Yes Emily

Yes Emily, girls can ride motorcycles!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Tuesday Tour

Bedford Mills, Ontario

Bedford Mills is a  beautiful place in summer or winter. This historic mill is located on County Road 10 just south of Westport Ontario. Once a thriving lumber mill it is now the private home of Barry Brown - motorcycle collector, restorer, enthusiast. 

Barbara and I decided to go for a little Tuesday tour today. We stopped to take some photos of the mill then headed to Westport for lunch and on to Newboro, home of Kilborne's a favorite shopping mecca. Kilborne's is an eclectic store where you can buy just about anything, not to mention shoes and it was, 'boots on sale' day. I bought some Canadian made beauties. I told my son I'd bought boots, his first response was, "Riding boots?" No, guess again. "Hiking boots? No! Canadian made 'Pajars' - up to my knees high and good to minus 26. I'm all ready for mucking in the snow but the cawing crows sounded more like spring than winter today. Frankly, our blatant lack of snow in this part of the country has become an embarrassment to Canadian winters. The east coast is being hammered by a winter blizzard, the west was buried long ago and here we are with little snow and temperatures threatening rain. (Okay, I'm not really complaining). This area is such a climate contradiction, open water in one spot, lake rinks and ice fishing in the next. But no real snow.

Only 82 days til spring!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Nothing changes, but nothing stays the same. Looking Back on my 2010.

"Its funny how you go through the year day by day but nothing changes, then when you look back
everything’s different." (unknown) ... so true!
So I decided to look back and 'note' some of those days when something happened that made everything different. In no particular order, some good some not so good, here are 10 days that made a difference for me in 2010.
  1. The day I created a blog and found that people (other than my mother) had actually read it. Thank you. You are very much appreciated! I love looking at the little red dots on the map - seeing where in the world you are. It is always a pleasure to read your comments and your tweets and your blogs! There are so many fabulous writers in the blog world - well worth reading.
  2. The day I got my first actual, really, truly amazing, "I know you and love you" hug from my Granddaughter Madalyn (she's beautiful by the way!)
  3. The day I, by chance, stopped into the Performance Shed, just to kill some time and found my VStar. I'm thrilled with it still and I'm sure it will be a very large part of the 'star' days of 2011. 
  4. The day I packed the VStar and headed out on my first 'solo' long distance tour.
  5. The day I returned home, over 8,000 km and 19 days later, still in one piece (much to my mother's relief) knowing, I could do it - I did do it - and I had the time of my life doing it!
  6. The day that Ken (whose opinion of motorcycles I value - the rest I take with a grain of salt ha, ha!) said I was a good rider! Thanks Ken - that really boosted my confidence. I'm not a 'born again' rider anymore. Yahoo - my statistics just improved.
  7. The day that Barbara took that flattering picture (hard to do of an old lady) for my blog. Thanks Barbara.
  8. The day that Leslie edited my blog, posthumously and pointed out there is a spell checker on blogger. Well, better late than never. Thanks Leslie.
  9. Every day that I wake up - each one is a bonus. Just plain thank you to everyone who has ever donated a dollar to cancer research.
  10. The evening in New York City when I was quite rude, actually crushing (with regrets, not a moment I'm proud of) to a very nice gentleman who had just designed a building featured at the Olympics. I got on my soap box (as I often do) about the millions being wasted on Olympic pomp and pageantry when 17% of Canadian children live below the poverty line and go to bed hungry. For this I apologize to the nameless stranger. It has been a day that I've reflected on many times. I shouldn't have been so belittling of another's accomplishment, it was an accomplishment well worth being proud of, but that moment has made me realize it is time for me to do something other than rant about hunger. My focus for summer 2011 - to 'Tour for Tummies.'
And just for fun ... 'Cause I'm on holiday and wanted to see if it could be done ...
apologies for the quality (hummm?)

My bikes, then and now - a little video I made
as an excuse to avoid doing everything else I have to do.
Isn't that what being on holiday is all about :)
(Music - Bruce Cockburn, Speechless: Sunwheel Dance).

Monday, December 20, 2010

What are the odds for a ‘born again’ rider in a Group Ride?

I began thinking about the types of riders who “come to grief,” that is, have a serious accident, after a conversation about accidents and group rides with friend and neighbor Ken Morgan. Ken’s background is racing and motorcycle safety as the National Supervising Chief Instructor, Motorcycle Training Programs - Canada Safety Council. His theory is that group riding is dangerous. Now Ken pretty much knows what he’s talking about when it comes to motorcycle safety, but before I published this post I wanted to back it up with some serious research and statistics, more than just, well, “Ken says…” This lead me to do a little reading on motorcycle accidents and their causes. (Check out the Hurt study published 1980, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration FARS, plus‘Recent Trends in Fatal Motorcycle Crashes’ and ‘Fatal Single Vehicle Motorcycle Crashes’, the MAIDS report, and Road Safety Research Report 54-In Depth Study of Motorcycle Accidents DfT, London published in 2006 not to mention numerous articles published by the insurance industry and monthly motorcycle magazines.)

Group riding is a popular sport but the idea doesn’t appeal to all riders. Experienced rider and writer for Motorcycle Cruiser magazine, Art Friedman agrees with Ken and is not a fan of group rides. He writes,

“The proximity of other riders, as when you are close to any other vehicle, presents a potential risk. If you wander into each other's zones, you can cause one or both to crash. I have observed riders run onto the shoulder by other riders in their group who overlooked them or wandered off their intended paths while distracted.” (Oct. 2006)

Art has been rear ended twice during group rides and witnessed many other group ride tragedies. But is it the group ride or is it the group rider? Are high risk riders drawn to riding in groups more than lower risk riders? Being in proximity to other vehicles is a risk but there are other risk factors involved with motorcycle riding. The major studies on motorcycle accidents and their causes paint a similar big picture - motorcycle fatalities have increased steadily over the past 10 years and the number of older riders involved in accidents is increasing more than other groups. As a casual observer it seems to me that most group rides are filled with the ‘older’ riders. Now, I’m not saying all riders over 40 are at higher risk, but how many of them, I wonder, do fit the ‘high risk’ criteria? None of the studies that I have read to date specifically state in their statistical analysis that being part of a group ride is an inherent risk factor. What they do specify is the type of rider, the most likely bike styles and the most likely scenarios of increased risk. Do these risk factors coalesce more often in group ride scenarios?

According to D. Clarke (et al) of the University of Nottingham, 70% of motorcycle accidents can be classified as being one of three main types; right of way, bend and maneuverability. Most common, as reported in all major crash studies, are the accidents involving ‘right of way’ violations. The majority of these accidents have been found to be the fault of the other motorist, often because they just didn’t see or notice the motorcycle and most occur at T- intersections in urban areas. Second to this cause is rider error when the rider loses control on bends or curves in the road. These ‘bend accidents’ are predominantly on open, undivided, rural roadways and the rider is often out for a pleasure ride. Riders in this group are three times more likely, according to the Clarke study, to have under 5.2 consecutive years experience riding (either because they are newly licensed or are ‘born again’ riders and are generally on larger machines). Speed is often a contributing factor to these ‘bend’ accidents although gravel or oil on the road surface is sometimes a factor. Thirdly are the accidents Clarke classifies as motorcycle maneuverability accidents. These accidents are related to the way a motorcycle can be maneuvered in traffic that a car cannot. They often occur when a rider is overtaking slower moving or stationary traffic, often by lane splitting or filtering (using the unused portion of the lane). A higher proportion of riders involved in this type of scenario are younger and riding larger displacement engines (507+cc).

The rear end shunt is the next most common cause of fatalities sited in the studies read. Rear end shunts accounted for 11% of the accidents in the Clarke study. A rear end shunt is when the rider hits the rear end of another vehicle. This group included a large proportion of young, inexperienced riders, riding on bikes with smaller displacement engines.

As mentioned above a notable trend in statistics since 1999 is the increase of accidents for riders in the over forty age category, the ‘easy rider,’ baby boomer generation. These riders tend to be riding motorcycles with higher displacement engines and from the Clarke survey 38% have admitted, like myself, to being “born again” riders. Born again riders are those of us who many years ago obtained our motorcycle license but for one reason or another stopped riding for an extended period (more than 3 years.) Most of these riders do not (I am assuming) take rider training again before getting back in the saddle. Now speaking from personal experience when I started riding again I knew I was starting all over. I chose to re train with the Canada Safety Council’s “Gearing Up” rider training program. The skill it takes to ride a motorcycle is something that has to be practiced, if you don’t do it, you do lose it. I know. My first time out, before re training I put the bike down on a bend in the road. Luckily I wasn’t a statistic, perhaps because I wasn’t speeding or riding a big bike. I started back on a 250cc.

I am sure most people will agree riding a motorcycle is more risky than driving a car, just by the sheer nature of the beast but the studies found many accidents involved riders taking unnecessary additional risks including going faster than skills and road conditions dictate, following too closely, riding after 9pm in darkness, riding under the influence – just to mention a few. Clarke included a rider attitude survey to examine rider risk awareness and goes on to suggest , “An approach is therefore clearly needed that targets riders’ attitudes to risk, as well as the effective measures that can be taken in the area of defensive riding skills.“

So is it the group ride or the riders that present the danger? The group ride obviously puts the rider into a risk position with other vehicles, even the lone rider must contend with the traffic. The danger, in my opinion is that in a large group the risk is being compounded by the participation of more high risk, older riders who are now riding with the group. The statistics show these are the riders who are most likely going down on the curves in the road – if that happens in front of you can you avoid it? The Clarke study, though it didn’t mention group riding in the actual stats, in the conclusion did state,

“In contrast there is some evidence that an older ‘born again biker’ subgroup seem to
be mismatching the performance of new machines with their own previously learned
abilities. If motorcycle category is examined, it is shown that over 40%of ‘supersport’ bike riders at fault in the sample come to grief on bends. This is over twice the proportion of ‘at fault’ bend accidents found in all other types of machine, and ‘super-sport’ bikes are over-represented in ‘at fault’ bend accidents relative to their numbers in the sample as a whole. Riders in this category are more likely than others to be travelling at speed (whether over the speed limit or at speeds inappropriate to road conditions), riding for leisure purposes, and riding in groups with other riders. Moss (2000), in his report on rural motorcycle accidents, was more specific regarding the type of behaviors these riders are exhibiting, saying
that ‘. . . riders are failing to ride their machines within their personal capabilities” (Road Safety Research Report No. 54: In-depth Study of Motorcycle Accidents, David D. Clarke, etal, School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, November 2004, Department for Transport: London, Pp 49).

If you are planning on joining a group ride plan first to reduce your risk. Know your group - analyze the riders and attitudes before you start riding with them. Don’t be one of those high risk riders yourself - participate in rider training (even if you are a born again rider – I’m glad I did), learn counter measures first. Know your personal limits and don’t feel pressured to ride beyond them – regardless of the group mentality. Remember your most valuable piece of equipment is under your helmet. For more tips on group riding check out Art Friedman’s article in Motorcycle Cruiser Magazine or the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Guide to Riding video on YouTube. I’m not planning to join a group ride any time soon but intend to assess my own risk attitude before my 6th born again season begins – I don’t want to be one of 2011’s statistics.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

2010 Toronto Motorcycle Show

Alright, here goes – another blog post from someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about. But that’s okay as long as I tell you up front that I really know nothing about this topic - then you can use your own judgment when reading. As a matter of fact the more I learn about anything teaches me how much I really don’t know about everything and I’ve come to accept the fact that I’m not an expert at anything. However, I do still love writing about what I’ve done so here goes…my trip to the TORONTO MOTORCYCLE SHOW.

The near three hour drive to Toronto was without incident though not a breeze. A nasty little weather system started moving into the area with wet snow and high winds just about departure time and continued to haunt us most of the way. Visibility was on again off again with blowing snow and transports flinging their spray onto the windshield. (Just a little note here about windshield wipers…I have recently purchased some high end wiper blades that are supposed to keep the window clean regardless, well maybe it’s just me but they seemed, with every pass, to coat the windshield with something that created near zero visibility when hit by oncoming headlights. Think I’ll change them.) The temperature was hovering just around the zero mark and most of us know that’s when water freezes to ice and ice might (will) be slippery. Obviously there are many adult drivers out there that don’t know this simple little scientific fact and our Ontario Government has found it necessary to post gigantic, digital, flashing signs telling drivers that winter temperatures can cause slippery roads. I wish they’d just call a spade a spade and write, “Slow Down Stupid, It’s Slippery.” Traffic for most of the way was lighter than anticipated with just a bit of slow down as express drivers tried to bottleneck onto the Friday night Don Valley Parkway.

We checked into the Delta Chelsea and decided to walk the 2.4 km to the Show at the Toronto Convention Center. It was a great walk, a little windy but the snow had stopped and the streets were bare. The cold temperatures have erased the summer stink of the city and the night air was filled with the smells of street vendor ‘dogs’ and the fares of the copious restaurants en route. Younge Street was alive with the sights and sounds of the season (as well as with the usual dubious characters). Holiday shoppers, laden with bags were everywhere - above them the flashing digital signboards pinned to the giant skyscrapers were flashing out their ‘buy me’ messages – Toronto, downtown, more and more like NYC every year.

On Front Street we took a moment to gawk at Toronto’s CN tower decked out in its holiday colors of red and green then dashed across the street and into Union Station to take the skywalk to the Convention Centre. It was 7:30 and I didn’t expect huge line ups but neither did I expect there to be no one waiting to get in, after all it was SheRidesNite and aren’t there more and more women riders these days. Inside the show the crowd was just as sparse. I’m not saying there was no one at the show, I’m just saying I expected there to be a much larger crowd. It was great for us not having to muscle our way through a shoulder to shoulder throng though. Now I must have missed the map, (or maybe they didn’t have a map of the vendors this year) so what I saw was what I found by sheer accident or by virtual size or positional visibility of the vendor. On that note, I missed the Canadian Motorcycle Hall of Fame display (apparently at booth 1738 according to the Show web page) and so had much apologizing to do at dinner with Ken and Barb. I didn’t see Ken’s name on the wall. I’m sorry ‘again’ Ken, really it would have been a highlight! (Blame it on the Show organizers, they should have had their maps out in a prominent place, if they had maps?)

What I did see – right inside the door, right in front of me was a virtual pond of green Ninjas but what caught my eye next was a giant ‘red roof ring,’ suspended from the ceiling, announcing YAMAHA was to my right. The Yamaha sign was visible from most spots on the show floor (good job Yamaha) and that’s where we headed first. The giant Yamaha flag was proudly poised above the latest on and off road models including, but not limited to the Stryker, the Tenere, and the Star Models. Yes, there was a 650 VStar Custom gleaming in black and chrome amidst the display. Most manufacturers including Yamaha were displaying an assortment of toys for on roads, off roads, back woods, snow and water if they made them. Like I said at the beginning, I am not an expert and wouldn’t even attempt a review of any of the bikes except to say that I can appreciate the beauty, engineering and sleek design of these new models. If you want to read a review of the Stryker (along with many other of the models you might have seen at the show) check out January 2011 issues of Motorcycle Mojo or Cycle World magazine (just to mention two).

Justin and I wandered around checking out most of the other vendors including Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, KTM, BMW, Ducati and Hyosung. We strolled through the ‘Riders Marketplace’ looking mostly at accessories (if you’ve been following me – you know I’m in desperate need of new saddle bags but didn’t see any that fit what I’m looking for. The quest for saddle bags will continue in another blog post at another time.) We had a quick look at some of the various groups and organizations (I still can’t understand how I missed ‘the Hall of Fame'). We watched the kids zipping around the indoor track at the Yamaha Riding Academy for Kids then headed back to the only line up at the show. It was to enter Radio Station Z103.5’s draw to win a CBR125 Honda and since I’m not writing about a new Honda you guessed it, I didn’t win – congratulations to who did! Behind the Radio Station booth was the Full Throttle Stage with Liz Jansen (I believe) and guests involved in motorcycle chat for an audience of, from what I could see, about one. If there were more, there weren’t many. From where I was standing, it was hard to pick up on the topic. I’m sure it was informative and must have been discouraging for them to have so few people to play to. I had a chat with a couple of women riders from Toronto while waiting to fill in a ballot. They ride with a group in the Toronto area (which, for the life of me I can’t remember the name of). We chatted about our bikes (they both ride older 750 Hondas), about new models and where we ride. My son got a chuckle when one of them asked if I had flown my bike out to ride in Wyoming – one gals long distance ride is another gals short ride … doesn’t matter, we’re all riding. Then Justin and I headed back to the hotel via Bay Street this time hoping to see City Hall and the skaters on the ice pad in front.

I’m not a Trade Show expert but I’d call it a fairly small show. It didn’t have a lot of glitz or glamour but it highlighted some new bikes, offered the chance for local groups to share their information, vendors to sell product and riders to see what is available. I was disappointed it was so sparsely attended but I did notice many folks leaving with bags in hand so hopefully it was profitable for some of the vendors. Myself, I bought a subscription to my first Motorcycle magazine – Motorcycle Mojo and as a result am now the proud owner of a Mojo calendar and a 50th, gold sealed issue (it takes so little to make me happy). The 2010 Toronto Motorcycle Show, there could have been more for women riders, especially on SheRidesNite, but it was a nice little diversion from the gloomy first storms of winter – I’m glad I only had to pay the $16 admission fee for one.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

5 More Sleeps

The count down is on - five more sleeps 'til the Toronto Motorcycle Show - the first bike show of the 'season' (there are about three in this area of mention). It's a special trip for me, as my #2 (in birth position only) son has decided to make the trek with me.
Ladies, Friday night is "She Rides" night - ladies get in free. Remember parking is free if you're riding a bike (we are definitively not!!!) See you there! If you miss it watch for pictures here!
Weather forecast - of course - snow for Saturday.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Something Magical

I have to admit, there is something magical about the first real, honest to goodness, stick to the ground snowfall. Somehow this afternoon the driving rain mystically turned into huge, moist snowflakes. Life in my classroom came to a halt! There was nothing to do but turn off the lights and stand by the window to watch mother nature announce the arrival of December and winter. Oh, to look at the world through the eyes of a five year old.

Okay enough of the magic. When I saw the snow I really questioned my decision not to wear socks today (honestly, it was 13 degrees Celsius this morning when I left.) Only in Canada can the temperature go from summer to winter in matter of hours. Canada, a country with two seasons - "hockey and construction." Now you ask, how can this possibly relate to riding on a motorcycle? Well, I have to tell you as I headed out of town, on what can only be described as the darkest of nights, with snow blowing all around , it was all about not riding on a motorcycle and I WAS GLAD I WASN'T RIDING HOME ON THE VSTAR. Oh,I'm sure it could be done - just not by me! The weather forecast for tomorrow - who knows.

November has zipped by in the blink of an eye - the riding season is only 4 and a half months away and I realize I'm now, tragically, bagless. Dear Santa ... but that's another post for another day.

P.S. MotorcyleMojo magazine wants to know what you do during the long Canadian winters?