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What To Do While Not Riding.

IMG_1165I had knee surgery recently to repair two tears in the meniscus in my left knee. The injury was not motorcycle related but it means I’ll be off the bike for a while. So, what to do while I can’t ride?  Well, I took advantage of the down time to get through a few projects I’ve wanted to do.

The first was to get my bike ready for the spring riding season, even though I can’t ride it for several weeks. I changed the oil, oil filter, air filter, rear tire, and gave it good once over. I tightened all the nuts and bolts and lubricated everything. All pretty straight forward except for changing the Air Filter. I have to hand it to the folks at Kawasaki, 12 bolts, 3 plastic rivets, 3 body pieces, and several connectors to unplug just to get to the air filter. Total time to do everything except the air filter was a few hours. The air filter was another solid hour. It kept me busy at least and even though I couldn’t ride my bike I still got to play with it.

Up to this point I’ve been a little shy about doing the service work on my Concours. It’s a very complicated machine and not like anything I’ve worked on before. Being able to take the time to work through the service knowing that I wasn’t riding took a lot of the pressure off. If I didn’t finish the work I wasn’t missing anything and could get back to it when I had more time. Of course it turned out it was easier than I thought and once I got into it everything was very much the same just in different places. I didn’t take on changing the spark plugs, that’s a task for another long weekend. Something about having to remove the gas tank … not sure I’m ready for that yet.

IMG_1169Next I organized my gear by building custom shelves, a rack, hanging cabinets, and generally putting things in their place. It’s so nice have all my gear in one place. There’s also a practical reason for organizing and hanging up my gear. We moved to a new house last summer and I had a similar setup in my old house. Having a place to hang sweaty or wet clothes is great for letting them air out and dry. They tend to last longer when they have good airflow. It also helps them smell better next time I use them. The other reason is for convenience. Like most people, I don’t like to search for something. If it’s not in reach when I need it I’ll find an alternate solution. Having my riding gear all in one place means when I get ready to ride everything I need to grab is right there. I’ll have options instead of only using the jacket I can find, and I will use the gear that’s appropriate to the ride I’m going on.

I realized as I was putting my bike back together and organizing my gear that they had a similar purpose. Having my gear all together makes it easier to know what I have and what condition it’s in. Organizing my tools and other bike related cleaning and maintenance materials also helps me know what I have, how much I have, and where it’s at. Working on my bike regularly helps me understand it. The more parts I look at, work on, and examine the more familiar I am with my machine and how it works. The more familiar I am the more apt I am to know if somethings wrong and I might even have an idea of how to fix it. My gear collection grows as I understand what different conditions require in terms of protection and comfort. The more comfortable I am the longer I can ride and longer my riding season is. My tool collection grows as I work and maintain my bike. The right tool for the job is always the best tool to use. So too does my understanding of my bike grow as I ride it and work on it. The more I know the better I can care for my bike and extend my riding.

This train of thought brought me back to my knee surgery. I’ve tried for several years to “get in shape”. I know intuitively that it’s important. Looking down the barrel at 40 my body isn’t going to bounce back on its own. So, while I work on my bike getting it into shape for the summer I came to the conclusion that I need to do that same thing to me. I’m really just another tool to being able to be comfortable on a ride, to being able to ride better, and to being able to extend the years I’ll be able to ride. Just like a bike that’s out of tune, it might run for a while but eventually it’s going to need some work to get it going again. The amount of work really depends on how well it is maintained. My body is very much the same. I’ve missed a few regular service intervals at this point. So, as I get my bike in order I’ll also be working on getting me in better shape this summer too.  Let’s see if I can tune this body up before it’s too late and I get put out in the shed with a tarp over me.

 
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Posted by on July 14, 2014 in Concours 14, Motorcycling

 

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ON ANY SUNDAY: THE NEXT CHAPTER

Bruce Brown’s 1971 classic documentary, On Any Sunday, exposed legions of folks to the wonderful world of motorcycling. Now, Bruce’s son, Dana Brown, a filmmaker who made Step into Liquid and Dust to Glory, is creating a modern take on the original, capturing on film those who ride motorcycles today and what the sport means to them.

The beautifully shot movie, scheduled for release this fall, features Travis Pastrana, Marc Marquez, Robbie Maddison, James Stewart, Carlin Dunne, Dani Pedrosa, and others. If this new version of On Any Sundayhas half the impact of the 1971 original, it will be a huge success. Enjoy the trailer!

May 12, 2014 By  Cycle World Magazine

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2014 in Motorcycling

 

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Blind Date: Meeting That Special Riding Group

GroupRidingIt’s a little intimidating at first. I didn’t know quite what to expect having met online or getting hooked up by a friend. Sure, I’ve looked at a few pictures and profiles and everything looks good, but there’s still some doubt. Is it going to work out this time? Is it going to turn out like last time where everything was great at first but then really kind of fell apart at the end? Or is this the one? Meeting a riding group for the first time is a lot like going on a blind date, even with a friend along for support. There are a lot of unknowns and different personalities involved. The best thing is to just dive in and see where it goes.

To ease into riding with a new group I generally look for a short ride that involves a lunch or dinner stop. This makes it seem even more like dating but the meal actually serves the same purpose in both situations. I don’t generally get a chance to have more than a 5 min conversation at riding breaks so a lunch or dinner is a great way to get a feel for the group. I can meet and talk with several members usually for over an hour in a relax setting. Some more formal riding groups have meet and greet nights, bike washes, BBQ nights, etc. These are perfect for meeting other group members and getting to know the structure and personalities of a group before going on a ride. Sometimes I know right off the bat after meeting a group if it’s going to work out or not before I ever go on a ride with them.

After meeting some of the members and getting a feel for their riding styles, if I’m still interested I’ll met up with them for a longer day ride. Short rides are good for getting to know the members of a group. Day long rides are good for getting to know the riding dynamic of a group. How often does the group stop for breaks? How fast or slow do they ride? Are they sticklers for staying in formation and together as a group? Are they OK with letting faster riders meet the more casual riders at the next stop? My comfort level on a ride is as important to me as the people I ride with. If the group and my riding rhythms are not compatible then I’m not going to enjoy the ride and I’m not going to want to come back. There’s always some level of adjustment and compromise when getting to know a new group. In general I know my patterns and if the group isn’t within a tolerable range of what’s acceptable to me I know I’ll just be frustrated. My time is important to me and I don’t want to spend a glorious weekend riding frustrated and feeling less relaxed then when I left. That kind of defeats the purpose to me.

A riding group can mean many things to many people. It can be a formal group or club with strict rules, membership dues, patches, and officers. It can be just a group of friends that get together every few weeks to ride. I belong to and have belonged to both kinds. Unlike dating, I can belong to as many riding groups as I want. This gives me more options for attending more types of rides.  I don’t have to go on every ride for every group either. It also means when I host a ride there’s more of a pool to pull from so I’m sure to at least get a few people to show up.  Personally, I prefer groups that lean toward the informal . Some structure is fine, but too much makes me feel obligated to the group in a way that is counter to why I ride with a group in the first place. My main goal in riding with a group is to enjoy the friends and social aspect as much as the riding. Not that clubs and riding associations don’t have a good time, I just like to keep my riding a little more casual.

Of course groups change over time as people join and leave, just as my riding styles have changed the more I ride. So, if a group doesn’t work out and I’ve tried a few others that just don’t fit, I can always go back to a group I haven’t ridden with in a while. Things might have changed in the group or my riding habits might have changed making us both more compatible than before. I try not to burn any bridges when I leave a group. I never know if they are going to post a ride that looks interesting and I want to ride with them again. Also, the ridding community in my area isn’t incredibly large. It’s surprising how many people know each other.

At the end of the day, riding with a group is about carving up great roads together knowing that at the end of the day you get to hang out with some pretty fun people too. It enhances the ride and should not detract from it. So, get out there. There’s plenty of fish in the sea … I mean riding groups out there to choose from. Go find one and have a great ride.

 

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Motorcycling

 

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Virginia Coalition of Motorcyclists: 2014 Virginia General Assembly Wrap Up

There’s 3 items of interest: new category of motorcycle- autocycles, the wearing of masks for warmth is legal now, and the blame for on-coming left-hand turn accidents.

2014 Virginia General Assembly Wrap Up
March 13, 2014

The regular session of the Virginia General Assembly has concluded. We can of course expect a special session so that the two chambers can continue to fight over the budget and the impasse over Medicaid expansion. However, as that is a topic not specific to motorcycles or motorcyclists, I will not wade into those waters.

Motorcyclists had a pretty good year in 2014. The Virginia Coalition of Motorcyclists (VCOM) had three main issues going into this session, two of which have become law which will go into effect as of July 1st, 2014. If this were baseball we would be batting .667 and would qualify for the hall of fame. Yes Mr. O’Reilly that is called spin.

This year Virginia will get a new classification of motor vehicle called an autocycle. Both HB 122 and its Senate companion SB 383 have been signed by the Governor. Under this new law, an autocycle is defined as a three-wheeled motor vehicle that has a steering wheel, seating that does not require the operator to straddle or sit astride, and is manufactured to comply with federal safety requirements for motorcycles. The code also specifies that unless otherwise provided, an autocycle shall not be deemed to be a motorcycle. The reason for this legislation was the rise in popularity of three-wheeled cars such as the T-Rex and Elio which until now have been considered motorcycles due to having three wheels. The manufacturers of these vehicles do not want them to be considered automobiles because they would then have to meet the federal safety standards for automobiles. We motorcyclists do not want them to be motorcycles because they will unfairly distort our crash statistics. VCOM worked with Tanom, a company in Virginia which manufactures such vehicles, and with several state governmental agencies to create this new classification. This new classification satisfies all parties. Autocycles only have to meet the federal safety requirements for motorcycles so the manufactures are happy. Likewise, when these three wheeled cars are involved in a crash which results in an injury or fatality, they will not be considered motorcycle injuries or fatalities. I do not mean to sound indifferent about any injury or fatality, but the reality is that much of the laws that we see restricting motorcyclists are driven by crash data. If the government is going to use such data to pass laws aimed at us, we should demand that the data at least be accurate.

If you would like to read the full bill as enacted you may do so at the following link:

http://lis.virginia.g…­

The second bill to be signed by the Governor is HB 542 which concerns wearing masks in public. It is a felony to wear a mask in public in the Commonwealth of Virginia except under certain circumstances. This has historically been problematic for motorcyclists in Virginia who utilize cold weather gear, or who use a bandana to protect themselves from dust or sun. Many were being pulled over and told to remove the protective coverings. The code section now makes it clear that it is only a crime in Virginia to wear a mask in public with the intent to conceal one’s identity. Covering one’s face for the purpose of staying warm or to protect one’s self from the elements will no longer put a motorcyclist at risk of facing prosecution.

If you would like to read the full bill as enacted you may do so at the following link:

http://lis.virginia.g…­

Unfortunately, our third issue, which would have made it reckless driving to kill another motorist while committing a right of way violation, was defeated by the House Courts of Justice Committee. Despite support from motorcyclists across Virginia, the Committee defeated the measure on a 9-13 vote. Those who opposed the measure did so due to the fact that the bill made a traffic infraction a criminal offense without any change in the intent of the offender. We argued that the court would still have the power to find the offender guilty of a simple infraction if the evidence supported such a finding. We further explained that the main purposes of the bill was to force those who kill others on Virginia highways to come to court to answer for the charges, and to give courts more power to deal with such offenders appropriately. Despite our best efforts the measure failed. At least for now.

VCOM will continue to monitor issues affecting motorcyclists in the Commonwealth. If you have any concerns about such an issue please feel free to contact me. Additionally, if you wish to support VCOM you may join and become a supporter at vcomonline.org

Matt Danielson
McGrath & Danielson
Tom McGrath’s Motorcycle Law Group
1-800-321-8968
Motorcyclelawgroup.com

Virginia Coalition of Motorcyclists

Our mailing address is:
2606-2608 West Cary Street
Richmond, VA 23220
1- 800-437-9434

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2014 in Motorcycling

 

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BILT Explorer Waterproof Adventure Pants – First Look

As part of a package deal with Cycle Gear for buying the BILT Explorer Waterproof Jacket I also got the BILT Explorer Waterproof Adventure Pants. Formerly known as the BILT Explorer H2O Waterproof Adventure Pants, their name changed just after I purchased them. I expect that the H2O seemed redundant, but I’m still not sure how Explorer and Adventure aren’t. Despite the name these pants are pretty well-appointed with some features I find impressive for the price, and some that I have come to expect in a pant that were not included.

The Adventure pants are made of the same 600 denier PRO-FLEX™ outer shell and 1200 denier ENDURA-BRADE™ areas as the Adventure jacket. The 1200 denier areas are more integrated into the pants then they are the jacket as they are the main fabric used. The ENDURA-BRADE™ fabric covers the lower half of the front of the leg (from the knee down) and the entire back of the leg starting at the seat. There is a stripe of the PRO-FLEX™ fabric on the outside of the leg where two cargo pockets, reflective material, and the leg entry zippers are. The knees have stretch material to help seat the CE rated armor and make siting on the bike more comfortable. There are no hip pads nor are there pockets to add any.

As with the Adventure jacket there were loose threads when I unpacked them, but far fewer. The seams are cotton thread but double stitched. The pants feel slightly more put together than the jacket. Probably because there are far fewer pockets, angles, and hook and loop areas.

I had ordered a size 36 (I’m 6′ 4″ 210 lbs. 36″ waist) that were to large around the middle and a bit to long so I traded them in for a size 34 at a local Cycle Gear store. My first experience with Cycle Gear customer service was very enjoyable. No fuss, I was in and out of the store with my new pants and pleasant conversation to boot.

I commute to work about 3-4 days a week most of the year so I wear my motorcycle pants over my work pants. With the quilted liner installed it is a tight fit but it has kept me warm the few times I wore them on 40 degree days. Without the liner they fit really well and are a good commuter and riding pant. There’s not a lot of adjustments to speak of. One pull tab at the waist on the left side hip and the other right side pull tab is part of the fly closure. They fly has a zipper and hook and loop closure plus a gator for better weather protection. At the pant cuff there is a 12″ zipper with a hook and loop pull tab. It is impossible to put these pants on over boots. The cuff opening with the zipper does work for slipping on boots once the pants are on, but trying to get a booted foot down that pant leg would challenge a cirque du soleil performer. Best to not try in my opinion.

Like the Adventure jacket the pants also have a waterproof liner between the outer fabric and inner mesh lining. Two vents run the length of the thigh in a diagonal slash with pull/snap stays to hold them open. The vent opens to the WP liner and not directly to the skin. On cooler days this works better than on hot days. I wore this suit in 80+ degree heat recently. While the vents are large, the WP liner does not allow the air to get to the skin and so by the end of my hour commute I had some pretty soggy pants. My fully faired Concours 14 may have also contributed to the lack of air flow, but in any event they did not cool off my legs.

I had really hoped that the Explorer Adventure jacket and pants where a three to four season suit. They have all the appearance of a do it all, go anywhere setup but they have fallen a little short for me. I cannot really wear them in the summer heat for commuting unless I want to change my clothes at the office. I have ridden in them on a recent 450 mile ride where I didn’t have to wear work clothes underneath. This did not solve the heat issues. There is still little to no air flow through the vents to my legs. 

My opinion is that the Adventure pants are better for Late Fall/Winter/Early Spring gear. Even then, only when the temperature stays below low 70’s – high 60’s. They are comfortable, waterproof, and somewhat protective. Paired with the BILT Explorer Waterproof Adventure Jacket they will keep you warm and dry, and looking sharp too.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2014 in BILT Gear Review

 

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Interruption

NC BorderOn the border of Virginia and North Carolina just off US RT 29 there is a small gas station that does a fair amount of business for a Wednesday afternoon in mid-July. I know this because I’ve just spent the last few hours here. My bike is doing its best impression of a statue. I am sitting in a decreasing pool of shade from a highway sign trying not to sweat too much. The last hour was spent tearing my bike down with a limited tool kit trying to figure out why I have no electrics. I finally concede defeat and call roadside assistance who assure me they will be here soon. The tow truck will take me to a dealer that should be able to help me get back on the road.  

Over the years I’ve read several motorcycle travel stories where the authors assert that it’s the delays in a trip that make the journey interesting. These interruptions usually are the best stories. Every good road trip account I’ve heard or read is about the stops more than the riding. I’m fascinated by riders tales of around-the-world and around-the-country adventures. Where they went, what they saw, what they needed to do to get from where they were to where they wanted to go. Is it the adventure in foreign lands that entices me? Sure that’s part of it. Stories of far off, and not so far off, places and sights I probably will never see draw me in. More than that though, it’s the bumps in the road. It’s the stories of the places people stop, the people they meet there, and what they experience. That’s the heart of it. A unique experience being shared. On my motorcycle trips and wanderings the best, and most often repeated, stories my friends and I share are about the pauses, the struggles, and the strange things that happen on or around a motorcycle once it has stopped.

Tow TruckThe tow truck driver is here now and we strap down the bike to the back of a flatbed tow truck. I’m lucky the driver is also a motorcycle rider. He understands how to strap down a bike correctly. We are soon on our way to a dealer about 30 miles away from the gas station. On the way we talk about the bikes we’ve owned, trips we’ve taken, and other bikes he’s towed. We cover a bit of ground in our short conversation. He’s mostly a sport bike rider and likes to stay around town. Right now he’s in between bikes but has a line on a GSXR that a buddy of his is giving up on the cheap. I can hear the excitement in his voice  when he thinks about being able to ride again.

So much of what I hear in conversation at work or have when I’m out with friends is regurgitating information gathered from sound bites and headlines. In our busy lives, and because of the onslaught of information thrown at us every day, it’s an easy pattern to fall into. Glean a little information from the news headlines, twitter, facebook, etc. Then meet up with a friend, reiterate the soundbites and maybe discuss them a little. This is what passes for conversation. I think this is more information sharing than conversation. There’s a place for this type of discussion but I find too often that it’s taking the place of people sharing their own experiences with each other.

When my riding buddies get together and talk we recount stories of the time our friend got a flat tire outside Gatlinburg, TN. The time our boots melted when we tried to dry them out around the fire after riding all day in the rain. The fajitas we made at Mt.Pisgah campground off the Blue Ridge Parkway after a long day of riding. We rarely talk about the multiple miles we rode on a trip, except to maybe comment on a nice section of road. I’ve rarely gone on a ride longer than an hour and not come back home without something interesting (or even frightening) to talk about.

Draper CyclesThe tow truck pulls up next to a building sandwiched between several houses on a neighborhood street.  The only indication that it’s a motorcycle dealer is the faded sign and motley assortment of scooters and ATVs lined up in the mostly gravel parking lot. This is not what I expected when the woman from road side assistance said I’d be going to a Kawasaki dealer close by. The only other dealer in the area couldn’t make room for me for 2 weeks and this dealer could look at my bike today so I don’t have much of a choice. I help unstrap the bike and wheel it into the service bay at the back of the building. The service area looks more like my buddies garage who can’t seem to throw old bike parts away. It’s complete with an old 50’s era fridge, 80’s era boom box belting out 90’s era music. The mechanics are nice guys and take the bike right in. I’m not encouraged when their first question is “What kind of bike is that?” The closest motorcycle they have in their stable to my Concours 14 is a used Ninja last seen with Tom Cruise astride it in Top Gun.

Fortunately the basic workings of bikes are the same. Based on the ATVs, Minibikes, and “custom” motorcycles waiting to be serviced, these mechanics are accustomed to improvising and thinking outside the box. They locate the source of the problem in a very short time. The issue is an overheated (partially melted) fuse behind the battery due to a bad ground. The mechanic replaces the fuse and files down the powder coat on the frame so the ground can get a better contact. Things look like they are going well until he has to drill out the screw he just torqued the head off. After fixing the screw, he reattaches the ground and the bike fires right up. With well wishes on a safe journey, and an apology for the broken screw, I’m off.  Total cost: $20.00.

I arrive at my hotel three hours later than I expected. After unpacking I walk over to the rally I was trying to get to all day, grab an adult beverage, and find a few friends. We catch up and spend the rest of night telling stories about our adventures over the past year. I have a few (and one new one) I’m just itching to share. My story prompts the telling of other stories about on-road fixes.  20 uses for baling wire, best fixes involving duct tape,  the multiple virtues of vice grips, and many more.  The story telling and conversation go on late into the first night, and the next. Great conversation is easy with friends, especially when you have good stories to share.

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2014 in Motorcycling

 

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Risk Assessment

Assortment Of Bizarre Road SignsI am a professional troubleshooter. I worked at several IT help desks and even ran one for a time before moving into project management. These jobs have one thing in common. They require me to review a situation, assess the information provided, and make a choice to solve a problem. Every issue I encounter builds my knowledge base and ability to make the right choice when presented with information. In some cases I don’t even need very detailed information because I can recognize the situation and symptoms pretty early and correct it to resolve an issue. On a help desk we call this a decision tree. In project management we call it risk assessment. Whatever it’s called, you do it every day. We are always taking in information around us, reviewing that information, and then making choices based on our own experiences. This same process applies to becoming a better rider. In the MSF courses this is IPDE; Identify, Predict, Decide, Execute.

Identify

The first step in avoiding or correcting an issue is to identify that there is one. Seems simple enough, however in the world of distractions we live in it’s becoming tougher to keep our focus and attention on the road. Even on a motorcycle there’s GPS, music, buttons and dials to fiddle with, and even Bluetooth headsets that let us make and answer phone calls and send text messages via voice control. Car drivers are not the only ones out there distracted while driving, there’s plenty of things on a motorcycle to distract a rider. Keeping an eye out for danger isn’t enough. To really identify an issue we need to continually scan the road ahead as well as around and behind for potential hazards. The more situations you can identify and catalog the easier it is to predict, decide and execute the proper actions to take to avoid or mitigate the risk. This takes practice and repetition, just like anything else that we are good at. That means seat time on the bike, scanning the area you, and always looking for real or potential issues.

Predict

Once identifying a risk, potential or real, what happens next is where experience really counts. Predicting what will happen in a situation often depends on a few different factors. Have you been in this situation before? Have you read about this situation before? or have you heard someone else describe this situation before? Experience in dealing with a situation and having come out the other side unscathed is probably the best for predicting that event, or others like it, in the future. Of course there are other, potentially safer ways, to get that experience. Rider Training courses are one safe way to gather skills and techniques for predicting risks without actually having to experience them on the road. There are books and videos that cover a variety of riding situations and how best to identify and react to them. Street Strategies by David Hough is a concise page by page guide for dealing with real road situations. Listening to experienced riders and your friends can also help you understand risks. If your buddy is able to tell you the story of a near miss he had, that means he made a correct prediction. It might be worth listening to his story.

Decide

Once you predict the situation the next step is what to do about it. Deciding what action to take to avoid or mitigate the situation has as much to do with your mental and physical state as it does with your knowledge of how to handle a situation. If you have impaired judgement by being tired, cold, angry or under the influence of alcohol or drugs it’s possible an incorrect decision may lead to injury or worse. At this point you’ve gathered all the information about the situation and have to make a choice. All the knowledge and experience (or lack of) you have gained leads to this moment. Making an incorrect choice will lead to executing an incorrect action. Here again practice and education are your best friends. Practicing defensive maneuvers and good riding techniques sets up the muscle memory for you to execute corrective actions without much thought. When time is of the essence, that’s when you want instinct to take over and the right choice at your finger tips.

Execute

You’ve now identified the issue, predicted the outcome, and decided on the course of action. The only left to do is take action. Again, this is where practice and experience will pay off. Executing avoidance maneuvers effectively and smoothly is a matter knowing not only what you need to do but how the bike will react to what you are doing. The more you ride and become familiar with your bike’s and your capabilities the more effective you’ll be at executing the decided upon tactic to avoid or mitigate the identified risk.

One last step that’s not covered by IPDE but that I recommend is to take time after the incident to review it. Not immediately after you’ve come through the situation, but some time shortly after take a moment to think about what happened. Think about what you did and if there’s something that you could have done better. Could you have been more attentive and avoided the situation altogether? Was the decision you made the most appropriate for the situation? Could you have executed the avoidance maneuver more smoothly or sooner? In my opinion this is critical to building the knowledge base that will help you in the future. Better even than reviewing the situation by yourself, if you’re riding with someone talk over what happened with them. Being an observer, they may have seen something or have suggestions that can help.

We ride motorcycles because we love doing it. Being prepared to handle the risks inherent in this hobby will keep you riding for a lot longer. Plus, practicing is just another excuse to ride. Be safe and ride well.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2013 in Motorcycling

 

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