Motorcycle Safety

Group Riding by Wiliferd Lair

In our organization we often find ourselves riding in a group. Sometimes we need to look at how the group is riding and consider whether we are actually in a group riding experience or just riding in the same direction at the same time. The difference is in the consideration for others. If your group is strung out with large gaps between bikes it is likely that you fit the later category. The reason it is recommended that bikers ride in a staggered formation in groups is to allow more bikes to safely travel in a smaller linear space. This cuts down on cages entering the group as well as the inherent problems of some bikes getting through a light while others within the group have to wait. Those things string the group of bikes out more and results in a good leader seeking a place to pull off so the rest can catch up. Entering and exiting the highway increases the danger. Pulling off on the side of the road to wait is even worse. You want the group to stay together as much as possible to make it safer for everyone.

To start with, our groups should be kept relatively small. It is recommended that we have a size of about 6 bikes. Groups larger than 10 bikes create additional problems due simply to the size of the group. Our lane of travel is divided into three separate imaginary tracks for the motorcyclist. The center track is usually avoided, as that is where the cages leave their oil, antifreeze, and other droppings. The lead rider will be an experienced rider with the benefit of a CB radio. He uses the CB to communicate with the tail rider and to broadcast every turn. He/she will travel in the left track. The next rider will be a less experienced rider and will follow in the right track. The next less experienced rider will be in the left track directly behind the lead rider at a distance of not less than 2 seconds. This will put him no less than one second behind the rider to his right. This formation continues to the tail rider who will also be an experienced rider with a CB. It is his job to communicate with the lead rider. He watches the other riders in the group and lets the lead rider know when the last of the group has passed stops and turns. He also communicates any problems he may observe. The tail rider is responsible for setting the speed by communicating with the lead rider. Should a rider have trouble, the tail rider stops to offer assistance after communicating his intention to the lead rider. No one gets left behind. Other riders do not stop where their stopping creates a traffic hazard.

CB chatter adds to the pleasure of the ride if kept clean. The CB is also a significant tool for the ride. The lead rider and the tail rider should always receive priority with the CB so vital information can be exchanged about the ride. The chatter is fine but remember to bow out when ride information is being exchanged. Ride safe and ride again.
















Editorial by Ron McCall

When riding in a group, no rider should ever feel pressured to ride beyond their comfort zone. If anyone should feel that the group is riding too fast for the conditions, especially at their particular level of riding skill, he or she should never personally ride beyond their level of comfort. If that means slowing to a speed at which they feel more secure, the group will accomodate. This is why riders with unknown or uncertain levels of skill should be placed within the group, and one of the more skilled riders should be riding tail-gunner. His responsibility is to make sure that the leader knows that the group needs to slow down if necessary to accomodate various individuals.







Crossing Over

editorial by Wiliferd Lair

All of us occasionally must cross obstructions in the road that come as an angle to the path of travel. This is usually in the form of railroad tracks, streetcar tracks, or may be something else in the road that we must cross. Sometimes this is debris such as 2x4s or other objects lying in the road. We don't always have the opportunity to go around such objects either because they go all the way across our lane or we don't see them until it is impossible to stop or perhaps swerving may not seem a good idea due to limited lane width or heavy traffic. When we decide we must cross over something in the road we try to secure as close to a 90 degree approach to the obstruction as possible. Slow to a moderate rate of speed. Weight the pegs by raising ever so slightly from the seat. Just as the front tire approaches the obstruction accelerate slightly. This lightens the front end to allows it to react less to striking the obstruction. As the front tire clears the obstruction roll off the throttle to lighten the rear wheel.












Making U-turns

Editorial by Wiliferd Lair

Sometimes, even with a modern GPS, we can get ourselves into a situation in which we need to make a U-Turn. Obviously, we would prefer to be able to make our turn in a nearby parking lot or circle drive but sometimes these aren't handy. Some riders will make one half a turn, back up, and turn a little more while moving forward, then back up and continue this process until the turn can be made. This process is effective but puts the rider at risk the entire time the road is blocked with his vehicle. A much safer and better looking U-turn can be made without a stop.

Slow to a comfortable speed. Start turn only when traffic is clear to the front and rear. Some people prefer to use second gear--some use low. Use some throttle, especially on a fuel injected bike, but keep the throttle very steady. Use the rear brake, dragging it to help maintain stability of the bike during the turn. Do not fear the use of the clutch. Don't pull it in all the way but do use the friction zone to help maintain balance. Avoid using the front brake during the turn as it tends to upset the machine while leaning. Weight the inside peg. Shift weight to the outside of the turn. Note: this is opposite what one does to effectively turn at speed--it is called counterweighting. The passenger should look over the shoulder of the rider on the outside of the curve to assist with the counterweighting. Turn your head sharply in the direction of the turn. Your chin will actually touch your shoulder. Look where you want to be--not at the outside edge of the road. Remember, you will go where you look. If the bike seat allows for it, shift your weight to the outside of the curve by literally moving to the outside edge of the seat. This weight shift does more than most anything to assist with a tight low speed turn.

Practice in an empty parking lot on a regular basis. You have acquired a valuable skill when you can keep the handlebars turned to lock for a full 360 degree without putting your foot down. Most large bikes can make a turn within a 20 foot width. A normal two lane road is 24 feet wide.


Riding the Twisties

When riding with a passenger the passenger should be instructed to keep their body in line with the motorcycle. The passenger should look over the shoulder of the rider on the inside of the curve. Legs should remain tucked in against the motorcycle.

The rider should also keep his body in a straight line with the motorcycle but tilt the head such as to keep the eyes level with the horizon. This helps to maintain one's perspective. The knees should be kept tight against the bike. The body should be slightly forward so as to help shift weight to the front wheel. The elbows should be bent.

Anticipate the turn by using both brakes to slow to an entry speed that will allow one to roll on the throttle through the turn. Rolling on the throttle during a curve helps to add stability to the chassis of the motorcycle. Move to a lane position to the outside of the curve. Look as far through the curve as possible. Ride to the inside of the curve then exit on the outside of the curve. This outside-inside-outside line of travel requires the least amount of lean to successfully negotiate the curve.

Do not ever cross the center line. It is impossible to know what may be coming from the other direction. The worst of all accidents is meeting another vehicle in their lane on a sharp curve. Everyone sometimes misjudges a curve and gets in a little too hot. The Hurt Report concluded that most motocycle accidents in a curve happen when the rider panics and straightens up the bike long before reaching the limits of the machine. Most modern motorcycles with modern tires can withstand a tremendous amount of lean without sliding out. Should a slide out occur it will result in a low slide. If a crash is going to occur, a low side crash is far preferable to a high side or running off the roadway into the woods at speed. If breaking has to be done while in a curve use significant moderation. Traction is severely compromised by the lean of the cycle. If a higher level of braking must be done straighten the bike then brake hard and finally drop back into your lean. This is to maximize traction. Always get back into the lean prior to running out of roadway or to crossing the center line. Remember, almost all bikes will scrape hard parts on the road long before they are in danger of sliding out.

Your worst enemy in a curve is not the road or the limitations of the machine, but in your own panic.

The following photos are of Wiliferd and Charlotte Lair on the Tail of the Dragon in North Carolina.







Heated Clothing by Steve Short

This article is placed on this page as it is felt that remaining comfortable on a ride is a significant safety issue. Being cold on a ride drains our ability to respond quickly, impairs our judgement, and causes us to ride with less skill than might otherwise be the case. Anything that impairs our concentration on riding becomes a safety issue.


, During this week's dinner ride the question of heated clothing came up. While not as divided as constitutional amendments there are pro and cons and some of us have definite opinions. Starting with vendors there are four or five major vendors. My favorite, Gerbings, Warm and Safe, Widder, Harley Davidson, and Aerostich. All are pricy, specific prices and details can be obtained on the web. All use a similar system of directing electrical current through imbedded wiring that produces heat. The problem you need to be aware of is the available output of your scooters electrical system after operating requirements are met. Just like gasoline, use more than is available and you may be walking.

Clothing options include jackets and jacket liners, gloves, vests, pants and pant liners, chaps, bibs, and socks. I have gloves, jacket liner, outer pants, and socks. I only use the socks if I will be in extreme cold. The most important single item to own would be the jacket. Folks who have studied extreme cold weather survival advise keeping your chest warm first. Why? Your brain diverts warming blood from the extremities to the vital organs when it gets cold. That explains why the hands and feet feel cold faster in the winter. Keep the chest cavity warm and the body sends more warming blood to the little piggy.

What’s the cost? From a couple hundred dollars for a jacket liner to up to a grand for a full system with a thermostat, also called a controller. Just like in your home, the thermostat varies the current and the amount of heat produced in the garment. From simple on and off switches, to permanent and portable controllers the choice is yours. The better controllers actually use less current when adjusted to lower temps. Some are dual function for two items, warmer gloves and cooler jacket for example.

Not only does heated clothing extend the riding season into the fall and winter months, it has become a permanent part of my travel gear. Some of my most uncomfortable riding has been in the summer during cold snaps and cold rain. Especially in the northern states and mountains. The Gerbing outer clothing is water resistant and serves as dual purpose gear for me.

Does it keep you warm? My answer is yes. In February, 2003 a friend and I rode to San Jon, Mew Mexico and back in less than 24 hours. Over 1,100 miles, 14 degrees when we left and 17 upon return. Most of the ride was below 32, it warmed up near Amarillo on the way out! We saw a lot of snow along I-40 and lots of abrasive sands on the road. The rest of the story is we wore several layers of clothing. We stayed warm.

Now you are thinking, didn’t my mother tell me to keep my head covered and warm when it is cold? Yes. I wear a flip full helmet with a balaclava. I have a thin black one and a thicker fleece from Bass Pro. In case of fog/frost I can slightly open the visor to clear my view. Not safe to ride warm and not be able to see the open road or the next curve.

Steve’s tips on extreme weather riding. I have had thermostat’s “controllers” fail. While they were under warranty their failure could have left me on the road and cold. I have never had a fuse blow but I have heard of it happening. I have two independent systems on the Honda and Harley and extra fuses. If I have a complete failure on one system I have a second source to fall back on. I also have heated grips on both bikes.

I hope this has answered some questions on heated clothing. If not, just ask me the next time you see me. I approve this message. Paid for by the national organization for the prevention of cold fingers and toes. (editor's note-can you tell this is an election year?)