Crazy safe, a realistic perspective from a contrarian view - Kawasaki Vulcan 750 Forum : Kawasaki VN750 Forums
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post #1 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-28-2016, 01:23 PM Thread Starter
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Crazy safe, a realistic perspective from a contrarian view

Right up front here i just want to say that my opinions below are in no way to be construed as "correct", or supported by anyone else except myself, so if you do take the time to read this through, just remember to blame me only and not the other good people that provide and contribute to this most excellent website.

The one thing you can rely on as a certainty in any accident event is that instead of having the luxury of being a cop with a calculator measuring skid marks on the pavement, or an arm-chair quarterback watching a YouTube video is that it's YOU that are riding on your machine and you just happen to be human. During any such event, from the simple skidding on oil or ice to the outright head-on logging truck that just popped over the other side of the hill in your lane, you will only have time to react if you intend to survive. This is beyond the ability of decision. This is the simple facts that occur. Within those one or two seconds of control that you have, you will only do what you have habitually trained yourself to do, or you will rely on your natural instincts.

Your natural instincts are practically useless and even dangerous in such situations. Your instincts in hard steers will be to put your foot onto the pavement. Your instincts to avoid anything up front will probably be to rear back, and slide the bike on its side. Your instincts will predict the other vehicles to continue along their present courses or remain stationary where they are even though they are being driven by humans that change their minds at the drop of a hat. And your instincts will be to over-compensate in your reactions, such as slamming full forces in your pedals and/or riding the clutch, etc.

That only leaves you with one option of the two if you intend to actually survive what the Insurance companies statistically rely upon to stay in business. Natural instincts must be discarded and the only way to do that for us humans is to replace them with habits. The good news about this is that regardless of whom you are, and given that any of your physical deficiencies are compensated ( yes, we ALL have those and the increase with age every single day ), we are literally wired for learning new habits, therefore, ANYONE that puts forth enough hours at any endeavor will eventually develop their own unique set of habits that fit the skills they practice.

So in my opinion, the BEST Safety tip of them all is to ride at all times under the auspice that you are practicing for that eventual collision event.

Some things that i do that most people will probably disagree with:

Laning
I always pull to the center line on stops on two+ lane roads. Regardless of which lane the cars behind me that have lost their brakes choose, they will more than likely consider me instinctively to be a stationary object ( which i am at least until the light turns green ), and choose one or the other lane to go around me without breaking lanes. A bad habit they develop on their own is to have a "fear" of changing lanes. Lanes are guides at best, and breaking that lane habit is essential to survival. I would much prefer to live and get a traffic ticket for failing to signal than have that habit "ruling" me in an accident situation. Hand signals are essential. They are fast, clean, and understood by other drivers. There are times, however, when a "move" in heavy traffic is essential, and these make the best of times for practice as well. The worst of cage-drivers are those that ride their break. Every 20 to 30 yards, there it is, another pair of red brake lights, then it lifts up. IMHO these sorts of drivers are dangerous to follow and passing them becomes a priority regardless of the thickness of traffic. There is a certain window of speed which our bikes are fully capable of taking advantage of. While on one hand, it is true that a car can veer to the side while driving forward, while it is also true that two cars can both veer to the side while parallel and close the gap between them, it is also true that this is the one situation that both drivers have habitually trained themselves to avoid from the very first day they ever turned a key on. It is also true that the time required to pass a pair of vehicles between them is less time than required for them to somehow close that gap. The point of this, however, is beyond simply getting ahead, beyond passing the brake-riding driver, and beyond having some fun or taunting cops that are sleeping on the side of the road. No, the point of this sort of behavior is PRACTICE and to develop the habits and skills of knowing your speed, your acceleration, your width, etc., so that in a situation of survival, your habits will already be there when there is no time to think.

Stopping
There is an old rule of thumb that when one is driving speed limit, the yellow signal lamp will be timed such that if one is already within the "solid" lane lines of the intersection, that it will be yellow as one goes through the intersection. That's fine for people that want to die from their instincts. I have two better rules of thumb to replace that one. 1) Lights cannot stop vehicles regardless of how bright they are or what shade of the spectrum they happen to be. Lights are ( at best ) an agreed upon way for people to cooperate in traffic. 2) Yellow lights give one an opportunity to PRACTICE hard stopping. Hard stopping is a crucial skill to develop. As a simple method, one might start with the original rule of thumb, and practice until one can stop at a yellow from speed-limit at shorter and shorter distances using the solid lines of intersections as a gauge. Hard stopping is not as fun as lane-splitting but according to statistics, it is the one skill that would prevent upwards of 80% of all motorcycle insurance claims. There are a lot of bikers that can smoothly shift up their gears for maximum acceleration. The point of learning to stop hard though develops the opposite habit as well. Using the brakes correctly, both of them always, and always tapping them is something i always see in safety guides. That's only 50% of the exercise, in my opinion. The engine is the best breaking mechanism there is. Operating all three controls in tandem is necessary for good practice of efficient stopping and practicing hard stopping is a survival skill.

Turning
Hopefully, everyone and their grandmother can turn their bike left or right at an intersection. The occasion arises to infrequently, though, to use it as any sort of habit training practice. There are two extents of turning that should be practiced, though. The high-speed turning at 40+mph, and the low-speed turn at 10 or less mph. These both require pre-selected areas to practice, but when it comes time to make a U-Turn at an inopportune moment, you will certainly be glad you did. Picking roads for practicing high-speed turns is going to depend on your area. Learning to lean the bike instead of yourself and the advantages of using yourself as a counter-balance is important. For U-turns though, you will need a private street with little if any traffic. The exercise i do is to ride a counter-clockwise coil path up the street as fast as possible ( which is slow ) and then reverse the action going clockwise back to the other end of the street. The clockwise will rarely if ever be used and you might find that when speaking of habits and humans i am more than just crazy, but correct. You will notice a distinct difference in your abilities between riding clockwise and counter-clockwise. How did that habit get there?

Hope this helps
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post #2 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-29-2016, 10:35 AM
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Nice write up, but here are my disagreements....



"Yellow lights give one an opportunity to PRACTICE hard stopping"....

And getting rear ended by the car behind you that didn't think you were going to stop?

Do your breaking practice in parking lots and empty roads.

"Hand signals are essential. They are fast, clean, and understood by other drivers. "......

Many younger drivers have no idea what "hand signals" are. Use your turnsignals keep your hands on the bars.

At stops I try and stop in the farthest left of the lane. The center tends to collect oil from leaky cars. You can't always just pick a spot, traffic changes too much, but when stopped leave yourself an escape path.

Be aware of every car around you, and what you should do if they do something stupid....because they will.
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Last edited by Knifemaker; 02-29-2016 at 10:56 AM.
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post #3 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-29-2016, 11:13 AM
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I ride like everyone is trying to kill me,cause they usually are
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post #4 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-29-2016, 12:00 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by OleDirtyDoc View Post
I ride like everyone is trying to kill me,cause they usually are
You'd love central L.A. They do that here and they don't even care who you are or what you look like here. I purposely left out riding exercises to help avoid being shot. LOL
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post #5 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-29-2016, 12:18 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Knifemaker View Post

"Yellow lights give one an opportunity to PRACTICE hard stopping"....

And getting rear ended by the car behind you that didn't think you were going to stop?

Do your breaking practice in parking lots and empty roads.
Totally respect and appreciate where you are coming from. Having an empty road or parking lot must be nice. I prefer the real thing though. Center lines "here" for the most part are the most under utilized areas of the road. The pot holes are usually in the right hand lane and tend to be just to the left of the center of the lane ( left side car tracks ). The sewer lids tend to be center of the right lane. Dips and grooves at intersections are at about 10% of them ( just need to know which ones by experience ). The best eyesight forward is between the cars, and at every single stop light i will roll between them anyways all the way up to the front unless the light turns green, then merging wherever i am is the rule. I'd compare it to riding horseback in the middle of a herd of cows, but i've never actually been on a horse before. Getting accustomed to working with the other drivers here is necessary, legal, and even the cops do it ( the biker cops on their BMWs ). Doing things that make THEM aware of ME is just as important as me being aware of them. This is not for the feint of heart or for new riders though, sort of... It's a practice that needs to be adopted gradually just like anything else. I would not suggest that a new rider do anything close to what i do, but i've been riding bikes since dirt-grade as an early teen, been hit by a "stationary" truck, and seen quite a lot.
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post #6 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-29-2016, 02:16 PM
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Being seen is important.

However what works for you in LA may not work for others in other places. I like seeing discussions here on safety, but I will not let anyone post "tips" that are or could be dangerous to other riders...especially new riders who visit our pages.

Using yellow lights as a test bed for braking practice is not an advisable thing to teach to new riders.

Have you taken the MSF rider course? We suggest everyone take it, even those that have years of experience.

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post #7 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-29-2016, 02:29 PM
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I am with KM on his points. I practice hard stopping and slow turning in parking lots often.

As for "The best eyesight forward is between the cars, and at every single stop light i will roll between them anyways all the way up to the front unless the light turns green, then merging wherever i am is the rule."
although it is legal, I never split lanes or ride through bumper to bumper traffic. I have seen first hand how cagers will rage and purposely try to "teach you a lesson" for passing them in a manner that they see as "cheating" while they are furious and agitated because they are trapped.
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post #8 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-29-2016, 05:08 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Knifemaker View Post
Being seen is important. .
I did a 40 mile tour around Griffith Park this morning. This is a typical day around here. During my trip i was pulled over by a cop up in Glendale, he asked me if i had any weapons and couldn't care less about anything else. Had a truck nearly run into my tail ( the light was red )... he slammed on his brakes and i heard them coming. I was damned glad i was in the center nearly between the lanes. He could have skid-passed me on the left had he needed to ( light red or not ). I remembered our discussion this morning ( lol ). But the highlight of my morning was going about 25 to 30 on at least a 25 degree downhill grade with a line of cars behind me and in front and turns that turned into turns the other way before the turns even stopped turning. Lights along the way too ( Laurel Canyon Road ) going over the Santa Monica Range would be best done on a 125cc trials bike, seriously. And then 5 minutes later i am in Hollywood with traffic backed up on Sunset Blvd, construction crews doing their thing, and this is during the Non-Peak hours; i.e. not the rush hour ( which is a complete oxymoron ). Being seen is important, but habits are more important.

Take a virtual tour, head south

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Have you taken the MSF rider course? We suggest everyone take it, even those that have years of experience.
They want upwards of US$300 for that around here.

Like i said, if you have a parking lot to practice in that's great! Not sure you get the drift about parking lots here though, that's the dead last place anyone is going to see you, ( given the security guards don't run you off and the pedestrians are all in the store, and nobody wants to back out of their spot i guess ). And how are you going to be going 40+ mph in a parking lot? I realize you mean an empty one. I've seen those before, but not around here. Seriously speaking if you have those kinds of places for free, that's great, but doing 40mph in a parking lot anywhere around here is the least safest idea i have ever heard and a quick way to get arrested. I'll stick to my habits training and keep in mind i was very clear to state this is not advice for new riders, but seriously? Those habits ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING. I can only stress that so much and am leaving out all of my credentials for knowing why ( grins ).
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post #9 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-29-2016, 05:23 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by kc2dgq View Post
I am with KM on his points. I practice hard stopping and slow turning in parking lots often.

As for "The best eyesight forward is between the cars, and at every single stop light i will roll between them anyways all the way up to the front unless the light turns green, then merging wherever i am is the rule."
although it is legal, I never split lanes or ride through bumper to bumper traffic. I have seen first hand how cagers will rage and purposely try to "teach you a lesson" for passing them in a manner that they see as "cheating" while they are furious and agitated because they are trapped.
According to the studies done by UC Berkley, that is the most likely reason for accidents, i.e. road rage. They don't come right out and say it that way, but they circle around it with the facts for the reader to add two plus two. Upwards of 35% of some 5000+ people they surveyed thought that lane splitting was illegal.

On the other hand, there are plenty of 4-wheel hot-rod Lexus/BMW/etc around that will cut you off as if they are lane splitting anyways. Happens all of the time and riding with that in mind rather than it being a surprise or getting angry about it is the habit forming. I let slower people get in front of me all the time, wave them into the lane in their mirrors, etc. too. It all depends on the circumstances and being part of the "crowd" instead of in the "lanes" is practice for exactly those occasions.

But being at the head at the light is much safer all things considered. The dangerous thing about driving is the other drivers and putting them behind you in 3 seconds gets one out of that situation. The other thing about doing that, i.e. getting to 40 or 45 speed limit ahead of the herd, is that exactly as you surmised, some idiot will think you are racing him or have his Lexus financial ego bruised, or whatever the case, and sure enough they will eventually speed right on by doing about 60 mph just perfect in time to give the cop up ahead something to do, you know?
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post #10 of 14 (permalink) Old 02-29-2016, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by RoadHopper View Post
According to the studies done by UC Berkley, that is the most likely reason for accidents, i.e. road rage. They don't come right out and say it that way, but they circle around it with the facts for the reader to add two plus two. Upwards of 35% of some 5000+ people they surveyed thought that lane splitting was illegal.

On the other hand, there are plenty of 4-wheel hot-rod Lexus/BMW/etc around that will cut you off as if they are lane splitting anyways. Happens all of the time and riding with that in mind rather than it being a surprise or getting angry about it is the habit forming. I let slower people get in front of me all the time, wave them into the lane in their mirrors, etc. too. It all depends on the circumstances and being part of the "crowd" instead of in the "lanes" is practice for exactly those occasions.

But being at the head at the light is much safer all things considered. The dangerous thing about driving is the other drivers and putting them behind you in 3 seconds gets one out of that situation. The other thing about doing that, i.e. getting to 40 or 45 speed limit ahead of the herd, is that exactly as you surmised, some idiot will think you are racing him or have his Lexus financial ego bruised, or whatever the case, and sure enough they will eventually speed right on by doing about 60 mph just perfect in time to give the cop up ahead something to do, you know?
I ALWAYS leave myself an escape route and am very much aware of my surroundings, I usually anticipate things that other drivers will do before they even think about it, so I constantly evaluate everything.
I have been riding over 20+ years and have yet to have an accident, so I am confident in my abilities, and I stay with in them. I must be doing something right all these years.
And as Doc said....drive defensively as if everyone else is trying to kill you.....because in recent years with cell phones and road rage, that is very much true.
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