Motorcycle Awareness Month – The Wrong Way Down

Motorcycle Awareness Month – The Wrong Way Down

A controversial viewpoint that looks at motorcycle safety from the other side of the looking glass

I’m a lifelong motorcyclist. I’m a professional rider, I earn my bread from the seat of my bike. I been a trainer, had training, been all over the country and overseas, led tours, coordinated events and rallies, read the books and every accident study I can get to. I’ve had my share of spills, close calls, and mistakes and I’ve got the scars to remember them by.

May is motorcycle awareness monthMotorcycle Awareness Month doesn’t even make the list of  “commemorative months” on wikipedia and is about as effective as “National Ice Cream Month” (which does make the list) – It’s the wrong approach to the problem of how to be safer riding a motorcycle on our increasing dangerous roads.

Image - Watch out for Motorcycles

False Hope

“Watch our for Bikers” is wishful thinking. It puts the responsibility on someone else – “You need to watch out for me”. Believing that little yellow diamond is going to penetrate the brain of a pony-tailed soccer mom with a minivan full of kids rushing to get to the little  league game is quite a leap of faith. Or that the road warrior salesman is going to suddenly take his mind off his next meeting as he’s fighting his way through the traffic on his way to Des Moines. That the old codger in the Buick with a line of traffic a half mile behind him is going to suddenly wake up and recognize there are other vehicles on the road? That teen is gonna put away the cell phone and start driving the car? Not my experieince. Not the real world. YOU need to watch out for YOU.

Even if you could get through and alert every other driver on the road you’re not going to change the laws of physics. Motorcycles are just plain hard to see because they are the smallest vehicle out on the roads. They are comparatively rare so people don’t expect them. They are easy to lose track of surrounded by so many larger vehicles. Every one of us knows a driver can look right at you and not see you coming. Accept it – you’re virtually invisible to others the road.

motorcycle-wreck-maggieThe “motorcycle awareness” that will keep you alive longest is the awareness that you are responsible for your own safety on the road. You need to up your riding game. Distracted driving is the leading contributor to accidents on our roadways. The counter strategy is increased awareness on the part of the motorcyclist, not all the other people out on the road. They’re not going to change, you need to change to adapt to the conditions that exist.

We know the most common causes of motorcycle accidents related to other vehicles – car pulls out or turns in front of motorcycle, car changes lanes on highway into motorcycle, car runs into motorcycle stopped at intersection.

The motorcycle awareness we need is to deal with these situations as riders as effectively as possible. This is what happens – expect it and assume it will every time.

  • Ride as if that car IS going to pull out or turn in front of you. Be prepared to react to it. Every car, every time.
  • Constantly be aware of your position to surrounding traffic on the road and don’t ride in blind spots. Don’t assume that car next to you sees you – if he needs to swerve I’ll bet he’d rather hit you than a truck. Move out of the situation. When they crowd in on you get out of the situation as soon as possible.
  • Position yourself to be visible when stopped. Don’t sit right behind a car, move out to create a silhouette that stands out from behind. Keep the bike in gear and have an escape route ready in case you see that car running up on you too fast.

learn-to-ride-safe

The roads are getting more crowded and more dangerous. There are new challenges to face. People are just going to keep doing what they’re doing, they are not going to change. If you want to be safer, take your safety in your own hands – the others are too busy to bother.

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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

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How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge – Clear skies, great views, low traffic are some of the rewards of winter riding. Dress right and it’s no big deal.

Don’t let the cold weather put an end to your motorcycle riding season. If you dress well for it, winter riding can be comfortable and fun even here in the mountains. It’s not all snow and ice all the time here in the Smokies. Even the highest sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway stay open for most of the winter. Here are some of my personal tips on dressing for winter motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, what works best for me.

Dress to adapt to the changing temperature. Often winter days start out very cold then get milder once the sun is high. Bundle up for the chilly start then simply zip your jacket open and loosen the seals at the wrists a bit once it warms. Using vents keeps you from having to stop and peel off layers.

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge – With the right clothes, you can ride all day in conditions like this and never be cold.

Cinch and Seal – Before you head out, close all the vents on your jacket. Cinch wrists, ankles, and neck to keep out drafts and seal the warm air in. Snug up any adjustment straps on your jacket to trap warm air better.

A full face helmet is warmer – a balaclava or thin hoodie under the helmet helps when it’s really cold. Manage fogging by cracking the visor just the right amount, flipping it up at stops. Lifting your chin increases air flow, it sometimes works. Eventually your helmet temp equilibrates until you come to a stop again, etc. Fogging problems usually go away as the day gets warmer. Keep visors clean.

Get “Expedition weight” long underwear – go for the warmest, the best quality. You don’t want big seams, buttons and flaps, keep it simple and comfortable.

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway last year. It was a gorgeous day in February.

Landslide on the Cherohala Skyway last February. It was a gorgeous day, don’t pass up these great opportunities to enjoy winter on your motorcycle.

Seal your inner layer – make your outer shirt a windblock layer that extends up your neck to the chin, and have a zipper so you can vent it. It’ll hold heat better and a zipper lets you vent when it warms.

Put the linings back in – If you took those quilted linings out of your jacket and pants for the summer, put them back in, as well as any waterproof or wind blocking linings.

2 socks, 2 gloves – Start with a warm thinner sock, then add a heavy duty second sock that extends up to your calf. Thin glove liners add heat under a good lined gauntlet style outer glove.

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge – you can see so much more in winter when the leaves rare off the trees. It’s a new landscape to enjoy.

If you ultimately decide you enjoy year round motorcycle riding, heated electric gear is the way to go. It’s a big expense, but it lasts for many years. Go all the way and get dual controllers – you’ll want your exposed gloves warmer than your covered vest.

There is one thing you can do to help keep your motorcycle running or stored during the winter months – install a battery tender. It’s as simple as adding a couple wires to your battery terminals for the plug/connector, or if the bike is put up for the winter, just attaching a couple clamps to the battery terminals. Cold weather kills batteries, a battery tender will kept it alive and fresh and extend it’s life for many years. 

Photo-Whitesides-mountain-nc-motorcycle-by-frozen-lake

How I Dress for Winter Motorcycle Riding in the Blue Ridge – A minute after this photo was taken my bike lay on its side and I couldn’t pick it up on the ice. Read about it here – http://smokymountainrider.com/?p=1650

http://smokymountainrider.com/?p=1650

Got a winter riding question or tip to share?

If you enjoy photos of motorcycle riding in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, like MY BLUE RIDGE MOTORCYCLING FACEBOOK PAGE.
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wayne busch - Smoky Mountain Motorcycle Rider.com

Wayne Busch

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

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Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Safety Tips

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Safety Tips
Courteous Passing  and Signal your intentions

I’m opening myself up for some criticism by posting this, but when motorcycle riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway and you need to pass, one safety tip I’ve found helpful is using better communication and courteous passing. While passing may be illegal, it’s a frequent occurrence. Here’s how I deal with it.

Why take the criticism? Because I see it so often – it’s a rare stretch of the 469 mile long Blue Ridge motorcycle ride that isn’t painted with a double yellow line. Passing zones are few and far between. Crossing the double yellow line is breaking the law, so consider that before you do it. If something goes wrong, you’re at fault, and any ticket you get is deserved.

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway - Safety Tips Courteous Passing  and Signal your intentions - Crossing the double yellow line is illegal. Legal passes are safe passes.

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Safety Tips – Courteous Passing and Signal your intentions – Crossing the double yellow line is illegal. Legal passes are safe passes.

Still, I can’t recall a recent motorcycle ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway where it didn’t happen. It’s a common situation as the comfortable travel speed for many car drivers is around 35 mph on this mostly 45 mph road. While most bikers are content to adapt to the lower speed and relax and enjoy the scenery, the situation can get frustrating when the curves get tighter.

Motorcycles and cars approach curves differently. Cars tend to get off the throttle and slow down when going through a turn. Motorcycles want to be on the gas to gain traction, ground clearance, and stabilize the bike in a turn. Applying the brakes when behind a car in a turn makes the motorcycle want to stand up when it should be leaning and it’s harder to steer and more unstable.

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway - Safety Tips - Courteous Passing and Signal your intentions - There are lots of overlooks through the most scenic sections. Use your signal lights to communicate to the driver ahead.

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Safety Tips – Courteous Passing and Signal your intentions – There are lots of overlooks through the most scenic sections. Use your signal lights to communicate to the driver ahead.

In a perfect world, you follow along to the next pull-out, the car slips in and lets you by. Give the driver that opportunity, it’s the best, safest, and legal option. A lot of times that happens. Sometimes it takes a couple overlooks before the driver recognizes the easy solution.

Just as often though, you’ll come up on a car which slows and starts waving you by to make an illegal pass. Here’s how I approach it –

  • If you don’t want to pass, drop back and give the car some space.
  • If you do want to pass, but it’s not safe here due to an approaching curve, limited visibility, or other traffic, be courteous and work with the driver. Drop back a little and signal your intent that you do want an opportunity to pass by using your turn signal.

Communicating to the driver by using your turn signal lets him know your intent and you can work together to make the pass as safe as possible.

The driver may wait for the next pull off, give him the opportunity to use it, as it’s safest for everyone and the legal way to do it.

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway - Safety Tips - Courteous Passing and Signal your intentions - Choose your passing spots carefully and wisely.

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Safety Tips – Courteous Passing and Signal your intentions – Choose your passing spots carefully and wisely. This is hardly the place to even consider it. Wait patiently for those sections where you have a long view ahead and plenty of road before the next curve.

If you do choose to pass, do it politely and with some respect. Don’t blast by at warp speed with the pipes screaming. Stay in as high a gear as you can and make it a smooth and controlled quiet pass. Wait for a long enough section of road with clear visibility and enough margin for safety so you don’t convince the driver all bikers are dangerous and out of control or end up proving it as well. I usually give a wave of thanks to those who let me slip by, I appreciate their courtesy and respond in kind.

In summary;

  • Use passing zones when available
  • Crossing the double yellow line is illegal
  • Give the car a chance or two to exit into an overlook and let you by
  • Communicate with the driver by using your turn signals
  • Wait for a safe opportunity
  • Pass quietly and with respect
Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway - Safety Tips - illegal passing is not without risks and potential consequences!

Motorcycle Riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Safety Tips – Illegal passing is not without risks and potential consequences!

At some point on your Blue Ridge Parkway motorcycle ride you’re going to be presented with this dilemma – to pass or not to pass. There’s a darned good reason crossing the double yellow line is illegal, it’s dangerous! In a dangerous situation one of your best tools is good communication. Use those signal lights and show some thanks if you decide to take a ride on the wild side of the line. A lot of times, seeing your signal lights alerts the driver and results in a safe and legal passing event and a better Blue Ridge Parkway ride for everyone.

These tips work with bicycles as well, be kind and let’s all enjoy our ride!

See the Blue Ridge Parkway Park Service Safety Page

See the Blue Ridge Motorcycling Parkway Safety Tips Page

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch – Cartographer

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– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Motorcycle training: Tell all the Harley riders this really works!

Motorcycle Training – Comment from one of the participants in a Lee Parks Level 1Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic this weekend – “Tell all the Harley riders this stuff really works!”

Motorcycle Training

Motorcycle Training: Learn to take a lowered bike through the curves without scraping the hard parts

Total Rider Tech held it’s first class in the Maryville,Tennessee location this weekend and we had a diverse mix of both bikes and riders. The advanced rider training in a Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic focuses on cornering skills with an emphasis on traction and control.

Motorcycle Training: Gain confidence handling a big bike in tight conditions

Motorcycle Training: Gain confidence handling a big bike in tight conditions

Regardless of what type of bike the riders brought, they all saw a specific and measurable improvement in their riding by the end of the day and challenged themselves to take their riding skills to a higher level.

Motorcycle Training: Get more enjoyment out of the performance your bike can deliver

Motorcycle Training: Get more enjoyment out of the performance your bike can deliver

Total Rider Tech provides instruction for the experienced rider who has progressed well beyond the basic techniques learned in an MSF or similar courses, but is not ready or interested in a full blown high dollar race track school. The emphasis is on street riding in real world conditions, though those with racing aspirations certainly gain valuable skills which are applicable for them as well.

 

Motorcycle Training: Several women came to improve their riding skills.

Motorcycle Training: Several women came to improve their riding skills. This experienced rider has been to Alaska and back!

The diversity of this class truly demonstrated how the techniques taught work on all bikes. We had all types of motorcycles. There were cruisers, big touring bikes, sports tourers, sport bikes, and even a motard bike that participated in the class, and everyone benefitted and gained skills applicable on the road on every ride.

Motorcycle Training: This woman wanted to sharpen her street and track skills and get more out of her riding

Motorcycle Training: This woman wanted to sharpen her street and track skills and get more out of her riding

Total Rider Tech teaches riders the technology of how their bike works and how what they do on their bike affects its ability to maintain traction and control. Learning the  science behind the riding techniques gives students the understanding of what specifically they can do to maximize their motorcycles built-in cornering capabilities while being safer out on the road.

Riders leave with the knowledge to identify riding problems while out on the road, know the solutions, and apply them on the fly. Classroom presentations provide the foundations for each skill, followed by live demonstrations of proper and improper technique on the course. Riders then practice applying these skills on their motorcycle with coaching that helps them learn how to perform them on their bike when out on the  road.

Motorcycle Training: This rider wanted to get better at managing traction

Motorcycle Training: This rider wanted to get better at managing traction

The way the material is presented and the coaching provided is designed to embed these principals and techniques so they will be remembered and incorporated once the riders leave the class and go out riding on their own. They can then take these skills an adapt them to their motorcycle, their style of riding, and their physical capabilities to become better and safer riders.

Motorcycle Training: This woman wanted to improve her skills and confidence in tight conditions

Motorcycle Training: This woman wanted to improve her skills and confidence in tight conditions

It’s the ideal skill set for improving your enjoyment and saftey of mountain riding, though they apply regardless of the terrain and situation. That Harley rider on a lowered bike was so glad to learn the skills to corner faster, smoother, and without scraping the floorboards in tight corners, he implored me to pass it along to others. It really works!

Motorcycle training: Static exercises help riders become more confident at high lean angles

Motorcycle training: Static exercises help riders become more confident at high lean angles

 

The next Total Rider Tech courses in the mountain area will be in Maryville, Tennessee  on June 5-7, then in Robbinsville, NC on July 14 -15. See calendar of courses here –

 

Motorcycle Training: This racer was so impressed with what he learned he may pursue becoming an instructor!

Motorcycle Training: This racer was so impressed with what he learned he may pursue becoming an instructor!

http://www.totalridertech.com/calendar.html.

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If you want to get the most enjoyment out of your motorcycle and appreciate the performance of a modern sports bike, cruiser, tourer, adventure bike, bagger, motard, dresser, dual sport, or custom, AND be safer on the road, this class will take the experienced rider to a new level of riding performance and enjoyment. If you typically ride with a passenger, bring them along and develop your skills together.

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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Learn Total Control

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Motorcycles and Gravel on the Road – Relax

If you clench your teeth and death-grip the bars at the sight of gravel in the road, you’re asking for trouble.

Yesterday, Jackie and I took a winter motorcycle ride to the Blue Ridge Parkway via NC 215. I’ve been riding NC 215 about every 2 weeks through the winter to monitor the road condition. Since it was paved with a ‘tar and chip” coating this fall, the surface of this outstanding climb through the national forest has been strewn with loose gravel. (See Map of this section)

photo-nc215

The loose surface of NC 215 can make you a better rider if you relax.

It’s certainly not as much fun to ride this classic motorcycle ride in this condition, but it shouldn’t be an exercise in terror either. One of the worst things you can do when riding a road like this on a motorcycle is to tense up, fight it, and over-react to slips.

Face up to it – on a loose surface, the bike is going to slip a bit now and then. Expect it. Accept it. You can’t prevent it. You just need to manage it smoothly as it happens and allow the bike to do what it needs to do. Almost every instinctive reaction we have makes the situation worse – hitting the brakes, cutting the throttle, and aggressive or stiff inputs at the bars only reduce traction further. Relax. Use the lightest touch you can and maintain your throttle so there are no abrupt weight changes on the tires.

Motorcycles function very well in loose conditions if you let them move about as they need to do to maintain stability. The wheels will come back into alignment when they find traction and the bike will self correct. Anyone who’s ridden a dirt bike knows the wheels are moving all over the place, the harder you fight it, the less control you have. You just keep it guided in the general direction and let what happens happen as you go.

It’s a delicate situation when a tire slips. You need smooth and gentle input on the controls but if you are all tensed up, you can’t react quickly and smoothly. If you panic, you’ll apply your controls too harshly or change them too quickly and buy a ticket to crash-land. Chop the throttle and you get an express ticket to trouble. Practice being relaxed and accepting whatever is happening.  Respond softly, gently, and maintain your throttle application through turns.

Photo-road-unpaved

Practice getting a little out of your comfort zone when conditions change. The skills you learn may save your butt on the pavement when you least expect it.

As you gain more riding experience, you’ll learn many techniques to help you manage traction better while riding your motorcycle. None of them will be effective if you don’t relax and perform them smoothly.

The next time you find yourself on a road with a loose surface, remember to relax and accept it. Recognize what it has to teach you –

  • You’ll learn how to gauge the limits of your traction and how to react when you exceed them.
  • Because you’re more familiar with riding at the edge of traction, you’ll have a better feel for knowing when you’re getting close to the limit.
  • You may not intend to ride at the limit of your traction on a nice clean road, but when the unexpected happens and a wheel slips on a slick spot, the reactions you’ve learned will be old habits.

NC 215 will improve with time. Rumors are it may get more paving in the spring, but I wouldn’t count on it. The next time you find yourself riding a road with a loose surface, appreciate the opportunity to hone your skills and learn how to deal with things when they get a little out of your comfort zone.

photo-bikes on gravel

Occasional rides on gravel are a learning experience. Just take it easy and avoid a crash course. You'll gain skills that will help you react better and be more comfortable when things get loose.

Tip – Where are your elbows? If your elbows are above your wrists, you’re not relaxed.

Read what other riders have to say about NC 215

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. Isn’t it time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely? It can transform your mountain riding experience.  Total Rider Tech

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Just minding my own business? Not on a motorcycle!

Minding your own business while riding a motorcycle is a recipe for disaster!

“I was just riding along, minding my own business, when this cager came over into my lane and nearly hit me!” How often do you hear this said?

photo-when riding in traffic, ride to be seen.

When riding in traffic, ride to be seen.

Too often, if you ask me. It’s usually followed by a rant on how cars don’t look out for bikers and how stupid drivers are for not being more aware of motorcycles and tales of kicking doors, breaking mirrors, and other aggressive retaliation schemes by “some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet”.

Fault is always assigned to the auto driver, and it is with some justification, drivers should be more aware of their surroundings and pay more attention. But the saying is “it’s a two way street” and fault goes both ways. I never hear the motorcyclist taking any responsibility for what occurred. They were just riding along “minding their own business”.

“Minding your own business” on motorcycle is a recipe for disaster. If you’re not minding everyone else’s business out on the road, and actively working to insure you are always seen, that recipe can bake you some humble pie and a big plate of hurt.

Whenever I hear those “he came into my lane tales” I first wonder “Why did you let that happen?” You ride in a drivers blind spot and then get all bent out of shape when he doesn’t see you?

graphic-blind-spots

DON'T ride in the blind spots.

The remedy is to ride to be seen and pay attention to where you are positioned. Don’t ride in the drivers blind spot. Either fall back and give him room or roll on a little throttle and move ahead so you are clearly visible.

Assume and expect you are not seen, that other traffic will behave like you’re not there and ride accordingly. Mind what that driver nearby is doing. Watch their mirrors, where they are looking, the movement of their head as they glance up to check the review mirror or glance left or right. It can signal their intentions and alert you something is about to happen. You should always be watching for it.

Also keep an eye on what’s going on ahead of both you AND the car nearby. Slower traffic ahead in their lane or a flash of brake lights in the vehicle ahead of them means they may take quick and evasive action that involves the space you are occupying.

Above all, stay out of those blind spots. Recognize when you are in these danger zones and move out of them as quickly as possible. Minimize your time at most risk. When you find yourself alongside another vehicle you should be taking action to move out of the situation – that is what minding your own business should mean on a motorcycle. Drop back or move ahead.

If you’re going to ride in traffic you’ve got to both ride to be seen and assume you’re not.

Ok, so this is “Motorcycling 101”, everybody knows this stuff. Yet on any day you can visit a forum or social networking site and read scores of posts about how “some car came into my lane”. Knowing it is one thing. Apparently applying that knowledge is something we need to work on. Don’t let it happen to you!

Here’s a great site for more detailed review. http://www.motorcyclebasics.com/blind-spots.html

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. It’s time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely, it will change your mountain riding experience. It worked so well for me I became an instructor! Total Rider Tech

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Motorcycle Safety & Why We Get it Wrong

“Watch out for Bikers”“Loud Pipes Save Lives” , and other such “be safer riding” campaigns get a lot of attention from motorcyclists, but when you look at the science, they approach the problem from the wrong side.

Image - Watch out for Motorcycles

False Hope

Studies show the greatest improvements in motorcycle safety are gained through better riding skills and awareness. 

I recently spent as much time as I could stand reading through studies on motorcycle accidents from the early 70’s through the mid 80’s – I found little data after that. The most notable of these is the Hurt Report, though there are also a couple big ones from Europe.

The results of these studies are consistent over time and irrespective of location with similar conclusions.

  • The most common multiple vehicle accident is caused by a car turning left in front of a motorcycle at an intersection – about 2/3 of multiple vehicle accidents.
  • The most common single vehicle motorcycle accident is running wide in a turn and leaving the road or sliding out – about 1/3 of single vehicle accidents.
  • In about 40% of motorcycle accidents one of the contributing or cuasative factors is inexperience or lack of skills to evade or avoid the accident by the motorcyclist

photo-motorcycle-crashAll of these are best addressed by the motorcycle rider through increased awareness and better skills.

Those popular “Watch out for Bikers” and “Loud Pipes Save Lives” campaigns are not supported by the science. They may be popular, and it’s easy to put the blame and shift the responsibility to cage drivers, but it’s an ineffective approach.

Watch out for bikers? Size Matters;

The studies go in great detail examining how visible motorcycles are on the road; color, frontal area, bright clothing, lights on/off, etc. While each of these things does increase visibility and have an impact, overall it’s not significantly relevant.  Bottom line is motorcycles are small compared to any other motor vehicle out on the road. You can do things to be more visible, but don’t count on it helping much.

image - Loud pipes save lives

Too little, too late

Loud Pipes Save Lives? What’s that Noise?

We are primarily visual creatures. Biologically, we process and intake information visually. Auditory input is secondary. We listen to the radio or books on tape when driving because we know we process our driving information visually.

There are no scientific studies that examine whether loud pipes have any impact on driver awareness. The evidence is anecdotal or assumed – “I know my loud pipes kept that guy from moving into my lane”. Not if he didn’t see you. When it comes to the most dangerous situation for motorcycles, approaching an intersection, you can draw your own conclusions from a simple experiment. Next time your sitting at an intersection, note when you hear an approaching motorcycle. It’s long after you can see it. By the time the sound is loud enough to draw attention, it’s too late. Whatever is going to happen has already started.

 Photo-motorcycle crash How to ride safer:

Riding a motorcycle in traffic is like  a mouse running through a heard of elephants. Be alert and ready to take quick evasive actions or you’ll be crushed.

  1. Always ride like you’re not seen. Expect the most common accident, that car pulling out in front of you. Intersections, side streets, and anything that obstructs the view tells you to get ready to react. Develop that second sense and practice spotting these hazards.
  2. Be Ready to React – ease off the throttle, get your hands ready to brake / clutch, get your feet off the highway pegs, down where you can get at the controls and position yourself to respond quickly.
  3. REACT – here’s where most failures occur and where better skills make significant statistical difference.

Once is not enough:

Typical motorcycle fail in the studies – car pulls in front of bike. Biker jams rear brake. Bike either skids upright into car or is “laid down” and slides uncontrolled along the ground. If you did take a Motorcycle Safety Course you have been exposed to how to brake and swerve – once. That was in a parking lot, at low speeds, with nothing to run in to, when you were totally focused on what you were doing. If that was the last time you practiced braking and avoidance, you are an accident waiting for an opportunity.

Motorcycle Safety  – Getting it Right

photo-motorcycle-rider-crashingThe science shows improving motorcycle riders skills are the most effective means of reducing accidents.

1) Up your skills with practice –

I can’t ever recall seeing anyone practicing motorcycle skills independently. One reason may be you find a secluded safe location to do it so it happens out of sight. I have my own “secret test track” not far from home where I go to hone my skills on a regular basis, but then I’m a motorcycle instructor and demand a high level of personal performance so I  can demonstrate skills well for my students.

Honestly, without such a motivation I rarely practiced riding skills on my own previously in any serious manner. We all know we could be better with focused practice, but riding time is so precious, it’s tough to give up a fun ride for the rigors of working on skills and practicing technique.  Let’s face it, it’s the rare motorcycle rider who ever does any independent practice.

2)  Use the force – No Pain, No Gain –

At least swap one type of pain for another –  a little financial pain can save you a whole lot of potential physical pain, as well as the attendant monetary consequences that result from even a minor accident. Since we’re unlikely to practice skills on our own, force yourself to do it. Pay for it and you’ll be motivated to give up the time and get your money’s worth.

3) Get ‘er Done

While there are plenty of things you can do to learn to be a safer rider, online sources, books, etc, or occasional practice on your own to improve skills, if you wan’t to get the quickest, best, and easiest  results find professional structured instruction. You’ll accomplish more in less time, and progress more quickly to being a better safer rider.

 Are you going to be safer next year?

It’s time to start thinking about those New Year resolutions. Becoming a safer rider is one to put on your list. Whether it’s repeating a basic course you’ve already had, or scheduling a track day to work on advanced skills, take action now and find an appropriate class for you. I know you want to ride more next year, don’t we all. Let’s all be safer riders as well.

Commit to taking motorcycle instruction to become a better and safer rider right now – scientifically sound advice.

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Wayne Busch

Wayne Busch - Cartographer

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Learn Total Control

– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com

Wayne is an advanced motorcycle instructor for Total Rider Tech teaching Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Rider Courses. It’s time you looked into advanced rider training to ride more confidently and safely, it will change your mountain riding experience. It worked so well for me I became an instructor! Total Rider Tech

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Bargain Motorcycle Tires Online? Caveat Emptor

The most important piece of gear on your motorcycle is one where I often see riders make poor choices.  Riding a motorcycle,  particularly on the curvy back roads of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains,  is an exercise in maintaining and maximizing traction. Your tires are your two points of contact with the road. Losing traction on either of them can quickly have severe consequences.

Too often though, I stumle across discussions where the emphasis is on finding the cheapest tires with the longest lifespan, and buyers often turn to online discount outlets to purchase them. If you’re buying a newly released tire online, you’ll probably do OK. If you are buying an old stand-by tire however, you may not be getting such a bargain after all.

photo-marking-on-tire

How fresh are your tires? Look for this code. This tire was manufactured in the 40th week of 2008.

Tires have a shelf life. The rubber compounds degrade with time, becoming harder and loosing flexibility. High performance tires may have a shelf life of less than 2 years. Sport bike tires are usually good for about 3 years. Touring bike tires may go as long as 5 years before they are degraded to where performance is affected.

The problem one can run into buying online is you have no way of knowing how old the tires you purchase are. It’s very possible they’ve been sitting in a wharehouse for years. Much of their life has been used up before they were ever mounted.

I once bought a 6 year old bike which had 600 miles on the original tires. Great deal. I quickly noticed a steering wobble that had me wondering if I’d been duped. It rapidly got worse and worse. All thoughts of causes ran through my mind, none of them good. The first remedy was to try fresh tires. It was an immediate cure.

Photo-tire-age-code

This tire was produced in the 12th week of 2010. Note the difference in the appearance of the rubber - you can see in the photos which tire looks older.

The old tires looked brand new. They had very few miles on them. Time had taken it’s toll, and I was concerned at how quickly they got to approaching dangerous levels of performance.

So how do you know how old a tires is? It’s listed on the tire. Amongst all that DOT code, manufacturer info, and branding, look for a small rounded rectagle with 4 numbers in it. The first 2 numbers are the week the tire was manufactured, the second two the year. For example, 44/10 indicates the tire was made in the 44th week of 2010.

I believe it’s best to buy tires from a local shop where you can see what you’re getting. As important as they are to your safety and riding enjoyment, insuring you have fresh tires should be standard practice for good motorcycle riders. Old tires may be cheaper, but there’s a good reason for it.

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Wayne Busch
Wayne Busch – Cartographer
– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com 
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Total Control Advanced Motorcycle Clinic + The Dragon = Become a better rider!

Photo-motorcycles-on-the-dragon

Ride better, ride safer!

I’m seeing notable improvement in my riding just from reading his book and applying the techniques – I can’t wait for the July 16 class in Robbinsville, NC!

DON’T MISS OUT ON THIS CHANCE TO BECOME A BETTER RIDER!

Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic comes to Robbinsville, NC , July 16-17. Master the techniques to become a better motorcycle rider just down the road from one of the most challenging motorcycle roads in the nation, The Dragon at Deals Gap. Learn the methods in the class, then put them to practice on The Dragon – it couldn’t get much better!

SportBikes4Hire

Contact Greg McCoy at SportBikes4Hire.com

Whether you’re on a cruiser, a sport bike, dual-sport, or sports touring motorcycle, the tips and techniques from a Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic can make you a better, safer, and more confident motorcyclist. I’ve been studying Lee Parks Total Control book to get ready for the class and I am already seeing results I am impressed with.

Photo-motorcycles-on-the-dragon

Learn to tame the Dragon

I made a couple passes through The Dragon at Deals Gap recently, the ideal place to practice the techniques Lee Parks details in his book. As I started my first run through the notoriously twisty road I found myself behind a couple cars. I was content to just plod along using the opportunity to practice the techniques at a slow and controlled pace. As I rode, a guy on a sports bike fell in behind me.

About a third of the way through the 11 mile ride, the cars peeled off onto the roadside pull-outs to let us pass. With open road ahead, I picked up the pace, and was surprised the sporty rider was not sucking on my back wheel. I didn’t feel like I was pushing hard, I was more content to focus on the techniques and practice what I’d been reading about. It was a spirited though easy pace and I felt confident and in control of what was happening.

http://youtu.be/K3LwcTxGjzQ

Photo-a-sport-bike-on-the-dragon

It works for all bikes

About 2/3 of the way through the ride I slowed and pulled to the side to let the sporty guy take his turn. Watching him ahead of me, I was impressed as he shredded through the curves, knee down, working the corners to the edge of the tires. It was pretty to watch, and while he wasn’t booking it on the straights, he was definitely  making the most of those enjoyable curves. I stayed right with him and he seemed to be working it a whole lot harder than I was.

As we neared the end of the run, his hand shot out with a thumbs up and he pulled into the Calderwood Overlook as I motored past. Lee Parks was making a difference in my riding others could see.

Class is Filling, limited space – CONTACT GREG NOW!

JULY 16-17
Robbinsville, North Carolina

Contact: Greg McCoy
greg@SportBikes4Hire.com
http:SportBikes4Hire.com
865-809-9147

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Wayne Busch
Wayne Busch – Cartographer
– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com 

 

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Learn Total Control of your Motorcycle near the Dragon at Deals Gap

Photo - Dragon Riders

Master the skills to tame the Dragon

Have you ever come into a corner too fast and wondered if you’d make it? Can you swing your bike around on a two lane road or do you have to go looking for a place to turn around? Do you know how to set your bikes suspension correctly for yourself, your riding style, carrying a passenger or loaded with luggage? Would you like to have the skills, knowledge, and mindset to not only tame the Dragon but become a master of it?

Take your motorcycle riding to the next level with Lee Parks Total Control Advanced Riding Clinic July 16 – 17 in Robbinsville, North Carolina. Learn the skills, techniques, and mental preparation to get the most out of your motorcycle and improve your overall confidence and enjoyment of riding.

This is not for the newbie. Lee Parks Clinics teach the experienced rider how to handle a bike at speed, ride with control and confidence, and master the complex dynamics of setting your bike up correctly for your riding style. Whether you’re on a crusier, a touring bike, or a race replica, you’ll gain the knowledge and skills to get the most out of your ride and be safer doing it.

Photo - Rider on the Dragon

Master control regardless of conditions

You CAN ride faster, safer, and with more confidence and control with the knowledge you’ll gain from Lee Parks experienced rider instruction. Before you balk at the price, consider the cost of missing that next curve that shuts down on you, the tow truck winching your bike up the rocky embankment to plop it on it’s side on the back of a flatbed. In the last 6 weeks I’ve seen a bike in the Tennessee River in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a sad group of onlookers at a crash site on the Cherohala Skyway, and just yesterday, a rider went over the guardrail on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Overheard at the Dragon – They were winching his bike up after the wreck when the rider said, “That’s not my bike”. A few minutes later they found the remains that had laid there unseen for who knows how long.

Lee Parks has been teaching these classes for years all across the country sharing the knowledge and experience he gained from years of racing and track riding and translating those skills and principles to be applied in everyday road riding. You CAN be a better rider. You CAN be a safer rider. It’s a small price to pay for an invaluable gain in your riding knowledge, experience, and confidence.

SportBikes4Hire

Contact Greg McCoy at SportBikes4Hire.com

Don’t miss the opportunity to learn these skills so close to the Dragon in Robbinsville July 16 – 17. Contact Greg McCoy at SportBikes4Hire.com to learn more about the class – 865-809-9147; greg@SportBikes4Hire.com.

I’ll be there. Hope to see you as well.

Class is Filling, limited space – CONTACT GREG NOW!

JULY 16-17
Robbinsville, North Carolina

Contact: Greg McCoy
greg@SportBikes4Hire.com
http:SportBikes4Hire.com
865-809-9147

_______________________________________________________________________________

Wayne Busch
Wayne Busch – Cartographer
– Wayne Busch lives in Waynesville, NC, where he produces the most detailed and comprehensive and up-to-date motorcycle pocket maps of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains to help you get the most of your vacation experience. See them here – AmericaRidesMaps.com 
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