Motorcycle News Roundup for 4.18.14

by CAbiker on April 18, 2014

Here’s what’s been going on over the past couple weeks when it comes to motorcycle news:

In a world of increasingly unusual new motorcycles, Wired’s Autopia dubbed the new Johammer J1, “by far the strangest yet.” You can see the “hideous-beautiful” motorcycle in action in the video below:

Autopia also covered the Scorpio Ride “Core” system, which allows users to install a small module on their bike and then keep tabs on their motorcycle by using a handy app. The app can alert riders to things like low tire pressure, the bike’s current location, and even identify whether a stranger is getting a bit too handsy with the bike while it’s parked.

Wired reported on the silent hybrid motorcycles the government plans to use for stealth raids. The goal is to use an electric engine for silent off-roading while also utilizing a supplemental gas tank to extend the bike’s range. No word yet on when the bikes can be expected to see some action.

And lastly, Oregon Live spent a bit of time debating whether it’s ever acceptable to let a 6-year-old drive a motorcycle. Acceptable or not, there’s video evidence that at least one person thought it was a good idea.

Motorcycle News Roundup for 4.4.14

by CAbiker on April 4, 2014

Here’s what’s been going on over the past week when it comes to motorcycle news:

It turns out that “the coolest custom Harley ever built” is actually British. You can catch British Harley-Davidson specialist Shaw Speed & Custom‘s new B-Rocket in action in the video below.

Speaking of British motorcycles, the BSA Owners’ Club of Northern California had its 27th Annual Clubmans All-British Motorcycle Weekend and pulled in about 2,500 people for the festivities.

KSL News offered up 5 tips for motorcycle safety. None of it’s new, but common sense safety tips sometimes bear repeating.

Lastly, for those in San Bernardino, be advised that police will be conducting a special motorcycle safety detail on Monday. Police will be cracking down on motorists and cyclists engaging in dangerous driving, so be sure you’re following all traffic laws and there shouldn’t be any issue.

Motorcycle News Roundup for 3.21.14

by CAbiker on March 21, 2014

Here’s some noteworthy, amusing, and ridiculous motorcycle news from the past week:

Honda offered up a first glance at their new “neo-futuristic” NM4 at the Osaka Motorcycle Show in Japan.

The Honda NM4 Concept

The Honda NM4 Concept (Pictured Above)

A 19-year-old douchebag did $25,000 to his stepfather’s garage and custom ride when he threw a temper tantrum over being asked to turn off his Xbox. The news report fails to mention if at any point he shouted, “you’re not my real dad!” but we can probably assume that he did.

Bruce Springsteen shared a ride through the “No Helmet Law- Splatter Your Brains Cross The Highway (should you choose) Stand Your Ground State of Florida” and included plenty of pictures for anyone interested in how a rock legend spends his leisure time.

Gizmodo shared a terrifying video of exactly how fast a motorcycle goes during a high speed race.

And lastly, The Register Citizen wrote up a short list of 5 mythical motorcycle trips around the world.

Motorcycle News Roundup for 3.7.14

by CAbiker on March 7, 2014

Here’s what was being written about this week in the world of motorcycle news:

Wired’s Autopia blog called the ultra compact new Swift AVA 250 “everything that’s right and good about vintage motorcycles.”

CBC News covered the Montreal Motorcycle Show and wrote about the new electric powered, and surprisingly speedy, Longueuil-built SORA. The bike can go from 0 – 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, all while barely making a sound. However, some critics complain the noise is half the fun.

Forbes discusses Harley Davidson’s Japan rollout of their lightweight and three wheeled motorcycles. Japan is Harley Davidson’s second largest international market, trailing only Canada when it comes to non-US sales.

If electric bikes aren’t your thing, there’s always the 162-horsepower 2014 Ducati Diavel. Wired offers a preview of the gorgeous new bike that will be available in April.

Lastly, Motorcycle.com features an article about the increasing number of women purchasing motorcycles. Apparently Eat, Pray, Ride could be the new secret to battling stress.

CA-Motorcycle-HandbookWant to feel the freedom of the open road on your very own motorcycle? Then the first step in the state of California is to attain a motorcycle permit or M1 license, and here’s how to do that if you are:

Over 21

As a mature adult, you have two options in proving to the state that you can handle a highway-capable motorcycle: you can complete a California Highway Patrol certified training course, or you can take a skills test at the DMV (you get three chances to pass).

Taking the training course is advisable for most beginners, as you will learn many safety and handling skills that will come in handy throughout your motorcycling life. The course is usually a three day affair, with one day of classroom instruction and a written exam, and two days of on-course basic riding skills instruction with a hands-on test at the end of the last day. Not only will successfully completing the course allow you to skip the DMV skills test, but most insurance companies actually give a policy discount for completing a safety course. This truly is the best option.

For those too stubborn to take a class, those who don’t have time throughout the week, or those with substantial previous experience on motorcycles, taking the DMV skills test may work out for you. Test takers are required to make an appointment with their DMV and bring all the necessary equipment, including their own motorcycle and safety apparel. Be aware, however, that the test is designed to test low-speed maneuvering through a very technical course, so those with larger, heavier bikes will have a harder time maneuvering through and successfully completing the test course. Those without a C class driver’s license for passenger vehicles may also need to take an observation test to ensure you can safely maneuver through traffic as well.

Once you have completed the basic training course and received your certificate in the mail, you should have an appointment with the DMV to take your written test, fill out the necessary forms, and take the vision exam. If you passed the on-site DMV test, you may be able to do this all in one day.

Under 21

For those not 21 yet, the requirements are a bit more stringent. You absolutely must go to the DMV and apply for a motorcycle learner’s permit, which will allow you to practice off-highway daytime motorcycle riding. With a permit, you are also eligible to take a CHP certified safety course and receive a certificate of completion. After 6 months of having your permit, you are now eligible to apply for and receive a full fledged M1 license, granted you pass the skill test at the DMV or have completed the beginner’s course.

Under 18

The youngest, and therefore least experienced road users will have the hardest time getting licensed for a motorcycle. For teenagers 15 and a half and older who have completed driver’s ed and training or have a C class license, the CHP beginner’s course is mandatory. Again, make an appointment with the DMV to take the written exam and fill out all the necessary forms. Once you are 16, you are free to ride to your heart’s content, with your parents’ permission, of course.

Essential Gear for Winter Riding

by CAbiker on January 30, 2014

Motorcycle-Glove

Now that the winter season is upon us, motorcycle riders must make a choice: either store the bike for the winter, or change up our protective gear and riding style to match the lower temperatures and precipitation.

Dealing with the cold, rain, or even snow means layering up, sometimes with season specific gear, and meeting two equally important criteria: comfort and safety.

Comfort on a winter ride depends heavily on staying warm and dry, so checking out the apparel section of your local motorcycle gear shop in person is usually the best place to start.

Essential for keeping body heat in is the base layer, which is usually made of a tight, synthetic material that also allows your skin to breathe. Like all gear, the base layer should cover you head to toe, including a skull/face/neck cap such as a balaclava, a long sleeve undershirt, long johns, socks, and optionally, glove liners.

The mid-layer and outer layer are less discretely defined, as one item of apparel can serve as both, though not necessarily. The best mid-layer clothing is both warm and lightweight, which will provide the necessary protection from the elements without feeling too cumbersome under the top layer. For the upper body, riders usually wear a fleece or hoodie, both articles that can balance the weight and warmth requirements. For the lower body, a mid-layer is less common, as the right pair of pants can keep you warm, safe, and dry.

The outer layer is absolutely the most important, as not only is it your first line of defense against the outside temperature, and your only defense against getting wet, but it also determines just how visible you are, and provides protection should anything go wrong. As should be done in any season, a full-face helmet should be worn because it protects the most important parts of your body: the face and brain. Most full-face helmets now come with weather stripping to provide a tight seal between the visor and body of the helmet, which will keep cold air and water out. It cannot be stressed enough how important a fully safety certified (at least DOT) helmet is to protecting your life, well-being, and comfort. Many motorcyclists already have full-face helmets, so such a large expense may be optional for many. If buying a helmet for the first time, make sure to shop around and research before committing. Look online for helmet fitment guides, or talk to anyone at a gear shop or dealership that can help you determine the best fit.

Warm, even waterproof gloves are also extremely important to letting you keep full control over your bike; numb, soaked hands will not respond well when you need them to. As with gloves for any other season, your winter gloves should be constructed out of tough leather or purpose-built textile, and would provide even better protection if armored and reinforced over the knuckles and palms. The longer the gloves, the more likely they are to keep the elements out, which is why gauntlet style gloves offer the best protection.

A motorcycle jacket, just like the gloves, should also be made out of sturdy leather or textile, have protective armor around the most critical areas (back, shoulders, elbows), and provide temperature (and optionally water) protection. Riding pants, again, should follow the same basic criteria, except for having armor around the knees.

Boots for the winter rider must be sturdy, providing support around the ankle and having a strong heel box. Waterproof boots that provide all the necessary support are available from a large number of brands, so style and fit are typically the only thing to worry about.

While worrying about staying warm and dry, it is also crucial to take into account that the most visible part of the motorcycle at times is the rider. Look for bright colors and reflective surfaces that will make you stand out from the background to car and truck drivers.

Assembling a safe and comfortable get-up can be time-consuming, difficult, and expensive, but luckily there are manufacturers out there that seek to simplify the process. One can simply buy a one-piece riding suit that offers all the warmth, comfort, and safety that a piecemeal suit provides, albeit for a premium. Regardless of how you do it, and what your style is, keeping yourself comfortable will allow you to stay focused and in control of your bike. Remember that the element most responsible for your safety on the road is you.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gore-tex-products/5075358818/

Adjusting Your Riding Style for Winter Weather

by CAbiker on January 23, 2014

Winter-Riding

The first question you may ask yourself is this: how safe is riding a motorcycle during the winter? The answer depends on how experienced you are as a rider, and most importantly the decisions you make on the road. Hopefully you’re suited up with all the proper hi-viz, cold-weather, and–if applicable–rain resistant gear, so you’re warm, dry and stand out to others on the road. Once you’re taken care of, it’s time to take a look at what kind of weather patterns to expect, what the road surface will have waiting for you, and how to deal with these new challenges.

Winter weather isn’t just colder, but also brings other weather phenomena that can drastically affect your safety on the road. Each region has vastly different winters, where some cities only experience cold temperatures and light showers, others suffer full-blown ice storms.

Unless you are lucky enough to live in paradise, winters are cold, or even freezing. The tires on your bike are the only contact you should have with the ground, so their ability to grip is of utmost importance. Exposing rubber to cold weather, however, can dramatically reduce its “stickiness,” which impacts stopping distance, straight line stability and cornering speed. What’s in the air also matters, and particularly during the early morning and evening, fog is a problem that can severely affect both your ability to see, and to be seen. A motorcycle rider should never rely on being seen as a form of safety, even on a clear sunny day, so fog isn’t the biggest issue.

Rain and falling snow also make it harder to see, but they are most dangerous when covering the road. The effects of cold tires are magnified when riding over slippery roads. Puddles, snow and ice are extremely dangerous to ride over, and should be avoided as much as possible. A puddle can be hiding a much deeper pothole than you’d expect, which will quickly destabilize you and leave you susceptible to losing control. Here is where skills from your basic motorcycle training come into play: you must scan the road 12 seconds ahead for possible obstacles and move to avoid them safely yet decisively.

When your tires and grip are already vulnerable due to the lower temperatures, even the smallest disruption on the road can spell disaster. Especially right after the first few days of rain, dirt and oil from the roadways will surface and come loose, making even flat, straight asphalt unexpectedly slippery. Road surface anomalies that are normally no problem in the summer will give you plenty of trouble when wet. Look out for paint (both lines and unintentional spillage), rail crossings, manhole covers, and metal plates from road work and construction. When stopped, make sure to place your boots securely on the floor, as your feet are just as vulnerable to sliding out as your wheels are.

So how do you deal with all these complications and still safely navigate the roads? Your most important skill to exercise is the so-called “air cushion.” Under ideal conditions, there should always be a 2 second gap between you and the nearest vehicle on the road. Clearly, wet or icy roads are not ideal, so that gap must be increased by quite a bit to give you time to react when you need to.

When turning, a less aggressive attitude is your best bet. Approaching a corner, slow down more than you normally would, setting up a lower entry speed. Through the corner, try not to lean the bike as far, focusing on keeping a steady speed. Coming out of the turn, accelerate out later, once you and your motorcycle are more upright. Separating slowing, turning, and accelerating into three distinct phases allows your tires to provide the most grip available during each one.

Acceleration, whether out of a turn or in a straight line, should be done smoothly and calmly to prevent the rear tire from losing traction. Braking, similarly, should be “smooth.” So what does that mean? Whether applying the brakes or twisting the throttle, you should start light and slow, then gradually build up to how much you need. While accelerating has the greatest effect on the rear wheel, braking affects them both and each wheel needs to be considered separately.

In dry conditions, riders typically favor, or bias, the front brake leading to a 60/40 or even a 70/30 ratio of force applied. In the wet, especially at very high or very low speeds, the rear brake should provide only 10-20% of your total stopping force. Rear wheel lock-ups can happen much more easily in low traction situations, so using your front brake much more and applying it earlier is the key to safely shaving off speed.

Your rule of thumb should be: if I wouldn’t drive in these conditions, I shouldn’t ride either. Remember, safety should be your first priority.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sveniboy70/5301693928/

Street Cruiser vs. Sport Bike

by CAbiker on March 5, 2009

There are many different types of motorcycles. Touring bikes, choppers, cruisers, sport bikes, standard bikes and dirt bikes. Touring bikes, choppers and dirt bikes are specialty bikes that serve a specific purpose. Standard bikes are kind of a cross between the cruiser and the sport bike. However, standard bike manufacturers have not been able to capture as much of the motorcycle market as they would like. The two most common bikes you will find on the street are cruisers and sport bikes. Both of these styles offer a very different and distinct riding experience. The cruiser is designed for a comfortable ride where you can sit back and enjoy the scenery to the fullest. Cruisers have a soft seat and wide handlebars that reach back toward the rider. Whereas, the sport bike sacrifices a bit of the comfort for a more adrenaline enriched riding experience in which the rider is leaned forward toward a more narrow set of handlebars. This article will examine both the cruiser and the sport bike and how they relate to safety.

Cruiser motorcycles are beautiful machines that are hard to take your eye off of. Much of these bikes are made of iron and steel. They are usually laced with chrome, and feature unique paint schemes. Riders who own cruisers are fond of customizing their bikes with various types of saddlebags, handlebars, mirrors, pegs and especially pipes. Engine sizes for cruisers tend to range widely from 250cc (Honda Night Hawk), all the way up to 2300cc (Triumph Rocket III). The weight of a cruiser also varies, but an average weight would be around 600-800 pounds. The most common types of cruisers on the street are Harley Davidson motorcycles. However, in recent years some of the Japanese companies such as Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki and Yamaha have really begun to take a chunk out of the cruiser sales market.

Sport bikes, more commonly referred to as “crotch rockets,” are also pleasant to look at. They are made of lighter materials like carbon fiber and plastic. Sport bikes tend to be much brighter in color. Cosmetic after-market add on parts are usually things like LED lights, windscreens, frame sliders and license plate mounts. However, most sport bike owners tend to direct their after market purchases toward performance parts. Engine sizes for sport bikes range from 500cc which can be found on many motorcycles up to 1400cc (Kawasaki ZX-14). An average weight for a sport bike is around 350-500 pounds. Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki are the four main manufacturers of sport bikes, but some other top sellers are Buell and Ducati. The reason for sport bikes being so much faster than cruisers is not so much a function of engine size, but rather a much higher compression ratio, thrust to weight ratio, and torque through gearing. Furthermore, sport bikes are known to tolerate a much higher RPM, with a typical redline of 14,000 compared to that of street cruisers, around 6,000 RPM.

By nature, sport bikes are more dangerous motorcycles than cruisers. The temptation to drive recklessly is hard to resist when you are sitting on a machine that will do 80 miles per hour in first gear, and only take a few seconds to get there. In addition to that, the types of individuals who ride sport bikes are wired a bit differently than cruiser riders. Age is probably the easiest way to determine whether a rider owns a cruiser or a sport bike. Cruiser riders tend to be older, and more content to enjoy a nice comfortable ride with the wind in their face. Sport bike riders are usually a younger crowd that feels the need for speed. In addition, many sport bike riders can be found “stunting” their bikes on the streets. Examples of “stunting” are wheelies, stoppies, standing up on the motorcycle and other dangerous maneuvers.

One main reason why deaths via motorcycle are not heavily leaned toward sport bikes is because riders of sport bikes are more prepared for a crash. It is rare to find a rider on a cruiser in a full face helmet, a padded jacket and riding pants. In fact, you can often see cruiser riders wearing sleeveless t-shirts, jeans and no helmet. Sport bike riders usually have a full face helmet and a padded jacket at a minimum. Ideally, cruiser riders would prepare with the same equipment as sport bike riders, and sport bike riders would ride with a little more caution like cruiser riders. After all, wrecking a motorcycle at 100+ miles per hour is not going to end well no matter how much gear you have on.

No matter which type of motorcycle you own, the goal is to have a great time while remaining safe. So to those of you riding street cruisers; put on a helmet!  And to those daring souls out there taking on the challenges and thrills of a Sport bike, take it easy so as not to endanger yourself as well as other driver’s around you.

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Riding Gear: An Overview

by CAbiker on March 5, 2009

Thousands of new motorcyclists are taking to the highways every year, and it’s no wonder.  The thrill of thundering down the open road with its sights, sounds, and smells are all powerful lures that keep the old timers coming back for more, and entice new riders with the promise of discovering a whole new world.  In a word, motorcycle riding is fun.  But along with the fun comes a certain amount of assumed risk you willingly take.  What’s surprising is that amid the army of new and seasoned riders alike, proper riding gear that is designed to reduce risk is perhaps the most overlooked or under-considered aspects of the motorcycle riding experience.  One needn’t look around too long to find a motorcycle rider without sufficient riding gear.   This article will provide a brief overview of the various components of riding gear.

The Essentials

Arguably, the two most important pieces of riding gear that should be worn are those of helmet and eyewear.  The use of a helmet is a highly debated point among virtually all riders, but volumes of statistical data can be found all over the web regarding motorcycle accidents and the role of a proper helmet in the survivability of a crash.  The pure and simple fact is that given the virtual headlock most states have with helmet laws, a motorcycle rider is left with no choice but to wear a helmet.  But are all helmets created equal?  The short is answer is no.  There are myriad helmet choices available out there ranging from a simple a steel WW1 vintage lid with no liner or face shield, to a full DOT and Snell approved helmet with built-in face shield.  Ultimately, the primary guiding factor in helmet selection for the rider is based on the individual’s tolerance for risk, whereby a simple steel lid offers the barest minimum of protection, and the fully approved helmet affords the greatest level of safety.

The other critical piece of essential riding gear is in proper eye protection.  Virtually every automobile driver or motorcycle rider has, at some point, been tagged with a rock that has been kicked up by another vehicle.  You don’t have to be a genius to know that the flying rock, though not ballistic like a bullet, is moving plenty fast to cause permanent loss of sight at a minimum or even death through the loss of control of your machine.  As with helmets, there are many options available in eye protection ranging from non-safety sunglasses to full face shields that attach to your helmet.  Any eyewear not rated or labeled as “safety” wear is virtually useless and will shatter upon impact with debris.  Besides the plastic used in the lenses, there are other factors that should be considered in the selection of eye protection.  Lens color, mitigation of wind, comfort, etc. all play an important role as well.  Of course, the very best eye and face protection available is the face shield that attaches to the helmet.  Here too are a variety of choices available that will give the rider varying levels of protection be it a partial visor that primarily protects the eyes and forehead, to a full-face shield.

Neck to Ankle

Okay, so now you’ve got the critical essentials, now let’s discuss the riding gear from neck to ankle.  Any rider who’s been rolling on 2 wheels for awhile can tell you the value of a riding jacket/coat and gloves for comfort when the wind chill sets in, yet few riders will wear anything other than their favorite jeans for leg protection.  The upshot is that many riders consider the neck to ankle components of riding gear to be largely a function of comfort or fashion only and do not consider the safety function of the gear.  While comfort is certainly a vital function of safety, the real question you should be asking is whether your gear is going to protect you if you crash.  You may be wondering what the best protection available is.  The truth is; your neck to ankle riding gear is a matter of personal preference and the sky’s the limit for selection.  Of course, all of us scruffy old timers on cruisers will be looking to black leathers, while the younger set tends to gravitate to the synthetic materials.  There is no right or wrong answer here other than understanding that the gear you wear needs to offer sufficient protection against the elements, road debris or a crash.  Jackets and/or coats need to be lightweight enough so as not be cumbersome, yet heavy enough to protect you from road rash.  A good jacket/coat will fit well, provide movement and be able to breathe either through gussets, or through the material itself, such as Gore-tex.  The better jackets will offer additional padding at the elbows and shoulders.  Gloves are also an important piece of gear.  The key here is a riding glove that provides freedom of movement in the fingers, sufficient grip and be insulated.  Any number of gloves will perform the job sufficiently, but for those riders insisting on the ultimate in riding gloves, many are manufactured with built-in armor of sorts at the knuckles providing maximum protection.  Though few casual riders wear them, riding pants are an excellent measure of additional protection, with the better gear offering padding in the hips and knees.  Many “old school” riders scoff at the notion of riding pants, opting instead for leather chaps which offer decent protection without the constriction of full pants.

The Feet

Footwear is another piece of equipment many riders don’t consider, yet this is just as important as all your other riding gear.  Amazingly, many riders will jump on the bike and go in whatever footwear they were wearing at the time.  This lack of preparation can prove costly.  In terms of options, riding boots are quite diverse in style and design ranging from lightweight riding shoes to calf-height leather boots.  At a minimum, riding footwear should protect the entire foot, including the ankle, from the ever-present barrage of road debris that gets kicked up.  As with jackets and pants, boots also come in leather and synthetic materials and each does an adequate job of protection.  A few key things to look for in riding boots should of course be comfort, proper weight, water resistance, and sole construction that offer an excellent grip on both the pavement and pegs.  Many riding boots are steel-toed and many are insulated.  Which boots you choose is largely a matter of personal preference, but it’s generally a good idea to be prepared with a variety of options.

The Dry & Visible

Assuming you’re riding on a bright sunny day without a single cloud in the sky, you’re probably okay without the raingear, but you can be assured that one day you will be caught off guard by a rogue rainstorm and riding without proper wet weather gear is nothing short of misery.  There are a wide range of options available here.  Many “old school” riders consider their trusty leathers to be adequate wet weather protection, while other riders will pack specific raingear into the bags. The main thing to consider here is having gear that will keep you warm and dry without being bulky.  This is best accomplished with breathable materials which will prevent sweating or overheating that is common in some protective raingear garments.  Another key factor to consider is proper fit.  Most raingear tends to be lightweight and loose fitting.  Specific riding raingear will be a bit more tailored with less loose material to flap around.  High-visibility gear is another piece of riding gear that should be considered.   A rider on a motorcycle is much less conspicuous and far more vulnerable that persons in a car.  For this reason, it is vital that the motorcycle rider be highly visible to others while out on the roads.  Many riders will wear full riding suits with strips of day-glo material and reflective tape sewn into the garment.  Others will wear a simple vest, similar to those worn by road highway crews.  Still others will simply wear brightly colored clothing to be seen.  No matter what choices you make, the operative concept here is visibility which adds to your margin of safety and an integral part of your personal risk management program.

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Motorcycle Safety

by CAbiker on March 5, 2009

Many men today – and a rapidly increasing number of women – would be thrilled at the chance to hop on a motorcycle, rev-up that handlebar throttle, and speed off into the horizon. Motorcycles can be fun to ride and are also great on gas mileage. The experience of riding in the open air with the pavement rolling by very quickly a few exposed inches below the rider’s feet can be invigorating, but it does not come without some risk.

This article will outline the most common reasons motorcycle accidents happen, typical accident injuries, and how to prevent both.

Reasons for Motorcycle Accidents

There are a vast number of events that can cause a motorcycle to take a dive. These range from a small bump in the driveway to a full speed disaster. Whatever the case, there are many things a rider should be aware of before taking to the streets.

Low speed, minor injury situations happen all the time. A patch of gravel or a sharp turn can end in a dent in the gas tank and some serious bumps and bruises. An inexperienced rider may not recognize all of these perils or know how to navigate them safely. It is important to understand the conditions surrounding the motorcycle and the proper technique for handling the situation. These small accidents are frequent and can happen in a split second.

In accidents involving serious injury, an extremely low percentage are caused by factors outside of either the motorcyclist’s or other drivers’ control. For example, in accidents in which a serious injury was sustained, vehicle failure is the cause in only an average of 3% of the accidents and poor road conditions are only responsible for around 2% of incidents. This means that even though a rider should still be aware of his or her environment, just watching the status of the weather, the bike, and the road is not enough to stay out of harm’s way.

According to almost every source, the main cause of all motorcycle accidents is an error from another driver on the road. This includes drivers who are not paying attention, those who never saw the motorcycle, and those who did not see the motorcycle in time to prevent an accident. Because motorcycles are so much smaller than other vehicles on the road, the chance that they may get lost in a driver’s blind spot are greatly multiplied. This is the factor that leads to the most common accident configuration: the motorcycle going straight with the automobile turning left in front of the oncoming motorcycle. It is vital that a motorcyclist constantly monitor the actions of vehicles around them.

Typical Motorcycle Accident Injuries

Just like there are a vast number of ways in which a motorcyclist can get in an accident, so there are a variety of different types of injuries that can be sustained when in an accident. Also, because there is so much exposure while riding a bike, virtually all motorcycle accidents end up in some sort of injury. The head, arms and legs are the most often injured. This can come in the form of head injuries, broken limbs, and road rash.

Motorcycle accidents are also often more complicated than auto accidents. For example, according to insurance data, 23% of claimants have injuries to multiple locations, and 18% of head injuries result in some sort of permanent disability. Limbs are often broken, either from the impact of a fall, collision with another vehicle, or entanglement in the rider’s own motorcycle. On top of such serious injuries, any rider who is not wearing full protective gear is almost guaranteed to suffer road rash to any part of their body that meets the pavement.

One of the most shocking facts about motorcycle accident injuries is this, reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: per mile driven, motorcyclists are 32 times more likely to die in a crash than a passenger car occupant. Although in 2004 this amounted to only about 4,000 fatalities out of roughly 76,000 reported injuries, it is still a significant number of deaths. There are precautions that can be taken to limit a rider’s chance of death, and that will be covered in the next section.

How to Prevent a Fatal Motorcycle Accident

The number one rule without a doubt is to wear a helmet. Most accidents that result in death are caused by a head injury, and there is only one way to help avoid these while riding a motorcycle. All serious injuries are greatly reduced both in severity and in frequency by the simple act of putting on a helmet. In fact, more than half of motorcycle fatalities in 2003 were unhelmeted at the time of the accident. There are several different types of helmets, including full-face helmets, ¾ helmets and half helmets. Full coverage is the best option because it affords protection for the entire head and face, instead of just a part of the head.

Even though wearing a helmet is the best advice for staying alive, there are other tips that can help. Almost half of motorcycle accident fatalities involve some sort of alcohol. Whether or not a rider is past the legal limit, motorcycles require a lot of skill and attention to operate safely. Any amount of alcohol can impair judgment enough to be dangerous.

Another key element to motorcycle safety is experience. This encompasses many different elements. The first and most important is the amount of time spent on the bike. The more riding time a motorcyclist has under their belt, the better he or she will understand the different perils of the road and how to avoid them. Next is responsibility. Realizing that owning a motorcycle does not nullify traffic laws is important to understand. Merely following the law will help take much of the risk out of riding a bike.

As mentioned in a previous section, the main causes of accidents are other motorists and the rider’s environment. Vigilance is the key to safety here. A rider should constantly monitor their surroundings. When near other vehicles, a motorcyclist should assume that other drivers cannot see them and ride accordingly. He or she should also analyze all other conditions with the mindset that a dangerous obstacle is just around every corner. Understanding and remembering all of these tips can go a long way in keeping any rider’s bike and life intact.

Bringing It All Together

When ridden safely, motorcycles are a great option for transportation. They are fun, fast and fuel-efficient. The key to making sure any rider’s experience stays enjoyable is to respect the road and the rules. Being vigilant and wearing the right equipment will go a long way in helping prevent the bumps and bruises or worse that accompany any accident. So stay sharp and be safe and you and your motorcycle will have many more miles ahead to feel the pavement underneath roll on by.

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