Advanced Riding Techniques: Emergency Braking

There are two main factors that separate a beginning rider from an advanced rider; experience and confidence. My guess is that there are some people who have ridden for years but who are still at a beginning skill level because they don’t ride that often or don’t have a wide range of riding experience. An advanced rider hasn’t been endowed with any magical powers; he simply has ridden a lot, in a wide range of circumstances. Advanced riders realize the importance of the basics, many of which I outlined in “Motorcycle Safety And How To Ride Safely.”

They anticipate potential hazards, manage risk and maintain as much control over their situation as is possible. They also understand that not everything on the road is within their ability to control. So they practice the skills that could save their lives, such as emergency braking.

 

Straight Line Braking

There will be times when you need to stop quickly, like when a car turns in front of you at an intersection or an animal darts into the road. The first time this happens to you your initial reaction may be to slam on both brakes. But doing that may cause more problems for you. It’s important to understand the dynamics of your motorcycle and how they change under hard braking. The goal is to apply both brakes to the maximum without losing traction or locking up one or both wheels, causing you to skid. When you first apply the brakes the weight of the motorcycle shifts to the front. This means your rear tire will have less traction available while the traction available to your front tire is increasing. Take advantage of that increasing traction by increasing the pressure on your front brake. I’ve seen this theory referred to as “brake staging” or “progressive braking.” What it really means is that you keep squeezing the front brake lever with increasing pressure as the weight of the motorcycle shifts forward.

Motorcycle Braking

Because your rear tire has less traction available under hard braking, you should apply the rear brake a little more gradually than the front brake. The rear wheel is more likely to lock up and skid, causing it to slide out of line. If this happens, steer or lean slightly into the direction of the skid. But don’t release the rear brake if it locks up. This can cause a high-side. And that’s very bad. A high-side usually happens when the rear tire loses traction and then suddenly regains traction, like when you lock up the rear wheel by over braking and then let go of the brake pedal when you notice the skid. When this happens the bike will violently begin to straighten, so much so that it throws you off the bike on the high side, or the side of the motorcycle furthest from the ground.

Now your bike is riderless, but still in motion and heading in the same direction that you are. Pretty soon your motorcycle is riding you. The easiest way to avoid this scenario is to not lock up the rear tire in the first place. But in an emergency situation it’s easy to slam on the brakes a little too forcibly. If that happens and your rear wheel starts skidding and fishtailing on you, get the bike straight as quickly as you can, but do not release pressure on the rear brake pedal.

If you lock up the front tire by over braking your response should be the opposite. Release the brake. Once the tire begins to roll again you can reapply the brake, but do it a little more gradually this time so you don’t lock it up again. When you lose traction and begin to skid, and you can’t regain traction, you’re in for a low-side. This can happen when you lock up your front wheel or go too fast around a curve. The tire, or tires, begins to slip out from under you and you lay the bike down on its side. While this is bad, it’s not nearly as hazardous as a high-side.

Braking In A Curve

We’ve already seen that when you brake, the weight of your bike shifts frontwards. As the weight shifts the front suspension will compress and both of these events will affect your ability to steer. For this reason, whenever possible, get your bike perfectly upright before braking. If you happen to be leaned over into a curve and suddenly need to brake hard you have to apply the brakes more gradually. As you brake in a curve get the bike upright as quickly as possible and then apply full pressure to both brakes.

Braking in a Curve

Because some of the traction available to your tires is being used to turn your bike into the curve, it’s not available for braking. So with less traction available you’re more likely to experience a skid when braking hard in a curve. For that reason you need to apply the brakes more gradually, while getting the bike straight as quickly as you can. It’s also a good reason to slow down before you enter a curve. Curves present all kinds of opportunities for mishaps. Having less traction available for braking is one. Another is that on some curves your sight distance is limited. You need to enter a curve slow enough that you have time to stop within the distance you can see.

Downshift While Braking

Let’s say you’re riding along and suddenly a car pulls out of a driveway in front of you. You apply both brakes to the maximum without losing traction or skidding and come to a complete stop with a couple of feet to spare. What about the guy in the car behind you? Was he paying as much attention as you? Can he bring his much heavier vehicle to a full stop as quickly as you? If you’ve managed to downshift into first gear while bringing your bike to a stop you can quickly accelerate to safety. But if you’re in neutral or second you may have just traded a front collision for being rear ended. Always shift into first gear when you’re coming to a stop, whether it’s for a stop sign or in an emergency. Always. If you make it a habit then you’re much more likely to do it in an emergency, and that could save your bike and your life.

Downshift While Braking

Let’s recap. To get your motorcycle stopped in the shortest amount of time and distance you apply both brakes. To take advantage of the increasing traction available to the front tire, thanks to the forward shifting of the weight of your bike, you apply more pressure on the front brake. You do this gradually, though in reality it’s only going to take a few seconds. Your application of pressure on the rear brake should be more gradual, to compensate for the smaller amount of traction available to the rear tire. Keep the bike straight, or if you’re in a curve, straighten it as quickly as possible to give your tires more available braking traction. You squeeze the clutch lever and downshift until you’re in first gear. The only difference between performing an emergency stop and a normal stop is how much pressure you apply to the brakes and how quickly you apply that pressure.

Practice Exercises 

To be sure that you’re able to successfully execute an emergency stop when you absolutely have to, it’s a good idea to practice. And practice often. I’ve read studies that show that once you learn or practice a skill it’s good for about six months and then it begins to deteriorate. So if it’s been awhile since you last practiced emergency braking, it’s time to head to a nice big parking lot.

If you can, use a parking lot with lines outlining the parking spaces. Most parking spaces are about 10 feet wide and provide a wonderful set up for practicing. If you can’t find a lot with marked spaces bring a tape measure and some chalk. You’ll also want to bring a few objects to use as markers. Two-liter bottles with some sand in the bottom work well, as do those bright neon colored tennis balls cut in half.

For the first exercise set one marker at the beginning of one parking space and another marker at the end of the third space, or at 30 feet. Get on your bike six parking spots, or 60 feet, away from the first marker. Ride across the lot toward the first marker, getting your speed up enough to shift into second gear, say 15 to 20 mph. Keep looking straight ahead and keep the bike heading in a straight line. As you pass the first marker begin applying both brakes, squeeze the clutch lever and downshift. The goal is to come to a complete stop by the time you reach the second maker. If you overshoot the second marker try a little more pressure on the brakes next time. If you lock up the rear tire keep the rear brake engaged until you come to a stop, but on the next pass try a little less pressure on the rear brake. Run this exercise until you can stop right at the second marker five times in a row.

Next we’ll move that second marker a little closer to the first one, say to 25 feet or the middle of that third parking space, and gradually increase the speed of your approach. Start off from the same place, 60 feet from the first marker, and get your speed up just high enough to shift into second gear, say about 10 mph. As you pass the first marker begin braking and downshift to first. The goal on this exercise is to come to a complete stop before you reach the second marker. Once you’ve accomplished this at 10 mph five times in a row, go back and increase your speed to 15 mph. Then do it at 20 mph.

The final exercise will be stopping in a curve. It’ll be helpful if you can use a portion of the parking lot where there are two rows of parking spaces where cars would park head-to-head. Put your first marker on the outside edge of one of the parking space lines. Put another marker, we’ll call this one number three, on the opposite end of the same line, or the end of the parking space that abuts the first space. Place another marker; we’ll call this one number two, on the line that separates the two rows of spaces, two spaces or 20 feet away. Start about six spaces, or 60 feet, away from the first marker. Get going fast enough to shift into second gear, about 10 mph for the first couple of attempts. Position yourself so that you’ll ride on the outside of the markers, or that you’ll ride by them with the markers on your left. As you pass the first marker begin to lean into a curve, so that you’ll ride past the second and third marker as tightly as you can. Once you’ve got the curve down try it again, but as you pass marker number two begin to straighten the bike, apply the brakes and downshift to first. See how wide of the third marker you are? This is why it’s so vital not to enter a curve going too fast. Try this exercise at 10 mph until you can get the bike stopped close enough to the last marker that you wouldn’t be going off the road if you were actually out in traffic.

The key to being able to successfully execute an emergency braking procedure is knowing the limits of your bike, being aware of road conditions and remaining vigilant the entire time you’re riding. Practice is big factor. The longer you ride, the better you’ll get. And you’ll be able to minimize your chances of needing to use this skill. But it sure will make you feel more confident knowing you can do it if you ever need to.

How To Start Riding

Motorcycling is a tremendous activity. It’s something I recommend to just about everyone. If riding is something you’ve been thinking about taking up there are a few things you can do to make sure you get off to a good start. Get a book on basic motorcycling, talk to riders you know. If possible, take a basic rider’s course offered by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF).

Motorcycle Safety Foundation

According to some studies that I’ve seen you’re actually better off teaching yourself how to ride than you are having a friend teach you. Unless off course that friend is a certified instructor. Whichever way to decide to learn how to ride, this article will give you some of the basics. I’ve written it as if I was discussing the topic with a friend who had never ridden.

Let me also suggest you read a couple of other articles here on PowerSportsTV.com, Motorcycle Safety And How To Ride Safely, 5 Things You Should Know Before You Ride and What To Look For When Buying A New Motorcycle all contain some great information for riders of any experience level.

Get To Know Your Bike

Most motorcycles have a lot in common, but each model is a little different. Once you get your new ride home spend a little time familiarizing yourself with it. Take out the owner’s manual and read it. Then take the manual with you outside to the bike. Stand on the left hand side of the motorcycle facing the seat with your left hand on the left handlebar. Throw your right leg over the seat and sit down. Grab the right handlebar with your right hand and look straight ahead. This is a view you’ll come to love.

Put your feet up on the pegs (or floorboards if that’s what’s on your motorcycle) and move around on the seat a little to get an idea of how much room you have to adjust your sitting position. Get both feet back on the ground and straighten the bike so that it’s off the kick stand. You may need to stand up to do this. Once the motorcycle is up, sit back down and rock it gently from side to side to get a feel for how heavy it is.

Now while still sitting on the bike and with it resting on the kick stand, open your owner’s manual and identify all of the controls and instruments located on the handlebars and/or tank. The grip on the right handlebar is the throttle or accelerator. You twist that toward you to increase the amount of fuel going to the engine and thereby increasing your speed. Also on the right handlebar you’ll find the lever that operates the front brake, squeeze it to get a feel for how much play it has. You’ll also see a red rocker switch on the right handlebar, that’s the kill switch. To be able to start the motorcycle that switch must be in the “on” or lower position. Directly below the kill switch is the starter button. With the key in the ignition, the kill switch in the “on” position and the clutch in or disengaged, all you have to do to start the bike is push the starter button. But we’re not there yet.

Since we mentioned the clutch, let’s move to the left handlebar. The lever over there is the clutch. Go ahead, squeeze it and then let it out slowly. That motion is one you’re going to spend a lot of time practicing. On most motorcycles you’ll also find your turn indicator switch on the left handlebar. Very few bikes have self-canceling turn signals, unlike cars. So chances are your switch has three positions, the center or “off” position, and then left and right. To signal a turn simply slide the switch to the left or the right. You’ll notice that (on most bikes) the switch will return to the center position after you’ve released it. To cancel your signal (or to turn off the blinker) you have to press in on the switch. There may be several other controls on your left handlebar. Usually you’ll find the horn button, the headlight dimmer switch and, if your bike is so equipped, the emergency hazard flasher switch.

Somewhere in the center of your field of view you’ll find an instrument cluster. Some bikes have these mounted on the tank, others on the handlebars. Common instruments include a speedometer, odometer, fuel gauge and tachometer. Not all motorcycles are going to have all of these. Many will include a digital display that allows you to select between the clock, trip meters and other readouts. There will likely also be indicator lights for neutral, high beams and turn indicators. You’ll probably also find either gauges or warning lights for oil temperature and/or pressure and the fuel injection system, if your bike is so equipped. The cap for the gas tank is located on top of the tank itself on most bikes and usually locks and unlocks with the ignition key.

You’re going to have to use both feet to control your bike. So let’s get you feet back on the pegs, with the bike still resting on the kick stand. Your right foot will operate the rear brake pedal. Go ahead and depress it. You should be able to operate the rear brake with your foot remaining on the peg. Your left foot shifts gears. Pull in the clutch with your left hand and push down on the shift pedal. If your bike was in neutral this will put it in first gear. Most bikes have a shift pattern of one down and four or five up, depending on how many gears. Between first and second gear is neutral. Neutral is usually indicated by a green light on your instrument panel, but it only lights up when the bike is running. Like the brake pedal, you should be able to operate the shift pedal with your foot remaining on the peg.

Starting Your Motorcycle

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the basic controls, let’s fire up the bike. Take your key and put it in the ignition switch. This is one of those components that doesn’t have a standardized location. Some bikes have the ignition switch on the fuel tank, others are mounted on the frame and some are under the seat. Before turning the key to the “on” position make sure that you’re in neutral. Many motorcycles will not start if the bike is in gear and the kickstand is down. And if you put the kickstand down while the bike is in gear it will, on many bikes, stop the engine.

Flip the kill switch into the “on” position and then turn the key to the “on” position. Your speedometer will probably peg and then return to zero and your warning lights will come on. Your bike is doing a self-test, making sure everything’s good to go. Once that’s compete, usually just a few seconds, squeeze in on the clutch, disengaging it and then push the starter button. If the bike doesn’t start you’re probably not in neutral. Shift up or down with your left foot until the green neutral indicator light is on and then push the starter again.

You can go ahead and let the clutch out, since we’re not going anywhere just let. If the bike’s been sitting for a while and the engine is cold you’ll want to let it up warm up for a minute. Go ahead and twist the throttle slightly and listen for how the engine responds. Now lift the bike off the kickstand and flip the kickstand up. Let go of the throttle and pull the clutch lever in all the way. Push the shift lever down into first. Now slide your toe under the shift lever and lift up to put the bike back into neutral. Do this a few times to get used to how much pressure you need to apply and to get familiar with getting your foot into position under the lever. Practice this until you can do it without looking at  your foot.

Friction Zone

If you’re still sitting on your motorcycle with the engine running and you don’t have your helmet on yet, turn the ignition key to “off”, flip up the kill switch and go get your helmet. It’d be a good idea to put on your gloves and jacket too, we’re finally ready to get the bike moving. Start your motorcycle, flip the kickstand up, pull in the clutch lever and shift into first. Put both feet firmly on the ground. Now start to let out the clutch slowly. You’ll feel the motorcycle start to move forward. You are now in the friction zone, that point where the clutch begins to send power to the rear wheel.

Your clutch is more like the slider on a dimmer switch than an on-off switch. As you let out the clutch slowly it transfers more power to the rear wheel until the clutch is fully engaged (the point where you let go of it) and all available power is now being transferred to the rear wheel. Just like the further you push a dimmer switch the brighter the lights get until you’ve moved the slider all the way open and the lights burn at full power.

As the bike begins to move you’ll need to gradually twist the throttle. Practice this while keeping both feet on the ground, walking the bike forward, as you continue to slowly let out the clutch and open the throttle. Once the clutch is fully engaged put your feet on the pegs and increase throttle gradually. This maneuver sounds pretty simple, but chances are it’s one that you’ll need to practice. I’ve seen people wash out of Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) Basic Rider Courses because they couldn’t master this basic skill. Engage the clutch too quickly and your bike will lurch forward and stall. Give it too little throttle, you’ll stall.

If your bike is in the driveway or parking lot or on a lightly traveled street, practice finding the friction zone and getting your bike up to speed. If you don’t have room to turn around once you’ve reached the end of the driveway, put the bike in neutral and walk it backwards. Practice until you can get the bike up to speed 10 or 20 times in a row without stalling.

You’re going to stall the bike. Don’t let that discourage you. Keep practicing. Once you’ve gained a basic mastery try it on a slight incline. The trick to getting rolling while going up hill is to not roll backwards before you get to the friction zone and begin forward movement. You can apply enough pressure to the rear brake with your right foot to keep you from rolling backwards down hill as you slowly let out the clutch and apply throttle while keeping your left foot on the ground.

Counter Steering

So now you’re actually riding. But eventually you’re going to come to the end of your driveway or street. You can’t spend your entire time on a bike going in a straight line. To change direction, make a turn or go around a curve at speeds above about 10 mph you have to employ a method commonly called counter steering. Personally, I don’t like that term. I think it confuses many new riders. Some instructors explain counter steering as turning the handlebars in the opposite direction of a turn. But unless you’re maneuvering at parking lot speeds you never actually turn the handlebars.

Counter Steering

Press or push steering is actually a more accurate description of what you do to make your motorcycle change direction. By applying pressure downward on one of the handlebars you cause the bike to lean into a turn. The term counter steering comes from the initial motion of the tire in the opposite direction of the turn.  To turn left you apply pressure to the left handlebar, to turn right you push down on the right handlebar. The more pressure you apply the more dramatically the bike will lean and the more sharply you’ll turn.

Here’s how press or counter steering works on a motorcycle or bicycle or other single track vehicle. The spinning of the tires, above parking lot speeds, creates a gyro effect, much like a gyroscope or spinning top. The gyro effect of the spinning tires keeps the motorcycle upright and stable. Press steering exerts force against the gyro effect, causing the bike to lean. Release the pressure, or stop pushing on the handlebar and the spinning tires will cause the motorcycle to return to its original upright position. The faster you’re going the more pressure you need to exert to counteract the gyro effect and get the motorcycle to change direction.

Before making a turn or rounding a curve reduce your speed by downshifting, reducing throttle and/or braking. Look through the curve or turn to where you want the bike to go. There’s something almost magical about how a motorcycle will follow the rider’s nose. So to maintain control and keep your bike on the road look at where you want to go, not where you are going. Next, press on the handlebar in the direction of the turn or curve. As you enter the turn maintain or slightly increase throttle to keep the bike stable.

Find an empty parking lot to practice your press steering. As you get more proficient and confident try increasing your speed. Remember, you need to be traveling at speeds about 10 mph for press or counter steering to work.

Start Slow

With these basic skills under your belt you’re ready to ride in traffic. But take your time here, don’t jump right onto the Interstate. Plan out a few rides that will include gradually more challenging elements. For you first ride stick to lightly traveled two lane roads with minimal stop signs and traffic signals. Once you’re comfortable with this route incorporate a short stretch on road with two or more lanes traveling in the same direction.

After you’re confident riding in heavier traffic you’re ready to try the Interstate, but let’s keep to stretches of Interstate that don’t take your through major metropolitan areas and ride during non-peak hours. The longer you ride and the more challenging your rides become the more confidence and experience you’ll gain.

Common Mistakes

You can help ensure that your first motorcycling experiences are fun, safe and not your final motorcycling experiences by avoiding a few common mistakes. First, don’t buy more motorcycle than you’re able to handle. The bigger the engine the more powerful and heavier the motorcycle, and the more difficult it will be control. There’s nothing wrong with starting with a mid sized bike, in the 500 cc to 1000 cc engine range and then, if you absolutely feel it necessary, moving up to a bigger motorcycle once you’ve gained some experience.

Even if you’ve taken an MSF course, you’ll want to build up your skills and experience by riding lightly traveled roads at first. Work up to more complex situations as you gain confidence. And be sure you’re comfortable riding by yourself before you attempt to travel with a passenger or with a group. Both of these activities change the dynamics of operating your motorcycle, so make sure you have adequate solo time on the bike before attempting either.

And remember to cancel to your turn signal once you’ve completed a turn. There’s nothing that screams “I’m a new rider” louder than a motorcycle traveling for miles with it’s left hand blinker flashing.

Get Out And Ride

Nothing can make you a better rider than actually getting out on the road on your bike. So ride, whenever you get the chance. Talk to other bikers and read all you can, but ride. You many just surprise yourself at how quickly your skills improve and how natural it feels to travel on two wheels.

Get Out And Ride…

Motorcycle Safety And How To Ride Safely

Life is a risky business. You can minimize risk, manage risk, anticipate and have a plan for dealing with risk, but you can never totally eliminate risk. There is risk associated with riding a motorcycle. You can ride safely and do things, employ strategies to help ensure your safety, but, as the U.S. Supreme Court said in a workplace safety related case in 1980, “safety is not the equivalent of risk free.”

Motorcycle Safety

There are two major areas of motorcycle safety or risk management that I’ll look at here; avoiding getting into an accident in the first place and minimizing your risk of injury if you do have an accident.

Before You Get On The Bike

If you drive a car there are probably a few things you do before pulling into traffic. You fasten your seat belt. Check your mirrors, maybe you use your blinkers to signal your intention to pull away from the curb. And then you drive away. All of the safety equipment you need is contained in the vehicle itself; air bags, steel body and chassis, crumple zones. Not so much with your motorcycle.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) National Agenda for Motorcycle Safety says, “Motorcycles continue to offer no significant protection to their users in a crash, a fact that horrifies some people used to being enclosed in a steel cage and cushioned by airbags. The very fact that a motorcycle at rest won’t remain upright without its rider or some external method of support seems ominous to some.”

Largely due to what most attracts us to riding, the unfettered freedom of riding in the open air, we bikers are at greater risk of injury if we have an accident. The NHTSA says that 80 percent of motorcycle crashes result in injury or death to the rider compared with 20 percent for occupants of a passenger car involved in an accident. There are several common factors that contribute to the severity of the results of being in an motorcycle accident. If you’re aware of these factors you can take steps to minimize your risk of being involved in an accident and of being seriously injured if you do have a wreck.

Get Licensed And Trained: I’ve said this before here at PowerSportsTV. And I’ll likely say it again. Before you ride get your motorcycle license and take a rider safety course. About 25 percent of riders involved in an accident are not properly licensed. A safety course will introduce you to or refresh you on some basic safety strategies and give you the opportunity to practice them in a controlled environment.

Motorcycle Training

Gear Up: You’re hanging out there in the open on your bike, that’s the beauty of riding. It’s also why your risk of being injured if you have an accident is so high. There are no seat belts, no cage-like body, no roof, no airbags (unless you ride the top-of-the-line Honda Gold Wing). So invest in some safety gear and wear it every time you ride. The NHTSA puts the percentage of riders involved in a crash who are not wearing helmets at 42 percent. So strap on that lid.

Drop your bike, even at parking lot speeds and you’ll find out just how hard and abrasive the road is. Motorcycle specific jacket, gloves, boots and pants will protect you against road rash and lessen the likelihood of broken bones thanks to the body armor included in many jackets and pants. Brightly colored or florescent gear will also make you more visible to other motorists, reducing your chance of getting into an accident in the first place.

Ride Sober: Riders with a blood alcohol level at or above the legal limit account for 34 percent of all motorcycle accidents and, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), 29 percent of all motorcycle related fatalities. Even if you somehow manage to ride after drinking without having a wreck you risk a stiff fine, possible impounding of your bike or even jail time if you’re caught. Drinking and riding is just not worth the risk.

Do A Pre-Ride Bike Check: A motorcycle is not totally void of safety features. But if they’re not working they’re not going to do you any good. Before every ride do a quick visual inspection of your bike. Look at all the cables and hoses to make sure none are fraying, cracked, kinked or leaking. Check your tires for tread depth, cracks or bubbles. It’s a good idea to regularly check the air pressure in the tires.

Once you start the motorcycle make sure all your lights are working; high beams, turn indicators, brake lights and, if your bike is so equipped, emergency flashers. Sound the horn. Yeah, those bike horns are pretty wimpy, but it’s still loud enough to get the attention of a motorist who’s about to pull out in front of you, so be sure it works. Check and, if necessary, adjust your mirrors. It is possible to get most motorcycle mirrors positioned so that you’ll get a clear view of what’s coming up behind you, so take the time to set them so they work for you.

On The Road

Sitting in the driveway, all geared up, the motor running. That’s a pretty low-risk environment. It’s also a pretty low-fun experience. Funny how those two factors, risk and fun, so often seem to be related. If you’re wearing the proper gear, done your pre-ride check and you’re sober you’ve gone a long way in reducing your risk of injury if you have an accident. Once you get into traffic there are a number of strategies you can employ to keep from having an accident in the first place. So let’s get you out on the road.

Lane Position: A car or truck will take up an entire lane of traffic. But our bikes are much smaller, so we have three options for positioning ourselves; the far left, the center, or the far right of a lane. I usually opt for the far left. This gives me the best view of oncoming traffic and puts me about equidistant from the shoulders on both sides of the road, giving me the maximum amount of time to react to a critter or pedestrian who might dart out in front of me. I do move around in the lane though, as circumstances require.

Position yourself where you have the best view of what’s ahead. If you’re coming up on an intersection and there’s a truck or high profile SUV or van in front of you, look for oncoming traffic that may be turning left and traffic preparing to enter the intersection from the left cross street. Then you’ll want to shift to the far right to check traffic coming into the intersection from the right cross street and to make it easier for that driver to see you. Choose the lane position that gives you the best view of the road and makes it easiest for others to see you.

If you’re riding in a stiff cross wind you can ride on the side of the lane that the wind is coming from to minimize the chances of your bike being pushed into the oncoming lane. Big trucks can cause a pretty strong windblast, so when you see one coming in the other direction, move to the center or far right portion of the lane.

On multi-lane roads choose a lane position that keeps you out of the blind spot of vehicles in front of you. If you can see the driver’s face in the mirror then you know you’re not in his blind spot. If a vehicle starts to pass you it’s a good idea to move to the center position of your lane. Staying in the far left puts you too close to the other vehicle, especially if the driver swerves into your lane too quickly. And riding in the far right of the lane may encourage the driver of the passing vehicle to jump into your lane without giving you adequate space.

Anticipate Hazards: When you ride, play a little game. Try to guess which other vehicle on the road is trying to kill you. Here’s a hint: they all are. Or at least it can seem that way. A good dose of paranoia is a healthy thing when you’re on your bike. And are you really paranoid if they ARE out to get you? Watch people as they drive. They’re eating, drinking, talking on the phone, texting, checking email, putting on makeup, singing along with the radio. No wonder they don’t see you and your comparatively small motorcycle. It’s actually pretty amazing that any of them ever make it to their destination.

Be keenly aware of your environment when riding. Pay special attention to intersections. According to the NHTSA that’s where 70 percent of collisions between motorcycles and other vehicles happen. Get a good view of traffic around and in the intersection. Anticipate what they’re going to do and have a plan to deal with it. Don’t expect other drivers to signal before they make a turn through an intersection. Always signal before you make a turn through an intersection.

Look as far down the road as you can. Watch for entrances to the roadway, driveways, parking lots, on ramps and position yourself in the lane to give you the best view and the best chance of being seen by other motorists. If you live in an area with a large deer or other wildlife population (which would be about anywhere except for maybe Antarctica) watch the sides of the road for animals that may dart out in front of you.

The roadway itself sometimes presents hazards. Debris, road kill, potholes, oil and other fluids left on the roadway, especially around intersections where vehicles have to sit idling waiting for a light to change, are all things you want to see long before you reach them so that you can safely avoid them. Different road surfaces will provide different levels of traction. Approach railroad tracks, manhole covers and the steel surfaces of some bridges and overpasses with caution, especially in wet conditions.

Establish A Space Cushion: Empty space is one of your best friends when you ride. The more space there is between you and other vehicles the more time and room you have to react and maneuver when faced with a hazard. Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. Keep at least two seconds of space between you and the vehicle in front of you. More at highway speeds. This gives you ample time to stop or swerve to avoid a vehicle that stops suddenly in front of you. To determine how close you are to the vehicle in front of you look for a stationary object up ahead, such as a mile marker sign or phone pole. As the rear end of the vehicle in front of you passes the object begin counting; one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two. If you pass the object before you get to one-thousand-two you need to slow down.

Motorcycle Space Cushion

It’s a little tougher to command the space between you and vehicle behind you. If you’re being followed too closely tap your brake lightly a few times to cause your brake lights to flash. If the other vehicle doesn’t slow down then you should slow down a little. Still too close? If you’re on a multi-lane road or a two-lane road with a passing zone slow down even further so the other vehicle will pass you. He won’t pass you? If possible, and safe, pull off the road and wait for the other vehicle to get a good distance down the road before you continue. If you can’t pull off the road and the other motorist can’t or won’t pass, reduce your speed to the safest slowest rate you can. At least that way if you have to brake suddenly the other vehicle will the maximum amount of time to stop, reducing the likelihood that you’ll be rear ended.

We bikers don’t always need to use the brakes to scrub off a little speed. We can roll off the throttle or down shift to control our speed. But motorists behind us won’t always recognize that we’re slowing down. Be aware of what’s going on behind you and if you’re slowing down a little or coming to a complete stop tap your brakes three or four times a few seconds before you actually begin slowing. This will cause your brake lights to flash and alert the driver behind you that you’re preparing to alter your speed, provided of course that he’s not reading his email.

Whenever possible allow yourself enough space for an escape route, especially at intersections. Don’t pull up so close to the vehicle stopped at a traffic light in front of you that you can’t quickly move to safety if another vehicle comes up behind you too quickly or closely. On multi-lane roads don’t allow yourself to get boxed in. Alter your speed, slow down or move faster, to keep some open space on at least one side.

Recognize Your Own Limitations: Nothing compares to zipping along the open road on a motorcycle. And it can be tempting to open the throttle a little more than is prudent, especially on a nice long stretch of straightaway when there are no other vehicles around. Don’t allow yourself to over ride your limitations or the limitations of your bike or the road. Research by the GHSA shows that 35 percent of all fatal motorcycle accidents involved excessive speed. And half of those fatal accidents were single vehicle wrecks. Let’s not add ourselves to that list of people who are out to kill us. Slow down and ride at a speed that’s within your ability to control your motorcycle.

You can ride safely if you recognize the inherent risks associated with motorcycling. Wear safety gear. Be aware of other traffic and potential hazards. Keep as much space between you and other vehicles as possible. Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be riding safely for years to come.

 

Top Motorcycle Gear And Accessories

Every rider has different needs, a unique attitude and wants to express that when they ride. There is a wide array of gear and accessories available to help you ride comfortably, securely and in your own inimitable style. I’ve listed some of the basic categories here along with a list of some of the major manufacturers in each.

Gear For The Rider

You don’t just hop on your motorcycle and ride away. Well, maybe some riders do. We’ve all seen those guys in shorts, T-shirt and tennis shoes flying by on their crotch rockets, weaving in and out of traffic on the Interstate. But unless you’re one of those knuckleheads you probably have a little ritual you go through each time you’re going on a ride known as gearing up. Here’s my list of some of the top gear for riders, and, if you’re riding two up, passengers.

Helmets

Most states have laws requiring you to wear a helmet while riding. If you live in a state without a helmet law, congratulations, your legislators think you’re intelligent and mature enough to make that decision on your own. So prove them right and wear a helmet, even if you don’t legally have to. Years ago comedian Jerry Seinfeld did a bit on helmet laws that’s still funny, and true, today. “The point of the helmet law is to protect a brain that is functioning so poorly, it’s not even trying to stop the cracking of the head that it’s in.”

Motorcycle Helmet Guide

There are four basic styles or types of helmets for street riding; the full face, modular or flip-up, open face or 3/4, and the half helmet or shorty. The first two cover your entire head. The modular type helmet allows you to flip up the front of the helmet, from the chin guard to the visor, allowing a rider to eat or drink without removing the helmet. The open face model lacks the chin protection of the full face, but covers the rest of the head. The half helmet covers the top of the head and maybe a little of the back of the head depending on the model.

Before deciding which style to buy you should be aware of a study areas of the head most often suffering impact in motorcycle accidents. Almost 35 percent of impact occurred in the chin area, making the chin the part of your head that is most likely to incur impact. There are only two types of helmet that afford any protection to that part of your head, the full face and modular. I don’t know about you, but I’m fond enough of my chin that the only type of helmet I wear is a full face model.

DOT Approval: All helmets sold in the U.S. for use on public roadways must meet Department of Transportation approval. Some helmet manufacturers also submit their helmets for testing by the Snell Memorial Foundation, which uses different testing methods. Don’t purchase a helmet unless it has a DOT sticker on it. If you can find a helmet with both DOT and Snell stickers it’s passed testing by both organizations.

Fit: No two heads are exactly alike, so it’s important to try on a helmet before buying it. It should be snug, but not tight. Cheek and brow pads should touch your face.

Comfort: Look for a helmet with adequate ventilation so you’ll keep cool in the summer. It’s best if the vents are adjustable, that way you can close some of them when riding in cooler weather.

 

Manufacturers: There are dozens of companies making helmets. Some specialize in certain styles and some are more expensive than others. Some of the more popular brands include Nolan, Fulmer, Arai, Bell, Shoei, HJC, Bell, Scorpion and Z1R.

Apparel

Strap on your helmet, throw your leg over the saddle and you’re ready to ride. Almost. Since your bike doesn’t have the protective features of a car, which is basically a steel box on wheels, you need to wear your protection on your body. There are some basic pieces of apparel and each comes in a style to match every rider’s attitude.

Jackets: One of the first pieces of gear motorcyclists buy is a jacket. Jackets come in a variety of materials; textile like ballistic nylon, Cordura and Kevlar, denim, and classic leather. Many include body armor inserts in the back and arms for added protection. If you live in area with cooler autumns and frigid winters and you ride during more than two seasons you may need more than one jacket. Many jackets come with removable linings, but some of those are too heavy for hot summer days. Mesh jackets provide adequate protection while allowing for superior air flow.

Motorcycle Apparel Guide

Manufacturers: Some makers of motorcycle jackets specialize in certain materials, dayglo colors or styles. Among the best known manufacturers are TourMaster, Joe Rocket, Vanson Leathers, Teknic, British Motorcycle Gear, Dainese, Alpinestars and Rev’it.

Gloves: Motorcycle gloves provide protection for your hands against abrasion in event of a crash and from road debris and weather. For winter riding you can choose electrically heated gloves that plug into an accessory outlet on your bike or connect directly to the bike’s battery via a cable. Leather is a favored material, though for summertime riding a lighter textile will allow better airflow while still providing protection.

Manufacturers: Many of the companies that make motorcycle jackets also make gloves, like TourMaster, Dainese, Alpinestars, Joe Rocket and Rev’it. Gerbing specializes in heated gloves.

Boots: Your feet do a lot of the work when you’re riding; shifting gears, braking, holding you upright at a stop. Protect them. Sturdy, over-the-ankle boots are the preferred choice for riding. And boots made specifically for bikers offer several advantages. They usually have reinforced toes, which is vital not only for protecting your feet but for keeping that left boot from wearing from constant contact with the gear shift lever. Motorcycle boots usually provide extra support in the ankle and have soles that give you a solid grip on the pegs and the ground. The key to a good boot is comfort. You want something that not only protects your feet but that also provides proper support and feels good on and off the bike. The classic motorcycle boot is the leather engineer boot, but there is a wide range of styles available from dozens of manufacturers.

Manufacturers: You’ll see some names here that you’ve read in the other categories. Some boot makers made a wide variety of styles while others specialize in footwear for a certain type of riding. They include Sidi, Bilt, Icon, Shift, Diadora, Roadgear, TourMaster, Milwaukee Motorcycle Clothing Company,  Alpinestars and Joe Rocket.

Rain Gear: If you ride long enough you’re going to get caught in the rain. A rain suit will enable you to ride in comfort when the going gets wet. Most rain gear is made from vinyl or PVC material and comes in bright colors with lots of reflective areas to make you more visible to other motorists in the low light conditions that so often accompany rainy weather. You can purchase one-piece pants and jacket outfits or separate jacket and pants that are color coordinated. Make sure any rain gear you buy will fit over your regular jacket and pants. Good rain pants will be expandable at the ankles to allow you put them on over your boots. Also consider waterproof boot covers to keep your feet dry.

Manufacturers: There are many companies that make motorcycle specific rain gear, including Belstaff, Dowco, Firstgear, TourMaster, Nelson-Rigg and Frog Toggs.

Gear For The Bike

You love your bike. But there may some things you’d like to change, improve or customize. There’s an almost limitless number of accessories and gear you can add to or swap out on your motorcycle. Here’s a starter list of categories you may want to consider for your ride.

Luggage: When I bought my first bike I picked up a helmet, jacket, gloves and boots at the same time. That pretty much depleted my discretionary funds for a time. And that was fine. I was still feeling my way, new to motorcycling and my trips were pretty short. As my confidence grew so did the distance I rode. Then I started using the bike as my daily commute vehicle and realized storage space on the motorcycle was extremely limited, as in zero. A motorcycle specific messenger bag I found online provided some immediate and relatively inexpensive relief. It had room for some files, lunch, a change of shoes and not much else, but that did the trick for awhile. When my wife asked me to pick up some groceries on the way home one day it was time to add saddlebags.

Unless you have a full dress touring bike you may find yourself in a similar situation. One of the first pieces of gear for the bike that many riders add is some kind of luggage. You can opt for saddlebags, which come in a variety of materials from leather to ballistic nylon and even hard shelled bags that can be color coordinated with your bike. If you go with soft bags you’ll need to install saddlebag supports to keep the bags from getting caught in the rear wheel. Be sure to check the specs of the bags you’re interested in to make sure they’ll fit on your bike. Some large bags may require you to relocate your tail lights.

Depending on the type of bike you have a tailbag is another option. I also ride with a tank bag. Mine is magnetic so it goes on and comes off the bike easily and is big enough to hold my phone, wallet, a few tools and most anything else I’d otherwise have to stuff into my pockets. Smaller still are handlebar bags. This type of bag will usually hold a small wrench or socket set.

Manufacturers: You can find motorcycle luggage from a number of companies, like Willie & Max, Saddlemen, River Road, Chase Harper, Givi, TourMaster, Icon and Cortech.

Seats and  Backrests: The average motorcycle seat is made to fit the average butt. The problem with that is very few of us are exactly average. Spend a couple of hundred miles in the saddle your backside is likely to go numb. A custom seat can cure that, but it’s going to cost you. Seat pads will provide some relief at a much smaller price, but some of the higher end pads can still cost a couple of hundred dollars. Still, if you do a lot of long distance riding either alternative will be worth the cost. Rider and passenger backrests will also add to your comfort and provide support for your lower back, especially on longer rides. Your passenger will also feel a little more secure with a backrest. Many custom seats often backrests as an option but you can also get a backrest without replacing your seat.

Manufacturers: Most motorcycle manufacturers offer custom seats and backrests made for their own bikes. Some of the high end custom seat makers include Mustang, Corbin, Russel and Sargent. Seat pad makers include Butt Buffer, GelSeat, Alaska Leather and Air Hawk. Saddlemen, National Cycle, Jardine and Grasshopper Limited. If you go to the Grasshopper Limited website and look at their backrest for the Suzuki Boulevard M50 you’ll see a photo of my bike.

Electronics: For many of us part of the allure of riding is the solitude and the adventure of discovering new places and ways to get there. Occasionally though it’s nice to be able to communicate with your passenger or co-riders, listen to some tunes or know where you’re going, or where you are. For those times there are some electronic gadgets made especially for bikers. You can opt for a GPS system, intercom or audio system. Many of them can be attached easily to the handlebars. Some can be helmet mounted. With the advent of Bluetooth you can link your GPS to your intercom and cell phone and in some cases your MP3 player.

Motorcycle Electronics

Manufacturers: Garmin and TomTom make GPS systems specifically manufactured to withstand the vibrations of being mounted on a motorcycle with controls that are easy to operate even while wearing gloves. Bluetooth motorcycle intercoms/communication systems are made by Cardo, Interphone, BikerCom and Sena. Jensen, J & M, and Cycle Sounds are among the companies that make motorcycle audio systems.

Maintenance Gear: Even if you’re not the type to wrench on your bike your bike to get it purring just so, there are some maintenance related items you’ll want to have. If your bike has a chain final drive then you need to lube it regularly. Most bikes come with a small tool kit, and for most of us that will be enough to keep everything tight or to make adjustments to mirrors and such. But if you do more than those basic tasks to your bike you may want to consider a tool kit that includes wrenches, sockets and screwdrivers. You should also have a decent tire gauge. Two items that will come in handy for making sure your bike is ready to ride at all times are a battery tender and a small electric air compressor so you can ensure proper tire inflation before every ride. And to keep your ride sparkling use motorcycle specific wash solution. For those times that you need to store the bike, or if you have to park it outside when rain or snow is forecast a good bike cover will keep it dry.

Manufacturers: Motorcycle tool makers include BikeMaster, Motion Pro and Cruz Tools. Dowco, CoverMax and Durashield all make covers for bikes. You can pick up a good battery tender and small electric air compressor at most bike shops, automotive stores and even some big box stores.

This should be enough to get you started on your gear and accessories shopping list. For additional information on items you may want to consider check out the “Budget For More Than The Motorcycle” section of the article 5 Things You Should Know Before You Ride and for cold weather gear read Riding A Motorcycle in Winter. A trip to your local dealership can also give you a chance to see and touch some of the gear listed here in person before you buy.

Motorcycle Manufacturers’ End Of Year Sales & Incentives

Most motorcycle manufacturers have announced and begun shipping their new 2013 models. To make room in dealers’ showrooms many are offering year end sales incentives. We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of special offers, including financing deals, cash back and others. We’ve arranged the list by the expiration dates of the offers. Several manufacturers have multiple deals available with different end dates, so be sure to scroll through the entire list, especially if you’re interested in a particular brand.

As with most financing offers, there’s a good deal of fine print, so we summarize those details for you on each offer. Shop around, compare rates you may be eligible for from your own bank or credit union to those offered by the manufacturers. Your credit score and the amount you put down or the value of any trade-in you may have will affect what you actually wind up paying. Be sure to check with your local dealership for any additional offers they may have on in-stock bikes.

It’s a great time to buy, even if you live in an area where the winter months limit your opportunities to ride. So have a look at our list. You may find the deal you’ve been waiting for.

Offers Ending 11/30/12

Suzuki: 0 percent APR for 5 Years on RM-Z Models

Suzuki 0% APR for 5 Years

The 2011 and 2012 Suzuki RM-Z450 were both named “Best Motocrosser” by Cycle World. Suzuki gave the bike a redesign for 2013 and now they’re offering special financing on both the RM-Z450 and RM-Z250. You can get an APR of 0% for up to 60 months on either model, 2013 and prior model years.

The Fine Print: The offer expires on 11/30/12. Minimum financed amount is $1,500 with a maximum of $50,000, which would buy you five of the RM-Z450s. If you financed $7,500 your estimated monthly payments would be $125. As with any of the special financing rates listed here you have to have excellent credit to qualify. Other rates may be available depending on your credit score.

Triumph: Fantastic Fall Financing

The British manufacturer is offering two options on all in-stock 2013 and prior year models; $0 down and 3.99% APR for up to 60 months, or $0 down and 5.49% APR for up to 72 months.

The Fine Print: The offer expires on 11/30/12. You must have what Triumph refers to as Tier 1 credit, which means excellent, to qualify for either of these offers. Other (read higher) rates may be available and a down payment may be required depending on your credit score.

Offers Ending 12/26/12

Yamaha: They offer three different incentives with a version of each for their Yamaha branded sport and off road models and Star branded cruisers.

Time To Ride Sales Event

Yamaha Time to Ride Sales Event

On Yamaha branded bikes the offer includes an APR of 3.99% for up to 36 months and up to $1,000 customer cash. On Star branded models the offer includes an APR of 3.99% for up to 36 months and up to $1,500 customer cash.

The Fine Print: The offer expires on 12/26/12. For Yamaha branded motorcycles the minimum finance length is 24 months. On either Yamaha or Star branded bikes the minimum financed amount is $5,000. To qualify for 3.99% APR you must have excellent credit, higher rates are available depending on your credit score. Monthly payments work out to $29.52 per $1,000 financed. So by financing the minimum $5,000 and getting the best rate, 3.99% APR, your monthly payment would be $147.60. These finance rates are available on new 2013 and prior models. Customer Cash is available only on new 2012 and prior Star models and select 2013 and prior Yamaha models. The amount of customer cash is determined by the model and model year. On Yamaha branded motorcycles the maximum is $1,000 on 2012 and prior YZ250F models. On Star models the maximum is $1,500 on 2011 and prior Stratoliner, Roadliner and Road Star Warrior models. None of these offers are available in Hawaii.

Customer Cash

This is the same as the Customer Cash portion of the Time To Ride Sales Event mentioned above, but does not include the special financing rates. See description above for the fine print on the Customer Cash special. This offer expires on 12/26/12.

Low Monthly Payments On Select Models

Yamaha has selected six models for this offer of low monthly payments. You can get payments as low as $109 per month on a new FZ6R, $149 per month on a YXF-R6 or $199 per month on a YZF-R1. Star models included in the offer are the V Star Custom at $99 per month, the V Star 950 at $119 per month and the Stryker at $139 per month.

The Fine Print:  The offer expires 12/26/12. Interest rates vary depending on your credit score and range from a low of 2.99% APR on Yamaha models and 3.49% APR on Star models. The listed monthly payments are based on you putting down 10% and examples like financing $6,831for 72 months at 4.25% on a 2012 FZ6R to get the $109 per month payment or financing $6,201 for 72 months at 3.49% APR on a 2011 V Star 650. Again, your credit score will determine the rate you’re eligible for. The offer is not valid in Hawaii.

Offers Ending 12/31/12

Ducati: The Italian manufacturer has singled out four 2012 models for special year end incentives.

2012 1199 Panigale 1.99% APR for 60 Months

Part of Ducati’s Superbike lineup, the 2012 Ducati 1199 Panigale and Panigale S without ABS are both eligible for this offer.

The Fine Print: The offer expires on 12/31/12. To qualify for the listed finance rate you must have Tier 1 credit. Best rates vary depending on length of finance contract. Ducati is offering 1.49% APR for 36 months, 1.74% APR for 48 months or 1.99% APR for 60 months. All rates require a 10% down payment.

2012 848EVO $0 Down & Ducati Makes First 6 Months Of Payments

Another of Ducati’s Superbikes, both the 848EVO and 848EVO Corse Special Edition are eligible for this offer.

The Fine Print: The offer expires on 12/31/12. Your credit must be excellent, Tier 1, to qualify for this offer. Ducati will pay up to $198 per month for the first six months of the term on 848EVO models and up to $212 per month for the first six months of the term on 848EVO Corse Special Edition models. After the first six months the APR is 4.99%. Your actual monthly payments after the first six months will be $197.73 on an 848EVO with a purchase price of $13,995 and an APR of 4.99% financed over 84 months. On an 848EVO Corse Special Edition they’ll be $211.86 with a purchase price o f$14,995 and an APR of 4.99% financed over 84 months. Higher rates are available for less than stellar credit scores, though some of them may require a down payment.

2012 Multistrada 1200 S Touring 0.99% APR Financing For 60 Months Or $1,200 In-Store Credit

You get a choice of deals on the 2012 Multistrada 1200 S Touring model. You can finance it for up to 60 months at an APR of 0.99% or take $1,200 of in-store credit with your purchase.

The Fine Print: The offer expires on 12/31/12. You can actually get a better rate if you choose a shorter finance period, but you’ll need a Tier 1 credit rating to qualify. All rates require a 10% down payment. Rates are 0.49% APR for up to 36 months, 0.74% for up to 48 months or 0.99% for up to 60 months. Higher rates may be available depending on your credit score and to get stated or higher rates may be required to have a higher down payment. If you opt for the $1,200 of in-store credit it must be used on Ducati apparel or performance accessories at the time of purchase.

2012 Streetfighter 848 2.99% APR Financing For 60 Months

Ducati’s sole Streetfighter model for the 2012 model year is eligible for a special finance rate of 2.99% APR for up to 60 months.

The Fine Print: The offer expires 12/31/12. As with the Multistrada 1200 S Touring offer, you may qualify for a lower rate if you choose a shorter finance term. Available rates for customers with Tier 1 credit are 2.49% APR for up to 36 months, 2.74% APR for up to 48 months or 2.99% APR for up to 60 months. All offered rates require a 10% down payment. Higher rates may be available, and may require a higher down payment depending on your credit score.

Honda: The biggest motorcycle manufacturer has a number of special year end offers available. Some of them have different expiration dates, so be sure to scroll down to see all of the available Honda offers.

Bonus Bucks

Honda Bonus Bucks

Honda offers a special that’s not dependent on your credit score. You can receive up to $1,000 in Honda Bonus Bucks depending on the model you buy. The offer is good on select new models from 2013 back through 2010.

The Fine Print: The offer expires on 12/31/12. Honda Bonus Bucks must be used towards the purchase of parts, accessories, gear or other purchases at the dealership at the time of purchase of select new Honda motorcycles. Bonus Bucks value depends on model and not all models are eligible. Value ranges from $200 on the CRF230M to $1,000 on Gold Wings and the CRF450X.

Husqvarna: Elect To Ride More Sales Event

Part of the BMW family since 2007, Husqvarna is offering a compound deal on select new 2012 models that includes cash incentives of up $1,500, $0 down and finance rates as low as 5.99% APR for up to 60 months.

The Fine Print: The offer ends 12/31/12. Your credit score will determine your finance rate and whether or not you’ll need to put any money down. Buyers with approved credit may finance up to 130% of the purchase price of a select new model. Models include in-stock 2012 TE, WR, TXC, TC or CR models.

Triumph: New Rider Training Incentive Program

Get up $225 towards a rider training program when you buy a new Triumph motorcycle.

The Fine Print: The offer expires 12/31/12. You must submit proof of successful completion of a Motorcycle Safety Foundation or National Motorcycle Training Institute on-road new rider program within 30 days of purchasing a new Triumph motorcycle. Triumph will give you a gift card for the value of the course, up to $225.

Victory: Full Throttle Salute

Victory Full Throttle Salute

For members and veterans of the U.S. or Canadian military Victory is providing $1,000 off the purchase price of any new Victory motorcycle.

The Fine Print: The offer expires on 12/31/12. It’s available to all active, reserve, National Guard and retired military personnel of the U.S. or Canadian military. Victory will send a coupon that can be redeemed for credit on your Victory parts account. Military ID is required.

Offers Ending 01/02/13

Honda: Honda has two year end deals that run through the day after New Year’s.

2.9% Fixed APR On All Off-Road And On-Road Models

All new Honda motorcycles are eligible for this financing promotion.

The Fine Print: The offer expires on 01/02/13. To qualify for 2.99% fixed APR your credit rating has to be in the super preferred credit tier. Maximum finance period is 36 months, Monthly payments will $29.08 for every $1,000 financed. Higher rates may be available for buyers with lower credit ratings.

Gold Wing End Of Year Bonus

Honda gives you a choice of two deals on the purchase of a new 2012 or prior Gold Wing GL1800. The first is $1,000 in Honda Bonus Bucks which we explained above. The Bonus Bucks offer expires on 12/31/12. You can also choose to finance your Gold Wing at 1.00% fixed APR.

The Fine Print: The 1.00% fixed APR offer expires on 01/02/13.  To qualify you must fall into Honda’s super preferred, preferred or standard credit tier. Maximum finance period is 60 months. Monthly payments will be $17.09 for every $1,000 financed. Higher rates may be available for customers with lower credit ratings.

What To Watch For

Not all dealers may be participating in all of the deals listed here. Be sure to check with your dealer. And always read the fine print carefully for yourself. For example, some finance contracts will allow to pay off the balance on your bike early without a penalty, be others may not. And some of the deals mentioned here don’t take into account extra charges like registration, taxes and other dealer-related fees.

5 Things You Should Know Before You Ride

Maybe you’ve been thinking about riding a motorcycle for a while. Perhaps you rode years ago, before the kids came along and now that they’re about grown you’re thinking of going back to two wheels. In my own experience as a rider I have only one regret, that I didn’t start doing it 20 years earlier. It is one of the most pleasurable experiences you can have.

As much fun as it is though, it does require a good deal of thought before you jump into it. Like any new endeavor there’s a learning curve. So before you throw a leg over that shiny new ride and motor off for adventure allow me to share a few things you should know before you ride.

Get Licensed

If you plan on riding your motorcycle on public roads then you need to be licensed. All states require a special motorcycle license or endorsement to operate a bike on public roadways. To get your license you’ll need to pass (in most cases) a two-part test, written and driving, just like you had to do to get your automobile driver’s license.

Oregon State Motorcycle Booklet

Most states will issue a motorcycle learner’s permit after you pass the written test. The permit will allow you to ride your motorcycle with certain restrictions, like no riding after dark, no Interstate travel, and no transporting a passenger.

You may ask, “Why go to the trouble and expense of getting licensed, isn’t my regular driver’s license good enough?” No. There are a number of reasons to get your motorcycle license before you venture out on two wheels. The first is that it’s the law. If you get pulled over driving a motorcycle without a license you run the danger of not only a ticket but in some states jail. And many states have passed laws authorizing police to have your bike towed and impounded on the spot if you’re caught riding without a license.

Chances are that if you’re not licensed you’re also not insured. After all, most insurance companies require proof that you’re a licensed rider before they’ll issue a policy. And since most states require that you be licensed and carry insurance to ride on public roads, if you’re pulled over without a license and without insurance you’re looking at even steeper fines.

Now imagine you get into an accident without a license or insurance. If you’re at fault you’ll be liable for all the damages. “Well, I’ll just be extra careful so I don’t get pulled over or have an accident,” you might be saying. That brings us to what may be the best argument for getting your motorcycle license, to minimize your risk. Unlicensed riders are significantly more likely to be involved in an accident. According to some studies they are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal accident than those riders who are licensed.

Does that little piece of laminated paper with your picture on it make you a better, safer rider? Well, not exactly, not in and of itself anyway. But the fact that you have to demonstrate some basic knowledge and mastery of rudimentary skills to get the license does mean that those riders who are licensed tend to be better trained, more experienced and better skilled than those without a license.

Get Trained

There is a way you can get a head start on the skills you’ll need, get your license and save some money all at the same time. Take a state-approved training course. Most states have some sort of program that is directly related to, or makes extensive use of the training materials and philosophy of the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). Depending on where you live and where you take it, the course will take place over a weekend or several weeknights. It includes some classroom time and supervised on-bike time.

Motorcycle Training Course

States that offer the program usually waive all or part of the license testing, so if you pass the class you’ll get your license without waiting in line at the DMV. An added benefit is that many insurance companies will give you a discount for successfully completing an approved training course.

Taking a training course will also give you an opportunity to decide if motorcycling is really something you want to do without going to the expense of buying a motorcycle only to discover that you don’t care for it. These courses provide the motorcycles that you’ll be learning on. And taking and passing the course will give you a sense of confidence when you finally get your own bike.

 

You’ll Need A Whole New Skill Set

Riding a motorcycle is a little like a lot of things and a lot like nothing else you’ll ever do. Have you ever ridden a bicycle? It’s a little like that. Driven a manual transmission car, ridden in a convertible or flown a jet? Yeah, it’s a little like all of those things too. Only way different.

Motorcycle Controls

Piloting your bike takes hand-eye-foot coordination, balance, and the ability to think three steps ahead. It’s extremely physical while requiring your total concentration.

The basic controls are standard on all motorcycles, but the placement of others vary depending on the make or type of bike. Brakes, throttle, clutch, shifter and starter are all going to be in the same place on all bikes, unless you happen to have a restored classic.

Stop and go controls, the brakes and throttle, are all on the right side of the motorcycle. Your right hand controls the throttle (accelerator) and the front brake lever. Your right foot controls the rear brake pedal. Yes, on a motorcycle you have a separate control for the brake of each wheel. Some bikes do have a unified or linked braking system that apply some pressure on both brakes when you engage either of them, but those systems are not the norm.

On the left side of the bike you’ll find the clutch lever and the shifter pedal. On a motorcycle you clutch with your hand and shift with your foot, the opposite of a manual transmission car. One of the toughest things for new riders to learn is how to start out smoothly, applying enough but not too much throttle while letting out or engaging the clutch smoothly but not too slowly. It helps to think of the clutch more like the slide on a dimmer light than an on-off switch. You squeeze the clutch all the way in (or disengage it) before starting the motorcycle and then slowly let it out (engage it) until you hit the friction zone. The friction zone is where the clutch begins to send power to the rear wheel. Once you get into the friction zone you need to slowly apply the throttle as you fully engage the clutch. Don’t worry. Very few riders get this on their first try, and many take weeks to fully master it. You’re going to stall your bike at stop signs and traffic lights, on inclines and pulling out of the driveway. But you’ll get the hang of it.

Other controls with a standard location are the starter and kill switch, which are both mounted on the right handlebar. The kill switch is usually a red rocker switch that must be in the “on” or lower position in order for the bike to start. The starter is a  button, usually directly below the kill switch. Simply push it to start the bike. Newer street legal motorcycles no longer require you to “kick start” them.

But before the bike will start you’ll need to put the key in the “ignition” position. The key slot is going to be in different places depending on your motorcycle. Other controls you’ll need to access on a regular basis include your turn signals, horn and high beams, all of which are usually on the left handlebar. If your bike is equipped with a carburetor and/or a reserve fuel tank these controls will often be under the fuel tank on the left hand side.

Steering, or perhaps more accurately, guiding your motorcycle has been the subject of a great deal of discussion. Many refer to it as “counter steering.” I think this term is a little misleading as it’s often explained as pushing on the handlebars in the opposite direction of the way you want to turn. To get your bike to turn, or lean, to the right you simply apply downward pressure to the right handlebar. To turn left, push down on the left handlebar. The bike will lean in the direction of the turn as long as you apply pressure. The sharper you want to turn the harder you push. To allow the bike to right itself and resume traveling in a straight line you simply let up on the pressure. The gyro effect of the tires will bring the motorcycle upright.

Budget For More Than The Motorcycle

Once you’ve decided that motorcycling is something you really want to do, and you’ve gotten your license and taken a training course you’re ready to purchase your first motorcycle. We’ve provided some tips on buying a motorcycle in the article “What To Look For When Buying A New Motorcycle”. You can spend anywhere from a few thousand dollars to more than $25,000 on a new ride. While the motorcycle itself will be the most expensive part of your new passion, it won’t be the only expenditure you’ll need to budget for. There are things you absolutely have to buy, things you should buy and things you’ll want to buy to go along with that shiny new set of two wheels.

As I mentioned earlier, if you plan on riding on public roads you’re going to need insurance. If you’ve financed your motorcycle the lien holder may require that you carry a certain amount or type of insurance and may even dictate the maximum deductible you can choose. Shop around for insurance. Some companies specialize in motorcycle insurance. The company you have your auto and/or home owner’s policies with probably also offers motorcycle insurance and may offer a discount if you have one or more policies with them already. And be sure to ask about a discount for that training course you’ve taken.

There’s also some must have and should have gear. Many states have laws that require that you wear a helmet. Even if you live in state without a helmet law you want to buy a good DOT-approved helmet. And wear it every time you ride. I happen to subscribe to the ATGATT theory. That stands for All The Gear All The Time. What it means is that you wear protective gear every time you ride. That would include motorcycle-specific jacket with armor, boots, gloves, sturdy pants and hearing protection. Yes, you read that right, hearing protection. It’s not the noise coming from your engine or exhaust that’s going to cause you problems. It’s the wind noise. Prolonged exposure to the sound of the wind whipping past your ears is going to cause hearing loss. Wearing simple foam earplugs will greatly reduce that noise while still allowing you to hear the lower pitched sounds coming from your engine and other traffic.

Motorcycle Safety Gear

After you’ve bought insurance and picked up all of the safety gear you’ll still have lots of things you want to buy. Rain gear, saddlebags, backrests, custom seats, custom pipes, windshield, GPS, bike-to-bike and/or rider-to-passenger intercom system, the list is almost endless. Choose the accessories you’ll most likely need or use most often first, like saddlebags if you plan on using your bike for commuting or running to the store or doing multi-day trips. Rain gear is another item I’d put at or near the top of the list. Once you’ve been caught on the bike in a downpour you’ll understand why.

You don’t have to buy everything right away. Ride for a few months with the barest of necessities to get a better feel for what you really need or want. It may turn out that the seat your bike came with is more than adequate for the length of your normal rides and what you really need is a windshield. Or maybe you went with a half helmet and after being pelted with gnats and road debris on your nose and chin you decide to go back to the dealership for a full-face model. Part of the joy of owning and riding a motorcycle is shopping for, buying and trying out new gear.

You Have A New Superpower, Invisibility

In the vast majority of accidents between a motorcycle and another type of vehicle one of the first things the driver of the other vehicle says is, “I didn’t see him.” The short, narrow profile of your motorcycle makes you hard to see. Add to that the number of people who drive cars while distracted, whether they’re on a cell phone, eating, texting or just not paying attention and it can seem like other motorists are out to get you.

This is a fact that you must be aware of whenever you’re on your bike. Ride defensively. Make sure to keep as large a cushion of space around you as possible. Don’t follow other vehicles too closely. The MSF recommends the two-second follow rule. When you’re behind another vehicle wait for it to pass a stationary object, like a telephone pole. As the rear end of the car passes the pole begin counting. One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two. If you pass the pole before you’ve counted to two, you’re following too closely.

Bright colored clothing can help you be more conspicuous, so keep that in mind when you’re buying new gear. But you can’t count on other drivers seeing you, so you have to be aware of where they are and anticipate what they’re going to do. Areas that demand extra caution include intersections and the entrances-exits of parking lots and driveways.

Go Ride

We’ve covered just a few basic ideas here, some of the things you should know before start riding a motorcycle. But the most important thing I can tell you is that you’re going to have a blast cruising around on a motorcycle. So get your license, take a course, practice your skills, buy some gear, be careful and have a great time chewing up the miles.

 

Riding a Motorcycle in Winter

Shorter days and cooler temperatures signal the beginning of the end of the riding season for many bikers. But it doesn’t have to. As long as you allow yourself a little more time to gear up and get where you’re going, and you know what winter hazards you’re likely to face, you can ride pretty much year round.

Winter Motorcycle Riding

Rain, Snow and Ice

If you’ve been riding for longer than a couple of months you’ve been caught on the bike in a sudden downpour. Summertime rain you can pretty easily muscle through. But rain in the winter is another story, it can be deadly. Precipitation of any sort will negatively affect your visibility and the traction available to your tires. Snow is even more dangerous than rain. When it sticks or drifts it has an even worse affect on traction.

Rain and snow not only make it harder for you to see but harder for other motorists to see you. Brightly colored gear; jacket, pants, helmet and gloves, with lots of reflective material will make it easier for you to be seen. Switching to a clear face shield will make it easier for you to see, especially since precipitation is often accompanied by lower natural light conditions. We bikers do sit higher than a driver in the average car, and we do have a less obstructed view of the roadway. But don’t let that give you a sense of false security. Sitting snow or water can disguise road hazards.

You’ll want to increase your normal dry-road conditions follow distance to allow for the longer distance it’ll take you to stop on wet pavement. When conditions allow, meaning no traffic in sight, get a feel for how much traction the road will give you by braking on a straight stretch of road. To avoid the need for sudden braking use your throttle and downshifting to help keep your bike under control.

Metal surfaces, like bridges and railroad tracks, will be even more slippery when covered with water or snow. Painted surfaces too, like the lines between lanes, provide less traction when wet. Take these surfaces even more slowly than you would in ideal conditions.

Riding a Motorcycle in the Snow

Winter precipitation hazards are compounded by cold temperatures. Roads take longer to dry and when the temps get below freezing that water and snow will turn to ice. And ice is a killer. You have zero traction on ice. Another danger is that it’s difficult to spot a patch ice until you’re on top of it. Ice is bad enough if you’re the only vehicle on the road, but how often does that happen? Not even the biggest four-wheel drive vehicles can maintain control on a road covered with ice. Ice is the one road condition that I avoid whenever possible.

Effects Of The Cold

Think of the cold as your enemy. You don’t necessarily need to avoid it, but if you’re going to defeat it you need to understand it and how it can negatively affect you and your ability to remain in control of your motorcycle. Do that and you can not only ride in the winter, but enjoy doing it.

The two most deadly weapons that cold uses are frostbite and hypothermia. Frostbite is the freezing of part of the body and usually is first seen in the extremities such as the fingers and toes. Early signs of frostbite are loss of feeling, skin that is cold to the touch or shows signs of discoloration like white, gray or blue. When your core body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit you’re suffering from hypothermia. Initial symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, confusion and apathy. Left untreated, the shivering will stop and confusion will turn to delirium. If you start feeling the effects of either frostbite or hypothermia get off the road, get inside and get something hit to drink. Thanks to the many blood vessels in your stomach the heat from that drink will be distributed quickly through your body.

Cold temperatures will suck the heat out of your body and that is not only dangerous, it can be deadly while cruising at 60 mph. We’ve all heard the local weatherman giving the wind chill during a local winter forecast. That same principle works with the combination of your road speed and the air temperature and how cold you feel. A 60 mph ride in 40 degrees feels like 25 degrees. After 30 minutes of those conditions any exposed skin will begin to show signs of frostbite. It doesn’t take much longer than that for hypothermia to become a real threat.

While you may be motoring along at 60 mph, your body is sitting still, for all practical purposes, you’re sedentary. Your body doesn’t generate enough heat under those conditions to replace what the cold is pulling away. Those effects of the cold come on gradually and affect your reasoning so you may not notice them until they’ve progressed to dangerous levels. But there are a number of ways you can not only combat the cold, but beat it.

Dress In Layers

The trick to not only beating the cold but staying comfortable while riding in the winter is to your body warmth in the cold air out. Layering your clothing keeps a warm pocket of air close to your body. Start with a base layer of synthetic long johns and synthetic or wool socks. Synthetics and wool draw moisture away from your body. Cotton, on the other hand, traps moisture, so avoid it, especially as a base layer.

After establishing a good base layer, let the temperature and the length of your ride determine how many more layers to add. A button-down shirt and sweater and heavy jeans along with solid, above-the-ankle riding boots is good next layer for most conditions above freezing temperatures. Top it all off with good, lined riding jacket and lined, leather gloves. A full-faced helmet will help keep your head not only safe, but warm. For colder temperatures or longer rides consider adding a pair of outer riding pants or a one-piece pants and jacket combo. You may also want to add a synthetic balaclava, neck gator or neoprene face mask to keep the cold air away from your head, neck and face. But don’t overdo the head and neck gear or you’ll be keeping the warm air from your breath from escaping your helmet and causing your face shield to fog.

External Heat

If you ride long enough in cold conditions your body is going to lose heat, regardless of how many layers you’re wearing. For those long winter rides you’ll want to add another source of heat. A number of companies make heated motorcycle gear. This stuff will allow you to ride for as long as you want and stay comfortable doing it.

The best heated gear plugs into an accessory plug on your bike or connects directly to the bike’s battery. You can buy everything from gloves to jacket liners and pants liners. Most of them come with thermostats that you can set on high, medium, low or off. One of the benefits of electrically heated gear is that you won’t need to wear as many layers, giving you more flexibility of movement. Two warnings for using electrically heated gear, make sure to unplug it before getting off your bike, and make sure that your motorcycle’s electrical system is up to the challenge of handling the extra load.

Ride Year Long

You don’t have live in Florida or southern California to enjoy a year round riding system. With some planning, and a little investment in proper gear, you can ride whenever you want. You can beat the cold and winter conditions when you know what you’re facing.

Get Ready for the Cold

Getting Your Motorcycle Ready For Winter

We bikers are a pretty hardy bunch. We long for the open road, the wind in our faces and the feeling of being one with our rides. Being closed up inside a four-wheeled, climate-controlled cage? That’s a last ditch choice for those of us who favor the two-wheeled freedom of a motorcycle. And yet for those riders who live where the winters are harsh, snowfall is measured in feet and temperatures can dip well below freezing for weeks at a time it’s often necessary to park the bike for the winter.

Get Ready for Winter

But simply putting your motorcycle in the garage for the winter can mean having a ride that’s hard to start come spring. If it starts at all. It can also lead to an expensive trip to your local dealership if you don’t take a few simple steps to get your bike ready for the winter. By taking a little time to prep your bike for a couple of months of inactivity you can ensure you’re ready to ride when the weather finally breaks.

Pick Your Spot

The best place to store your motorcycle for the winter is a garage or a storage shed. It should be dry with a door that locks. If there are windows in the garage be sure to put the bike in an area that isn’t exposed to direct sunlight. That sunlight will cause the temperature to rise and fall which can lead to condensation and rust forming on your motorcycle. If you don’t have a garage or storage shed or renting a size-appropriate storage area isn’t feasible, consider buying one of those portable motorcycle shelters. These units are sort of like a tent for your bike. If you have no choice but to let your bike spend the winter outside be sure to put a high quality cover over it.

Do An Oil Change

If you’re comfortable doing your own oil change, and saving a few bucks, you should do one before putting your bike up for winter. If you’d rather not bother doing it yourself have one done at your local dealership. When doing your own oil change first start your bike and let it warm up to normal running temperature. This will make the oil drain easier and dry out any internal moisture that might have developed since your last ride. Drain the crankcase and properly dispose of the old oil. Be sure to replace the oil filter while you’re at it. Then fill the crankcase with fresh oil. Do not use any oil additives as most motorcycles use the engine oil to lubricate the clutch as well and those additives can cause the clutch to slip.

Motorcycle Oil Change

Lube The Cylinders

If it will be six weeks or longer that your bike sits idle you’ll want to take out the spark plugs and pour about a teaspoonful of new engine oil into each spark plug hole. Then shift the motorcycle into its highest gear and turn the rear wheel a couple of complete revolutions by hand. This spread the oil so it coats the cylinder walls, piston rings and valve seats, protecting them from moisture. Don’t forget to put the spark plugs back in.

Fill Her Up

If your motorcycle is fuel-injected then on the way home from your final ride of the season stop at the gas station closest to home and fill the tank all the way up. If your motorcycle has carburetors instead of fuel injection you’ll need to loosen the drain bolts on each carburetor and drain the fuel before you fill the tank.  Be sure to tighten the bolts. A full gas tank will prevent moisture and rust from developing inside the tank. It’s also a good idea to add a fuel stabilizer, especially if you have to store the bike for six weeks or longer. Fuel stabilizer will keep the gasoline from getting thick and clogging fuel jets or carburetors.

Wash And Wash

Give the bike a thorough wash and wax, making sure to dry it completely. You can spray a light coating of WD40 on all the chrome to help prevent rusting. Once you’re sure the mufflers are completely cool you can gently push a clean plastic grocery or trash bag into each muffler to keep moisture from collecting there. Cover each muffler with another plastic bag for further protection. Give a shot of WD40 to all cables, the pivot points of the clutch and brake levers, pedals and the side stand.

Prep Your Tires

Fill your tires to the recommended maximum psi. Then place a few half-inch thick squares of cardboard under each tire so that they’re not in direct contact with the floor. By doing this you keep your tires from coming into contact with the potentially freezing temperatures of a concrete garage floor. Those temperatures, over a prolonged period of time can cause the rubber to degrade and crack.

Prep You Battery

If there’s an electrical outlet in your garage that’s close to where you’ve parked the bike you can leave the battery in the motorcycle and hook the battery up to a batter tender or trickle charger. If you don’t have electricity conveniently located or if the temperatures inside the garage will dip below 30 degrees Fahrenheit for an extended period you’ll need to take the battery out of the motorcycle and store it somewhere warmer where you can still attach it to a battery tender.

Battery Tender

Cover Up

After you’ve done everything else and the bike is parked, put a cover over it to add one layer of protection from moisture and dust. Be sure to use a cover made specifically for motorcycles. A simple tarp or old sheet will trap moisture on your motorcycle. Covers manufactured expressly for motorcycles are made from porous materials that allow moisture to escape.

Motorcycle Cover

After The Winter

Once the snow has melted, the temperatures have worked their solidly back into 40 degree plus territory and the days start getting longer you’ll be very tempted to rip the cover off the bike, punch the starter and hit the road. Do yourself a favor and take a couple of minutes to do a little prepping. Check tire pressure and inflate as needed. Do a thorough visual inspection. Pull the plastic bags off and out of the mufflers. Then roll the bike out of the garage and start it up. Before you kick it into gear check your brake lights, blinkers, hazard flashers, high beams and horn. Once you’re sure everything is working order you’re good to go for another riding season.

Not A Do-It-Yourselfer

Maybe you don’t have room in your garage or an out-of-the-elements spot to store your motorcycle. Or you may not be comfortable with or have the time to change your own oil. Check with your local dealership. Many of them offer both winter prep and storage services. This will be more expensive than doing it yourself, but much cheaper than what you’ll spend on repairs if you don’t store your bike properly for the winter.

A Look At The 2013 Yamaha Dual Purpose and Off Road Lineup

Yamaha has a wide variety of off road, dual purpose and motocross models for 2013.  We’ve already covered the YZ motocross line and several WR off road and dual purpose models here “2013 Yamaha WR and YZ Motorcycle Model Lineup.”  We’ll tackle the rest of the lineup here.

2013 Dual Purpose Models

Ride the trails on the weekend and to work Monday, all on the same motorcycle.  Yamaha’s dual purpose models are 100 percent street legal but tough enough to handle any off road experience.

XT250

Yamaha gave the XT250 a number of upgrades for 2013.  Perhaps the biggest is a fuel injection system that provides easy starting and smooth throttle response.  The XT250 also received upgrades to the piston and crankshaft to combine for improved heat dissipation, better performance and increased power.

2013 Yamaha XT250

With electric start and street legal features like the Enduro-style headlight, flex-mounted turn indicators, rear view mirrors and redesigned, compact instrument panel with digital readouts for speedometer, odometer, dual tripmeters, clock and indicator lights for low fuel, the XT250 makes for a great commuter bike.  But don’t limit your riding to paved surfaces.  An impressive 11.2 inches of ground clearance means the XT250 is just as much at home on the trails.

There’s plenty of power in the fuel-injected, air-cooled, four-stroke, single-cylinder 249 cc engine with a compression ratio of 9.5:1.  The XT250 has a five-speed transmission and chain final drive.  Stopping power is more than adequate via the 245 mm front disc and 203 mm rear disc.

Along with that incredible 11.2 inches of ground clearance, the 35 mm telescopic front fork provides 8.9 inches of travel and the rear suspension, swingarm with a rebound-adjustable single shock, has 7.1 inches of travel so you’re ready for any surface that stands between you and your destination.

The XT250 has a manageable 31.9 inch seat height, which is pretty amazing considering the ground clearance on this bike.  Wheelbase is 53.5 inches and wet weight is a svelte 291 pounds.  The fuel tank only holds 2.6 gallons of fuel, but with an estimated 76 mpg that’s good for a little less than 200 miles between fill ups.

2013 Yamaha XT250

Yamaha backs the XT250 with a one year limited factory warranty.  It’s available in two-tone White and Blue with a base MSRP for 2013 of $5,190.  The 2013 Yamaha XT250 is at your local dealership now.

TW200

Beginners and veteran riders alike will enjoy the confidence-inspiring TW200.  Fat tires, comfortable seat height, compact chassis and full street equipment make the TW200 capable of handling any on- or off-road situation.  The TW200 is outfitted with an electric starter and instrument panel that includes speedometer, odometer, resettable tripmeter and indicator lights for neutral, high beams and turn signals.

2013 Yamaha TW250

Its air-cooled, four-stroke, SOHC, 196 cc engine is equipped with a 28 mm Mikuni carburetor and has a compression ratio of 9.5:1.  The TW200 has a five-speed transmission and chain final drive.  There’s a single 220 mm disc front brake and a 110 mm drum rear brake.

The 33 mm telescopic front fork has 6.3 inches of travel and the single rear shock provides 5.9 inches of travel.  Even with 10.4 inches of ground clearance the seat height is only 31.1 inches.  Wheelbase is 52.2 inches and wet weight is 278 pounds.  Fuel capacity is 1.8 gallons, combined with an estimated 78 mpg for a between-fill-up range of right around 140 miles.

The TW200 carries Yamaha’s standard one year limited factory warranty.  It’s available in the two-tone White and Blue.  The 2013 Yamaha TW200 has a base MSRP of $4,590 and should be on showroom floors now.

2013 Off Road Models

Built for the trails and inspired by Yamaha’s YZ motocross lineup, these off road bikes will provide hours and miles of fun with family and friends.  Yamaha’s TT-R line is designed especially for beginner to intermediate riders, or veteran riders just looking for some affordable fun in the mud.

WR450F

Borrowing frame and suspension design from Yamaha’s YZ motocross line, the WR450F is full of power and dependability.  Equipped with a two-mode, digital enduro computer the WR450 offers riders the choice of basic mode with speedometer, clock, tripmeter and more, or race mode with pace management functions like time, distance-compensating tripmeter, average speed and more.

2013 Yamaha WR450F

It sports a liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC, four-stroke engine with five titanium valves and a compression ratio of 12.3:1.  It has a five-speed transmission with chain final drive.  The 48 mm, inverted front fork is fully adjustable and has 11.8 inches of travel.  The single rear shock is also fully adjustable with 11.6 inches of travel.  Single disc brakes on each wheel, 250 mm in front and 245 mm in the back, provide plenty of stopping power.

2013 Yamaha WR450F

There’s a generous 13.2 inches of ground clearance on the WR450F and a seat height of 37.8 inches.  Wheelbase is 57.7 inches and wet weight is 273 pounds with a fuel capacity of 2.7 gallons.  The WR450F has a 30-day limited factory warranty.  It’s available in the two-tone Team Yamaha Blue and White.  Base MSRP for the 2013 Yamaha WR450F is $8,290.  It will be at dealerships in October 2012.

TT-R230

Designed for intermediate riders, older youths and adults the Yamaha TT-R230 is a serious trail bike with handling and styling inspired by Yamaha’s YZ Motocross line. Its long, low, flat competition-style gripper seat provides plenty of room for rider movement.

2013 Yamaha TT-R230

The TT-R230 features an air-cooled, SOHC, four-stroke 223 cc engine with a Teikei carburetor and compression ratio of 9.5:1.  Firing up the bike is as simple as pushing the electric starter.  A six-speed transmission and chain final drive deliver power to the rear wheel.  There’s a 220 mm front disc brake and 130 mm rear drum brake.

The TT-R230 has 11.6 inches of ground clearance and the telescopic front fork affords 9.4 inches of travel while the single rear shock has 8.7 inches of travel.  Seat height is 34.3 inches.  Wheelbase is 54.5 inches   The TT-R230 has a wet weight of 251 pounds and will hold 2.1 inches of fuel.

Yamaha backs the TT-R230 with a 90 day limited factory warranty.  It’s available in two-tone Team Yamaha Blue and White.  Base MSRP on the 2013 Yamaha TT-R230 is $3,990 and it will be at dealerships in October 2012.

TT-R125LE

Bigger kids to adults will love the big fun in this small package.  The TT-R125LE supplies smooth, predictable power and a convenient electric starter to help intermediate and beginning riders develop confidence.  The Yamaha TT-R125LE is powered by an air-cooled, SOHC, four-stroke 124 cc engine with 20 mm Mikuni carburetor and a compression ratio of 10.0:1.  It has a five-speed transmission and chain final drive.  Braking power comes via a single 220 mm front disc and 110 mm rear drum.

2013 Yamaha TT-R125LE

The TT-R125LE can handle most terrains with its 11.6 inches of ground clearance and 31 mm telescopic front fork’s 7.1 inches of travel and single rear shock providing 6.6 inches of travel.  Seat height is 31.7 inches and wheelbase is 50 inches.  Wet weight is 198 pounds with 1.6 gallons of fuel capacity.

There’s a 90 day limited factory warranty.  The color package is Team Yamaha Blue and White.  Base MSRP on the 2013 Yamaha TT-R125LE is $3,290.  It hits dealerships in October 2012.

TT-R110E

Smaller riders will feel right at home on the TT-R110E.  It has a low seat height, but plenty of ground clearance to take on any trail.  It’s equipped with an air-cooled, SOHC, four-stroke 110 cc engine with Mikuni carburetor and a 9.3:1 compression ratio.  It sports a four-speed transmission with chain final drive.  The TT-R110E has drum brakes, 95 mm in front and 110 mm in the rear.

2013 Yamaha TT-R110E

Ground clearance is 7.1 inches and the 31 mm telescopic front fork has 4.5 inches of travel and the rear suspension, a Monocross swingarm with coil spring and gas-oil damper, has 4.3 inches of travel.  Seat height is 26.4 inches, which should accommodate must sized riders.  Wheelbase is 42.5 inches.  The fuel tank holds a full gallon and wet weight is 159 pounds.

Yamaha gives the TT-R110E a 90 day limited factory warranty.  It comes in Team Yamaha Blue and White.  Base MSRP on the 2013 Yamaha TT-R110E is $2,240.  It should on showroom floors now.

TT-R50E

The smallest of the TT-R series of dirt bikes, the TT-R50E is the perfect choice for a beginning rider, or for just have loads of fun riding in the dirt.  It has an air-cooled, SOHC, four-stroke 49 cc engine with a Mikuni carburetor and compression ratio of 9.5:1.  The three-speed transmission has an automatic clutch and chain final drive.  Braking is provided via 80 mm drums front and back.

2013 Yamaha TT-R50E

The TT-R50E has 5.3 inches of ground clearance and the inverted telescopic front fork has 3.8 inches of travel and the single rear shock provides 2.8 inches of travel.  Seat height is 21.9 inches so even the smallest riders will feel confident putting both feet on the ground.  Wheelbase is 36.4 inches.  It has a wet weight of 126 pounds and holds .82 gallons of fuel.

Yamaha’s standard 90 day limited factory warranty applies.  The 2013 Yamaha TT-R50E comes in Team Yamaha Blue and White with a base MSRP of $1,540.  It will be available in November 2012.

PW50

Made for the beginner, the PW50 features a fully automatic transmission and adjustable throttle so mom and dad can gradually increase available speed as their rider’s skills improve.  And with a shaft final drive there’s no messy chain maintenance to worry about.

2013 Yamaha PW50

The PW50 has an air-cooled, two-stroke 49 cc engine with VM12 carburetor and 6.0:1 compression ratio.  Brakes drums front and rear supply plenty of stopping power.  Seat height is 19.1 inches and ground clearance is 4.1 inches.  A telescopic front fork provides 2.4 inches of travel and the unit swingarm has 2.0 inches of rear travel.  The PW50 weighs 86 pounds ready to ride and holds just over half a gallon of fuel.

Yamaha gives the PW50 a 90 day limited factory warranty.  The 2013 Yamaha PW50 is available in Team Yamaha Blue and White with a base MSRP of $1,440 and should be in dealerships now.

Check Out The Full Yamaha Lineup

PowerSportsTV.com has resources for you to find the exact bike you’re looking for.  Compare the Yamaha lineup with other manufacturers and even find a dealership near you.

Two Takes On Touring: The 2013 Yamaha Royal Star Venture S and Super Ténéré

Sometimes you just have to answer the call of the open road, clear your calendar and take a day, or week, or month and ride.  And ride.  And then ride some more.  Yamaha has seven motorcycles it classifies as touring or adventure touring models.  Six of them are marketed under the Star Motorcycles badge.  We look at two very different bikes here, both made specifically for long days in the saddle, but each for a very different kind of touring.

Royal Star Venture S

The Royal Star Venture S is Yamaha’s top-of-the-line touring bike.  Matter of fact, as far as price, it’s Yamaha’s top-of-the-line in any category, the only motorcycle Yamaha offers for the 2013 model year with an MSRP above $20,000.  For that kind of money you’d expect to get a bike that’s loaded with luxurious standard features, plenty of storage room and the muscle to get you across the continent as smoothly as across town.  The Royal Star Venture S delivers on all fronts.

2013 Yamaha Royal Star Venture S

You want standard features that cost extra on most full-dress touring machines?  Start with a Star-branded, 8-gig iPod Touch connected to a four-speaker sound system with AM/FM radio.  Add an on-board intercom system and CB radio.  Then there’s the ergonomically designed bucket style seats with wraparound passenger backrest.  Electronic cruise control makes motoring away the miles a breeze.  A 15-gallon trunk and two 9.3-gallon sidebags combine for 33.6 total gallons of lockable storage.  To top it off, Yamaha backs the Royal Star Venture S with an industry-leading 60-month, that’s five years, unlimited mileage warranty and 24-hour roadside assistance program.

The Venture S provides plenty of wind and weather protection with its wide, fork-mounted fairing, windshield and wind deflectors.  Lower cowlings are frame-mounted and keep the elements off the rider’s legs.  Both the rider and passenger get full-sized, floating-type floorboards to make shifting leg positions easier.

2013 Yamaha Royal Star Venture S

The console is pure vintage in looks but provides all the information you need, including digital speedometer, odometer, dual tripmeters, fuel tripmeter, clock, fuel gauge, cruise control indicator, self diagnostics, speed sensor and indicators for neutral, high beams, turn signals and low oil level.  All the controls are within easy reach.

The audio system, which also includes cassette and six-disc CD changer, has a single-point control system and drives 14 watts per channel through the four speakers.  Automatic speed-regulated volume control helps makes sure you can hear your tunes over wind noise.  The CB radio is handlebar-mounted and there’s a dual antenna for the CB and AM/FM radio.

If you find yourself needing more electric accessories than those that come standard on the Venture S, there’s a convenient cigarette lighter-type DC accessory connector in the fairing and a two-pin DC connector under the seat.

Powering the Venture S is a 1,294 cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, 70 degree, 16-valve, V-4 engine.  Fuel is delivered via four heated 32 mm Mikuni carbs.  The engine generates a more than adequate 97 horsepower at 6,000 rpm, 89 foot-pounds of torque at 4,750 rpm and has 10.0:1 compression ratio.  A wide-ratio five-speed transmission has a fifth-gear overdrive for low rev cruising speeds and passing power.  The Royal Star Venture S has a shaft final drive.  With a pipe on each side of the bike the four-into-two exhaust gives the Venture S a nice full-throated exhaust note and enhances its long, low profile.

Yamaha ensures a smooth ride on the Venture S with air-adjustable suspension front and back.  The telescopic front fork has 5.5 inches of travel and the solo rear shock has 4.1 inches of travel.  Powerful hydraulic disc brakes provide plenty of stopping power, with dual 298 mm discs in the front and a single 320 mm disc in the rear.

This is a big, long bike with an overall length of 104.5 inches and a wheelbase of 67.1 inches, plenty of room for rider and passenger to stretch out during a long ride.  Rider seat height is a comfortable 29.5 inches.  Did we mention the Venture S is a big bike?  Wet weight is 869 pounds.  Given that it’s that heavy, and has four cylinders, the claimed 39 mpg is pretty impressive.  With its 6.1 gallon fuel capacity you should eat up around 235 miles of highway between fill ups.

For 2013 the Royal Star Venture S is available in the two-tone Charcoal Silver and Raven.  Yamaha gives the Venture S an unlimited mileage, five-year, limited factory warranty.  The base MSRP is $20,590.  The 2013 Yamaha Royal Star Venture S should be on your dealership’s showroom floor right now.

Super Ténéré

The Super Ténéré is Yamaha’s sole entry in the adventure touring category, and it’s the only Yamaha tourer of any type that doesn’t wear the Star Motorcycle badge.  But when you have a bike outfitted with this many standard features, how many do you really need in the same category?

2013 Yamaha Super Tenere

Yamaha won the first Paris to Dakar Rally in 1978 and has won eight more times since then.  That experience inspired the introduction of the Super Ténéré as brand new model for the 2012 model year, and is still evident as the adventure tourer returns for 2013.

No matter the road surface, or for that matter, even if there is no road, the Super Ténéré is built to take you where you want to go.  Three-mode traction control regulates ignition timing and fuel injection based on wheel spin.  The rider can choose to turn the traction control off.

2013 Yamaha Super Tenere

Anti-lock and unified braking are also standard on the Super Ténéré.  All of those electronic gizmos will usually add unwanted weight to a bike, but Yamaha’s engineers use the same wheel sensors for both the traction control and anti-lock braking systems.  With the unified braking system, UBS, squeezing the front brake lever by itself provides some action from the rear brake.  Press the rear brake pedal first and UBS is overridden and you get traditional separate front and rear braking function.

Variable throttle control is another standard feature.  With two settings, the rider is able to adjust performance characteristics of the engine for riding conditions or personal preferences.  In “S Mode” the engine has a more sporty performance and “T Mode” is suited touring or in-town riding.

There are other ways to adjust the Super Ténéré to a rider’s specific style, size and preference.  The windshield is adjustable, as is the rider’s seat height.  And both front and rear suspension are fully adjustable to match load and rider and passenger weight and road conditions.

If there’s one negative thing to say about the Super Ténéré, it’s that no luggage comes as standard equipment.  Yamaha says this “flexible luggage system design” has three possible configurations; standard, which means no luggage, top case installed or side cases installed.  The Super Ténéré luggage was designed side-by-side with the bike so it all works and looks great.  It just would have been nice to equip an adventure touring bike with some way to take your stuff with you when you tour without forking over more money on accessories that some would consider necessary standard equipment by definition of the the type of bike.

A liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, DOHC parallel-twin engine with a compression ratio of 11.0:1 powers the Super Ténéré.  The six-speed transmission features a top gear overdrive for optimized for lower rpm highway cruising.  A shaft final drive gets power to the rear wheel.

Gonna be riding on the Interstate, or maybe your route takes you where there are no roads.  No matter.  Suspension on the Super Ténéré is fully adjustable to handle most any surface.  The 43 mm inverted front fork has eight spring preload settings, 10 settings for rebound and 13 for compression damping and provides 7.5 inches of travel.  Rear suspension, featuring a solo shock, has six spring preload settings, 18 settings for rebound damping and 7.5 inches of travel.

That ABS, UBS braking system features dual 310 mm hydraulic discs in front and a single 282 mm disc in the rear.  The seat height can be set at either 33.3 or 34.3 inches.  Wheelbase is 60.6 inches and the Super Ténéré has a wet weight of 578 pounds.  It gets a claimed 40 mpg with a fuel capacity of six gallons, good for an even 240-mile range, which will come in handy if your travels take you where the gas stations are few and far between.

2013 Yamaha Super Tenere

Yamaha gives the Super Ténéré its standard one-year limited factory warranty.  For 2013 you can choose between Matte Gray or Pearl White.  Base MSRP for the 2013 Yamaha Super Ténéré is 14,790.  The bike will hitting dealer’s showrooms in October 2012.

More Yamaha Touring Models

PowerSportsTV.com provides you with lots of tools to research, compare and find these bikes and the full line of Yamaha motorcycles.  You can even compare the Yamaha and Star models to comparable bikes from other manufacturers.