Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Riding with Speed and Safety

One thing stands out above on all on a motorcycle, there is nothing between yourself and the road except for what we put there.  A car is a big steel frame which we sit in and are surrounded by a metal barrier.  On a motorcycle the only thing we have to protect ourselves against the pavement is the gear we wear.  This of course is a last resort because nobody honestly wants to go down, but if you do have a motorcycle or are thinking of getting one you have to expect your going to drop your bike sooner or later and it's only a matter of time before it does.  In order to prevent this we can take preventative measures like defensive driving and not driving in certain conditions to avoid this as much as possible.  This post is my "how to" guide on not to fall, and if you must there are certain ways to protect yourself.

Defensive Driving
Defensive driving is the first thing we can all do as drivers to avoid collisions and close calls.  This means trailing the car in front of you with plenty of room to stop and staying out of drivers blind spots.  Above all don't go speeding into corners and roads where you cannot see around.  I almost lost my life in Lake Berryessa because of a small mistake one fine summer day.  I was flying through the roads on the way to go camping at Lake Berryessa for the weekend and I was loving it, coming close to dragging my jeans on the road on every turn.  I had some funny feeling like I should slow down and I listened to my instincts when a Semi pulled around the next turn all the way into my lane, if I had even been in the turn I would have been all over the front of that Semi's grill.  Camping that weekend I heard how another motorcyclist lost his life the weekend before because of the same reason.  I don't want to be a statistic so to this day I don't fly into corners or roads that I can't see into.

There is no way to forsee a driver running a red light but as we approach intersections, making sure cars are stopped in both directions is very important. Page 18 of the Dmv Motorcycle Handbook states "Over one half of motorcycle/passenger vehicle collisions are caused by a drivers entering a riders right of way."   For this very reason intersections can be one of the most dangerous places for a motorcycle.  The safest place for a motorcyclist is on the track where everybody is going the same direction.  This may seem contradictory because a track is supposed to be where you go at breakneck speeds.  Realistically it's safer because when a rider goes down it's off of the track and usually into dirt or soft barrier rather then a metal guardrail.  --When going at these kinds of speeds it's important to tuck the arms into the chest as to avoid breaking any bones in the hands or arms.-- In order to protect us further we and out bikes need to be equipped with the best gear we can afford.


I had one accident where I wasn't properly geared up.  This happened when I highsided my Yamaha R6, check out the picture to get a better idea of what a highside is...  Instead of sliding out under the motorcycle, the bike catches and throws you over the top.

 I was only wearing my helmet and jeans, needless to say after the accident I was missing a majority of the skin on my palms and a good portion from my back, along with 2 broken ribs.  If I had been wearing my jacket and gloves I might have saved my hands and back. As a result I could not get out of bed for a few weeks.
I have had lowsides (where the bike slides out from underneath you-see pic below) where I was wearing my gear, boots gloves and jacket and there was no harm to me at all.  I was a little shaken up but still able to pick up my bike and continue on to my destination.  As you can see from the picture below why it's so important to wear the proper boots!

If you didn't notice the guys involved in the crashes above are fully geared with leathers, helmet and most likely a spinal guard.  Wearing the right gear can save your skin and keep your body intact.

Tires and Bike Equipment
Another thing to note is to get your bike set correctly with a good set of tires and tire pressure to make sure your contact with the road is good.  As my friend so elequently put it, "Get good Rubbers!"  I have personally tried three different kinds of tires for my sport bikes and the ones I tend to have the most confidence with are my Michelins.  They have two different compounds in their tires making the sides of the tire softer so when leaning into a turn the softer rubber is in contact with the ground providing a stickier patch between your bike and the road.  Michelin Pilot Power Pures 2Ct provides us with a moving diagram that we can see the bike roll onto these contact areas.
Good tires means nothing without the correct tire pressure in them.  It's important to check tire pressures regularly and at consistently at the same temp, whether hot or cold.  I've noticed that when my steering feels sluggish that I usually need about an extra pound or two of air pressure in the front tire.  Something as simple as this can help maneuver the bike to avoid possible accidents.
Another saying is "Loud Bikes Save Lives!" and I find this completely true. That Harley Davidson sitting next to you may sound ridiculously loud and obnoxious but the fact is, you hear them and therefore are forced to recognize their presence.  This makes drivers aware of their surroundings and usually yield to the bikers.

So there you have it by following these simple few steps we may have enlightened a few minds.
-Defensive driving- make your presence known
-Wear the correct gear- no tennis shoes (they wont save your ankles)
-Make sure your bike is properly equipped-tire pressures, oil and brakes are all up to par.

If all else fails I may have given some insight as to how I feel about riding a motorcycle.  You might be saying I don't ride a motorcycle this doesn't apply to me, but it does.  If we all follow these same rules there would be a lot less accidents.  We have to make drivers aware of their actions on the road and if everybody made their own driving actions a little more conscious we might have a safer place to drive out there.

Johnny 5 -

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