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

Tourmaster Select Lid Pack Helmet Bag

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: After shopping it out I bought a Tourmaster Select Lid Pack helmet bag to protect my helmet.

I recently put Pinlock shields on my Arai RX-Q (mmmm, shiny new shields) and I wanted to provide adequate protection for my helmet and face shields when off the bike. I looked around on the interwebz and found that helmet bags run from about $16 to over $125. It wasn’t my intention to spend a lot of money on this – I just wanted something in which to put my helmet.

The Tourmaster Select Lid Pack, at $31.00, became my ultimate choice. It is sort of teardrop shaped and is made of your standard woven black nylon material. The interior liner is a soft flannel-like stuff and it seems durable. The liner extends over the zippers and protects the helmet and shield from zipper scratches – amazingly some helmet bags do not have covered zippers. There is also an inner pocket of the same soft material to store an extra shield. I put two of my (sleeved) Pinlock inner visors in the pocket and now I have a protected place to store a change of visors when I am on a ride.

Tour Master made this bag with two long adjustable straps and it is more like a back pack than a suitcase. That’s what I wanted, hands-free carrying scenario. It makes sense to me to be able to sling this thing over my shoulder rather than being forced to lug it around in my hand. This backpack feature and the visor storage were the main things that sold me on this particular bag, yeah and the price.

The construction is simple and sturdy and it comes with 2 zippers. The larger zipper gives you enough room to nestle a full-face helmet into the bag while the shorter second zipper gives you access to the same compartment but on the opposite side. I use it put my gloves into the bag once the helmet is in.

If I am in an area where I trust my kit and kaboodle unlocked around my bike I simply sling the straps over the handlebar and let the bag dangle. If I am in any other environment I just take the bag with me. That’s the idea. I don’t want to leave my Arai RX-Q dangling from its d-ring on the side of the bike even if it is locked up.

The bag cost me less than a replacement shield – what’s not to like?

Gerde Applethwaite

New For Fall 2013 – Icon Jackets and Gear

By Gerde Applethwaite

Shorter: The Moto gear manufacturers are starting to release their fall stuff and here is a look at some of the kit from Icon.

Icon Jackets:

Icon is always very good with the naming thing. It’s unrelentingly evocative of… something. They have an entire new line called “Overlord Resistance” (see what I mean.) The jacket has the look of tactical armor to reify the product name. The line runs from helmets to jackets to pants to gloves to boots. You can be Overlord resistant from head to toe.  Sometimes the creative enthusiasm of the folks in the ad department runs away with Icon but I have to giggle along with them under my breath. When you are deciding whether or not to buy this Icon gear you will have to interpret the practical meaning of terms from their marketing wizards like; “Attack Fit”, “Fighter Mesh” and “Tactical Front.” I want to work for them. I want to be a part of the team that sits around the Cheetoh-laden table and comes up with this stuff. It must be two and a half hoots. I could be “Gerde the Indomitable, Ruler of the CE-EN471 Dominion and Grand Panjandrum of the Viscoelastic Knights.” Yeah, that’s me – Indomitable wot’s it.” Where do I sign?

Once again, as I mention every 10 minutes, I am really only interested in full hi-viz gear for my personal riding kit but I am attempting to overcome my personal bias while I look toward the new offerings from the major gear makers.

Having said that let’s take a look at the Icon Overlord Resistance jacket with EN471 hi-viz accents. This jacket is complete with D3O armor all around. Yup (!) all around — the back armor too! Hallelujah. I wish they all had it. Thank you Icon! This D3O is only level 1 but the form factor should allow you to swap in the Level 2 D3O if you are interested in the high end molecular armor (for more about the differences in viscoelastic armor see my earlier post “Traversing the Molecular Maze.”)

This Overlord Resistance jacket is a sport-bike rider, waist-cut, design. The jacket has pre-curved arms so that you are not fighting with your jacket in order to get comfortable on the bike. The neck is your standard sport bike style crew neck. The hi-viz inserts are not enough for me but I am suppressing my urge to lecture about hi-viz. In this case I am just thankful they have a hi-viz offering at all. According to the Icon video for this jacket you will want to: “approach, engage and vanish” from The Overlord with this look. There are 4 other options including; a white with black accents, a solid black, a red with black accents and a wild looking thing that is blue with pink accents.  Yes, you can resist The Overlord in the pink and blue jacket. I am the Indomitable Wot’s It and I say so.  For more details about the construction and fit look to our Icon jackets pages.

Icon Citadel Mesh Jacket:  They come in; full black, black with hi-viz, black with red and grey with grey. There is, like the Overlord jacket, a removable thermal vest for those days when the weather starts to get a bit chilly. This is a mesh jacket so you get plenty of venting here – they call it “large hole Iron Weave Mesh” and the only thing that keeps me from the temptation to hyphenate every word is that the first two are not capitalized

Icon Overlord Pants: The Icon Overlord jacket zips to the Overlord Resistance pants and for some reason I am now conjuring up an image of Eddie Izzard on stage in Overlord Resistance pants. This too will pass. The pants are are equipped with D3O armor in the knees and its also level 1 D3O. Unusual for standard street fare is the inclusion of pucks in the knees. The armor is a molded puck but has something called Battlehide Leather and Fighter Mesh. Come on, tell me you don’t want to work for them too? The pants are black and have the standard back zipper to mate them with the jacket. These are not overpants.

Icon Insulated Denim Pant: Don’t want to wear leather or textile riding pants to your mother in law’s BBQ later in the month? Icon has a pair of Insulated Denim Pants that have a removable insulated liner, D30 armor and an Aramid fabric inner patch over the knee.  They look like your standard blue jeans but there is armor inside.

Icon Citadel Mesh Pant: These pants are the mate to the Citadel jacket. They hook and loop to the jacket. They are not overpants.

Icon Helmets: The helmet for the Overlord ensemble is an Icon Airframe Helmet in a matt black with a yellow visor. It is called the “Airframe Ghost Carbon.’ Yup, its a medium oval, carbon fibre version of the Airframe helmet and it weighs 1450 grams. The helmet has all of the standard cert’s. Not the least of which is the ECE 22.05.

The Icon Airmada Helmet line has not been ignored. You will find no less than 14 new graphic schemes to complicate your choice.

Icon Gloves: There are new gloves that are a part of both the Overlord Resistance and the Citadel Mesh packages. The Overlord Resistance Gloves are wrist length and the Citadel Waterproof Gloves are gauntlet style. The color schemes of the gloves are in tandem with those of the Icon jackets. I am more a fan of gauntlet gloves these days so let’s look at those.

The Icon Citadel Waterproof Glove has a Hipora liner to keep the water out. It has their Battlehide leather on the finger tips and to help prevent knuckle damage in a get off they use TPR that is bonded to the glove in this new welding process that we see on all of the fall gear. They are just under $100.00.

Icon Boots: The New boots are called “Field Armor 2 Boots.” They come in a grey and a black and are equipped with a steel shank, 2 buckle closure system and a Goodyear welt. Oh yeah, they are just above the ankle style boots.

Next up – What’s new from Alpinestars.

Gerde Applethwaite

Save a Friend, Save Yourself

Shorter:  You are out on a ride on a country road with a friend. Your friend is ahead and disappears into a sweeper turn. You come around the bend to find said pal on the ground and the bike mangled a few feet away (deer? a car? oil on the road? It matters not for this tale.) What do you do first? Quickly now. What’s first?

Do you:

A) Get off your bike and attend immediately to your wounded friend?

B) Call 911?

C) Go back up the road to stop traffic and prevent a car or two from rolling over you both?

Alright, let’s make this a bit easier.

You are riding with 3 friends and 1 is injured. You have the presence of mind to send 1 rider up the road to warn traffic as you rush to your friend on the ground with your phone in hand. Traffic is safely stopped, 911 has been dialed (you were so lucky to get a signal way out here. So lucky.) Now you need to assess your friend and stabilize him. Are you a doctor?  You are not.  Are you perhaps a paramedic? You are not? What the frack to do?

Maybe you have taken a Red Cross class on trauma care. That would be good. You know enough not to precipitously drag your bud off of the road for fear of damaging him even further, perhaps fatally. The traffic is not a problem for you now and their looky-loo impatience to both move on and also take a good long gander at the scene are of no concern. Your mind is racing. Tick Tock. Is he conscious? Airway constricted? Can he tell you where it hurts? Can he move? Is anything broken? Are you worried about how much blood he has lost?

By the way, while we’re here let me ask — do you have a first aid kit under your seat? What’s in it? Bandaids and some Neosporin? That’s a start, bandaids are always a good idea but this is much more serious. What to pack?

There is gasoline spilling from your friends tank and 50 feet up the road one of the motorists, a well intentioned samaritan, pulls a couple of road flares out of the trunk of his car. A small crowd has gathered and starts to encircle you and your friends – back them off a little. Everyone has an idea.  You don’t need a ‘leader’ to take charge here – what you need to do is methodically, calmly, tick chores off of a mental list. Training in first aid and trauma aid will help you manage that list. You need collaborators. Send someone up the road to stop the guy with the flares. Get a couple of other people to shift the broken bike off the road and stop the gas leak. Maybe one of the cage drivers has a fire extinguisher. Find out.  It would be nice to keep that handy just in case. Many of these chores will be taken up by the people around you. Focus on your friend and apply your knowledge of first aid.

If he is in bad shape and you have ascertained that it will take some time for an ambulance to come then find out if you can get a Med-evac copter in there. Yes? Have someone scout the nearest landing spot. Is it going to be the roadway? Clear it of cars and cordon off that area. Let someone take care of that on another cell phone.

Let’s say you are luckier even still and while your friend’s bike is toast (because he is all ATGATT kitted out – motorcycle helmet, jacket, pants, boots, gloves) he has only suffered a sprained wrist. What do you do to immobilize the hand or do you just leave it alone?

Also, and I hate to bring this up, not everyone at the scene may be worthy of your trust. The scene is chaotic and it doesn’t take much for some stooge to go through your tank bag or that of one of your riding partners. Try to cluster your bikes together and see if you can get one of your buddies to keep more than half an eye on them. Yeah, its too much to contemplate that in the midst of this nightmare someone would rip you off but this is a tough planet. Don’t go all paranoid on me but just remain aware of your surroundings. Everyone in your crew should have their cell phones and any other pricey electronics on them while they wander around the site.  Your accident may not happen on a bucolic country road. The more chance there is for civilians to wander through the scene the higher the likelihood that you will get ripped off. ‘Nuff said.

Getting yourself trained up to be of help to yourself or another is a great idea whether it be at a car accident, a farm accident, a boating mishap or some bike smashingham. Merde avoir lieu. There is a guy who wrote a couple of books about first aid for motorcyclists. His name is Flash Gordon M.D. and I commend his books to you. He is a rider and it so happens that he is also an emergency room doctor. The books are: Blood, Sweat and Gears: Ramblings on Motorcycles and Medicine and the followup Blood, Sweat and 2nd Gear: More Medicine for Motorcyclists.  These 2 books will go a long way toward getting you up to speed. I repeat the recommendation that you take some first aid training through your community college or a group like the Red Cross (or its equivalent) where you live. This training will hold you in good stead no matter where you find yourself. Be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem.

Ride hard, ride safe and live to ride another day.

Gerde Applethwaite

The Big Picture: Peter Biondo on the Psychology of the Starting Line

 

So here you are in round 7 of the Spring Fling 20’s against one of the elite racers. Your reaction times in round one to six have been between .008 and .014. The big question; do you make any changes to the delay box?

Conventional wisdom would say no. Conventional wisdom says to “race your own race”. Conventional wisdom says stick with the .011 reaction time average that got you this far. I am here to tell you that I agree with conventional wisdom in a lot of areas of life but racing is one area where I put “playing the odds” before conventional wisdom. By playing the odds I am not talking about overestimating or underestimating your opponent as that is one of the leading causes for people losing rounds. Playing the odds in racing means you put yourself in the best position to win a certain round based on the history and the current situation. If you are in round 7 of a big buck bracket race against one of the best in the business chances are he is going to have a very good reaction time. Taking .003 or .004 out of your delay box would be a smart move and could very easily make the difference in winning or losing that round (especially if it is an 1/8th mile race where reaction time plays a big role). If you are a non delay box racer you can bring your rpm up 100 rpm. You get the point here. You are now setting up “tighter” on the tree based on both what you know of this elite opponent, and the fact that you are deep into eliminations and both you and your opponent have had a lot of looks at the tree. So increase your odds on winning the round by taking some out of the box. In the following journal I am going to get specific and into detail about what I call “situational racing” and how to increase your chances of winning “that round” whether that round be round one at a $200 to win local race or the final of our Spring Fling 20’s. It all has to do with stepping back, looking at the big picture and taking calculated risks with the ultimate goal being turning on more win lights.

A lot of times in drag racing we get in a zone. This is a good thing. But it is not good if we are so much in a zone where we lose sight of the big picture or the current situation at hand. There is a lot to be said to being a robot and zoned into the tree and being one with the car but if you are too extreme and not paying attention, it could cost you a bunch of rounds and can even cost you that one ‘big’ round. Let’s say Tiger Woods has 7 shots to get the ball in the hole to win the US Open. He knows he can most likely make the hole in 4 shots if he plays his normal game. His caddy is going to tell him to take the safe way to the hole and make it in 5 instead of trying for 4 and taking a risk of hitting it in the pond. The caddy is looking at the big picture here for Tiger. In racing, most of us do not have a caddy or coach. We have to “be observant” as Troy Williams once said and pay attention to the situation so that we can better figure out what gives us the best chances of winning “that round”.

Now what if I told you that you can raise your chances of beating a guy who knowingly has more talent and more seat time than you? That’s right. The reality is… he has more seat time, is more talented and can drive both ends of the track better than you. Reality is you have less than a 50% of beating this racer when you line up against him. Let’s say you have a 40% chance of beating this racer when you line up against him/ her.

Let’s put all this talk into a real life scenario:
You are about to race against a heavy hitter (let’s refer to him as HH) who you know holds a bunch of numbers. The big question is “how do I race against HH”. Before I answer this question that is very commonplace throughout the pits, let’s talk about the reasons for “holding numbers” or “dialing up”. The answer on whether to hold a bunch of numbers in general (or dial “honest”) should be based on three things. The first and most important is how comfortable are you doing this and does it fit your driving style? If you aren’t comfortable doing this I would suggest not to do it until you get comfortable and I want you to get comfortable sooner than later because there are going to be rounds later in your career where you can dramatically raise your odds on winning if you have some in your pocket. On the other hand if you are not comfortable doing this you will only lessen your chances of winning the round by making a plan and then not executing properly. Secondly, how good is your car running on a particular day and how well are you hitting the tree? If your car is running within thousandths of a second (the track is tight and the air/ weather isn’t drastically changing) and you are killing the tree then that is less of a reason to hold some in your pocket. In most cases in this scenario, you can put down good enough numbers without doing much at the finish line and let’s face it, this is a numbers game and good numbers/ tight packages is what wins races above and beyond EVERYTHING else. On the other hand if the track is loose and the weather and wind are changing by the minute and your car isn’t stringing tight runs together, than that is a situation where you are better off to hold a few. The third (and probably most interesting factor to most of you) in whether to hold numbers or not would be; who is your opponent on that particular round? Is he/ she a heavy hitter that tends to hold a bunch of numbers and is going to size you up at the finish line? If this is the case and you feel comfortable about dialing where you are holding a few hundredths, you should do so. This is what I call situational racing and it can increase your odds of beating this racer quite a bit. In fact, your chances of beating HH just went from 40% to 60%. That’s right, if you make the right plan (hold some numbers) and execute it properly the odds of beating your bracket racing hero just swung in your favor. Let’s step back and look at the big picture here. The reality of the numbers looks like this. You are running well and your car just ran 7.422, 7.427, and 7.426 in the previous rounds at 180 mph. You are confident you can be between .006 and .014 on the tree. If you dial honest against heavy hitter chances are the race and odds of him winning will look like this:

You go .011 on the tree and run a 7.428 on a 7.42 dial (wide open/ no brakes). Chances you win the round against “heavy hitter” is 40%. Heavy hitter is .007 RT and is beside you for the last 300 feet putting a wheel on you and snugs the stripe up to .009 and runs a 7.323 on a 7.32 dial. You get back to the pits shaking your head and telling your friends, “man he made that look easy”. Now let’s step back and look at the big picture here and try to increase your odds on beating HH. Why did he just make that look so easy? The answer is because you gave him a stationary target (and enough room) to size you up making it easy for HH. From HH’s eyes the race and his decision was easy (despite you putting down a good run), in his brain he says this during the race “I am catching him early enough to kill the amount I need to kill and still take the stripe”. And because HH is such a good driver he can do just that without blinking and eye. How can you help your cause here? By first making the race appear different to him, and secondly and more importantly, giving him a moving target to work with. Take it from me, the combination of these two things will make heavy hitters job much harder. Hold 2 or 3 numbers and pick your spot on the track that you (have learned) to kill that amount where let’s say you go mid to high dead on your dial but this time on the brakes. In this case let’s dial up to a 7.45 and hit the brakes (safely of course) 20 feet before the first cone and run a 7.458 on a 7.45 at 166 mph. You have the same .011 tree and he has the same .007 tree BUT you have just dramatically increased your odds on beating HH. Now your chances of winning that round are 60% instead of 40%. That’s right, you are now a favorite to beat your “hero”. Why are you a favorite? Because you made the race look totally different to HH. HH catches you much later in the run, he knows he is dialed to break out and either A) decides to snug the finish line up and does a good job until you dump and give him a “(backwards) moving target” forcing him to take too much at the stripe and break out by .01 or .02, or B) he decides to dump and give you the finish line hoping you break out and in this case he is .01 over the dial and you are dead on. Either way, you have greatly increased your chances on beating the HH. Sure you still have to execute and be disciplined to pick your spot on the track that you have learned to get rid of .03 but taking this calculated risk in this scenario will turn the percentages in your favor and lead to many more win lights against this style and caliber of driver in the long run. On the flip side to this scenario let’s assume you are dialed a 7.30 and you are running against a 10 second car. In this situation, chances are, he is not going to be able to judge you (size you up) because of the mph difference and how fast you are coming on him. Therefore there is much less of a reason to hold numbers and to give him the “moving target” because it’s hard for him really to judge you, “the target” anyway. You are still the target in his eyes as he sizes you up but because you are closing in at such a rapid pace, you are already a moving target. In this situation you can actually decrease your odds on winning the round by throwing the extra variable of you holding numbers/ having to get rid of numbers into the mix. Luke Bogacki wrote some columns on “Spot Dropping”. There, he made a point to harp on safety, and I’d like to do the same. Being able to safely “kill” some ET and “Drop” at a given point on the race track takes a little practice and getting used to. We’re certainly not advocating any method that causes you to lose control of your vehicle. Your particular “spot drop” or method of killing ET can be very personalized. First and foremost, you need to develop a method that you feel comfortable with that does not endanger you or your opponent.

Above I discussed starting line and finish line techniques along with ways of approaching different rounds and different situations. A big question should be “wait a second, what happened to simply playing my own game and sticking to what I do best?” Don’t get me wrong as my philosophy in racing relies heavily on doing what you do best and playing to your strengths. If a pitchers best pitch is a fastball then in most key situations, he should throw a fastball. Above and beyond every starting line and finish situation that I mentioned previous should be that you play to your strengths. BUT, if the same pitcher goes up against a batter that normally can see the fastball so well he normally knocks it out of the park, then the coach signals him to throw a curveball. This is why it is so important to grow as a racer and not get stuck in just one routine. Sure you should try and get the basics of bracket racing down pat before you try these more advanced techniques. If you don’t know how to effectively and safely get rid of a few at the stripe then don’t do it until you practice it enough in time runs where you can do it. Until then, focus on other strengths (in numbers) in your program like your reaction times and getting your car to run more consistent. Either way, good packages have a tendency to light the win light but if you are able to look at the big picture, you will, at times, see different round situations where you can greatly increase your chances of winning by mixing up your game and getting to those good packages in different ways. My suggestion? Challenge yourself. Don’t let fear get in the way of your growth and advancement as a racer. Take chances (at the right times) and you will take your driving to the next level. It’s a lot easier to stay in a comfortable place where you want to take the safe way out but believe me, by doing this you will never advance. If you do lose, don’t make excuses. Look defeat in the eye and learn from it. Look at the “WHY”. WHY did your car just fall off 2 numbers? Why did you take too much stripe and breakout (what was going through your mind and what were you seeing going down the track)? WHY were you late? WHY did you just pick up .015 in your 60’ time? Always look into the why. Most people would rather place blame rather than look into the why because it’s the easier way out and requires less effort (thought). You should be learning something every pass down the track. If you look into the why and honestly answer it, the chances are you will not make the same mistake multiple times. This leads me to my next section- the mental side of racing.

All forms of sports require a mix of mental and physical talent to be successful. I can’t think of a sport that is more lopsided on the mental side than drag racing. There is so much that can be said about the psychology of racing but because of space limitation, I will stick to the single, most important one. The single and biggest barrier that stands between you and the win light… Fear.

I can remember being 22 years old and very new at national event racing when a well known and very successful racer was paired up with me. Hell yes I was scared. On top of that he did everything he could to intimidate me and try to get in my head. He was smart, a good driver and very experienced. He knew well enough the havoc fear would play in opponents minds. Here I was a newbie to the national event scene and I was about to face the best. Yup, David vs Goliath. Fortunately I was aware enough to step back and look at the big picture and that’s when it hit me; “this is a numbers game and I can put up numbers just like he can.” As Jeg Couglin once said “preparation is king” and my car and entire racing program was prepared to do the job. That triggered confidence in me, eliminated the fear, and helped me to win the round. I also took a chance and held some numbers in my pocket, executed the plan perfectly and forced him to breakout. Say those words “this is a numbers game and I can put up numbers just like he can.” to yourself whenever you feel like you are at a disadvantage in a certain round and it puts everything in perspective and will wipe away any fear you may have had to race your opponent. Remember, this is not a wrestling match where you are 90lbs and he is 300lbs. Most of the time the cars are equal or close in the consistency department.

Really, when I speak of fear in racing I am talking about fear of losing. Worried about who you are racing against (that you will lose), scared you may redlight (and lose), worried that you may be late (and lose), scared that you may not have the car dialed in right (and lose). All in all, just the simple fear of losing. Again, when fear enters your mind, step back for a second and look at the big picture. This is a numbers game! Do your homework before the race and before the round and by the time you make it to the staging lanes you should be prepared to lay down good numbers and good numbers can beat ANYBODY! When racing without fear you WILL get MUCH better results, period. Have you ever watched someone during a test and tune go .00 something on the tree all day long? I know I have. It’s because there is zero fear on a test and tune session. The racer is not worried about red lighting and not worried about losing. The key is to adopt this mindset when the chips ARE on the table. Only thoughts of executing your game plan (regardless of who is in other lane) and what your last run was like. The biggest link I see with fear and losing a race is overestimating your opponent. Overestimating your opponent causes your inner confidence to go down and your subconscious tells yourself that you are an underdog which in turn leads to fear. This fear leads you to do things you normally wouldn’t do like perhaps try too hard which takes you out of your zone. Now your chance of winning the round just went down significantly.

There is a lot more that could be said about starting line, finish line, dial in, race strategies, and the part psychology plays in racing. For now, regardless of how new or seasoned you are to the sport of drag racing, my hope is that you will be able to tie this column together to your racing program. When you are about to line up for your next round, remember to step back and look at the big picture, run a game plan through your mind on how you are going to turn the win light on, race smart, and race with zero fear. And above all, play to your strengths. You will be surprised how many more times the win light shines in your lane.

Peter Biondo