Safety

Innovv K1

Below is a bit of raw footage from the Innov K1 I have mounted on my 2012 V-Strom. 1 minute from work I was cut off by a cager who neither looked nor signaled a lane change. It’s for these specific incidents that I am happy to have the K1 system. A review of the unit appeared in RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring and Travel and can be read here. A longer example appears below.

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The Head-to-Toe Beginner’s Guide to Motorcycle Gear

(CC0 License – Public Domain)

There’s a lot for new motorcycle riders to be excited about: learning how to ride, choosing a first motorcycle, and finally hitting the road and experiencing one’s surroundings as they can only be experienced from the back of a bike.

But as exciting as all of this is, it’s also serious business, and there’s more to getting started than just getting licensed and buying a new bike. Being properly outfitted in protective motorcycle gear is as crucial to motorcycle safety as proper training.

If you’re a beginning motorcyclist looking for some guidance on getting properly outfitted to ride, the following rundown should give you everything you need to get started finding the gear you need to ride in safety and comfort.

The Helmet

Helmets are undoubtedly the most important piece of safety gear any motorcyclist can wear. Even a minor fall off of a motorcycle can result in a serious head injury if the rider isn’t wearing a helmet, to say nothing of more serious accidents. Here are the basics of what to look for in a motorcycle helmet:

  • DOT Certification: The U.S. Department of Transportation has a specific standard for motorcycle helmets (the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard no. 218), which outlines minimum performance ratings for metrics like impact absorption. Motorcycle helmets that meet this standard will feature a DOT sticker on the back or inside; don’t buy a helmet without this sticker.
  • Fit & Retention: A motorcycle helmet should fit snugly, but without being so tight that it’s uncomfortable. This will prevent the helmet from coming off or under-performing in an accident. Here’s a good basic test when finding a good fit: securely strap on the helmet and, gripping it from the back, try to pull it off over your head. With a helmet that fits properly, you won’t be able to.
  • Comfort: Discomfort is distracting, and no one wants to be distracted while they’re riding.
  • Style: Fashion should probably be the least of anyone’s concerns when shopping for a motorcycle helmet, but there are some choices when it comes to style. Full-face, open face, motocross, and half-helmets are all options. Full-face models offer the best protection, but many riders prefer open-face or half-helmets for comfort reasons.

The Jacket

What helmets do for your head, a good jacket does for your arms, shoulders, and torso. There are a lot of options when it comes to jackets, and it’s important to know what to look for.

  • Leather vs. Textile: A high-quality leather motorcycle jacket is about more than just looking cool. Leather offers excellent abrasion resistance, but might not be the best option for shock absorption. Many modern textile jackets are made from materials like Cordura or Kevlar, which also provide protection against abrasions, and are often a lot cooler than leather in warmer weather.
  • Armor: Armor and textile jackets are both available with built-in body armor to protect against falls. At minimum, look for a jacket with armor in the shoulders, back, and elbows with at least a “CE” safety rating.
  • Fit: A good motorcycle jacket should fit snugly without restricting movement. When trying on a motorcycle jacket, zip it up completely and try to approximate the position you take on your bike. If it’s too snug in the arms and shoulder to hold comfortably in the store, you can be it will be too snug on the road.

The Pants

Motorcycle pants protect your lower extremities from abrasions and impacts – shins, knees, hips, and bottom are all dependent on good motorcycle pants in a fall. Here are some of the most common options for motorcycle pants.

  • Leather: Leather pants, like jackets, offer superior abrasion resistance. However they’re often relatively uncomfortable, especially in warm weather. Most leather pants lack additional armor.
  • Textile: Textile riding pants are made with abrasion-resistant materials like Kevlar, and more often feature built-in-armor in high-impact areas like the knees and hips. As with jackets, these often feature better breathability than leather. Many manufacturers also make Kevlar and armor-reinforced denim jeans that strike a balance between style and safety.
  • Overpants: For commuters and others who don’t want to get to their destination with just armored riding pants, motorcycle over-pants are armored, abrasion-resistant pants designed to be worn over regular street clothes or denim motorcycle jeans.

The Boots

Footwear might not be as important for safety as a helmet or jacket, but it is a concern. Motorcycle boots provide protection to the ankle, shin, toes, and sole in the event of a crash, as well as offering improved grip and comfort on long rides when compared to normal street shoes. Here are some of the most common options for motorcycle boots.

  • Touring Boots: Touring boots are probably the most popular style of motorcycle boot. Generally tall to provide ankle support and shin protection, these boots are designed for commuting and long rides.
  • Short Boots: While not as protective in most cases as touring boots, short boots are often more comfortable, and offer a sneaker-like style and fit without completely sacrificing safety.
  • Cruiser Boots: Cruiser boots are heavy-duty boots designed for long rides on v-twin cruiser-style bikes. Heights vary, but typically cruiser boots offer great grip and superb protection against impacts and abrasions.

At the end of the day, the best motorcycle gear for you is what you’re most comfortable in – provided it offers at least a minimum amount of protection. Those just beginning will need some time to find out just what that is, but that’s all a part of the fun.

Riding Your First Motorcycle

vulcan-900Many people, men and women alike, believe that motorcycles are easy to handle. After all, most of us mastered a bicycle by the age of eight and like a bicycle, motorcycles have two wheels as well. How difficult can they really be to manage on the road? The average person can get a bicycle up to around 30 mph on a flat surface. A pro cyclist can get to around 50 mph. A motorcycle can go from zero to more than 60 mph in under 4 seconds. That’s a steep increase over a bicycle, and one that should be your first clue that riding a motorcycle is going to take quite a bit of practice to get right.

If you are in the market for your first motorcycle or you know, as many riders do, that your life will be enriched through the travel options that owning a motorcycle will bring, you should take a few things into consideration before making your purchase and before hopping on the seat to take it for a spin. A motorcycle does not come equipped with an airbag or safety features like an automobile, and until you have been through some training, you simply do not want to just “hop on” and try to ride away into the sunset. A simple mistake when driving a car may end with a small scratch or even a slight fender dent. Making a mistake on a motorcycle can end your life. Be aware though that while riding a motorcycle is often thought to be dangerous, so are many other things in life and you can control the danger level by gaining experience and learning to be safe.

Before you ride your first bike, you may want to consider taking a motorcycle safety course with the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) as they offer safety courses nationwide for motorcycle owners and those interested in riding. Taking a course is not mandatory, but (more…)

Weather On The Go

wbNow ScreenIf you’re anything like me you ride often, whether weekend day trips, daily commuting or extended multi-day trips. I commute in southeastern Pennsylvania throughout the year which means I ride in all types of weather, rain, occasionally snow, fog, high winds. Now on weekend rides or day trips that’s fine; but one thing I don’t do is commute in bad weather. My work occasionally involves being outside and I prefer not to have to deal with inclement weather on work days and the requisite clothing considerations that entails. With that in mind I’ve been using the WeatherBug weather app for a while now and with good results.

The widget on my Galaxy S5 (which I refer to often without ever needing to open the app) is unobtrusive and (more…)

The Walk Around

The-Walk-AroundThe article “The Walk Around” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 12/16/2012.

There have been a few occasions on which I failed to do a quick “walk around” before setting off on a ride. It’s easy to forget sometimes, we get in a hurry and want to hit the road and, honestly, how often do things just stop working on today’s modern bikes? It does happen on occasion, though, and (more…)

Darker Side of Autumn

Darker-Side-of-AutumnThe article “Darker side of Autumn” by Bud Miller/Zen Motorcyclist was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 10/28/2012.

When I started riding I had no idea what the term “rut” meant. I knew there were a lot of deer in my home state of Pennsylvania but had no idea that they fought and mated primarily from Mid-October until December. It’s at these times of the year when deer are (more…)

SMIDSY

SMIDSYThe article “Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You” by Bud Miller was originally published on the “RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel” magazine website on 5/19/2013.

Over a dozen years of all-season commuting has taught me many ways to handle a wide variety of situations. One of the most dangerous for riders is the left turning driver coming towards them. The 2009 Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Highway Loss Data Institute report found that more than half of motorcycle-related deaths involved at least one other vehicle and 42 percent of two-vehicle fatal motorcycle crashes involved a vehicle turning left while the motorcycle was going straight, passing, or overtaking the vehicle.

I’ve never quite gotten used to the feeling that the driver waiting to turn left doesn’t see me and, having witnessed a serious crash a while back, I have firsthand knowledge of just how horrific it can be when they don’t. That incident is still burned into my brain. However, I happened across a the video bellow that explains some of the reasons for what they call the “SMIDSY” (an acronym for Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You).

The fact that motorcycles present such a narrow and small profile can make it difficult for drivers to differentiate them from the background and to detect movement. While we can blame the driver to a large degree, there are physiological reasons that may account for their failing to see a motorcyclist. Imagine trying to tell if a person walking some distance ahead of you on foot is moving towards you, away from you, or merely standing still. They can easily blend into the background to the point where you don’t see them unless they move side to side, raise their arms, or do something else to distinguish themselves. For me that reinforces the idea that I have to assume I am not seen, and why I say that you simply can’t ride a motorcycle with the same mindset you use when driving a car, especially near intersections.

A technique I’ve been using, which is discussed in the video, is to gently swerve left and right if I’m approaching an intersection where a driver is waiting to turn across my path. The swerve breaks me from my background, which, from the driver’s perspective, is locked and still. The trick is to keep the movement gentle yet noticeable. You don’t want to give the impression that you are turning or playing around. You just want to be visible as a moving object against a static background.

A motorcyclist’s safety arsenal includes a lot of techniques and, at least for me, the swerving technique described in the SIMDSY video seems to work when coupled with high visibility gear, neutral throttle, and keeping two fingers on the brake lever. It’s another way to be proactive and to stay safe out there.

Prescription Motorcycle Sunglasses from ADS Sports Eyewear

ADS

What’s In The Box

I’ve been testing a pair of prescription motorcycle sunglasses from ADS Sports Eyewear for a few weeks now and I have to say I’m quite impressed. I chose the Wiley X Blink model with bronze base lenses which I was told would provide more contrast as opposed to the grey base lens which is recommended for those with sensitive eyes or that live in heavy sun regions like Arizona.

The glasses arrived in an impressive package complete with a crush resistant, zippered case (a must for commuting), 2 lanyards, a bottle of cleaning solution and 2 cleaning cloths. The package also included detachable foam inserts that clip to the inside of the glasses to seal the area around your eyes while riding. I was skeptical about using the inserts, thinking they might limit peripheral vision; but I was pleasantly surprised to find they are quite comfortable and do not inhibit my vision at all. Detaching the inserts makes the glasses perfect for every day use off the bike, something I hadn’t found in motorcycle specific glasses before. Motorcycle sunglasses I’ve used in the past looked out of place off the bike.

ADS glasses are available in a wide variety of styles and colors and lens options and are affordably priced. They are light enough to be comfortable all day and fit securely with no sliding or slipping whatsoever. Your prescription information can be added via the website during the ordering process. As someone who has struggled with a combination of contact lenses, glasses and motorcycle protective glasses over the years I was happy to have come across ADS Sports Eyewear, they are a great value, are very stylish and perform perfectly. Ride safe.