Wednesday, January 27, 2010


My 848 was stolen from my garage a couple of weeks ago. It is a gated garage and the bike was chained to a concrete post.

What could I have done to prevent it? What can I do in the future? What can I suggest?

First, I was using a bike cable. It's a deterrent, and nothing more. Considering a $13,000 bike, it's definitely worth investing a few bucks on giant pliers, so there's my first mistake. The chain that I had for it was too short to go around the concrete post to which it was tied to. I should've coughed up some cash and invest in a longer chain.

This is still a deterrent: chains can still be cut with torches relatively quickly. What else?

Investing on a GPS locator might have helped recover it, but I'm not so sure.

Alarm? also a deterrent.

The point is, you can throw all the deterrents you want and all you'll be doing is reducing the likelyhood that it gets stolen, but ultimately there is no guarantee. Sad story, but the most sensible thing to do is to not get too attached to it and make sure you have good insurance coverage.

What next? Triumph sent me a 6-month no-down, no-payments, no-interest deal on the Daytona 675. How convenient.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lane position

I remember reading at some point about what The Right Lane Position should be. I seem to recall reading that it was at the center of the lane, so the drivers could see you in their rearview mirrors.


848 digital dashboard

First of all, what will a driver do about it? Nothing. They can only get out of your way and yield the lane to you if you're coming faster. That's nice, but that doesn't make you a safer rider.

Secondly, being in the middle of the lane gives you less space to maneuver, especially when visibility is poor ahead of the vehicle.

I have found that the best position is on one third of the lane because this improves my visibility ahead and my options for maneuvering. Depending on the traffic conditions, I sometimes choose to ride close to the divider, where I can see the most and the drivers on the lane next to me (to my right) will hesitate before passing me. This helps my buffer on the right. It also makes it much easier to weave through traffic, when traffic conditions don't necessitate splitting yet.

This riding position is very good to get used to. I recently was following a pick up truck through an off-ramp and I couldn't see ahead through its windshield because the rear window was heavily darkened. This is a common situation. The truck made an unexpected stop but I was able to effortlessly maneuver around it because of where I was in the lane. Had I been directly behind, I would've had to brake harder, exposing myself to the driver behind me.

Of course, this suits my riding style which tends to be aggressive (fast, not furious) so I'm generally on the leftmost lane and I don't expect people to be passing me much. This is one of the reasons why riding faster can be easier than riding slower (not that I endorse it as a general method).

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Accidents happen... don't they?

Busted eyeYes.

..but not to everyone. What, then, separates "us" from "them"? Obviously we want to be on the non-accident prone riders. In fact, it doesn't matter if you've had an accident or not, you don't want to have an accident in the future, so it's irrelevant if you have or not. You want to be with those who never will.


Well, what is an accident? It's a situation that hurts us, and/or the bike. Can you have an accident without consequences? A "hit" that doesn't leave a trace? Sure, but let's say you can't, just because we don't care about those cases.

What causes an accident? Changes that the people involved did not foresee. Not all unforeseen changes cause an accident, but all accidents happen because of unforeseen circumstances.

Well, obviously we can't foresee everything, thus we can't ever be 100% certain we will never get in an accident. Well, that sucks. What we can do, however, is foresee enough so we reduce our chances of being in one, to something so small, that it never happens to us.


You can make up for other people's distractions and mistakes. But surely, there is a limit to the amount of attention you can put into something! You can't possibly know what everyone is up to, at least around you. How about consciously focusing less on some things, to free up some consciousness? That's what controlling your machine is about: doing enough exercises (or riding long enough) that you don't need to consciously think of anything about it. You know how to swerve, brake VERY fast and effortlessly glide through the asphalt. You become one with your bike when you stop thinking about it, when it does what you want without you having to think how. You become so good, that riding through traffic is just like walking through a crowd.

Oh, but surely walking through a crowd is not as dangerous. There is no gravel in a curve, no person crossing the double yellow into your lane. After all, if someone is on a collision course with you, you just walk around. Even if you do bump into someone, obviously it's not fast enough to hurt anyone. Most times, anyway.

It is the same thing. What changes is that you're going too fast to be able to act in time. I don't mean "always go as slow as possible", I mean that if there is a blind curve, go at a speed where you know you can stop or swerve IF someone is crossing the double yellow or there is a giant boulder or gravel just around the corner.

Let's use another example of making up for other people's mistakes: Two of the most common hits are when a driver does an oncoming U-turn without seeing you or pulls out of a driveway, again, without seeing you. The first case is the easiest, as you surely can see someone is about to turn and you have to assume they haven't seen you. Thus, you go slow enough that you can either brake or swerve (of course you know how much space you have around you to swerve, right?). The second case differs in that you might not know even where there is a driveway, as surely if you see a car intending to pull out, you have to assume it will without seeing you. Then you still have to ride slowly enough, and far enough from the curb that even if someone pulls out without you noticing but at the last minute, you can swerve or brake.

That is the golden rule of speed: Don't ride faster than you can foresee, since the future will put you (by inertia) somewhere unknown to you, and it could be a bad place like the grill of a truck, which you didn't see.

Getting distracted is then your worst enemy: you see much less. Maybe you miss that car stopping right in front of you because you're looking at street signs at night. Maybe you see it, too late, and you can't control your bike well enough to make it stop without locking the front wheel. If this happens, you were riding faster than you could see ahead of you, and you didn't know your bike well enough to stop without skidding.

Note that "ahead" not just means "physically in front of you" but also "in the future", like the moment when that car blows a red light without seeing you.

Push the limits, and you risk going over them. Can you avoid accidents AND have fun pushing the limits?

The answer is YES but that's for another post.

How fast is too fast, seriously? Well, how fast can you go AND brake if a kid runs in front of you in a residential area? That speed is close to the speed limit, probably. It could be less, or more, but somewhere there. What about the highway? What about a pristine, straight line, perfect visibility highway, under perfect mechanical conditions and light conditions? Well, that speed is as fast as the bike can go then, assuming you can also foresee where a cop might hide. Then yes, what is stopping you?

I'm not condoning speeding. Officially, I'm not. The point is, if you can't see a cop hiding, you deserve that ticket. The lesson being, it could have been something WORSE which you fail to see and maybe even pay the ultimate price.

Pay attention. Focus. Concentrate. Look ahead (of time and space). Don't go faster. Pretty easy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Riding is a game of statistics, and the better you know them, the more you can play safe. But this post is not about numbers or statistics, it's about the other half of games: the part that you control. In particular, it's about the control that you take over your actions that leaves less things to luck or other people's decisions.

One of the most important issues that you take control over, is visibility. You could count on drivers seeing you, but why leave it to chance? Of course, you will not be able to ensure 100% of drivers out there know where you are and what your intentions are, but here are some practical points. Some obvious, some not so much:

Dress visibly. White helmets have a lower accident rate. I'm not saying you should get a white helmet, just that it helps. It also helps to have reflective tape on your helmet or clothing. Some people wear bright colors... ok, maybe it's because they have poor taste, but it works.

Somewhat related to your appearance is your sound. You can't really rely much on a noisy exhaust or engine to announce yourself, especially since you'll mostly target people behind you, which sort of defeats the purpose. However, it does help a bit in traffic, when you're splitting lanes. You can blip (rev your engine) and obviously you can use your horn. Speaking of which, if you're very much into safety, you might want to consider upgrading your horn to something that sounds like a truck and not a toy.

Act visibly. Make your intentions obvious. This is the stuff you learn on your DMV tests. Use your signals, both hand and light indicators. It's legal in some states to use your high beam during the day; it helps, but it might piss off people too. Looking over your shoulder not only allows you to check where you're going, but also to let other drivers know you'll change lanes NOW.

Also, consider this: the eye is most receptive to movement. That means that if you're relatively static to other vehicles, it is much harder to detect your presence. I usually speed out of blind areas or weave a bit. Change a lane here, pass a car there. It's good when people know you're there.

Ride within visible areas. It's good to understand where blind spots are, and I'm sure you paid detailed attention to your course manuals. Unfortunately, those mirrors don't quite cover much and everyone arranges them differently. The trick here is, don't assume that you're not on someone's blind spot, unless you can see their face on the mirror. If you can see them, at least you know they can see your head, no? The same goes for peripheral vision. Just assume it sucks and stay away from the sides of vehicles.

Similarly, you might recall that many accidents happen on intersections, when an oncoming vehicle crosses your path without seeing you. It's best if you can make eye contact with the person, but don't count on it. Prepare to handle the problem beforehand by slowing down, easing on the throttle, flashing your headlight, beeping, jumping and waving, or whatever combination you think is best. Just remember, don't count on people seeing you.

You're invisible. Just pretend that nobody can see you while riding, and those who have, just forgot you were there. If you ever hear "I never saw you", you can blame yourself. Just don't do it in front of the insurance agent or the police.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lane Splitting

Lane splitting is a subject that is often motorists' minds. Maybe you hate lane splitters, especially that idiot that nicked your mirror. Maybe you hate them because you're stuck in traffic and they're not. Well, the reality is that EVERYONE loves a lane splitter, and you mother would approve if you split lanes too.


Preposterous statement out of the way, let's discuss the issues:

Lane splitting is not dangerous. Not by itself, though. In fact, lane splitting keeps you from being rear-ended. Did you think about that? When approaching stopped traffic, try to split. This is for your safety.

Let me get a technicality out of the way first: in California it's lane sharing, as you're not supposed to be riding on top of the lines, but on one of the lanes, with another car. Also, in case it is not obvious. Splitting is not legal in most US states... actually, probably only legal in California.

From wikipedia: lane splitting:

The Hurt Report, published in 1981 and based on accident data gathered in the 1970's, concluded that lane splitting reduces rear end crashes and improves motorcycle safety. FARS data from the United States Department of Transportation shows that rear end collisions with motorcycles are 30% lower in California (the only US state where it is legal) than in Florida or Texas, states with similar riding seasons and populations.

The Oxford Systematics report commissioned by VicRoads, the traffic regulating authority in Victoria, Australia, found that for motorcycles filtering through stationary traffic "No examples have yet been located where such filtering has been the cause of an incident."

“ Lane splitting is more than a congestion reducer or a convenience for the road denizens who are willing to accept and manage more risk by motorcycling. It is a tool that can literally save a biker's life, especially in situations where they're being tailgated, crowded, or flat-out ignored by others. „
—Tim Kreitz, moto-journalist & MSF riding instructor

I bet you never saw it that way.

Splitting safely involves several guidelines:

  1. Watch for other drivers
  2. Watch your speed
  3. Practice

Watching for other drivers is crucial. As you already know, people drive distracted, don't use their signals or just don't see or expect you. Nightmare scenario is a driver suddenly changing without warning and without seeing you. What do you do?

This is where your other skills come into play, and are the next two points:

IMG_0023Watch your speed. If you're going too fast, you won't have time to react and you're more likely to be unseen. How fast is too fast? More than 10mph faster than the slowest lane could warrant an extra pause for thought. Again, this is ballpark, as the more skilled you are with your bike, the easier you can get out of trouble at faster speeds.
I usually don't split if traffic is decent and moving along. In the end, my fail proof excuse for doing it is to avoid getting rear-ended, which is less plausible if everyone is doing 65mph and I'm passing at 85 (hypothetically). Yet another reason to slow down is to keep drivers comfortable. Last thing you want is a pissed off driver around you.

You'll likely encounter many riders going faster than you. Don't get pressured, pull aside into a lane and let them pass you. Pushing your limits on a motorcycle is what gets people into bad situations. As you gain experience (or lose good judgement), you'll figure out what speed is comfortable for you. That's ultimately the goal.

Practice, practice, practice. Those mirrors look awfully close, and those trucks awfully big. Stay well within your comfort zone and learn the quirks. Things to be on the lookout for:

  • Weaving drivers: Most people have an oscillating pattern, some much wider than others
  • Road crappiness: Lanes abruptly changing height can give you a good scare at first, as the road will upset your bike. In time, you'll deal with these just like you deal with gusts of wind. Yes, they will make you crap your pants the first time, but you'll be ok.
  • Invisibility: A noisy exhaust helps (though pisses off your neighbors), but in general just assume people haven't seen you, or even the car next to them. Be prepared to brake or swerve. Your "safety pocket" (which you will learn all about in your MSF course) is smaller now, which is why it is good to reduce your speed.

In case you're wondering: no, the lane reflectors won't make you wipe out, they're just bumpy to remind you you're splitting, not sharing. tsk, tsk.

Which one is for me?

First: let's make it clear that there is no such thing as "the right motorcycle". You can ask around and the only consistent thing you will get is a bunch of different opinions. Here goes another one:

Let's assume you're reading this because it will be your first. You probably don't need my opinion if you've already owned one. What kind of motorcycles are there?

Most generically: sports, cruiser, tourer, off-road, moped. Do take a look at wikipedia for details and a better description of all types.

What do you picture yourself riding? As simple as the question looks, there's a few things involved in the answer: what kind of bikes do you like more, what you'll likely use the bike for. Clearly, a responsible person would start by analyzing his or her needs and base the selection on this critera. However, bikers are clearly insane, so let's just pick one that you like.

In all seriousness, while you will likely base at least part of your decision on its utility, you're also very likely to switch your ride once you've ridden for a while. Plus, let's face it: bikes are fun so just get some eye candy.

Moving on to the useful part of the article, keep a few things in mind: Your bike will give you better mileage than your cage, but if you're freaking out about it, consider that smaller engines have better mileage in general. You can get 60mpg from a 250cc, while you'll get 45mpg from a 750cc (ballpark figures). Also, you probably care about how long you'll be sitting on it. Are you commuting a few miles to work? Don't worry much about comfort. Are you planning on visiting your uncle Jesus in Mexico? Look at cruisers or tourers or start working on your core muscles if you plan on getting that sweet superbike.

IMG_0072That brings me back to the original question: what do you picture yourself doing on your bike? Commuting on it and occasionally taking it out on the weekend? Where will you take it out; the super slab, the twisties or the sand dunes?

Think about it, and share your thoughts in the comments. Yes, that means YOU.