Touring Tip: Helping a Stranded Rider

Touring Tip: Helping a Stranded Rider

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In the earlier days of motorcycling, when bikes were less reliable, riders frequently became stranded by a mechanical malfunction. Back then, motorcyclists were often as handy with a wrench as they were with the throttle. If they couldn’t fix their own bike, other riders invariably stopped to help out. The bonds among fellow bikers were never stronger.

Today, we’re living in much different times. Modern motorcycles are less prone to breaking down. Crime is more prevalent. Many times a stopped bike along the roadside is due to something other than a mechanical malfunction. The rider may be taking a bio break in the bushes, extracting refreshments from the saddlebags, or some other plausible reason for stopping that doesn’t require assistance. It’s easier nowadays for other riders to rationalize not stopping to ask if help is needed.

In the event an actual mechanical problem is encountered, many, if not most, riders have roadside assistance and carry a cell phone to procure help. I recall an instance when a fellow member of ASR who shall remain nameless—simply ran out of gas. I’ve personally been surprised to find a nail in my rear tire on several occasions.And remember when the spring on my kickstand broke off. Or my headlights went out.So unexpected breakdowns still do happen out on the road!

But let’s suppose a single rider is stranded. How does a passing motorist know if the rider needs help? The universal signal for a car driver needing help is a raised hood. Last time I checked, motorcycles don’t have hoods. So, is there a universal SOS signal for motorcyclists seeking help from passersby?

The Ministry of Transportation in Ontario, Canada, advises that riders who need help should “… place your helmet on the ground near the road.” (Another good reason to wear a helmet, even if it’s not required.) One of the more common hand gestures, used in some locations, is for the passing rider to give a thumbs-up signal, to which the stranded rider would return a thumbs down gesture if help is needed or a thumbs-up if it’s not needed. The stranded rider can also try to get help by waving emphatically. I remember doing this once and the passing motorist just gave a friendly wave back. Of course, most of us would simply pull over and ask if they need help—not too complicated.

What do you do if a rider is stranded? As indicated earlier, we live in a riskier world than our forefathers. Here are several questions to consider:

  • Do I have the tools and expertise to help someone repair their motorcycle?
  • Is it too risky to stop after dark to offer help? Should I offer it only during daylight hours?
  • If a group of riders is stopped, how much can I really add to fixing any problem?
  • Is it safe to stop and offer help to strangers on the road?
  • Does the situation feel OK or do I sense that something isn’t right?
  • Should a single female rider ever stop to help a male rider(s)?

There aren’t any easy, universal answers to these questions. Each rider has to assess the particular circumstances of each situation. My personal experience has shown, though, that riders are often likely to offer help to other riders because of the overarching camaraderie and goodwill among motorcyclists. Do You stop for a stranded rider?

Michael Theodore
National Road Captain

SIGN,SIGN,EVERYWHERE A SIGN

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SIGN,SIGN,EVERYWHERE A SIGN
On any Given Ride, we are presented with countless road signs along the way, each strategically placed to guide and warn us of potential danger. Are there particular signs that suggest more of a threat than others? I believe there are. Consider the commonly seen signs I have posted here. Each represent a routine curve to either the left or right. Each also indicates a junction with a side road at some point mid-corner. Although, at face value, neither sign appears to suggest a higher priority over the other, one distinction presents higher risk to the rider. Of course, all intersections deserve our full attention. But knowing that traffic crossing or entering our lane is the leading cause of multi-vehicle crashes, a curve with a junction to the right is of particular importance, especially if that curve has an obstructed view like your behind a car. Assume an advancing left-turning driver (who would also have a limited view of our approach) will be crossing our path as we appear. By making this sign a high priority, we can anticipate the turning car before we even enter the corner, and then take necessary precautions to avoid a mid-corner conflict.
The best position a rider should be in when approaching that  blind left curve with a road to the right when behind a car. Is to position your bike to the outside of the blind curve. Meaning position the bike to the outside far right of  your lane. This position increases your line of sight and provides the most advanced visual warning possible. Now start slowing your approach to the corner leaving some space behind the car in front of you. So you can stop if need be or make a quick adjustment. But don’t let the car in front of you get to far a head. This would invite the turning car right into your lane and path.
Don’t over look signs
MICHAEL THEODORE
NATIONAL ROAD CAPTIAN

COLD WEATHER RIDERS How To Tackle Winter Like A Pro

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COLD WEATHER RIDERS
How To Tackle Winter Like A Pro
WINTER RIDING TIPS
Colder months bring their own challenges for motorcyclists. With a little bit of planning and a positive attitude, you can make it through to the warm rays and blue skies of spring. Here are some tips to help you prepare for winter.
WINTERIZING YOUR BIKE
Sometimes, Old Man Winter—and holiday travel obligations—simply can’t be beat, and you have to put your bike away for a month or three or four. A few simple steps can help ensure your motorcycle will be ready to ride when it’s time.
First, if at all possible, store the bike inside a garage. It’s amazing how much damage can be done by exposure to the elements, even in a few months.
But before you put it away, take a little time to check the following:
Gas: Top off the tank and add the recommended amount of a fuel stabilizer. This additive will keep your gas from breaking down and leaving a gunky brown “varnish” on the inside of your carburetors (assuming your bike still has carbs). Then start the engine and run it for several minutes to make sure you get the treated gas distributed throughout the fuel system.
Oil: Oil starts out golden and clean, and winds up black and dirty. This is bad. The contaminants in the oil can be corrosive, and you don’t want your engine parts sitting in a corrosive bath all winter. So do yourself a favor and change your oil just before the bike goes into storage.
Coolant: Because most motorcycles don’t get a lot of use in sub-freezing temperatures, many riders overlook the importance of checking their coolant for protection against winter freeze-up. Use one of those floating-ball testers to make sure your coolant will resist freezing in the temperatures you experience. If you need to add any, make sure you use the type of coolant recommended by your manufacturer.
Battery: Some modern motorcycles can put a slight drain on a battery to run a clock, maintain radio presets or operate an alarm system. If you’re in this situation, make sure you have a charger system in place to keep your battery alive. Otherwise, at least make sure it starts the winter with a full charge, and give it a recharge every month or so. I keep My bike on a battery manager all year when not in use I simply plug it in.
Other stuff: Some will insist you should store your bike with the tires off the ground. This is a great idea—if you can arrange it. If not, inflate both tires properly, put the bike on its center stand, if your bike has one and every week or so spin the front tire to avoid flat spots. Also, a good coating of wax will help preserve your paint and chrome, and a breathable cloth cover can keep off dirt and dust.
Do it right, and all you’ll have to do come spring is turn the key, press the starter button and begin racking up the miles again.
ANY WEATHER, ANY TIME
While cold temperatures and cloudy skies can try to put a damper on your riding, there’s a lot to be said for experiencing the changing landscapes of fall and winter on two wheels. While I don’t advocate riding in truly treacherous conditions (ice and snow, for example), with some commonsense, you can stretch your riding season out considerably, even if you live in the northern United States. I love to ride in the winter. I just make sure there is no ice out on the roads before I head out. I do not ride at night though in the winter months only during the day.
Unlike summer, when you can just throw on the same jacket, gloves and helmet any morning, autumn and winter temperature swings mean you need to think before you ride.
In many parts of the country, it’s not uncommon to see temperature swings of 20 degrees or more from morning to afternoon. That may not matter much when the high and low are 80 and 60, but it can make an enormous difference in your comfort level when the numbers involved are, say, 40 and 20. With the chilling effect of air flowing past at 65 mph, the perceived difference to exposed skin can be 20 to 30 degrees or more.
Here’s a simple, three-step program to help dull the sting of those colder temperatures.
STEP 1: PRESERVE BODY HEAT
Remember the last time you were at an overcrowded event? Remember how hot it got? That’s a real-world example of one important fact: The human body is a pretty good source of heat. So as the temperature drops, your first priority should be to preserve as much of that heat as possible. Here are a few tips:
Think layers: What keeps you warm it isn’t just the material in the clothes you wear. It’s also the air trapped inside. That’s one reason why a few lighter layers are better than one heavy one for fall riding. Plus, layered clothing allows you to fine-tune your comfort level by adding or subtracting a layer in variable autumn temperatures.
Build a base: The stuff you wear right next to your skin is called a base layer, and it can be incredibly important in staying warm. Old-school cotton provides warmth, but if you sweat, it’ll stay damp, and you’ll get chilled. Synthetics like polyester wick away perspiration to give you more consistent warmth, and they adapt better when the temperature goes up. Looking for an unconventional choice? Some well-traveled motorcyclists swear by silk long underwear for its combination of warmth and comfort.
Get fleeced: Remember when you were a kid and your mom dressed you in so many layers of winter clothes you could hardly move? It didn’t work for throwing snowballs then, and it won’t work for operating a motorcycle today. What you need is a light insulating layer that fits comfortably inside your riding jacket. Consider an inflatable vest, which makes maximum use of the insulating properties of trapped air. Best of all, you can adjust the level of insulation by adding or subtracting air through an inflation tube.
Adapt to conditions: Lots of riding jackets offer liners you can zip in when the weather gets chilly. Some are just thermal vests, which can leave your arms unprotected from the cold, while others have an entire inner jacket for maximum warmth. Remember, though, that this is likely to be the layer you’ll want to shed first when the sun gets high in the sky. So plan space to carry it on the bike.
Get dressed inside: If it’s chilly in your garage or the parking lot of your hotel, be sure to put most of your gear on indoors. There’s a fine balance here—you want to retain the indoor heat, but you don’t want to seal everything up and start sweating. You might want to zip that last zipper just as you’re headed out the door.
Have a glove strategy: Some riders carry as many as four pairs of gloves on a cold-weather ride, with heavy gloves, lighter gloves, glove liners and rain gloves. There’s good reason to take this element seriously: Your hands are the most important interface between you and your bike. When they get cold, your ability to operate your bike safely is compromised.
Cover your head: If it works for ninjas, it can work for you. We’re talking, of course, about wearing a balaclava—a thin head-and-face covering that allows only your eyes to show. Sure, you look funny. But you’ll be warmer. You can find balaclava’s in motorcycle shops or outdoor stores. Just make sure the one you buy is thin enough so you can still get your lid on.
Wear a full-face helmet: It may seem obvious, but a full-face helmet can keep you much warmer than an open-face lid. The trade-off is that you risk fogging your face shield, so keep it cracked while moving, and be ready to open it wide when you stop.

dress for winter

STEP 2: BLOCK THE WIND
You can be wearing all the layers in the world, but if they don’t prevent the wind from getting in, sooner or later, you’ll get cold. So consider these strategies for fending off wind.
Stop it cold: Make sure your outermost layer is windproof. Leather is pretty good at this, and so are some high-tech fabrics, but you probably already have an effective wind-block layer in your tank bag—your rain suit. No, it doesn’t add warmth, but it can be remarkably effective in keeping the chill out.
Watch where clothing overlaps: When the wind is blowing at 65 mph, it will find its way through any cracks in your cold-weather armor. Take the time to pull your gloves completely over your jacket sleeves and clinch them down tight. At the waist, “weave” upper and lower layers over each other—pants over base-layer top, fleece pullover over pants, rain suit pants over fleece pullover, jacket over rain suit pants, etc.—to keep the wind at bay. Finally, make sure there’s no gap between your pants and boots.
Don’t stick your neck out: When it comes to heat loss, one of the most vulnerable areas is your neck. Even a simple bandana can help, but there are products made specifically to protect this area.
Don’t forget the bike: You don’t have to wear all your wind protection. A fairing, even a small one, can make a tremendous difference in cooler weather. In addition, many dual-sport bikes and adventure-tourers come with hand guards that serve as mini-fairing’s for your hands. Don’t have a fairing? A well-packed tank bag can be almost as effective in blunting the wind.
heat
STEP 3: ADD HEAT
Few things in life beat the sense of well-being that comes from riding down the road on a chilly day all toasty warm. You can get that feeling with electric clothing.
What’s especially nice is that most electric garments offer some level of insulation when they’re turned off, too, meaning they’re perfect for variable fall weather.
Here’s what’s out there:
Going electric: In the beginning, electric clothing for motorcyclists meant vests. That’s still a good starting point, because if you can keep your body’s core well-heated, your extremities should stay warmer, too. These days, though, they have come a long way for motorcycle riders. Now you can choose from electric jackets, liners, pants, chaps, gloves’s and socks. If your alternator is up to the challenge of powering them, those pieces can generate enough heat for extended forays in sub-freezing temperatures.
Hand warmers: Like other electric clothing, heated gloves turn your bike’s generating system into protective warmth. Here, though, it’s more than just comfort at stake. Warm fingers handle the throttle, brake and clutch more safely than stiff, frozen digits. Plus, electric gloves can often be thinner than their fully insulated counterparts, making for better control feel.
Hot bikes: Instead of wearing your heated gear, you can outfit your bike with electrics. Heated handgrips come standard on some models, and they’re available as options on some other bikes. Some companies sell do-it-yourself kits to warm up the grips on almost any machine. Want to get your heat from another direction? Try a heated seat, available as a factory option  for a variety of bikes. There are aftermarket company’s out there with a heated seat for almost every bike. On my Ultra Limited I have heated grips along with my heated seat and passenger seat and backrest. I use my full heated gear jacket liner,gloves,pants and socks when I ride in the winter months. And this has made one huge difference in why I ride and can stay out all day long riding in the cold months.
Hope these tips helped you out some remember if you do ride in the winter months slow it down some ride safe.
Michael Theodore
National Road Captain

 

Touring Tip: Five Common Sources of Motorcycle Accidents & Strategies For Avoiding Them

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Defensive Riding Techniques –

  1. ONCOMING, LEFT TURNING VEHICLE: This is probably the most common cause of motorcycle accidents. The driver of an oncoming vehicle doesn’t see a motorcyclist and makes a quick left turn directly in the rider’s path, leaving little or no time to avoid hitting the car.
    -Avoidance Strategy: First, it’s always helpful for riders and their bikes to be as conspicuous as possible, which is helped by auxiliary lights ride with your high beam on and high visibility riding gear. Second, look for indications that the oncoming driver may not see you: no eye contact, hands turning the steering wheel, or movement of left front wheel or just plain out on their phone. Third, ride at a safe speed in traffic congested areas, because higher speed equals longer stopping distances. Some riders, however, slow to a crawl when they see a left turning vehicle, but this is an invitation for that driver to turn in front of you! I always move to the farthest part left in my lane makes me a little more visible and gives me more room in case I need to make a fast move. I always have eye contact on that driver. And it is also a great time to use your horn let them know you are there.
  2. ANIMALS IN THE ROAD: I’ve personally experienced running into and over some ground hogs to other rodents in the road. Besides an owl and Vulture. I have the scratch marks on my helmet from that big Vulture. And it doesn’t necessarily take a large critter to take a two-wheeler down.
    -Avoidance Strategy: Constantly scan the road and surrounding terrain ahead for animals, particularly when undergrowth and trees are close to the pavement. Also, those “deer warning signs” are usually present for a reason. Be especially alert when riding in the early morning or evening, when animals are the most active. Adjust your speed and cover clutch and brake levers in high-risk areas so emergency stopping distances are appropriate for those conditions. And, of course, it never hurts to periodically practice emergency stops and swerves in a parking lot.
  3. GRAVEL ON BLIND CURVES: Riding through gravel with the bike leaned over at speed is almost certain to result in a crash. The situation worsens if the sliding motorcycle and rider cross the yellow line into the path of an oncoming vehicle—crunch!
    -Avoidance Strategy: Gravel on roadways is more likely after heavy rains, near construction sites, and at gravel driveways in rural areas. If riders assume there will be gravel around a blind curve, they are more likely to adjust their entry speed accordingly. It’s also possible to use some light braking in a curve, even with the bike leaned over, especially if the motorcycle has anti lock brakes. But the best technique is usually to avoid the gravel, stand the bike up, and apply maximum braking. Maximizing sight lines is also an important strategy for avoiding all types of hazards on blind curves.
  4. CARS CHANGING LANES: At on ramps or while riding on crowded multi-lane urban roads, an adjacent motorist may suddenly pull directly into your path, leaving little or no time for evasive action.
    -Avoidance Strategy: Rule number one is to stay out of the blind spots of other drivers. It’s also important to maximize the space cushion between the rider and other vehicles. Rush hour traffic on multi-lane highways presents the highest risk for other vehicles changing lanes into a rider. If riding at this time can’t be avoided, I’ve found the best strategy is riding in the far left lane so traffic on only the right side must be monitored.
  5. EXCESSIVE SPEED IN A CURVE: A rider suddenly realizes mid-curve that the turn is tighter than expected ( a decreasing radius curve) and panics. Instead of increasing the bike’s lean angle, the rider stops looking through the curve, stiffens his or her arms, and goes straight off the roadway. This often results in the motorcyclist crashing into a stationary object (guardrail, tree, building, etc.) or flying off their bike or road.
    -Avoidance Strategy: Pay attention to that little voice in your head when it says, “I’m riding above my skill level.” Of course, the easiest way to avoid crashing on a curve is to do what’s taught in the basic MSF course: slow the bike before entering a curve and accelerate out of it. Even a highly skilled rider always should keep some of his bike’s lean angle in reserve in case it’s needed. Remember it is ok to scrap you pegs/running boards.

Safe riding practices help motorcyclists avoid accidents and bodily injury, and they also build rider confidence and enjoyment.

Michael Theodore

National Road Captain

 

Adjusting Your Riding Style

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Adjusting Your Riding Style

When changing the style of motorcycle you are riding, what is the most important adjustment to make? Should your riding style change?
A rider needs to make adjustments anytime he or she straddles an unfamiliar motorcycle, even for one in the same category.
The adjustments relate to such factors as the bike’s riding position (seat height and relationship between seat, footrests, and handlebars),dimensional characteristics (weight,wheelbase,steering head angle, center of gravity, tire size and tire profile), responsiveness of controls (throttle,clutch friction zone and brake pressure), and power – to – weight ratio.
Sport bikes are at one end of the spectrum, with lighter weight, shorter wheelbases, steering head angles closer to vertical, and quicker – revving engines, and they generally provide higher levels of responsiveness to throttle, brake, and handlebar input. This means you may need to be softer with your inputs until you have accumulated some miles manipulating the controls.
Safety tip: While in neutral, get a feel for how much throttle twist is needed to raise engine speed.
Comfort tip: Avoid supporting all your weight on your wrists and engage your core abdominal and back muscles instead. Keep your head and eyes up to help fight fatigue and improve visual assessment of the riding environment.
Larger cruiser models are at the other end of the spectrum, due to their heavier weight, longer wheelbases, steering head angles farther from vertical, and slower revving engines. They typically provide greater straight – line stability with more steering effort required for directional changes.
Safety tip: Consider the turning radius for slow. tight turns and U – turns.
Giving you an extra free tip here. Learning how to feather your clutch on any bike you will then be able to do any slow tight turn with ease.
Comfort tip: You might need time to get accustomed to the leaned – back, feet forward, arms – raised position.
Adventure – type bikes are fairly close to their standard/naked cousins in terms of riding style, but with your knees more forward and your mid – section closer to the fuel tank. This position brings your elbows up for quicker control and helps when transferring weight to the footrests in counter – weighted turns in the dirt or on tight roads.
Bottom line: Take your time to become familiar with a different bike. You want your control operation to be solid so you and your bike can bond for a safe, comfortable time together.
Michael Theodore
National Road Captain

 

 

HOW TO TOW ANOTHER MOTORCYCLE SAFELY

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HOW TO TOW ANOTHER MOTORCYCLE SAFELY

 

 Have you ever had your Motorcycle break down while you were out on a ride by yourself or riding with your friends? Or maybe you just once ran out of gas a couple of miles before a fuel stop? Well if you carry a tow rope with you on your bike there will be no more walking the bike or sitting on the side of the road waiting on someone.

First, get 12 feet to 20 feet (4 to 6 m) of rope, tie-downs hooked together, a bit of fence wire or phone cable, or best of all, a one inch (2.5 cm) wide flat nylon strap. I prefer the nylon strap.

One method in towing a bike will keep the towline down low. On the lead bike, wrap the line once around the right foot peg (if the drive chain/belt is on the left). The rider firmly holds the line in place with his foot. The rider being towed does the same thing using the opposite foot peg. If the tow goes wrong, either rider can easily let go.

Another method  starts with the line tied to the frame of the lead bike as high as possible. Alternately, make a “Y” in the end of the line and tie each end to a foot peg; the fork should rest in the center of the seat above. The end leads back to the trailing bike, and goes under the headlight, on the centerline of the bike. The loose end wraps around the handlebar once or twice, and is held by the left (clutch) hand. The towing rider operates the front brake normally, and if he needs to get free, he can simply let go.

Either way, the more experienced rider should be on the trailing bike, and should keep all the slack out of the line; because the trailing rider can easily run over a slack line and get it caught up in the front wheel if you do not keep the slack out of the line. All braking should be done by the trailing rider, and the lead rider should keep the speed down.

Michael Theodore
National Road Captain

Slaying the Dragon mountain riding 101

Curve-photo-croppedMe On The Dragon

Lines through a corner

Compared to roads in a flat country, roads in mountain areas have far more corners, and those corners are often really tight.

Start in the outside

Very important in the mountains is the line you ride through a corner. Always start at the outside: in a corner to the left you start at the right side, and in a corner to the right you start left.
If the road is narrow, you can even use the part of the road for oncoming traffic. The advantage is that you will see oncoming traffic earlier than when you stay inside the corner.

Look through the corner

Hold on to the outside line for a long time. There will be a moment when you can look through the rest of the corner in one straight line. That’s the point where you turn in for the second time, and then ride along that straight line. That will be the only time that you touch the inside line through the corner.

Try not to reach the lane for oncoming traffic, in a left turn. In that case there will be space if you need more space, and at the same time you train yourself riding tight corners.

And in a blind corner, you should not only expect cars or trucks, but also all types of animals one would expect in the mountains.

On really narrow roads with hairpins, don’t begin on the lane for oncoming traffic: in that case, there might be not enough time to get back to the right side of the road when a local arrives from the other side.

Try to keep your head inside your own lane as well, in corners to the left or to the right.

Looking ahead

Looking ahead

Before entering a hairpin or switchback, always look up or down, so you know in advance what you will encounter during the turn.

Often, you can see through more than one corner (even when the corner before you itself is blind). The more you try to see what is in front of you on the road, the more you know about the oncoming traffic, and where you can expect them.

Throttle

On the throttle

Always try to keep the throttle open (a bit) during a corner. The corner will certainly be easier that way.

When going up, keep the speed above the minimum that is needed not to stall, because you don’t want to stall in the middle of a hairpin, and squeezing the clutch while going up won’t help either.

If you descend, keeping the throttle open often is difficult, but do try, as it will make life easier.

Stalling

When your motorcycle is going to stall mid-turn, let it stall. *Don’t* pull the clutch: the motorcycle will go backward, down, and you would be pulled along.

To brake

Upward: rear brake

When you ride upwards, you can use the rear brake during turns: that will stabilize the bike, and it allows you to keep the throttle open during the turn.

Downward: front brake

But downward, the rear brake is of no use: the rear wheel almost carries no weight, which means it will stop turning very easily when you apply the rear brake.

If you ride steep downward and you have to brake, use the front brake.

Why no rear brake downward?

If you ride downward, almost all the weight of the bike is on the front wheel. Therefore, it is very easy to lock the rear wheel when you use the rear brake.

In that case, the rear wheel will try to get past the front wheel, which will take you and the bike down.

Try to use the compression of the engine to brake, and when you need more brakes, use the front.

Do not brake while in the turn

If you must brake do your braking before the corner not going into it  this will stand your bike upright into the wrong direction you need to be going.

Downward

Preferably with the throttle open!

Riding up is not a problem, most of the time; it is riding downward that is the most difficult.

Try to use the engine brake: shift downward until you have the right speed without the throttle, or with a bit of throttle.

In a turn, open the throttle a bit.

When it is so steep that your speed is too high, even in the first gear, you will have to use the brake as well (the front, that is).

Fear of heights

Look in front of you

Do you have fear of heights, and do you get dizzy when looking down? Then don’t!

Concentrate on the road ahead, and look forward: far, far forward

Stopping and getting away

Upward

If you have to come to a standstill while riding upward, you can keep your foot on the rear brake. Just keep the bike in the first gear, and it’s easy to ride away again.

When the surface of the road is a bit loose, let the clutch go slowly to ride away, You can drag both your feet on the ground for added safety. Once you feel comfortable at that moment, you can open up the throttle a bit, and you let go of the rear brake.

Downward

Downward, you come to a standstill with the front brake. Pulling away is even possible without the engine. Hold your clutch in some while releasing your brake as you are now starting to roll.

Parking

Mind the other traffic

Remember, when you park to enjoy the views, or to take a picture, that you park your motorcycle in a spot where it can be easily seen from both sides.

Sometimes you think to see a spot that is perfectly fit to park, and it happens to be a spot to let cars pass each other on narrow roads. Those spots are there for passing, so don’t use them!

Sloping surface

While parking, you will notice the results of the three dimensions in the mountains: where you would otherwise feel the surface with your foot, there may be nothing… the surface is sometimes further away than you are used to. So look where you stop, and check which foot to use to carry your weight.

Foot on the back brake

If you stop while riding upwards, you should make sure that your right foot can stay on the peg, because you need the back brake in that situation.

Try to park you bike with its front pointing upwards: otherwise, it might ride off the side stand. Also: keep it in first gear.

The side stand

If you have to park with the front of the bike pointing downwards, the bike could fall, even when parked in gear, 

because sometimes gravity pulls harder.

And always try to check the situation with respect to riding away again. In principle, it is no big deal when you first have to let the bike go a bit downward, but if you would have to turn it at the same time, getting away could become a bit of a problem.

The weather

Change of weather

You may experience huge changes of temperature when riding upwards or downwards in the mountains. So always carry something warm, and especially something which keeps out the rain as in rain gear.

What is also likely to happen, is that you ride in very bright sun light, and suddenly, after a corner, you enter a thick fog. or dark shadows of the tress.

The weather high in the mountains can change very suddenly, from summer to winter, from thunderstorm to clear skies, from snow to fog to bright clear sun.

So carry a riding jacket and  rain gear  sunglasses.

Slippery

Above 2000 ft  means a chance of slippery roads, or even black ice. When it is raining up on the mountains.

Being polite

Allowing people to pass

When you are experiencing your first mountain ride, your speed will probably be much lower than the speed of people who are used to riding the mountains. Especially people living there will know each corner, and are able to ride certain passes blindfolded.

Don’t be tempted to try to keep in front of them. Try to maintain your own comfort speed, and let people who are faster than you in corners, pass. Move to the right to let them pass you.

So don’t open up the throttle after each corner to make up for a slow corner: on the contrary, use straight stretches to slow down, so people can easily get past you. Ride your own ride.

When you are getting used to mountain riding, and your own speed gets higher, you will notice that some people will let you pass in the same way, and you will be grateful.

So, check your mirrors often!

Oncoming traffic

The same politeness also applies to oncoming traffic. So just try to determine for whom it is most easy to stop (which will often be you, the motorcycle rider).

When you see a Truck, don’t enter a hairpin with the idea that the truck will have to wait because you have as much right on that hairpin as the truck, but find a place to pull aside far right as you can get instead. Because that truck will now take up your lane also on the curves.

Most people who ride and drive in the mountains are very courteous, as you will notice, and it is a pleasant feeling to be one of them.

Badly running engine

Less oxygen

If your motorcycle doesn’t have injection, you may experience a badly running engine at heights. The air becomes thinner, and your bike will receive less oxygen, while the amount of fuel stays the same: so the mix will become too rich.

Some motorcycles will protest. The fuel consumption rises (with a well running engine, fuel consumption will decrease in the mountains), and the engine seems to want to give up.

Air filter

In such a case, don’t fumble with the needles, but, as a temporary measurement, take off the air filter. The amount of air in the mixture will increase, which will compensate a bit for the decreased percentage of oxygen.

Distances

Less miles in a day

When planning your trip, keep in mind that you will cover much smaller distances in the mountains, especially when you go up and down through hairpins. A distance of 50 miles doesn’t mean that you will be there in half an hour!

It applies even more for the distance on the map: on the road, you will cover vertical miles as well.

Also be aware of the fact that gas stations on top of mountain passes are rare. Always make sure you start off your ride with a full take and to top off any chance you get.

Michael Theodore
National Road Captain

 

Stayin’ Safe Overcoming the fear of Tar Snakes

Stayin’ Safe
Overcoming the fear of  Tar Snakes
Who knew the incidence of ophidiophobia would be so high among motorcyclist? Yet nearly every rider I have known through all my years of riding has expressed a distinct and sometimes paralyzing fear of snakes. Especially black snakes; aka Tar snakes. These species are commonly found stretched across the pavement. Of course almost always on a nice twisty road as you approach  the corner or exit it. They are on the back roads and also the supper slab highways. But are these tar snakes in fact a serious threat to riders? The straight answer to that question is….it depends. For the most part, tar snakes on the road is relatively harmless, especially those that are thin,and few in numbers and surrounded by traction-rich pavement. Although you the rider may feel momentary uneasiness as the bike’s tires squirm slightly on the tar strip surface,traction and a more direct feel will quickly return once rubber finds clean pavement. This unfamiliar movement of the motorcycle is generally more disconcerting to you the rider then it is dangerous, provided you remain calm, Granted, tar snakes can become threats in certain conditions. If you see more black tar than tarmac, there will certainly be way less traction avalible. When tar is cold and damp such as in the early morning in spring and fall, it can become hard and slick. In a rain storm it can be very slick. In the hot summer sun can make tar snakes squishy, although they still provide moderate traction. In each of these scenarios, I will say that it is best to stay loose, keep a light touch on the handlebars and look up the road to where you want to go (looking ahead adds a sense of stability). Make subtle steering and throttle inputs, avoid extreme lean angles and just glide though the tar snake. With a little caution and smoothness you can avoid being bitten…and maybe even become an expert snake handler 
Michael Theodore
Azusa StreetRiders National Road Captain
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Being Prepared for All Types of Riding Weather

Omaha Biker Sunday and western ride 066

Being Prepared for All Types of Riding Weather

Let’s take a look at how riding weather can affect your plans and how you can manage with it. Rain, ice and snow are the most obvious weather related issues you can run into while on the bike, but heat, wind, altitude can also adversely affect your trip. Below are some tips on how to cope with weather while on the road.

RAIN is by far the most common problem for most of us and here are a few things that can help make your ride safer. Do not ride in lightning storms. They can be pretty fierce. When lightning starts flashing, head for cover…time for a short break. Since your bike is not grounded, it is very unsafe to ride while lightning is present. If you are on the road, exit immediately to a gas station or other covered area. If that’s not possible, the next best cover can be a highway overpass if there is no other safe place to stop. Overpasses stay relatively dry and generally you can find a nice place to rest. Just pay attention to possible water flows and flash floods and Do not stay beside your bike when stopped. Walk a few feet away from the road in case a driver not paying attention comes to close to you and your bike. Bikers have been hit and killed under overpasses trying to wait out storms. Activate the four way flashers on your bike and keep them on so motorists can see the bike.

When you must ride in the rain there are several things that you can do to make things safer. First is rain gear. Try to buy 100% waterproof gear. Pack it so that it is easy to get to in your bags. Waterproof boots are really good to wear. If your feet get wet and cold, you can become miserable very quickly and this causes you not to be focused on the road. Gloves…Leather gloves get water logged real fast in rain. You can spray your gloves with leather water proofing before the ride to help, but this is only a temporary fix and your fingers and hands will soon become cold and wet. It’s better to have a pair of waterproof gloves. They work great I keep a pair with me on all rides. Or you can buy a pair of cheap rubber kitchen gloves they also work well and if you get large ones, you can put them over your leather gloves. You may get some grief from fashion-Nazis, but safety is the focus here. Absolutely the most important thing while riding in bad weather is to slow down. Ride with your four-way flashers on and always have your high beam light on. Never ride faster than the distance you can see. If you can’t stop in time you’re going too fast. I made this big mistake on my trip out west to the ASR National Rally in Colorado. Instead of slowing down while riding in a storm, I hit some oil patches and the rest was…well no more road trip…no more bike. I did not take my own advice. A lesson learned the hard way!

Ice and snow? Most riders just flat out avoid it. They say, If there is any snow or ice on the roads it just makes no sense at all to be out on the bikes. And then  there is me! I ride in the winter here in the snow belt in NE Ohio. It’s not that bad! Some of my best rides have been in the winter months. I always ride slow and do not ride when it gets icy. Wait for the road crew to clean the roads. Also, I do not ride at night during winter months. Heated gear for winter riding is a must if you want to stay out and ride all day. If you don’t have the heated gear, dress for the weather and make frequent stops to warm up.

Heat can get nasty; from the dry heat that roasts you in the deserts and prairie areas to the “so humid you feel like you’re riding through a wall of water” type heat of the east and south east. There are three things to remember…water, water, water. Dehydration can knock you down quickly while on a bike. Moisture is wicked away by the wind and further dehydrates you without you even knowing it. The hot dry areas can bake you with the wind and dry heat. Opening clothing and helmet vents to allow air when the temperature is over 100 degrees can create a blast furnace effect, so close up and cover up to keep the sun off as well. Try to take breaks more often in hot riding weather and again, drink a lot of fluids. It’s good to have a moisture wicking shirt on while riding during the hot months.

Cross winds can be difficult to handle. Sometimes you spend hours leaning into them as you ride. It can become physically exhausting. Most motorists don’t even understand what wind does to a bike, from simple head on winds that just knock down your speed to winds that blow off the 18-wheelers and buffet you around in the lanes like a jumping bean. Its best to slow down a bit so you have full control of your bike and give any motorist  some additional room. If you are on a four lane highway and have to ride in hard cross winds. Move your bike into the left lane. Then take up the middle of that lane to give yourself more room to handle the cross winds and ease the limit of the passing winds by the other motorist now passing you on the right lane. This is safer for all.

Altitude is something that can cause all sorts of interesting situations. If you are cruising through the Smokey Mountains or the White Mountains in the East, the elevation changes are not too drastic. At about 6,000. Going up to the mountain peaks from there is not a big elevation change. However if you are out West and go from sea level to 10,000 feet, that is a big change. At over 14,000 feet at Pikes Peak in Colorado, you will need to be aware of altitude sickness and less oxygen. Take your time when you ride in the mountains and slow it down. Taking breaks often as you climb will help reduce those effects. Also consider temperature changes and storms that can come up quickly. Always pack the right gear.

By being prepared for all types of riding weather in the different areas you ride in, you can avoid hazards and still enjoy awesome rides. Wherever you ride, I suggest you watch the Weather Channel forecast before you head out.

Michael Theodore

Azusa StreetRiders National Road Captain