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Thoughts from a daily motorcycle commuter...

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Thoughts from a daily motorcycle commuter...

Old 05-29-2019, 10:52 AM
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Default Thoughts from a daily motorcycle commuter...

Thoughts from a daily motorcycle commuter:

Hopefully, this is the proper forum for this. I just jotted down some thoughts to spur some conversation and maybe give folks some things to consider.

For most people, motorcycles are not a part of their lives at all, much less, a daily part of their lives. For some folks though, motorcycles are more than a status symbol, or something that allows them to become part of a club. Riding on the weekends, track days, or occasional road trips are normal for most motorcycle owners. But, for people like me, commuting daily on a motorcycle is a choice. I mean, who wouldn’t want to dress in layers of protective clothing, cover yourself from head to toe in abrasion-resistant padded gear and ride to and from work every single day, rain or shine? I’m not speaking from the occasional rider’s view point, I’m someone who commutes to work 80+ miles round trip, Monday to Friday, and then trips on the weekends. My vehicle of choice is a 2019 BMW R1250GS Adventure, “Exclusive model”, to be exact. This bike is a very large, heavy, yet surprisingly athletic and nimble collection of parts that come together to make a truly beautiful riding machine. They say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” right? Well to me, my GSA is a thing of profound beauty. I chose this bike because it fits my lifestyle, and my riding style better than anything else out there. No matter what you ride, if you commute on a regular basis in urban traffic, some of these points will stand out to you. I may bring something to your attention that you have not thought about, or may say something you don’t agree with. I just wanted to put my thoughts down, to encourage discussion and open up a venue to share techniques and experiences.

I was getting off my motorcycle the other day at work, unbuckling my helmet, when a guy walked up to me and said “Ah, another successful ride in this morning, aye?” I just sort of looked at him, not really sure how to answer him. However, his question resonated with me. “Another successful ride” meant, I kept the rubber side down and didn’t get into a crash. This caused me to reflect internally, to see if I really did everything I could do to mitigate the risks of riding a motorcycle in today’s vehicle traffic.

Every morning, after I wake, I start my routine. Almost the same as a Pilot would conduct a pre-flight checklist, I do the same thing mentally as I prepare myself for the ride to work. My ride in the morning wakes me up more than the strongest cup of coffee ever could. Having a routine, for me, is comforting and gets me mentally prepared to do battle in traffic. I say “battle” because every single ride I take, has the potential of being my last. Let’s face it, commuting on a motorcycle is not considered “safe” by anyone’s standards. However, it is a calculated risk that those of us who choose to ride daily accept with open arms. Mitigating the risks, can’t be defined in a single list. The way one can mitigate the risk of riding, is individual, but there are things that every rider can and should do to keep the risks to a minimum. I will cover these things fairly well as we move on.

Commuting daily on a motorcycle takes dedication. Space is limited and cargo must be chosen carefully, because there is no back seat or trunk to carry extra items. Fortunately, I work in an environment where I can bring gym clothes and shoes, as well as an extra change of clothes and keep them at my office. I live in Florida, so the weather changes at the drop of a hat. Our summers are hot. Not just any hot, I’m talking scorching hot. Humid air and direct sunshine makes the temperature rise. Choosing to dress in full riding gear, even on the hottest of days, is an outward expression of the inner dedication that I speak of. I for one, am that guy. I wear complete gear, every time I swing a leg over my bike. We’ve all heard that a successful motorcyclist will “dress for the slide, not for the ride”. That is very true for me. I always say, when it comes to wearing full riding gear, “I’d rather sweat a lot, than bleed a little.”

Riding a motorcycle on a daily basis, can lend itself to a mindset of “us vs them”. We have all used the term “Cagers” referring to people who drive cars (cars, trucks, vans, any vehicle besides a motorcycle). Well, very few motorcyclists only have a motorcycle. Most of us have cars that we drive as well. Driving is a divided attention task, as we all know. When we first start driving a car, we all got overwhelmed in the beginning. Once you have driven for a while, it’s nothing to be listening to the radio, drinking a cup of coffee, and some drivers feel the need to send and receive text messages on their phones, or read email, or even put on make-up as they drive. This takes that “divided attention” activity and turns it quickly into a “task-saturated” activity. Since I began commuting on a motorcycle, the term “Distracted driving” has become glaringly obvious to me.

I will discuss a few points now.

Lane position: This is a very important topic. As a motorcyclist, we can move freely within our lane of traffic because we are narrower than a car. We can position to either side of the lane, or take position in the center of the lane. Taking a strategic position allows us to see better, to accurately predict what a car driver will do in a given situation. In traffic, it is always too easy to follow too closely to a vehicle in front of you. A motorcycle can out-accelerate most cars and trucks, it can easily out brake them as well. But, think of road debris. A vehicle has four wheels, can straddle most road debris without issue, but a motorcycle can’t do that. So, we must leave some reactionary gap between the car in front of us and our front tire. That way, if the car ahead of us straddles a blown tire, or a large piece of wood, we have time to react to it. Riding in the center of the lane is also not a very good idea. The road grime, oil, contaminates, etc. all collect in the center of the lane, because of the vehicle traffic. By riding to the left or right of the lane this puts our tires in the same area that the car’s tires are traveling. Also, always try to avoid riding directly beside a vehicle, and stay out of their blind spot. I make it a habit to keep my head on a swivel, like a radar dish. I’m constantly scanning mirrors, doing head checks, watching vehicle’s front tires, heads of the driver, where they look, anything to help me read what the cars around me are doing.

Danger Zones: Two areas where most crashes occur are intersections and merging traffic. If you are at an intersection, keep your bike in gear, covering your brakes with your hand and foot, and watch your rear view mirror until the car that is behind you comes to a complete stop. I always angle my bars out to the side of the lane, in case I have to squirt away as an escape. Never assume that a vehicle approaching a stoplight at an intersection sees you, most times they are distracted and stop at the last minute. Merging traffic is also very dangerous. Anytime there is an on / off ramp, be ultra-conscious. I have witnessed countless times, where a vehicle driver decides at the last minute to leave a freeway, cross over three lanes of traffic and barely make the off ramp. I always choose to ride in the inside lane, unless circumstances dictate otherwise. Merging traffic is also dangerous as they will enter the flow and cross over lanes of traffic without regards for anything around them. Remember, as a motorcyclist, we have a much smaller footprint and leave a smaller visual reference. Also, the way most motorcycles are lit, it makes it hard for a vehicle driver to accurately depict our speed and distance.

We’ve all heard the saying “Ride like you are invisible”. That is true, to an extent. Motorcycles are harder to see than cars, trucks, vans. So, we have to make ourselves seen. I won’t get into the Black / White / Hi Viz debate, because there are countless threads on this. But, I will say that it is always a good idea to make yourself more visible to the other drivers out there.

I’m interested in the input from other commuters out there. What do you do to make your ride safer? Thanks for reading, I look forward to everyone’s input.

The picture below is me, about to make a left hand U-Turn at a stop light. The picture was taken by my wife, from her truck. I never take my bike out of gear until several cars are behind me, STOPPED, and not moving. I am always looking for escape routes.
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Last edited by DMack_762; 05-29-2019 at 11:04 AM.
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Old 05-29-2019, 11:08 AM
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I am the kind of rider, who wears "all the gear, all the time". It's not a fashion statement for me, and I don't subscribe to the "cosplay paradigm". I dress for the slide, not the ride, and I dress to be seen.

Helmet: Shoei Hornet X2
Vest: Helite Turtle Vest (Airbag) - Hi Viz
Jacket: Klim Badlands Pro (GoreTex - Full D30 Armor)
Gloves: Alpinestars
Pants: Klim Badlands Pro (GoreTex - Full D30 Armor)
Boots: Alpinestarts Roam 2 WP boots, just ordered some Daytona Road Star GTX boots.



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Old 05-29-2019, 11:12 AM
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The part I don't get is the point? Just casually looking into it, tire costs eat up any fuel savings. And like with a bicycle, how do you avoid arriving at work with swamp ass?
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Old 05-29-2019, 11:16 AM
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Sorry, I've had too many other things in life try to kill me to ride a motorcycle on the road. A 5 mph "bump" that would be no big deal in a car/truck can be fatal on a bike.

I love motorcycles and had dirt bikes as a younger man, but just don't get the risk/reward calculation when it comes to riding on the road. Ditto for bicycles!

Wish you the best.
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Old 05-29-2019, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by autobaun70 View Post
The part I don't get is the point? Just casually looking into it, tire costs eat up any fuel savings. And like with a bicycle, how do you avoid arriving at work with swamp ass?
Again, it's a choice. I keep clothes at work and change there. Parking is always easy, and I just absolutely enjoy it. It's not for everyone, but I am sure there are a few of us on here who get it. I've ridden my entire life, raced semi-professionally for a large part of it. It's like anything I guess, different people have different passions. I also enjoy coaching MSF courses, coaching track day sessions, and just the two wheeled culture.

Ride safe, ride often.
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Old 05-29-2019, 11:24 AM
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My biggest concern here in FL is how hot it is during the summer. Wearing all that gear looks like it would be unbearable.
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Old 05-29-2019, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by Sprockets View Post
My biggest concern here in FL is how hot it is during the summer. Wearing all that gear looks like it would be unbearable.
But then you get lightning and monsoon rain to 'cool' you off....
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Old 05-29-2019, 11:29 AM
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That's a lot of words. I'm lazy. I like bikes too. Be safe.
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Old 05-29-2019, 11:42 AM
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LOL! Do you always ride against the flow of traffic, or just for photos?
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Old 05-29-2019, 11:47 AM
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Hey - I'm all for increasing motorcycle safety. I did read your whole post, but I'm not quoting it because it's too long I think you raise some really interesting points about how to stay safe and hopefully other riders read it and find something useful.

One counter point from a cager with a dad that spends A LOT of time on a bike... The phrase "ride like you are invisible" irks me. You ARE invisible on a motorcycle. Unlike cars, your entire bike fits in my blind spot. The overwhelming majority of the other "things" that I have to contend with on the road are other cars - so that's what my brain is poised to see. It's kinda like old basketball video with the gorilla where you're supposed to count the passes or whatever.

On top of that, motorcycles move in a way totally different from cars - they move laterally much faster, they accelerate and decelerate much more quickly. The rules of the road and the laws of physics are different. And oftentimes motorcycle drivers take advantage of that in unexpected ways - like the half dozen bikers weaving in and out of traffic on Memorial Day. I'm sure I passed 30 riders being smart, but those six stick out a lot more in my mind. I won't even comment on the riders that choose to lane split in traffic in a state where that's not legal.

The single best way to get my attention? Big, honking, loud pipes. So long as you don't go ripping through the neighborhood at 2 in the morning, I say make 'em as loud as you possible can!

Stay safe.
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Old 05-29-2019, 12:17 PM
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my commuter is an FZ09, my "custom" is a Superglide.

I am not an everyday rider anymore but a lot more then many. I still like getting the younger crowd into it now and then.
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Old 05-29-2019, 12:22 PM
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When I lived in San Diego my FZR750 was all I had.... I would never commute on the motorcycle today.... Too many idiots on phones
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Old 05-29-2019, 12:24 PM
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Op, too long. I’ll wait for the audio book
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Old 05-29-2019, 12:31 PM
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The advent of the smartphone pretty much is the primary reason as to why i gave up bikes after a lifetime of riding & enjoyment. It was bad enough before the phones but these days, combined with the snowflakes/mils, it's no longer a question of if but when you are going to become a hood ornament, side trim or wheel chock. Tho I know I needed to, I simply CANT wear all that damn safety gear like the OP has on. I get hot enough while fishing & drinking ice cold beer that I get heart beat abnormalities, no way in hell I could wear all those additional layers.

I always rode big Harley baggers (Over the years I owned 5 Electra-Glides & 2 Road-Glides with the RGs being my fav) which had "average loud" pipes but then my stereos were always BLARING the tunes as well. We had nearly 2 decades of fun together, covered ALOT of states & have alot of great memories & friends. But the wife quit riding after our 3 kids started middle-school & became crazy busy with athletics etc. (They are college age now) She NEVER ONCE asked me to quit riding but would readily say, "I quit riding so we at least couldn't both be taken out at the same time. Our 3 kids need at least 1 of us." I never really enjoyed it as much afterwards, solo sucks when you're used to having long, pretty legs around you & her "girls" in your back to lean back into on long rides.

I never cared for crotch rockets & sportbikes, I appreciate their performance & technology but at 6'4" 240, I never did fit on them or could get comfy anyway. Always said if I did buy a sportbike it'd be a Ducati of some wild variant & of course itd have to be red!

My own, personal motto for bike riding now days, unfortunately is: When you ride a bike on public roads you are putting YOUR LIFE into the hands of the general public! "General Public" today never cease to amaze me with their lunacy, "idiotness" & outright stupidity. So I get my kicks in a convertible & on the water instead.




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Old 05-29-2019, 12:34 PM
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I know two people who got into bad motorcycle accidents during the long weekend. Does not make sense to me. It's not if it's when. As much anger as I have towards the world I still enjoy being alive. Im going to step outside for a smoke now.....
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Old 05-29-2019, 12:40 PM
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Loud pipes. You hear me coming 6 cars away.
White Victory XC police-look-a-like bike. My work week commuter. Amazing what a white bike does to move traffic out of your way.
Super bright annoying LED headlight on HIGH beam.
Super bright coastal LED eye piercing lights on HIGH.
Go-pro attached to helmet at all times recording.

What scares me the most is teenagers pretending not to be on their phone yet you can see their eyes and necks looking down........ Those are the most dangerous drivers out there.....BE VERY CAREFUL OF THOSE TYPES OF DRIVERS... They do not see you at all!



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Old 05-29-2019, 12:56 PM
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Originally Posted by DMack_762 View Post
Again, it's a choice. I keep clothes at work and change there. Parking is always easy, and I just absolutely enjoy it. It's not for everyone, but I am sure there are a few of us on here who get it. I've ridden my entire life, raced semi-professionally for a large part of it. It's like anything I guess, different people have different passions. I also enjoy coaching MSF courses, coaching track day sessions, and just the two wheeled culture.

Ride safe, ride often.
DMack - I've taken the BRC. What's the next MSF course that you would recommend for a beginner?
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Old 05-29-2019, 01:02 PM
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I rode a motorcycle as sole transportation a year or so. It sucked especially in rain and cold, or grocery shopping. I can't imagine how stressful and dangerous it would be now with all the traffic and idiot drivers in Charleston. I take my life in my hands every day just trying to pull out of my parking lot and get across folly rd. in my truck.
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Old 05-29-2019, 01:09 PM
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Our office manager lost her oldest son to a motorcycle accident just a few weeks ago.

For me, it's a LOT different these days than it was back in the 80's on my little late 70's Honda CM400.
Roads are a lot more crowded. Drivers are much more selfish...they don't believe in "sharing" the road, instead..everyone has a "me first" selfish attitude.

In another thread I posted about how much I dislike stop signs and stoplights now...whenever I stop, I stop well before the car in front of me (or line)...in case I suddenly have to lurch forward and off to the side if someone comes up fast behind me that I can tell didn't see me. My eyes always keep glancing at my rear views to check on any vehicle coming up behind me..and I pay attention to them until I know they have come to a complete stop behind me. If they aren't showing signs of slowing down..I'm a tap tap tapping my foot on the rear brake making my fender brake light flash so they'll see me sooner.

Roads intersecting the road I'm in..cars approaching that intersection...make eye contact with the drivers and also keep an eye on those wheels for the first sign of movement in case they don't see you and start pulling out.

I avoid lane splitting..too many people dart in and out of lanes trying to cut each other off.

I am not a believer in listening to tunes while riding. Either a radio with speakers..or worse...headphones. Back when I was a little kid doing the paper route on my bicycle...and those first Sony Walkmans came out, I got one...and I started loving doing my paper route with one of my favorite albums, Get Yer Ya Yas Out (Rolling Stones 1969 concert)...one day I was doing my paper route late, my dad drove home from work and passed me..saw me wearing those orange foam pad head phones...and blasted me when I got home (he was a rider also). Telling me I'll fail to hear a car coming up behind me one day and I'll get whacked..that when riding, your ears are just as important as your eyes! I didn't listen to him..and a month or so later..I almost got creamed...yup, I failed to hear the car first..had a slight bump luckily I was OK. So fast forward to motorcycles..yes even Harleys..yes even old school loud Harleys that I enjoy...not those new Honda sounding Harleys..and I can still hear the tires of a car coming up on by 8 oclock or 4 oclock. If I want a stereo, windshield, and heater...I'll take my truck.

Navigation. Like my father...I prefer the old school map taped to the tank. No GPS or infodainment system stuff. if I need to use Google Maps or something on my phone...I'll pull over and look stuff up while taking a leak behind a tree. I actually see a lot of riders...themselves distracted by GPS or their phones map system. Hypocrites!

The OP here covered a lot of good points of basic safety.

I don't like riding in big group rides. Too many show-off.."look at me" types there making too tight of a group. We had a small pack of us Shovelhead owners that wrenched out of one big garage...and rode together. The pack has recently broken up, old age kicking in...but, that...and a small handful of other friends.

Being up in thick deer country...I prefer to ride left of center of the road. I want as much of a 50/50 chance of having adequate reaction time from either side of the road...but mostly increasing that gap from the right side.. a deer jumping out. Too many times I've left some morse code black stripes on the road from a sudden deer in front of me...had a few times I thought I could reach out with my right hand and smack 'em in the head.

Always traveled with the basic tools needed..in case something broke down. And I've had to a few times, one time while on a ride into a neighbor state...my rear brake cylinder had something jam up and start dragging my rear brake pad...my rear wheel started locking up...leaving some morse code stripes on the highway. Managed to get over to the breakdown lane before she 100% locked up. Sat there with it smoking..letting it cool down for a while. Took the rear brake caliper off, put it in the saddle bag, and rode home taking back roads...only had my front brake. Had to do a starter solenoid change side of the road once too.

Always traveled with water and snacks in the saddle bags too..never know if a ride will be a longer than expected one, or you'll suddenly feel like making it a long ride somewhere.

And yup, i'm an idiot, no helmet or "riding gear" other than a heavier leather jacket for the cooler weather. Simple pilot type boots or half cowboy boots.

My favorite bike..picked her up literally as a barn find, worked her back into shape, was a daily rider for years.


And the bike I picked up after that..Evo powered Springer, and worked her into a David Mann style..

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Old 05-29-2019, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by DMack_762 View Post
Thoughts from a daily motorcycle commuter:

............ A motorcycle can out-accelerate most cars and trucks, it can easily out brake them as well.......
DMack, Really great post but I would add two things 1) I think it is important to communicate to family, friends and co-workers that the rider you don't see is me or someone like me. People who have a face to put with a motorcycle are more likely to treat them with respect instead of a faceless being behind a face shield. 2) I will take issue with you about the braking. If we are talking about an expert rider on a sport bike with ABS then it will out brake most cars and trucks. Put an average rider on a tour bike and they cannot out brake anything on the road short of an 18-wheeler. As riders we do not need to delude ourselves into thinking we can out brake a car and even more importantly leave the general public with that impression so they pull out in front of us thinking we can stop.

I have been riding for 25 years but am only a "casual rider" not a commuter. I am not all gear all the time but I usually wear a full face helmet, steel toed engineer boots, blue jeans, gloves and a jacket.

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Last edited by xl883lo; 05-29-2019 at 01:22 PM.
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