Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wrapping it up.

Sorry for the delay in finishing this. This week has gone by in a dead run. I taught a beginner's class this last weekend. On Monday I helped teach our advanced class at a track. I have pictures of my scraped sidestand which I will post later. Tuesday night I tried to post but wasn't able to get onto the site. Happens with this host sometimes. It's free to me so I can't complain. Last night I had a meeting of motorcycle instructors that went late. Oh yeah, I actually have a job, too! Thanks for hanging in with me.

In our two-wheeled kingdom, the currency of the land is traction. Most of what we do on a bike requires us to spend that traction. Like any household budget, there's a finite amount available to spend. Sometimes we're richer in traction, sometimes we're not so well off. Our traction expenditures will usually fall into one of four categories. There's 1) driving force; 2) side force; 3) braking force; and 4) traction reserve.

Rule number one for pleasure riders and commuters on the street is:

Thou shalt always have currency in the "traction reserve" account!!

It's not a perfect world out there. Things beyond our ability to prevent happen. By maintaining a reasonable traction reserve we can increase our odds of surviving unexpected hazards. Bear in mind that I'm not talking about being timid. That would be a sure fire way to keep a lot of reserve. It wouldn't actually be safe and it sure wouldn't be any fun!

One area where careful budgeting needs to be done is in cornering. Corners are fun if done correctly. Darned dangerous if they're not. One of my greatest pleasures on a bike is running curvy roads. I suspect that most of you are the same way. Let's go do some corners. It might be a long ride so go to the bathroom before we leave. We're heading out and not dismounting until we're through.

Here's the secret to successful cornering. It's all about setting proper entry speeds. What makes a proper entry speed and how do we know when we've done it?

Let's go back to the Ready-Aim-Fire sequence for cornering. The first two parts are what combine to set the entry speed. During the "Ready" portion we're braking and downshifting if required. This is also the time to move the bike into whatever position we need for entering the curve. Our line will be the classic "outside-inside-outside" path. Which means that for a curve going to the left we would set up to the right. I'm not really going to delve into lines and apexes here. That will come in a later post. Suffice it to say that this line gives us two advantages. It increases our line of sight which helps us see more of the upcoming corner. This path also opens up the turn which increases the traction and suspension travel that's available as a reserve.

So here we are on the outside of the corner. The bike is still straight up and down. What's next? Just the most important part of the whole equation, that's all. It's the HEAD TURN!! We need to look either to the exit of the corner or as far through as we can see. Notice that the "Aim" part comes before the "Fire" step. We need to not only turn our heads but it has to come at the right time. Think about it. What's the number one determining factor as to how fast we can take the corner?

Did you say "our abilities"? Forget about that. My abilities are far better than anyone on the planet. Did you say "what our bike can do"? Forget about that, also. My bike can do absolutely anything I ask of it. What's left? Did you guess "how far we can see"? Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner folks!!

It's critical to "Aim" ( or look ) before we "Fire". That's how we set entry speeds correctly. Looking gives us visual information that tells us what kind of corner it is, what's in it, how the road is, and so on. We set our speeds accordingly. Not only do we need to know if it's safe to "Fire" but we need a target to fire at. That's why I like to use the term "Target acquisition". The bike WILL go where we look. It's a fact of riding.

I hear stories of riders who say they were surprised by gravel in a corner and crashed. According to them, it wasn't their fault. Idiots! If you can't see all the way through the corner what should your speeds be like? If you CAN see through the corner and spot the gravel, what should your speeds be like? If you blindly go charging through a corner without getting good information early and you crash in gravel, whose fault is it? Does any of this make sense?

Riders who crash in corners do the sequence this way: Ready-Fire-Aim. The head turn comes late, if at all. We know this because when we investigate crashes we see that the crash occurs in the last third of the corner. Riders either go off the road and collide with something like a tree or cross the center line and collide with an oncoming vehicle. A lot of the crashes in corners turn out to be fatalities. The sad part is that the riders weren't going too fast for the bike's abilities. Most bikes are far more capable than the riders. No, the crashes happen because the riders were going too fast for where they were looking!! They didn't get critical information early enough. If they knew ahead of time where the end of the corner was going they could have planned their approach accordingly. Blind faith is not a good cornering strategy.

As a side note, I hear this all the time. "Now I know why I ran into the guardrail! ( or fill in the blank ) I was staring right at it". Like I say, the bike will go where you look. It's like your brain is a travel agent and your eyes give it the destination. You look at where you want to end up and the brain says "I can make the body do that". Don't give your travel agent false destinations. You may regret where you end up.

Coming back to wrap up entry speeds, if the following two things happen, you have a good entry speed. Number one, you make the corner. Number two, you are able to have steady or slightly increasing throttle throughout the corner. The "roll" should start before you actually lean the bike. Which means you need to be off the brakes and back on the throttle before you lean. This gives some time for the suspension to recover from the front end dive typical during braking. If you feel like you need to roll off the throttle during a corner you've screwed up your entry speed.

Why the steady throttle roll starting before the bike leans and continuing all the way through the corner? The simple reason is that you will feel more confident and comfortable. You're not worried about braking, leaning, recovering from braking, rolling on, trying to somehow find a target, and so on, all at the same time. There's also some more in-depth reasons. Ready?

Think about what rolling on the throttle does to a bike. The motorcycle pivots vertically at the point where the swing arm bolts onto the engine casing. Rolling on the throttle lifts the motorcycle. More so on the front than the rear, but the whole bike rises. One result is more available ground clearance. Remember keeping something in reserve for those "Oh my God!" moments that sometimes happen to us?

You might not think that's so important. Consider the opposite side of the coin. Here's our intrepid commuter who's either fairly new or has been riding a long time and doesn't understand all the dynamics. We'll call him Happy Harry. Harry's usually pretty good about staying within his limits which aren't real high. That's a good thing. Corners are usually taken fairly sedately so there haven't been any problems so far. One day Harry is extra Happy while riding. There's more of a smile than usual, the day's so perfect for riding, and Harry's boiling over with good feelings. The mood's so powerful that he's distracted from his usual cornering routine. Now Harry finds himself entering a corner faster than he's ever done before. A foot peg scrapes the road.

It's ok. They're hinged. The scraping just tells him he's close to using up his ground clearance. What does Harry do? Being new or untrained, his eyes get big and he rolls off the throttle. Worse yet, Harry brakes. If rolling on the throttle lifts the bike, guess what rolling off or braking does? Yep, it drops the bike. The foot peg is already telling Harry that he's getting close to the end of his ground clearance budget. What does he do? He chops the throttle which puts him into deficit spending. Now hard parts like centerstands and mufflers hit the road. The rear tire is jacked up off the ground which slides Harry off into the ditch. That's called a "low-side" and it's the second least favorite way to leave a motorcycle. Happens to a lot of riders.

A lot of successful motorcycling consists of what I call "un-natural acts". It seems totally contrary to hold throttle when the bike is making these weird noises down there. It seems really odd to not stare at the gravel on the side of the road when we're getting close to running off into it. After all, it's something we're trying to avoid so why not look at it to somehow be able to miss it? How weird is that; to look clear around the corner where we want the bike to end up and trust that it will follow our head turn? These aren't our natural instincts but they better become our automatic habits.

Another advantage from lifting our bikes with the throttle through a turn is increased suspension travel. The lifting action extends the forks and shocks. Which means that they can actually do their jobs of absorbing bumps. If the bike's still in the down position associated with braking or trailing throttle ( remember a bike has three brakes; the engine is the third one ) the suspension is pre-loaded which means bumps can deflect you off course more easily.

Speaking of throttle roll, let's take a quick look at the "Fire" portion. Do you remember the picture in the last post? On the picture it prescribes a gentle throttle roll. Why not grab a big handful of throttle?

Firstly, on some bikes it can be enough to break the rear tire loose from it's grip on the pavement. ( remember "low-sides"? ) Secondly, think about what's going on. Remember, we want to keep traction in reserve, just in case.

What does a bike need to do to corner? Lean and turn, right? What does rolling on a lot of throttle make a bike want to do? Stand up and go straight. Gee, it seems to me like that's the direct opposite of what we want the bike to do. I'm not talking about when we straighten the bike and exit a corner. I'm talking about the time we're still leaned over. If we use a lot of throttle roll it means we have to press harder to keep the bike leaned. It just needlessly eats up traction we might need if some oncoming driver decides to take their half of the road out of the middle, or Bambi goes thrill seeking, etc.

By the way, just in case there's some engineer types out there. Keeping speeds down in a corner is a great way to conserve traction. For any given radius, cornering force is proportional to the square of the speed. For example, if we were to take a corner at 15 mph a certain number of traction units would be required. One could reason that if we took the same corner at 30 mph it would take double the number of traction units required at 15 mph. That would be wrong. Doubling our speed would result in using FOUR times the traction units. Bumping the speed up to 45 mph would require NINE times the units as it would at 15 mph.

What this means for those of us riding on the streets with other commuters or mindless cagers in unpredictable circumstances is that controlling speed is the most important tool we have to manage traction and maintain a useful traction reserve. ( was that a long sentence, or what? )

So there's the long and short of cornering sequence. This isn't all of cornering, by any means. There's still lines, apexes, and strategies to consider. There's subtleties of how to use the throttle to our advantage during a corner. Yes, sometimes a slight roll-off under controlled conditions can actually be our friend. As can rolling on a little more during a corner. This is a start. I hope it helps. Check out your own cornering and see if there's room for tuning things up. Be safe, but don't forget to have fun. Actually, you will have more fun because you'll understand cornering better and feel more in control.

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, August 24, 2006

Ready - Aim - Fire

The goal in successful cornering is to have all your transitions done before the corner. What are transitions? Anything you do to get ready for the corner.

Things like braking and downshifting, moving the bike to set up your line, turning your head, rolling back on the throttle, and the press to initiate the lean. All these things happen while the bike is still straight up and down. The actual leaning of the bike is the last thing to happen. Ok, enjoying the corner is the last thing, but we're talking the actual mechanics, here!

We've taken the Slow-Look-Roll-Press sequence and condensed it to Ready-Aim-Fire. It's easier to remember, flows better, and more accurately describes the process. Here's some pictures. These are digital pictures of PDF files from our course so bear with me. They're usually shown as overhead slides.

This one's pretty much self-explanatory. Just notice that the bike is still straight up and down. Next, and certainly the most important to success, is the Aim portion.

This is the head turn. I prefer to call it "Target Acquisition". To me that really describes what's going on much better. The majority of riders don't look nearly far enough ahead. Notice that the head turn comes before the "roll". Why? Firstly, we need to gather information to tell us if it's okay to roll. Secondly, we need a target to roll towards. So many times we see riders enter a corner and only look to the exit after they're halfway through the corner. They end up getting information way too late. Sometimes they get lucky, sometimes they crash.

It's a fact of life. The bike will go where you look. It doesn't seem to work by just moving your eyes. The rider's head has to turn, as well. Never underestimate the power of a head turn. Here's a little story that's one of many times I've had to use this knowledge to protect a new riding student.

It's May in Tillamook. This is a small coastal town on the Northern Oregon Coast. We don't have a fixed site up there. Tillamook High School has graciously given us the use of one of their parking lots. Several times a year we go set up a class. The school is closed on the weekends so we bring in a Porta-Potty for the students. Circumstances dictate the placement of the outhouse in the corner of the parking lot we use for the class. It's out of the way but not totally out of harm's reach.

We usually send two instructors up here. The normal thing is to have two classes of 12 students each with two instructors per class. The parking lot at Tillamook is smaller than our normal range so we limit the student count to 8. In our other program we would send two senior instructors and each one would teach a class alone.

So I'm standing on the range in charge of my 8 students. It just happens that I'm diagonally across from the outhouse. One of my students is on a Suzuki GZ250. We'll call her Diane. My student is staring at the outhouse. Guess where she's heading? Yeah, you guessed it. Right for the outhouse that she's intently staring at. I see that a collision is imminent. What to do from clear across the range? Here's why senior instructors were used to teach alone. Experience, people, experience.

I yell to her across the range. "Diane! Look at me!" Diane turns her head to see what I want. Now that she's looking over her shoulder at me, guess where the bike heads? Away from the outhouse and toward me. Right where she is looking!! Like I say, the bike WILL go where you look.

By the way, I always wondered what I would have written on an accident report had Diane actually ran into the outhouse. I think I would have summed it up by writing,

"Student was looking where she wanted to GO." Get it? Outhouse, go? Oh, never mind!

We'll talk more about head turns later. It's a deep subject to explore.

Here's the last step.

Notice that so far the bike is still straight up and down. At this point we are off the brakes and back on steady throttle. Only after that do we initiate the lean by pressing. We keep looking at our target which is the exit of the corner and then beyond.

If you look at the picture you'll see that the throttle roll is described as a gentle roll on. There's an important reason for this. In cornering, traction is the currency. It's all about keeping some of that currency in a savings account for unexpected needs.

So there's the general sequence. What it means to most riders is that they need to start things much earlier than what feels normal. After braking is completed, the bike needs time to transition from a weight forward condition to a stable attitude. This happens before we press. That's why most riders find that they're trying to brake and lean at the same time. The braking happens late which means everything else happens late, too.

Getting it all done early makes a huge difference. You'll feel more comfortable and confident. The bike's suspension will be more stable. Traction will be better managed. You'll be riding more safely. Life's better all the way around.

There's still more but this post is getting long. I'll finish up in the next post with the dynamics involved and what they really mean. Better yet, how understanding them will help you master the art of cornering!

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Timing is everything.

It's a perfect Sunday morning. Ambient temperature is close to 70 degrees. It's been dry for days. There's just enough moisture in the air to make the breeze blowing into my jacket and helmet feel refreshingly cool. Morning sunshine warms the pavement. There's enough heat to make the road want to embrace my tires. Not enough heat to make the tar snakes move out from underneath me.

Miles of curvy road await me. When I reach the end I turn around and do it all over again in the other direction. Running this stretch North to South is so different than South to North. It's like being on two different roads. I love the way each direction requires a different approach.

Coming into this curve I roll off the throttle. Third gear works perfectly for this stretch. I never have to touch the brakes. I can lean and lift the bike with just a movement of my right hand. Having set my speed I move to the right for this left-hander. I turn my head and find my target at the exit of the curve. A gentle roll of the throttle is followed by a slight press on the left handgrip. This corner takes a late apex to set up for the next curve. I hit my spot. Swoosh!!

I am worshipping at the Alter of The Perfect Corner. While it is almost a religious experience, I am not yet prepared to meet my Maker. Nor do I wish to suffer mortal pain in pursuit of enlightment.

Yet all too many riders are doing just that. Failure to negotiate corners is the biggest cause of single vehicle accidents. ( as in motorcycles ) Police reports will often attribute it to "failure to negotiate due to excessive speed". It's not that riders are going too fast for their bikes. Most bikes are far more capable than their riders. No, the riders are going too fast for where they're looking. We know that because the crash happens in the last third of the corner. Either they run wide and leave the roadway or they cross over into oncoming traffic.

Cornering can be the sweetest fun you've ever had on a bike. It can also be the most hazardous. Like many females in literature, cornering can be both beautiful and deadly. Let's see if we can improve your chances of success.

I'm talking about street riding here, not racetracks. I've done a lot of both and they're two different worlds. This is a commuter blog. Let's stick to the environment we're going to spend a lot of time in. So forget about any "Ricky Racer" tips you read about. Things like trail braking, using two fingers on the throttle so two fingers can use brakes, and so on. At some point a rider might want to add subtle little things. Like Arnold, the Governor of California, and former Mr. Olympia said, "You can't define bone". In other words, you first need big muscles, then you can go for that defined look. Same way, here. First we get good, THEN we get fast. Not many riders actually have good technique in the first place.

As they say in life, "Timing is eveything".

The same is certainly true in successful cornering on a bike. In order to get the timing correct, think of it in this order:

Slow- before the corner
Look- look as far through the corner as you can see
Roll- a gentle roll on of the throttle
Press- a press on the handlebar in the direction of the turn to lean the bike.

( here's a hint: all the transitions happen while the bike is still straight up and down. ALL of them. )

Ok, I can hear you thinking. "That sound so simple, why even write about it?" Truth is, it's a case of "easier said than done". If it's so simple and easy why do so many riders get it wrong and pay the price?

Do this for me. Check out your own cornering. Be honest with Yourself. If you lie to Yourself you will get caught. You live with Yourself and the truth will become known. I would bet that there's a good chance you'll find yourself still braking while leaning the bike. Check out the form of people you ride with.

Remember the homework assignment I suggested in June? Note how far you really look through a corner. How good are you at target acquisition? Finding a target and STAYING on it.

The process I listed above is only the start. There's a lot more involved and with some pretty interesting dynamics involved. In the next post we'll finish the discussion and tell you why all these things make such a critical difference.

Stay tuned.

Miles and smiles,

Friday, August 18, 2006

ST sandwich?

The cornering post is coming next, I promise! I just wanted to share how I almost became part of a meal for the "Traffic Monster" yesterday.

The other guy who works out of the office has been on vacation this week. So it seemed time to wander up and check the mail, see if the office was still there, etc. I'd been working at the Police Academy building this week. That project came to a successful conclusion Wednesday afternoon.
Another reason for going to the office was free food. Our office is in the Eastridge Business Park. A "tenant appreciation day" had been planned. Between 11:30 AM and 2 PM the landlords were offering free bar-b-que and live music. I had the day planned perfectly. There was an 8 AM appointment in Salem which would be done by 9. The next half hour would be spent drinking coffee at the Lancaster Starbucks. Followed by an hour's ride to the office, some paperwork, and then free lunch. Hoping to be full of free food, I would ride back to Salem for an appointment with my insurance agent. I bought Katie a new car on Monday. A great day, right?

Then I got greedy.

You'd think a grilled hamburger, a little potato salad, and a couple of pieces of bar-b-q chicken would be enough. For some reason I had it in my mind that something sweet would top off this meal just right. Normally I try to avoid donut places. My physique can't afford too many visits of this sort. Several times I have ridden by a Krispy Kreme donut shop but had never stopped. Today was different. Lured by the Siren's song I was drawn toward my doom. By the way, I eased my guilt by purchasing some extra ones to take home and share with Katie!

In order to go by this place of sinful delights I would have to take an alternate route. Following it to its eventuality would put me on I-5 in Washington instead of Oregon. My normal route puts me onto I-5 farther South in Oregon which allows me to bypass the heart of Portland and its very heavy traffic. Today, fortified with a couple of fresh donuts in my belly and a few in a saddlebag, I decided to brave it.

Sure enough, I found myself in four lanes of freeway traffic typical of cities with over a half million population. As best as I could I attempted to keep a space cushion around myself. That's an age old struggle for me. If I maintain a reasonable following distance I know drivers will literally dive in front of me. No warning, no signal, just an abrupt lane change. Oftentimes, due to the speed differential, these drivers will have to slam on their brakes to avoid rear-ending the car in front. On the other hand, if I don't maintain a safe following distance, you know the trouble that would bring also.

I refuse to tailgate so I keep the following distance. I just have to be aware that there's a big neon sign blazing the words "dive in here!", remain hyper vigilant, and deal with the frustration. Today would be extra exciting.

In the heart of the big city we are moving along at a surprising 50 or so mph. Nobody seems to plan ahead for upcoming exits anymore. A lot of last minute jockeying for position takes place. With drivers being reluctant to show any courtesy the scene becomes a "free for all". It must be pathetic to live in such a way that letting a driver into your lane becomes some sort of life-threatening experience. At least, that's the way everyone seems to come across.

Sophie and I are in the second lane from the left. As usual, I'm keeping the space in front of me open. I've already watched a silver Honda Accord and a white Isuzu Trooper whipping in and out of traffic like maniacs. I swear that the Toyota is going to flip anytime with the abrupt movements the driver's trying to pull off. Coming up behind me and in the left lane is a Range Rover. It catches my eye because's it a beautiful burgundy color with gold badging. I see a black Chevy Lumina dive into the lane to the right of me and slighty behind. Pretty soon both vehicles are beside me. One to my left, one to my right. Both drivers spot the space in front of me, it seems. There are no turn signals or even perceptible head turns. My sixth sense from years of riding makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I back off more.

Sure enough, both drivers dive for the hole at the same time. The Range Rover is about a half car length ahead of the Chevy. The vehicles actually smack each other and bounce apart. Right in front of me. I've got a tailgater so braking will be tricky. Despite flashing the brake light, the driver behind me remains close. The good news is that neither driver loses control. For a brief moment the space ahead of me is clear. Hoping that the drivers won't dive back at a bad time, I roll on and go for it. Thank goodness for the power to weight ratio! ( by the way, Steve, here's an example of my addiction to more power! )

Right behind me the two drivers slide back into the lane behind me. The Range Rover in front, the Chevy in back. Incredibly, both drivers stop in the middle of the freeway! I'm looking in my mirrors and shouting to myself " get off to the side, you idiots!!!!"

I could only imagine the traffic jam that will ensue. Another couple of candidates for the Zombie of the Year Driver awards. I have to admit that my pulse raced a little. Years of exposure to hazards have made me sort of an "Iceman" but that was pretty darn close. It reminds me of what Bill Cosby says. First you say it ( oh s**t! ) then you do it. That's why nobody has clean underwear at the hospital.

Further South I saw another interesting and rare thing. Northbound I-5 had two ODOT sweepers moving along slowly. These vehicles were cleaning something from the two fast lanes. Traffic behind was following an Incident Response vehicle. The large sign on the back of the truck said "Do Not Pass". Like a pace car at an auto race, it was keeping traffic behind it and packed tightly. The back-up went for miles. Only on the freeways of America!!

Sophie, the donuts, and I emerged unscathed to finish our business and arrive home. Just when I got home and settled the phone rang and I was called upon to make an emergency trip back North. It looked like an instructor hadn't shown up for classroom. I ended up making a 60 mile run to find out it was a false alarm. Just another excuse for a ride, I guess. My day ended with another 270 miles on the odometer, a late dinner of steak and eggs, a cold beer, and yet more Krispy Kremes. Guess I'll have to pump the tires up a little more for Friday!!

Miles and smiles,

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Dreaming of twisties!

I am so sick of freeway riding! Right now it's something I have to do. My other choice would be to start so early that I'm riding back roads in the dark. Add to that the fact that I would never see Katie at night if I took the long way home each night. At some point I will move North. That's been delayed somewhat by the fact that Grandma is 87 and I live fairly close to her right now. As you may remember, she's actually Mom to me. I hate to have to yank her out of her house although that day is coming soon anyway. I'm also helping my birth mother through losing her husband and my biological father. It's only been two weeks and she's not very strong.

Actually, it's not just that I'm sick of the freeway. I'm starting to get combative. So far not physically, thankfully. Tailgaters in a rush deserve their own special punishments. I totally hate people who dive in front of me with no turn signal. How can you be so lazy, stupid, or arrogant that you can't move a little lever? Almost worse than those who don't signal are those who do. These jewels of high intelligence must think their turn signal is some sort of magic force field. As long as the signal is on they don't have to wait for an actual opening. Just start moving and the magic force field will move cars out of the way. Don't even get me started on truck drivers. Not all are rowing the same boat, but it seems a lot are.

So many truckers are driving 70 or 75 mph and tailgating it makes me shudder. Can they spell "stopping distance" and "momentum"? You can't get away from these maniacs on the freeway. Just about the time you put some space on them, traffic slows down and they're right back with you. I sometimes stop at a rest area early in the morning. Looking at some of the creatures crawling out of the cabs and heading out to do their "morning constitutional" I wonder if they got their CDL's out of a Cracker Jack box. Most look like they have never seen themselves in a mirror. If they all took up a collection they might end up with two or three brain cells between them. The guy on the porch in "Deliverance" looked smarter. And I'm having to use the same road?

I fantasize about having the power to shut a rig down and slide it off the side of the road into the median. No matter what is done to the vehicle, it won't start for 30 minutes. All the while a voice they can't shut off comes out of their radio speakers. It says "You're being given this time out because your driving sucks!!!"

The more I ride the super slab the more I miss my carefully selected twisties to the South. That was a perfect ride to work situation. I could finish off my work day with an hour ride and still arrive home in time for supper. Oh well, the big picture is much better so we suffer for now. Still, bikes and curves go together like oranges and sunshine. Most of you who ride to work probably do what I did. Ride some sort of direct route to work and then have even more fun on the way home. It's only natural. Motorcyclists crave corners. ( we won't talk about the boulevard posers )

I have wonderful dreams of commuting on twisty roads again. My dreams are almost obscene in pent up desires. Reading about others still lucky enough to be doing so makes me so jealous I want to pull my hair out. Thank goodness I can't get to it under my helmet.

Cornering on a bike is awesome, isn't it? It's ironic that one of the sweetest things we do on a bike is also proving to be one of the most lethal to motorcyclists. Here in Oregon, somewhere around 75% of our fatalities are riders in corners. Those who haven't crashed are vulnerable without an understanding of how the process really works. Corners are a wonderful thing but riders have to get it right. Every single time. If I can't ride corners much right now, I'm going to write about them. Over the next couple of posts I intend to write about technique and timing. You might be surprised by the dynamics you didn't know about. Followed by lines and apexes. If you lucky dogs are going to get to ride curves then I'm going to make sure you get it right. I guess I'll have to live it vicariously for a while! Besides, I kinda of like ya.

Miles and smiles,

Friday, August 11, 2006

Ride to Work, Police Academy

I'm currently commuting to a facility a little closer to home. It's a short ride for me. It's only 60 miles round trip instead of 180. Salem is home to a new police academy, otherwise known as DPSST. ( Department of Public Safety Standards and Training ).

This facility is one of two in the United States with this level of sophistication. Of course, I'm ignoring the cool buildings and salivating over the track. At this point the track is still under construction. Unfortunately, nobody else is going to be allowed to use the track for a year. I guess they need to urinate on a lot of trees, first!! Too bad. Imagine the training we could give motors and civilians if we got lucky enough to use the track.

This angle doesn't do it much justice. Right now there's not really a way to show you the whole thing. There's sections for EVOC ( Emergency Vehicle Operator Course ) , a place for simulated freeway stops, and much more. In fact, the whole facility is set up to provide many different simulated scenarios to help an officer's training. We've been involved in implementing some security measures.

I went cruising the town after I was done one afternoon. After seeing only two bikes at the VA Hospital I was wondering about the state of commuting by bike in general. This is a parking spot in front of a couple of State Buildings. I'm happy to see that two-wheeled commuting is flourishing.

For Gary, Steve, and all you scooter folks, you'll be pleased to note two scooters in the mix.

I also saw an enterprising fellow who found himself a unique spot. I guess it's a matter of finding a place where you can but I would be nervous about being right in front of somebody else!

With Salem being the State Capitol, there seems to be more efforts to accommodate alternative forms of transportation. Motorcycle-only parking is fairly plentiful. Although it cracks me up whenever I go into a covered parking structure called Chemeketa Parkade.

The motorcycle parking spots are actually spots there'd be no way to cram a car into. Some are sloped very funkily. There's one spot I noticed that has its own hazard. A large pickup truck was parked in the space next to the motorcycle spot. If a bike was parked in this spot there would be no way for the rider to get out. Thanks, but no thanks, I'll take a regular space. To be fair, the structure is administered by the City of Salem and not the State.

It's Friday night. The Ride to Work week is over. The Ride for Fun weekend is getting started. I need to go contemplate the possibilities!

Miles and smiles,

Thursday, August 10, 2006

A visit to the V.A.

4:30 AM! The alarm is set to go off at 5:30. I hate it when this happens. Lately it's been happening a lot. No matter what time I set the alarm for, I wake up exactly one hour earlier. It's beginning to drive me crazy. Katie, in that smug way an old friend can have, assures me that it won't be a long trip. Har, har.

Today I don't mind so much, though. Instead of a Ride To Work day, this will be a Ride FOR work day. My goal is Roseburg which is 120 miles South. As a factory rep I've been called in to troubleshoot an electrician's low voltage wiring. The whole day is to be fabricated around this task. I figure that this mission and a courtesy call to another place will take about an hour and a half. The rest of the time can be devoted to getting there and back in interesting ways. Another sunny day is forecast. Temperatures are supposed to top out in the mid 80's. Yes, I'm wide awake and facing A Perfect Day.

By 5 AM I'm sitting on the front porch steps watching the world wake up along with me. Above me the full moon looks ready to rest from the night's watch. The Indians call this one a "Sturgeon Moon" among other things. A big mug of steaming good-morning coffee is in my left hand. My right hand idly scratches my cat behind the ears. She's come over to see me. I'm not at all fooled. She's acting like she's missed me so much overnight but one eye is constantly trained on the door. On a split second's notice she'll be ready to dash into the house.

Our cat's name is Heidi and she's getting senile. 17 years have come and gone for her. It's kind of funny, actually. I swear that Heidi practices so she can perfect the most grating and annoying meow noise possible. My cat reminds me of my late Aunt Edith. Never sick a day in her life. Scrawny and as tough as they come. All mouth and she knew how to use it. Edith lived to be a hundred. Heidi will probably do the same. We let her in the house to feed her and then she wants out. Five minutes later Heidi's once again on the porch with that annoying noise. It's like she's forgotten that she just ate. Lately Heidi's taken to running crosswise in front of the bike when I get home. Could be interesting one of these days. Anyway, I digress.

As I sit on the porch I consider possible routes for the trip today. Imagine a man standing in front of a table full of melons at a Farmer's Market. One by one I pick up the possibilities and consider them. I could take the freeway. That would take about two hours. I'll have about three hours to spend and I'm sick of freeways. Put that one down and pick up another. This one's mostly back roads with only a little bit of freeway. It will do nicely.

How about the trip home? Hmmm. Highway 42 leaves Roseburg and winds through the Southern Coastal Range towards the ocean. From Coos Bay I could take Highway 101 up the coast to Waldport. From there we could head inland on Highway 34. That one's even more winding than 42. I mentally add up the distances. Should be around 243 miles. Combined with the trip down it will spin the odometer wheels another 400 miles or so forward. Perfect, I'll take both, please.

Leaving home at 6 AM works out perfectly for the sunglasses situation. For the first 15 minutes or such a matter it's almost too dark for the Ray-Ban's. Suddenly, the sunlight bursts over the foothills as if to loudly shout "Good morning!" to all of us out and about at this hour. It saves me from just getting underway and then having to stop to put the sunglasses on. What can I say about the ride South except that it was a great way to start the day? Picture a perfect summertime morning, a long-legged and comfortable bike, and three hours to just soak it all up.

Timing of the route turns out to be nearly perfect. I arrive 15 minutes ahead of schedule. It gives me time to make a pit stop, take some tools out of the saddlebags, and stash my gear. You have to be a little creative to get a full face helmet and a two-piece Roadcrafter in two saddlebags.

Here's a picture of the building I'm heading for:

My destination is the third floor. It's a mental health ward. I figure I should fit right in. Besides, might as well check it out for when I actually do go crazy. Seriously, though, it's a place where those who have trouble remembering and those who have gotten too good at forgetting can find help. Other minor social disorders are treated there, as well. I've seen other places like this so I expect the worst. Not here, though. There's a prevailing calm that I find restful.

I really hadn't intended to write about the work part. I do, however, want to share a little humor from the situation with you.

With tools in hand, I make the trip to the third floor where I'm supposed to meet the electricians. They're not here, yet. As soon as I exit the elevator I'm standing in front of the Nurses' Station. Sitting behind the desk is a woman I can only describe as an Army Matron. Looking me up and down she makes a stern pronouncement.

"You are not supposed to be up here without a badge!"

Ok, your house, your rules. After informing me where I can obtain this precious badge, I make my way back down three floors and outside. Presenting myself to a young woman behind a grill at the Security Office, I ask for a badge. After signing in on a sheet of paper and showing absolutely no ID, I proudly exit bearing badge #8 that declares I am a "Vendor".

Once more I stand before the Matron. Seeing the badge clipped to my shirt she beams at me. Another case of "we don't know why we're doing this but it must be done". Mindless Protocol has been satisfied.

Soon electrician number one shows up. He has a badge so Matron pays him no mind. It is time for me to start finding out what went wrong. This part is actually directly relevant to motorcycling because it's from bikes that I learned my technique. With a little help from one of the original instructors from the 80's. His name is Dale. Dale is no longer an instructor. Over time he became more and more independent. He doesn't suffer fools gladly. Dale is increasingly forward and outspoken. In other words, my kind of guy!

My bikes suffered a lot of tinkering at my hands and Dale knew it. I was always installing some little gadget or tweaking this, that, or the other thing. Oftentimes my efforts would lead to other unforeseen problems. I would never tell Dale that I was tinkering. I would just ask general questions based upon certain scenarios. The first words out of Dale's mouth would be:

"What did you screw around with last?" Like I said, Dale was on to me.

I used the same approach with the electrician. He told me that,

"Things worked just fine until we hooked up this here piece of extra equipment".

About now electrician number two showed up. He did not have a badge. Matron was having spasms about it. This guy kept putting her off with promises to leave real soon. I smiled and assured her that I would be responsible for him. She threw up her arms and went to her desk to pout. I pulled out my trusty Fluke multimeter with assorted probes and found the problem. In my best "Factory Guy" voice I icily asked them,

"What part of 'never apply voltage to these terminals' didn't you understand? When you fired up the power supply did you happen to experience a BBF or MES?"

Those acronyms are highly technical terms and refer to "Bright Blue Flash" and "Maximum Electrical Smoke" which are both to be rigorously avoided.

Both boards had been fried and nothing further could be done pending replacement parts. In their defense, electricians often have trouble with low voltage applications. I grabbed electrician number two by the collar in a big show for Matron. I told him it was time to leave and off we went. My two electrician friends left ( I'm not sure how friendly they are to me right now ) and I turned in Vendor Badge #8.

Like I said, this place is beautiful. It's more like a sprawling estate than a hospital. There's even a golf course which does seem over the top, I admit.

Sophie seems glad to see me. It means it's time to go play some more. Must be boring just sitting in a parking lot showing off her looks. She's lucky I didn't put the cover over her! We decide to take a slow tour of the campus and look for bikes. Much to our disappointment, we only see two. One's a brand new FJR. Judging by how it's parked I figure it belongs to a visitor. The other bike is a big BMW dual sport. I'm glad to note that it seems to belong to a commuter.

I can't really see why there are so few commuters. There's bound to be a lot of employees here. It's such beautiful countryside and weather. This campus is in such synchronization with the essence of riding. Open spaces, tranquility, and grace. Oh well, it is what it is, I guess. In fact, I'm tempted to just park under a tree and soak up the ambience. By now, though, it's 10:30 and I have one more call to make. The lure of an afternoon spent riding on my own schedule is too tempting to resist for much longer.

My ride home was everything I had envisioned as I sat on the porch in the early morning. This post is getting too long already so I'm only going to share one story with you. It's about some deer.

Highway 42 has long stretches of farmland surrounded by forested areas. In my sideview mirrors I see a Honda car rapidly closing up behind me. The driver had passed another car about a quarter mile back and was looking to do the same to me. I've long since resigned myself to just letting speeders go around me. Some drivers are better in front of you where you can keep an eye on them than behind you.

Aggessively scanning, which is a must for surviving on a bike, I see a flash of brown ahead and to the right. Deer! Right away I start tapping the rear brake pedal to get the Honda driver's attention. To their credit they actually slow and stay behind me as I come almost to a stop. I can now see that the driver is a young woman. The flash of brown turns out to be a doe and two spotted fawns. It seems kind of late in the year for spotted fawns but here they are. The doe and one fawn cross the road. The second fawn seems absorbed in something beside the road and hasn't crossed yet. Kind of reminds me of myself as a kid. Always in my own world exploring and discovering.

All at once the fawn notices that it's been abandoned. With what can only be described as a "hey guys, wait for me look" the fawn bounds across to join the other two. Honda girl and I move along. Sure enough, she zooms around me. I'm watching the deer and see them cross back to where they came from. Silly deer. If only they understood about vehicles. Maybe it's better they don't, you know? After being turned on to the magic of internal combustion we're likely to see deer cruising the roads in convertibles. It would have to be convertibles, wouldn't it? How else to accommodate the antlers? With a helmet law in Oregon it's not likely they could ride bikes.

See what a great day it was? Even writing about it puts me in such a good mood that I'm making weird jokes. Isn't that one of the main attractions of commuting on a bike?

Miles and smiles,

Monday, August 07, 2006

Hazards R Us, Part II

I want to clarify something from the Part 1. I mentioned new riders. There was no intent to cast aspersions on these folks. There are a lot of people exploring riding for the first time. I see them in my classes every week. There's bound to be a learning curve. The rest of us just need to be aware of that fact. One of the best things more experienced riders can do is to mentor the newer ones. Impart the one important piece of wisdom: Never ride faster than their guardian angel can fly!

New riders who have taken training usually know to stay within their limits. I don't generally consider them to be hazards to the rest of us. No, the new riders I'm mostly referring to are the ones who have these kinds of attitudes.

"I'm a man, I don't need no stinkin' training!" Or,

"I used to ride when I was a kid. You never forget how".

Long un-used skills rust like tools left laying in the yard. Muscle memory fades. It happens after a winter lay-off. What do they expect will happen after 25 or 30 years? That's providing there actually WERE skills in the first place. You can't convince me that untrained riders automatically know the right things to do. Riding skills are not some God-given gift bred into a man's ( or woman's ) DNA. Whether a rider is young and brash or having a mid-life crisis, nobody is "Born to Ride".

Having very little real skills combined with the attitude that they already know everything makes for a very lethal cocktail. Sometimes the damage is limited to the rider. Increasingly more often, though, other riders are becoming involved in the statistics. There's more of the "bike hits bike" while riding with a group.

Motorcyclists are starting to become their own worst enemies.

In California, there's roads that are well known as being sublime for motorcyclists. Places like the Angeles Crest Highway. We're starting to see prosposed restrictions and outright hostility towards all things two wheeled. I've talked to law enforcement people who are tired of cleaning up the senseless carnage. Those riders who just want to go out and relax are carefully timing rides to avoid the army of "squids". You can't blame them. The number of motorcycle crashes in California rose 31 percent while the rate for other vehicles went down.

There's increasing hostility from car drivers. Some is just going to happen due to psychological factors we won't go into here. Some is jealousy from being stuck in traffic while watching riders split lanes to make progress. Some is warranted. You've seen riders squirting in and out of traffic at high speeds. Recently the Oregon State Police arrested a rider for doing 128 mph on the freeway while making aggressive moves through traffic. What cracked me up is that the rider swore he was being reasonable!

Look at it from a car driver's point of view. They're getting ready to change lanes and do what they're supposed to. Suddenly there's a bike beside them. You can't argue that there's an increasing number of riders going too fast and acting erratically. These riders think they're good when it's actually the bike that's good. Their skill levels sorta suck and the bike can quickly get them in over their heads. Not all drivers are so innocent, either.

SUV's block any chance of a visual lead. Drivers are eating, talking on the cell phone, having "out of body" experiences, reading, and whatever. Sometimes all at the same time. Do you start to see the deadly mix, here? I've talked about the "cleansing of the gene pool" but it doesn't stop there. Like I said, other riders get hit and killed. And guess who gets the bad publicity for all of it? Yep, it's the motorcycle riders and we all end up being lumped in the same pile.

There has been a sort of interesting backlash. More so to Harley riders. At least the stuff I've heard about. I thought you might find it interesting, too.

This isn't meant as a blanket statement that encompasses all riders of Harleys. This simply comes from my hundreds of thousands of miles on a bike. In my experience "Harley" people have been, how shall I say it, a rather "closed" group. In other words, I feel like I'm being snubbed because I don't ride the same bike and wear the same gear. Now there's signs that this group is turning on each other.

There's a man named Mr. Bennett. He belongs to a Harley Rider's club. This man has been riding for most of his 59 years. Recently he had a scrape with a novice Harley rider. The new rider ran into the back of Mr. Bennett's bike while waiting at a red light. Here's a quote from Mr. Bennett I saw in the New York Times.

Noting that some of his peers have found a new group to snub, he says "They don't wave to new Harley riders now".

I'm not sure how they know for sure, but it's an intersting concept.

Harley riders no longer trusting Harley riders? A lot of them are putting on more gear than ever before. I see full face helmets fairly regularly, now. I see more protective gear. Has self-preservation finally gained a toe-hold over being "cool"? The tide seems to be turning.

Mr. Bennet says he's taken a defensive approach to the new reality. His Harley is customized like a Christmas tree. There are no fewer than eight lights in front and nine in back, some of them blinking. "Visibility is key to avoid being hit" he said. Mr. Bennett's not just talking about being hit by cars, either.

When you add in high-profile people who crash while being irresponsible, the picture gets worse. Arnold Schwarzenegger hit an SUV when it pulled out of a driveway. Arnold needed 15 stitches in his upper lip. Arnold didn't have an endorsement. I heard he stayed off his bike until he got the endorsement. That happened about mid-July. Not soon enough to avoid the bad publicity, but better late than never.

Ben Roethlisberger suffered a broken jaw and other injuries in a collision with a car in Pittsburgh on June 12. Ben had no motorcycle license or helmet. I read recently in Sports Illustrated that Ben mugged for a Campbell's Chunky soup print ad on July 26. Afterwards he said "I feel like I look pretty normal". What? Nothing about feeling sheepish?

So what can you and I do? We have to step up. If motorcyclists don't police themselves we'll be regulated out of existence. Besides that, I think we have an obligation to try to help the sport. Like I said above, mentor new riders. Share your experience and skills. You never know how much good you will be doing them. Push or shame returning riders into taking training if you see problems. I hear all the time about how taking training has probably saved a life. If somebody's being a jerk, tell them so. I'm positive all of you personally are classy ambassadors of riding. ( that doesn't mean you can't go out and have fun! )

Like it or not, all of us are lumped together. Let's see if we can make a positive difference.

Miles and smiles,

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Chase!

Why is there a picture of an SUV on a motorcycle blog? I'm glad you asked. Hang tight with me a minute and I'll enlighten you.

I'm still working on part 2 of Hazards R Us. For some reason I just can't make it flow. It would have been better if part 2 could have followed right after part 1. Ok, it ain't a perfect world. Besides, something fun happened to me on yesterday's commute to the office and I thought it would be cool to share it.

Yesterday brought the advent of a happening that I had never done on a motorcycle before. I talked on the cell phone while riding the bike. Quit making those noises of shame in my direction! It was for a good cause.

It wasn't exactly a chase. That implies the act of catching the quarry at the end. In this case, the quarry was a Toyota like the one above. That's why the picture is here. The Toyota SUV and it's driver were the centerpiece of this post. A State Trooper on a bike and I were players, too, just not the lead part. Since I no longer have power of arrest I had to content myself with being like a hound. I treed the critter and waited for the man with the gun to dispatch it.

Just South of Salem, Oregon's capitol, I picked up the target. Except he wasn't a target quite yet. The SUV was towing a single axle enclosed utility trailer. There were no plates on either the SUV or trailer. An Oriental man was driving with a female passenger of the same race in the vehicle with him. They looked to be in their 40's. I really didn't pay too much attention as I passed the rig. I did notice that the driver seemed to like hugging one side of the lane and then the other.

Somewhere about nine miles later the driver catches up to me. By now he's going at a pretty good clip. I'm doing an indicated 65 mph in a 60 mph zone. I figure the driver had been doing about 75. Sophie and I are in the middle of three lanes. The SUV is in the hammer lane to my left. Traffic forces him to slow so now he's beside me. I see the rig drift towards me then slowly veer back to the left. Prudence dictates I fall behind a little and keep an eye on him. Ok, I'm actually keeping both eyes on the wandering SUV. It's clear that the driver is having a hard time keeping a steady speed and lane position. Not severe, yet, but worth watching.

Five more miles and I decide it's time to report the driver. Knowing it will be 10 more miles before the driver can exit the freeway, I pull off to the shoulder and call State Police dispatch on my new thin Motorola Razor cell phone. After a description of the vehicle, the behaviour, and so on, the man at dispatch thanks me for the input and hangs up on me. I zoom up to find the SUV again; aking a discreet rearward position.

I figure that sooner or later a police cruiser will appear. 12 miles later and it still hasn't happened. The State Police are stretched REAL thin here. I'm not intending this to be an insult to these fine officers. At the same time, Mr. Toyota driver is getting worse and we're nearing the more populated area with correspondingly heavier traffic. Mr. Toyota has been as slow as 50 mph and as fast as 80. Sometimes he straddles the white line, sometimes he just moves back and forth. I've watched twice as his movements have made vehicles beside him suddenly swerve out of the way. It's time for me to do something more.

The problem is that there are more areas for the driver to leave the freeway. We're getting closer to Portland. Morning traffic is getting intense. Mr. Toyota is getting worse. As it happens, I've been wearing a modular flip-up helmet for a while. I flip up the chinbar. You have to be really careful doing this at speed, you know. If the wind catches the raised part it can break your neck. Fortunately, Sophie's fairing gives me a still pocket. Ducking down, I pull the phone out of my pocket with my left hand. I have an idea. Since it's summer my gloves are relatively thin. The phone buttons are relatively large. I hit 911 and jam the earpiece of the phone up beside my face. The phone is thin enough to fit and the helmet padding is heavy enough to hold it in place. I have to admit that I can't take total credit for the idea. I had seen the Director of our motorcycle safety program do the same thing while riding a training bike around a parking lot!

Dispatch can hear me and I can hear them. I explain the deteriorating situation and the urgency that comes with it. It's the same dispatcher and this time he stays with me. The closest officer is in Tualatin, 11 miles North. I count off mileposts and off-ramps. I report behaviour. The dispatcher tells me that if the SUV driver increases speed to 80, again, not to do the same. Just let him go. Uh, right. I assure the officer I will not be unsafe or break the law. All the while following at 80 mph. I AM staying safe, though, so I didn't totally lie.

Finally we get near where the bike can intercept. The bad news is that the SUV has turned off onto another freeway. It's not the direction I intended to go, but I assure dispatch I will stay with the driver. Hey, this is too much fun to quit now. Now it gets funny. The dispatcher asks me what color vehicle I'm driving. I explain that it's a maroon Honda. Honda motorcycle. I swear I hear the dispatcher's brain fry for a second. "How are you calling?!". I tell him to trust me, it's working and I'm capable of doing this.

As we pass underneath an overpass I see the police bike go across from left to right. Then I see the bike coming down the ramp and onto the freeway behind me. I have to say that it's cool to see a police bike speeding up behind you and know you're not the target. The male officer pulled up beside me. It was one of those that were at the training I had helped with and told you about in an earlier post. There's not that many State Police motors. He had already observed the SUV on his own. The dispatcher told me I didn't need to stop as the officer had Probable Cause. Like I wasn't going to stop anyway?

It took three miles for the SUV to notice the police bike lights and finally pull over. I have been asked not to say much about it as an arrest was made. Let's just say that the officer found some very interesting stuff in the SUV and trailer. I stayed with the motor officer until a County Sheriff's deputy came to assist and transport. Both occupants went in the cruiser. One under arrest, and one for questioning.

I decided not hang around as the motor officer had the unenviable task of waiting around for the tow truck. I could ride on and did so after being thanked again for my help. Although I did have to put up with some crap for being an instructor and riding while talking on the cell phone. What can I say?

Another good deed done by an Intrepid Commuter. You just never know what kind of adventures you will have commuting on a bike!

Miles and smiles,

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Hazards "R" Us.

Today Katie and I rode up to the small graveyard on the hill where my father was laid to rest. For some reason it seemed like I needed to ride. It has to do with the symbolism of the deepest and best things I had to offer. My bride and my bike bring out all the best in me. I wanted to bring that "best" to pay my last respects. If you've been reading this blog you'll understand. Even more so if you ride and feel what I feel.

After a brief visit to Mother's place ( which is very near the graveyard ) Katie and I took a long and leisurely ride on some quiet backroads. Katie wanted to stop at her sister's house for a while so we ended up back in traffic. On a semi-rural road we picked up an entourage. Right behind us was a young man on a Yamaha sport bike. Behind him were two cruisers, then a pickup, with another cruiser bringing up the rear.

My sister-in-law's driveway came into view. Time to turn left. As usual when being followed, I signalled early. I flashed the brake lights to let folks know I was slowing down. That's a critical point, by the way. More and more riders are being rear-ended because they use engine braking to slow. Drivers don't expect that. All they know is that the bike is suddenly so much closer than it was. Light up the brake lights even if you don't need the brakes. It's our responsibility to communicate with others. Gee, isn't that why we have brake and turn signal lights on our bikes?

Ok, off the soap box, Dan. After giving what I thought was plenty of notice, I was surprised to see the Yamaha's front forks severely dive. The rider's rear end must have puckered as he nearly high-sided then recovered. I hope it was a good daydream because he nearly caused a lot of trouble. This isn't an isolated incident. Needless to say, I get nervous being around riders I don't know. Have you ever had a rider try to join in with you as you ride?

I'm seeing it more and more as I ride the freeway. Riders will try to tuck in and ride formation with me. I'm happy to have company but stay wary. More and more the hazards we face aren't limited to car drivers. I know some of you will be up in arms that I could say this about fellow riders but that's just the way it is.

Look at the picture above. If you peer closely you will see the rear end of a Honda sportbike sticking out of the side of the car. This is from a Swedish display. Police say the rider was doing about 155 mph when he impacted the side of the Volkswagon which was moving slowly.

Here's the link for the rest of the story. You can look at it on your own time.

Not all the riders I'm referring to are of the extreme type. There's more and more of these showing up, to be true. They don't represent the sum total of the types of riders out there, though. Take a moment and think of the changing picture of motorcycling today.

Motorcycle sales have jumped dramatically in the last few years. All those newbie riders, combined with more powerful bikes and challenging road conditions have contributed to a large rise in the number of accidents. We've always had to watch out for cars but all the inexperienced riders are becoming a problem. These newbies are easy to spot. I'm trained to evaluate riders and find myself doing it out of habit. You can see the signs yourself if you look for them.

They shake, hesitate in turns, hit the brakes a lot, or ride too closely to other bikes. My favorite is following them through curves and watching them make about a dozen apexes instead of just one. I've even seen a couple of riders forget to put their foot down at stops. Seriously. I wanted to yell "Timber!" as they slowly tipped over. Lately I've been notified of accidents where riders have run into each other.

The squids, the newbies, the celebrities who have high profile stupid moments, and increasingly distracted drivers are combining to expand our hazard list. I'll address this subject more in the next post as this one is getting pretty long.

Miles and smiles,