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Tips and Tricks for Motorcyclists

An ongoing column of useful information for riders of all types of motorcycles.

  • Better safe than sorry - If you're proud of the fact your phone can hold it's charge for two days, that's fine, but when you're traveling it's advisable to charge it every day and keep a charging cord on board. In the event of a mechanical failure you may use 50% of your battery power in just a few short hours hunting around for help and parts - you never know. Ditto if there is a medical situation. Don't get caught short.
  • Spare clutch and throttle cables - do you need to have one - Long story short - if your bike is 10 years or older or has more than 20,000 miles on it, it is advisable to carry spare cable's because it's a 99.9% chance you won't find them while you're on the road. They don't take up much space. The other alternative is to include replacement as standard procedure each time you take your bike in for a level three service. A good rider would train one's self to perform this service themselves.
  • Give em the finger - Changing to the left lane, like when you enter onto the freeway? Your turn signal tells one story, but you can double your conspicuity when you drop your left hand down with your index pointing to the next lane at your left.
  • More fingering - Annoyed by a driver following too close behind you? US TOO. Hold your left hand out horizontally with three fingers extended. Many drivers get the message because three fingers mean nothing. One finger means coming left, two fingers mean 'peace' and three fingers means??? Three seconds fool. Many drivers catch on fast, but don't expect them all to.
  • Oil Filters - OEM's such as Yamaha, Honda and others like to use their own oil filters on their bikes, rather than a third party manufacturer like K&N. Only trouble is you'll need to buy their removal tool as well. Dumb. In fact, without their removal tool you'll have a bear fight with your motorcycle and it's anyone's guess what you'll resort to to get the OEM filter off.

    Instead of the bear fight do this: Take the bike to your dealer or local shop and have them drop the oil and remove the filter the next time you need it done. Sure it will be cheaper to drop it yourself, but without the tool it will end up costing you time, your own labor and money getting a tool that will indeed take the filter off. Then specify you want a filter, such as a K&N, installed that is fitted with a 17mm style nut on the end or similar, which will make your next at home oil change a snap.
  • Scary combo - If you take Cialis along with nitrates for chest pain, you may crash your motorcycle!
  • Spare Keys - When you buy a new motorcycle, it's typical to get two ignition keys with it. When you buy a used motorcycle two would be lucky, usually you get just one. Consider having four. One for daily use, a spare to keep in your riding jacket and two spares back at home. Keys wear over time, so one of those spares at home may become your next regular key.

    Or, imagine this—and we can't emphasize this enough—two sad examples of not having a spare key:

    #1: Good rider Gary goes to the rally, losses his key in the grass, and cannot find it. He has no spare. Bike has to be towed 200 miles to a locksmith. Locksmith charges come to $160 for making the first new key and $20 for the second key. A high price to pay for not getting a spare in the first place.

    #2: Superhawk Sam is all set to take a five day tour. The night before the tour he realizes he cannot find his key ... and he does not have a spare. Now he's faced with the choice of forfeiting the tour (no refunds) or missing the first day in order to have a locksmith make a key for $160 and a spare for $20.
     
  • Hook and Loop piece of mind - Are you worried your GPS might pop out of its bracket while you're riding? It's been known to happen. But you can fortify against such an occurrence by using a little Velcro (hook & loop) on the unit and the cradle. One matching square should do it for small hand held units like Garmin's CS60, E-trex series or Colorado.
     
  • Anti Monkey Butt Powder (works great in socks too!)Keeping bacteria at bay - Adding foot powder into your socks each time you ride is a good way to keep your feet dry and bacteria free. But there's another reason to do it. In the unlikely event you have to do a water crossing (right dual sport guys and gals) or for some reason you get water in your boot, you won't be dealing with itching until you finally have a moment to remove the wet boot and sock. Foot powder, or better yet, Anti Monkey Butt Powder, will help neutralize any nasty bacteria, and in extreme cases has been known to save a layer or two of skin from peeling away.
     
  • Raingear made simple - The outdoor industry is well ahead of the motorcycle industry when it comes to raingear. Fabrics like Nanolite and Paclite can only be found through companies like Sierra Designs and Outdoor Research. Next time you shop for rain gear consider these ultra light, ultra-packable alternatives
     
  • PM Chain Spray ShieldChain Spray Shield - You feel like you've been a knuckle dragger when you get a load of this unique simple device. The Chain Spray Shield was developed by a few smart cookies right here in the Northwest. It makes lubing a chain a no mess situation. The poor mans way of course has always been to slide a piece of card board behind the chain, but even that can get messy. At $13 this is just to easy to pass up.
     
  • Not so fast on that starter motor - Has your bike been sitting in the garage all winter with little or no attention? Consider an oil change. Your oil can get glocky enough just sitting around that you could damage the piston rings attempting to fire it up for the first time. Get the goo out and give your bike a drink of fresh oil before you hit that starter button.
     
  • Eye Ready - Is You? - If you're one on many riders who wear contacts here's a tip from Ron W. In Oregon. Contacts come in individual units with the complete prescription printed on the tear off to open the container. Eye the right and left ones and make a copy of them. Keep the copy in your tank bag so in the event you lose one or damage one, you can find a replacement. If you wear the disposable type, keep the most recent discarded pair in a container and keep it with you on long rides. Of course, it goes without saying, always pack a pair of your prescription glasses as well.
     
  • Group Riding Tip #47 - When riding with a group, the lead can keep things moving by planning stops once an hour for 10 minutes each for restroom and gear change needs. When the ride is stopped the lead can say "This is a 10 minute stop" and be the one putting on a helmet and gloves at the end of the 10 minutes, which signals to the others it's time to get rolling, without saying a word.
     
  • Where's your wallet?  - It's all too common. A rider storing their wallet in the back left or right pocket of their pants. Just ask them - "Do you ever get back trouble like sciatica?" Almost every time the answer comes back "Oh Yeah!" Guys, quite riding around tweaking your back, cause that's what happens when you carry a wallet in the rear pocket. Your back is compensating for the slight height difference and as a result your spinal column is out of alignment. Hit a pot hole and guess what the next thing is coming down the line? - excessive back pain.

    You can counter this from happening by learning to store your wallet somewhere else like the front pocket, in your coat of in the tank bag. And if you do it all the time, not just when you ride, you'll experience an automatic decrease in stress to your back. And you'll save millions of dollars and hours in needless trips to a chiropractor.

    Is your wallet too fat to store in the front pocket? Go thick to thin by checking out the line of Big Skinny wallets that cut down how much wallet you're actually packing.
  • The S-Biner Key on the Coat Trick – How many times have you mounted your bike and reached for your key, only to realize it’s stuffed away in your pocket? You remove your gloves, attempt to stand over the seat and dig around in your pants or jacket until you find it, stick it in the ignition, don your gloves again and now you’re ready to ride. Your own little Moto Ground Hog Day moment?

    You can make your life easier by using a Nite-Ize S-biner and clipping it somewhere easy to get to, like your zipper pull or the plastic loop commonly found on the waist line of many textile jackets. Even with thick gloves on you can navigate your key out of the spring closed end and into your ignition. Easy!
     
  • Contemplating Modifications? – Kevin, who rides a KLR, gets all the mods to upgrade his 650 dual sport before taking a trip-of-a-lifetime to Asia. He’s rejetted his carburetor, installed a hot cam and changed the tail pipe. According to the dynamometer he’s getting another six horsepower out of the beast. On day three of his supposed three month Asian adventure, the motor essentially blows up, stranding him and the bike in the middle of the Gobi desert. End of trip.

    Before modifying a stock bike, consider the ramifications of what you want to do. Your manufacturer designed and tested it stock for hundreds of hours before releasing it to the public for sale. But they never tested it with the modified parts you’re planning to install, and the consequences can be unpleasant.
  • Meds Changes – There’s an ugly drug addiction going on amongst primarily older riders. Prescription drugs. How many is any one person on? How does changing one change the effect of the others? Why is this ugly?

    Brendan, who recently crashed his Buell, did it when his blood sugar went wooky during a ride after a recent change in his insulin prescription.

    If you’re taking prescription meds and have one or more added, changed or removed from your intake, do not ride your motorcycle for several days until you’re certain your body is as stable for riding as it was before the changeover.
     
  • Compartmentalize with Zip Locs? – I recall a dual sport ride back in 2005 across the Capitol Forest. At one point we stopped, and my riding partner opened up his saddle bag to expose a number of Zip Loc freezer bags with all his gear subdivided amongst them. Now, for keeping gear dry and/or sorted, there are many options beyond Zip Locs including dry bags, stuff sacks, see through pouches and totes and kit bags. Each of these tends to occupy a good amount of space all on their own, much more than a Zip Loc freezer bag. But you get what you pay for. The other options may take up a bit more space, but they are considerably more durable and less likely to fail. If you’re a dual sport rider  enjoying hours of riding off-pavement, Zip Locs won’t cut it simply because all that beating will cause them to wear and fall apart. However, were you planning a short day or multi-day trip on a street bike, and space was a consideration? (when is it not?) Utilizing Zip Locs for lighter weight items might just be the ticket. In addition, you can transfer all your dry snacks, like nuts, dried fruits and beef sticks, into Zip Locs rather than using the original clunky packing they came in.
  • Replace your face shieldOFTEN – The thrifty rider may be damaging their eyes just by being thrifty. A rider came to me once and asked if I could remove scratches from his face shield. We gave it a go using Novus 2 polish and an orbital buffer. No go. Deep scratches simply don’t come out of face shields like we want them to. And riding around season after season only makes matters worse. as deep scratches can cause astigmatism in the eyes by forcing the eye to try and focus in two places ride after rider.

    Bottom line, plan and budget to replace your face shield every season you ride, particularly if you spend hours off-pavement with others or ride in the rain a lot. You’ll see much better as you roll along on your adventures.
  • Painter's tape to save your paint – Various luggage options, like soft saddle bags, tail packs and even tank bags, can wreak havoc on your bike's precious paint job. Your gear rubs back and forth, nature makes a little rain and before you know it you’ve got a layer of grit between your gear and the bike that’s eating away at your paint, one layer at a time.

    The solution is to invest in a roll of blue painter's tape. It goes on and peels off easily, providing a barrier between the gear and your bike. It may not look pretty, but considering it’s probably not even visible with your bags on, who cares. When you unload the bags for good, peel the tape off. Keep in mind, it will bond more with your paint as time goes on, but just keeping it on for a few weeks won’t cause a problem.
     
  • Simplifying which gloves to buy and pack – On a recent ride, one of our party revealed he was packing no less than eight pairs of gloves. I had to know why. "In case it rains," was the response. Wow.

    Experience has taught me I only need two pair of gloves when I’m travelling. The first is a waterproof, heated set of winter leather or textile gloves with a Gortex liner built in. No other supposedly waterproof barrier has ever proved to me it works over miles and mile of touring. When it’s cold (50 degrees and below), I plug them in and get all the heat I need on my hands to stay warm (although a set of heated grips offers an added creature comfort element). Without the added heat, I stay fairly comfortable with just the glove's insulation between 50 and 70 degrees).

    My second set of gloves are leather with re-enforced palms and armor over the knuckles. I’ve worn these gloves in 117 degree temperatures and wondered why I didn’t overheat. Turns out, at about 80 degrees my hands begin to sweat, and the water layer allows the glove to wick excess heat. They do a good job insulating my hands when the winter gloves are too much warmth (70-80 degrees). For water repellency, I treat them with Nikwax glove proof to shed excess water during heavy rainfall.
  • Advice from the locals – Have you ever asked a local for advice or directions only to find yourself off the track? One such scenario ended a weekend of riding for a friend on a Friday afternoon, when he was told a connector road he wanted to ride wasn’t paved. He turned around and rode his Sportbike back home, missing out on a dynamite weekend of riding tertiary roads.

    Plan your route in advance and use the internet to research road conditions and closures. We made this an easier task by placing links to all the road conditions in the Northwest accessible from your home page on Sound RIDER!

    When a local provides advice, ask them when the last time they went down that road was. You’ll be surprised at some of the answers, which will get you closer to validating the reality of the advice.
  • Dry Snacks – At a checkpoint along a fun run once, we asked riders to break out what they had on hand for snacks. Someone said they already ate theirs, others insisted they weren’t necessary. The reality is that you never when you might get stranded along a route, and having an abundance of dry snacks on board is a welcome relief as you struggle through whatever situation you're in.

    A healthy assortment of dry snacks is simple to pack and carry, and won't suck up a lot of cargo space. Toting a few servings of nuts, dried fruits and beef sticks or jerky can be the difference between getting lunch, or going without. Many riders like to carry trail mix or granola. Just keep in mind that if it includes chocolate you might wind up with a gloopy mess if temps rise.

    Almonds provide an excellent source of protein and carbs and break down slowly, so you can avoid a sugar rush and the after-crash associated with refined sugar items like candy bars, power bars and refined flour items like many non-whole grain cookies, chips and crackers.

  • Got a tip or trick to share. Email it to us at SReditor@soundrider.com. If we use it, we'll slip you a copy of the Sound RIDER! guide to Packing Light/Packing Right.
     


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