Rider Training & Safety

Motorcycle Insurance: Mechanics of Insurance

Weve already managed to cover Liability, Uninsured Motorist, and Comprehensive and Collision coverage. All these things are common with all insurers. For this article I will cover things you may not know can be covered or have never had explained by your agent, broker or underwriter.

Companies that have recreational products divisions often offer extras at little or no charge at all. Accessories coverage is a great example. Most companies will offer $3000 to $5000 worth of accessories coverage at no extra cost. You have to ask your motorcycle insurance agent what the accessories coverage freebee is. What does it cover? Bags, screens, chrome, exhaust, your fuel-injection upgrade, seats, custom paint - name it and chances are it can qualify. This includes suspension upgrades.

What it doesnt cover is the labor for installation? Why? Because you really dont need all that stuff- you just want that stuff. And there are limits to the total accessories. Usually, it has to be less than the NADA retail value of your bike. When you exceed your freebee, coverage of the additional accessories will cost additional money. Its not usually that expensive, but the percentage varies company to company.

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Allstate Introduces Rider Risk Map

Motorcycle safety is a community concern shared by all riders and other motorists. Motorcycle traffic accident fatality rates are on the rise, with a recent report by the Governors Highway Safety Association estimating the loss of 5,027 motorcyclists in 2012, a 9% increase from 2011. The numbers are sobering, and we must all do our part to help curb the problem and improve safety for all riders.

Allstate has been one a strong advocate for rider safety with its “Once is Never Enough” (ONE) program which aims to remind all motorists to keep a look out for motorcyclists. Riders have taken noticed and reached out to Allstate, eager to help promote the cause.

“We’ve definitely seen an increased level of activism from the rider community,” says Keith Rutman, vice president of Allstate’s Specialty Lines unit. “The ONE program and Allstate Motorcycle Facebook page are here to facilitate conversations about motorcycle safety awareness and start a movement to help decrease motorcycle-auto collisions in the future.”

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May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month

Spring is in full swing and around the country, motorcyclists are returning to the road after a long winter. But with a sudden spike in the number of motorcycles on the road, it’s a good time to remind all motorists, whether on two wheels or four, to keep a special lookout for motorcyclists.

That’s why May is recognized as National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, a time for drivers to be reminded to share the road with motorcycles, and riders to be reminded to make themselves more visible to others.

Most motorcyclists are fully aware of the risks they undertake when riding, but a look at the statistics will still open a lot of eyes and stress how serious an issue motorcycle safety is.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motorcycles account for just 3% of all registered vehicles in the United States in 2011, yet motorcyclists account for 14% of all traffic fatalities. Looking at accident rates per vehicle mile travelled, NHTSA estimates motorcyclists are 30 times more likely than car passengers to die in a crash and five times more likely to be injured.

A separate report by the Governors Highway Safety Association estimates a total of 5,027 motorcycle fatalities from traffic accidents in 2012, a 9% increase from the year before. Many of those deaths could have been prevented if motorists were more mindful of safety.

Here are some articles highlighting different aspects of motorcycle safety. Give them a read, and then share them with others and help making riding safer for everyone.

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Motorcycle Beginner - Year 2: 2013 Honda NC700S Review

Sensible, practical, and reliable. Not the prettiest of the group and definitely not the strongest or the fastest, but good enough to get the job done well and efficiently. A bit on the heavy side but carries its weight surprisingly well. Perhaps a little boring at first glance, but give it time and its many little quirks will grow on you.

No, I’m not describing Honda’s new NC700S there, but rather yours truly, the Motorcycle.com Newbie. But perhaps that’s why the bike feels like such a good match for me.

Associate Editor Troy Siahaan recently tested Honda’s NC700X and found it to be an inexpensive, practical motorcycle, a contemporary take on the Universal Japanese Motorcycle reflecting the modern consumers’ demand for fuel-efficiency and affordability. But for an experienced sportbike rider like Troy, accustomed to high-revving engines and an abundance of horsepower, the much more sedate NC700X with its 6500 rpm redline and claimed 51-hp output may seem rather pedestrian. But for a less-experienced rider like myself looking for a bike to take him to work and get him around town, Honda’s NC700 bikes are an intriguing new option.

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Motorcycle Beginner - Year 2: Buying Your Next Bike

There are few positives to come out of being in a motorcycle accident. Even if you were as fortunate as I was and escape with very minor injuries, you have to deal with the damage to your motorcycle. Worse, if you’re in a situation such as mine, is when your insurance company says the damage to your bike is too high compared to its overall value and declares it a total write-off.

But if there’s one good thing to come out of losing your motorcycle, it’s getting the opportunity to buy your next one.

In the last installment of our Motorcycle Beginner Year 2 series, my beloved Suzuki GS500E was declared a total loss after being hit from behind by an inattentive driver who failed to stop in time. My insurance provider issued a check for $1,356 ($1200 Canadian for the bike plus $156 for sales tax) and claimed the GS500 as salvage.

The first thing people ask after hearing about my accident and learning I escaped with just a minor wrist sprain is whether I intend to continue riding. The answer to that of course is a definitive yes, though it will come down to whether I can find the right bike.

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My 1989 Suzuki GS500E
But no matter how prepared you are, accidents can still happen. This is the story of mine.
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21st Century Technology

It’s a simple fact of life on two wheels: motorcycles want to fall over. Whether caused by a slippery road or slippery rider discretion, a pleasant ride can be rudely interrupted by sliding or rolling down the road, with perilous effects to your pocketbook and/or health.

But as technology continues to advance the progress of society, it also is advancing the state of the art of rider safety. New technologies in motorcycles are designed to keep us from crashing in the first place, while the latest in protective riding gear mitigates injuries suffered during a crash.

Hardware and Software

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Motorcycle Tires 101

Round, and usually black.

Unless you’re a professional or amateur motorcycle racer, or are otherwise ultra-conscious of your bike’s tires, a safe guess says that round and black is most of what many motorcyclists know – or care to know – about the tires mounted to the wheels of their trusty two-wheeled steed.

Yet, ignorance of tire knowledge is understandable to a point. Once the tires are purchased, mounted to the wheels and inflated, their presence is easy to forget: tires produce only a small amount of noise when rolling at speed, are difficult to see while riding, and the only routine care necessary in most cases is checking for proper inflation.

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Motorcycle Beginner - Year 2: Motorcycle Ownership

What a difference a year makes.

Last summer we ran our Motorcycle Beginner series to illustrate the process of how to get started as a rider. With yours truly as the test subject, we went shopping for riding gear, passed (eventually!) a qualified rider training program, examined the process of selecting a first motorcycle and provided a newbie’s perspective of Honda’s entry-level CBR250R.

One year later, I’ve moved out of the suburbs, bought a condo in the city, met my incredible girlfriend Jackie and purchased my first motorcycle. It’s been quite an eventful year, and riding has been a big part of that. I rode my bike to my first date with Jackie and one of our early dates was a trip to the Toronto Motorcycle Show. Motorcycling has become a vital part of my life.

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Riding Safe: Crash Avoidance

What are the two kinds of motorcyclists? Those who have crashed and those who will. Scoff if you like, but given a long enough timeline, we all crash.

Although this unpopular proverb carries the danger of alienating prospective motorcyclists, I argue that if a person is so easily freaked out, they most likely do not possess the mental fortitude to correctly react when presented with a hazardous situation, and therefore should not be riding a motorcycle in the first place.

Don’t think of crashing as dying in a fiery, two-wheel spectacle. More commonly a single-motorcycle crash is a low- to mid-speed tip-over resulting in minor road rash and the occasional broken bone. With this in mind, isn’t it better to openly discuss crashing so the motorcyclists residing in the those-who-will crowd can properly prepare for a crash and minimize the damage rather than avoid the topic and maximize the havoc?

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Safety Series: Bike Selection

Motorcycle.com is putting together a safety series of articles for the month of July. For our first article, our topic is bike selection. Whether you’re new or experienced, cruiser or racer, in order to stay safe and enjoy the ride, it helps to pick the right bike for you. By now we’ll assume you’ve already completed a motorcycle safety course (if you haven’t, do it!) and are ready for the open road.

Here we’ll break down a few different motorcycles based on experience levels and type of usage. We’re keeping this list limited to current models, but there are a plethora of motorcycles from yesteryear that shouldn’t be overlooked. Later we’ll discuss the ongoing progression of technology in motorcycling, specifically in the form of rider aids.

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Motorcycle Beginner: 2011 Honda CBR250R Newbie Review

Before I get too far into this report on the 2011 Honda CBR250R, I want to apologize.

To anyone who may have heard loud hooting and hollering coming from a flying black rocket on the Don Valley Parkway south of Queen St. this morning, I’m sorry. I’m pretty sure no one could hear the gleeful cheering through my helmet or above the wind noise, but if you did, I apologize.

I was just having too much fun during my commute to downtown Toronto. With a wide open lane ahead of me and the throttle pinned wide open, I just couldn’t help but whoop it up as the number on the digital speedometer kept rising.

I also want to apologize to all the other motorcyclists out there for dispelling the theory that anyone riding a motorcycle is automatically cool. Forgive my nerdy exuberance and blame it on my lack of experience.

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Motorcycle Beginner: Buying Your First Motorcycle

I’ve got my license, I’ve got my riding gear, and I’ve been through a rider training program.

Now comes the fun part and one of the most frequently asked questions by new riders: what bike should I get?

Pete Brissette wrote an excellent article on this topic last summer, recommending five good starter bikes (and five alternate choices) covering a variety of motorcycle categories such as cruisers, and dual sports.

Pete also discussed a couple of key points that deserve repeating: the right bike for one person might not be the right bike for another, and a 600cc supersport race replica is not a sensible choice for an inexperienced rider.

The latter point is one frequently repeated by more experienced riders, and yet every now and then, a newbie comes along asking “I’m just starting out as a rider and I’m looking for a first bike. Should I go for the R6 or the ZX-6R?”

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Motorcycle Beginner: Rider Training

The first thing I noticed after I hit the ground was the sound of raindrops hitting the back of my helmet.

My visor had popped loose from bouncing off the hard knuckle protectors on the back of my gloves after I had raised my hands to cushion the landing. Cool air blew into the opening while a drop of sweat dripped from my nose and landed on the rain-soaked pavement.

My arms and legs felt relaxed and comfortable, as lying face down on the wet parking lot pavement gave my strained muscles a rare opportunity to rest after two long days of riding. A dull throbbing, however, alerted that something was wrong with my right ankle.

I then heard the footsteps of the instructors rushing over to me, followed by shouts telling me not to try to move.

But one thought remained clear in my head, like a flashing neon sign in my mind’s eye: I had just failed my rider training course exam. The worst part of it was I knew exactly what I did wrong. In fact, one of the first things the instructors warned us against doing.

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Motorcycle Beginner: Buying Riding Gear

With my new temporary license burning a hole in my wallet, I was eager to get out there and start riding right away. Of course, I realized I still have much to learn, starting by enrolling in a certified riding school. In my case, I decided on the Motorcycle Training Centre at my alma mater, Humber College in Toronto. I booked a date at the riding school and spent a couple of weeks re-reading my motorcycle operator’s manual and practicing leaning into turns in my ’98 Nissan Altima.

But before I start at the riding school, there was still the important task of getting riding gear.

Joe Rocket was kind enough to supply us with a full set of street riding gear for this beginner series, but there was a slight snag. A shipping error meant the big box of Joe Rocket goodies would not arrive in time for my scheduled riding school class.

While this was a bit of a setback, it did present me with an opportunity to do something every new rider should enjoy but what I would have otherwise missed: going shopping!

Mission Parameters

I decided to approach the situation from how an average new rider might. I would go to a local dealership and shop like a regular customer. I gave myself a budget of $500 (thanks mostly to a $458.82 tax refund check that arrived earlier in the week) with the goal of acquiring the gear I needed for the riding school. I wanted to get equipment that I would feel safe and confident wearing, without having to break the bank to afford it. A $700 Valentino Rossi replica AGV helmet and a $1500 Dainese leather suit might look cool, but I just want to commute to work, not ride the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca.

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Motorcycle Beginner: I Want to Ride

My name is Dennis Chung and I am one of the many behind-the-scenes staffers behind Motorcycle.com. And I have a confession to make.

I have never ridden a motorcycle.

Let’s back things up a bit first and explain a few things. Regular Motorcycle.com readers are of course familiar with Editor-in-Chief Kevin Duke, Senior Editor Pete Brissette and the FNG Troy Siahaan living the glamorous life as moto-journalists on the left coast. But what most readers don’t know is our three resident shoot-out kings are backed by a small but dedicated army of people who do all the little things to help Motorcycle.com thrive.

My duties consist mainly of a lot of research and fact-checking, keeping track of the latest industry news, laying out articles and breaking out the crayons to produce the dyno charts for our reviews and shootouts. After nearly four years here at Motorcycle.com and having read and re-read almost every single word we’ve published over that span, I probably know as much about motorcycles as anyone can without ever having ridden one.

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Knowing How to Brake Saves (the Most) Lives

NOTE: This is a basic guide on manual braking for most motorcycles with separate front and rear brake circuits. A few bikes have integrated front/rear brakes or anti-lock brakes (ABS). If you have integrated brakes or ABS, some of this won’t apply. Insurance companies strongly endorse ABS. Studies have shown the number of fatal crashes and the severity of individual claims decrease significantly for riders of ABS-equipped bikes.

With braking, the use it or lose it principle definitely applies, and skills can become rusty if not proactively attended to.

Learning to brake better makes riding more fun and enjoyable, because you have better control. And becoming practiced at making hard stops may add to your peace of mind because your chances are at least improved for handling the unexpected.

Researchers have found that riders often panic in split-second traffic confrontations. One study showed that a panic state disabled riders’ conscious reactions and nearly a third of riders observed in an accident scenario simply froze: they didn’t even touch their brakes!

Don’t let this happen to you.

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Motorcycle Insurance: Comprehensive Collision Coverage

After publishing the second part of this series that discussed Property Damage and Medical Payments, the subject came up in the articles forum thread about the agent getting you to buy the maximum of everything.

Insurance is Vegas without showgirls, was my reply. You pay into the premium, but you are betting on not wrecking or having a claim of any type. The funny thing is that there is a no lose in a sense here. If you pay and make no claim, the house wins (the underwriters in this case). If you have a claim, you win and the house loses. It makes sense doesnt it?

When someone on the forum suggested that I recommend you to purchase the most coverage only to maximize my commission, it made me feel bad that people really dont understand this insurance stuff better. (The following statement does not imply every insurance professional or company endorses the following.)

Insurance agents, brokers and underwriters have a dirty little secret they prefer you not be aware of: They encourage lower limits and high deductibles. Why? Loss ratio. These big underwriters have this business down, and in the motorcycle world, the acceptable loss ratio for most companies is right around 70% of the written premium.

Written premium is the total amount of business I send them in a calendar year. So, if I write $100,000 annual for the largest motorcycle underwriter in the USA and I have $63,000 worth of loss payments between bodily injury and property claims, my loss ratio of 63% is squeaking by the threshold of losing them and me money for the year. If underwriters and agents sell you the higher limits, the faster you will reach the threshold.

Agents can be suspended from writing business if the loss ratio is too high and show no signs of reversal. Its happened with a company I did business with. I actually insure my bike with them but cant write a lick of new business until they get the chip off their shoulder and understand that I cant fix it until I can write something that makes them money, like simple liability policies. It happens. You get used to it in this business. We agents have more at stake than you ever thought, huh? Selling comprehensive and collision coverage just makes the loss ratio move up that much faster.

Comprehensive coverage has deductibles from $0-$1000 usually. Premiums go up when you choose a lower deductible.  But theres a limit in change, so ask the difference in price. A great example of this is a dual-sport bike. Its usually just a few dollars of difference between a $500 and $250 deductible for a guy over 25 years of age. So, in this case, pick the low deductible.

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Motorcycle Insurance: Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is the part of the policy that takes care of your injuries when you are not at-fault. In the previous installment, I suggested you place the bodily injury part of the liability at the highest possible limit you can afford because you have assets to protect.

Uninsured motorist places the value on you. The Good Hands people sell higher limits using the analogy of Why would you protect your assets but not consider yourself your greatest asset? Its a good selling technique. In the auto world of insurance, the cost of the UM (uninsured motorist) coverage is not usually that high. Its the exact opposite in the motorcycle world. The odds are simply not with riders, and the underwriters know it. Thats why uninsured motorist coverage has become one of the highest costs within the components of the policy. So, cost is absolutely a factor when dealing with UM coverage.

This article was actually completed before I saw a competing webzine touching on the subject of Uninsured Motorist coverage. It had one glaring issue: the writer is a personal injury attorney.

I certainly think that attorneys play their role in helping the injured. The attorney, however, is in it for the dough, and telling the consumer to buy the highest limits of uninsured motorist coverage doesnt exactly come clean for me. I have three well known personal injury attorneys that are actual customers. I even refer customers to them if needed.

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Motorcycle Insurance: Property or Physical Damage

In the ever changing world of insurance premiums there is one thing that never changes. The mechanics stay the same.

In the previous installment of this series, we delved into delivering a better understanding of the Bodily Injury coverage and what it does. More importantly, I want you to understand how your assets are exposed in the event its your fault. Unless you are between the ages of 18 years old and 30 years old and your only asset is your bike, you are really taking your (and your familys) chances by buying the minimum liability coverage. If you can afford higher limits, buy them.

What we didnt cover in the basic liability from the last installment is the Property or Physical Damage coverage. On a $25k/$50k/$25k, (GA min. limit- Check your local agent or broker for your min. limit), the last set of numbers are the Property Damage coverage.

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Motorcycle Insurance: Casualty Liability

Ever watch mold grow on bread? Insurance is that boring. Thats where I come in. For 11 years I have made my living as a professional motorcycle insurance agent. I take the mundane and make it easy for anyone to understand. What I hope to explain over the next several installments will have underwriters spinning on their technical heads.

Please understand that due to the nature of the subject and the fact that every state has slightly different liability insurance laws, you must afford me a certain amount of flexibility in my explanations. For specifics as they apply to you, consult with your local agents, brokers or direct insurer.

Liability coverage is for the benefit of others. No matter if youre riding a sportbike, vintage motorcycle, constructed motorcycle (assembled by hand), dual-sport or full dresser, if you are the at-fault party, liability insurance covers everyone involved except you!

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The American Culture of Motorcycle Safety

It’s ironic that while our machines are practically one step removed from Star Wars technology, the culture surrounding their use is one step removed from the Wild West.

The American approach to safety for motorcyclists and scooterists – that is, our attitudes and practices – is essentially a world of anything goes; each person must choose amidst a culture fraught with mixed messages and conflicting agendas.

Helmet? No helmet? Full face? Half helmet? Head-to-toe gear? Leather jacket and jeans? Shorts and T-shirt? A little training? A lot? None?

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Group Riding 101

Group riding is a whole other endeavor compared to solo riding. Where it is like solo riding is that some riders may instinctively do a good job of quickly figuring out the way to do it well, enjoy themselves, and have no issues. Others have found out the hard way that there are new rules to be observed when riding collectively.

“Group riding” is actually a catchall term. More specifically, are you and a few friends planning a day trip on your cruisers or a mixture of bike types? Are you and some friends heading across country? Are you and 11 other strangers riding a guided tour through new environs? Are you and some buddies and your hot sportbikes going out to look for some fun?

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How to Load Your Motorcycle

Motorcycles can be a great way to commute, transport smaller stuff from point A to B, or travel, sightsee and tour.

Depending on how much you carry, however, added weight can affect wear and tear on the whole bike, including suspension, tires, drive train, and brakes. It can also affect how well you can brake, corner, and of course, accelerate.

The more you pile on, the more you need to pay attention to where you place heavier items, how you attach them, and what the added ballast placed in various spots on your bike does to handling and control.

Following are some pointers to keep in mind, whether you are carrying the least or the most:

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Should You Ride a Motorcycle?

Since the invention of the motorcycle, people have been drawn to them for a variety of reasons.

They are fun, fast, and give feelings of freedom and power. You can aggressively lean into corners, or just kick back. The experience is an open-air ride no car can come close to offering.

And for just about as long, marketers have been selling motorcycles based on these attributes, delivering up better and better machines. Riders too, have long recruited others, telling them how much fun and what a great lifestyle it is.

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Night Riding

Riding a motorcycle after dark can be anything from a sub-par and dangerous experience to one that is an enjoyable and equally safe alternative to daytime riding. A number of factors affect where you will find yourself on this scale, and fortunately most are in your control.

As it is, some riders avoid the night because unless extra steps are taken, it is usually harder to see and be seen. What’s more, in many regions splattering bugs can be an issue, as can deer or other nocturnal animals. And if you crash in the middle of nowhere, well, that could be a bad scenario, no doubt.

But this said, many commuters wind up riding in the dark of the early morning or after the sun has gone down, or both. And many others may finish a day of riding after sundown. So, if you expect to ride in the dark, you’d be well advised to assess your equipment and decide whether it is really all you need it to be.

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Riding With a Passenger

Note: This article alternately refers to both male and female gender to describe riders or passengers in various circumstances. These selections were arbitrary and could apply to either gender.

Riding with a passenger on your motorcycle can be a lot of fun, but it is something that also ought to involve a fair amount of thought and care.

The minute you offer a person a ride, you’ve just accepted the job of controlling your bike at an operational disadvantage, and the responsibility of preserving another human life.

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The SEE System: Increasing Your Visibility

If there were ever a need to be proactive, assertive and in control, it is while riding a motorcycle. Motorcyclists and scooter riders are arguably the most vulnerable motor vehicle operators on the road.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), when compared to operators of a passenger vehicle, motorcyclists on American highways in 2006 had a 35 times greater chance of being killed per vehicle mile traveled.

Studies show that because motorcycles are much smaller, they may not be “seen” or fully, consciously registered in the minds of other motorists.

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Choose a Motorcycle That Fits

A motorcycle that fits well is more comfortable to operate, easier to control, safer to use, and ultimately more enjoyable to ride.

It should fit in a few senses of the word. A motorcycle should fit the rider’s body, so hands, feet and backside are comfortably positioned, with all switches and levers easily operable. Likewise, it should fit the rider’s intended purpose and experience level.

Motorcycle manufacturers have evolved several styles. These include sportbikes, touring bikes, sport tourers, cruisers, standards, and dual purpose.

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Motorcycle Insurance Basics

Are you and your motorcycle insured well enough to satisfy your states legal guidelines, as well as your own risk tolerance? You owe it to yourself and those who care about you to be sure you are up to date.

It may also be a good time to shop around. Rates can vary, and different insurance companies may offer superior service, coverage, discounts, or simply a lower premium.

When you ask for price quotes from different companies, it is important to provide the same information to each so you are comparing apples-to-apples. To quote you an accurate rate, each company will typically ask the following: marital status, age, where you live, the year/make/model of your bike, your drivers license number, Social Security numbers, and the coverages and limits you want.

Insurance companies calculate your premium based on what their underwriters estimate it will cost them to assume the financial responsibility for any potential claims.

Some key definitions:

Liability Insurance

Most states require you to at least have liability coverage.

Although variable by state, liability insurance consists of some or all of the following:

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The Truth About Drinking and Riding

While no one will publicly declare alcohol consumption and motorcycling are OK, there remain definite problems in a culture offering mixed messages.

Despite campaigns to raise awareness that drinking and riding don’t mix, the incentive to consume alcohol and ride a motorcycle has done anything but gone away. 

Included in the allure is a sometimes quietly accepted, revenue-generating subculture enabling such behaviors as riding to the bar, or bar hopping, or participating in massive regional rider festivals where drink (and sometimes drugs) are plentiful.

Or, it could be simply individuals who ride after drinking for their own reasons.

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What to Wear When You Ride - and Why

Just because you are free to ride your motorcycle or scooter in the U.S. with hardly enough clothing for a beach party does not mean it’s a good idea. And just because riders in at least 30 states may legally ride without helmets, also does not make this recommended.

Gear comes styled for every kind of riding, at several price points, and designed more comfortably than ever. Aside from its obvious intent of protecting you in a crash, proper clothing and a helmet can actually reduce fatigue and improve your focus.

And whether you think it’s too hot out, or gear costs too much, or you just don’t feel like it – none of these are excuses not to protect yourself. How would those who care about you like it if you were hurt or killed? You owe it to them, and you owe it to yourself.

While some want to debate the merits of helmets and gear, when push comes to shove, riders know. Or ask any racer. He or she understands a crash could happen any time and what are they required to wear?

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