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Rider Safety Corner

What's Your Line?

Do you know where you should be riding when riding with a group in a staggered formation? Yeah, yeah, I know, most of you will say left or right tire track because it depends on how you fall in together, and as a general rule this is true, but it does change from mile to mile. When riding a motorcycle we have three lines with-in our lane, the left line, the center strip, and the right tire track.

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The Hurt Study

At the Capitol building I watched from the bleachers above the Legislative body as a proposed Helmet Law amendment was defeated once again. I wondered how lawmakers decide laws pertaining to motorcycle riding and riders without being a rider themselves. How do motorcycle training instructors know what skills to teach new and old riders riding on today’s streets? My answer was "The Hurt Study." Although somewhat dated when compared to today’s motorcycle accident data, the Hurt Study still stands tall.

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Who are you?

Most of us that ride motorcycles know sooner or later we will have been in, been with, or seen a motorcycle accident up close. It's one of the ugly truths we live with when it comes to riding. It's the reason some decline when given the opportunity to ride. Not riding isn't an option for many of us, but being prepared is.

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Doin' the swerve

The evidence shows in most emergency situations where rider input is required to avoid an accident we will revert to our habits. Knowing your swerve like you know how to do that thing you do on the dance floor takes practice. One way to get into the habit of pushing on the bars, a habit you will need in a swerve, is to ride twisty roads that require attention to counter steering and lean limits. If you are timid to lean the scooter over in sharp turns it is likely that when it comes to doing the swerve you aren't going to do so hot either.

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Ergonomically Challenged

Motorcycle Racers that are successful know ergonomics as well as they know horsepower. A comfortable, tuned in feel of your motorcycle is important when one thinks of handling and quick maneuvers on the track, or on the street. How do you find that ergonomic comfort zone on your scooter? By practicing slow skill riding. Slow control and balance of your motorcycle is much harder than when you are motivating down the highway at speed.

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The Skid Mark of the Big Blowout

Motorcycle tires these days are well made (tubeless) and safe, but they can only take so much abuse from the rider before they give up the ghost. If your tires are under or over inflated, overloaded, worn out or just old and cracked on the sidewalls you might be a candidate for the Big Blowout.

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The Bystander

All of us that have a couple of miles under our belt on a motorcycle have seen a motorcycle accident, either happening in front of us, involved in one, or have rolled up on one that has just happened. The would’a, should’a, could’a will come later; right now it’s time to act. Can you help? Are you just a bystander in the way, or do you have training in accident management and can help? I urge everyone to take a course when available and add it to your riding skills. Thaaat’s right, I said Riding Skills. Until then, here are some basics if you find yourself in this position.

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Spills and Thrills

Some of the slipperiest surfaces you will encounter on a motorcycle are those where a liquid has overflowed or something like gravel has spilt onto the road from a truck. Most of the time we never see the vehicle leaving their mark, but it just so happens that most spills are at intersections, curves and corners where gravel, diesel oil, or landfill poop has overflowed its’ container. In the wet during a rainy day the rainbow effect of oils is easy to spot and even smell, but at night it is nearly impossible to spot without proper lighting.

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Against the Wind

Riding in a strong crosswind on a motorcycle can be hazardous to your health if you are inexperienced, or just not mindful of the dangers. If a windy day gives you pause, maybe enough to even stay home, you can use some skills practice. Here are some things you can do to prepare before you find yourself dangerously dancing against the wind.

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Tires and Alligators

For most of us living in a four season area the urge we have to ride gets stronger and stronger as we wait until that big break comes and a nice day springs up. If you have a heated area for your scooter or she had to sit in the cold, if she’s up on a jack with the wheels dangling off the ends or sitting next to your bed, there are many things that need to be addressed before you fire it up and do a burn out in the garage. Here’s one of the most important and most overlooked.

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Riders Recon

At the riders meeting before the ride listen up for directions, signals, and any unusual traffic tips that the Road Captain and Sweep Riders might have. If you have questions about the ride ask an Officer of the sponsoring group or the Road Captain before starting out. Gather all the info you can about the ride and use the intelligence you have to create a great day of toolin’ down the road with your friends.

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So ya’ bought a Trike

If you have been riding a two wheeler for a while and change to a three wheeler you might bring a number of habits and expectations with you. Along with the change of moving to a trike come a few things you should be mindful of. When you are steering the beast in a corner or curve you are actually steering, (push on the right grip to turn left) virus leaning a motorcycle, (push right go right) so it’s important to hold back on blasting out of a curve until you can get the front wheel straight.

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The Happy Neck Biker

Riding home one night after a good day on the road a person walked in front of me out of the darkness between street lights. The dark figure froze in my path when she saw me, (the deer in the headlight syndrome). I wasn’t ready and found myself grabbing a full leg of brake. Even among the well trained bikers when it’s panic time a rider will sometimes lock the rear wheel, and I did.

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Motorcycle Karma

Too cold to ride is relevant to the individual of course, but some years I’m almost relieved and welcome a break from the summer riding fun. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always yearning for one more good ride, but for those of us living in four climates there is also time for one to do a little learning inside when the Hawk is howling outside. Here are a couple of tips that will keep your Karma in tune this winter and keep you ready to ride when it comes time.

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Over-reacting in an emergency situation can be as bad as under-reacting. If you have to test your brakes in an emergency, do you know how your bike is going to respond? Do you know how you will respond? If you haven’t practiced power braking in a parking lot then it probably will be uncharted territory when you need it and the outcome might not be that cool. Thousands of miles riding down the highway will not prepare you for emergency braking. Practice is the key.

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One foot vs. two feet

Riding a small bike and putting one foot down when you stop will usually be enough to keep the scooter upright but a bigger bike should be stopped placing both feet on the ground at the same time. Why? Because a slick spot is unforgiving and dangerous. Your one and only foot could lose its grip on the pavement at a stop and if your bike is not vertical because you only put one foot down, gravity could take control and send you to the ground.

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The ‘Walk About’

An American Vietnam Veteran friend of mine that lives in Vietnam recently took a group of six Australian Vietnam Veterans on a cross country motorcycle trip back to their old battlegrounds via rental motorcycles. In a whirlwind of getting ready they forgot one of the most important factors, what ‘ol’ Big John from Perth later called "the Walk About". They counted on the motorcycle rental shop to do the pre-trip and mindlessly jumped aboard the motorcycles.

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Brake time … the art of riding

While you are in the garage downing that last cup of coffee before you go riding do a short pre-trip inspection of your brakes. This is no big deal, start by feeling for any grooves in the rotor by rubbing your fingers on the surface. With a flashlight look between the caliper and the rotor and make sure there is brake pad visible. If the pads are barely visible or not visible at all, it’s time to change them. Do this when you get a new scooter and everything is fresh, this way you will know what the pads should look like.

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Intersection savvy

Practicing good intersection awareness is one part of riding that can’t be put-a-side for another day. From day one you when you take that initial cruise by yourself on that shiny new scooter, to the older rider just able to get the kick-stand up, we all need to have and use intersection savvy. Among the statistics are the reasons we need to be cool and use our head and eyes to constantly scan:

1. Almost half of accidents occurred at intersections.

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The 'Walk About'

An American Vietnam Veteran friend of mine that lives in Vietnam recently took a group of six Australian Vietnam Veterans on a cross country motorcycle trip back to their old battlegrounds via rental motorcycles. In a whirlwind of getting ready they forgot one of the most important factors, what ‘ol’ Big John from Perth later called "the Walk About". They counted on the motorcycle rental shop to do the pre-trip and mindlessly jumped aboard the motorcycles.

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