Friday, November 22, 2013
U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) is asking the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention whether it is trying to reduce motorcycle ridership by pursuing a federal mandatory motorcycle helmet law, the American Motorcyclist Association reports.
The congressman also is questioning the economic impacts the CDC cited to support mandatory motorcycle helmet laws.
In a letter to CDC Director Thomas Frieden (enclosures included) dated Nov. 21, Walberg, who is a lifelong motorcyclist, an AMA life member and a member of the Congressional Motorcycle Caucus, asked “…is it the goal or strategy of the CDC to reduce the use of motorcycles -- a legal mode of transportation -- by recommending and pursuing a federal helmet law?
“If so, how would this strategy be implemented and by what authority would it be instituted?” Walberg asked. He also questioned whether Frieden believes the CDC is the federal agency best suited to research and make recommendations related to transportation safety.
The CDC, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is headquartered in Atlanta.
Walberg sent the letter after analyzing a presentation titled “Economic Impact of Motorcycle Helmet Law: A Systematic Review.” The presentation was made by the Helmet Law Review Team of the Community Preventive Services Task Force on Oct. 23. The 15-member task force, each of whom is appointed by the CDC director, makes recommendations to the CDC and reports to the U.S. Congress about community preventive services, programs and policies to improve health.
The task force is preparing to recommend that all states have universal helmet laws, which means that all riders, regardless of age, would be required to wear helmets.
In his letter, Walberg strongly opposed its findings and conclusions. One part of the presentation, in particular, “infers a positive awareness of helmet laws with the potential for reduced motorcycle use,” Walberg said. “The presentation goes on to conclude that ‘economic evidence shows that universal motorcycle helmet laws produce substantial economic benefits, and these benefits greatly exceed expected costs,’ however, there is no reference whatsoever to the significant economic costs anticipated by reducing motorcycle use.
“In fact, the only costs identified by the Task Force on slide 37 are the costs of purchasing a motorcycle helmet and the enactment and enforcement costs of helmet laws, which are concluded to be negligible,” Walberg said. “Not only does this contradict the earlier findings about how imposing motorcycle laws would discourage motorcycle use, but it ignores the positive economic impact motorcyclists provide.
“Motorcyclists not only enjoy riding on American roads, they also spend billions of dollars touring and attending rallies,” he said. “Reducing motorcycle use would have a detrimental effect on the motorcycle-industry, dealer sales, tourism, associated employment and related tax revenues. As an avid and experienced motorcycle rider, I believe government should be in the business of promoting the recreational, economic and environmental benefits of responsible motorcycle riding – not discouraging it.”
Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations and a former U.S. representative and U.S. senator representing Colorado, praised Walberg for “asking some tough questions that need to be asked.
“The AMA doesn’t understand why the Centers for Disease Control is involving itself in motorcycling when it is supposed to be protecting Americans from diseases,” Allard said.
“Motorcycling is not a disease that needs to be eradicated,” he said. “It’s a legal form of transportation and a source of responsible recreation for millions of Americans nationwide.
‘We anxiously await the CDC’s answers to Rep. Walberg’s questions,” Allard said.
The AMA strongly advocates helmet use but believes adult helmet use should be voluntary. Simply put, mandatory helmet laws do nothing to prevent crashes. The AMA supports actions that help riders avoid a crash from occurring, including voluntary rider education, improved licensing and testing, and expanded motorist awareness programs.
To read the AMA position on voluntary helmet use, go towww.americanmotorcyclist.com/Rights/PositionStatements/VoluntaryHelmetUse.aspx.
Now more than ever, it is crucial that you and your riding friends become members of the AMA or ATVA to help protect our riding freedoms. More members mean more clout against the opponents of motorcycling and ATV riding. That support will help fight for your rights – on the road, trail, racetrack, and in the halls of government. If you are a motorcycle rider, join the AMA at AmericanMotorcyclist.com/membership/join. If you are an ATV rider, join ATVA at www.atvaonline.co m.
November 13, 2013 - San Diego, CA
The Silent Killer: Wind Noise & Hearing Loss
There are a lot of opinions between riders about whether or not wearing hearing protection while riding is a good idea. We’ve noticed that, like so many other elements of this sport, the use of earplugs tends to be a controversial topic. Users swear by them, but many riders refuse, wanting to be as connected their bike and traffic conditions as possible for their safety. In many cases, however, riders on both sides of the debate are under-informed.
So to clear up some confusion, and make sure you have the right information to make your decision, we’ve put together a few myths and facts about using hearing protection while riding. Most importantly, we focus on the often unnoticed, silent killer of hearing while operating a motorcycle, and it’s not your exhaust or traffic; its ambient wind noise, which occurs at levels of well over 100dB at highway speeds! Find out how it can destroy your hearing, and what to do about it, by reading on.
Common Myths about Hearing Protection
Myth: You can’t hear traffic hazards, sirens, your bike, or other important sounds while wearing ear plugs.
Wearing ear plugs does block sound, but the way it actually affects your hearing is counter-intuitive.
The real killer of hearing, and what we are trying to prevent while riding, is wind noise; a continuous, high-frequency sound. What we want to hear are low-frequency sounds, things like cars around us, engine RPM, and approaching sirens.
Because wind noise beats on your ears non-stop, it creates a condition called temporary threshold shift, or temporary hearing loss from continuous over-exposure (we’ve all experienced this at a concert, races, operating machinery, etc.) In other words, you go partially deaf after an extended period of riding.
That temporary deafness is even more dangerous to your safety on the road than wearing ear plugs, because it affects all frequencies of hearing. Proper hearing protection prevents that from happening, and cuts high-frequency wind noise while still allowing important low-frequency sounds to be heard.
Myth: You only need to wear ear plugs if you have a loud bike.
Again, the biggest danger to your hearing is wind noise, and it piles up a lot faster than you think. Whether you ride a thunderous V-twin or a stock 250, the sound of your bike is miniscule when compared to the volume of wind noise, which is usually around the 100-110dB range at highway speeds. It is a constant, high-frequency sound; the type that is the biggest threat to your hearing, as you tend to not notice it beating your eardrums to death.
Myth: You don’t need to wear earplugs if you wear a full-face helmet.
Wearing a full-face helmet cuts exposure, but to degree that is not significant with respect to hearing damage. Different studies show a reduction in the range of 5-10dB when wearing a full-face, but at 100dB-plus levels found at normal highway speeds, this is still well within the territory of permanent hearing damage. Some helmets flow air so well, the wind noise can actually be almost equal to that of not using a helmet at all.
Myth: My windshield/fairings cut wind noise enough.
Much like the difference between full-face and half-helmets, there is a reduction in sound level, but not to a significant degree. Depending on the style of windshield or fairings, and the height of the rider and his body position, the resulting turbulence may mean there is no reduction in noise at all.
Facts You Should Know about Hearing Protection
Fact: Normal highway riding does irreparable, but imperceptible, hearing damage.
According to OSHA, up to 85-90dB of exposure for 8 hours a day is within hearing safety limits; however, when sound levels exceed 100dB, safe exposure time drops to only 2 hours, and at 115dB, is reduced to only 15 minutes!
What does that mean to us riders? 85-90dB is the level of noise you’re exposed to in normal to heavy traffic, at speeds of under 40mph. Think city driving; car horns, big rigs, sirens and loud vehicles can strain your ears, but not to the level of permanent hearing damage.
However, at speeds of 65mph or more, wind noise creeps up past the 90db mark, and increases dramatically with speed. In other words, more damage is being done to your ears cruising on an empty highway at the speed limit than in the middle of a crowded city!
Fact: Some riders can hear better when wearing hearing protection.
This is completely counter-intuitive, but true. Recalling the TTS, or the temporary reduction in hearing that occurs from sustained exposure, we know that a rider that does not wear ear plugs will have worse hearing while on the road (whether he realizes it or not.)
On the other hand, by reducing that high-frequency wind noise, ear plug wearers are preventing TTS and retaining full hearing ability, still being able to clearly hear low-frequency sounds like approaching cars, sirens, and their engines. As a result, many users actually report feeling more in tune with the road, and especially their bikes, when wearing proper ear plugs, because they are less fatigued or distracted by the roaring wind noise that they probably didn’t even notice before.
The important factor is choosing ear plugs that attenuate enough to take the edge off of high frequency wind noise, while still allowing important sounds to be heard. This is accomplished at 15-30db attenuation, the range most “foamie” style earplugs fall into.
Fact: Wearing hearing protection makes you less tired after a ride.
Many ear plug wearers report lower fatigue after riding versus when riding without them. This is due to the reduction in “noise fatigue," a condition of exhaustion and even pain that can result from sustained exposure to high levels of noise (a commonly known condition in the aviation industry, and other industries where loud noise is constant.) In other words, you may literally feel more energetic during and after a ride with ear plugs in, which is especially important if you’re a motorcycle commuter. It can’t hurt your riding ability either.
How To Keep Your Hearing
While there are many routes you can take when choosing ear protection, from bulk packs of cheap disposables to custom fit plugs made by a doctor, we recommend trying these ear filters (plugs) from Hearos. They come in multi-packs with attentuation levels from 26-33dB, and at only $4.99-5.99 a pack, they are the perfect way to inexpensively try out hearing protection on your next ride. Try adding a set to your next purchase!
Hearos Xtreme Protection Series Ear Filters (33dB attentuation)
Hearos Superhearos Ear Filters (32db attentuation)
Hearos Rock 'n' Roll Hearos Noise Filter (26dB attenuation, reusable)
The Bottom Line
There is a lot of both anecdotal evidence and hard science that says there is a whole list of dangers associated with riding without hearing protection, and no net benefit. If you’re not wearing ear plugs when you ride, give some re-useable foamies from Hearos a try along with your next order. Even if you’re a skeptic, spending $5 to find out if they work for you is a cheap experiment. Compared to how much you value your lifelong ability to hear, earplugs are a pretty tiny investment.
While this debate will rage on in motorcycle forums and riding clubs everywhere, we hope we’ve given you enough information to at least try riding with hearing protection. After all, nobody wants to be that rider in his older years, saying “if I had only known then what I know now.” Besides, if you think reducing your ability to hear “the road” is unsafe; consider how dangerous actually being deaf is!
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
Cold-Weather Motorcycle Riding Tips
In March of 2010, I attended the Cornerspeed roadracing school at Virginia International Raceway. The weather was unseasonably warm, so instead of trucking the track bike there, I decided to pilot my long-distance sport-tourer there, a ’98 Honda VFR800.
The trip south from Northeast Pennsylvania was without issue; I rode out almost 600 miles on a desolate path, stripped the bike down of touring necessities, and had some fun at VIR. But the ride home was much, much different when winter’s soul silently crept up on me.
About 100 miles from home, a cold front moved through, and the temps plummeted into the 20s. Heavy winds began, and then came the snow. I was in a full Weise cold-weather riding gear, but failed miserably in all other preparations, such as base layers and a fog-free shield. My sweat quickly proved cold, and my fingertips were almost sacrificed due to minor hypothermia.
Details aside, I ended up in the bathroom of a Turkey Hill for almost two hours, wasting loads of electricity trying to heat my phalanges and dry my boots. Only about an hour from home at this moment, I stupidly continued with snow falling with absolutely no feeling in my fingers, and enough distractions to create dire devastation.
Luckily, though, I made it. A hot bath and two bottles of Syrah later, everything registered. I realized I made a stupid decision, and was wondered how those 60+ mph winds didn’t launch me off the side of the highway. But instead of deciding against riding during the winter months, I began searching for the things that would allow me to safely and warming ride when dead-man winter raises his anti-motorcycling head.
Nearly four years later of riding 12 months a year, here are some of the things I’ve learned:
1. Wear Correct Motorcycle Gear in a Layering Fashion
Riding comfortably in cold weather begins with correct gear choice, and it’s all about layering. Base Layers (full leg, full sleeve), such as those offered by UnderArmour and many motorcycle apparel companies, are a must. Even while riding we sweat, and the base layers allow our skin to breath, wicking away moisture. This helps sweat evaporate rather than turning to cold perspiration on the body. I also don socks that wick away moisture.
For most conditions in the 20s or teens, I simply wear a zip-up fleece with a neck collar over my base layers, which helps create an insulating barrier. If things get cooler, I always have another mid-layer, such as a snug wool button up, but it’s rarely used.
Next is your outer gear; I swear by Gore-Tex due to the waterproofing and breathability, and my usual winter suit is either my Klim Badlands setup, or my Weise Explorer setup. As for boots, again, Gore-Tex. Most of my winter riding is completed on my 2002 Suzuki V-Strom adventure tourer, and though they don’t have the full grip I prefer for such riding, my favorite boots are the Alpinestars 365 Gore-Tex series. To compensate, I added grippier riding pegs.
There are two gloves I swear by for winter riding – the Klim Element in short cuff (think like a skier, and put the jacket over the glove for true waterproofing), and the Held Freezer Glove. I bring the Held Freezer Glove for backup, though the Explorer does everything needed. Some wear glove base layers, but with heated grips, this isn’t needed.
Next is a neck warmer, such as an Aerostich Windstopper, and a tightly-sealed helmet with a fog-free faceshield. Fog free is absolutely necessary. My favorite winter lid is the Shoei Neotec modular helmet, though I use a bit of insulation to plug the huge, upper-front vent, but keep the rear ventilation vent open so the head doesn’t sweat.
As for heated gear, I’ve tried it, but am not a fan. Simple layering keeps the core hot, and as long as that core is protected from direct wind, things remain comfortable. Though the technology much of today’s electric-heated gear is top notch, there’s possibility of failure. I stick with gear, thank you.
2. Proper Motorcycle Prep for Winter Riding
When my V-Strom is set up for winter riding, it’s one ugly son of a bitch. But this is futile, considering I’m out riding while most are suffocating in their cars.
The basics needed for cold-weather riding arrives at element protections, such as a huge windscreen, and handguards. I also crafted some awkward aluminum windguards that I put on my Touratech crash bars to keep wind off the legs, but both were ripped off during a spirited ride.
My V-Strom, and my VFR, both sport heated grips. There are many aftermarkets available (Hot Grips, Bike Master), and installation is simple.
Also, if your bike is water-cooled, make sure the antifreeze is fresh (should be changed yearly anyway), and its mixed properly. Also make sure all hoses are in great shape. Nothing can be more devastating than a busted radiator or hose when miles away from home.
Adventure-style riding pegs are also a great addition. My V-Strom uses Touratech’s Rallye Foot Pegs, and they provide optimal grip regardless of how slick conditions get.
3. Cold Weather Equals Colder Tires
It’s that simple – cold weather means colder tires. And as everyone should now, cold tires equate to limited traction. Riding helps increase heat in the tire, but even the briefest stop can quickly cool the tires down, providing lack of traction.
While on this subject, let’s also discuss how you get heat in your tires. Many riders sway back and fourth like a NASCAR driver, but simply put, this is a waste of time. To truly get heat in the tires, accelerate and decelerate quickly for a bit, obviously being aware of traction. Hard on brakes to hard on the throttle puts heat in tires more quickly than riding like some redneck. Plus swaying looks stupid.
Also, make sure you have adequate tread on your tires for winter riding. Penny pinching on tires is about as stupid as penny pinching on the quality of a motorcycle helmet, and this is truer-than-ever in winter-motorcycling scenarios. It may snow, and you’ll need to channel water/snow more than ever on wet roads that are cold.
And check your tire pressure; I check mine religiously before every ride. This is more than crucial during the winter months when optimal traction is needed.
4. Watch for Salt, Fresh Cracks due to Plows and Black Ice
Salt is not only an enemy to metal, but also traction. Treat salt like ice; if you see crystalized appearances on the side of the road, stay away. I low-sided my V-Strom once due to the age-old fault of getting into a sharp corner too quick. I was forced to run too much lean angle, and my front tire quickly washed out. It was winter, though, and I slid into a snow bank, walking away unharmed.
Also remember that those plow trucks destroy roads, causing new cracks, sometimes huge and able to chew up rims. Once again remember to run correct tire pressure; you don’t want to bend a rim or pinch a tube.
And black ice. If it even remotely looks like ice, stay away.
While on the subject of salt, remember that motorcycles weren’t designed for winter riding. Like salt from the ocean, motorcycles can quickly succumb to rust. I have a car wash less than a mile away. Whenever the sun is out and the roads are clear, I give my bike a thorough wash to free it off as much salt as possible. This is a great time to further inspect your bike.
5. Increase Visibility and Following Distance
While riding in the winter, increase your visibility and space. Increasing visibility simply means looking further down the road, helping you recognize hazards before they occur. Increased visibility allows you to react to a potential threat well in advanced, and this is more than needed in winter when traction is limited from the cold roads. My rule of thumb is always looking 15 seconds ahead.
As for following distance, open it up. I maintain a few car lengths of space ahead of me, allowing me to react to hazards, such as cars ahead stopping, or being able to see something on the road.
Riding on a car’s ass is completely stupid, and I’ve witness even the most experienced riders doing this. Just think for a moment; in optimally-dry conditions, it takes an experience rider about 85 feet to stop a bike traveling at 35 mph. An average car is around 16 feet, so it would take about five car lengths to stop. Do the math…and of course, the faster you’re riding, the more distance you should maintain.
6. Have a Motorcycle-Specific Towing Service
Accidents happen, and are more likely to happen in cold-weather riding due to, once again, lack of traction. Make sure you have a towing service that is readily available; nothing can get a rider out of the sport faster than wasting a few hundred miles on a tow.
A fateful member of the American Motorcyclist Association, I have the organizations Roadside Assistance. And the best part? It arrives as a comp with my yearly membership. The AMA’s Roadside Service company’s usually tow motorcycles, too, so there’s a better chance your bike won’t end up on its side atop some flatbed.
7. Don’t be a Dummy; If Snow Starts Falling, Get Home
The title says it all. If it begins snowing, get home. The white stuff can accumulate quickly, providing the slickest conditions.
Keep an eye on the forecasts, and if there’s even a threat of major snow, keep the bike home. Or buy a kit to create some studded snow tires. In controlled environments, riding on snow/ice can become quite an addiction. Plus, it’ll allow you to further build skill for riding in normal weather.
Riding in the winter can be challenging, but these tips will allow motorcyclists to garner more miles throughout colder months. Though a resident of Pennsylvania, I typically ride about 30,000 miles on my bikes – and winter riding makes this possible.
Have any winter-riding tips you’d like to share? Share them here; the more tips, the safer we’ll all be while motorcycling in the winter.