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Thread: Avoiding an early death on your motorcycle

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Avoiding an early death on your motorcycle



    There are more motorcycles on the road now than ever -- and, unfortunately, more accidents involving motorcycles, too. It's almost certain that rider inexperience -- especially as regards older "newbies" on large-displacement cruisers, as well as the under-30s who get in over their heads on fast sport bikes -- is a major contributing factor.

    The 40-year-old with a just-minted, first-time-ever motorycle license who buys himself a new Yamaha Road Star or full-dress Harley -- instead of a lighter weight and easier to manage middle or lightweight "starter bike." Not used to handling all that weight, he drops it in a turn -- or brakes too late, too fast -- and piles into the rear end of a stopped car. Then there's the 25-year-old who buys a 10-second sport bike -- and gets killed when he loses control at 130-mph. These are typical profiles of riders who get into trouble on their bikes -- the faces behind the death toll in the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration's accident and fatality statistics.

    NHTSA's data indicates that the average age of the new motorcyclist is increasing -- as is the size and weight of that first bike. These facts correlate closely with the uptick in motorcycle accidents and fatalities that has taken place over the past few years.

    So what to do? How can the problem be addressed?

    While most states have motorcycle licensing requirements that are a bit more strict than regular driver's licensing requirements, the typical written test and DMV parking lot "road test" is a poor substitute for the kind of real-world training that could save you life. Such training is available through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (see www.msf-usa.org or call 800-446-9227) and highly recommended for the new/inexperienced rider.

    MSF rider training programs -- which are offered in most states, and which typically qualify the student for a waiver of his DMV "road test" upon successful completion -- fill in the gaps left by state licensing procedures. These one or two-day courses teach everything from basic skills to critical accident-avoidance tactics. All training is handled by instructors who are certified by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation. MSF actively works with both NHTSA and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators to develop both the written and practical tests used in 31 states, as well as the motorcycle operator's manual used by 41 states. MSF licensing staff also conduct examiner training programs for motor vehicle departments, qualify examiners -- and provide technical assistance.

    The two-day Motorcycle RiderCourse is geared toward the brand-new rider with little or no "seat time" on a bike -- so the motorcycle and helmet are provided. It is a great idea to learn to ride on someone else's bike (these are typically loaners provided by local dealers) than it is to start out on one you've just bought and have no real feel for. There are several types of bikes -- cruisers, sport bikes, in-betweens -- and they all have their own "feel," seating position and handling/braking dynamics. Once you've become a confident rider, you can test ride different types of bikes and better determine what style is right for you. It's the height of foolishness to buy a big cruiser or sport bike based on its looks alone -- before you've even riden such a bike -- to say nothing of unsafe.

    The one-day "refresher" Experienced RiderCourse offered by MSF is designed to spruce up the skills of more seasoned riders who already know how to ride -- but who may have stopped riding for a period of time and are just now gettingback into it. Or the summer-only/weekend rider who may not get on his bike for months at a time during the winter "off" season. This course -- you ride your own bike -- focuses more on the mental attitudes associated with safe riding, such as managing risk, anticipating potentiallly dangerous situations (such as oblivious motorists), optimizing lane position, and so forth.

    These courses are extremely worthwhile and highly recommended. Riding a motorcycle safely requires greater skill, care and forethought than putting a car in "drive." It is multi-tasking on two wheels, in traffic -- with all the potential hazards that entails.

    Don't become a statistic. Take your time; learn to ride safely and well before you that new Hog out for a spin.




  2. #2
    mrblanche
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    Re: Avoiding an early death on your motorcycle

    The last I heard, something like 90% of all motorcycle fatality accidents happen in the first 90 days of owning the bike.

    But that may be old news!

  3. #3
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Avoiding an early death on your motorcycle

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    The last I heard, something like 90% of all motorcycle fatality accidents happen in the first 90 days of owning the bike.

    But that may be old news!
    I don't doubt that - especially since it's perfectly legal for an 18-year-old kid who never rode anything more than a dirt bike before to go into a store and buy a race-replica sport bike that is way above his skill set and a wreck waiting to happen. Same goes for the fat 45-year-old newbie who buys hisself a Fat Boy or 800-lb. Chhief as his "starter bike"!

  4. #4
    DonTom
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    Re: Avoiding an early death on your motorcycle

    The last I heard, something like 90% of all motorcycle fatality accidents happen in the first 90 days of owning the bike.

    I heard it was six months. The first accident, IMO, comes when the rider is sure he has completely mastered his machine. IOW, it becomes most dangerous when you think you're good at it.

    I believe in riding scared. Scared of everything. In the city, scared of cars. On the freeway, scared of objects on the road. In the country, the deer and other animals.

    The most dangerous time on a bike is when you think you're safe.


    "He that's secure is not safe."
    --Benjamin Franklin


    -Don Quoteman

  5. #5
    Senior Member bikerlbf406's Avatar
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    Re: Avoiding an early death on your motorcycle

    Eric great job on posting about the MSF courses. I'm 22 & never rode a motorcycle in my life (including dirt bikes) before the CB550SC. Atleast I had the common sense to take the MSF Basic Riders Course before even seriously looking in to a bike. Than I bought me a DOT approved Full Face helmet & leather jacket (the best I could afford). Than when looking at bikes I told myself NO SPORT BIKES & NOTHING OVER 700CC'S and made sure to stay in that limit. When riding, even on the few days we've had mid 60 degree weather I still made sure to wear my full face helmet, full finger gloves, leather jacket, jeans & boots. Even when getting the bike, for the first couple days I made sure I took it extremely easy to get used to the handling of the bike. I've nearly laid it over 3 times, twice do to mistakes thinking my kickstand was down all the way when dismounting & once when taking a corner from a dead stop. Atleast all 3 times, the bike is light enough I was able to catch it before laying it over. I value my life & intend on not being a statistic, however seeing plenty of other bikers out there, including friends (experienced & unexperienced riders), same with family members, ALOT OF THESE BIKERS ARE PLAIN STUPID. I have an Uncle right now that just bought his first bike, without taking an MSF course & than he bought himself a Harley Sporster 1200 & than rides it without a helmet (legal in Illinois to ride w/o helmets) & I think of how stupid he is. I'm an Asst Chief with a local Search & Rescue team that does body removals for the county coroners office & I've seen a good 100 motorcycle accidents, about 25 of them with severe injuries & 50 of them fatalities, just in the past 3 years in one County only. Out of those approximately 50 fatalities, a good 45 of them were not riding proper gear and/or lack of experience and/or too big of a bike for experience. One thing I also have to say is YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE OTHER MOTORISTS AS THEY TEND TO NOT SEE US & NOT CARE ABOUT US. I nearly got ran down by an SUV running a redlight doing about 40MPH over the speed limit just 3 days after getting my bike. If theres any newbie riders that read this, or even experienced riders for that matter, I can tell you true horror stories that would make your stomach tumble & cause you to think twice before ever getting on a bike without dressing safely & having proper training. The MSF course is by far the most valuable thing Ive done to be able to operate a bike safely & more people need to take it, including experienced riders can take the MSF courses as they do offer advanced rider courses as well.

    Tim
    Tim, proud owner of 2001 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 & 2007 Honda CMX250C Rebel


  6. #6
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Avoiding an early death on your motorcycle

    Thanks!

    And good to hear you're doing what's smart to decrease the chances you'll get hurt - and believe me, if you ride long enough, eventually, some cager's gonna almost cream you (or you'll make a mistake and almost cream yourself). I ride dirt bikes, too - and one of the best things about them is that you can learn to get off thebike (wreck) in a way that'll help you if you ever have to do it on the street. Track time is extremely valuable, too. Even if you don't want to ride an aggressive sport bike on the street as your main ride, learning aspects of bike handling dynamics, etc. from guys who are "fast" (most track schools have instructors who either ex pros or WERA/club racers, etc.) canmake you a much better - and therefore, safer- rider.

    I'm near Danville, fyi - and so VIR is not far away. Freddy Spencer's Cornerspeed school is run there - worth every penny; if you get the chance, I recommend taking a course like this. Some even provide the bikes!

  7. #7
    Senior Member Kwozzie1's Avatar
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    Re: Avoiding an early death on your motorcycle

    I agree with DonTom....ride scared!

    Just yesterday had two incidents .....both involving 4WDs.
    Heading along the local 2 lane highway towards a number of opposing cars. Had just thought I wonder if anyone is going to be stupid enough to pull out and overtake, bearing in mind the road I I had just travelled.
    With out warning and with no indication driver pulled out to become the lead car. I ride with headlight on but can only guess it was his yakking on his mobile that was grabbing his attention. I doubt that he even saw me.

    On way home... Had a Range Rover come up so close behind that he was probably less that 3 car lengths behind...again yakking. It took lots of brake flashing to get his attention. I was 5kph over the limit, bet he had no idea of his speed. Using the 2 second rule for distance, I was 3 seconds behind the car in front.
    I will say I did see a wave and he backed off.

    Recently here in QLD it has been made illegal for learner drivers to use a mobile phone even with a handsfree kit

    I reckon it should apply to full licensed drivers also

    It's scary out there!

    Ride Safe
    Rex
    On the Sunshine Coast, in the Sunshine State Queensland (QLD), Australia

  8. #8
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Avoiding an early death on your motorcycle

    "It's scary out there!

    Ride Safe"

    Absolutely; one should always ride with the assumption that every car driver is out to kill you. Trust no one!

    My worst close call ws about three years ago when a vehicle suddenly turned in front of me with no warning, no signal. I barely kept from low-siding it into the @%!! car. Cleared the back end by inches. I probably should have just dropped the bike instead of trying to make it around; but I pulled it off and saved the plastic (at the risk of my hide) so all turned out ok!

  9. #9
    DonTom
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    Re: Avoiding an early death on your motorcycle

    "My worst close call ws about three years ago when a vehicle suddenly turned in front of me with no warning, no signal."

    The old left turn in front of you trick?

    BTW, Tom once almost hit a stopped biker during a left turn. If it were not for me, I think he would have. It was in our Dodge Ram truck. We were making a left turn at a green light. There was a biker at the red light stopped to the left whose view was blocked by the metal part just to the left of windshield, between the left door window and windshield in a 1999 Dodge Ram pick up. The bike fit in there perfectly, no way could Tom see it during the turn. Since I was at a better angle in the passenger seat, I yelled and that prevented the accident.

    So here brings up another issue. IMO, there should be a law about how much sight can be blocked in any vehicle. A near accident like this could never happen in a convertible with the top down. Then there are no blind spots at all. But in many other cars (or pickups) one can see a lot more than in some others, because of their design.

    BTW, my closet call was in the early 1970's on highway 152 in CA. If I were in a car, I would be dead! After I completed a curve in the hills, coming at me was a truck in my lane, passing another truck. I went between them with perhaps an inch or two on each side of me and somehow made it out alive. My heart was beating so hard after that, I had to stop and take a break! I still have a hard time believing I am still alive after that. It felt like I was going to get squashed by both trucks.

    They fixed up 152 a lot since then, it's not nearly as dangerous as it used to be. It was once considered the most dangerous highway in CA. For many years after that, I would go way out of the way to avoid 152. But now it's fairly safe.

    -Don-


  10. #10
    mrblanche
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    Re: Avoiding an early death on your motorcycle

    Where is 152?

    I've been through the intersection where James Dean was killed many times.

  11. #11
    DonTom
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    Re: Avoiding an early death on your motorcycle

    "Where is 152? "

    The section I am referring to goes from 101 in Gilroy, CA to Highway 5, just before Los Banos. But 152 starts on highway One and goes east through Watsonville all the way to San Luis Reservoir where highway 152 changes to highway 33 just before I-5.

    Also called Pacheco Pass. Sort of in the middle of nowhere. But it's a good way for trucks to get to & from San Jose to/ from I-5.

    Or, in all decimal, my near accident happened around N36.9830 W121.4665, near San Felipe Lake.

    -Don-



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