Friday, 20 June 2008

Be Sharp & Live to Ride

It is well past that time of the year again, bikes have been rolled out of garages and uncovered at the backs of gardens after the long winter lay up. Now the average biker (40+ years of age, covers less the 5000 miles a year) can pull on his work wear, a helmet then jump on their bike and head off down the drive...sound familiar? I am talking about this after somebody on one of the forums I lurk in posted a link to a website that covers various motorcycling injuries. Now BE WARNED, these images are extremely graphic and will upset anyone who may not have seen serious/fatal accidents. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED: Live to Ride - Ride to Die

On a more positive note the UK government has just released a website with a star rating for all helmets available on the market. At the moment I believe there are 50+ but they intend to have the rest up over the coming months. There have been some controversy surrounding the results with £50 helmets out performing £500 helmets, thus there have been cries of improper testing procedures and so on. There are a vast array of styles available and like a large part of motorcycle ownership the heart has much to say in the decision process. Also there is some debate as to how motorcycle helmets should be made, in relation to stiffness and flexibility. Lets face it, by time most modern helmets would fail then your head has probably been detached from your body for some time.

Here are some of the links:
SHARP - New star rating system
MCN - Controversy regarding the SHARP results
Helmet Design - Debate how helmets are designed

I can only applaud when we see more and more bikes on the roads, while the summer season represents a period when the biker community certainly peaks. The flyers for various ride outs are in all the various bike shops. The MCI road racing gets into full swing and all my favourite twisty roads are filled with Sunday drivers! Now I am not a fast rider, nor do I do stunts...I am well pleased when I get out of a tight corner but I love going to the bike shows/races and see what miracles professional riders on 2 wheels can perform. On the way home from Kildare the other night with my partner we were surprised when a chap on a Yamaha R1 came past us on 1 wheel, on a busy dual carriage way with round-about just a 100m down the road.

I admit, I grinned...looked bloody great, jeans/helmet and disappearing down the road. Yet this was a busy road and got the attention of a security guard who then went to a phone. When I dropped my partner home all she said on the matter was, "it is people like that who give the rest of us a bad name...", and she is right, no denying it. The same way I shake my head when I see a guy on a pimped up BMW (worth €22K+) wearing his 'system 4' helmet and his 2 piece suit complete with tie! I understand why it is cool, even I have gone out in jeans and just a jacket/helmet but that was on a 125 and many years ago.

We look at many countries were helmets are not even a required, while no one wants to be walking around looking like Iron Man (mmm...then again) but I always ride in gear, the only items law here in Ireland are helmets, the rest is optional. I do not carry people on the back unless they have similar gear, I just do not want that on my conscience if anything goes wrong.

My reasoning is simple, I want to ride for as long as I can! If I go down the road I want to limit my injuries as much as possible so I get the best stuff I can afford and then ride my motorcycle within my abilities.

The gear makes more sense here too I presume, with the temperate climate. Lets face it, Ireland is so green because it gets LOTS of rain and not the warmest either. Good gear usually means that changing weather conditions do not affect you the rider or your concentration. You just focus on the road! I even wear ear plugs! I do not know how people drive cars with radios blurring, people talking, children screaming, dvd players, gps....no I gear up and ride and get a laugh dodging idiot drivers! I also commute everyday and usually spend the day in the stuff throughout lectures.

I agree 100% that having to wear gear should not be forced on people, never mind the rights issue, it would lead to the end of motorcycling. Gear would have to be approved, this gear would be very expensive and legislation would just make it more difficult to get a motorcycle licence. Though as an alternative I would like to see insurance companies offer discounts for riders wearing protective gear, like they do with training. Economics tend to be a major persuader for many.

As always, keep the rubber side down...