Safety First

For the first HOG ROC safety column I’d like to discuss an extremely important“survival reaction” advocated by motorcycling guru James R. Davis of the Master Strategy Group (www.msgroup. org). Many studies have shown that an expected threat to a motorcyclist is recognized and responded to in 1.0-1.6 seconds.

Particularly disturbing however is the fact that in as many as 1/3 of all motorcycle accidents the rider showed NO EVIDENCE OF ANY ATTEMPT WHATSOEVER TO USE THE BRAKES, suggesting the rider “froze”, held on, and simply rode into the disaster awaiting him or her, without doing ANYTHING (right or wrong) to regain control. Some day all of us will confront a sudden “crisis” requiring us to react instantly - a car backing out of a driveway, making a sudden left turn in front of us, or jamming on its brakes, or perhaps a deer, dog, or child darting out. Should we swerve, downshift, or brake? Front brake only or both brakes?

Go back to one of the most undamental lessons we all learned as new riders. After starting our bike’s engine and shifting from neutral into gear, we quickly learned that despite the “clunk” we heard (and felt) as the gear engaged, the bike did NOT lunge forward. Because we had both the clutch and front brake levers squeezed we were in COMPLETE control (and in no danger).

James Davis says we must believe that no matter what unexpected situation arises while riding, if we don’t know what to do next (and it’s too late to fi gure out a better solution) as long as we’re moving in a straight line we CAN regain control and get out of trouble (or at least minimize it) by remembering this early lesson and SQUEEZING BOTH LEVERS FAST AND HARD (AND BY LEANING FORWARD). By doing these two things we disengage the engine from the rear wheel and transfer weight to the front (increasing traction and promoting deceleration), as well as lowering the bike’s center of gravity (increasing stability). While this “survival reaction” may not be the ideal solution in all crises, it can be performed by riders of all skill levels, takes less than 1 second, slows (or actually stops) the bike, and most importantly replaces panic (“freezing”). Make this reaction instinctive - squeeze both levers and lean forward!

P.S. After you’ve breathed a sigh of relief (and said your little prayer) remember to taper off the front brake and use the rear brake ONLY for the fi nal phase of stopping This prevents a low-speed front brake lockup.

Here are some helpful safety links: