Wednesday, November 29, 2006
How-to vids out the yinyang
More and more riding groups and racing organizations are choosing to produce and sell "how-to" racing videos for sportbike riders these days. While some are definitely better than others, I definitely think it's a good thing that there is such a strong contingent of people out there who are emphasizing the concept of not riding at ten-tenths on the street. Trackdays and dragstrips are definitely the way to go for anyone who wants to explore the outer limits of his/her abilities. Not only is it massively fun, it's all part of that risk management concept I constantly harp on.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
No matter how long you ride, the death of a fellow motorcyclist is never easy to take
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Odessa Sportbike Group lost yet another young rider to an all-too-common crash occurrence: Loss of control in a turn at high speed. And no matter how many times I've seen it happen over the last 16 years, it never gets any easier to take.
Fortunately, I wasn't riding with the group in question on the day the crash I allude to happened. I rode alone all day, which is getting to be my practice more and more, as wave after wave of teenage newby saddles up on the latest in two-wheeled technology, armed with no more riding knowledge than simply how to twist a throttle. Summers are the worst for youngsters hurting and or killing themselves on sportbikes, but the events of last weekend are a stark reminder that it can -- and does -- happen all year 'round.
I didn't know the rider in question very well. He was new to the group, was in his early twenties, and rode a brand new repli-racer 600. But his death sickened me nonetheless. Any time some common and easily avoidable motorcycle death involving a young rider comes to my attention, I always shake my head in bewilderment -- largely because it's always the same things over and over again; young rider misjudges a corner and impales himself on a fencepost; young rider chooses bad lane positioning and gets creamed by a left-turning cager; young rider loops his bike out; young rider goes too fast in the wrong environment. The list goes on, but commonality is always a factor, and it never ceases to amaze me. It's like watching a Swiss clock. Don't expect a deviation, because you won't be getting one.
I used to write off these kinds of crashes as simply the gene pool cleansing itself, but as I've grown older and more mature, I've come to realize that we've lost a lot of otherwise intelligent, valuable people who simply let the thrill of motorcycling cause bad decision-making, leading to a fatal moment. We're all guilty of such behavior in one area of our lives or another from time to time, but the stakes are high when it comes to motorbikes.
I'm not really sure where I'm going with this post, other than to use it as a mechanism for venting all these thoughts. So I guess I'll just say good night, and offer a prayer of peace and well-wishes to the fallen rider's family.
The wonder and awe provided by motorcycling should be tempered with knowledge, training, and a culture of pilotesque seriousness. Until that happens, we'll continue to see young riders do the same silly things over and over again on motorbikes, and pay a great price for it. And perhaps that's the greatest tragedy of all -- that each generation of new riders seems to learn absolutely nothing from the hard lessons of the generation before it.
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Same nonsense, different decade
From a Usenet user:
"Things sure changed over the years. It used to be Harley riders were profiled as criminals by law enforcement, regardless of the riders background ... Never in almost 30,000 miles have I had a problem with law enforcement on the RK [Road King]. Yet, on the Crest and around the Rock Store at least, they're all over sportbike riders, just for aftermarket turnsignals and mirrors ..."
Police in general, especially the revenue-driven CHP, will almost always focus on the easiest enforcement targets. After all, writing frivolous tickets for aftermarket turn signals is easier than doing real policework, and it pays the same. In the '70s it was choppers, in the '00s it's sportbikes. So really, not much has changed at all. Cops are still regularly violating the civil rights of those they've sworn to protect -- while the mindless, uninformed masses look on in approval. After all, it's not their rights at risk.
Or so they think.
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006
More bad press for motorcycles
Video Part One
Video Part Two
To Whom it May Concern,
I was directed to your two-part story on motorcycle crashes in the mountains north of Atlanta via a Usenet post, and as a motorcycling instructor and 28-year rider whose primary interest is in sportbikes, I'd like to make a few comments.
I think the story was somewhat fair in its presentation of the legitimate aspects of the perceived problem, though reported from a glaringly neophyte perspective. For example, throughout the piece, sportbikes are repeatedly subjected to what is commonly referred to in motorcycle circles as 'Cager Logic'. That is to say, a non-rider's expectation that motorcycles are bound by the same operational dynamics as a car or truck. This assertion is incorrect. In the control of a skilled rider, high-performance motorcycles are capable of faster acceleration, faster braking, and better handling than the average four-wheeled vehicle.
Excellent examples can be found within your story itself, such as when the orange Kawasaki decelerates from 153 MPH to around 30 MPH in only a few seconds. Also, the footage of bikers passing on double-yellow lines exemplifies how much more quickly and safely a motorcycle can pass than a car. Note that many of the bikes who passed your reporter on the double-yellow were back in the proper lane well before the vanishing point in the road ahead -- something a car can't do.
This brings me to the crux of my commentary, which is to say that we sportbikers live and ride in an environment where traffic control devices and markings are engineered and implemented with the average car's limitations in mind, which instantly puts us in a position to be law breakers. This statement is not intended to excuse some of the legitimately irresponsible riding behaviors you showed in the piece. It is merely intended to explain that motorcycles sometimes are entitled to special considerations in traffic due to their higher technology, some of which are needed to keep the rider safe (i.e. lane splitting), and some of which simply exploit the advantages of riding a motorbike (i.e. fast passing and higher tolerated speeds).
Reckless, inexperienced riders cause the majority of the problems in riding environments such as your Georgian 'Loop'. But such antics do not justify forcing a rider to doddle for miles behind a slow-moving minivan when the rider's intent is to take a spirited but safe ride through the twisties.
The high technology of modern motorcycles is upon us as a society, and we would do ourselves a greater service by learning to accommodate them, rather than demonizing the whole via the actions of a few bad apples.
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