Thursday, 4 July 2013

Always Wear Your Protective Gear

I have been meaning to write this post for quite some time but never seemed to get around to it.  After yesterday, I have decided now is the time.  

There was a motorcycle accident on Highway #1 in British Columbia yesterday in the HOV lane.  Our son-in-law, Derek was right there next to the bike when he went down.  The fool wasn’t wearing any protective clothing, only a t-shirt!  He suffered severe road rash and I’m sure there were some other injuries to accompany the rash.  His bike landed on top of him and Derek had to pick it up off of him. One can guess that he probably has some burns to go with the rash. Protective gear would have protected him from that as well.

Ed and I May 2011

First some background. My husband Ed and I have been riding for a long time.  Ed started riding way back in the 60’s before he drove a car.  I grew up around motorcycles with my brothers and took my first ride on the tank when I was about 4.  Ed and I starting riding together two-up in 2001.  We put on 100,000 miles in seven years before I decided to get my own ride.  I have been riding my own now for 5 years.  We do a lot of long distance touring, having been from coast to coast, Alaska, and all over the USA. (We only have 13 States to go)  We have seen a lot, experienced a lot and even instructed motorcycle skills for a local school. We both come from an emergency service background and have seen and heard just about everything there as well.



That brings me to my point and very strong opinion about wearing your protective gear at all times, no matter what!!  You may think it doesn’t look cool to wear leather or any other type of gear, but sliding across the pavement with nothing more than a t-shirt and shorts isn’t very cool either.  Ever fall off your bicycle when you were a kid?  Remember how much that hurt. I sure do.  Picture the same hurt multiplied by the speed of a motorcycle versus a peddly bike.  Ever seen a little kid fall while walking and scrape their hands or knees? Again multiply it. 

I have a scrape on my leather jacket sleeve from where I dropped my bike in a parking lot. (I put my foot down when I stopped and there was a large dip in the pavement that I didn’t see) so I went over.  I wasn’t moving!  There was no speed, or God forbid another vehicle involved. Only me, and the pavement and it left a nasty mark.  That mark is one of my many reminders to always wear my gear. Thankfully it is on my jacket and not my arm.

You may think that it is cooler, temperature wise, to go without your gear. We were riding in 120°F heat last summer for weeks on end.  We rode with our full gear at all times.  Like everyone else, we are human. Hard to imagine I know. We had enough of the heat and thought we would try taking our chaps off for a bit. (We did keep our jackets on). We rode down the road, about 20 minutes and we pulled over and promptly put them back on again.  It was much cooler with them on.  We found that the sun was beating on our legs directly through our jeans without the protection of the leather to stop it. I’m not saying that it isn’t hot when you’re stopped in traffic, but once you’re moving it really does help keep you cool.

Not quite this bad, but almost...
We saw everyone around us wearing a colorful array of clothing. T-shirts, tank tops, shorts, swim wear, flip flops, you name it, other than being totally naked there wasn’t much there in the way of clothing. We couldn’t imagine doing that.  Remember the last time you got hit with a bug, ouch! On bare skin! No thank you.  We were also finding that dehydration could be a problem. Luckily we always had lots of water with us, hot, but it was still hydration.  Just picture frying a steak in a pan, or on your BBQ. That’s what is happening to your skin in those temperatures.  The wind is also key, as it is a hot wind and is also drying you out. Not to mention perhaps causing a burn all it's own. If you keep your gear on, your body will work the way it’s intended to. It will sweat and cool you off. If you don’t allow your body to cool itself, again it will dry out and you will become dehydrated.  Dehydration affects your whole body and can cause long term effects, even death.  Keep your gear on and keep well hydrated.  (We found freezing water overnight helped a bit to keep it cool). 

We have occasionally rode with only our jackets and not bothered with our chaps.  It may seem a bit cooler at times and you certainly don’t feel weighed down, but I personally am not all that comfortable doing that.  I find that my confidence suffers causing me to be over cautious in some situations.  I also found on my style of bike, 2009 HD Street Glide, without having fairing lowers the wind beat on my legs and gave me very sore shins.  Ed has fairing lowers on his bike, so he doesn’t notice that as much.

Bottom line…where your protective gear at all times. Whether it’s leather, nylon, or Kevlar, or even a suit of armour, keep it on. It just might save your life, at the very least, your hide.

Don’t even get me started on helmets!  That’s another day :)

Ride on…Ride safe!

Monday, 10 September 2012

Ron Remenda (1950-2010) Memorial Ride 2012

Ron Remenda
I posted two years ago about the sudden loss of one of our great riding buddies Ron Remenda who passed away at the way too young age of 60. Unfortunately that post was wiped out along with all the others when my blog was hacked.  So, I thought I’d share this with you as he is still often in our thoughts.

Being the good bikers we are we had a 2nd annual memorial ride for Ron yesterday.  We chose to ride up the Fraser Canyon just past Boston Bar to the “Canyon Alpine” for lunch.  We all were there at least once with Ron in the past, so it seemed a good fit.  It’s also where we had the ride for him last year, kind of setting a tradition. The weather wasn’t bad either, which is always a good thing. But then it wouldn’t be a true BC fall ride if we didn’t have to don our rain gear at some point.

Thanks to Ed and Mike for leading and tailing to keep us all safe and together. It was just like old times.  Thanks also to Mike for remembering to bring his camera. 

Lunch at Canyon Alpine
We all have our memories of Ron, some that we share, some that are individual.  Most of us had a good giggle when we went through any of the seven tunnels that run through the canyon between Yale and Boston Bar. You see, a few years back Ron got these new very loud pipes on his bike.  He was leading the ride this particular fall day, which didn’t happen all that often.  Looking back I wonder if he had this up his sleeve all along.  I digress. While going through one of the longer tunnels he slowed down so that we were all bunched up, wondering what could be wrong so all our senses were at their peak, especially the eyes and ears.  He then pulled in his clutch and revved on the throttle a few times causing a great booming noise that crackled and echoed all the way through the tunnel from the first rider to the last. Not to mention the cloud of dust that he created for all those riding behind him from the exhaust mixing with the dust on the pavement.  To this day I can’t go through any of the tunnels without thinking about Ron and that day.  Some of the others at lunch shared the same story, so I’m thinking he maybe did this more than once.  Hey when you have a new audience you have to try out your old tricks, I get that.

One of my personal favourite memories is the first HOG Christmas party that Ed and I attended in 2002.  Ron and I were dancing and he decided he wanted to twirl me.  Not an easy task being that we are about the same height (actually I think I may be a bit taller).  When he suggested that we try it my response was simple and to the point, “Ron, you’ll take my head off.”  He just smiled and got up on the stage so we could accomplish this task.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Of course, Ed couldn’t leave that opportunity alone and called out “Hey Ron, careful you don’t get a nose bleed way up there.”  He didn’t take offense at all and the two of them quite often joked about the height difference.  All in fun, of course.

Some of the gang:  Jim, Brian, Arlene, Ed, Bev, Linda, Jennifer and Ibe, Mike's taking the picture :)
Most of the old gang are still riding, although some are between bikes, contemplating hanging it up, or already made the decision to pack away the leathers and stick to four wheels rather than two.  No matter what we are all doing now, we will never forget the rides and gatherings we had together and the good times that went along with them all.  We saw a lot of country together and met a lot of new people.  Times I know I will never forget as Ed and I continue to ride around the country. We will always remember certain roads, stops, towns and points of interest with fond memories of Ron.

RIP (Ride In Peace) old friend, you are surely missed… 

Monday, 27 August 2012

Co-Rider to Rider, Do I or Don't I?

Thinking about making the move from the back seat to the front; or more appropriately, moving to a rider from a co-rider? It’s not an easy decision to make. It took me 7 years and 100,000 miles to make the move myself.  After riding my own 4 years now, including a trip from coast to coast and talking to women all over the country I thought I would share some of my thoughts on the subject.  

My First Long Ride - 2009
There is a lot to be said for being on the back and not worrying about the operation of the machine. But there is even more to be said for riding your own machine and handling it like a pro, or like some I’ve heard say “just like him.”

I have had lots of women tell me that they like riding on the back, but are wondering what it would be like to ride their own.  The first comment is usually, “but they’re so heavy.”  Well that may be true, but there are ways of handling the bike that make it seem almost weightless.  Besides, you’ll learn ways to manage the weight.  And just for the record, any bike, small or big is very heavy when it’s on it’s side.

My suggestion to those of you thinking about making the move, and frankly even if you aren’t and enjoy being on the back, get your learner’s license and take a course. Then you can make a qualified decision about whether you want to make the move or not.  If you decide you like where you are, there’s nothing wrong with that.  The time won’t be wasted, I guarantee it.  By taking a course you’ll have a much better understanding of what your rider is going through, why he does what he does, why the bike does what it does, and why some things just have to be done for the bike to remain upright. On the rare occasion that I do co-ride, I feel that I have a much better understanding now, making the ride more pleasurable for both of us.

For those of you who chose to remain the co-rider, have fun, enjoy the ride. I would like to suggest you to read my blog:  Co-Rider - No Longer Just the Passenger

Back in the Day, Co-Rider
If you do take the plunge, take a course and then decide in the future that you do want to ride your own, you’re half way there.  I wouldn’t suggest just hopping on a bike if it’s been awhile since you took your course.  Take a refresher course for your own safety and the safety of others sharing the road with you, like me.  You may even find you learn something new.

Ride On, Ride Safe…

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Co-Rider - No Longer Just the Passenger

Ed and I with his new Ultra Limited
Before we were married, my husband and I worked together in a job where lives depended on
teamwork. Reading and anticipating each other became second nature. Riding together on the same motorcycle was a natural extension of that way of thinking, making the whole experience safer and more enjoyable. We believe that we each share the responsibility for getting ourselves safely down the road as rider and co-rider, not rider and passenger. After more than 100,000 miles—not completely without incident—I still believe we have a winning formula.

Sometimes couples seem as though their ride has been choreographed, moving seamlessly. Typically, they’re communicating the whole time. Communication doesn’t require an intercom; nudging, pointing, nodding, key words, (“Bambi!” = deer, moose, caribou…goats) all qualify if they are mutually understood. One-way communication is not communication.

Somewhere in Nevada
If the person on the back understands what is required, she, or sometimes he, can contribute appropriately. Unfortunately some first-time passengers are told to “sit down, shut up and hang on”. This is a poor way of preparing someone prior to a ride and may be an indicator of that rider’s ability. If you hear this, consider staying home. On the other hand when a rider advises his “second seater” of such things as what to do when cornering, when braking, how and when to get on and off and what to watch for, the ride is far more enjoyable. Once you’re both in the same page, you become a rider/co-rider team.

Our ride starts before the ride. We both agree on the route, so I can anticipate turns, and of course we both understand when one suggests a change enroute. I spot for him as he backs the bike up—watching for sand on pavement, small stones or large cars. Getting on is an art in itself; I cringe when I see a rider struggle when the passenger doesn’t keep their weight close to the centre line of the bike. Holding up several hundred pounds can be tough enough without being pulled or pushed sideways. I don’t get on until I get “the nod”– and he doesn’t go until he gets “the double pat”.

Pennsylvania Back Road
We have been complimented on how smooth we look when we ride. To achieve that, we contradict most riders’ training. Often in training, riders are told to have their passengers look over the same shoulder as the direction of the turn. On the other hand the rider is also trained in various ways to keep his or her weight close to the centre line of the bike during normal cornering. Unless very disciplined, looking over the rider’s inside shoulder can cause the passenger’s body to lean into the turn excessively, forcing the rider to compensate for something he or she is not prepared for. Worse, that inside lean is often inconsistent, making it difficult for the rider to anticipate from one turn to another. I consistently follow my husband’s moves exactly, trying not to provide any input either way. In “technical” situations (read: lots of tight turns), I also lean forward slightly, keeping the weight slightly forward on the motorcycle. This also has the tendency to keep me from flopping out of sync with the turns. However you choose to engage a corner, be together on the method and be consistent. The result will be smooth, predictable, fun cornering.

Compensating for braking is possibly the most important action a co rider can take. During braking, weight is transferred onto the front wheel and off of the rear wheel, giving it less traction. Managing this loss of rear-wheel traction is a large part of braking. If passengers are unprepared —especially during emergency braking—two things happen.

First, they physically move forward, compounding the problem of weight transfer forward. Second, their weight falls on the rider, who is already busy enough maintaining their own position during a dynamic braking situation. In this case, the passenger’s inaction can contribute greatly to a crash. We have had different motorcycles, each one having some means for me to hold myself from shifting forward during braking. A strap across the saddle in front of the passenger won’t stop upper body motion at all, whereas grabbing the backrest bracket or rigid handles at the side will. I rest my hands nearby to use them in addition to using the boards or pegs to control my forward motion. Being prepared has definitely paid off on a couple of notable occasions. An added plus; handholds are nice to have in severe wind.

We have followed bikes where the passenger is bounding around to sightsee, get more comfortable, take pictures or get things from their pack. If you wouldn’t stand in a canoe, why would you dance on a bike? Sudden and erratic movements have a significant impact on the rider’s ability to control the bike, especially in corners. All of those things can be accomplished with no impact if done in the right way at the right time.

I adjust my butt when we shift or go over bumps and otherwise move smoothly and slowly. Leg-stretching is saved for when we are at a stop, and even then I let him know what I’m going to do. Another added plus; a less-fatigued rider is a lot more fun during happy hour at the end of the day.

Co-riding is an active, not a passive role, but at the same time it is not “back seat riding.” The rider has a job to do and your role is to complement his or her actions, not complicate them. For his part, my husband shares his  knowledge of riding techniques and is very mindful of my needs and comfort. You are an extra set of eyes and ears, able to see and hear things that the rider cannot. Your life is in the rider’s hands and the rider’s in yours, so you have equal responsibility for the outcome. Now that’s sharing the ride.

As our friends have said, we ride as one and so can you.  
My view - Confederation Bridge, PEI

This article was originally published in Canadian Biker Magazine - Jan/Feb 2009 issue #248. Check out their site at:  Canadian Biker Magazine

Monday, 20 August 2012

Getting Started

Just getting started on this new blog of mine.  Should be some posts up in a few days.  In the meantime check out Ed's motorcycle blog.  Just click on Motorcycle Tour Guide at the top.