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Two things that WILL keep you alive!

Discussion in 'Hangout Lounge' started by JeffK, Jun 5, 2017.

  1. JeffK

    JeffK Well-Known Member

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    I occasionally write for a UK Club magazine and I wrote this some time back. Now that I've returned here after a 5-6 year hiatus, I thought that it might help someone. If anyone can avoid something horrific, then it's good that I posted it. Please feel free to Copy & Paste as you choose:

    Braking

    I will premise this with telling you that I have been riding since the early 70's so yes, I'm old but I sure don't feel it and am surprised at the "old guy" in a picture or video of myself every time! While I have rag-dolled at the track a few times back in the day, I've never had an accident that involved a car. I occasionally get asked by younger guys what they can do to maximize their chances of getting to be an older rider. There is some factor of luck just as there is in anyone’s life but there are two things that YOU can do as a rider that will hugely impact the probability that all other factors being equal, you will survive to be an older rider! One is a skill the other a habit!

    My answer is always the same for the first….BRAKING! I believe, and this isn’t up for discussion since it really is my honest opinion, that learning how to brake is thee single most important skill to learn as a rider! Experience be damned, most riders regardless of experience aren’t very good at it! Think about it, it is the only riding skill which can absolutely save your life. We can all twist our wrists and while learning to corner at progressively higher and higher speeds has its fun factor, it won’t often save your life. The only other skill which has actually saved me from disaster was my ability to steer my bike using the rear wheel…..the oft quoted “steer with the rear” but it wasn’t a skill I learned in the first year of my riding career nor was it a skill that I learned while riding on the street. There is however a HABIT I use though and I’ll get to that in a minute.

    BRAKING:

    Many of us older guys have seen many accidents where the riders lack of skill was evidenced by that single black stripe on the road that led into the woods, into the concrete abutment, into the guard rail, the truck……you get the idea. They froze, locked it up, maybe fell over, maybe not and paid the price. Whenever I see that testament, I just hope the price wasn’t the ultimate price for the guy or gal. Believe it or not many riders even today still do not use their front brakes! Myself, I rarely use my rear brake unless the road conditions warrant it. It makes perfect sense to get comfortable with the front brake since it does something like 70% of the total braking anyway…may as well get really good at using it!

    I used to road race many, many years ago. It was nothing much, just a couple years of club racing with a buddy and believe me, I’m not trying to pretend that I was some “Racer X”…because I wasn’t but I did learn a lot of things from riders much better than me and one of those skill was how to brake.

    I’ve developed the perfect question when someone tells me that they know how to brake well. I’ll ask them “Does the idea of practicing a panic stop on an empty highway from 70 mph, in the rain frighten you?”

    The look on their face when you ask them this question will tell you the truth regardless of what words flow out of their mouths.

    That’s right, if practicing a panic stop in the worst type of weather scares you then get to practicing before it becomes a reality that you don’t want to be present for. Now before anyone logs off deciding to wait for a rain storm I should probably add that we all need to start small…..and start SAFE! Don’t “practice” on a public road, go to an empty paved lot. Start with a friend if you need to but go at a comfortable speed for YOU. It might be 20mph stops in that empty parking lot, then evaluate how you did with actual markings. They can be a piece of a stick thrown down to mark your first “stop point” or a friend making a small dot on the pavement. Point is, make it real by making real world marks or locations. Myself, I drop nickels or quarters. They are bright and shiny and if I’m quick, I can drop & step on them before they roll away. You can use whatever you want but just don’t let it be something large enough to upset your braking! Once I’m done, since I dropped them all off my right side, they are all in a straight line so I just hop off and go pick them all up. Go to that lot when it’s raining lightly so the pavement is wet but not flooded to the point where hydroplaning begins. Also keep in mind that your 750-900 lbs of bike & rider will hydroplane at a lower speed than that 12,000 lb tractor trailer that just passed you on Rt 95. Don’t be stupid, but GET BETTER!

    Once you’ve committed to getting really good at stopping your bike quickly, increase the speeds, introduce other factors and surfaces. You will be amazed at even with twenty minutes of casual practice, how many feet are between that last marker and the first one you put down.

    With practice you will be able to feel the rear wheel lockup and gently release it, all without any danger or fear. Same with the front brake. If you use a modern bike, you may even get the point where the rear becomes unweighted and you are able to lift the rear wheel but be forewarned, that may “look cool” but it actually increases the distance to stop. For the shortest distance, and that is the goal, keep your weight behind the front wheel, low as you can get it and both wheels generating deceleration. Get to know the feel of both of your brakes so intimately that you’ll be able to anticipate the lockup points and remain just under them even as the surface beneath your tires changes. Learning how to brake on a sand blown parking lot is surely better than being forced into a crash course around the next bend when you encounter sand over the road on a weekend ride.

    The only thing I do not suggest is practicing on ice or snow…..because you really have so little control that I cannot recommend that anyone try it because I don’t want anyone to get hurt! I’ll issue one other little warning here…..if you find yourself with a locked rear brake and the rear wheel is beginning to be a front wheel, throttle and very deft brake control will probably be the only things that will keep you upright and if that “perfect” question cased you some angst, then do not getting into this position!

    I can guarantee each and every one of you that began reading this and thought to yourself “yeah, I can stop my bike as fast as he can” two things.

    No, you probably can’t…..but if you practice, you WILL GET BETTER! Guaranteed!

    I think most reading this would acknowledge that they would get better….it’s just common sense(and proven science)…we all get better at things that we practice, right? Of course we do…then what exactly are you waiting for?

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we all got a text message that read something like:

    “Tomorrow after work, you are going to go for a ride. On a busy two lane road with 40mph bumper-to-bumper traffic 2.7 miles from your house the SUV in front of you is going to make an unannounced hard right turn leaving you face to face with the back end of the mail delivery truck taking up the entire lane….”

    NO, we don’t get those text messages warning us of impending doom do we? Would be nice but it ain’t happening folks. We need to be prepared…and being able to safely stop in time with 18 inches to spare beats the hell out of smacking into the side of that truck or that car or that tree because the rate of deceleration that YOU were able to generate left you 6 feet into that truck….BTW- that 6 feet from 40mph will probably be the distance between your first and last makers on the first time you go practice….6 feet!

    A guy I knew from another forum I belong to died less than 6 weeks ago (7/16)….because he couldn’t stop his bike. The bike easily had the ability….but he didn’t and he’s dead. He probably thought that he would practice “later”…… OK, enough said….please go practice.

    The Weave-it’s not just a hairpiece

    The second is a HABIT that I’m positive has saved me from disaster countless times is “The WEAVE”. That is the habit of weaving side to side in my lane when EVER I see that a car is either preparing to turn left in front of me or is entering the road FROM EITHER SIDE! I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough….to me, it is as important a riding tool as my braking ability! The principle here is what’s been called “The Dragonfly effect”….by weaving I am breaking up the plane of view for the driver against the background that HE sees because I’m smart enough to know that his brain has been programed since he or her very first day of driving school, to look for a car. THEY AREN’T EVEN LOOKING FOR A BIKE!

    Because of that, they will see right through you….even though you would swear that they made direct eye contact! This friends, isn’t conjecture or some conspiracy theory that Jeff thought up while in some paranoid state, it too is science (read the Hurt report published 1981). This report found over and over and over again where the driver who caused the accident tells the police that they never even saw the rider or bike….while the rider in question (same accident) tells the police that he swears the driver made direct eye contact! How scary is that folks? All those times that you made eye contact and felt comfortable because of it….to now find out that many times, the guy didn’t really make that connection with you at all! They even came up with an acronym for it- SMIDESY (sorry mister, I didn’t even see you) it’s right there in the report. WEAVE, it WILL save your life. As my own proof, I ride year round. Yes, it does actually get cold here in MD but as long as there is no apparent ice or snow, I ride in the winter because I enjoy it. I even enjoy riding in the rain (tip- always pack your rain suit last so it’s on top). Since I began “weaving” many years ago now….I have NEVER had a car cut me off by turning in front of me or pulling out in front of me, EVER! Not even once….how cool is that?

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen them begin to pull out then see the weave and stop dead in their tracks but never in my path. Is it just plain luck, could be I suppose but I’ve “read” the recognition on too many faces to simply chalk it up to luck….it makes a big difference. Did I feel kind of goofy weaving all over the road at first, yup I won’t deny that at first I did…not anymore though and what’s really interesting is that I’ve noticed more and more riders around where I live now weaving! Oh, in case you are wondering, I’ve never been pulled over by the cops for weaving. It appears that either they understand what I’m doing or when they see that’s its only when cars are pulling into traffic that I do weave, they must figure it out but I’ve never been stopped for it.


    Stay safe and enjoy!

    Jeff Kushner
     
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  2. Jasonh

    Jasonh '81 XJ750 Seca

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    Great Article. Thank you for taking the time to write this.
    I'm going to repost in my riding club facebook page.
     
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  3. cgutz

    cgutz Well-Known Member

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    Good stuff. Bought my XJ in 1985 and cannot emphasize safety enough. When I went to buy insurance, the salesman told me that the statistic show it isn't "if" but "when" you will have an accident for a lifetime rider.

    in over 30 years, I've had a few close ones, that I have been able to either stop, or maneuver out of. The only thing I ever actually hit was a cow, but our relative speeds were low as he was "trotting" down the lane when I came around a bend.

    Always, always, assume the other guy didn't see you!
     
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  4. MattiThundrrr

    MattiThundrrr Not a guru

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    I'm going to weave a basket and then brake it. Twice. For the practice.

    Just kidding. I recently took the MSF course. You'd be amazed at how much you forget in a couple of decades, and the habits you pick up! Anyhow, several of the exercises were about panic stopping, including stopping in a straight line, in a curve, and a simulated lane change and stop. If you have pylons, it is a good idea to practice your reactions in these situations.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us.
     
    Last edited: Jun 5, 2017
  5. kerriskandiesinc

    kerriskandiesinc Active Member

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    Great advice, ex UK bike courier...15 years, but I say you can ALWAYS learn something new, on a Bike.....and yes, old, bad riding habits can sometimes be hard to 're learn'.....
     
  6. Tim O

    Tim O Active Member

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    I've only been riding about 3-4 months and can say I'm AMAZED at how people can look right at me but not see me... and I wear a hi viz jacket.

    Had a guy look right at me, pull out into the roadway and miss my back wheel by a foot only because I gunned it to get around him.... these things scare me the most.
     
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  7. kerriskandiesinc

    kerriskandiesinc Active Member

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    Don't rely on Hi Viz, or Daytime running lights, these things can BLEND right in, especially in a brightly lit 'City' environment......the swerve, as outlined above is a good start!!
     
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  8. Wordman

    Wordman Member

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    Good stuff! May I also add:

    Read "A Twist of the Wrist" by Keith Code. His discussion on traction and how it is used is fantastic. The same goes for his exercises on seeing what is ahead and around you while also keeping your eyes on the road.

    Next, read all the old "Stayin' Safe" articles written by Lawrence (Larry) Grodsky. He helped develop the MSF course, and his defensive riding concepts are brilliant.

    Finally, have your non-motorcycle riding (even non-car driving) children read and practice all of the stuff above. SIPDE is a great way to maintain situational awareness and situational preparedness, even when you're not out riding!
     
  9. kerriskandiesinc

    kerriskandiesinc Active Member

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    If you are in the UK, RoSPA and a Police Roadcraft course, can be very informative!
     
  10. Ribo

    Ribo Prefectionist Premium Member

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    Good advice - I've been doing the Weave for a long time :) - I once had someone ask if I was trying to warm up my tires like in Formula 1 !!!

    High viz is is all well and good but for the most part it really only just helps your non-riding loved ones feel better about you riding -- worst case it can give the rider a false sense of security and becomes couner productive. The biggest things you can actively do are; road positioning... keep your distance, dominate your lane and put yourself in peoples mirrors, don't sit in blind spots; be courteous and assertive - thank people for letting past; avoid "boy-racers" - you know the 17 year old guy in the supped up Honda civic with the neon rims who wants to race you - just let them win.

    All this said, the only way to ride is to understand that every single motorbike comes with a cloaking device that you can't turn off. You are invisible like a Klingon battleship, expect that to be the case no matter what... unless you see a cop that is.... it's a shame the Enterprise didn't have LIDAR really.
     
  11. JeffK

    JeffK Well-Known Member

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    "avoid "boy-racers" - you know the 17 year old guy in the supped up Honda civic with the neon rims who wants to race you - just let them win."
    So very true Ribo! The best race I never ran was in '81 and I was riding my heavily modified H1 Kaw triple to work and a guy pulled up on a blue '76 XS650 wanting to race....The light turned and I just let him go which was VERY unlike me, especially since I knew I could wipe the road with him on my triple. The road crested a hill before going a 1/2 mile to the next light.......when I got there, he had been struck by a car turning left in front of him and was barely alive. I stayed with him until the medics showed up but saw that he died on the 5PM News that evening.........

    jeff
     
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  12. Stumplifter

    Stumplifter Well-Known Member

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    I can't really "like" that ^^^ that must have been a difficult situation to go through.
    But it is a good example and fitting for this thread to listen to your gut. You really have to pay attention but if your gut tells you "I'm not racing him" or "I should probably slow down" for no valid reason - you just hear those thoughts - LISTEN TO THEM.

    In the past I had a close call with doing bodily damage because I listened to my head instead of my gut (which spoke loud and clear to me prior to the 'misstep').
     
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  13. XJ550H

    XJ550H Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    your brain and a helmet are two other things that will help you survive.
    I know this well.
     
  14. Ribo

    Ribo Prefectionist Premium Member

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    [QUOTE=".......
    But it is a good example and fitting for this thread to listen to your gut. [/QUOTE]

    Amen brother!!! I really relate to this - I've have 2 none bike things recently where I knew before hand, just had this nagging feeling that something was going to happen a certain way and I did nothing and what do you know - I got screwed. Well actually in one case i didn't which was the problem :D After so many years, riding really does become a "feel" thing and your gut sometimes is your body reacting to cues that your conscious mind isn't even aware of but it's due to experience situational awareness.... then again it's also just sometimes voodoo..
     
  15. Toomanybikes

    Toomanybikes Well-Known Member

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    RB's 3 golden rules of riding.
    Back in the day I saw hundreds of customers ride away on new bikes.

    1. Trust no one not even your mother
    (Have a story for that one)

    2. Anyone you can or can't see will run you over.

    3. Refer to rules 1 and 2.
     
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  16. kerriskandiesinc

    kerriskandiesinc Active Member

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    I can't possibly reply......ex motorcycle courier (15 years) quite a few accidents, close calls, a few due to my own stupidity......rush of blood, but also quite a few that even.....Kenny Roberts probably couldn't have avoided!!....I know this, no matter how long you've been riding, you are ALWAYS learning how to survive!!

    When you ride a motorcycle.....any motorcycle....any protective gear, you become invisible, cloak of invisibility........!!!
     
  17. Wordman

    Wordman Member

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    I wonder, however, if we don't frequently create that cloak. It goes something like this:

    When someone sees a motorcycle, given the vehicle's size, it is quite difficult to determine its speed (try it sometime). So cage driver "Fred" is sitting waiting to make a left turn across your lane. He sees you, and given the road, his brain does a bit of mental math determining he can safely get across before you show up. The trouble is, instead of the 40 mph he thought you were traveling at, you're actually going 65 mph. He goes, and you slam into him. When questioned, he says he never saw you, because you couldn't possibly be the vehicle he saw, you got there way too quickly.

    I fully admit, I could be wrong, but experiments on my own, slowing down when I am the only vehicle visible to the turning driver, seem to corroborate this idea. Just something to think about.
     
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  18. Dadoseven

    Dadoseven Active Member

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    This a great post @JeffK . Helpful for both the experienced, and the new rider such as myself. I plan to incorporate these tips into my riding practice; that is once I get my bike on the road. o_O
     
  19. XJ550H

    XJ550H Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    you are correct about the profile that a rider presents to other motorists including motorcycles. the car/truck driver sees a form coming towards him and his brain thinks it is another automobile giving him time to pull out based on his perception of the profile.
    that is why we have to present ourselves as a larger object and expect every car/truck to run us off the road. swerving back and forth is a good way to do that, trying to time the swerve to leave you on the proper side of the lane so you can have that evasive move around the car if needed. of course braking, yielding the "right of way" or expecting to is the best defense to the situation. ALWAYS leave yourself an out.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2017
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  20. MattiThundrrr

    MattiThundrrr Not a guru

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    Everyone on the road is going to make the worst move possible at the worst possible time. If you expect this, you can be prepared for it. I practice this in the car too. Look at all the vehicles and try to predict what they will do.
     

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