Friday, September 17, 2010

Windscreens Bigger May Not Be Better At All By: James R. Davis

There has been a trend over the past few years of ever bigger windscreens showing up on our bikes. You cannot attend a major rally without seeing at least one vendor of these 'super-duper', 'larger-than-life', 'aerodynamic', 'custom-made', 'co-rider-friendly' pieces of plastic.

I like having a good windscreen in front of me. I like cutting most of the wind that buffets me during a long ride. I like having the bugs hit something other than my teeth. I like rain drops splashing on the plastic and then sliding up and over my head.

But I do not like their cost in terms of gasoline mileage or top-end speed. I do not like banging my forehead (excuse me - my helmet) on the windscreen when I mount my motorcycle. I dislike greatly not being able to look OVER my windscreen when things around me get dicey or visibility gets poor. I dislike reports of melted dashboards from leaving a bike in the sun at exactly the wrong time of day and pointed at the wrong angle relative to the sun.

As to 'aerodynamic', says who? Wind resistance is not just the angle at which you hit the wind. There is as much resistance caused by the vacuum behind your windscreen than from the wind hitting it in the front. The greater the 'apparent' surface area your windscreen has (the height times the width as seen from the front), the greater its resistance is, in one form or the other.

As to 'co-rider-friendly', what about 'rider-friendly' first? Have you ever driven at night and had difficulty seeing through your windscreen because your dash lights are all being reflected back at you from your new 'super-duper-swept-back' windscreen MIRROR? And should you get into an accident and find your head forced down by that windscreen that is levered over your head, what part of that new windscreen do you think your co-rider is going to hit first? (Notice how close the edge now is to her eyes?)

Like having that windscreen sweep around your grips? I guess you never did like the convenience of hanging your helmet using its D-ring and the peg that was designed to fit it?

Well, the larger screens look good. They are just right for some people. But do yourself a favor and take a ride behind one of them for a few hundred miles, day and night, before you decide to give up what you know works for one of these 'custom-made' monsters. The old one you already have just might be better than you think.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

How to Pick the Perfect Motorcycle Jacket - Bike

Riding this fall or this winter make sure you have the right jacket to protect you from all the elements that mother nature has to offer besides road rash:).
How do you tell if a girl’s a biker? Well, OK, besides the helmet hair? You check out her jacket. The right jacket can make you look like a biker off the bike, feel like one on the bike, and the perfect jacket just might literally save your skin. It’s 21st century armor, with fashion flair.
The right jacket combines comfort, safety, and fashion in an affordable, attractive package. I put comfort first, because the safest jacket doesn’t do you any good if you leave it on the hanger. Let’s talk about comfort for the two most common types of jacket: leather and mesh.

Leather – It’s the classic biker jacket material, and with good reason. A stout leather motorcycle jacket will save you from road rash, turn aside the chill of a 60-mile-an-hour wind, and turn heads when you walk into the local watering hole. A real biker’s leather jacket is heavy. Still, good heavy leather doesn’t have to be stiff. You want it to fit your torso fairly tight, so it doesn’t flap in the breeze. But it has to let you move the ways that bikers move. You should be able to turn and look behind you without taking your arms off the handlebars. I like to the fit the jacket to my chest but have side straps below to adjust to the waist. While a leather jacket that covers my butt is warm walking on a cold day, on the saddle I can turn easier if the jacket stops at the waist. 

The sleeve length and cuff style are also important. The sleeve and your glove need to make a comfortable wind-blocking duo. In addition, leather jackets need a removable liner for cold weather. I like liners with elastic cuffs – they’re nice and warm. The neck of the jacket should be smooth and shouldn’t rub your motorcycle helmet or your throat when you turn your head. When the sun’s beating down on you riding out to Sturgis, you want air – zip-open mesh on your forearms, a couple of vents in the front, and two long vertical vents on your back.

Mesh – I discovered the joys of mesh motorcycle jackets when I first rode south from my native Minnesota to Arkansas in the heat of July. Mesh jacket makers have discovered a way to keep you cool with lots of airflow and somehow I never even got sunburned. It’s easy to move in a mesh jacket, and comfort seems to be affected by only two things: the padding and the liner. Padding in a mesh jacket is there for your protection. The pads help protect from road rash, but they are designed to protect you from impact. 

There is removable padding in the shoulders, elbows, and back, tucked into pockets in the jacket. You want to be sure the padding in the right place for you. The liners for mesh jackets have some challenges- they often designed to be warm and waterproof at the same time. The ones that succeed at both and are comfortable usually have some kind of breathability – you don’t want to trade cold and breezy for warm and clammy.

So there you have it – serious women bikers have a number of choices. Consider where you live, how you ride, and what you ride, and there should be a perfect motorcycle jacket out there for you.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Extend Your Riding Season: Cold Weather Strategies - Bill Andrews

For those that just can't stop riding because just because it's Winter here are some great tips to help your winter riding season a little bit easier.

Old man winter lets loose a final blast to knock that last orange leaf to the ground. For some, it's time to roll the two-wheeled companion into a corner of the garage, throw the battery on a trickle charger, and hope for an early spring. For others, there is no end to the riding season, just a change in riding gear.

No, we're not talking about those who live in perpetual sunshine and warmth, but rather, folks who don't let cold weather deprive them of their favorite form of transportation. With a little knowledge and a few cold weather tricks, your riding season can be extended.

Here are some strategies for dealing with the worst winter has to offer:


Black ice — really just an ominous name for hard-to-see frozen water on the road — can occur any time the temperature has been near the freezing point, or where frost can form. Some touring bikes have an air-temperature thermometer, but adding one to any bike is a cheap fix.

Bridges are susceptible to icing because they are disconnected from the warmth of the Earth and cool faster when air temperatures drop. Watch for spots on the road that are shaded from the sun. Well-traveled roads are often better, because passing traffic melts and dries the moisture.

If you do feel like you're on an icy patch, don't make any sudden moves, and don't touch the brakes. Pull in the clutch and let the bike coast until you're clear.


That cold shiver up your spine isn't just uncomfortable. It could also be a warning. Hypothermia occurs when your core body temperature drops significantly, and it can be deadly. Temperatures don't need to be below freezing to induce hypothermia. Wind chill gets worse as wind speeds increase, and the longer you're out, the worse it gets.

One early sign of potential hypothermia occurs when you start feeling cold and you can't decide if you should pull over or not. The answer is always yes, but your judgment may be clouded. Long before this point occurs, you should have pulled into that nice warm cafe and had some hot chocolate or soup.

Uncontrolled shivering and chattering teeth are signs of real danger. You may start to feel dizzy, or even drunk, as your muscles begin to stiffen. Continued exposure may cause the shivering to slow down or even stop, but by then you're in serious trouble.

The Well-Dressed Rider

How do you mitigate the dangers of cold weather? First of all, cover up. It all boils down to insulating your body. To do that, you need to layer.

Synthetics work better for your inner layer than cotton, which holds moisture against your skin. On top of that, wear fleece, wool, or other layers that provide insulation. The idea is to let your body create a warm pocket of air between you and the environment. 

Finally, you need to stop the environment from stealing your warm air. Your outer layer needs to block the wind. Leather works; denim, for example, doesn't. These days, we also have a broad array of choices in nylon gear made specifically for motorcycling that provides versatile weather protection with vents, removable liners, waterproof membranes, adjustable fit, etc. If you choose outerwear that isn't waterproof, such as a leather jacket, be sure to carry a rainsuit that fits over it. Getting wet robs you of your insulation.

Whichever outer layer you choose, remember that it should provide crash protection, too. Buy gear made for motorcycling, not the fashion show.

Hands can be particularly vulnerable to the cold. Gauntlet-style gloves will help you seal the gap between gloves and jacket. Gloves with a breathable, waterproof liner will keep rain out while allowing moisture from perspiration to escape.

It may be obvious, but a full-face helmet will keep you warmer than no helmet, or an open-face helmet. Sealing the area around your neck with a bandanna, or better yet a fleece or wind- and waterproof neck warmer, can make a dramatic difference. A balaclava (right) under the helmet provides a lot of additional comfort for minimal bulk.

What About the Bike?

No matter how well you're dressed, cold air has a way of sneaking in and robbing heat. The longer you're on the road, the worse it gets. Your front line in the defense against cold is to block the wind.

A windshield or fairing is a good front-line defense. Mounting a small windshield on your handlebars, if your bike doesn't have one, can be enough to divert the wind off your chest and help keep your upper-body vital organs warm.

Going Electric

No matter how well you dress, if you're on the road long enough, you'll lose more heat than your body can generate. Long riders resort to electrical assistance. Heated clothing, which uses your bike's electrical system to power heating elements, makes a huge difference by not just insulating you, but adding heat to the whole equation.

Gloves start around $100. Vests, depending on the style, can go from $100 to $200. Socks can range from simple D-cell powered items that sell for around $25, to $90 systems that hook into the rest of your electric riding gear.

Make sure your charging system can handle the load. Find out the output of your charging system, add up the draw from all your electrical gear, and make sure you're not draining your battery. Also, leave a margin of error, because your bike's output may be measured at cruising rpms and it may produce considerably less electrical power at idle.

For many riders, a vest alone is enough. If you keep your torso warm, your body will focus on pumping warm blood to your extremities. If you torso gets cold, you body will abandon the extremities to try to keep the vital organs warm, and that's when you can suffer from dangerously numb hands or, possibly, frostbitten toes.

Chemical Options

Another option is a lightweight, disposable heat pack, which offers a different kind of protection.
Imagine you're out for a ride on a nice fall day. You're so consumed with the changing leaves that you don't notice how far you've ridden. It's getting dark and cold — fast. A bit of quick heat can make all the difference.

An outdoor gear store, or even one of the big-box retailers that sell recreational goods, will have chemical packs of the type hunters use. Be careful, because some can produce up to 150 degrees, so don't put them next to bare skin.

Keep Hydrated

One last thing to think about — that you might not think about: Drink lots of liquids. Dehydration may be foremost in your mind in the hot months, but you still lose moisture in winter. Cold, dry winter air can suck moisture out of you and you may not notice that you're perspiring.

Monday, September 13, 2010

How to Prepare Your Bike for Winter--Bike


Unfortunately for most of us summer is over as well as our riding season so we must all begin to think about winterizing our motorcycles so we can do it all over again in the Spring of 2011.
Water is the eternal enemy of your bike’s inner works, and a bike that hasn’t been properly winterized is a sitting target for creeping moisture. A properly winterized bike is safe from moisture and corrosive compounds. When you do it right, you can start your motorcycle right up when spring arrives and be ready to hit the road.

Clean Your Bike

Cleaning your motorcycle may seem simple, but it’s an essential step in winterizing. Bug splatters and corrosive chemicals that are allowed to sit on your bike over the winter can damage your motorcycle’s finish. Give your bike a thorough all-over wash, and make sure it’s dry before you store it.

Coat Engine and Spark Plugs in Engine Oil

The engine and motorcycle spark plugs are prime targets for moisture over a long period of disuse. To protect your bike, you’ll need to coat your piston rings, valve seats and cylinder walls in engine oil. Start by warming up the engine to drive off moisture. Remove the spark plugs, and squirt some warm engine oil into the holes. Turn the engine over by hand to coat the cylinder walls, and then replace the plugs.

Change the Oil

The chemical makeup of your motorcycle oil can change over long periods of disuse and become acidic. To protect your engine, change your oil before storing for the winter. Ideally, you should change oil again in the spring, so it’s not necessary to change your oil filter for winter. However, if you plan to ride in the spring without changing the oil again, change your filter now.

Lube Everything

Before you park your bike for the season, lube everything that needs lubing. Lube your throttle and clutch cables. If your bike is a chain drive, clean and lube the chain. If you’re feeling really ambitious, lube your motorcycle pivot points, such as shifter, kick stand and foot pegs. Anything you’d normally lube during routine maintenance, lube.

Fill the Gas Tank and Add Stabilizer

Moisture is bad for metal, and your gas tank is made of metal. This means you’ve got two ways to safely store it for the winter: drain it completely and make sure it’s dried out, or fill the gas tank full and add fuel stabilizer. The simple option is to fill up the tank on the way home from your last outing, and add fuel stabilizer based on the capacity of your tank. A full tank prevents moisture from creeping in and fuel stabilizer keeps your gasoline from turning into sludge over the winter - very important if you want to avoid expensive repairs when spring arrives.

Store Your Battery on a Tender

It’s not good for your motorcycle battery to be left alone in your bike for a long period of time, and leaving it for the winter definitely counts. Remove your battery from your motorcycle and store it on a battery tender. At the same time, check the fluid level in your battery and clean any corrosion from the posts. If your bike has the right connection, you may be able to plug a trickle charger in to your bike without removing the battery.

Drain the Float Bowls

In a carbureted bike, you may want to drain the float bowls. To drain the float bowls, you’ll need to turn your fuel petcock off and drain the gasoline from the bowls. Every bike is different, so consult your owner’s manual for details. Gas that you don’t drain can turn into sludge and hamper your bike’s performance in the spring, and potentially lead to costly repairs.

Make Sure Your Bike Coolant is Safe

If you’re storing your bike in physically cool temperatures, use a hygrometer to check the anti-freeze. You may need to add anti-freeze to protect your bike’s system. You should drain and replace the antifreeze every two years as part of your winterization process.

Protect Your Bike from Moisture

If you’re storing your bike on bare concrete, roll your bike onto a piece of old carpet, plywood or MDF. Moisture can collect and ruin your rubber tires if you let your bike sit on cold concrete. Check your tire air pressure periodically and top it up as the temperatures drop.

Plug Your Pipes to Protect from Pests

Rodents and other small pests may try to climb into your motorcycle exhaust to shelter for the winter. Plug your pipes to protect your bike from small pests. Make sure you remember to remove the plugs before you go for your first spring ride!

Store Your Bike Covered

Store your bike under a breathable motorcycle cover. If possible, store your bike in a heated garage; if not, make sure you complete the winterization process to protect your bike from moisture. With proper winterization, even a bike that’s stored outdoors can be ready to start up and run smoothly when spring arrives.