Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Basics: How To Start Riding Motorcycles


Riding a motorcycle is liberating and romantic at the same time, making it awfully addictive & fully worth the risk. There's nothing quite like the freedom of hitting the open road on a bike. 

If you're reading this, you're probably thinking of riding a motorcycle. Congrats and welcome to our world! At the start, riding a motorcycle may sound intimidating, but with the right approach, it is one of the most fun activities you can do. 

This beginner's guide takes you through the most important steps to start riding a motorcycle.

Buying a bike

Which bike to buy first is completely your personal choice, depending on the style you prefer and your budget. Though keep in mind these two important points:

This is only your first bike, and you are probably going to drop it.

Given these, we suggest that you start with something cheap & easy to ride. A more 'flashy' bike can always wait a season or two. As a new rider, you are much, more prone to wrecks. Statistics show that around 50% motorcycle crashes happen in a rider's first 180 days. So get something that you won't feel totally heartbroken about if you ding it up.

Understandably, most new riders want a cool bike, but cool bikes are expensive. So let's wait on that until you're a more experienced rider and can do more cool things too. The good news is that there are plenty of options that fit the description of "cheap & easy to ride". You can buy a good used bike for less than $1000, and some new bikes that are great for beginners can be bought for $3000 - $5000.


The Kawasaki Ninja 300 is my personal pick for a beginner's streetbike

We usually suggest to start with a bike with a smaller engine - something in the 300cc class. A less powerful engine will allow you to be able to focus on your riding more. Standard bikes or small dual sports are best to start with. Standard bikes are basically just street bikes and there are a ton of options from most all manufacturers. Dual sports are very versatile and agile so they're easy to maneuver, and not to mention that riding in the dirt is a great way to learn braking and handling. Popular beginner bikes are Kawasaki Ninja 300 and Yamaha R3.

Sticking to something basic will save you money and in six months or a year you can always upgrade to the bike you wanted. Though, these days there are a ton of 300 class bikes with cool features, that you may find that you won't outgrow it for a long time! 

For more resources, we have a couple of helpful guides:
- The Best New Bikes For Beginners
- How Much Does a Motorcycle Cost?

The safety gear

Choosing the right safety gear is more important than choosing a bike, though not as exciting. You must have seen MotoGP riders stand up with disappointment after a wreck. What makes them being able to stand again? Yep, it's their full head-to-toe safety gear. We know it looks cool to go cruising in just a t-shirt and sunglasses, but forget trying to look cool and let your bike do that for you.

At the minimum, we suggest you buy the following: 


- A helmet: Either a full face or a modular helmet would be okay for street riding. Make sure it is DOT or Snell certified. 
- Motorcycle gloves: Your hands are always the first to take a hit.
- Riding jacket: Should have some sort of reflective material so you are easily spotted at night. 
- Riding pants: Motorcycle pants these days come in styles that look like normal & stylish jeans, so you shouldn't have a problem wearing one even when you are going to meet friends.
- Sturdy boots: Though motorcycle boots are not a requirement, your boots should be very sturdy, cover the ankles, and don't slip on the footpegs. 

A helmet and gloves are the most important pieces of gear as your head and hands will suffer the worst damage in a crash. It's important to buy specifically motorcycle jackets and pants as they come with extra protection and abrasion resistant material (unless you want to loose your skin on the pavement!).  

Safety gear should not be treated like your first motorcycle. You should always purchase new quality gear. Remember, you don't have airbags, seat belts or a protective cage around you. Even a low-speed crash can do a lot of damage if you don't wear adequate safety gear.

Need some help understanding and choosing from the many different styles available?
Motorcycle Gloves for Beginners
Motorcycle Jackets for Beginners
- Motorcycle Helmets for Beginners 

Buy insurance

Don't forget this little detail! Especially since you're more likely to crash in the beginning, remember? Motorcycle insurance provides you with additional coverage if you need medical assistance from an accident. Motorcycle insurance usually comes at a cheaper rate but depending your age or driving record, or the bike you have, it may actually be more than your car insurance so make sure to check!

Insurance companies offer different rates based on your age, medical conditions, the type of bike you choose. For instance, a sportbike will carry a higher rate than a cruiser. You can call an insurance agent or use comparison sites to find a better price. You don't need to spend hours before the computer screen. Just do a few searches and locate one that offers the type of coverage you need at a good price. 

Remember, any damage to your first $1000 bike is insignificant, but any damage to your body... well, you'll want to fix it.

Check out this list for motorcycle insurance agencies.

Get your license

Many people will tell you to just buy a bike in cash form and not to bother about getting a license. They are one of the reasons why law enforcement doesn't like motorcyclists! Some other people will suggest that you don't need a full license - only a continually renewed learner's permit will do the trick. Hate to break it to you, but getting a learner's permit is just as tough as getting a full license. So be responsible and get a full motorcycle license.   

At the time you get your license, take a motorcycle safety course to learn the basic riding skills and safety tips. Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) is a national, non-profit sponsored by the major motorcycle manufacturers, including Honda, Yamaha, BMW, and Kawasaki. It offers all sorts of courses from basics training to advanced fine-skills courses. There are locations all throughout the U.S. so you will most likely find one in your area. 

Read more: 
Tips for Riding Safely on the Streets

Find a riding group

Riding a motorcycle with a group gives you memories that you can treasure forever. It's important for new riders to experience this social aspect of riding, especially if you're kind of the lone duck in your group of current friends when it comes to your passion for motorcycles. In a group environment, knowledge can be exchanged, skills learned, connections cemented and even lifelong friendships can be forged.  

Sites like Facebook or Meetup.com or various model specific forums online are great places to start locating a riding group. Riders are some of the coolest people (duh, you're one of them!) so there's no need to be nervous about joining a group. Being in a group with other like-minded people who share your hobby will help you improve faster and also make your experience that much more fun.

Conclusion

So now, you are all set to start your journey into this exciting two-wheeled world. It's time to enjoy the weather, hug some curves, and/or jump some dirt hills. Have your fun in a smart way and don't forget to be safe. Go riding!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Everything You Need to Know About Doing a Track Day


So you have finally decided to take your bike to the track! Track days are the event where you can actually open that sucker up and see what you bike can do. It is absolutely the best place to improve your riding skills. Where else can you get the opportunity to push your limits as a rider without any cops, cliffs, or SUVs to worry about?

On the first go, a track day sounds like a hassle. You've gotta make sure you have everything you may possibly need for a day out, get your bike ready, and get your bike there. Track days often mean crack-of-dawn wake up calls and a hot day under the sun in your leathers. Not to mention that a day doesn't exactly come cheap. But don't worry! it certainly takes some effort but the fun and experience you are going to get makes it all worth it.

Your first time at the track may be nerve-wrecking. Maybe you're not sure what to expect and you're afraid you're going to be the slowest rider out there. In this post, we aim to put your fears behind you. We'll cover track day safety tips and must-bring checklist items to make your day a success!

Why Track Days?

Let's get something straight: track days are not race events. It is not true that you must ride as fast as you can. There is no winning. And it is certainly not true that you must own a sportbike to be allowed out on the track.

So what is the purpose of a track day? A racetrack offers a controlled environment where you can safely advance your skills. Yes, riding at the track is an extreme sport, but contrary to popular belief, it is actually a lot safer than riding on the street. Assuming you and every other rider follow the rules, of course. Out there on the racetrack, there are no cars to contend with. No bad drivers changing lanes suddenly or pulling in from out of nowhere. No potholes or bumps on the road and other hazards. There's only you and other riders who love the sport as much as you do.

You don't even need to own a sportbike to participate in a track day. There's no rule that only a certain type of bike is allowed. As long as you own a bike and want to improve your skills and have the time of your life, you're welcomed!

Riding Level

Newbies are often worried about being too slow when compared to the more advanced riders. Not to worry - there is good news for you. Track events are usually split into three levels: Levels 1, 2 and 3. Level 1 is generally for the fastest riders while level 3 is for novice riders who want an easier pace. Some organizations do A, B or C but usually there are always different groups for difference riding paces in order to preserve track safety and riding experience.

On your first track day, you will be in Level 3 (or the slowest group). So don't feel bad to go at your own pace. As this is not a race, there is no pressure to go fast. Only go as fast as you're comfortable with. And of course, as you ride the racetrack over and over, you will refine your skills and you may be even safely passing others by the end of the day!

Safety Check and What to Bring

We always stress on safety first at Solomoto, and riding at the track is an entirely different beast with a very specific set of requirements. A safety check will encompass everything from foods and spare tools, to rider's equipment and motorcycle's requirement.

Proper nutrition:

It is extremely important to carry enough food and water with you as doing a track day is very physically demanding. Tracks are mostly situated in slightly more remote places where access to food will be scarce (most likely, you'll just find hot dogs at the concession stand). They also tend to be in hotter areas like Southern California. Inadequate hydration or nutrition will cause extra fatigue in near triple digit summer temperature. At worst, heat strokes can even be life threatening.

We recommend bringing a cooler with plenty of water (1 bottle every hour as a general rule of thumb). Also pack foods high in protein and carbs to provide the necessary energy, including a proper meal for lunch (I always bought chicken breast sandwiches). Snacks like beef jerky, bananas, or a protein shake are great for providing nutrition the healthy way.

Bring more water and food than you think you will need. Twice as much even. When you're sweating inside your leathers under the hot sun, you'd be surprised at how fast food and water will burn off after just a few laps around the track!

Rider's requirement:

Rider gear requirements at the track are much much more stringent than for any other kind of riding. Track racing is the most intense kind of riding there is and when going at such high speeds, any kind of crash could be very painful for you without the proper gear. So if you're planning on picking up this hobby, please don't skimp on the gear. Remember that you get what you pay for.

But the good news is that serious injuries are quite rare at the race track. Crashes are usually a result of you pushing past your limit, and not due to bike collisions. If you think you should 'try something' on the track - don't.

As a rider you must have the following:

- a full-face helmet (DOT or Snell certified)
- full leather suit: we recommend a one piece suit, as they hold up better than two pieces zipped together. Some tracks inspect your two-piece leathers and won't let you go out if the marshal deems that it's not enough.
- back protector: either in your jacket, or a separate strap-on that fits under the jacket
- motorcycle boots: must cover your ankles
- motorcycle riding gloves: you must have full-length gloves that go at least one inch above the wrist

Also, make sure you have valid medical insurance.

Motorcycle's requirement:

Prep your bike the day before the track day so you won't feel rushed the morning of. Your bike will have to pass a technical inspection when you arrive. Whether you have sportbike or sport-ish bike, it must have:

- an operational kill switch
- road racing tires and wheels with valve caps: the tires should not be worn down and should be free of damage.
- functional front and rear brakes (also check your brake pads and make sure they have enough life left in them)
- mirrors or plastic lenses taped or removed
- unplugged fuses for headlight and taillight
- tight & sound oil drain plug with no fluid leaks

Remember, all glass must be taped up. And don't forget to check the tire pressure and allow some time to get your tires heated before diving in.

What to Expect

Now that you understand the requirements, let's go over what you will encounter in a typical track day.

Gates open for riders usually around 6-7 AM. Aim to get there early enough to secure a place in the pits. Some organizations allow covered garages to be rented at various tracks. If your local track does not have this option, make sure you bring your own pop-up tent (and fold up camping chair!). The shaded respite is necessary when you're sweating it out on the track under the sun.

Start to prep your bike if you haven't done so the night before, or if you rode your bike to the track. Tape up your mirrors and change out your tires if needed.

Then you will be called for registration. After registration, you will be going through technical inspection of your bike. You will need to participate in rider's meeting where general rules and meaning of different flags are discussed. Pay attention at this meeting! It is important for your and everyone else's safety.

Track sessions generally start at 9 AM, with each group rotating for 20 minutes at a time. Some organizations will do sighting laps first, where an instructor takes you around the track for a couple of slow circuits (no passing here!). This is so you can become familiar with the track and warm up your bike.

The last session ends around at 5PM, but don't feel pressured to stay all the way til the end. You should know when to stop. If you are feeling tired or develop any kind of discomfort, listen to your body and stop. Riding at the track is very physically demanding and not being at your best will run the risk of crashing.


Conclusion

Now you know what to expect and what to bring! Hopefully, you no longer feel nervous about your first track day. Remember, it is not a race and there is absolutely no pressure. Track days are designed to allow you to practice and improve in a controlled environment. It's also a great social event to be around other riders as enthusiastic as you are. It's one of the most fun you can have on a motorcycle!

Solomoto has always been a strong proponent of the track days. It is where I really discovered my love for riding. Lastly, we would love to give a shout-out to Fast Track Riders. This organization provides on track training for beginners & first-time track riders, and aids you with every braking points, every sharp corner, throttle control tips & riding mechanics available. We are the proud sponsor of Fast Track Riders and are very happy to support this great sports event.

Simply put, there is no such thing as too old or too young, too inexperienced, or not having the correct bike. As long as you can ride a motorcycle, you're welcomed at the track!

Monday, May 16, 2016

So How Much Does a Motorcycle Cost?


So, how much does a motorcycle cost? This is a complicated question with no easy answer. The short answer is: it depends on what kind of bike you're looking to buy and your budget. The good news is that bikes come in virtually all price points, so you're pretty much guaranteed to find something suitable for your budget. The mindset is that if you spend more, you get more. That may be true to some degree, but it's important to consider that you're not buying too much bike for your riding level or preference.

Chances are, if you are reading this article, you're probably thinking of buying your first bike (congrats!) and are not sure where to start. So here, we will cover the different types of motorcycles and give suggestions for bikes at the different price ranges.

Street/Standard

This category of bikes have the largest variety of body styles. Basically, they're exactly what they sound like: they're for riding on the street. Standard bikes are commonly known as "naked" bikes, or bikes without a fairing. Fairings are those plastic body elements that cover the engine and frame. They help to make a bike more aerodynamic, which is absolutely needed for sport bikes. However, street bikes have less of a need to be so aerodynamic so a naked style is quite popular.

Most all manufacturers offer a street bike, so you're not going to have any trouble finding one at your budget. Generally, the price will increase with the engine size. Let's take a look at the prices ranges.


Entry Level: A standard street bike is extremely affordable, with bikes going for as low as just $4,000 (like the Honda CB300F) to $8000 (like the Suzuki GSX-S750). The Yamaha FZ-07 is another popular option going for $6,990.




Mid Level: Mid-range standard bikes go from $8 - $12k. The Triumph Street Triple goes for $9,400 and the Kawasaki Z1000 goes for $11,999.





High-Level: If you've got the cash, you'll be spoiled for choice in this category with streetbikes from luxury brands. The BMW R1200R is $14,095, Aprilia RSV4 RR goes for $16,499, while the Ducati Diavel is a whooping $18,795.


Supersport

Sportbikes (often called "crotch rockets") are built for performance and high speeds. They are characterized by powerful engines in a lightweight frame with full fairings for maximum aerodynamics. The seating position is tucked forward with longer reach to the handlebars and higher foot position. 

Because of how powerful sport bikes are, they are not usually ideal to learn to ride on, but there are plenty of manufacturers now making smaller, more newbie-friendly 300-class sport bikes. And even better? They are super affordable too.

Entry Level: These bikes are a steal at the lower end. Bikes like the Kawasaki Ninja 300 ($4,999) and Yamaha R3 ($4,990) come with plenty of cool features. For a little bit more, you can get more power with bikes such as the Honda CBR500RR for $6,499 and the Kawasaki Ninja 650 for $7,199.




Mid Level: At this price range, you'll see some more power. The Honda CBR600RR is a decent deal at $11,490, as well as the Yamaha YZF-R6. Racetrack favorites such as the Suzuki GSX-R1000 ($13,899) and  Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R ($14,999) cap off this price range.




High-Level: On the splurge end, supersport bikes go from $15k up, and can go as high as you imagine. The Yamaha YZF-R1 is a good choice in the lower high-level range at $16,490, while if you want something super luxe, the Ducati Panigale R starts at a staggering $34,695.

Touring

Touring bikes are designed for comfort during long distance travel. Size wise, they're the largest bikes (and the heaviest) because they have to be capable of enduring many, many long hours - and even days - on the road, while being loaded up with a lot of equipment. They usually have large windshields, large storage compartments, large fuel tanks (you get the theme...), plush seats, and an upright riding position for maximum comfort on those long rides.

Price wise, they are among the most expensive because of the luxury features they offer and their durability. Therefore, they're probably not the best choice for beginners... unless you've got quite a budget!

Entry Level: Even at the lower end of the budget scale, you're looking at around $10k - $15k for a touring bike. The Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic LT goes for a little bit less at $8,999, while the Honda NM4 goes for $10,999.




Mid Level: Mid-range touring bikes go from $15 - $20k, and this is the price range you'll find the most options. BMW's revolutionized the touring segment with their RT series. We love the R1200RT as a higher-mid range option at a starting price of $18,145. Other solid options are Harley-Davidson Touring Road King ($18,749) if you prefer the classic look or Kawasaki Vulcan 1700 Voyager ABS ($17,399).

High-Level: If money is no concern, top of the line tourers go for over $20k with bikes such as Honda Gold Wing Audio Comfort Navi XM ($26,899), Harley-Davidson Touring Electra Glide Ultra Classic ($23,549), and BMW K 1600 GTL ($23,200).

Cruisers

Cruisers are those big ol' clunky machines with the high handlebars and forward foot pegs, that don't even particularly go so fast. Basically, they're the iconic American motorcycle from the 1930's - 60's. These bikes are characterized by a low riding position, larger V-twin engines,  and raked-out front forks. Riding a cruiser is not about performance or even the practicality of taking you from Point A to Point B. Rather, it's all about buying into that carefree lifestyle.

Because of the riding position of the cruiser - one where your hands are raised way up there to reach the handlebars and your feet are stretched way out there to reach the footpegs - they're not ideal for beginners. The slightly leaned back, low riding position makes it so that the bike is very hard to handle and tiring at high speeds.

Entry Level: It is possible to find bikes in the cruiser style in the lower price range around $5,000 - $8,000, though most likely, you won't be able to find an American cruiser.  The Honda Rebel is only $4,190 and The Suzuki Boulevard is a bit more at $5,499, while the Kawasaki Vulcan S goes for $6,999. At this range, there will be significant differences in styling and performance.

Mid Level: The next bracket up ($8-$12k) has far more options, from both classic American cruiser manufacturers and other brands. Check out bikes such as the Triumph America ($8,400), Victory Gunner ($12,999) the Harley-Davidson Sportster Seventy-Two ($11,099).



High-Level: There are also plenty of luxury cruisers for those with money to spend, such as the Harley-Davidson Softail Deluxe ($18,549) and Indian Chief Classic ($18,499).

Off-road/MX 

Off-road bikes are a whole different breed. They're made for jumping over dirt hills, rolling over gravel trails, and slugging through mud paths. Because of the rough terrain off-roaders encounter, the bikes are designed to be very lightweight with a high seat and high center of gravity. Dirt bikes are not street-legal as they often have no horns, turn signals, mirrors, or headlights.

Entry Level: Off road (or dirt) bikes are among the most affordable. Tiny 100-class dirt bikes go for as low as $2000's, like the Kawasaki KLX110 ($2,299) and Honda CRF125F ($2,799). The price goes up as the engine size increases. The Yamaha TT-R230 is $3,990, while the Honda CRF250L goes up to $4,999.


Mid Level:  KTM bikes dominate the dirt tracks and you'll find a lot in this range. The 250SX is decently priced at $6,799. Solid comparable models from their Japanese counterparts include the Yamaha WR250R at $6,690 and the Honda CRF250X for $7,410.




High-Level: Even at the higher end, off-road bikes won't break the budget.  KTM 450 SX-F goes for $9,299, while the BETA 480 RR goes for $9,499.







Dual Sport/Adventure

Dual sport bikes is one of the fastest growing bike segments. These bikes offer the best of both worlds: the lightness and versatility to ride off-road, while still being comfortable and safe enough to ride on the street. They're basically dirt bikes but with mirrors and lights so they're legal to ride on the street. And like dirt bikes, they have smaller engines, lightweight frames, and higher center of gravity.

Dual sport bikes make a good option for beginners because of their less powerful engines and maneuverability. Just make sure you are able to plant both feet firmly on the ground. They also tend to be lower priced, making them a great starter bike.

Entry Level: You can snag a dual sport bike for as low as $5,000, though spending a bit more in the $6k range will get you the most value. Popular lower-priced favorites are the Yamaha WR250R ($6,690), Kawasaki KLR650 ($6,599) and the Suzuki DRZ400S ($6,599).




Mid Level: Except to spend about $8-$12k in this price range, with bikes such as the Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS ($8,399) and BMW F700GS ($9,995).







High-Level: For a pricier dual sport bike, the BMW F800GS starts at $12,295 and the Triumph Tiger 800XC goes for $12,500. And at the very high end, the ever-so-popular legendary BMW R1200GS goes for a cool $16,495.




Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Motorcycle Holiday Safety Infographic

As any rider knows, riding a motorcycle requires constant awareness.  You're often surrounded by much larger vehicles often driven by people not paying full attention to the road.  The holidays can sometimes present extra challenge that requires riders be even more vigilant than normal.  Check out our infographic for some interesting and important holiday riding safety tips and suggestions.  Also, feel free to share this infographic on your own website if you have one.

Motorcycle riding requires awareness given that the rider is generally surrounded by larger vehicles, with often oblivious drivers.  Holiday riding requires extra vigilance.


Embed this graphic on your website or blog:



Monday, May 9, 2016

Motorcycle Helmet Basics


A motorcycle helmet is the NUMBER ONE protective gear item you could get for yourself, if nothing else.

In the event of a crash, you mostly likely will survive a bad case of road rash (though that will really really suck) if you don't have a good riding jacket, but the same can't always be said for a head injury if you don't have a good helmet. We're not discounting the need for other safety apparel - not at all - merely emphasizing the importance of a helmet.

With so many different styles of helmets out there, choosing the correct one is no easy task. We'll help you get ahead in your research with our guide.

Take a look:

Functionality of a Motorcycle Helmet

A motorcycle helmet is designed to take the impact so your precious head can keep its beautiful shape. Over 42% of motorcycle fatalities are due to head injury. Of course, there is no absolute guarantee that a helmet will save your life, but statistics show that riders without a helmet are 40% more likely to die in a crash due to head injury. Don't become part of that statistic!

Secondly, not only does a helmet protect you in case of a crash, it also aids your riding experience by reducing wind pressure and fatigue, thus making for a more comfortable ride. And plus, can we also say no bug splatters in your face?!

Let's take a look at what makes up a motorcycle helmet in the most basic form:

- The outer shell is made of a tough material that is designed to compress upon impact, thus diminishing the force of the impact before it gets to your head.
- A dense impact-absorbing liner (kind of like Styrofoam) just inside the shell absorbs the shock
- The padding is what surrounds your head and provides a soft layer for comfort. It should fit snug, but not so tight that you feel excess pressure.
- The retention strap (chin strap) is what keeps the helmet on your head. We don't want the helmet flying off in a crash!

Testing procedures often test for the helmet's shock-absorbing capacity, its ability to withstand a blow from a sharp object, and the chin strap's ability to stay fastened. In the event of a crash, the helmet may crack and break, but that just means it has done its job! Sometimes, even if you don’t see any visible damage, there may be damage to the internal layers and thus has little protective value left. You should always replace your helmet after a crash!

A Word on Safety Ratings:

Make sure you look for a helmet that is certified by DOT (or ECE in Europe), as it means that the helmet meets the Department of Transportation safety standards and is approved for use on the street.

Another type of certification is SNELL, which is a voluntary third-party tester that test random samples from each batch of helmets. Helmets with this certification means that all the tested helmets have passed.

Stay far, far away from helmets that do not have any of these stickers. Not only do they may NOT provide adequate protection, they may even be illegal to wear in areas where helmets are required!

Different Kinds of Helmets

Full-face/Sport:

Just like what it sounds like, these helmets cover the entire face and offer the highest degree of head protection. The rounded, completely sealed shape means that it’s very aerodynamic, which equals more comfort when riding at highway speeds. They also offer a good level of soundproofing against traffic/wind noises. Because of all this, full-face helmets are a good all-around choice for any kind of rider.




Race Helmets:

Full-face helmets specifically designed for racing are aerodynamic with strong ventilation for comfort. They're typically made of strong high-tech materials (such as space-age composites) that provide strength while being very lightweight. They're usually less concerned with soundproofing as racers usually wear earplugs anyway. Race helmets are the most technically constructed due to the extreme nature of the sport and thus are the priciest.

Off-road/MX:

Off-road helmets are specifically to be used for some dirt riding fun. Because of the highly athletic nature of motocross, these helmets are designed to be as lightweight and ventilated as possible, meaning that they are NOT ideal for street riding. They provide very little (if any at all) soundproofing against traffic and wind noises on the highway, and the extreme visor means that it will catch the wind at high speeds.

Style-wise, they are characterized by a visor edge to shield from the sun and debris, and a strong jutted out angular chin bar. Dirt bike helmets have an open eye port (no face shield), so they're lighter and you have the option of wearing goggles. Because dirt riding tends to be…well, dirty... googles with tear-offs are a great option so that when you’re hit with a face full of dust, you can simply tear off the top layer and have a clear field of vision again.

Dual Sport and Adventure:

Dual sport helmets are kind of a cross between full-face and off-road helmets. They're designed to be used on and off the highway, streets, and in the dirt… basically they’re a bit of both worlds! They're designed for riding across a wide variety of terrain and conditions.

They often come as a shielded helmet with style elements taken from MX helmets. They have the visor edge help shield the sun, a face shield that can be flipped up for goggles use, soundproofing, and ventilation. The visor is not as extreme as that of an MX helmet and are designed to be more aerodynamic at highway speeds.

Modular Helmets:

These helmets look like the full-face helmets, except the face shield can be flipped up. Modular helmets are a good choice for urban riding or touring because of how versatile and convenient they are. You can hit up the gas station and grab a drink, chat with your buddies, while letting some sun and air in, all without taking off your helmet. This is also a good around-town or commuter helmet.

One thing to note: even though modular helmets look like full-face helmets when the face shield is down, they don't offer as high level of protection. Because they're constructed of two separate parts held together with a hinge (as opposed to one integrated piece), the helmet won't hold up as well in a crash.

Half Helmets and Three-Quarter Helmets:

shown here a three-quarter helmet

Half-face helmets are popular in the cruiser world because of its look that says "I'm just cruising along with the wind in my face, and I have not a care in the world." Total. Freedom. It's as close to not wearing a helmet as you can get.

This is the bare minimum!! The top of the head is protected with this helmet, but if you were to faceplant into the pavement… well, we don't want to think about what your face will look like. And these helmets offer no protection at all against wind impact, sounds, bugs, or rocks in the air.

Three-Quarter helmets offer only marginally more protection than half helmets. They offer about the same amount of head coverage as a full-face helmet, but without the face shield or chin bar. You're still going to see some serious facial damage if you go down face first. Only you can say what your safety priorities are, but in general, we don’t recommend these kind of open-face helmets.

Picking a helmet

Now that you've decided the style of helmet to get, it's time to pick one! Choosing the correct fit is absolutely crucial in how well your helmet actually protects you. A cheap helmet that fits correctly is going to protect you more than a top-of-the-line helmet that doesn't fit right. A too-loose helmet may fly off in case of a crash (at worst) or let in wind and strain your neck (at best), while a too-tight helmet will just become a headache (literally).

A helmet should fit snug enough that your head is not bobbing around in there, but not create any excess pressure that causes a headache. An uncomfortable helmet could quickly turn into a nightmare on a long ride, and being in discomfort means that you won't be riding at your best.

Talking about helmet fit is an entire separate post (especially if you want to talk about helmets designed for different head shapes!), so we will have a helmet fit guide soon to come.

Conclusion

The helmet you chose will ultimately be a personal decision based on the kind of riding you do most and how much priority you place on safety. But just keep in mind that a helmet is the number one piece of protective gear you can get. A high quality ones means the difference between walking away from a crash and severe head injury. And can you really put a price tag on your life?

Still have questions? We're here to help! Feel free to call us, ask a question below, or hit us up on our Facebook page!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Off-Road: Staying Safe on the Track and on the Trail


Going off-road is one of the most fun activities that can be had on a bike, whether it's at the motocross track or a long ride through the wilderness or desert. After all, that's half the point of the bike right? A bike is all about the lack of limitations, the flexibility to ride through any terrain, the freedom to go off the beaten path where 4 wheels can't take you.

We hate to be the one raining on your dirt-paved parade, but as always, fun only comes after safety. Trail or dirt riding is highly technical and then there's that added factor of unexpected obstacles (that’s all part of the fun!). When riding off road, you may find that you tip over more due to rough track surfaces and obstacles, but the good news is that the accidents tend to result in only minor injuries (as opposed to street riding collisions).

If you haven't already, take a read at our street riding safety tips. A lot of the same tips apply no matter what kind of riding you're doing. But going off-road does require a very different set of rules. In this post, we'll focus on safety tips for off-road riding.

Don't ride above your ability

Choose the correct bike: This is the first thing! Riding a bike that's too large (or too small) means you won't be able to control it as well. And that's especially important when going over uneven ground.

Off-road or dirt bikes also have a different seating position than street bikes, so it's very important to make sure you have a bike that suits you. Dirt bikes tend to have a higher seat height, but your feet should still be able to just touch the ground. And when you stand up on the footpegs, you shouldn't be pulling up on the handlebars.

For beginners, we recommend these off-road/adventure bikes:

- Kawasaki KLR250
- Yamaha WR250X
- Husqvarna TE310
- BMW F800GS
- Triumph Tiger 800XC

Ride within your limit: If you're a beginner, start small. Find a riding group or riding partner that you're comfortable with and that is at the same relative skill level as you so you can take your time and not feel like the slowest guy in the group. We've seen a lot of ego take a bike and ride to the ground in a bad way! It's okay, you’ll work your way up to the big boy stuff. And that's half the fun of riding anyway: to feel the gradual improvement and sense of accomplishment and to share stories with your buddies over the camp fire or local watering hole.

Wear the Right Gear

Just like on the streets, it is important to wear the correct protective gear for off-road riding. But going off-road has its own set of requirements. When you're riding off-road, you never know what kind of obstacles you'll come across, whether it's loose gravel on the trail, tree roots, a sand patch, or a rut. Any of these could make your tires slide and cause you to lose control.  And furthermore, having an accident on a trail could mean hitting your head against rocks or other objects. This could cause serious injury even at low speeds.

Here is the gear you should always be suited up with:

A helmet: This is the most important piece of gear and we highly recommend splurging for a quality one. The helmet should fit snug. Dual sport helmets have a visor edge to shield from the sun and debris. A dirt bike helmet has an open eye port, so it's lighter and you have the option of wearing goggles. But if you're going for a helmet that can be used for the street as well, look for one that is DOT approved (approved by US Department of Transportation).

Gloves: Gloves will not only protect your precious skin in a fall, they'll also protect your hands from rocks, debris, and other flying obstacles you may encounter. It's impossible to find a glove that does it all, so use one that suits your riding conditions and the weather (hot, cold, wet) that you'll be riding in.

More in-depth read: Beginner's Guide to Motorcycle Gloves

Goggles: If the helmet doesn't have a face shield, goggles will protect your eyes from dirt and dust, branches, and any debris that may fly your way. Goggles with tear-offs are a great option. When you're hit with a face full of dust, simply tear off one of the layers and have a clear field of vision again.

Boots: Boots will provide protection for your lower legs, ankles, and feet. Most off-road boots are designed to be worn over the pants.

Jackets and Pants: Off-road riding jackets and pants are specially designed to be comfortable, lightweight, and flexible. They're usually made of a light textile in a highly breathable material (this is important so you don't overheat on your excursion!), and don’t offer as much protection as street gear does. If you're going to be riding split-shift on the street and off-road, then go for a higher abrasion resistant dual-sport or ADV riding jacket and pants instead of purely off-road apparel. 

Protective Gear: Because the jackets and pants don't come with too much built-in protection, dirt bike riders typically wear their armor separately. Chest protectors, knee braces, and knee & elbow pads are common additional protective gear worn by MX and Off-Road riders.

Be prepared for the journey

If you're heading out for a longer length adventure ride, it is absolutely essential to make sure you have packed the correct supplies. Even if you have all the protective gear, not having the supplies you need could quickly mean the difference between a pleasurable adventure ride and serious trouble.

Stay hydrated: Probably the MOST important thing you can do is to stay properly hydrated during your ride. Check out the highly performance-focused hydration packs from American Kargo that are designed to fit over the protective guards and allows you easy sipping while riding. This is a MUST, we say.

Bring the proper supplies: At a minimum, we recommend bringing a GPS, an extra gas tank, water, and a tool kit to do repairs such as flat tires.

Be prepared for changing weather: On a longer ride, the weather can change in an instant and you need to be prepared for any possible weather conditions. Rain can drench you in an instant and turn your ride into a complete misery. Pack a rain shell to keep yourself comfortable and dry. Motorcycle rain gear is designed to keep you dry while still providing ventilation.

Be ready for any temperature swings with base layers and mid layers to insulate the body from the cold and wind. Look for moisture-wicking material that will aid in cooling as you ride.

If you're on an overnight or multi-day adventure: Look for small compact tents and sleeping bags (down is the lightest and warmest). Pack camp stoves and non-perishable food (freeze-dried meals are good options). Even if you're not on a long trip, packing snacks is always a good idea in case you run into trouble and lose time.

Have a first aid kit: As most injuries off-road tend to be minor (if you're wearing the correct protective gear, that is!), it is handy to learn basic first aid kit. Your kit should contain supplies to bandage scrapes and treat burns.

Use the buddy system: Always ride with a buddy or in a group if you can. If you're riding alone out in the desert and get into an accident, it could be a long, long time before anyone even realizes you're in trouble (especially if you're not supposed to be due back until a certain time).

Conclusion

With these safety tips in mind, go out there and have fun! Riding in the trail or dirt present a whole new slew of challenges but that's all part of the fun. Don't be discouraged if you're a beginner and falling over a lot. Just practice safety and wear the right protective gear at all times, and go out there and ride with confidence!

2016 BMW Motorcycles We Are Drooling Over



We're back today with yet another installment of Bikes We Wish We Had In Our Garage... oh oops, I mean... favorite bikes of 2016 (see Yamaha and Kawasaki). Our dreams are getting bigger, as the focus today is on BMW!

BMW is generally viewed as a luxury brand that focuses on high performance and every day luxury while pushing the boundaries of hot new technology. Their motorcycles are no different, and as such, while they are pricey, you do get what you pay for. 2016 doesn't boast a lot of big changes in their lineup but we still have our favorite models we've always loved through the years.

Alright, let's get into it!

R1200GS


Oh man, is this the most drool-worthy adventure bike or what? Not a lot of bikes garner visions of trans-continental adventures as the R1200GS. This is the bike that started it all and defined a segment. It features an 1170cc four-stroke flat twin engine that delivers an incredible horsepower of 125. A new water cooling concept has been integrated seamlessly, which allows even greater engine efficiency and more powers.

The R1200GS comes with the option for a Standard or Premium package. The Standard package gives you Dynamic Electronic Suspension Adjustment, cruise control, hand guards, heated grips, and saddlebag mounts. With the Premium package, you’ll also get in addition the LED headlight, tire pressure monitor, On-Board Computer Pro, Ride Mode Pro, and GPS mount. Both packages come with Rain or Road rider modes, but the Premium package also adds Dynamic, Enduro, Enduro Pro, and ABS Pro modes for a more sporty feel.

Also new for 2016 is the special Triple Black edition that comes in a virtually all-black finish. We love the black-on-black tank, anodized black forks, cross-spoke wheels with black glass rims, and blacked-out powertrain. The bike is rounded out with grey accents on the front and rear frame, engine, gearbox, and swingarm. This bike exudes a powerfully daring and sexy presence.

Prices start at $16,495 (and $600 more for the Triple Black). BMW’s are definitely not known for being budget friendly, but as a bike that does it all (and as we love to say), you do get what you pay for!

S1000RR


The new S1000RR is super exciting! I remember when the rumor mill was churning out talks of a BMW M division engineered superbike and I couldn't believe what I was reading (it is the internet, after all...). I was so hopeful the rumors would be true because I absolutely adore the M series cars from BMW and I know a BMW superbike would be epic. Ep-ic! And hey, it is.

Not only did the S1000RR get an entire new facelift, it also got a technology revamp too. In fact, it's been completely revised down to the very last detail! Every last bit has been redesigned to increase power and optimize riding. 

Major changes include: a new lighter, more efficient exhaust design; new suspension set-up; a leaner, more symmetrical chassis design; and new instrument panel. New features include: a new electromotive throttle actuator for 100% electronic control of the throttle valves; Shift Assistant Pro (allows shifting without using the clutch); Rain, Sport and Race ride modes; and Dynamic Damping Control that adjust the suspension automatically.

All this new redesign resulted in a bike with a more horsepower than the previous version (a whopping 199 hp output!), while being a full 8.8 lbs lighter.  This definitely translates into increased power. The S1000RR was already a fierce machine, but now it's a true unbeatable superbike.

MSRP starting at $15,695 (including ABS).

R1200RT


I first fell in lust with the R1200RT after a few long touring trips up the California coast line with some friends that worked for a BMW dealership and they were all rockin' R1200RT's. Coming from the sportbike world, I simply just didn't get it back then when I looked at these awkwardly large machines that seems so down on horsepower. In my 30s, well, I get it and I want a R1200RT like nobody's business.

This is a legendary bike that has defined the classic touring segment and now it comes with even more features for a smoother, more comfortable and controlled riding experience. This bike is designed for maximum comfort and safety, streamlined aerodynamics, and superior handling for long distance riding.

The R1200RT features a powerful 1,170cc air/water-cooled twin-cylinder boxer engine with an output of 125 horsepower, derived from the boxer unit on the R1200GS. But the R1200RT has a higher centrifugal mass on the crankshaft and alternator, which equals a smoother engine. The continuous main frame, agile chassis, and traction control system ASC offer even more stability and precise handling.

Riders can select Rain or Road ride modes at the touch of a button according to the weather and road condition. Special equipment features make the bike even more dynamic, including a semi-active electronic suspension that automatically adjusts to changing road surfaces, a gear shift assistant pro that allows for shifting up or down without using the clutch or throttle, and a Dynamic riding mode that allows for a more sporty feel.

At a MSRP starting at $18,145, this tourer is certainly an investment for those that want to eat up pavement on an asphalt adventure or simply ride in style to the office or on the weekends.

RnineT


Ex-cafe racer geeks unite! For those that are done with tinkering in the garage and building a custom racer with pieces from the 80's that doesn't ever seem to work right, then the RnineT is that off-the-showroom cafe race/roaster you've been looking for -- and more!

The RnineT (powered by an air/oil-cooled 1,170cc classic boxer unit) is a relatively new bike in the BMW Motorrad lineup. This minimalist, retro style roadster is a throwback to the classics but still has a contemporary appearance with the use of modern finishes and curves, and of course, all paired with top-class engineering expected from BMW.

The main selling point of this bike is that it's a perfect canvas for almost limitless options for customization. The rear frame is removable, as are the pillion pegs and sub frame. BMW accessories range also offer a few seat configurations, carbon body panels, and Akrapovic mufflers for the bike. The specially designed electrical system also allows you to easily swap out electrical accessories without worrying about wiring difficulties. There are also a number of specialist customizers who produce bolt-on parts for the R9T. You can truly take this bike and make it uniquely yours.

This bike breaks away from a fitting into a specific role or bike category. It is made for fun riding, pure and simple. This is a great option for those looking for an urban bike, but not necessarily interested in a cruiser, adventure, or sportbike. If you’re willing to shell out $15,095 for it, that is.

F800GS


And finally for an easier-to-swallow price for an adventure bike, we like the F800GS. In our opinion, the F800GS is a slightly more off-road focused adventure bike as compared to the R1200GS, as it isn't as comfortable on the road as the larger 1200.

The F800GS is powered by a 798cc liquid cooled, 4-stroke parallel twin engine. It offers a great throttle response and power delivery, with good fuel economy. The front end is suspended by an inverted fork, which makes this bike seriously fun for some adventure riding. The size of the bike is on the large side for dirt-bike standards, but still agile enough to ride off-road and speedy enough to use on the streets.

This is a bike designed for everyone, so no one has to miss out on the fun. It offers 4 different seat heights as well as an optional low-slung version, making it possible for shorter or less experienced riders to find their perfect height. Two different style variations are possible, each with different color design and accessories so you can get the bike more suited for you. The bike is also equipped with special features such as Normal, Comfort, and Sport riding modes, ASC traction control, and Electronic Suspension Adjustment.

At MSRP of $12,295, this is a more manageable cost for an adventure bike that takes you off the road as smoothly as on the streets.

Which of these bikes do you have your eyes on? Or are you lusting over another model? 

*all photos courtesy of BMW

Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Beginners Guide to Motorcycle Gloves


A good pair of motorcycle gloves is one of the most important riding gear you can own (next to a helmet). What happens if you were to fall or get into a crash? You would probably, without thinking, put your hand out to help break your fall. And now imagine that you were speeding down a road at 45 mph.

Yep, without the proper pair of gloves, I'm sure it doesn't take a strong imagination to envision what kind of damage that would do to your hands.

But aside from just protecting your precious skin in a fall (which we hope is a rare case), motorcycle gloves also help make your entire riding experience more comfortable by protecting your hands against the elements and road debris. We bet you probably didn't think that even insects impact could do damage to your hands at high speeds!

There's a very wide variety of motorcycle gloves out there and it may be overwhelming to pick the right one for your needs, but that's why we're here to give you a hand in the selection process. (Yes, pun fully intended.)

Functionality of Motorcycle Gloves

First, let's take a look at what makes motorcycle gloves.... well, motorcycle gloves.

Just like with motorcycle jackets, any ol' leather or work gloves won't do the trick. Please don't be stingy here!

Here are the common protection features in motorcycle gloves:

- Impact protection such as palm sliders, padding in impact areas, hardened knuckles
- Precurved construction for a comfortable natural grip
- Dexterity to allow use of the brake and clutch levers and gain better control of the bike
- Sturdy closures so the gloves doesn't fly off in a crash
- Long cuffs (called gauntlets) that overlap with the jacket to seal out wind
- Ventilation, insulation, and/or waterproofing for weather protection

These Alpinestars WR-3 Gore-Tex Gloves are super durable all-weather touring gloves. They are both 100% waterproof and highly breathable. 

To put it simply, motorcycle gloves are designed to protect in case of a crash and provide comfort while riding. Your hands are such an important part of your body that it is absolutely worth it to shell out the dough to make sure they're properly protected! 

Gloves for different riding styles

There is such a huge variety of gloves out on the market. The right pair for you will depend on your most typical riding style. Here we break down the differences and what features to look for in each: 

Race and aggressive sport: As this is the most intense kind of riding, gloves designed for this are the most highly technically constructed. Racing gloves typically have a lot of armor (knuckle patches and extra padding in high impact areas) and ventilation to keep you comfortable. Leather is always the best material in this case as it provides the most abrasion resistance. These gloves are always with a full gauntlet for maximum protection. In fact, this is even an requirement to ride on the race track!

No brand does race gear as well as Alpine Stars. Their GP Pro Leather Gloves are tested in their GPMoto program and offer supreme performance protection and comfort.

Street/Touring: This riding style is the most diverse, and so the gloves built for it are diverse too. In general, touring motorcycle gloves provide a great balance between crash protection, weather protection, and riding comfort (for your everyday commute or those long rides!). They are not as heavily padded/armored as racing gloves but still get the job done. 

Looks wise, touring gloves have simple and elegant styling without the loud race inspired design. They come in a range of cuff lengths from short to 3/4 to full gauntlet. Both leather or textile make good options. Leather is always a reliable classic choice, but more and more manufacturers are going with all textile construction on these because of the versatility and ability for weatherproofing.

We love the sleek classic look of Icon 1000 Beltway Gloves

Dual Sport and Off-Road: These gloves are designed for dexterity, weather, and impact protection. Regardless of the blazing heat, freezing wind, or relentless downpours, today's off-road gloves are constructed to accommodate the most extreme conditions and protect your hands while offering a comfortable grip. These gloves have the least amount of armor as they are designed to be very flexible in order to maintain control of the bike. 

Textile is the more common choice for dual sport gloves, as it offers more flexibility and a wide range of weather protection. Most of these gloves have a short cuff for full wrist movement.

The Thor Deflector Gloves are one of our best sellers in the dual-sport category. It provides a nice balance of ventilation, durability, and protection

Here is a quick run-down of some other types of gloves you may see :

Summer gloves: Usually thin leather (sometimes perforated) gloves that end at the wrist. Only ideal for riding in warm weather as they offer no elements protection at all.

Winter gloves: Cold hands may stiffen up and you may not be able to control your bike as well. Cold weather gloves usually come with thermal lining and climate control membrane and are with long cuffs to keep the wind out.

Waterproof gloves: These have a waterproof membrane to keep the water out. They can be ventilated and are ideal for when it's wet but not cold.

Fingerless gloves: No. Just no.

Textile or Leather?

This will most likely come down to personal preference and what features you're looking for. But in general, gloves follow the same recommendation as jackets. A good pair of leather gloves is always the safest bet for racers as it offers the highest abrasion resistance. Commuters, tourers, or adventure riders will more likely deal with more weather conditions, so textile gloves that provide more protection against water and weather could be a great choice.

The Alpinestars Jet Road Gore-Tex Gloves have an innovation leather + textile construction that offers 100% waterproofing & breathability and excellent abrasion resistance.

Picking a glove / Fitment

Gloves fitment is crucial because well, you use your hands to control the bike. Ill-fitting gloves can have a huge impact on how well you're able to handle your bike. Gloves must be snug enough to protect you in case of a fall (and also you know, to not fly off), but also allow enough movement to use the brake and clutch levers.

Ideally, here is how a glove should fit:

- Snug, but not so tight that you feel like you're cutting off circulation
- There should not be additional material in the palm area.
- There should be some additional room at the finger tips, but at the same time, the finger should not be too long or too loose.
- When clenching and opening your fist, armor should not rub and should feel flexible enough to get the full range of movement.
- In a normal motorcycle grip, gloves should be comfortable enough that you don't really feel like you're wearing gloves.

If you're buying gloves online, pay special attention to the size chart and reviews. In general, European brands tend to run smaller, so you may need to get a size up. Be sure to measure both of your hands and use the hand with the wider measurement. 

Be aware that leather will stretch with use, so when picking a leather glove, make sure it's very snug in the beginning. Once they break in, they'll be the proper fit. On the other hand, textile will not stretch, but will get softer with time. So don't write a textile glove completely off if it seems just a bit stiff in the beginning.

As a general rule of thumb: if you're in between sizes, go one size down if buying leather, and one size up if buying textile. 

Conclusion

The kind of glove you buy will probably mostly depend on what style of riding you do the most and what kind of weather condition you usually ride in. The gloves on our site are broken down pretty clearly in categories by riding style. Generally, racers and performance riders should always go for leather, while commuters, cruisers/tourers, and adventure riders may be better suited with textile gloves that offer a wide range of weather protection.

Remember, your hands are one of the most precious parts of your body, and it pays to be better safe than sorry. When it comes to splurging on your riding gear, you're always in better hands with a high quality pair of gloves!

If you're still feeling overwhelmed by all the choices and need help picking out the right glove for you, we're here to help! Feel free to ask below, call us, or hit us up on our Facebook page!

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