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Motorcycling Tips

Here is a tip when riding your motorcycle very early morning or late at night while in the rain.

The beam of your headlight becomes absorbed in the "black," wet asphalt roadway because of "light scattering" and refraction principals. This can be a little un-nerving at 60+ mph on the freeway with other motor vehicals who, for the most part, are driving "tunnel blind" in the rain. You no longer of have the forward visible space to see hazards in the roadway and the additional reaction time needed to manuever around an object.

One trick I use is to follow another motor vehicle -- not too close -- and use their rear lights' reflections to illuminate my path of travel. Also, I use the distant overhead roadway lights to reflect highway conditions back to me. Simple enough.

Now if I could only keep trucks from passing and blinding me with their wheels water spray.

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Another motorcycling tip or two or three or ...

Gasoline Prices: Here's a fun tip for those who like to get the best buy on gasoline. Check out the web site Gas prices and search for the stations in your area.

Riding in the rain -- something we do quite often here in the northwest. There are two thoughts on riding in the rain. No, one of the thoughts isn't just staying at home. We, at some time or another, will be caught out in the rain on our motorcycles. Here are my experiences while riding both during the day and at night:

  1. If the roadway is smooth, e.g., no ruts from constant usage by heavy motor vehicles, try to follow in the tracks of a motor vehicle in front of you. I try following the tracks made by an 18 wheeler, but not too close. Why in the tracks? Well, the the motor vehicles' tires pushes the surface water away leaving a relatively water free surface to ride on.
  2. If the roadway is rutted, stay out of the ruts. Why? Even if there is a motor vehicle in front of you, their tires don't remove enough water to prevent the chance of you "hydroplaning." The best place to ride is at the extreme left or right side of your lane, up above the ruts, but at a slower speed.
  3. Remember what time of the year it is. You Riders who check the air pressure in your tires only twice a year -- it's past due. The average outside air temperature has dropped drastically in the past few months and so can your tire pressure. Tire pressure becomes even more critical in adverse weather. Check your tire's air pressure.

When riding in the rain, you are the only person "scanning" the roadways all around. In the rain, most motor vehicle drivers become "tunnel blind," e.g., look straight ahead without scanning their mirrors. They aren't looking for motorcyclists. And they have windshield wipers!!!

Return to the Index.

Increasing Motorcycle Awareness:

The good news is, annual fatality and injury rates among motorcyclists are slowly dropping by 3% per year since 1995. The bad news is, we're still running into moving objects. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that in 1997 alone, 2,106 motorcyclists were killed and an additional 54,000 injured in traffic crashes in the United States. More half of the fatalities (1,120) involved collisions with another motorvehicle. The chilling point of this number is that 78% of the motorcyclists were impacted from the front (only 5% from the rear).

We're either not seeing, or not being seen. Over two-thirds of car-motorcycle crashes are caused by drivers, not by motorcyclists. The driver either does not see the oncoming motorcyclist at all or does not see the motorcyclists in time to avoid a crash.

The following questions are excerted advice to drivers -- which we all are at on time or another -- from an article posted on the NHTSA web site. Just turn the questions around and see how you would react from the motorcyclists perspective.

For now, the questions will be posted for you just to think about. The answers will follow later.

Why didn't I see that motorcycle?

  • Drivers tend to look for other cars, not motorcycles (this makes sense, as motorcycles make up only 2% of all registered vehicles in the United States and account for only 0.4% of all vehicle miles traveled).
  • Because of its smaller profile, a motorcycle is harder to see and you may find it more difficult to estimate the motorcycle's speed.
  • The motorcyclist's riding pattern is different than other motor vehicles patterns. Different actions may be needed for the same driving or highway situation. For example, a driver may ignore a piece of road debris; however, that same piece of road debris may be deadly for a motorcyclist.
  • Traffic, weather and road conditions require a motorcyclist to react differently than a driver, thus it is more difficult for motor vehicle drivers to judge and to predict cues that may require the motorcyclist to take an evasive action.

What are some situations when crashes are most likely to occur?

  • Car making a left turn: You are attempting a left turn in front of a motorcycle operator. (This situation has not changed since the University of Southern California stury by Harry Hurt, finalized in 1981, which noted that two-thirds of multi-vehicle accidents, the driver violated a motorcyclist's right-of-way and caused the accident.)
  • >
  • Riding in your blind spot. A motorcyclist is riding in your blind spot and you may not see the motorcyclist. Additionally, you may fail to adequately check blind spots before changing lanes and making a turn.
  • >
  • Hazardous road conditions. Potholes, wet leaves, railroad tracks and other road obstructions may dictate that a motorcyclist take an action that a car may or may not have to take.
  • >
  • Obstructed line of sight. Large vehicles, such as sport utility vehicles, delivery vans, and large trucks may block a motorcycle from your view and the motorcyclist may seem to suddenly appear.

How can I become more aware of motorcyclists?

  • Respect the motorcyclist: Remember the motorcyclist is a venicle with all of the privileges of any vehicle on the roadway. Give the motorcyclist a full lane of travel.
  • Look out: Look for the motorcyclist at intersections, when a motorcyclist may be making a left turn and on the highway when a motorcyclist may be changing lanes. Clearly signal your intentions.
  • Anticipate a motorcyclists maneuver: Obstructions that you do not notice may be deadly for a motorcyclist. Predict evasive actions.
  • Allow plenty of space: Don't follow a motorcyclist too closely. Allow enough room for the motorcyclist to take evasive actions.

And now for some thoughts addressed to motorcycle riders -- although after you have read the previous comments above, you may have a few thoughts already.

Why didn't that driver see me?

Don't ever assume that you are visible to a driver. As a motorcyclist, it is your responsibility to make your presence known to the driver. Select and wear an appropriate helmet with retro-reflective materials. Wear bright, contrasting protective clothing. If you choose darker clothing, wear a florescent vest.

  • Twenty three (23) states require that the headlight be on while the morotcycle is on the highway. Use high beams rather than low beams and consider using a modulatng leadlight if your state sllows it. (If you are uncomfortable riding with your highbeams on, machanically adjust the position of your headlights such they are just below the highbeam setting. For the 2001's and newer motorcycles, set the electrical headlight adjustment to the "12 o'clock" position. If an on-coming vehicle flashes its highbeams at you, turn your highbeams ON/OFF. This action satisfies the on-coming vehicle and they will go back to their low beams.
  • Proper lane positioning is important to being seen and for protecting your riding space. If you can see the driver in his side-view mirrow, the driver can see you maybe. Don't "hide" in the driver's blind spot! (This is especially true around 18 wheelers!)
  • Clearly communicate your intentions by signaling appropriately. Let the driver know what you intend to do. Think to yourself, "How can I increase the driver's awareness of my presence?"
  • Make yourself visible. Choose protective riding gear that will increase your visibility in addition to providing protection in the event of a crash. A motorcycle helmet is your most valuable piece of protective gear and should be most visible to the driver.
  • Ride where you can be seen. Remember that there is no one safe place to ride. Use lane positioning to your advantage: to be seen and to provide extra space for emergency braking situations or avoidance maneuvers. Avoid the driver's blind spot. Make your lane moves gradually, and always use appropriate signaling.
  • Never share a lane with a car. A driver may not expect you to be there and may not be aware of your presence. (Just because motorcycles are equipped with fairings and windshields and were under-represented in the Hurt study (1981), we still aren't as big and wide as the smallest car out there.)
  • Clearly signal your intentions to the driver. Always signal and do a "head check" before changing lanes and never weave between lanes.
Return to the Index.

Winterizing your Motorcycle.

As you know, proper storage of your motorcycle is important for safe, trouble free operation in the spring. Following are some tips to get your motorcycle ready for the winter months.

These tips are very general. If you have any questions, be sure to consult your owner's manual.

  • Wash, dry and wax your motorcycle. This prevents rust and corrosion.
  • Warm the motorcycle to operating temperature. Change the oil and filter.
  • Check the air pressure in the tires and adjust the pressure as needed.
  • Fill the gas tank completely with gas. Add a fuel stablizer. The less air that can get in the tank the better.
  • Remove the battery from the motorcycle. Check the water level and fill as needed with distilled water. Store the battery in a cool, dry place off of the concrete floor. Charge monthly with a trickle charger or use a batery tender. Also, check the water monthly and fill with distilled water if needed.
  • Store your motorcycle in a garage, if possible, and cover. Set your motorcycle on its center stand.

Now that your motorcycle is all snug for the winter, let it rest. Don't be tempted to start your motorcycle just to hear it run. Mother nature has a funny way of condensing water in your motor oil and engine. You must operate your motorcycle until the engine oil reaches 212 degrees to dissipate the moisture. If you start your motorcycle and only run it for a few minutes, all you do is spread that moisture throughout the engine, which will cause rust and corrosion.

Don't forget to condition your leathers. They also need your love 'grin'.

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What you need to know about trucks.

The following is a list of the most common mistakes motorcyclists and motorists must avoid when driving around trucks:

  • Cuting off a truck in traffic or on the highway to reach your exit or turn. Cutting into the open space in front of a truck removes the truck driver's cushion of safety. Trying to beat a truck to a single lane construction zone represents a particularly dangerous situation. Take a moment to slow down and exit behind a truck. It will ONLY take you a few extra seconds.

  • Don't linger alongside a truck when passing. Always pass a tractor-trailer completely and always on the left side. Flash your light to high beam and back to alert the truck driver. If you linger while passing, your position makes it impossible for the trucker to take evasive action if an obstacle appears in the road ahead.

  • Following too close or tailgating. When following behind a tractor trailer, if you can't see the driver's rearview mirrors, there is no way the truck driver can see you. Tailgating a truck or other motor vehicle is dangerous because you take away your own cushion of safety. If the vehicle you are following hits something in the road, you will have no time to react and avoid a collision.

  • Never underestimate the size and speed of an approaching tractor-trailer. Because of its size, a tractor-trailor often appears to be traveling at a slower speed than it is. A substantial number of car-truck collisions take place at intersections because the driver of the car or rider of the motorcycle does not realize how close the truck is or how quickly it is approaching.
Return to the Index.

Cell Phone Use May Dial Up Crashes:

A new study, released in February 1997 by the New England Journal of Medicine, might have you putting some distance between yourself and drivers busy talking on their cell phones. University of Toronto researchers discovered:

  • Cell phone users were four to five times more likely to have crashes than non-users.
  • Cell phone units that allow the hands to be free offer no safety advantage over hand-held units.

The main factor in most motor vehicle collisions is driver inattentiveness.

According to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), there are 100 million wireless subscribers today, which is more than 36 percent of the United States population. While convenient, using cell phones while driving can be hazardous. The American Automobile Association offers these tips:

  • Make sure your phone is mounted where you can easily reach it while driving. The phone should be within comfortable reach in your usual driving position and as close as possible to your line of vision.
  • Know all the operations of your cellular phone, and learn to use it without looking.
  • Keep your attention on the road by programming frequently called numbers into the phone's memory to minimize dialing.
  • Dial sensibly. Wait for a stoplight, pull off the road to dial, or ask a passenger to dial for you.
  • Don't use your cellular phone in distracting traffic situations. Pull off the road to make a call.
  • Be careful about where you stop to make calls.
  • When calling 911 to report an emergency, be prepared to provide the closest major cross streets or off-ramps, and know your cellular phone number.
  • Use your voice mail to take calls or leave yourself messages. Never take notes while driving.
  • Disconnect your cellular phone when using jumper cables; the power surge could burn out your phone.
  • A few states actually regulate cell phone use, including California, Florida, Massachusetts, Oklahoma and Minnesota. Oklahoma and Minnesota require police to include cell phone information in accident reports. Several countries prohibit cell phone use while driving including England, Switzerland, Spain, Australia and Italy.

Police suggest calling 911 from your cellular phone only in true emergencies:


  • Unreported collisions.
  • Any life-threatening event.
  • Any crime against you or another person.
  • A vehicle or object blocking traffic lanes.
  • A suspected drunk driver.
Non-emergencies (Do not use 911):

  • A stalled vehicle off the roadway.
  • A broken-down vehicle that is not a hazard.
  • Winter road conditions.
  • A stolen vehicle when nothing is known about the suspected thief.
  • Asking for directions.
  • Testing your phone.
  • When you dial 911, the call from your cellular phone is routed to the appropriate emergency response authority.

    You must be prepared to provide:

  • Exact location of vehicle in distress.
  • Nature of emergency.
  • Your name and cellular number, including area code.
  • Return to the Index.

    Aggressive Driving

    Safety and Preventative Measures, Aggressive Driving: Asking for Trouble If you encounter an aggressive driver, remember these tips:

    " Don't block the passing lane.
    " Avoid blocking the right-hand turn lane.
    " Don't take more than one parking space.
    " Don't tailgate.
    " Don't stop in the road to talk with a pedestrian or other driver.
    " If you travel slowly, pull over to allow traffic to pass you.
    " Avoid eye contact with an aggressive driver.
    " Keep your eyes on the road.
    " Keep away from erratic drivers.
    " Don't challenge other drivers by speeding up to hold your own in your travel lane.
    " Ignore gestures; do not return them.
    Return to the Index.

    Tires Change in the Cold Weather:

    Tire pressures and treads depth affect traction in rain and snow. According to Bill Egan, chief engineer of advanced tire technology for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., a tire inflated at 32 pounds per square inch (psi) on a warm 70-degree Fahrenheit day will register at an under-inflated 26 psi in freezing weather.

    Tire inflation is very important, since a properly inflated tire provides optimum traction and will last longer. Egan says a tire loses 10 percent of its expected tread life for every 10 percent it's under inflated.

    This is not a once-a-winter check. Make a point to monitor your tire pressure about twice a month in the cold months.

    Egan also offers a cautionary note regarding studded tires on automobiles. While they can offer traction improvements of up to 40 percent over conventional street tires on hard-packed snow and ice, they reduce traction on dry roads because the studs keep the tire from gripping the road.

    Tread depth is critical to controlling any motor vehicle at all times but especially in snow or heavy rain. Check tread depth with the "Lincoln head penny test:" Insert a penny in between the tread blocks, making sure that President Abe Lincoln's head goes in first; if the tread doesn't reach the top of his head, you need new tires.

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