Friday, September 26, 2014

Rider Magazine and Hi Viz Apparel

Reading the editors forward in a recent issue of Rider magazine (Mark Tuttle), I was please to read his perspective and announcement. He stated,
“Back in the ’ was cool. Today hi-viz yellow is the new black.”
A few years ago when I was new, I switched to riding with hi-viz color. It was prompted by advice from an experienced rider whom I respect and admire for his simple perspective. I feel while riding, hi-viz color sometimes gives me that extra second with a driver when I error on my bike.

I know it’s hip to look cool, but I think it's more cool to be seen and come home safe. I hate having to tell my significant other, I almost messed my pants again because of another road alternation. Have fun out there!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Study Finds Riding without a Helmet Leads to Costlier Injury’s

While my intention here is not to skewer the American thought process, I’m baffled by it. I am baffled by American motorcycle riders who sneer at the thought of owning a Keith Code book, much less reading it. I’m baffled by riders who’ve ridden for 20 years, sneer when corrected over their unsafe group riding habits. I’m baffled by experienced riders who don’t care about protecting the delicate brain inside their head. I guess the title of “brain” for some is in name only

From an article a few months ago, "Michigan’s Weakened Helmet Law Leads To Costlier Injury Claims, Study Finds." This should have been an obvious. It shouldn’t have taken a study to prove that crashing on your bike without head protection leads to greater injury! The study stated,

“Weakening the helmet law seems to have made it somewhat more likely that riders will sustain injuries, but the big impact has been on the seriousness of the injuries…”

It was thoughtful in the law change to require medical insurance for an un-helmeted rider, but silly that the minimum is $20,000 in coverage! A serious head injury could require long-term to lifelong care. I’ve seen it and it’s scary to see. Those images in my mind are the one thing that give me pause on riding a motorcycle.

Rant over…sheesh.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Motorcycle riders benefit from Defensive Driving classes

About a week ago I took a Defensive Driving class. I really enjoyed it. While I already knew half of what it taught, I learned new and other lessons.

After receiving my drivers license way back in another time (I was 16), it never occurred to me to hone my driving skills further. I was never encourage too either. Sometimes you're assigned additional training because of impairment, speeding or accident penalty's. Having never received any of those along with no major fines, it never occurred to me there was more to learn. That started to change one day with first motorcycle.

My 2006 Triumph America

Approaching the training and licensing for a motorized bike was completely different than an automobile. For a car, people were less negative. You had airbags, seat-belts and were tucked away inside a cocoon. You were protected from most mistakes you might cause. Never mind that you, unskilled, were a danger to everyone else. It was fine.

For even exposing a slight curiosity about how to ride a bike, everyone around me was very negative. They continually told stories about how you were going to die. They recounted how they knew someone they had been injured quite severely from a motorcycle. Forget whether anything else could be at fault; the automobile driver or the motorcycle rider, it was the bike to blame.

Trying to get information on riding through friends, family or co-workers was a discouraging. While taking a beginning class sponsored by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation was a safe environment from physical harm, it wasn't mentally. Instructors yelled a lot. Many questions were treated as stupid. They played mental head games with select students. They being ex-military, treated it like a boot camp preparing you to face death.

Motorcycles ARE very dangerous, but when in the hands of a semi-skilled navigator with decent awareness and education, that danger is exponentially reduced. If you approach gaining your motorcycle endorsement like you did an automobile license, you stop learning at the moment you get your endorsement. If you have your endorsement and have no access to competent intermediate or advanced skills training, a Defensive Driving coarse can serve as a partial substitute.

I just took Defensive Driving. Since my original exposure to lackluster rider school training, I've since found basic and intermediate rider education that was much better. A lot of the accident prevention concepts are similar in both and I want to share a few highlights.

  • Motor vehicles are the largest single cause of accidental deaths, both on and off the job.
  • Scan ahead and interpret problematic traffic situations as far ahead as possible.
  • Maintain your vehicle (bike) mechanically.
  • Verify often all lights and signals are working.
  • Seat belts in cars are proven to save lives, so are motorcycle helmets!
  • Aggressive driving (riding) is an offense in many places, and road rage is criminal in most.
  • Most accidents occur at intersections.
  • Speed is the biggest accident contributor. The second is panic in problematic traffic situations.
  • Swerving is sometimes more effective than stopping for accident prevention, but stopping, swerving and speeding-up are all approved tools for prevention.
  • In one year, 1 in 8 will be involved in an automobile accident. That's about 12.5%.
  • Because of poor visibility, give large trucks and buses lots of room. Not hanging near them is better.

I had to laugh at this one, but it's sorta not funny...and it was in my Defensive Driving coarse.

  • Don't challenge trains. They are unable to stop or even slow down if you are trying to speed across a railroad crossing.
I hope all this sparked a fascination with learning to improve your riding craft! It does me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A short ride through Centralia, WA and a brief talk in regards to leadership roles.

Does The Victory Brand Have Future?

Victory Motorcycles was founded in the late 90s. The parent company is Polaris Industries. While they've been profitable, to use baseball analogy, they've never been a home-run. Given the quality of the bikes, it feels like they should have been.

Polaris Industries recently rebooted the defunct and passed around Indian Motorcycle brand. Apparently it was originally Indian Motocycle. For 2014 they now have 5 Indian models. They're all getting good reviews. The Indian brand re-boot has also been showered with the attention the Victory brand has struggled to achieve.

For 2014 Victory's model selection has almost been slashed in half. That's probably been done to accommodate the production of the Indian models. Key Victory staffers are now almost always in public with Indian branding on their cloths.

I would not be surprised to see the Victory brand and some Victory models absorbed into the Indian brand. For the long term, Polaris has had Harley-Davidson in their sights. While Indian appears to be hitting closer to the target, I believe its still a bit of a miss. Here's why --- the expense of the bikes.

You currently can have a cruiser bike put together in England (Triumph Motorcycles), boxed up, shipped to the USA and a base cruiser model is still cheaper than Indian Chief Classic. I won't even bother going into how Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki doing it for less. Even a comparable Italian made bike, boxed up and shipped over with import fees ends up being a smigit cheaper than on home USA turf.

While I believe you're getting one of the best built bikes with Polaris, the price point is still a huge barrier. With the recent reintroduction of the Indian Scout, they've brought the price down, but with a 3.3 gallon fuel tank, that won't cut it for some.

If I'm wrong with the Victory assimilation, that's fine. They have marketing people that are much smarter than me to decide if managing two brands under the same roof is feasible. The MSRP on home USA turf with all brands, Victory, Indian, Harley-Davidson continues to be a barrier for me. It's even cheaper to buy English and Italian made sport-bikes than buy a home turf built EBR (Erik Buell Racing).

Nuts! I'm confused.