We must be mindful of distractions that come in many forms

Graeme Crosby

I recently went for a short ride on a classic 1972 Norton Commando, a relatively high-powered example of an early 70's British superbike in its day. It's a good all-round classic with only a handful of horsepower by todays standard, but it was small, nimble and basic in its design.

I my thoughts focused on just how far technology had taken us in the biking world since those 70'S. A reverse shift gear pattern on the wrong side might have been OK years ago but as Norton was in its inevitable death throes sensibility finally took over and the worlds manufacturers adopted a standard left side one down and four (or five) up, a shift pattern commonly in use today.

Although I coped with this absurd gear change system being on the right, my left foot was seemingly unemployed hovering over a brake lever that was all too unfamiliar. I began to realise just how much it was distracting me.

I began thinking about how to keep my situational awareness alive and not get tied up with visual or physical fixations while trying to find unfamiliar switches and controls.

Initially it's a case of spending a bit of valuable time to get to know your own bike intimately so controls fall straight into place naturally. This can be done stationary and by reading your riders handbook you can fully take in all the nuances of this modern technology in a safe environment.

While I had my head down looking for that illusive gear lever, I lost control of my situational awareness a drifted out onto the wrong side of the road. Oops, now that did made me think!

So I recalled that during my "Ride Forever" training courses one point was pushed home to us – the need to develop a continuous scan. It works in aircraft when manually flying blind in the clouds and can work with motorcycles in the same way. "The road ahead" "speed check" "Mirrors left and right" "possible dangers" "road surface" "head check" "approaching traffic" "Position on the road" "Blind spots" etc... Once you develop these checks and use them continuously you will become situationally in control and therefore have put yourself in a safer position.

We have to be mindful of distractions that come in many forms, from the obvious environmental "Rain on the Visor" which is all too common here in NZ to that incessant and inaccessible cell phone vibrating deep in your pocket under your weather pants. Digital attachments such as "Go-Pro's", handlebar mounted cell phones, GPS's and radar detectors all add to the kaleidoscope of potential distractions not to mention that group of switches buttons and digital readouts giving notice to what setting or "mode" your bike is in.

Technically, motorcycles have come a long way over time and with the digital age there is still a lot more innovation to come. So yes, challenging in today's environs it might well be, but to give yourself a real chance of enjoying trouble-free riding is only a mindset away. By developing an effective scan that allows you time to see and avoid, plan a course of action to an anticipated situation developing or just keeping ahead of the game will work wonders in keeping you safe.

A fundamental truth: 'The only reason I'm still here is because of Ride Forever.'

Having ridden dirt bikes since he was eight years old, it would be understandable if Neil Roach didn't feel the need to do much beyond the basic handling skills test when he got his motorbike licence in middle age.

He was finally taking the test because of a planned road trip overseas. But his instructor encouraged him to take a Ride Forever Bronze course, which turned out to be a real eye-opener for Neil.

"The technique is totally different," compared to dirt bikes, says Neil. "Cornering especially, but also braking and body position on the bike. Lots of differences."

Neil thought it would be a wise investment. Though he could never have foreseen just how it would pay off, on an adventure ride around the south-west United States.

He was meeting up with an old mate, now living in the small town of Gunnison, Colorado, to ride a mix of on- and off-road trails around Utah, Arizona and Colorado itself.

Figuring a dual-purpose Kawasaki bike would be ideal for the trip, he located one. And found a handy motel in Montrose, about an hour's ride from Gunnison, with a regional airport.

After the long trip from New Zealand, a good night's rest was in order at Montrose. Day one of the trip would begin by picking up the bike from the dealer followed by a casual ride east on Highway 50. Neil was delighted with the bike and even more delighted at the prospect of seeing his friend.

It didn't take long for Neil's day to take a turn for the worse.

Out of town, Neil approached a sweeping left-hand curve. Following the drill he'd learned in his Ride Forever coaching, Neil concentrated on his positioning and used his vision to track through the corner.

Some way in he picked up a car finishing an overtake coming towards him, with no prospect of the car getting back into its own lane before the turn.

In an instant, Neil placed the bike to the right of the oncoming car, pulling up on the road edge as the car screamed into the corner on the wrong side of the road at around 120km/h.

"I rode on just a short way then pulled over and tried to compose myself," recounts Neil.

"'Man, that was close', I said to myself. And I knew straight away that the only reason I was still here was my Ride Forever coaching. We did a lot of work on lines, especially staying out really wide on corners and looking through the corner, not ducking into the apex. If I'd taken a typical racing line, like I'd do off road, I would have been committed and barrelled straight into that car. Positioning and vision gave me that extra half second."

Neil went on to enjoy a far less terrifying time with his mate, on challenging trails across the south-west. And he remains forever thankful that he took that Bronze course.

"I tell the story a lot, and I always end by telling people that the what I learnt at Ride Forever saved my life. And it could save yours, too. Honestly, it's a no brainer, and so cheap."

As important as it is in Motorcycle Awareness Month to increase drivers' awareness of motorcycles on the road, Neil's story also shows a fundamental truth: at some time on some road, your survival will depend on the skills you apply when you least expect to use them.

That's why Ride Forever exists. Take Neil's advice, and book your Ride Forever course today.

How to survive a motorway slide: 'The nurse said I must have had the right gear on'

René Ngatai is returning to normal life after a motorcycle crash could have easily cost him his leg.

Coming off The Terrace in Wellington, René Ngatai gunned his motorbike along the slip road and onto the motorway.

After a long dry spell, a recent shower had left the road wet. Impregnated oil, diesel and other contaminants had begun to lift from below the surface.

When his tyres started to slide, bike and rider were propelled along the road. René's leg was trapped under the bike, the slippery surface of the road proved both friend and foe. It was a factor in the crash, but it also helped lubricate the slide.

The real thanks, however, goes to the gear he was wearing. It saved his leg from likely amputation and now, two years after his crash, René is getting back into exercise.

It could easily have been a different story. René didn't have much road-riding experience before he got his licence. Like many others, he'd done some riding in his youth and fancied enjoying the two-wheeled experience again while beating the traffic on his commute. And he made some good choices.

"Honestly, I spent more on the riding gear and less on the bike," he recalls. "And I'm so glad I did. I slid for maybe 30 metres, from about 80 km/hr. The legs of my pants were shredded. I had a bit of bruising but they didn't wear through and I didn't break my leg or injure my knee. Just my foot."

With around 200kg of motorbike trapping his leg, René had encountered an all too common pitfall for motorcyclists – one that can result in life-changing injuries. But wearing full protective clothing, including proper motorcycle boots, meant his lower body injuries were limited to a broken toe.

The textile pants René wore were thick, with a good lining. They sacrificed themselves and left both legs intact. His worst injury was to his shoulder and upper arm, caused by the hefty impact as he hit the ground. But again, the leather shrugged off abrasion, and the armour inserts protected his joints and spine.

Even so, it would take two years and two operations before René's torn shoulder ligament and bicep would come right again.

"I was on a bed, with my street clothes in a bag next to me, when the nurse said, 'You must have been wearing the right gear then?' And she wasn't the only one who thought it could have been very different," he recalls.

Of course, in any crash there are always the 'if onlys' as well as thanks given for right decisions taken.

"The tyres [on the bike] might have looked mean but they were the wrong choice really," admits René.

"Inexperience was a factor too, and limited training. I did a session with an instructor before my Restricted but all my mates who've done Ride Forever courses are big fans. At least the instructor pointed out my helmet was crap and I should get a new one, which I did."

The aftermath of René's crash involved two years of reconstructive surgery, pain, physio and frustration.

Only in the last few months has he been well enough to contemplate getting back to exercise and work.

He remains grateful for the support ACC have given him through that time, but he credits himself with choosing the right gear that literally saved his skin: "I must have spent over $2,000 on that gear, not including the helmet, and it was worth every cent. And, yes, I'll be doing my Ride Forever course now I'm up to riding again."

A large part of Motorcycle Awareness Month aims to increase drivers' awareness of motorcycles on the road. But most serious motorcycle accidents only involve the rider.

A crash can happen to the best of us at any time, and René's story shows how essential it is to dress accordingly.

A visit to motocap.co.nz will help you buy the best gear, or ask your local dealer. And booking your Ride Forever course will help you know what to do in any situation.

What gear should you wear for your ride?

Gear expert Chris Hurren gives you advice on what gear to wear when riding around town or on the open road.

As motorcycle riders, we know there’s a high chance we may end up off our bike and sliding down the road. While we can reduce the possibility of a crash with training and motorcycle selection, we can never eliminate it due to the variable nature of the on-road environment. No one can predict the location of that freak oil spill or animal on the road that makes the bike lose its grip and toss us into the air.

The best thing we can do is buy and wear the right gear to help us out if we stray from our bike seat at speed.

When we crash a motorcycle, there are three main risks to our body that gear can protect us from: impact, abrasion, and skin shear.

Protecting from impact

Every crash involves impact. Impact can be either small or large depending on what we hit. Most good gear can deal with the small impacts that come from hitting a road surface in a high side crash. Impact protectors help by covering your important bony, protruding, and hard to fix parts of your body. These are your head, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, knuckles, palms, wrists, and ankles.

Impact protectors absorb and distribute the crash impact to protect your body. In clothing, most impact protectors are removable, so make sure you leave them in and they’re in the right place. With gloves and boots make sure they have impact protectors covering these critical parts.

Most gear doesn’t provide much protection in high impact crashes. These include crashes with other vehicles or something on the side of the road like a tree or post. The impact protectors mentioned above will reduce the impact severity, but they won’t eliminate impact damage. Airbag jackets, and back and chest impact protection, may lessen your injury severity, but aren’t common in most jackets. If you have the cash to get an airbag jacket, go for an electronically deployed one as these act much faster than the lanyard styles.

Protecting from abrasion

Nobody wants to have road rash cleaned by a scrubbing brush in the hospital after a crash. Well-designed motorcycle gear is the best way to reduce or prevent abrasion injury.

Abrasion occurs when you slide down the road. A chip seal road will rip into your clothing causing seams to burst and fabric to wear away. A normal pair of denim jeans will be worn through after sliding less than 8 metres on a chip seal road. A fleecy hoody will most likely burst open at the seams when you first hit the road, instantly exposing your skin. We slide on our feet/ankles, knees, sides of our legs, buttocks, hands, outer arms, shoulders and head. These are the places we need extra protection.

Resistance to abrasion is provided by a thick layer of high strength material between you and the road. Nice thick leather is normally the best, as it’s both strong and abrasion resistant. Protective denim can be good, but make sure you go for a garment that has a thick protective liner inside. Protective textiles should be selected with thicker heavier fabrics in the key zones of knees, sides of the leg, buttocks, arms and shoulders. Multiple layers of textiles in the key zones are beneficial. Gloves should have extra protection for the little finger and good quality double layer leather in the palm. A palm slider is good to have as we always put our hands down to protect ourselves.

Protecting from skin shear

Skin shear is where the clothing you’re wearing grips up with your skin during a crash and shears your flesh apart under the skin. Both painful and often occurring without breaking the skin or damaging the clothing. Skin shear is easy to prevent by making sure that you have a slippery liner fabric on the inside of your gear. It’s the reason why some bike racers wear silk under their leathers. This is more likely to occur in a low speed crash or crashes with high impact force.

Understanding protection for your riding situation

The best way to understand the level of protection a garment will give is to have a look at the MotoCAP website. Find at least three garments you like then go into a store and try them on. A garment is only protective if you’re wearing it, so make sure it feels right on, and off, the bike before you lay down your money. It’s better to compromise a little on protection and get something you really feel comfortable in than to buy a garment you only wear some of the time because it’s not right.

When you look at MotoCAP it’s impossible to get an item of clothing that has five stars for protection and comfort. While five stars is the best, it’s not always necessary to have such a high level of protection. Wearing any starred product is generally better than wearing clothing not designed for motorcycle use. For example, a scooter rider who normally rides in track suit pants will be more protected riding in a pair of two-star protective denim pants.

Riding around town

If you ride around town at 60km/hr or less, then your protection requirements are lower than if you ride at high speeds. Low speed crashes have lower abrasion damage so a 2/10 for abrasion should be enough in most cases. Low speed crashes are more likely to result in burst failure - look for an 8/10 or higher rating. Impact damage is just as important at low speed as it is at high, so go for a 6/10 or higher. There’s a lot of urban gear now available such as protective hoodies, denims and chino pants, waxed textile jackets, and riding shirts. These can give you more protection than normal clothing and don’t make you look out of place on a scooter or when you get to your destination. Don’t forget to add a pair of short gloves with knuckle protection and a shoe with a bit of ankle protection like a Doc Martin to your ensemble. Whatever you do don’t ride in sneakers or slip-ons, as these offer no foot protection in a crash.

Town plus motorway riding

If you ride around town and do a bit of higher speed motorway work, then your protection requirements are a little higher. The risk of abrasion damage increases, so an abrasion score of 4/10 or higher becomes important. This type of riding results in low and high speed crashes, so burst protection of 8/10 or higher is recommended. You should also have impact protection of at least 6/10 . A good leather or protective textile jacket combined with one of the higher performing denim jeans or protective textile-pants can be the best way to go. Find a longer glove with wrist protection and add a good riding shoe or boot with ankle protection.

Open road riding

On the open road, the speed of riding goes up. And although a crash is less likely, the damage that can occur is increased. Winding roads increase the possibility of a crash with a high likelihood of impact. The risk of abrasion damage increases, so a 5/10 or higher becomes important. Burst protection of 8/10 or higher is recommended, along with impact protection of at least 6/10. A leather jacket combined with a high performing protective denim or leather pant is the best way to go. Rain protection is easily achieved with a light weight - and preferably high-vis - rain ensemble over the top of your favorite gear. Over wrist length gloves with good impact protection is a must along with rider specific footwear.

Riding on a hot day

If you’re riding on a hot day don’t forget your thermal comfort. If we don’t let the sweat and heat escape from around our body, we can overheat. This effects our reaction time and ability to problem solve. Use the MotoCAP comfort rating to select clothing that breathes better for a hot ride. Tests are conducted with all vents closed, so if clothing has vents then these could improve it for use on a hot day. Make sure vents let the air flow through to your body and they’re not blocked by water resistant membranes. On a hot day, mesh textile jackets, protective denim, and some of the new textile urban gear can give you protection without too much compromise for comfort. Just make sure you keep the impact protection in the important places.

A crash can happen on any road at any time so always dress for the journey and enjoy your destination.

Look Twice - Top Tips for Drivers

Guest writer Avalon Biddle is a New Zealand and European Champion Motorcycle Racer. Having ridden motorcycles from six years of age, Avalon has a wealth of skills on two wheels. Her industry experience comes from racing, working in a motorcycle store, coaching young riders and living, travelling, and working overseas. Avalon is a Ride Forever Brand Ambassador, encouraging road riders to upskill themselves to enjoy more safe and fun trips on two wheels.! In this article, she writes about what car drivers can do to become more aware of motorcycles on New Zealand roads.

 

Share the road!

September is Motorcycle Awareness Month in New Zealand. As the weather begins to warm up, it becomes enticing for motorcycles to be used on a more regular basis. I for one, am certainly looking forward to the increased grip from warmer tyres and road surfaces! Hot grips are no longer needed, regos are renewed and riders go on training courses to refresh their skills ahead of some summer road trips or commutes.

So, what can drivers do to drive safely around motorcycles?

As both a car driver and motorcycle rider, I have some tips that can help make you more aware of motorcycles as we share the roads together.

1)      Do a double take

Of course, motorcycles are smaller than a car, so they’re harder to see. Admittedly when there are many distractions present, such as sun strike, busy roads and pedestrians, a motorcyclist can be easily missed. Before pulling out from an intersection, changing lanes or braking suddenly, do a double check that you haven’t missed anything. This small move can be lifesaving.

2)      Always check your blind spot before changing lanes

Tying into tip number one, tip number two entails doing a double check in your blind spot before changing lanes. This may even include a quick look to your side. Usually a motorcyclist would position themselves on the road so they can be seen. However, if they repositioned to avoid something on the road or are sitting in heavy traffic, you may just miss them in your mirrors.

3)      Think ahead

Concentrate on where you’re going to avoid making last minute decisions. If you realise you need to make turn at the last minute (or make a U-turn) stay calm and find a safe place to do so. Last minute changes never seem to go well on the roads!

4)      Follow at a safe distance

Motorcyclists often slow down by rolling off the throttle or changing down a gear, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance, say 3 or 4 seconds behind a motorcycle. At intersections, predict a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.

5)      Risk less

We need to remember that 90% of the time all road users are trying to get from A to B. There’s no reason to take unnecessary risks on public roads. If you want to go fast; go to a race track. If you’re going to be late somewhere; so be it. Most importantly, if someone is texting or calling you; it can wait. Because of their small size, motorcycles can often look further away than they are. It can also be hard to judge their speed. Take a moment, refocus and drive carefully. There is no need to put yourself or someone else in danger due to being distracted or trying to get into a gap in the traffic.

6)      Be courteous

Motorcycles are generally very nimble and can turn easier than a car, but don’t just assume they’ll be able to get out of your way or navigate through a small gap. Slippery surfaces, debris or potholes can be treacherous for motorcyclists.

 

Finally, if you get the chance to learn to ride or be a passenger on a motorcycle – take it! It will open your eyes (literally) to how often road users make rushed decisions and don’t take notice of our two-wheeled friends. In September, and always, let’s make an extra effort to take note of motorcycles on the roads and follow the tips above. Share the roads in a safe and respectable manner.

Mike Pero: Drivers stop and take the time to look twice

It's only the month of September but motorcycles are on the road 365 days of the year, so why do we have a Motorcycle Awareness Month?

The simple answer is: it's the beginning of our warmer weather in New Zealand and it's when many seasonal riders re-register their machines and get back out on the road. It's the obvious time to remind drivers that motorcycles will start to increase in numbers. Sadly, it's also the season when we'll see more motorcycle crashes, injuries, and deaths. On average, for the past five years, the statistics tell us that each year 50 motorcyclists will die on New Zealand roads. The huge majority of these deaths are preventable.

Sure, a part of that total will include accidents that don't involve another vehicle, but of the 64% of crashes that do involve another vehicle, it's the other vehicle that has the primary responsibility for the crash. Many of these multi vehicle crashes happen at intersections, or when a vehicle changes lanes.

So, why does this occur? Let me introduce you to a commonly known acronym, amongst motorcyclists, SMIDSY - "Sorry mate I didn't see you." These are the six words most likely to come out of the mouth of a car driver immediately after an accident. Of course, no driver wants to wreck their car, let alone risk a life – but many drivers fail to spot motorcyclists.

This failure to spot motorcyclists occurs because of phenomenon known as 'saccadic masking'. In simple terms, it's where the eye and the brain don't see a moving image at the first glance - that's why we are encouraging drivers to look twice, because the second look helps pick up a moving object.

In other cases, drivers see a motorcycle but fail to realise just how close it is. This is because a motorcyclist appears to be a small object and appears further away. Judging a small object's speed is harder than judging a car's speed. Drivers under-estimate the how close the bike is and think they have time to pull out or move. This can be fatal for the motorcyclist. The third situation where a motorcyclist can be missed is when it's hidden by the front pillar of the car (between the windscreen and the side window). As airbags, have been introduced in modern cars this pillar has become wider to make room for the airbag, and the width of the pillar creates a blind spot making it harder to spot a motorcyclist.

My advice is, before you take off at intersections or change lanes, stop and take the time to look twice. Look right and say out loud: "check right; clear right" as the situation has been accessed. Repeat with your check to the left and then repeat once more on the right and the left. By saying it aloud you're thinking about the situation and you should listen to yourself as if you're listening to someone else. You need to take your time. So, take your time and please, always look twice for motorcycles.

Respect for all road users will go a long way

Greg Murphy is a New Zealand professional racing driver, known for multiple Bathurst 1000 wins. As a Motorcycle Awareness Month 2019 ambassador, he wants to highlight the role drivers play in preventing crashes on the road. He encourages drivers to ‘look twice for motorcyclists'.

The former car racer is encouraging drivers to look twice for bikes and take extra care on the roads.

Motorcyclists make up only 3 per cent of all road users in New Zealand. But they account for 16 per cent of road deaths and 10 per cent of injuries.

So, why are the crash statistics disproportionate to the number of bikes on the roads?

Well, car drivers play a key role in helping to keep motorcyclists safe, especially in heavy traffic. And remember, now that we're through winter, the number of motorcyclists on the roads will double in the coming months.

I want to encourage drivers to be extra careful and put a concerted effort into looking out for bikes when driving.

We all need to check our blind spots by turning our heads to check something isn't being hidden, especially before changing lanes.

Taking an extra look at intersections is really important too, as bikes can appear suddenly.

Estimating the speed of a motorcyclist can be difficult and often the distance a motorcyclist is from you is miscalculated because of its size.

The SMIDSY – ‘Sorry mate I didn't see you' – insight is a common reaction with drivers who hit motorcyclists. This isn't just a poor excuse. There's some really interesting science behind this statement.

The majority of four-wheeled road users aren't going out of their way to cause trouble. They simply didn't see you and the problem is this: sometimes they did genuinely look out for bikes, but they just failed to see it.

The problem isn't just about looking, it's about looking properly. A quick glance or even two quick glances in either direction isn't good enough - you need to be looking with intent!

There's a phenomenon called saccadic masking.

In short - the brain selectively fails to process certain eye movements, and replaces them with a very recent memory. It does this because if we actually saw what our eyes were processing, it would be a blur.

It's like how a video camera records frames and then puts them all together, our brains do the same. It takes snapshots at intervals of what it sees and merges them together thinking it is a continuous sweep, but that's an illusion.

The faster we move our heads when looking side to side, the more gaps or blind spots there are in the sweep and therefore, objects might not be seen.

This doesn't constitute as a reasonable excuse. What it means is, we need to take more time and care when looking out for motorcyclists, and all other road users.

This video explains saccadic masking in a clear and concise way – take a look.



We're all responsible for our own, and other road users, safety. Respect for other road users and being courteous will go a long way to reducing injuries and deaths on our roads.

September is Motorcycle Awareness Month. It's a joint initiative between the Motorcycle Safety Advisory Council and ACC. Find out more about the month at motorcycleawareness.co.nz.

Drivers need to be aware: 'He Didn't See Me in Any Way, Shape, or Form'

The shiny bike on the showroom floor caught Jimmy Barker's attention, but not that of the driver who cut across three lanes and floored him.

You could say Jimmy Barker's taste in bikes is eclectic. With ownership switching between sports bikes and Harley Davidsons.

It also played something of a part in the extent of his injuries when a car swiped him near Wellington's Basin Reserve.

He was wearing the sort of street-orientated gear that suited his Harley, which he'd left at the dealership on a spur of the moment decision to test out a Suzuki GSX-R 1000.

The biggest factor, however, was the decision taken by someone piloting another Suzuki – a Swift hatchback – to cut across his path in traffic.

Jimmy had taken off briskly from the lights. But the parked Suzuki driver clearly thought he had space to move into the road before the other cars approached, but didn't see Jimmy at all.

Until his helmet made contact with the side of his car.

"He didn't see me in any way, shape or form," says Jimmy. "I hit the rear of the driver's door. Hit my head on the left-hand side then went down on the right-hand side and got dragged along the road."

The physical results for Jimmy included severe bruising to his thighs and elbow, with the worst injury being a broken collar bone. Even though he hit the car with his head, he wasn't concussed or affected by any kind of cranial injury.

"I was wearing a full-face helmet, thank goodness," he says.

Unfortunately, his Harley jacket, while made of leather, had no armour inserts, just padding.

Broken in four places, Jimmy's smashed clavicle would prove to be problematic to heal, with severe consequences for Jimmy's family life, career, and health.

As a sales rep in the building industry, his work involved driving around sites, scrambling up scaffolding, and generally being active. That would all come to a halt, with more than nine months attempting to get back to work.

For a time, he couldn't walk and could barely talk. He needed a second operation on his collar bone involving a bone graft. Even after he recovered somewhat, normal life was impossible.

"I couldn't drive, I couldn't lift up my children, they wanted to play football with daddy and go swimming," says Jimmy. "None of it has been possible."

Eventually, a 14-week back-to-work programme allowed Jimmy to undertake light duties. But even that was a mixed blessing.

"It meant my physio was no longer fully-funded, only subsidised," he says. "Still, I'm now down to a half-hour session every fortnight."

At 36, Jimmy stands a good chance of making a full recovery but it will take years. The plate on his collar bone, for example, must remain for 36 months and until then full shoulder movement will remain impossible.

September is Motorcycle Awareness Month, and for good reason. When driving, if we all remain aware that motorcycle and scooter riders are extremely vulnerable, and we need to look twice for them, there's every chance of preventing crashes like Jimmy's.

If you ride, and you want to protect yourself, make sure you always wear the very best gear – check motocap.co.nz for ratings and improve your chances of survival with Ride Forever coaching.

Motorcycle safety: Can Technology Help Awareness to Prevent Motorcycle Crashes?

Over the years, we've seen lots of new technological aids designed to improve riders' awareness of hazards and drivers' awareness of motorcycles. Here's a few of them.

Technology designed to improve riders' hazard awareness or increase a drivers' awareness of approaching motorcycles are particularly pertinent for Motorcycle Awareness Month.

The following technological aids sound promising but, the question is, are they useful and are they available for the masses?

Improving the basics

It's not always high-tech, networked digital solutions that have the potential to improve driver/rider awareness and interaction.

Back in 2015 we reported on an integrated signaling system for a bicycle helmet, that had potential for motorcycle helmets too. It's yet to filter into mainstream helmet choices, thought. And it's a similar story with the Stoptix automatic brake light. Like the signaling system, it was reliant on crowdfunding, and the reality seems somewhat slimmed down compared to the initial promise.

Stoptix is available, but only as an aftermarket bulb that fits Harley Davidsons. Great if you've got one, disappointing for the rest of us.

Pushing the envelope

More well-known companies have promised technology that is a bit more advanced.

Bosch – working with Ducati, Autotalks and Australian company Cohda Wireless – showcased a system they called a Digital Protective Shield in 2017. Using public wireless technology, the system allows vehicles to communicate with one another. The obvious weakness is that only vehicles equipped with the transceiver system can talk to each other.

Jaguar Land Rover showed a different system with a more universal application. Its Bike Sense technology uses proximity sensors to warn of approaching bikes and motorbikes. Employing innovative lighting, locking, sounds, and touch in a bid to prevent any crash. It goes beyond a generic warning to indicate direction, speed of approach, and risk of collision. Again, very promising but still a research programme despite being announced in 2017.

On-bike systems

Honda and Suzuki have filed patents for on-bike systems that, respectively, alert the rider to the proximity of other vehicles in the rider's blind spot and use laser lighting to highlight a bike's presence on the road. Both seem to have promise.

The Honda patent involves cameras and radar which detect objects and vehicles in areas around the bike. It then sends a warning if the rider attempts to move in their direction. The patent also includes a visual indicator either built into the instrument panel or mounted separately as an accessory. This shows where the hazard is in relation to the motorcycle.

Suzuki's system uses dynamic lasers that light up the ground surrounding the motorcycle, shifting the beams for road speed, proximity of other vehicles and even riding style. Vehicles getting too close will set off a strobe effect while a large cross is displayed around the bike when stopped. It also apparently adapts to lean angle in corners, minimising glare for other vehicle users.

The upshot

Combined with other clever thinking such as Bosch's connectivity suite, there has been no shortage of innovative technology aimed at boosting rider awareness and increasing awareness of motorcycles. But uptake has been limited.

Could this be because of the conservatism we riders are notorious for? Or could it be that, the closer these ideas got to real-world application, something else held them back?

One thing remans certain, no matter how much motorcycle-safety technology improves – the most critical decisions are still the rider's. Technology such as ABS, and especially cornering ABS, is potentially a massive safety aid. But even proven systems like these cannot defeat the laws of physics or compensate for catastrophic rider error. That's why training is, and always will be, so important.

So, if a ground-projecting laser light show isn't showing up on the features list for your next choice of bike, our recommendation is simple – take a Ride Forever certified coaching session.

And if you're not already subscribed to our monthly Ride On newsletter, make sure you sign up. It has an eclectic mix of hard news, fun stories, and digs into developments that affect riding.

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