Yogi Berra put it well when he said “Ninety percent of baseball is all mental (the other half is physical)!” You can apply this to motorcycling… The difference between a safe fast ride and a slow dangerous one is not just a matter of skill, but of mindset…
I linked the MCN video here – you don’t have to watch it if you’re not into this sort of thing – but what’s interesting is on the laps where the rider was able to go faster, he actually felt like he was going slower. And along with that he felt more relaxed and less on edge, but he was actually going faster! Now this doesn’t mean if you relax you will automatically go faster around a track – but what it does point out the mindset of effective motorcycling… Motorcycling is like poetry in motion. It forces you to be relaxed (tension in the arms works against you on a motorcycle), to think ahead, and be fluid (stop and go and sudden throttle movements don’t help you on a motorcycle).
So relax. Don’t rush into turns or poorly planned positions in traffic. Think ahead. Be aware of your surroundings. Feeling rushed just works against you. Instead focus on effective throttle control (rolling on smoothly whenever you crack the throttle open), body position(s), braking (smoothly yet quickly) and your position in the traffic around you. A good ride won’t feel fast – it’ll feel relaxed and fluid.
Roadgear is one of the newer motorcycle apparel companies specializing in gear for urban and commuter bikers. Now they want to give you a free one year “no strings attached” subscription of Motorcyclist Magazine — of course they get your email and address info in return, and will probably send you catalogs – but what’s so bad about getting motorcycle gear catalogs? It’s a limited time offer so you can sign up right now, or check out the Roadgear site. Cheers!
Here’s a quickie that applies to all types of street riding, but is especially effective on lighter motorcycles and scooters… When you’re making a turn the right way (figure B), where should you put your weight? In the inner foot (the right foot in the diagram) or the outer foot?
Most people put their weight on the inner leg… But the key to bike stability (for light bikes) and proper riding position is to put your weight on the outer leg.
How come? Two reasons. One, in terms of handling it puts more of the weight in a spot where the suspension can handle bumps and lack of traction… I don’t know exactly why this is the case…but you can try it out on spots like where the Grand Central goes to the Triboro Bridge – the grooves in the ground make lighter bikes and scooters chatter at speed. But if you shift your weight to the outside, viola! You probably won’t notice the difference on heavier bikes with better suspensions.
And in terms of posture it allows you to find the correct position A or B (in the first diagram) and not C. Most people do C (a little bit) without realizing it. Even sport riders who are aggressively trying to hang off (figure A) are surprised to see pictures of themselves on the track “crossed-up” (doing figure C). Because when you put your weight on the inside leg, you will naturally push up against the turn. But if you look at professional motorcycle (and scooter) racers, their outside legs are clamped onto the tank, while the inside leg is free of weight (this might also be why it’s so hard to get your knee down at first – you don’t want to drag your knee when all your weight is on it…)
So how do you do this? It feels funny at first. But try doing your regular turns while just keeping your toes lightly on inner peg… So make right turns with your right toe lightly on the peg, and your weight on the left. Make left turns with your weight on the right foot and your left toe just lightly on the peg – making sure you are straight in line with your bike (and not doing figure C). It helps to realize that the actual turn (no most turns in the street) only last for a second or two… You won’t be able to do this as well with slow lazy turns – but that’s a discussion for another time…
So that’s the tip – take it for what it’s worth. Cheers!
[Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Orlando Bloom in their leather jacket glory…]
Okay so here’s the truth about leather motorcycle jackets… And this is directed mainly at the men – women already have a good handle on this… Hey buddy, I know you THINK you look really cool in your motorcycle jacket – or you think you WOULD look cool walking around in that jacket – but you’d actually look like a dork (or an a**hole or scumbag, or like you’re going through a midlife crisis). There I said it. Even rock stars and movie stars look like that way – it’s just that they (sometimes) have enough cool to overcome it. Leather jackets don’t t actually make you look cool – I know you think it does, which is why your friends have asked me to tell you. It’s kind of sad. So thanks for understanding.
Now with that out of the way we can talk about motorcycle jackets. They’re for safety, not glamour. So you might want to spend the money on the parts of the jacket that are really worth it…
Usually, the lighter and more comfortable something is, the less abrasion resistance it has… So mesh jackets (generally) have the least abrasion resistance, thicker textiles a little more, and leather even more depending on the thickness. But the best protection won’t be any good if it’s too hot and uncomfortable to wear… And safety gear isn’t very safe if it gives you heat exhaustion sitting in traffic.
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They’re a little far from the city, but of interest to us nonetheless… Most of you have seen this already on Gawker or biker blogs: Tricia Helfer and Katee Sackoff (Number Six, and Starbuck) are avid bikers. But since I’m such a big BSG fan…allow me to repost… You can watch the full interview from LATimes…
“There’s something Darwinian about motorcycling that you don’t find with Minivans…” – Anonymous
“In the end the death rate of motorcyclists and automobile drivers is and always has been 100%” – Anonymous
The problem with motorcycles (in the US) is that it makes up just 1% of the vehicles on the road, but 19% of the fatalities… So traveling by car is reasonably safe. And riding a motorcycle is still reasonably safe (compared to your odds of getting smoking related disease for instance); nevertheless you’re still 19 times more likely to be killed in a motorcycle accident than a car accident.
So what can we do to make motorcycles safer?
Get training and develop your skills – nearly half of all motorcycle deaths are in single vehicle accidents. And, along with that, half of all motorcycle fatalities happen while trying to negotiate a curve. Someone goes too quickly around a turn and winds up driving into a divider (for instance). These are the saddest kinds of accidents because they really don’t need to happen. With proper training and riding skills, and the wisdom to ride within one’s limits, there’s no need to be in a single vehicle accident… EVER…
I’m convinced that training is the key: It is very rare for a MotoGP rider to be killed in an accident…there has only been one in recent memory (and another Japanese rider who was killed in a traffic accident involving a truck). But NONE have ever been killed in a single vehicle accident. These are highly trained riders who take lots of risks. You too can be a highly trained rider – taking fewer risks – and eliminate your likelihood of ever being part of this unfortunate statistic altogether.
Wear a Helmet – You’ll find websites that argue against mandatory helmet laws… And they’ll argue that the number of motorcycle fatalities in helmet-law states are the same or higher than states that don’t have helmet laws… That may be true! BUT… Here’s the thing: 50% of all motorcycle fatalities are people who are NOT wearing helmets, with head trauma being the main injury (National Highway Traffic Administration). So whether or not it’s a law in your state, wear a full face helmet.
Don’t Drink and Ride – People often get by driving a little tipsy… You shouldn’t do it! But people do – and they get away with it for a long time… However, you absolutely cannot, and should not ever try to ride a motorcycle under the affect of any alcohol or drugs or prescription medicines… 31% of fatal motorcycle accidents involved riders who were intoxicated. You can even do one better by not riding while exhausted…being exhausted or sleepy can be just as dangerous as being under the influence – mtorcycling requires too much concentration for that…
Notice – just by sticking to these three principles you can lessen the statistical danger of motorcycling to a level comparable with driving a car. Add to that some good safety gear, and a healthy does of common sense and you’re in suburban soccer-mom territory (with regards to safety). Accidents will happen, but with a little effort you can prepare for them and avoid the unnecessary risks that make motorcycle statistics look grim.
From everything we can tell, the NYPD officially does NOT like motorcycles… Around this time last year, the NYPD initiated a crackdown towing hundreds of motorcycles for things such as improper licensing (not having a Motorcycle license) to loud pipes. In their defense there’s no reason NOT to have your paperwork with you, and no reason not to be licensed… The way the department sees it – they’re saving lives by towing bikes… But at the same time I think the strictness with which the law is enforced on motorcycles a bit unfair. I’ve been pulled over in a car without my license, I was ticketed but not towed (I had to send in a photocopy of my license) – under normal circumstances I think that’s reasonable. I’d hate to be towed simply because I forgot my registration in my other jacket when a simple radio check can verify my license and registration…
The NYPD has even gone so far as to violate a federal law which mandates that single motorcycle riders must be allowed in HOV lanes (the official NYPD policy is even motorcycles must have two up in order to rider HOV). So if you feel like the cops are giving you dirty looks – they probably are… That’s the official stance. However individual police officers vary – most of them are good and reasonable, just trying to do their job and help keep people safe. I’ve had police officers on scooters come up to me at a light and offer to race (in friendly jest).
Nevertheless what the official stance means for citybikers is: (1) Make sure you have your papers with you! Your license, registration, up to date insurance card… You are legally allowed to carry a photocopy of your registration card – however not all police officers seem to know this – so I try to keep the original with me in a plastic bag under the seat or in my riding jacket.
(2) Make sure your bike’s inspection sticker is up to date. They don’t have to tow you for something like this – and they could let you off with a warning – but they probably won’t. Go get it inspected. All you need are working lights, turn signals and at least one mirror to pass inspection…
(3) Check your pipes (or at least keep the revs down while you’re in the city). This one might be a problem for some of us. Technically it’s illegal to have aftermarket pipes that are louder than your stock pipes… The police don’t usually ticket you for having loud pipes, but they can. And last year in Greenwich Village they set up checkpoints and actually towed motorcycles with loud pipes! Lucky for us, many aftermarket mufflers are still quiet enough not to be noticed – but if you have straight pipes or D&Ds or an old muffler in need of repacking, now might be a good time to get it looked at…
If you do get busted for one of these – and the police want to tow your bike – see if they will let you tow your bike home. Getting towed home (and paying $150) is way better than having your bike sent to the impound and paying that amount… Better yet, be smart and have your license and paperwork in order… Ride safe!