Monday, July 18, 2011

Riding September

A few stills from the Riding September video
Blitz Motorcycles Independent Custom Garage is a 3-man French outfit that does great work turning vintage bikes (their website features bikes based on the BMW R100/7, R60/2, and R80/7, Kawasaki 650W and 650Z, Triumph T100, and Yamaha SR125, SR500, and JW125) into rough-and-ready customs that do a lovely job of holding onto the classic appeal of the bikes and referencing icons of old motorcycle culture, while being thoroughly unique and often innovative machines.  For example, the murdered-out R60/2 wearing dual-sport tires is called “Great Escape” in reference to the Steve McQueen film (ironically, he rode a Triumph Trophy 500 painted to look like a wartime German BMW in the film, but no matter), and the Triumph T100 wears stars and stripes on its tank and one of the more tasteful sets of Z bars I’ve seen, and is called “Tribute to Easy Rider”.  Their website is well worth a look, and most of the pages have an English option. 

The Blitz Motorcycles team also has a knack for making very good videos of their machines in action.  The BMW R60/2 promo video features a winter ride and music from Vivaldi’s Nisi Dominus.  This is an unusual choice for a motorcycle video, but one that works rather well.

They are also responsible for what is, in my opinion, one of the best pieces of motorcycle videography in existence.  The video is called “Riding September”.  It features the Blitz Motorcycles crew riding a couple of SR500 flat trackers and a BMW R80/7 through some great scenery, goofing off, cooking dinner, and generally hanging out and having fun.  They’ve done a great job of capturing the camaraderie of riding buddies, and it’s great to see a shop crew out using their bikes as they were intended to be used, and custom bikes that are most definitely built to be ridden hard.  The soundtrack is “Frankie’s Gun” by the Felice Brothers.  Watch it-you’ll be glad you did.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A Public Service Announcement: Motorcycle Safety

Motorcycle stuntman John "Crash" Brown in action.
With the summer riding season well underway, motorcycles are everywhere.  Cruisers, crotch rockets, vintage bikes, dual sports, and touring bikes are a common sight on the roads, and one would think you can't help but notice the chrome of the cruisers, classic lines of the old bikes, and shiny plastic of the road racers, not to mention the symphony of engine sounds. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many of the distracted cagers with whom we share our highways (I was almost knocked down the other day by a driver-I made the mistake of assuming she'd seen me), and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation  compiled this list of 10 motorcycle safety rules rule for drivers (with a very eloquent 11th added by Hell for Leather Magazine) to help matters.  It’s worth a read, and worth sharing with your friends, whatever they ride or drive:

1. There are many more cars and trucks than motorcycles on the road and some drivers don’t “recognize” motorcyclists. They ignore them, usually unintentionally. Look for motorcycles, especially when checking traffic at an intersection.

2.  A motorcyclist may look farther away than he or she is in actuality. It may also be difficult to judge a motorcycle’s speed. When checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into (or out of) a driveway, estimate that a motorcycle is closer than it looks.

3.  A motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car’s blind spots or masked by objects or backgrounds outside the car. Thoroughly check traffic, whether you’re changing lanes or turning at intersections.

4.  A motorcycle may seem to be moving faster than it really is. Again, don’t immediately rely on your perceptions.

5.  Motorcyclists sometimes slow down by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Don’t tailgate motorcyclists. At intersections, anticipate that motorcyclists may slow down without any visual warning.

6.  Turn signals on a motorcycle are not often automatically self-canceling. Some riders, (especially beginners) sometimes forget to turn them off. Try to determine whether a motorcycle’s turn signal is for real. And if you’re driving a car, remember to use your turn signals too. They’re a great communication tool for riders and drivers when used properly.  [In the words of the bumper sticker “Forget about world peace, visualize using your turn signals!"-IC]

7.  Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily, to avoid road debris, and deal with passing vehicles and wind. Understand that motorcyclists often adjust lane position for a purpose, and it’s not an invitation for a car to share the lane with them.

8.  Maneuverability can be one advantage for a motorcycle, but don’t expect that motorcyclist can always steer or swerve out of harm’s way. Please leave motorcyclists room on the road, wherever they are around you.

9.  Stopping distance for motorcycles can be nearly the same or better than that of cars. But wet or slippery pavement can put motorcyclists at a disadvantage. Don’t violate a motorcyclist’s right of way, especially in bad conditions.

10.   Don’t think of it as a motorcycle, a machine: Think of the rider; the person on board is someone’s son, daughter, spouse or parent. Unlike other motorists, protected by doors, roofs and airbags, motorcyclists have only their safety gear and are at greater risk from distracted drivers.
-Motorcycle Safety Foundation

And Hell for Leather Magazine’s addition:

11. Put the fucking cell phone down and pay attention to the road. You’re operating a goddamn 2-ton murder machine, take some responsibility for your own actions for Christ’s sake.
-Hell for Leather Magazine

Always wear gear that makes you stand out, like this Vincent rider.
To sum up, all motor vehicle operators should realize that their actions can have very serious consequences for themselves and those around them.  A modern car with an automatic transmission requires so little driver participation (no shifting, and sometimes you can barely even hear the engine) that it’s easy to become passive and isolated inside your own world with the windows up, a/c on, radio on, and a cell phone (or headset-legal in most states, but still distracting) on your ear, nevermind texting.  The more one can focus on driving, be aware of the road and all other road users (cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, joggers) in the area, and what they might do, the better.
As motorcyclists, we have a responsibility to ride defensively, wear proper protective gear (protection can mean getting you noticed as well as armor and leather), and do everything we can to anticipate trouble. Expect everyone to do something stupid and plan accordingly, then you’ll be ready the one time someone does.  For example, whenever I see a car at a stop sign I assume they’re going to pull out in front of me, and plan a course of evasive action.  It's only happened once, but when it did I was ready, and avoided a serious collision, because the decision was already made, so I didn’t have to think before acting.  Think  several seconds ahead and several hundred feet down the road at all times.  You’ll be a better, safer, more aware rider or driver for it, and you never know-it might save a life!