Safety tips

I have spent the last week in traffic watching motorcyclist drive by in t-shirts and flip flops.  This inspired me to write this list of simple safety tips.

#1 Always wear protective gear from head to toe.  I know on a hot summer day full gears sounds like torture but you dress FOR an accident, not in case of one.  An accident is by definition, unexpected so you dress to protect yourself.  Of course the best protection is safe driving.

Lets discuss helmets first, preferably choose a full face helmet.  If you fall there is a good chance it is face first which a full face helmet will protect. But it isnt just about a fall.  One of the biggest threats to your own driving is distractions.  A bee hitting you at 100km/hrs in the cheek can be a real hazard to your concentration.  Imagine getting a hornet stuck between your helmet and your ear or up your sleeve, this can be deadly.  A full face helmet avoids all those risks and helps with visibility in bad weather.

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If you find a full face helmet too restricting or, like my wife, claustrophobic, then a half helmet with full visor is a second best option.

A crazy person invented this helmet.  Or maybe a crazy person is wearing it.
A crazy person invented this helmet. Or maybe a crazy person is wearing it.

But regardless, whichever helmet you choose it has to be a very snug fit.  And a beanie helmet doesn’t protect your face at all.

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If the helmet doesn’t have a visor then protective eye wear made of polycarbonate is essential.  Even Home Depot safety glasses works great, is inexpensive and often has fashionable options.

Not bad looking classes, comes in both clear and tinted.
Not bad looking classes, comes in both clear and tinted.

Avoid cheap sunglasses that are made of acrylic or glass.  Again, a bee or stone hitting breakable eye wear on your face is a bad idea.  Remember math class, “If a bee is traveling 40 mph west and a motorcyclist is traveling 60 mph east, how much honey will the bee crap when he sees the motorist 2 seconds before impact?”  You do the math.

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A jacket needs to have full length sleeves and covers your waist even while bent over on a sport bike.  The jacket should be made of leather or ballistic nylon with reinforced elbows, shoulders and have tight sleeves and tight at the waist to help it stay in place despite the wind speeds while riding and riding up, should you slide feet first in an accident.  If you are wearing black keep in mind that your are literally invisible at night.  So consider a nerdy reflective safety vest at night.  Home Depot has options for vests as well.

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Gloves are important, not just if you fall but more to protect you from those high speed bugs with a death wish.  Getting hit between your knuckles is a huge pain, no pun intended.  Anything that causes a distraction is a threat.  This also includes uncomfortable gear.  So even though you want to cover up make sure it is comfortable without distractions.  Cut off manufacturer tags, wear gear off the bike for a couple hours, and choose gear with zipper vents and layers for when the weather is crazy.

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Pants made of jean material used to be thick and well made.  No longer.  Consider shell pants made of ballistic nylon or leather pants or chaps.  I haven’t tried the jean looking ballistic pants but they blend in better than knee padded super pants.  Here is a neat tip… shell pants protect you from the heat of the engine, even on a really hot day.

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Shoes are tricky, as really good motorcycle boots cost big bucks.  And comfortable foot wear is a very personal and unique choice.  What I have found is that what is most important is that the boots you wear are laceless (is that a word?).  You don’t want laces getting caught in any part of your bike, especially while you are driving.  Imagine your shoe laces getting hooked in the chain.  Say goodbye to your shoe and possibly your foot.  The boots should also be a very tight fit, such that they could not come off without loosening the laces, buckles, or velcro straps.  This means the boots need to be tall enough to cover your ankle.  Your ankle provides a natural hook to keep the boot on even in an accident.  If they do have laces, consider securing them in a way they are hidden and unable to dangle free.  Here is a link to some clever ways of doing up your laces.

#2 Drive defensively like no one can see you or is not paying attention.  I watch drivers eye line to see if they see me or not.  When I notice someone looking away from me I honk my horn just to get their attention.  The number of times I have watched a person pull out into traffic, looking right while turning left, is crazy.  From a motorcycle, we have the best visibility and it is easy to forget that a car driver can’t see over hedges or over other cars the way we can.  Assume all other drivers a blind.  It doesn’t matter what responsibility we expect other drivers to take… what matters is avoiding an accident.

Avoid tricky intersections you know exist.  Take the long way around.  I use any excuse to stay on my bike longer.  If you are a new driver you could even avoid left hand turns.  Confidence is a major part of driving safety.  Work up the confidence for more challenging rides and routes.  Practice what you know until it becomes instinct then move up to more challenging riding conditions and techniques.

#3 Never drive when you are NOT feeling 100%.  It is a small thing but even if your balance is a bit off, I would avoid driving.  If you are on a long trip, stay an extra day when you feel off or the weather is really bad.  For me the whole point of riding is no schedules, no demands on my time and freedom to travel where I want.

#4 Always straighten your front wheel when braking.  Unlike a bicycle, your front brake is the preferred brake to use when slowing down your motorcycle.  I personally hit both but front brake first, harder, then a little back brake, a second or two later, lightly.  Avoid slaming your back brake!  It is a sure way to fish tail out to one side.  And just as important, avoid braking while turning.  Or straighten in a turn then brake.  It is generally a better idea to slow down before the turn, then accelerate through the turn.  Makes for a more stable turn and also feels good!

Safe driving!

Knobbie tires

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If you have ever considered knobbie tires, I highly recommend them.  I am very excited to say I just got a pair of Continental TKC 80 tires.  What I found in my extensive tire research for my Vstrom 650, was that this particluar tire was easy to find, the most common adventure tire and cheaper than tires that I thought would work better for my style of riding.
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Tires are described by their size for the rims and now for the type of riding, i.e. 60 off road and 40% pavement.

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I was worried that the knobbies would be loud, vibrate, and poor on pavement.  Wow was I wrong.  These tires are great on pavement and so much better on dirt than my previous Avion street tires.  The only vibration can be felt driving at 2km/hrs in a parking lot.  At speed, they are smooth and quiet enough.

Now off road please!