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Better Riding Tips

Lane Splitting: A guide to the game

by Richard D. Grazia

Lane splitting, like baseball, is a game of inches. In baseball, judging small distances accurately wins games. In motorcycling, it gets you home early and in one piece.

For five years, I have been commuting from Berkeley to San Francisco and back every day, 15 miles along the I-80 corridor and across the Bay Bridge. Often, I lane-split the whole distance, saving about an hour a day in travel time. The tips in this article result from that experience.

If you can ride on freeways fairly comfortably but haven't lane-split yet, practice judging the distance between two stationary objects wider than your motorcycle, then find the midpoint of that distance. That mid-point is where you'll want to be in any lane-split or passing move.

While lane-splitting, you are measuring distances, acting and reacting to your observations. The situation is fluid and changes take place in tenths of seconds or less. When traffic stops, the situation goes static. You become the only dynamic player.

Moving through stopped or slowly moving traffic is actually a combination of lane- splitting and lane-changing. The gap is where you find it; how you use it and avoid contact is the challenge.

Getting Started

Make sure your bike is in tune, has good brakes and good rubber.

Without cars around you, practice riding on lane buttons. Take a firm grip on your handlebars. Riding on the buttons will shake your bike, but it won't tip you over. Get used to the feeling; you'll be riding on the buttons occasionally while you're between cars.

To pass one car in slowly-moving traffic on the freeway, place yourself behind a car that has plenty of space in front of it. (Cars should be running parallel to your chosen car.) Line up to the right or left side (whichever affords the most space) of your chosen car. Make sure you're in a low enough gear to provide adequate roll-on power. Check your mirrors, then look up your route. If it's clear, give it the gas. Pass the car and pull into the forward space. You have just lane-split. When you're comfortable with the one-car pass, up the ante to two cars, then three and so on.


Lane-splitting is essentially a hand-eye coordination activity. The operative term here is "eye." If you don't see what's happening around you, you'll never make the right move.

Keep your eyes moving: check the situation way up ahead. Read the intention of the vehicles near you; check your mirrors. Don't stare. At 30 mph, you are traveling at 44 feet per second. At that speed, you travel 4.4 feet in a tenth of a second.


Cover the front brake lever with two fingers. If you have to stop, you'll be able to save a bit of reaction time, which translates into distance. Stopping even one inch away from an obstruction is good.

Relax your arms by bending them slightly at the elbows. Remember to breathe. If you become tired, stop lane-splitting for awhile.

Check your mirrors before starting any lane-splitting move. A fellow lane-splitter, closing quickly from behind as you enter the gap, could spoil your whole day. l also periodically check my mirrors while lane-splitting. If I see another lane-splitter coming up behind me, I can decide whether to pull over or speed up.

Control direction and speed with smooth micro-inputs, knees to tank, hands countersteering, hand to throttle. You don't have room for big maneuvers.

When the gap narrows and your move isn't going to work, slow down, drop back into a lane, or stop between lanes if you have to.

Make sure your mirrors and bar-ends will clear van, truck and car mirrors. It's not a major deal when they connect, usually just a loud clacking noise, but it is embarrassing. Other drivers may not like you just for lane-splitting, but tapping their mirrors out of adjustment makes it worse.

Be patient at merges. Other drivers often change lanes here, trying to gain some advantage. That's their illusion. Wait until they settle down. You are the only one who can really take advantage of the traffic situation.

Be wary of solo drivers who use car pool lanes to get ahead of the traffic jam in the non- car pool lanes. At the last minute, they will try to enter the jam; if you are about to make a pass at that point, the results will not be amusing.

When other vehicles, whether signaling or not, start a lane-change maneuver, don't accelerate in an attempt to get past them. Give them the right of way.

Be aware of empty spaces to the side of the car that you intend to lane-split past. Try to go by before the driver is aware of you. Failing that, if the car tries to move over while you're on the side of his car, match the car's move if you have the space. Your other option is again to be patient for a bit. The relationships will change, the car's place will be taken by another vehicle, and you can lane-split the two safely.

Passing another motorcycle which appears to be staying in a lane presents an interesting problem: It's as hard to tell if the rider knows you're there as it is to judge a car driver's awareness of your presence. The motorcyclist has your flickability, however. If you fell certain that the rider is holding steady in a lane, zap past. If you're uneasy about the motorcyclist's intentions, lane-change away and go about your business.

Most drivers place their vehicle near the left side of their lane. They are sighting on the lane divider nearest to them. In most instances, your position should be on the right side of the lane. This will give you the most maneuvering room.

In order to pass between sets of lane buttons without riding over them, sight on the last button of the front set and quickly make your move. Usually, you'll pass smoothly through, or at worst ride over the last button. Whatever you do, don't get hung up on not riding over the buttons. Not hitting or being hit by other vehicles is what's happening.


The great race car driver Juan Fangio once said, "I drive just fast enough to win." You probably shouldn't ride between vehicles at more than 10 to 15 mph faster than they are traveling. If they're stopped, they are traveling 0 mph.


Even though lane-splitting is legal in some states, whether you'll get pulled over by the police is dependent on whether or not they feel what you are doing is safe. The catch, of course, is that each patrolman has a different criteria for what constitutes "safe." Ride in a manner which you feel is safe for you. If you get ticketed, plead not guilty and take it to a jury. The ticket is a judgment call. Obviously, you are in the right or you wouldn't have been lane-splitting. Was it safe? Hell, yes! The fact that you're standing in court with all your limbs intact is proof of that. At any rate, keep an eye out for the cops just in case.


Being aware of the lethal danger you're in and simultaneously ignoring it is a requirement of lane-splitting. This ability is composed of experience, guts and self confidence.

Lane-splitting is as much fun and as challenging as a mile of technical enduro landscape or miles of canyon carving.

The flow of freeway traffic is like a river. Learn to read every ripple and snag in the pattern.

The whole freeway is your playing field. The gap between vehicles is where the game is played.

On a motorcycle, you are in another space- time continuum from other vehicles. No wonder they don't see you.

When you are all going the same speed - cars, trucks and motorcycles - holding position, you are motionless, relative to one another. When you accelerate slightly, the pattern changes, but only at a difference of several miles per hour. (All vehicles are moving at 65 mph., you accelerate to 67 mph. The situation changes at 2 mph.) Moves take place in relative slow motion.

The experienced eye can judge the mid- point of variably changing distances. Rear bumper to front fender of surrounding vehicles. It is a solvable three-body problem.

You will see other motorcyclists lane- splitting. It is a temptation to see who can go the fastest. Deal with the temptation as you see fit.

Henceforth, all car drivers will be known as "Civilians." However, when we drive cars, we will be known as motorcyclists.

Be in tune with your machine; the way it smells, the sounds it makes, the shadow it casts when you ride.

Graduation Day

You have just lane-split all the way home in the rain, in the dark, at rush-hour on Friday night. You've had a great rideSooner or later, it hits even the best rider -- the sudden realization that your approach speed is much too fast for the corner rapidly filling your faceshield. It doesn't matter if you're a commuter cruising home from work or a racer who just suffered a lapse of attention at speed; riding out of this mess gracefully demands attention, skill and mental preparedness. Let's take the problem a stage at a time.

Decide to make it:
Your first emotion should be a firm determination to "ride through the corner". You have to stay mentally strong and supress any doubts, which can quickly explode into panic, and can overwhelm your ability to take charge of the situation. Too often a rider panics and locks the rear brake, losing his ability to control the situation. He then slides off a corner that he could have made if he simply had been resolved to do so.

Some riders simply freeze, and never make any control inputs at all. It's more comon for a rider to crash when he panics entering a corner that he could have completed than it is for a rider to fall trying to corner too hard. Learn to relax and maintain your body position and motorcycle control in these high-pressure circumstances.

Lead with your eyes:
You go where you look, so LOOK UP THE ROAD AND THROUGH THE CORNER where you want to go. Don't let you eyes begin searching for a place to crash. Part of overcoming panic is wrenching your eyes away from the ditch or railing or even the open field looming ahead and putting them where you want to turn. It's also the first step in actually turning that way.

Brake deep, lean hard:
If there's ever a moment when your braking practice pays off, it's now. As long as you have some significant pavement ahead, there is room to brake. The slower you go, the tighter an arc you can ride through the corner. Of course, the closer you come to the edge of the lane, the tighter an arc you NEED to stay there. Given sufficient room and hard enough braking, at some point your speed drops below the point at wich you can safely lean it over and drive through the corner. That speed is probably higher than you realize, however, unless you have spent some time on a racetrack exploring the outer edges of your bike's performance abilities. The only way you will learn how much your bike has left and how to use it fully is to practice.

Learn from this experience:
A close call should reinforce your confidence if you handle it successfully, reminding you that you have a reserve to tap. It should also remind you of your limitations. In other words, either know your road, or slow down.

Riding in a group
By Peter Short

On all of Club Central's club rides this year, amongst the Safety Notes that I include in all the Route Sheets published to date, one will find a note like "Keep a 2 sec minimum following distance (4 sec in the rain) from the bike on the road ahead; ride en echelon in towns - line astern on open roads" or words to that effect.

I have recently had queries raised as to precisely what I mean by en echelon and thought I would try and explain the background to my safety note. We all ride high quality motorcycles and I strive to match that quality in my riding skills - don't always get it right though!!

Firstly, the words en echelon is just my larney use of what I believe to be French for 'staggered pattern' (Afrikaans: trapsgewys ingerig) meaning first bike to the right of the lane and the following bike to the left and so on down the chain; the traditional method - it would seem - that bike riders have adopted.

I do not think I need dwell on the latter issue of turning a bike, because we all know that the way to steer a bike is to use the COUNTER STEERING technique (i.e. press on the inside bar or pull on the outside bar - or both as you prefer) and not by leaning your weight left and right. Moving one's body off centre-line is a tactic designed to move the centre-of-gravity of the whole vehicle to the inside of the corner, thereby allowing the bike to stay more upright than otherwise it would be and therefore using the full contact patch of rubber (to the edge of the tyre tread in racing); thus increasing the speed before tyre adhesion will fail. Leaning your weight with the bike once into the turn is a valid and safe style to adopt of course but this on it's own is not what turns a bike. On to the more important stuff!

All advanced riding manuals and training will advise you to maintain AT LEAST a 2 second spacing to the vehicle ahead of you on the road (easily done by checking a mark on the road that the bike ahead of you passes and saying to yourself 'twenty-one; twenty-two' at normal speech pace by the time you reach the same point).

Many will argue that even 2 seconds is not enough in certain circumstances. If one is riding in staggered formation and you maintain a 2 second spacing to the bike in your path you have structurally halved your spacing to only 1 second to the bike ahead of you on the road - granted it will be to one side but still your spacing is only 1 second and the bike ahead of you will use the whole of the lane (if not more) in an emergency situation and also in even ordinary corners! Given that the average person's reaction time is around 0.7 sec (meaning the fright you get that makes you say 'Oh Sh**!' before you react by doing something!!), bikes are riding virtually on top of each other. In my book, spacing is what makes for a pleasant and safe riding experience, not riding so close to other bikes as to make the experience almost sexual in nature! Pilots have a saying on take-off "that you can't use runway that you choose to leave behind you" and I think in similar vein, there is no substitute for a proper air gap to the vehicle ahead of you on the road.

If one is riding in staggered formation, a problem will also always arise at every corner - as each bike takes the corner, each using the proper entry point, apex and exit point, it is axiomatic that any following distance you may have created is immediately - at best - halved, so you are down to less than a second in this situation purely from the dynamics of the ride. Not something one would want to have happen in a corner I would guess. The reaction to this is that the following bike taps off just a little at the entry point (because this is one's instinctive reaction to the gap closing so rapidly) and this immediately puts a wave of unexplained (usually no brake light warning either, and thus slow to react to) retardation into the following string of bikes, just where one would not want it to happen (approaching a corner). Any such wave (or surge) down the line of bikes magnifies itself the further back one is in line.

Riding too close, of course, also has the effect of making a rear-view mirror 'sensitive' rider (which I hope we are all at least aware of what's in the mirrors) to perhaps ride in a more hesitant manner in certain situations, also creating unexplained moves.

A combination of single rider bikes and those with two-up in close company, each with very different braking ability because of the mass difference alone, also creates havoc when spacing is insufficient.

These are some of the main reasons why I advocate firstly, applying as a minimum, a 2 second spacing to any vehicle ahead of you on the road and secondly riding Line Astern as the normal formation, only recommending staggered but with still 2 seconds to the bike ahead on the road (as opposed to in your path) when the group is likely to be riding at around the 60 - 70 km/h mark ('in towns'); this is really only recommended to try and stack a few more bikes into the chain between traffic lights and other negators of group coherency when riding in towns and such. The TWO SECOND (minimum) gap should rule all your riding.

Nice tight U-turns
By Bertie Kotze

Tips for BMW riders wishing to do nice, tight U-turns without the humiliation of:
  • Your passenger having to get off the bike;
  • Dropping your pride and joy;
  • Paddling your feet on the ground like you are riding a child's tricycle;
  • Wobbling around like a learner rider;
  • Driving around and around town until you can find a roundabout;
  • Driving around two entire blocks, so as to reverse your direction.
This is the technique that the NSW Police pursuit motorcyclists utilise to do U-turns, whether it is on their K1100LT, their Harley Road King, or their Honda 1500. Bear in mind they have around 100 kg (220 lbs) of equipment on board, which would equate to a pillion passenger in most books...

This technique will turn your cycle around in a two lane road, leaving about 1.8 m (or 6 feet) to spare. Interested? Read on...

The key to making nice, tight U-turns is centripetal force. Remember that expression from your high school physics days? It is the force you can feel when you hold a spinning top, and try to move it suddenly. The top resists - the faster you spin it, the more resistance you feel. To make centripetal force work to your advantage, you induce spin into your engine components by revving the motor. Not blipping the throttle, but by running up to, and holding at around 2 500 RPM. The centripetal force exerted by your spinning engine components under these conditions is considerable - more than enough to hold you, your bike, your pillion and luggage upright whilst you manoeuver through your turn.

The steps to follow are:
  1. Pull to side of road and stop.
  2. Check mirrors for traffic approaching from the rear.
  3. Check for oncoming traffic.
  4. Signal your intention to turn.
  5. RPM to 2 500 and hold it there.
  6. Clutch out until begins to engage and move off. Do not fully release - allow to slip only. BOTH FEET UP.
  7. Control your speed by using the rear brake ONLY, and continuing to slip the clutch.
  8. **KEEP YOUR HEAD UP - LOOK TO WHERE YOU WANT TO GO** Failure to do so will result in you leaning the bike, which means you are approaching fall-over territory at low speeds.
  9. Did I say KEEP YOUR HEAD UP? Well, I'm saying it again. KEEP YOUR HEAD UP.
  10. Using the rear brake to control your speed, come to full lock and begin your turn. KEEP YOUR HEAD UP, and aim to turn at about walking speed.
  11. KEEP YOUR HEAD UP - control your speed with the rear brake - maintain engine speed.
  12. Accomplished riders do not even need to take their feet off the pegs to execute this manoeuver, especially if they keep their head you-know-where.
  13. After you have completed your graceful U-turn, allow the clutch to engage fully and ride off into that sunset, to the admiration of onlookers and other lesser riders that have witnessed your skill and precision.
Guide for reluctant daredevils
If you are not-so-sure you can do this, try a little practise. A good venue is a car-park, where you can go nice and slow and get the hang of slipping the clutch and riding the rear brake at the same time. When you are making a U-turn, you should do it at about walking speed or less - at 2 500 RPM this can only be achieved by the use of both clutch-slip and rear brake. Try a few low speed figure 8 turns, wide at first, then approaching full-lock. You will be able to do full-lock (bars against the tank) U turns in either direction with practise.

Get in the habit of keeping your feet up on the pegs, so as you develop your balance and make use of the centripetal forces generated by using the motor (cops call feet-down riders 'paddle-foots', and feel it is a sign of only limited ability to control the motorcycle).

A few of you are saying - slip the clutch! NEVER!! Believe me, the cost of replacing a worn clutch is much LESS than that of replacing a busted fairing (my K1100LT has 60 000 km on it and the original clutch is holding up just fine. The first 40 000 km were spent as a low speed Police escort cycle).


Better street riding - cornering clinic
By Nick Ienatsch
Reproduced with kind permission from the KZN BMW Club

TWO WEEKS AGO a rider died when he and his bike tumbled off a cliff paralleling our favourite road. No gravel in the road, no oncoming car pushing him wide, no ice. The guy screwed up. Rider error. Too much enthusiasm with too little skill, and this fatality wasn''t the first on this road this year. As with most single-bike accidents, the rider entered the corner at a speed his brain told him was too fast, stood the bike up and nailed the rear brake. Goodbye

On the racetrack this rider would have tumbled into the hay bales, visited the ambulance for a strip of gauze and headed back to the pits to straighten his handlebars and think about his mistake. But let''s get one thing perfectly clear: the street is not the racetrack. Using it as such will shorten your riding career and keep you from discovering the Pace.

The Pace is far from street racing-and a lot more fun. The Pace places the motorcycle in its proper role as the controlled vehicle, not the controlling vehicle. Too many riders of sport bikes become baggage when the throttle gets twisted-the ensuing speed is so overwhelming they are carried along in the rush.

The Pace ignores outright speed and can be as much fun on a Ninja 250 as on a ZX-11, emphasizing rider skill over right-wrist bravado. A fool can twist the grip, but a fool has no idea how to stop or turn. Learning to stop will save your life; learning to turn will enrich it. What feels better than banking a motorcycle into a corner?

The mechanics of turning a motorcycle involve pushing and/or pulling on the handlebars; while this isn''t new information for most sport riders, realize that the force at the handlebar affects the motorcycle''s rate of turn-in. Shove hard on the bars, and the bike snaps over; gently push the bars, and the bike lazily banks in.

Different corners require different techniques, but as you begin to think about lines, late entrances and late apexes, turning your bike at the exact moment and reaching the precise lean angle will require firm, forceful inputs at the handlebars.

If you take less time to turn your motorcycle, you can use that time to brake more effectively or run deeper into the corner, affording yourself more time to judge the corner and a better look at any hidden surprises. It''s important to look as far into the corner as possible and remember the adage, "You go where you look."


The number one survival skill, after mastering emergency braking, is setting your corner-entrance speed early, or as Kenny Roberts says, "Slow in, fast out." Street riders may get away with rushing into 99 out of 100 corners, but that last one will have gravel, mud or a trespassing car. Setting entrance speed early will allow you to adjust your speed and cornering line, giving you every opportunity to handle the surprise.

Racers talk constantly about late braking, yet that technique is used only to pass for position during a race, not to turn a quicker lap time. Hard braking blurs the ability to judge cornering speed accurately, and most racers who rely too heavily on the brakes find themselves passed at the corner because they scrubbed off too much cornering speed.

Additionally, braking late often forces you to trail the brakes or turn the motorcycle while still braking. While light trail braking is an excellent and useful technique to master understand that your front tyre has only a certain amount of traction to give.

If you use a majority of the front tyre''s traction for braking and then ask it to provide maximum cornering traction as well, a typical low-side crash will result. -Also consider that your motorcycle won''t steer as well with the fork fully compressed under braking. If you''re constantly fighting the motorcycle while turning, it may be because you''re braking too far into the corner. All these problems can be eliminated by setting your entrance speed early, an important component of running at the Pace.

We''ve all rushed into a corner too fast and experienced not just the terror but the lack of control when trying to herd the bike into the bend. If you''re fighting the brakes and trying to turn the bike, any surprise will be impossible to deal with. Setting your entrance speed early and looking into the corner allows you to determine what type of corner you''re facing. Does the radius decrease? Is the turn off-camber? Is there an embankment that may have contributed some dirt to the corner?

Since you aren''t hammering the brakes at every corner entrance, your enjoyment of pure cornering will increase tremendously. You''ll relish the feeling of snapping your bike into a corner and opening the throttle as early as possible. Racers talk about getting the drive started, and that''s just as important on the street. Notice how the motorcycle settles down and simply works better when the throttle is open? Use a smooth, light touch on the throttle and try to get the bike driving as soon as possible in the corner, even before the apex, the tightest point of the corner. If you find yourself on the throttle ridiculously early, it''s an indication you can increase your entrance speed slightly by releasing the brakes earlier.

The pace principles
  1. Set cornering speed early. Blow the entrance and you''ll never recover.
  2. Look down the road. Maintaining a high visual horizon will reduce perceived speed and help you avoid panic situations.
  3. Steer the bike quickly. There''s a reason John Kocinski works: out-turning a fast-moving motorcycle takes muscle.
  4. Use your brakes smoothly but firmly. Get on and then off the brakes; don''t drag''em.
  5. Get the throttle on early. Starting the drive settles the chassis, especially though a bumpy corner.
  6. Never cross the centerline except to pass. Crossing the centerline in a corner is an instant ticket and an admittance that you can''t really steer your bike. In racing terms, your lane is the course; staying right of the line adds a significant challenge to most roads and is mandatory for sport riding''s future.
  7. Don''t crowd the centerline. Always expect an oncoming car with two wheels in your lane.
  8. Don''t hang off in the corners or tuck in on the straights. Sitting sedately on the bike looks safer: and reduces unwanted attention. It also provides a built-in safety margin.
  9. When leading, ride for the group. Good verbal communication is augmented with hand signals and turn signals; change direction and speed smoothly.
  10. When following, ride with the group. If you can''t follow a leader, don''t expect anyone to follow you when you''re setting the Pace.

As you sweep past the apex, you can begin to stand the bike up out of the corner. This is best done by smoothly accelerating, which will help stand the bike up. As the rear tyre comes off full lean it puts more rubber on the road, and the forces previously used for cornering traction can be converted to acceleration traction. The throttle can be rolled open as the bike stands up.

This magazine won''t tell you how fast is safe; we will tell you how to go fast safely. How fast you go is your decision, but it''s one that requires reflection and commitment. High speed on an empty four-lane freeway is against the law, but it''s fairly safe. Fifty-five miles per hour in a canyon might be legal, but it may also be dangerous. Get together with your friends and talk about speed. Set a reasonable maximum and stick to it. Done right, the Pace is addicting without high straightaway speeds.

The group I ride with couldn''t care less about outright speed between corners; any gamer can twist a throttle. If you routinely go 100 mph, we hope you routinely practice emergency stops from that speed. Keep in mind outright speed will earn a ticket that is tough to fight and painful to pay; cruising the easy straight stuff doesn''t attract as much attention from the authorities and sets your speed perfectly for the next sweeper.

Group mentality

STRAIGHTS ARE THE time to reset the ranks. The leader needs to set a pace that won''t bunch up the followers, especially while leaving a stop sign or passing a car on a two-lane road. The leader must use the throttle hard to get around the car and give the rest of the group room to make the pass, yet he or she can''t speed blindly along and earn a ticket for the whole group. With sane speeds on the straights, the gaps can be adjusted easily; the bikes should be spaced about two seconds apart for maximum visibility of surface hazards.

It''s the group aspect of the Pace I enjoy most, watching the bikes in front of me click into a corner like a row of dominoes, or looking in my mirror as my friends slip through the same set of corners I just emerged from.

Because there''s a leader and a set of rules to follow, the competitive aspect of sport riding is eliminated and that removes a tremendous amount of pressure from a young rider''s ego-or even an old rider''s ego. We''ve all felt the tug of racing while riding with friends or strangers, but the Pace takes that away and saves it for where it belongs: the racetrack. The racetrack is where you prove your speed and take chances to best your friends and rivals. I''ve spent a considerable amount of time writing about the Pace (see Motorcyclist, Nov. ''91) for several reasons, not the least of which being the fun I''ve had researching it (continuous and ongoing). But I have motivations that aren''t so fun. I got scared a few years ago when US Senator Danforth decided to save us from ourselves by trying to ban super bikes, soon followed by insurance companies blacklisting a variety of sports bikes. I''ve seen Mulholland highway shut down because riders insisted on racing (and crashing) over a short section of it. I''ve seen heavy police patrols on roads that riders insist on throwing themselves off of. I''ve heard the term "murder cycles" a dozen times too many. When we consider the abilities of a modern sports bike, it becomes clear that rider techniques is sorely lacking.

The Pace emphasizes intelligent, rational riding techniques that ignore racetrack heroics without sacrificing fun. The skills needed to excel on the racetrack make up the basic precepts of the Pace, excluding the mind-numbing speeds and leaving the substantially larger margin for error needed to allow for unknowns and immovable objects. Our sport faces unwanted legislation from outsiders, but a bit of throttle management from within will guarantee our future.

Get it right in the dirt - tips on offroad riding


Off-road riding tips from a master: If you’ve been used to a road bike all your life, changining terrain can be a rude shock to your system! By Tommy Johns - and with kind permission of the Club Durban Newsletter

When riding off-road, a motorcyclist will encounter many different types of objects, obstacles and surfaces. Riding techniques will vary slightly for each of these and can be improved through safe and sensible practice methods. Some of these conditions may include:

  • Some hills are too steep for your abilities. Use your common sense.
  • Some hills are too steep for your motorcycle regardless of you abilities.
  • Never ride past your limit of visibility – if you can’t see what’s on the other side of the crest of a hill, slow down until you get a clear view.
  • When approaching a hill you should:
    • Keep both feet firmly on the footrests.
    • Shift into a low gear and speed up before ascending the hill.
    • For small hills, shift your body weight forward by sliding forward on the seat.
  • For steep hills, stand on the footrests and lean well forward over the front wheel in order to shift as much weight forward as possible.
  • If the hill is steep and you must downshift to prevent stalling, shift quickly and smoothly. Also don’t forget to close the throttle while shifting. This will help prevent the front wheel lifting.
  • If you don’t have enough power to continue uphill but you have forward momentum and enough space to turn around safely, turn around before you lose speed and then proceed downhill.
When descending a hill you should:
  • Keep both feet firmly on the footrests.
  • Point the vehicle directly downhill.
  • Transfer your weight to the rear of the bike
  • Shift the transmission into low gear and descend with the throttle closed to gain benefits from the engine braking effect.
  • Apply brakes to reduce speed.
Particularly while trail riding, your feet could catch on rocks, roots or stumps protruding from the ground. Such objects could also deflect your front wheel if you don’t see them in time. Be sure to maintain your concentration on the trail ahead of you, scanning for obstacles protruding in your path. When riding narrow trails, keep the balls of your feet on the footrests so your toes do not hang below the level of the motorcycle frame.

You may find more water and slippery mud in some seasons and climates than others; water and mud can conceal obstacles in your pathway or trail. Damp leaves and pine needles can be especially slick.

Therefore, ride more cautiously in these periods. Ride slowly and be prepared for what your wheels may encounter. Be aware also that brake application will have to be much more gradual to avoid slipping and sliding of the tyres in wet dirt or mud. Brakes may not be as effective when wet. Dry the brakes after a deep-water crossing by applying light pressure to them while riding, until they return to normal efficacy.

While riding in mud, you are likely to encounter ruts:

  • Maintain momentum through the muddy section, while remaining relaxed, and allow the wheels of the motorcycle to follow one of the ruts.
  • Keep your weight centred and stand on the footrests.
  • Maintain an even throttle setting. If you lose speed and the bike begins to bog down, don’t whack open the throttle suddenly. This will only cause the rear wheel to dig itself deeper into the mud. Instead, roll on the throttle gradually to maintain forward momentum.
When riding in sand maintain a relaxed posture keeping your feet on the footrests and your head and eyes up, looking ahead. The bike will waver slightly in its path, this is perfectly normal. Keep the throttle on and shift to higher gear, enabling the bike to gain enough speed to rise on top of (or ‘plane’ over) the sand. Rolling off the throttle will effectively provide braking action: The motorcycle begins to ‘plough’ back into the sand as the speed decreases (and the weight transfer shifts forward).

A helpful reminder when riding in sand is to accelerate sooner and brake later than you would on surfaces having greater traction. Because of the nature of sand, the motorcycle takes longer to get going and slows down much faster than on a hard surface. Therefore, use of throttle and brake must be adjusted accordingly.

If you are riding in large areas of bare sand (as in dunes), be careful of hills of drop-offs that may be camouflages by the absence of shadows. When the sun is high in the sky, sandy hills, holes and cliffs can all appear the same colour, drastically affecting your sense of perspective.

Soft surfaces like dirt, sand, and grass are somewhat unforgiving if you make a mistake. Rocks are not forgiving at all. If the rocks are small and numerous, the motorcycle will handle very similar to being in sandy conditions. If the rocks are large, you will have to carefully select a path around or over each one.

Momentum is again very important, especially if the rocks are loose. Watch out for rocks with sharp edges which could damage a tyre, engine casing or low-hanging foot. Maintain a higher tyre pressure in rocky conditions and make sure your bike has a heavy-duty skid plate fitted to help protect the engine. I hope this is useful for you aspirant off-roaders. Further discussions will take place in the next newsletter.

What every visitor to South Africa should know
Author unknown - submitted by Mark Pautz

A survival guide for visitors to South Africa
What is a braai? It is the first thing you will be invited to when you visit South Africa. A braai is a backyard barbecue and it will take place whatever the weather. So you will have to go even if it''s raining like mad and hang of a cold. At a braai you will be introduced to a substance known as mealie pap. Read further for an explanation of "pap".

Now that you know what a braai is, here are some other words and phrases you will encounter in South Africa, used by folk of all persuasions, genders and ethnic adherences. You do need to know what they mean. Really.

Ag. This is one of the most useful South African words. Pronounced like the "ach" in the German "achtung", it can be used to start a reply when you are asked a tricky question, as in: "Ag, I don''t know". Or a sense of resignation: "Ag, I''ll have some more pap then". It can stand alone too as a signal of irritation or of pleasure.

Biltong. Similar to jerky, it is dried, salted meat and can be made from beef, ostrich, antelope or anything that was once alive and fairly large. It is usual for expatriate South Africans to say: "What I really miss is my biltong, man".

Bioscope. Pronounced "byscope", its use is going out of fashion and in some urban areas, regrettably, it is being replaced by "movies" and "flicks". Sometimes it is reduced to "bio" or "scopes". But you may still be asked if you would like to go to the byscope.

Blooming. Pronounced "blimming", it is roughly equivalent to "helluva", as in: "Ag, that pap I had at the braai made me blooming sick". For emphasis, "blooming" can be replaced by "bladdy" which, in turn, is a corruption of the Australian "bloody".

Dirtbin. Self-explanatory, this is a garbage can. It is also called a "rubbish bin". If you refer to rubbish as "garbage" you will be considered blooming pretentious.

Doll. A term of affection between males and females, it is used mostly in the Johannesburg area. A corrupted form of "darling", it will be heard thus: "Your turn to take out the dirtbin, Doll". "But I took it out the last time, Doll". "Well take the bladdy thing out again, Doll".

Eina. Widely used by all language groups, this word (derived from the Afrikaans) means "ouch". Pronounced "aynah", you can shout it out in sympathy when someone burns his finger on a hot potato at a braai.

Fixed up. This means "good". An example is this exchange: "You don''t have to take the dirtbin out, Doll; I took it already". "Fixed up, Doll".

Isit? This is a great word in conversations. Derived from the two words "is" and "it", it can be used when you have nothing to contribute if someone tells you at the braai: "The Russians will succeed in their bid for capitalism once they adopt a work ethic and respect for private ownership". It is appropriate to respond by saying: "Isit?"

Just now. Universally used, it means "eventually" and sometimes "never". If someone says he will do something "just now" it could be in 10 minutes or tomorrow. Or maybe he won''t do it at all. In other words, sometime between now and death.

Lekker. An Afrikaans word meaning nice, this word is used by all language groups to express approval. If you see someone of the opposite sex who is good-looking, you can exclaim: "Lekkerrr!" while drawing out the last syllable. But that use is now thought politically incorrect in some areas.

Sarmie. Sandwich. Marmite. Contrary to American disinformation, Marmite is not discarded axle grease. Bought in small glass jars at supermarkets and cafes, Marmite is a salty vegetable extract and is the S.A. answer to peanut butter (American), or Vegimite (Australian). Generations have grown up with it on their school sarmies and, in turn, have inflicted it on their own children. This process has been going on for so long now, Marmite has become unstoppable.

No. This word has many meanings in South Africa other than the opposite of "yes". Your host at the braai is likely to say: "No, I see your plate is empty. You want some more pap?". Another example; if the clerk in a shoe shop asks if she can help, you may reply: "No, I''m looking for some tackies" .This means: "Yes, I''m looking for some tackies".

Tackies. These are sneakers or running shoes. The word is also used to describe automobile or truck tyres. "Fat tackies" are big tyres, as in: "Where did you get those lekker fat tackies on your Volksie (VW), hey?"

Oke. A "guy" or "chap" or "bloke". If you quite like someone you can say "Ag, he is an OK oke". Instead of "oke" you can also say "ou" which is pronounced "Oh".

Pap. Encountered at braais, pap is boiled corn meal. Pronounced "pup" it has the appearance, consistency and, many say, the taste of moist Plaster of Paris. Lots of South Africans pretend to like it. Eating pap is character building in the sense that one learns to grin and bear adversity, rather like Americans in the South have grown spiritually by consuming grits. In religious context, this process is called self-flagellation.

Shame. Like "No", this word can mean the opposite of its meaning in other parts of the world. If someone shows you a baby, you can say: "Ag, shame". This does not mean the baby is ugly, it means the baby is cute. If the baby is ugly, it is more accurate to say: "Shame, hey". If the baby is truly hideous, it is appropriate to say: "Jislaaik". This may not be appreciated by the baby''s parents.

Dummy. If you find yourself in the company of a couple with a baby and the woman says, "pass me the dummy," she is not necessarily asking that you bring her husband to her. She is referring to the rubber, nipple-like thing they stick in babies'' mouths to shut them up. A dummy is a pacifier.

Gogga. This is an insect, a bug, and all three of the g''s are pronounced as though you are about to spit. South Africa is rich in goggas, some of them cute - like the harmless mantis and the intriguing stick insect - but others are disgraceful. The cockroach is the most disgraceful, especially when they fly. Natal has some monsters which could challenge Florida roaches any day.

In its early days, the country''s state-run TV service earned the enmity of viewers by scheduling a documentary on cockroaches at a time when millions of South Africans were sitting down in front of their sets with their Sunday evening meals on their laps. A highlight was how to dissect a cockroach. It did not go down well with the Sunday lunch leftovers. A dissected cockroach is even more disgraceful than a whole one.

Guava. Everybody knows that a guava is a fruit - and a bladdy lekker one too. It is especially nice stewed and served cold with smooth custard, as lots of boarding school students will affirm. Guava juice is refreshing at breakfast. But in South Africa a guava is also a backside, a butt, a bum. If someone is behaving in an annoying manner, you can threaten to "skop (kick) him up his guava". But it is inappropriate and politically incorrect to issue this warning to someone who is not a good friend. It will be taken amiss. Also, it is not polite to laugh if the Cape Doctor (strong south-easter which blows in Cape Town) bowls a stranger over on to his or her guava.

Make A Plan. You will hear this good old South African phrase quite a lot. It means things might be screwed right now but we''ll think of something just now. If you miss the bus to the airport, the hotel receptionist may say, "Don''t worry man* we''ll make a plan". If that plan includes the hiring of a taxi, you may want to think twice about it.

Skop, Skiet en Donder. Literally "kick, shoot and thunder" in Afrikaans, this phrase is used by many English speakers to describe action movies or any activity which is lively and somewhat primitive. Clint Eastwood is always good for a skop, skiet en donder flick.

Vrot. A wonderful word which means "rotten" or "putrid" in Afrikaans, it is used by all language groups to describe anything they really don''t like. Most commonly it describes fruit or vegetables whose shelf lives have long expired, but a pair of takkies (sneakers) worn a few times too often can be termed vrot by unfortunate folk in the same room as the wearer. Also a rugby player who misses important tackles can be said to have played a vrot game - but not to his face because he won''t appreciate it. We once saw a movie review with this headline: "Slick Flick, Vrot Plot". We enjoyed the headline more than the movie.

*: Missing from the list: Ja-nee, man; siestog!

Why you should never lock up your rear brake
By Tommy Johns

From Club Durban''s magazine, Nov. 1999

A QUICK DICTIONARY definition of the word: Steer -"to direct the course of". That means, you want to influence the direction of travel, and most times, you want that direction to be intended rather than accidental!

When your motorcycle is stable in any course, whether in a straight line or in a curve, it is your rear wheel that is primarily responsible for maintaining that course and stability. Indeed, it''s the job of your front wheel to destabilise the bike in order to change course. That is, your front wheel changes course, your rear wheel maintains it.

How is that possible you might ask? Well, I suppose it is easiest to think in terms of influence. A spinning rear wheel provides gyroscopic stability to over 80% of your motorcycle (including yourself) because it is directly connected via its axle/ swing-arm to the frame of the motorcycle. The front-end is only indirectly influenced by the spinning rear wheel. When a motorcycle is stable it will maintain its current course until an outside influence or steering input to the front-end results in destabilising it and a new course is sought that will once again result in a stable motorcycle.

Proof that the rear wheel is directing the course of your motorcycle is easy to come by. Watch any motorcycle that is performing a ''wheelie''. Whether it is going in a straight line or it is in a curve, the motorcycle will continue that course even when the front wheel is off the ground.

The significance of this otherwise esoteric bit of insight should be to cause you to rethink about locking your brakes. For example, it should no longer be a surprise to you that if (while riding in a straight line) you happen to lock up your rear brake and cause a skid, that the motorcycle does not simply drag the rear tyre along in a straight line. It tends to slew sideways. This is because the majority of the motorcycle is now deprived of the stabilising effect of a spinning rear wheel, and so it will try to fall over to one side or the other.

On the other hand, if you lock your front brake (also while travelling in a straight line) and cause the front tyre to begin to skid, there is every reason to believe that (so long as the rear wheel continues to spin with some speed and you leave the front wheel pointing straight ahead) the bike will continue to stand tall and track straight while you correct the problem (by releasing the front brake lever!).

Indeed, so long as there is meaningful speed and you are moving in a straight line, locking the front brake (for a brief time) is less dangerous than locking the rear brake. Obviously you do not want to lock either brake, ever, but it will happen. Further, we all know that we should not aggressively use either brake while the bike is leaned over in a curve. But now you should also know that it is never reasonable to use the rear brake aggressively, and why.

Touring with a riding suit - some perspectives and tips
By David Luscombe

I have had the suit about one year now and have used it for touring commuting and adventuring in the wilds. I ride an unfaired BMW roadster and have experienced temperatures from 3C (37F) to 40C (104F) wet and shine. After about twenty thousand miles and lots of experiments with the suit and clothing I have discovered that the following works best:

  1. Wear the exact clothes under the suit that you would normally wear outdoors for temperature comfort.
  2. Use the many vents to achieve a wide range of comfort.
  3. In extremely high temperatures wet your clothes and helmet lining with water and be real cool.

All the above hard learned lessons are fully documented in the user instructions - when all else fails read the instructions!

I love my suit. People think I''m weird and that my mother dresses me funny but I just laugh at them as they struggle in and out of wet weather gear, swelter in the heat or freeze in the cold. I enjoy the looks of amazement when I arrive and shrug off my space suit in the time they use to remove their gloves. I enjoy wearing clean clothes (my suit gets the dirt).

I have never fallen off the bike but feel well protected in my suit and every now and again someone recognises a good thing when they see one and wants to know all about it. I laugh at the weather and got rid of my fully faired tourer and got back to real motor cycling in comfort.

For more information contact:

How to carry your clobber and what to wear in the sun
Handbags and gladrags


Luggage Gear
I can recall clearly the first time I went touring on a motorcycle. A trip to Porlock on a BSA C15. A journey of about eighty miles. Ho hum, perhaps touring is putting it a little strongly, but for me it was my first big ride. Don''t laugh we''ve all got to start somewhere. It was certainly the first time I had attempted anything so complicated as putting all my luggage and camping equipment on a bike. I had an answer - and ingenious one, too. Do you remember those old army and navy stores that sold ex military back packs? (They probably still do). I bought two of these and with some imagination and pieces of flat steel, fashioned a set of crude pannier frames. I bolted the frames to the bike, strapped the back packs to the frames and I was ready to roll. The tent went on the pillion seat and Porlock here I come. Shame the clutch packed up at the bottom of Porlock Hill, but that''s another story.

Subsequently I tried something a little more sophisticated. When I had my Ariel Red Hunter, I kitted it out with a set of Euro Design soft panniers. These were very fashionable at the time. Consisting of a leatherette material with aluminium backs, they were semi-waterproof and semi-permanent. Strapped to a rack with suitable frames, they made versatile luggage carriers. Being soft they had sufficient give to allow for squeezing in that little bit extra. Lacking any significant security, despite the feeble locks provided, they were, nonetheless, a means of stowing large amounts of gear on the bike.

For a while, I used slingover panniers on the Laverda before using semi-permanent soft panniers as I did with the Ariel. It wasn''t until I bought the Yamaha XS650 that I tried hard panniers. After that, I never looked back.

Hard panniers may seem cumbersome and to some, unsightly, but they offer security not found in their softer cousins and enable large quantities of luggage to accompany you on your travels. Also, they are somewhere to stow helmets and waterproofs when you park the bike.

Soft luggage gear: Slingover panniers, tote bags and tank bags fall into this category. If you have a sports bike, soft luggage kit is probably the route you will want to take. Quickly and easily fitted when needed it is not a permanent addition that will sully the sleek lines of your mount. Slingovers however, tend to wander about on the seat unless secured properly, although the Moto Fizz items may be worth looking at as they come supplied with a harness that straps to the seat. From the pictures I''ve seen and the reports I''ve read, they offer almost the same convenience as hard panniers when fitted.

Tote or roll bags are a convenient way of stowing masses of stuff (hence, perhaps, the term stuffa bag) and we''ve been using various versions until our trip to Portugal last summer. The problem with these bags is that as with anything strapped to the back of a bike - it can come unstrapped again. When you look in the mirror to see your luggage bouncing along the road behind you, you begin to wonder if this is such a good idea. They also invariably get filled with everything that you couldn''t squeeze in elsewhere. That I presume is the point. I don''t know about you, but every time I stop at a French hotel; they always find me a room at the top of three flights of winding stairs. When you''ve lugged a ginormous bag, full of everything you might just want but never quite do, up three million stairs round impossibly tight corners and your shoulder feels like it wants to dislocate, you begin to wonder if this was such a good idea. Apart from that, they''re great - I used ''em for all my trips so far. I just won''t be using one again, that''s all.

I usually slip things like cameras and wash kit - anything I might want to get hold of easily - in the tank bag. Until my last trip I used a Baglux Bagster bag. The harnesses are customised to the bike so the bag is fixed securely yet allowing easy access to the petrol cap. Mine is about ten years old and is wearing out. The time has come for replacement. As I''ve recently changed bikes, I decided on the BMW item. My only criticism of the Baglux was its tendency when full to flop about. Invariably it ended up resting on my left arm. It didn''t seem to matter how I loaded it the same thing happened. Although the base is designed to fit individual bikes, the bag itself fits everything. As a principle, it works. On my TR1 it fits snugly and stays put. On the R1100RS, with its humped tank, the square base of the bag flapped about in mid air - hence the tendency to flop sideways. The BMW bag should be free from this fault because it is shaped to fit the tank - as well as the lower part of the bag being semi-rigid. For all I know the newer Baglux bags are an improvement on mine. I would certainly say that they are good value for money, well made and reasonably priced.

Hard cases: My first set of Krausers were a revelation. During my first trip to the lake district they split and I limped home with straps holding them together. The dealer who sold me the cases replaced them under the warranty but my trust in them diminished. The replacement set broke in exactly the same place within months of the exchange. My complaint to the importers revealed that incorrectly mixed plastic compound in the early K1 cases caused brittleness and subsequent failure. I paid the difference and replaced them with the deluxe cases that BMW had been using for some years. These lasted me through twelve years, three bikes and numerous countries. When they finally wore out I fitted the TR1 with the K2 cases. These are basically a good, spacious pannier. The locks tend to wear and the lid stays are weak - but that apart, the larger cases will take much of what you need for a long distance tour. Combined with either a top case or tote bag and tank bag they are formidable.

When I bought my R1100RS, I kitted it out with the BMW panniers. If the Krauser K2s are good, these are magnificent. The system relies on a very discreet fitting system with no frames as such. Consequently, if you take them off, there is no ugly frame left on the bike - nor is there anything stopping you accessing the rear wheel. This is certainly worth considering, because if you don''t, be sure that one day, somewhere remote and hot (or extremely cold and wet) you will find yourself sharply reminded that you should have.

Generally hard panniers and sports bikes don''t go together. Krauser, to be fair, supply a range of fitting kits for a wide range of bikes as do their competitors. Unfortunately they tend to fit where they touch and you end up with something that makes a double-decker look sleek. With the TR1, I made some extra brackets and brought the frames in as close to the bike as I could without fouling the suspension. The end result looks good, but I shouldn''t have had to do it.

Be careful how you fit these panniers. I remember following one guy through Liverpool. He was riding one of the sporty Jap bikes with a set of Krauser K2s. Unfortunately his high rise exhaust system and the left-hand pannier were on more than nodding terms and his luggage was busy waving goodbye through the melted plastic.

When I bought the R1100RT, I also bought the top case. There is a logic to this. Despite my reservations about top cases, I felt that the discipline of having a set amount of space available would mean that when we tramp up those stairs in French hotels, my arm will suffer less. We wait with anticipation. The other logic is more to do with the way we load the bike. The panniers usually contain clothing and personal bits and pieces. We use the BMW inner bags so that we can unload the panniers rather than lug them about - French hotels and winding stairs spring to mind. If you have panniers whose manufacturer doesn''t supply inner bags, see if you can find something that will fit. The increased convenience is worth the effort.

The tank bag usually has washing kit, cameras and other odds and ends like mosquito killers, passports and such. This is easy to carry and not too heavy. The tote bag usually has all those things we take just in case - but hopefully never need - like waterproofs, warm pullovers and boots. With a top case, we can leave them locked on the bike overnight. Who cares about three flights of stairs?

I think our problem with clothing has something to do with our awful climate. No, I retract that. Britain doesn''t have a climate - it has weather. I hear the Americans like our unpredictable weather. Fine - take it, please. Me, I hate it. Give me hot sunny predictable climates anytime. I digress, however (as I usually do). In Britain during our nine month winter, it is usual to wear leathers, waterproofs or a combination of both with scarves, face masks and thermal gloves and boots. Certainly I usually cloak myself in thermals, a two-piece leather suit enveloped in a thermally lined two-piece waterproof oversuit and thermal waterproof gloves and boots. Under my helmet I wear a face mask and if it is at all possible to move, I sling my leg over the bike.

This is not suitable clothing for the Spanish plain in summer.

The trouble with hot weather is knowing what not to wear. If you ride in leathers and fall off, the leathers will protect you from gravel rash. The wheel falls off that particular argument when you realise that wearing leathers will result in heat exhaustion. If you suffer from heat exhaustion you will fall off. Just as well you thought to ride in leathers.

Er, if you think that''s being a little silly, so is riding in leathers in thirty plus degrees Celsius. I prefer to work on the principle that avoiding falling off is a better starting point. The conundrum here is that if you do fall off, you don''t want to leave chunks of epidermis on the tarmac. So, no, I''m not recommending riding in tee shirt and shorts - that really is being silly.

Fortunately there are manufacturers who supply reinforced denims. I''ve got a pair of Shoshonis. They give reasonable protection with body armour on the hips and knees and as they are denim, they breathe. They also manufacture jackets with protection on the shoulders and arms. My sister, Lucy, recently bought a pair of jeans reinforced with Kevlar from Giali UK in Filton, Bristol who like Shoshoni, also make jackets. Although I''ve not tried their products, Lucy and my father are satisfied customers. I usually wear a Scott jacket from MPS or a Frank Thomas Aqua made of Cordura. Like denim, Cordura breathes and I tend to ride with the zip partially open to allow a breeze onto my tee shirt.

The main issue is compromise. Compromise between protection in the event of a spill and remaining comfortable in high temperatures, so avoiding the likelihood of heat exhaustion. Denim and Cordura both provide that compromise and work well.

There is also the subject of rain. Yup, it rains in Spain and when it does it rains on the plain - great globules of the stuff. The first time I encountered Spanish precipitation, I wondered why I had bothered to travel the best part of a thousand miles to experience something I could find just as easily at home. It was warmer, I suppose. The moral - oh, yes, there is one - is to take waterproofs. Anyone who has experienced the flash storms of Northern France will realise that waterproofs are not a luxury. I have a one-piece Rukka dating back to 1984. It finally gave out last year during one of those downpours in Normandy. A soggy crutch is a unique and unforgettable experience.

An unlined one-piece suit is light and easily folds into a small bundle. It will tuck into a convenient space - usually in the tote bag. An alternative is to wear a jacket that is waterproof as well as light and breathes (Cordura) and carry a pair of unlined leggings. That way only your hands and feet get wet. Unless you''ve got enough space for waterproof boots and gloves.

If you travel to warmer climes via mountains then you need to consider cold weather clothing. I usually take one or two pullovers or sweatshirts that I can put on for the mountain roads and tuck in somewhere when we drop down into the plains. The difference in temperature can be dramatic. Certainly the French Alps and the Pyrenées are cool if not cold well into July. In some places, like the Sierra Nevada in southern Spain, you will find snow as late as June. So a range of clothing for differing climatic conditions is essential. I always take sunglasses. Much as I love the sun, prolonged exposure causes me to squint and I usually finish up with a migraine. If you decide that you need sunglasses buy a decent pair that filter out ultra violet light. It is this that causes eye damage. I refrain from commenting on the cool factor - it''s not something that would ever occur to me.

Motorcycle accident cause factors and identification of countermeasures.
The Hurt study, published in 1981, was a ground-breaking report on the causes and effects of motorcycle accidents. Although more than 17 years old now, the study still offers riders insight into the statistics regarding motorcycle accidents and tips on safer riding. Researcher Harry Hurt (from which the study gets its common name) of the University of Southern California, investigated almost every aspect of 900 motorcycle accidents in the Los Angeles area. Additionally, Hurt and his staff analyzed 3,600 motorcycle traffic accident reports in the same geographic area.

Throughout the accident and exposure data there are special observations which relate to accident and injury causation and characteristics of the motorcycle accidents studied. These findings are summarized as follows:

  1. Approximately three-fourths of these motorcycle accidents involved collision with another vehicle, which was most usually a passenger automobile.
  2. Approximately one-fourth of these motorcycle accidents were single vehicle accidents involving the motorcycle colliding with the roadway or some fixed object in the environment.
  3. Vehicle failure accounted for less than 3% of these motorcycle accidents, and most of those were single vehicle accidents where control was lost due to a puncture flat.
  4. In the single vehicle accidents, motorcycle rider error was present as the accident precipitating factor in about two-thirds of the cases, with the typical error being a slideout and fall due to overbraking or running wide on a curve due to excess speed or under-cornering.
  5. Roadway defects (pavement ridges, potholes, etc.) were the accident cause in 2% of the accidents; animal involvement was 1% of the accidents.
  6. In the multiple vehicle accidents, the driver of the other vehicle violated the motorcycle right-of-way and caused the accident in two-thirds of those accidents.
  7. The failure of motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic is the predominating cause of motorcycle accidents. The driver of the other vehicle involved in collision with the motorcycle did not see the motorcycle before the collision, or did not see the motorcycle until too late to avoid the collision.
  8. Deliberate hostile action by a motorist against a motorcycle rider is a rare accident cause. The most frequent accident configuration is the motorcycle proceeding straight then the automobile makes a left turn in front of the oncoming motorcycle.
  9. Intersections are the most likely place for the motorcycle accident, with the other vehicle violating the motorcycle right-of-way, and often violating traffic controls.
  10. Weather is not a factor in 98% of motorcycle accidents.
  11. Most motorcycle accidents involve a short trip associated with shopping, errands, friends, entertainment or recreation, and the accident is likely to happen in a very short time close to the trip origin.
  12. The view of the motorcycle or the other vehicle involved in the accident is limited by glare or obstructed by other vehicles in almost half of the multiple vehicle accidents.
  13. Conspicuity of the motorcycle is a critical factor in the multiple vehicle accidents, and accident involvement is significantly reduced by the use of motorcycle headlamps (on in daylight) and the wearing of high visibility yellow, orange or bright red jackets.
  14. Fuel system leaks and spills were present in 62% of the motorcycle accidents in the post-crash phase. This represents an undue hazard for fire.
  15. The median pre-crash speed was 29.8 mph, and the median crash speed was 21.5 mph, and the one-in-a-thousand crash speed is approximately 86 mph.
  16. The typical motorcycle pre-crash lines-of-sight to the traffic hazard portray no contribution of the limits of peripheral vision; more than three-fourths of all accident hazards are within 45deg of either side of straight ahead.
  17. Conspicuity of the motorcycle is most critical for the frontal surfaces of the motorcycle and rider.
  18. Vehicle defects related to accident causation are rare and likely to be due to deficient or defective maintenance.
  19. Motorcycle riders between the ages of 16 and 24 are significantly overrepresented in accidents; motorcycle riders between the ages of 30 and 50 are significantly underrepresented. Although the majority of the accident-involved motorcycle riders are male (96%), the female motorcycles riders are significantly overrepresented in the accident data.
  20. Craftsmen, laborers, and students comprise most of the accident-involved motorcycle riders. Professionals, sales workers, and craftsmen are underrepresented and laborers, students and unemployed are overrepresented in the accidents.
  21. Motorcycle riders with previous recent traffic citations and accidents are overrepresented in the accident data.
  22. The motorcycle riders involved in accidents are essentially without training; 92% were self-taught or learned from family or friends. Motorcycle rider training experience reduces accident involvement and is related to reduced injuries in the event of accidents.
  23. More than half of the accident-involved motorcycle riders had less than 5 months experience on the accident motorcycle, although the total street riding experience was almost 3 years. Motorcycle riders with dirt bike experience are significantly underrepresented in the accident data.
  24. Lack of attention to the driving task is a common factor for the motorcyclist in an accident.
  25. Almost half of the fatal accidents show alcohol involvement.
  26. Motorcycle riders in these accidents showed significant collision avoidance problems. Most riders would overbrake and skid the rear wheel, and underbrake the front wheel greatly reducing collision avoidance deceleration. The ability to countersteer and swerve was essentially absent.
  27. The typical motorcycle accident allows the motorcyclist just less than 2 seconds to complete all collision avoidance action.
  28. Passenger-carrying motorcycles are not overrepresented in the accident area.
  29. The driver of the other vehicles involved in collision with the motorcycle are not distinguished from other accident populations except that the ages of 20 to 29, and beyond 65 are overrepresented. Also, these drivers are generally unfamiliar with motorcycles.
  30. The large displacement motorcycles are underrepresented in accidents but they are associated with higher injury severity when involved in accidents.
  31. Any effect of motorcycle color on accident involvement is not determinable from these data, but is expected to be insignificant because the frontal surfaces are most often presented to the other vehicle involved in the collision.
  32. Motorcycles equipped with fairings and windshields are underrepresented in accidents, most likely because of the contribution to conspicuity and the association with more experienced and trained riders.
  33. Motorcycle riders in these accidents were significantly without motorcycle license, without any license, or with license revoked.
  34. Motorcycle modifications such as those associated with the semi-chopper or cafe racer are definitely overrepresented in accidents.
  35. The likelihood of injury is extremely high in these motorcycle accidents-98% of the multiple vehicle collisions and 96% of the single vehicle accidents resulted in some kind of injury to the motorcycle rider; 45% resulted in more than a minor injury.
  36. Half of the injuries to the somatic regions were to the ankle-foot, lower leg, knee, and thigh-upper leg.
  37. Crash bars are not an effective injury countermeasure; the reduction of injury to the ankle-foot is balanced by increase of injury to the thigh-upper leg, knee, and lower leg.
  38. The use of heavy boots, jacket, gloves, etc., is effective in preventing or reducing abrasions and lacerations, which are frequent but rarely severe injuries.
  39. Groin injuries were sustained by the motorcyclist in at least 13% of the accidents, which typified by multiple vehicle collision in frontal impact at higher than average speed.
  40. Injury severity increases with speed, alcohol involvement and motorcycle size.
  41. Seventy-three percent of the accident-involved motorcycle riders used no eye protection, and it is likely that the wind on the unprotected eyes contributed in impairment of vision which delayed hazard detection.
  42. Approximately 50% of the motorcycle riders in traffic were using safety helmets but only 40% of the accident-involved motorcycle riders were wearing helmets at the time of the accident.
  43. Voluntary safety helmet use by those accident-involved motorcycle riders was lowest for untrained, uneducated, young motorcycle riders on hot days and short trips.
  44. The most deadly injuries to the accident victims were injuries to the chest and head.
  45. The use of the safety helmet is the single critical factor in the prevention of reduction of head injury; the safety helmet which complies with FMVSS 218 is a significantly effective injury countermeasure.
  46. Safety helmet use caused no attenuation of critical traffic sounds, no limitation of precrash visual field, and no fatigue or loss of attention; no element of accident causation was related to helmet use.
  47. FMVSS 218 provides a high level of protection in traffic accidents, and needs modification only to increase coverage at the back of the head and demonstrate impact protection of the front of full facial coverage helmets, and insure all adult sizes for traffic use are covered by the standard.
  48. Helmeted riders and passengers showed significantly lower head and neck injury for all types of injury, at all levels of injury severity.
  49. The increased coverage of the full facial coverage helmet increases protection, and significantly reduces face injuries.
  50. There is not liability for neck injury by wearing a safety helmet; helmeted riders had less neck injuries than unhelmeted riders. Only four minor injuries were attributable to helmet use, and in each case the helmet prevented possible critical or fatal head injury.
  51. Sixty percent of the motorcyclists were not wearing safety helmets at the time of the accident. Of this group, 26% said they did not wear helmets because they were uncomfortable and inconvenient, and 53% simply had no expectation of accident involvement.
  52. Valid motorcycle exposure data can be obtained only from collection at the traffic site. Motor vehicle or driver license data presents information which is completely unrelated to actual use.
  53. Less than 10% of the motorcycle riders involved in these accidents had insurance of any kind to provide medical care or replace property.
On this page:

- Lane Splitting: A guide to the game
- Riding in a group
- Nice tight U-turns
- Better street riding - cornering clinic
- Get it right in the dirt - tips on offroad riding
- What every visitor to South Africa should know
- Why you should never lock up your rear brake
- Touring with a riding suit - some perspectives and tips
- How to carry your clobber and what to wear in the sun
- Motorcycle accident cause factors and identification of countermeasures.

4,905 Posts
Long-"ish"? ;)

Good stuff. I read that yearly ... at least two or three times. And definitely once right before the start of my riding season.

Premium Member
562 Posts
Great articles. With regard to lane splitting I would only add the following: Pay attention to the cage drivers - what are they doing and are they paying attention or as we observe often in So Cal, putting on make up, reading a map or just plain unconscious of what is going on around them. I have also found the following a loud Harley helps get drivers attention much more so then a BMW. On occasion, I have tried to follow a CHP on an RT splitting lanes on our freeways but could never keep up with them - they are really good riders. While most cage drivers are pretty courteous, there are some who flat out resent you. My predominate thought is - they want to cut you off at the last minute. A few months back there were some letters to the editor in our local socialist newspaper. I was amazed how many wrote in complaining about motorcyclist splitting lanes. Fortunately, a local motorcycle patrolmen wrote in stating it was legal in CA provided it was done safely and at moderate speeds.

308 Posts
Longish, yes, but a ton of good information. Actually a collection of highlights to better motorcycling. -Chuck-

Premium Member
4,883 Posts
Lane splitting question: Do you signal your intentions or does this just confuse those up ahead?

I notice in Florida, many cages use their signal indicator to tell you what they just did, or to throw you off into thinking they are really going to turn. Occasionally they do.

IBR# 366
16,563 Posts
No use signaling when you're invisible anyway. ;)

Besides, you can't really signal while lane splitting as you're not really turning or changing lanes. You're just exploiting the myriad of gaps that exist in the normal traffic pattern. And it makes much more sense to keep your eyes on the traffic and your hands on the grips than to be fiddling with switches.

517 Posts

You must have been off work for a couple of weeks.

57 Posts
Re: Rather longish, but good tips & info! "U-Turns"

It isn't necessary to rev the engine to 2500rpm for a tight, controlled U-turn. Nor is it advisable. I practice u-turns on my RT, right and left, and only rev the engine between 1000 and 1200rpm if I'm making the turn from a dead stop. If I'm already moving, I roll into a comfortable idle and make the turn at idle or a hair above which is still approximately the same rpms. You can easily make a U in 18' (just one and one-half traffic lanes.) It definitely takes some practice, but it's worth it.

the text below, cut and pasted from BMW's sales brochure for the 2011 1200RTP, explains why a harley clutch can be revved/slipped at 2500rpm or more without a problem, but a BMW is happier at half the revs and might not need to be slipped at all for u turns and other low speed maneuvers.

What’s Up With BMW’s Clutch?
BMW utilizes a different clutch system than some of our competitors. BMW’s clutch is a hydraulic (self-adjusting) single-plate dry clutch as used in cars and trucks … well proven for long life. Our competitors utilize a multi-plate wet clutch, which runs in an oil bath.
The primary difference between the two designs is that the dry clutch operates at the end of the engine crankshaft before the primary gear reduction. The wet clutch design operates after the primary gear reduction. Meaning, that for a given RPM on a dry clutch design, the same RPM on a wet clutch design will be turning that wet clutch surface approximately half as fast (feet-per-second at the plate surface). Conversely, if you have been trained to ride a wet clutch motor, you will need to greatly reduce the RPM on the dry clutch motor to keep from over-heating it. How long would any wet clutch last if you grey-area slipped that clutch at 5,000 rpm?
Furthermore, the unique BMW opposed-twin engine design enables the motor to pull itself at idle with no throttle in either first or second gear. Consequently, the motor works best at slow rpm grey area operation below 2,000 rpm. Most fleets that have received indoctrination training have experienced no clutch issues and are seeing clutch life as high as 60,000 miles! Lastly, the BMW warranty covers the clutch for wear in the first 12 months while your officers acclimate to the motor!
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