Motorcycle Safety in the Bathroom

Overheard in the bathroom stall this morning: “If I had been a better rider, I probably wouldn’t have gone down. It seemed like the car came out of nowhere!” I wanted to jump out and say, “I’m Sarah from Helmet City, how can I help you?” But I assumed the poor woman had been through enough.

As I washed my hands, I watched as she wiped the fingers that extruded from the cast and explained to her friends that she had surgery scheduled for Thursday to repair a broken bone in her wrist.

I wondered if she would ride again. Not her bike, I gathered, as I heard her telling her friends it was totaled, but ever again.  And I wondered, “What could have happened differently to keep this woman from going down after only 8 months of riding?”

How prepared are new riders after basic motorcycle training?

I know riders that have many years and thousands of miles under their belts that are still surprised by motorists and challenged by tough riding conditions. So what is the answer?

  • More classroom time?
  • Required riding with an experienced motorcyclists?

Knowing the requirements for a motorcycle helmet (which is the #1 question on the CA DMV test), being able to identify the nine important parts of motorcycle and ride in a small figure 8 is important for motorcycle safety. But how can these new riders be properly prepared for scenarios they will see on the road? How can they have the most knowledge possible under their belts before they make that difficult turn or come up against that distracted driver?

What has been the most important lesson to you to keep you safe in your motorcycling career?

And what would you say to the woman in the bathroom?

After she exited, of course…

We would love to hear your thoughts.

Helmetselfie Highlight: Scorpion Helmet in Action

Sarita

George Ferreira was the first only one to submit a helmetselfie in the the short amount of time after we announced this week’s #helmetselfie project on Google+. We know it takes some time to get those action shots with helmet on and bike revving and we will hope that more pics roll in for next week’s blog highlight.

In the meantime, we want to take a minute to thank George for all his amazing contributions. His gorgeous pictures of his Scorpion helmet are so dramatic with the reflection in the iridium shield . We have come to admire his photogenic helmet (and his skill in taking awesome selfie pictures on his bike). The scenery always looks spectacular and his composition is mototastic.

 

George has shared pictures with us from rides that cover lots of miles and lots of road. This picture was near Mono Lake in CA, but George has ridden on both coasts and many places in between.

 

So THANK YOU George for all the colorful contributions. We dedicate this week’s “Helmetselfie Highlight” to you!

Ride and safe and keep those amazing pictures coming!


 

 

How To Retread A Biker

BigGuy82

It’s too bad that no one has learned how to retread a biker who has been injured by a retread(or recap) tire.  A few weeks ago, I was almost in need of this as a chunk of trailer tire flew into the air and nearly clipped me while riding through the Texas panhandle.  Now, if this chunk had hit me it would have been lights out at 75 mph … no chance for a walk away here.  This got me to thinking about my experiences (in cars and on motorcycles) over the years with tire debris because I put a lot of riding and driving miles on.  Several years ago, just outside of Cleveland, I suffered a smashed windshield on my car from flying rubber and three days ago, I whacked an entire tractor trailer tire tread that had just flown off of a piggy-back trailer rig (more on that later).

Ever been the correct distance (2 – 3 seconds) behind a car when suddenly you’re swerving to miss a scrap of tire that was passed over?  Wonder what would happen if you hit that chunk?  Next time you’re on a highway, look at all the rubber crap on the road and you’ll realize just how common this problem is.  Even though it doesn’t matter from an end result standpoint (I wouldn’t care if it was a new or recapped tire that injured me), my contention is that most of this hazard is the result of trucking companies using using recapped tires to save money.

Recapping companies, their lobbyists and the government (who, of course gets political donations from the recappers and their lobbyists) will tell you how safe these tires are and they are no more liable to fall apart than original equipment tires.  Despite industry hype, a recent study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) disagreed, finding that about 68% of roadside tire fragments were from retread tires and 18% were from original tread tires.  Don’t think that’s a significant difference?  This is essentially saying that for every OEM tire that disintegrates (for whatever reason), nearly four (4) recaps suffer the same fate. The origin of the remaining 14% could not be determined.  Apparently the lobbyists think a 4x failure rate is just as safe as a new tire.  Also, it’s a good guess that none of them has been riding a motorcycle when a huge piece of rubber on an eighteen wheeler tire shoots across the highway like a piece of shrapnel.

Even after reviewing the evidence above, the SAME study also stated:

  • Retreads were not over represented in the tire debris items collected. (So 68% of the tires on the road are recaps? I don’t think so)
  • Results indicated the majority of tire debris collected was not a result of manufacturing or retreading process deficiencies – it was mostly due to “under inflation).  Really?  How on earth can you determine this???

Sadly, even the AMA has bought into this nonsense (their best recommendation is to “report road debris” and they have no active campaigns afoot to address recap hazards) but I only know what I see and have experienced.  Go to the web and you’ll find passionate arguments on both sides.

The government agency regulating this (the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration) has tons of regulations … none of which prohibit the use of recaps anywhere on a truck, meaning that yes, you can even use these on the front (steering) axle.  I’m not a lawyer and certain states may have stricter laws, but at the end of the day, the trucking industry saves billions annually by using recaps instead of new tires.  I’m all for saving money and keeping freight costs down, but I am definitely not for allowing an antiquated technology (grind off the old tread and glue a new one on) to be used on 80,000 pound, high speed behemoths that can kill me, all to save a few bucks.

Now for my latest run in with a recap.  Tooling along the passing lane on the New York State Thruway in my 2003 Corvette (my 4 wheel baby), I was suddenly confronted with a full tire tread that had been struck by the truck I was passing and kicked in front of me.  Swerving to avoid it almost put me into the gully in the median and had it been a less stable car than a ‘vette, my guess is I would have flipped down into the ditch.  I managed to avoid a direct head on contact (and the truck next to me) but still clipped the piece of junk with the right front of my car, causing $3,000 worth of damage.  Less than a mile down the road, there’s a piggyback rig sitting on the side with the driver looking at a mangled rear tire.  I stopped, asked if he lost a recap, told him I found it and called the State Police.  During the discussion, I made a disparaging comment to the Trooper about recaps and he looked at me understandingly and said “you don’t have to tell me about recaps” …  so much about all the statistics pumped out by manufacturers, lobbyists and bureaucrats.

Recaps are a hazard to any motorist (just my opinion), especially riders.  When one lets go, it is extremely dangerous when it occurs and for a long time afterwards while chunks of tire sit in the middle of the roadway (and it’s my contention that these tires “let go” a lot).  They also result in a roadside eyesore.  So, what can you do to protect yourself?

First, always allow adequate room with the vehicle in front of you so that you have adequate time to see a chunk of rubber and avoid it, especially vehicles that are difficult to see over or through.  Second, don’t spend one second longer than necessary next to or just behind any truck … wait until it’s clear to pass and get by quickly.  Third, as part of your defensive riding routine always take a quick look at truck wheels to see if there is anything that appears out of the ordinary.  Fourth, practice riding whenever you can … properly accelerating, urgent braking, swerving.  Fifth, support efforts to properly (and objectively) evaluate the efficacy of recaps.  I’m a motorcycle libertarian, but if someone else’s actions can kill me, I’d like to see those actions stop and I don’t care how much money anyone is saving.  I’m not going to injure or kill anyone else by going helmetless or jacketless.  But if I drive a truck with tires that disintegrate, I very well could end someone’s life.

As always, defensive riding comes first.  If you follow these suggestions, perhaps you’ll never have to have your hide “retreaded”.

BigGuy82

This I’d Like to See: Thoughts on Motorcycle Gear

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: A random collection of things I’d like to see in the world of motorcycle gear.

1) I’d like to see all manufacturers offer a full (solid) hi-viz version of each of the helmets in their line.

2) Isn’t it about time that helmet design technology advanced beyond the simple EPS liner?

I’d like to see manufacturers come up with a helmet that replaces the conventional EPS liner with Sas-Tec or D3O viscoelastic material. I know D30 makes a helmet liner – let’s see it in some motorcycle helmets. Also, there must be new energy absorption technologies on the horizon that can be mass produced. Let’s have them.

3) I’d like to see the manufacturers of cameras that are designed to be used on helmets come up with standardized universal mount that helmet manufacturers can then universally embrace and make a space for on their helmets.

4) I’d like to see a federal standard and standardized testing for helmet wind noise so that we can evaluate a motorcycle helmet more objectively.

5) I’d like to see replaceable, drop-down helmet sun shields that come with swappable dark and light brown polarized lenses.

6) I’d like to see more Scotchlite type reflective material on the back and sides of most jackets.

7) I’d like to see an inexpensive but durable solar charger panel (about the size of an ipad) that I can mount onto the tail of the bike that will allow me to charge my phone and/or GPS while I ride or while I am parked at the camp site.

8)  I’d like to see a major manufacturer of motorcycle gear come out with an LED hi-viz vest with wireless brake light and turn signal capabilities. Do they have those already?

Aye, now that we have that all sorted next up will be my list on motorcycles and then pastry. Mmmmm, pastry.

Gerde Applethwaite

New Shoei RF-1200 Released Today!

With a thinned down design, a lighter and more compact shell and amazingly increased performance, the new Shoei RF-1200 may sounds like an iPhone 5. But this helmet’s technology is more than smart, it’s a completely brilliant redesign. The Shoei RF-1200 carries with it all the knowledge Shoei has built up over the years.

Shoei is calling the RF-1200 the “next generation of technology.” The first update to the model since 2009, Shoei has completely redesigned the RF 1200 with a focus on aerodynamics, shell structure and the EPS liner.

The shell has a completely new shape and size that is lighter than the RF-1100 (3.46lbs for the RF-1200 compared to the RF-1100 at 3.54lbs.) This makes the RF-1200 Shoei’s lightest full face helmet with Snell approval. (The GT-Air is lighter and includes an internal sunshield, but is not Snell certified.)

The shell has a more compact, aggressive, streamlined design. The unique contoured lines along the bottom of the shell are not just elegant, they’re functional. The Shoei RF-1200 is designed to accommodate an Alpinestars neck brace.

The shell itself is a Multi-Ply Matrix AIM+ shell that is hand laid with six layers of organic fibers, making it incredibly tough and light.

The Dual layer EPS has varying density in the foam in key areas and work in conjunction with 14 total vent points. The Shoei RF-1200 will be quieter than its predecessor and will vent better. (Get ready for a new level of riding comfort!)

There will be four shell sizes and all the cheek pads will be interchangeable. This will make it possible to get the ultimate custom fit in the RF1200. The liner is completely removable and washable, of course, and has a new, improved 3D Max liner that will wick moisture twice as fast. (Get ready to ride dry!)

The Shoei RF 1200 will have a new improved base plate system called the QR-E that will allow you to change the shield faster than ever before. The spring mechanism is stronger and the detents are no longer on the shield, they are now part of the base plate system. The new 5 stage dial rotates so you can get the proper seal and  better fit on the gasket.

The RF-1200 comes with a Max Vision Pinlock Anti-Fog shield that boasts zero distortion! The shield technology on the CRW-1 shield (unique to the RF-1200) was first seen on the Neotec and then the GT-Air. The tab on the left makes for easy one-handed operation. This simpler, more stream-lined locking shield system has “ribs” on the top and bottom edge to make the shield strong and resistant to bending from pressure.

With so many improvements to what has already been a strong seller for Shoei, the RF-1200 is truly a revolution in helmet technology. We think you’ll be more impressed than you were with your friend’s iPhone 5. And no phone, no matter how smart, can help you experience the freedom of the open road like a revolutionary new lid. So hang up and hit the road in the new Shoei RF-1200!

Singin’ In The Rain

BigGuy82

Great title for an old movie, but I don’t know many bikers who think riding through a rainstorm is any flavor of fun.  Recently, I had the “opportunity” to ride 9 hours through rain (often a downpour).  Not much of a choice on sitting this one out, because the forecast was the same for the next two days and I had a job to get to, so through the rain I rode.  Along the way, I learned a few things that you might find useful.

Safety comes first.  Tires bad?  Stop.  Bad highway with pooling water? Stop.  Torrential downpour?  Stop.  Tired?  Stop.  Not confident in your ability?  Stop.  But, if you decide to ride for extended periods in the rain, here are a few things to consider.

Let’s start with luggage.  All of those great pieces of “motorcycle” luggage come with a rain cover, which helps for a while.  But for extended periods in steady rain, plan on some amount of water getting in.  Why?  I don’t have a clue, but I can tell you that with the rain cover securely fastened over the top of a quality backpack type bag that was strapped to the sissy bar and rested on the passenger pillion of my seat, a lot of stuff in the bag got wet.  Every place on the bag was covered except the bottom, which rested on a covered seat, so the water was likely forced in through the bottom due to wind pressure.  Fortunately, I put my computer and camera in heavy duty, waterproof bags. Tank bag?  Same deal, but again, the essentials were in sealed plastic bags.

Now about saddlebags.  Go with hard bags if you can find them for your ride because they will stay dry inside (as long as the gaskets are good). If you go with soft bags, your stuff is going to get wet.  I spent 150 bucks on custom “waterproof” covers from a canvas maker.  These are waterproof, well made, and fit snugly.  Nevertheless, my bags had puddles in the bottom at the end of my ride.  My guess is there is absolutely no way to stop water spraying up off the roadway, the wheels and being forced in by 60-70 mph wind from getting into any tiny opening.  I think the water was forced in between the cover and the bag and once inside, it had no way to escape.

The most important rain gear you can have is a rain suit.  Don’t scrimp … buy quality.  My Tourmaster gear kept me dry and warm for the entire ride in 60 degree temperatures (rain gear also makes a great windbreaker in cold weather).  I’m not crazy about boot covers … mine got in the way when shifting/braking and were awkward when my feet were on the ground and during rest stops.  But, they did keep my boots dry.

Other stuff.  Some seats absorb water rather than repel it.  I have a custom seat cover and it was worth it because after the rain is long gone and you’re wearing jeans, your butt isn’t getting soaking wet from a saturated seat.  ABS brakes are simply better on wet roads (and I personally think they’re better all around).  If you have them, great.  If you’re going to be an all weather rider you should consider them for your next bike.

If you ride, you’re gonna get wet.  Dealing with it properly won’t leave you singin’ in the rain, but it will make the experience less aggravating.

BigGuy82

Answers and Updates

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: A collection of updated information to recent posts and answers to questions from readers.

1) Joe Rocket Survivor Suit

I am surprised by the number of questions about the Joe Rocket Survivor Suit. They seem to be coming from both touring riders and commuters alike. No, I haven’t really done a water/leak test as yet. Summer will be over all too soon and I will get that drenching test done then. I like this suit more than I thought I would. Its actually really easy to get in an out of once you get the routine down. I had thought that because its a suit I would wear it less often than my jacket and overpants combo, but no. The Survivor suit has been subjected to temps in the mid-eighties and even though it is black for the most part I am well ventilated with all of the flaps and the “Big Air Vent.” I have been wearing it much of the time with the thermal liner out but have on a few occasions worn it in the evening with the liner in. Its plenty warm.

The reflective panels seem adequate to give you decent visibility in traffic although I haven’t changed my mind about wanting more. I am just a big hi-viz freak.

2) Firstgear Kilimanjaro Jacket

I have done some rudimentary field tests on the visibility of this jacket in traffic. It involves friends loitering on a corner in a busy part of town and then waiting to see how long it takes to catch sight of the jacket as I come toward them on the busy road in both day and night tests. It is as you suspect. The jacket is a real winner in the vision tests. The only downside is that the black reflective tape is nowhere near as bright as the silver tape you see on so many other jackets. I would like to see Firstgear move to a higher visibility reflective tape in the future.

Ventilation is good and I haven’t had any trouble on warm days with the vent zippers open. On warm days, of course,  I just zip out the thermal liner. The jacket seems a bit bulky (its a full ¾ length touring jacket) until you are up and riding and then you really don’t notice it.

3) Pinlock Shield setup for my Arai RX-Q helmet

Yup, I still like my Pinlock setup and I do wind up changing them out on long day rides. Recently, I have done a few rides up and over Mt. Tamalpais of late and I started out with the light grey replacement visor on but when I got to Marin the weather was foggy. I stopped and swapped in the yellow visor and it changed the whole ride. Online you will find folks who pop Arai SAI shields in and out like buttah but it is still a bit of a cumbersome project for me. I am getting better at it though – practice.

Now that I have the Tourmaster Select Lid Pack helmet bag I just leave my two most used shields in the bag – being careful how I fold and store the bag.

4) Sas-Tec VS. D3O

This is another one where people have written in quite a bit for further clarification. I suspect this is an indication of the level of confusing info out on the interwebz regarding the stat’s for both Sas-Tec and D3O. Here is the bottom line:

Some of the high end Sas-Tec armor (according to their own ratings) affords more protection than does the high end D3O armor (according to their own ratings.) The Sas-Tec Prestige SC-1/42 joint armor gear comes in at an impressive 6KN (the lower the number here the better.) It has a universal-fit design and it can be used for shoulder, knee and elbow. That’s nifty.  Their SC 2/07 hip protector is 9KN. The SC-1/06 knee is 11KN. The Back armor comes in 5 sizes and has prefixes that are either SC or SK (SK-1/55, SC-1/11, SC-1/12, SC-1/16, SC-1/13.) It bells in at 6 KiloNewtons of transmitted impact to the anvil. So, by my way of thinking I can get pretty good coverage with 3 sets of the Prestige SC-1/42 and one SC-1/16 back pad. Throw in the hip protector and I am done. The newest Scorpion textile gear comes from the factory with Sas-Tec Level one armor.

D3O’s Highest end gear is their Xergo (joint armor) and Viper Stealth Pro (back armor.) They ring in at 11-12 KiloNewtons (the lower the number the better.) I have to believe these numbers because they are done by independent labs contracted by the European Union and not done by the manufacturers of the gear themselves.  This is still within the range of the CE Level 2 cert’s. The newest Firstgear TPG line has their T5 EVO- Pro molecular armor installed from the factory – this is level two armor in all but hot weather where it just drops into the level one category..

I am ordering up some Sas-Tec armor to swap into the Joe Rocket suit (crossing my fingers that it will be a swap fit) as I seem to be riding a great deal with the Survivor these days. More on the fit and feel of that trade out when the armor comes in. I hope this finally makes sense of the numbers game with the molecular armor for those seeking the most highly rated gear.

5) A while back there were questions about heated gear. I will research this and order some up before the fall chill hits. Hang on for a heated gear report in a couple of months.

Please Keep the questions coming.

—–

Gerde Applethwaite