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Inspirational Off-Road Motorcycle Documentary

10 Common Motorcycle Accidents And How To Avoid Them

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Article written by Wes Siler and first published in RideApart

Riding a motorcycle is dangerous. Luckily, bikes also give you the best possible tools to avoid crashing — incredibly powerful brakes, obstruction-free vision, excellent handling and very gripy tires. Here’s how to use those tools, and your very own brain, to avoid an accident.

Motorcycle Safety:

Want to reduce your odds of dying in a crash? Get educated. New riders should complete a basic rider course from the MSF or similar while advanced tuition is available at race tracks. It can be cheaper than you fear.

Safety gear doesn’t just help prevent injury in a crash, but can make riding more comfortable, put you in better control of your bike and help you be seen by other drivers. Bright colors on your helmet and jacket/suit will help car drivers see you, potentially avoiding some of the common accidents detailed below.

A Car Turns Left In Front Of You

The most common motorcycle accident. A car fails to see you or judges your speed incorrectly, turning in front of you at an intersection. Blame inattention, distraction, blind spots and even psychology; a driver looking for cars perceives merely an absence of cars, not the presence of a motorcycle.

How To Avoid It: Simple, you just need to see it coming. Part of your job as a motorcyclist is to develop a precognitive sixth sense. Look for signs that could indicate someone may turn in front of you: a car is at an intersection waiting to turn, there’s a gap in traffic near an intersection, driveway or parking lot. In either situation, slow down, cover your brakes and get ready to take evasive action. Yes, you do need to take something as innocuous as a car waiting in a turn lane as a major and immediate threat to your life. You also need to account for objects outside of your vision. Gaps in traffic indicate the possibility of someone coming through that gap, even if you can’t see them. Again, MAJOR THREAT, PREPARE FOR EVASIVE ACTION.

And once you’ve identified said threat, you can work it through levels of severity. Is the driver clearly able to see you, without obstruction from their window pillars, trees or signs? Is that person actually looking? Are they looking at you? How are they situated in the road? What is their speed? Where are their wheels pointing?

Look at their wheels, not the car, they’ll give you the first clue of movement. During all this, also be aware of what’s behind and to your side. Should you need to take evasive action, you’ll need to know your routes of escape. It’s no good braking in time to avoid a turning car, only to be swatted from behind by a tailgating SUV. What’s the road surface like? Is it going to be able to handle the full force of your brakes or are you going to lock them? You do know how to use the full ability of your brakes, right?

Under no circumstances should you “lay the bike down.” Your best chance of survival comes from shedding as much speed as possible pre-collision, and you’re going to be able to do that best with the bike completely upright, using both brakes. Even if you only have time to lose 10 or 20mph, that could be the difference between going home with bruises and going home at all.

You Hit Gravel In A Blind Corner

You’re out riding the twisties when, seemingly without warning, you round a corner to find a patch of sand/gravel/leaves/horse dung/whatever in your path. You put your front tire in it and wipe out.

How To Avoid It: Don’t hit it in the first place. Ride at a pace where your reaction time and ability to take action fit within your range of vision. On the road, “Slow In, Fast Out” is an effective rule of thumb. Enter a corner wide, to increase your vision and at an easy pace. You can pick up the speed on the way out, once you can see all the way through.

Trail braking is a slightly more advanced skill that you’ll need to learn and practice on a track before applying on the road. Using it, you brake all the way to the apex using the front brake before swapping brake for throttle. Since you’re already on the brakes and the bike’s weight is distributed forward, compressing the front suspension and increasing the size of the front tire’s contact patch, you can easily tighten your line by applying a little more brake or widen it by letting off. Doing so should help you avoid obstacles such as gravel.

Another advanced skill, which is oddly controversial in rule-loving America, but which is taught by advanced police riders abroad, is to maximize vision by using the full width of the road, regardless of lanes. Vision equals safety equals speed. Again, learn this from a trained professional before trying it yourself.

You Entered A Corner Too Fast

And now it’s unexpectedly tightening and you’re just not going to make it around. Oh no.

How To Avoid It: Don’t be a dummy. Only ride as fast as you can see and use visual clues like telephone polls and signs to judge a road’s direction, even if that road is disappearing over a blind crest.

If you do find yourself going too fast in a corner, the best approach is to trust the bike and try to ride it out. The bike is likely more capable than you are, so it’s really you that’s not capable of making around. Take as much lean out of the bike as possible by hanging off, look where you want to go and be as smooth as possible on the controls. Do not whack on the brakes, chop the throttle or do anything else that may upset the bike and cause a loss of traction. Don’t panic if a peg or knee or something else touches down, just try to hold that lean angle, look for the corner exit and ride it out.

This is another situation in which trail braking can be a real help, allowing you to safely shed speed while already in the corner.

A Car Changes Lane Into You

You’re riding in traffic when a car in another lane suddenly veers into the space you’re occupying. Remember, our tiny motorcycles can easily fit into blind spots and drivers looking for cars aren’t psychologically programmed to see motorcycles.

How To Avoid It: Be aware of where blind spots lie and spend as little time in them as possible. If you can see a drivers eyes in their mirrors, then they have the ability to see you too.

Beware of situations where lane changes become more possible. Is highway traffic slowing, with one lane moving faster than others? People are going to want to be in that lane. Don’t be where they want to be.

Look for signs of a car changing lanes: turn signals, wheels turning, the car wandering around its own lane while the driver checks his mirrors and, of course, the driver’s head moving. Be aware of all that, in all the cars around you, at all times, and you’ll be good.

A Car Hits You From Behind

You come to a halt a stop sign/cross walk/intersection/to avoid a family of baby ducks when, the driver behind you doesn’t see you or isn’t trying to and plows into you at high speed. The most common car accident is a “fender bender.” A fender bender can kill a motorcyclist.

How To Avoid It: Use cars as your very own crumple zone. A single car stopped at a multi-lane stoplight, with more cars coming from behind? Pull in front of it (wave nicely) and you’re cushioned from any subsequent impacts. Between a line of cars works just as well.

No free crumple zones available? Stop to the side rather than the center of a lane, rapidly flash your brake light by tapping a brake lever, keep the bike in gear and your right hand on the throttle. Pay attention to what’s coming up behind you and be prepared to scoot away should it appear someone’s about to come plowing into you.

Be particularly aware in situations where there’s bad visibility, at times when drunk driving is prevalent (do all the bars around you let out at 1am?) and when stops are unexpected, such as at pedestrian crosswalks on very busy streets and stuff like those cute baby ducks crossing the road.

Your Riding Buddies Are Idiots

You’ve seen it happen. A group is out for a ride when one of them stops suddenly or something similar. His buddy is too busy day dreaming to realize and hits him from behind. This has happened to us, it can happy to anyone.

How To Avoid It: Make sure everyone is aware of proper group riding etiquette and knows to ride in a staggered formation. You’d be amazed how many people are unaware of this simple technique. Doing so increases vision and moves bikes out of line with each other, meaning a temporary lapse in attention wont’ result in a collision. Pick smarter riding buddies or do what I do: ride alone.

You Locked The Front Brake

Oh no, a deer/cute girl/cop/stopped traffic. You grab a fistful of front brake and, next thing you know, you’re laying on the ground, watching your bike cartwheel down the street.

How To Avoid It: Learn to use your front brake. It might seem counterintuitive, but that front brake is the most powerful and difficult-to-master component on your motorcycle; it can alter your speed much more quickly than your engine.

If you’re just learning to ride, have simply never mastered this skill or bought a new bike and need to learn it, find a big, empty parking lot and start practicing. From a set speed (say 30mph), start braking at a certain mark, then repeat ad infinitum until you’ve reduced your braking distance as much as possible. You should be able to feel the tire on the very edge of locking up and the rear wheel lifting off the ground. Then go and practice at higher and higher speeds until you can employ the maximum braking ability of your motorcycle reliably and safely.

Or just buy a bike with ABS, remember you have it, and squeeze the lever as hard as you can when you need to make an emergency stop.

A Car Opened Its Door

The biggest gap in traffic was between a line of parked cars and a stationary line of active traffic. So you go scooting through it when, all of a sudden, Nathan-no-look swings his door wide open right in front of you.

How To Avoid It: Never, ever, ever, ever ride between an active traffic lane and parked cars. Not just because of the opening doors thing, but because pedestrians step out, cars pull out so they can see, and for a million other reasons. Just don’t do it. If you do, somehow, find yourself in a door opening situation though, follow all the advice above and brake as hard as possible. Even if a collision is inevitable, shedding even a small fraction of your speed can really help.

Cyclist’s call the area next to parked cars, within a doors’ width “The Death Zone” for a reason.

It’s Slippery!

Stuff is coming out of the sky! That stuff is cold, wet and, surprise surprise, slippery. Listen to Douglas Adams and don’t panic.

How To Avoid It: Does your bike have decent tires on it or were you silly and decided that running track rubber on the road was a good idea. Hint: it’s not. So long as you’re running reasonable tires and those tires aren’t worn out, you’ll be surprised at how well a motorcycle does in wet or even snowy conditions. Just slow down and be as smooth as possible on the controls.

In the wet, stuff like manhole covers become super, extra slippery and you’ll need to watch out for oil and Diesel on the road as well. Look for patches of rainbow and avoid those. If it hasn’t rained for a while, the first hour or so of rainfall is the most treacherous, it lifts all the oils and whatnot out of the pavement, floating it on top. Treat yourself to a hot cup of coffee and wait for a solid downpour to wash all that junk away.

Also beware of the limited visibility rain creates for other drivers and their general ineptitude; car drivers don’t seem to understand that slippery conditions necessitate longer following distances and earlier braking.

Ron Haslam advocates keeping revs up in the wet. The thinking is that, should your rear spin up, you’ll be using a smaller amount of throttle opening, allowing you to regain traction much easier than if you’re riding at 30mph in 6th, at wide open throttle.

The Most Common Bike Accident

According to the 1981 Hurt Report — the largest study ever conducted on motorcycle accident causation — alcohol is a factor in 50 percent of all bike wrecks.

How To Avoid It: Don’t drink and ride.

KTM 1190 R – My attempt at getting it “Expedition Ready”

The author of this article is Stefan Boshoff a senior Country Trax Instructor and avid motorcycle adventurer.

I have liked the new bikes since their launch. The debate about “best adventure bike” is ongoing. No new arguments, it is more about different riders punting what is important to them, and this variation results in different solutions to the “problem”. With the assistance of Sovereign Motorrad, I have a new 1200 GS. Great adventure bike. It replaces my previous GS with improvements in all departments. That is not what this thread is about. I have used my 990R and 6 previous variants of the LC8 for expeditions over the last 10 years. Some reported in detail, others not. I was quite convinced that I will own an LC8 until I die or stop riding, whichever occurs first. Then, along came KTM and stopped making 990′s. My world imploded. After some meditation, 2 options remained: Change the nature of the typical expedition, or find a bike that replaces a 990.
Being my positive self, I decided to embrace the process – it is 2013 after all and we are not dinosaurs.

Maybe I should share a few notes regarding “adventure” vs “expedition”. Adventure riding is about seeing special places from the seat of a bike, along pre-determined GPS programmed routes, with luggage strapped on, being self sufficient and riding at leisurely pace – often with a pillion. Tubeless tyres bring convenience. The places you see and the friends you make is the drive.
Expedition riding is not the same. Here it is not about seeing places. It is about riding the bike. The enjoyment of the ride is the prime driver of the idea. If the route happens to pass a scenic place, great. If not, also good. Luggage on the bike spoils the enjoyment, therefore we team up with like thinking 4×4 riders, and we work together. There is no luggage on the bike to hold back the fun, the tyres are tubed – we get sidewall cuts and sudden blow-outs make it dangerous. The suspension should be adequate for moving at pace over terrain selected for max enjoyment of the ride. Reliability is important, loading bikes bring logistic challenges. Therefore, expedition bikes generally have few accessories. Only things that improve robustness and reliability. The 990R in my mind is the best tool for the job. Others choose 690′s, Rally bikes and even HP2′s. They all work. But I am not a 690 man, Rallye bikes are expensive and HP2′s (and 990′s are about to become) are dinosaurs. So where to from here?

Some in-depth research kicked off a process of info gathering and some team talks with my esteemed KTM dealer and long standing friend in Cato Ridge. A plan was born and all we had to do was wait until the next shipment arrived. Some weeks ago, the call came and we could start working. Can the 1190R become an expedition machine? Here is my humble attempt….

The 1190 R comes with tubeless tyres. I cannot live with this idea, it had to change. So, we had to make a plan. Long story short: Rear wheel consists of 990 hub, spokes, rim and 1190 ABS sensor and brake disc. Front wheel: 1190 hub, 950SE spokes and front rim, 1190 discs and ABS ring. (1.85″ DID Dirt star). This is a short description but took many hours to get right. Eventually it was sorted and passed our stringent QA program. Axles and spacers required no modification – stayed as-is. Knobbly tyres (Mitas E-09 to start with, but will probably change in future – had to try out a set at some point….) and thick tubes complete the picture. The software part is simple, just un-tick the block on the computer and the Tyre Pressure Monitors disappear from the on-board computer.

Rear wheel:

Front wheel:

Akrapovic pipe. An expedition bike (any bike for that matter) has to have it…. The catalytic converter and the dB killers had to go. Just to ensure value for money.

Protection is essential – I fall off bikes and it is a real issue. I do not mind the off’s, it goes with the expedition thing. But maximum protection of man and machine, without becoming stupid is important to me.

Rear pannier frames – the KTM ones are strong and I think they will work well as crash bars for the rear. The front crash bars are standard. And the KTM bash plate looks like it will work OK. Bending 6mm aluminium at speed will not be difficult, but we are giving it a try. That 15kg Land Cruiser Bull Bar Look Alike system is probably good too, but it look a little over the top to me.

Bash plate:

Without the bash plate, there is a lot of exposed plumbing and metalwork under the bike. Must have item.

The next issue that required attention was the ABS and Traction control. All this wiring, pumps and plumbing is not part of my list of things to have on a bike. So I had to find a way of disabling them. The so called “Off Road and Bad Fuel Dongle” does all of that. It allows for use of 80 octane fuel, and more importantly, it causes the bike to restart without changing the ABS and TC settings from when it was last switched off. I installed the little gadget, easy operation.

The “black box” is visible on the aluminium bracket – all part of the kit.

It plugs into the diagnostic connector on top of the battery cover under the seat. Neat installation.

Once installed, the bike feels that it is illegal, but forgets about it at the press of a button. Easier then switching off ABS and TC at every start-up.

Wider foot pegs make expedition life a lot more comfortable. I used to modify the pegs with bits of old pegs recovered from garbage cans at the Roof. No KTM sells them ready made. Great pegs…. Can stand on them all day…..

Before:

After:

Head light protector / filter, orange one…

To conclude the first round, rotated the handlebar mounts on the triple clamp to move the bars forward, and dialled in the suspension to the Sport mode.

The suspension is still a science on it’s own which needs to be properly researched and defined before I make any changes. I have read and collected all the info I could find, but still need to add my own testing so that I can go see Hilton with a proper brief.

So, that is my attempt to start getting this bike rideable. There are some other things that still need attention, will update here as the wisdom reveals itself – and hopefully end up filing a trip report or two reporting that the bike is doing what I am expecting from it.

The process continues…..

If you would like to follow the discussion on this topic please visit the WildDog Forum where this article was originally published.

PRESS RELEASE: South African GS Trophy team for 2014 selected @ Country TRAX!‏

The wait is over, the team is selected.

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The team to represent South Africa at the international GS Trophy 2014 has been announced after a rigorous selection weekend at Country TRAX, Mpumalanga. Sixteen of the cream of the GS riders of South Africa entered and arrived at Country TRAX on Thursday afternoon 1 August 2013.

The event commenced with a night ride and continued through the weekend with various challenging tests of riding skill, teamwork, endurance, navigation, technical knowledge and leadership. The exercises were conducted by a team of marshals under Jan “Staal” du Toit’s guidance. Jan and Country TRAX have been part of the GS Challenge / GS Trophy concept since inception and the participants were subjected to tasks typically encountered at the actual event.

It is unfortunate that everyone cannot be selected to represent South Africa at the 2014 GS Trophy. The event rules dictate that participants have to own a BMW GS motorcycle and ride it at the selections, be an amateur rider (no racing license) and can only compete in the GS Trophy Event once. Therefore, for reasons stated above, the winners of the weekend will not necessarily be the qualifying participants.

The winners of the selection weekend were:

First: Denzil Lawrie (Nelspuit / 800GS)
Second: Roger Kane-Berman (Durban / 800GS)
Third: Ruan de Lange (Cape Town / 1200GS)

These riders were awarded the trophies for the selection weekend, and Country TRAX is grateful for their contribution and display of incredible skill in all departments. They set a standard unsurpassed by any previous event and have reason to be proud of their achievements.

The selection criteria set by the GS Trophy organizers at BMW Motorrad in Germany had to be applied for the actual South African team selection, and the following riders qualified in order of ranking during the selections:

First: Ruan de Lange (Cape Town / 1200GS)
Second: Francois vd Heever (Johannesburg / 800GS)
Third: Jaco vd Linde (Hartebeespoortdam / Dakar 650)
Reserve: Morné Fitzhenry (Aberdeen in die Karoo! / 800GS)

The standard has been set. The team has been announced. There is a year left to prepare. We wish Team South Africa for the 2014 GS Trophy all the best for their preparation in the run-up to the Olympic Games of GS riding! We know that they have what it takes. Team South Africa will be UNSTOPPABLE!
Touratech South Africa was the key sponsor for the selection weekend, and Country TRAX is proud of their long standing association with Touratech.

Press release written by Stefan Boshoff
Country Trax Off-road Academy