmet restraining devices to prevent those usually fatal, helmet-caused injuries.”

Because the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) also opposes helmet laws I asked why the sportbikers’ attitudes were different toward the AMA than toward ABATE, if indeed they are.

The AMA is fine. I haven’t ever seen any info on AMA organizers not encouraging the use of helmets. — TwoColorShoe (SBN)

I have to say I do not agree with the AMA either. If ABATE was serious about helmets then they would actively promote them, you do not see them doing so. I think the AMA does. — modette (SBN)

Leaving the subject of helmets, I asked about loud pipes and stunting: “Many people believe the idea that ‘loud pipes save lives’ is total BS. This seems to be a sportbiker criticism of the Harley crowd. The Harley crowd, on the other hand, takes a dig at the sportbike crowd saying that stunting and doing wheelies down the highway or through the middle of town is giving all bikers a bad name.” Could they please comment? I also asked about motorcycle fatalities among unlicensed–and presumably untrained–riders. “Most eyes turn to the sportbike community when this figure is mentioned,” I noted.

I doubt many people on this site will defend the squids….they get treated harsher than anyone! Those people being the unlicensed, uninsured, no gear, stunting on public roads guys. — SamIAm 1021 (SBN)

Around these parts you will get ragged on for posting vids/pics of any of these behaviours. They do make us all look bad (Both groups, and both sets of behaviour). So is one side right and one wrong? Well let’s just say that both sides hate squids and one side supports loud pipes. — bimmerx2 (SBN)

You think the finger is pointed at sport riders because you are not one. I think both sides have their people that think they don’t need a license. Sporties because they are chicken of failing, and cruiser guys because they have been riding for 20 years this way and F you they aren’t changing for some bureaucrat. I don’t believe that anyone other than the deceased riders can speak to their lack of skills when they died. — qubert (SBN)

These are all stereotypes though, and most informed sport bike/cruiser/standard/touring riders don’t do these things. There have been a number of studies that go in depth about motorcycle fatalities, licensing, bike type, etc. I’m sure that sport bike riders have less proper licensing than others, but I also know that sport bikes are marketed towards a younger age group. This isn’t about sport bike riders not getting proper licensing, it’s about young riders not getting proper licensing. — TwoColorShoe (SBN)

Despite the mostly negative arguments made against ABATE on the SBN forum, there were a few that were more positive.

ABATE has a poor reputation among sportbikers, mostly because it’s mostly Harley guys who don’t much welcome sportbikes. I have worked with ABATE people on some campaigns, and I think it’s generally a good organization.

I think there are some barriers. ABATE is mostly known for opposing helmet laws, which I think is just fine.

However, many of those in ABATE cannot separate the issue of helmet laws from the issue of helmets. They spout a lot of simply false “information” against helmets, which tends to drive away anyone who holds the true and rational view that helmets do indeed increase your safety.

Likewise (as you’ll see in this thread) many sportbikers ALSO cannot separate the issue of helmet laws from the issue of helmets. They believe that because helmets are a good idea, that it must follow that helmet laws are a good idea. — PhilB (SBN)

My experiences with ABATE have been that they tend to work well with legislators at the local level, on local issues. Leaving aside for a moment the ubiquitous helmet law debate, I’ve seen ABATE do very good things on behalf of motorcyclists in Maryland. — Scratch33 (SBN)

In Part Three we’ll consider whether there might be common ground between the two groups.

Biker Quote for Today

The brave don’t live forever . . . the cautious don’t live at all.

Examiner Resurrection: Sportbikers And ABATE: Can The Twain Meet?

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

This is the first in four of a series I did for Examiner.com about eight years ago. It was one of the most well-read and discussed things I ever did for Examiner.com. It also produced concrete results, which I’ll go into later. Rather than follow my standard Monday and Thursday publishing schedule I’ll be putting these four up in quick succession.

Sportbikers And ABATE: Can The Twain Meet?

motorcyclists on the roadYou would think that if you’re running a bikers’ rights organization you would draw support and participation from motorcyclists of all sorts: cruisers, sportbikers, off-road riders, what have you.

Yet ABATE (A Brotherhood Active Towards Education) organizations across the country seldom find any support from sportbikers, which many find frustrating. It’s a particularly difficult challenge when you consider two of the primary apparent reasons:

  • A large percentage of sportbikers are young and have no interest in political activism.
  • A great many sportbikers despise ABATE.

Before continuing I need to make two points. First, the information I will be presenting is not scientific research, it is strictly anecdotal. Second, although I will often refer to “sportbikers” as a group, they are not a monolithic group, and differences of opinion do exist. When I discuss prevailing attitudes within the group, do be aware that these attitudes are not universally held.

In lengthy discussions I’ve had recently with sportbikers on a couple internet forums, several issues have come very clear.

  • Sportbikers see ABATE as an organization focused primarily on opposing helmet laws and supporting loud pipes.

ABATE is wetawded. — g34343greg (SBN)

  • Sportbikers strongly support the use of helmets and the majority favor helmet laws mandating their use.

I’m not for choice. I’m for keeping riders alive whether they like it or not. Socialist? I think it’s common sense to do whatever it takes to protect your brain in a high risk activity…for those that don’t find that to be common sense, that’s for whom these laws are enacted. — GreenZED (SBN)

  • Many sportbikers question the claims of the ABATEs that they are anti-helmet law, believing instead that they are in fact anti-helmet.

Although ABATE is a useful group sometimes, their stance on helmet laws is far too ignorant for me to take them seriously. They are really an anti-helmet organization, not a pro-choice one. — TwoColorShoe (SBN)

  • Sportbikers do not believe that “loud pipes save lives” but do believe that loud pipes create a bad image of all bikers in the public mind.

Some pipes are so damn loud it’s ridiculous, especially when they’re rocketing down the road at 9 grand and 120 mph, or down my street goin 50mph in 1st gear at 5am. Thanks a lot, idiot. That brings a bad image to our sport. Sportbikes and cruisers alike should keep it down some, before the government forces it on us. — lasermax (SBN)

  • The ABATE crowd is seen as mostly grey-haired cruiser/Harley types who the largely young sportbikers feel look down on them and with whom they feel little fellowship.

I joined ABATE years ago because a friend was a member. I went to one meeting and wasn’t really welcomed around all the hardley crowd so I left. You might want to ask one of them what makes them so much better than the sportbike crowd. Besides I’m not about supporting drinking and riding without a helmet. — heathun (SBN)

motorcycle racersThe conversation I initiated was an outgrowth of an article I wrote awhile back about ABATE of Colorado’s racing sponsorship of Jon Kuo as an attempt at outreach to the sportbike crowd. State Coordinator Terry Howard explained to me at that time that the organization is trying to overcome the very sorts of stereotypes I’ve described above. She told me that other ABATEs have tried at times to bridge the gap but none had been particularly successful. (Full disclosure: I recently joined ABATE of Colorado, ride two Japanese bikes, frequently wear a helmet, and have never felt unwelcome at any ABATE event.)

Seeking to understand the reasons for this, I joined two internet forums, the Colorado Sport Bike Club (CSBC) and The Sportbike Network (SBN) whose members are scattered all over the country. I posted the same initial question on each forum and invited the members to tell me what they thought. I will include “SBN” or “CSBC” after each comment to indicate which forum it came from.

Responses were many and varied, with the two forums going in surprisingly different directions. The local group seemed fairly amenable to ABATE’s overtures:

Glad to see they are adapting. It would be interesting to get more detail about the specific changes that they made for the sportbikes and how the exercises differ from the regular class. When I took the initial class it was still not set up for sportbikes. Taking another non-Abate class that was sportbike specific made a huge difference. — InlineSIX24 (CSBC)

I am glad that ABATE is trying to promote classes geared towards sportbike folks and would say we all need continuing ed from time to time and if we can get it from a class that is geared for us, then that’s just bonus. — chad23 (CSBC)

I didn’t see ABATE as being geared towards a certain type of motorcycle. The info that they present in their courses seems to be geared towards bikes in general and not one specific bike. Like previously mentioned, I think that more advocacy on ABATE’s part for issues related primarily to sport bikes might be a good idea, but honestly I think ABATE is good for all riders, regardless of what kind of bike they choose to ride. — chanke4252 (CSBC)

Hostility toward ABATE was very high on the national forum, however:

I would hardly call an ABATE member a “Motorcyclist,” I just call them a rider. They ride to look cool, they ride to belong. Whereas I believe a “Motorcyclist” is someone that would be happy on anything, they love riding because they are riding…they could care less if they are on a moped, a HD, a ZX10r, or a 30-year-old antique. — modette (SBN)

It’s by the grace of god that ABATE hasn’t invaded the sportbike crowd. — SamIAm 1021 (SBN)

lol I like that ABATE offers rider training. I would laugh in someone’s face if someone who thinks wearing a helmet is dangerous offered to teach me something. — g34343greg (SBN)

I can only speculate on the reasons for this difference in attitudes. It may be that in states where helmets are mandatory the ABATEs are more focused on helmet laws, reinforcing the perceptions held by the sportbikers. Meanwhile, in states such as Colorado where helmets are not required, the organizational focus is on other, broader issues and the groups may be more commonly seen as they see themselves, as bikers’ rights organizations.

Second, the Coloradoans may know Jon Kuo personally, and in sponsoring him ABATE of Colorado may at least be succeeding in getting some people to reconsider their perceptions of the organization.

Biker Quote for Today

The perfect man is a poet on a motorcycle.