Mrs Road Captain is a Road Captain

HOG RC Patch

Holy road tar Batman I married Super Woman! It seems like just a few months ago I was teaching Diana how to ride a motorcycle in a school parking lot in Baltimore. Turns out that was 5 years ago. She has been a dedicated student of motorcycling ever since. She soaks up knowledge like a sponge… as long as it doesn’t come from her husband. Most say that she rides better than me. I say she rides better than most. On top of that she does an excellent job of navigating, mapping and creating great rides. When asked why we should ride through two hours of rain to get to a bike rally she responds with “because that’s what we do!”. So I guess it is only natural that she was patched tonight as an offical HOG Road Captain in First State Chapter. Congratulations Princess, I’ll follow you anywhere!

Free Online Motorcycle Safety Course

One of our First State Chapter Road Captains sent us this link to an excellent motorcycle safety video and quiz. It is really really good! Coincidentally some of the scenes for the “Personal Protective Gear” were shot at our friend’s shop in Virginia Beach. That’s right! Tami Walker’s Diva Customs as mentioned in our previous post on RC USA. Tami is even in the video! I was watching the video and I was like “Hold the phone! That’s Diva Customs! I was just there!”

Here is the link: http://launchscorm.claritynet.com/CustomAssets/1874824/10561/INDEX_FF.HTM

Princess, Hairsnipper and Diva

Return to Diva Customs

Diva Customs in Virginia Beach store front

Diva Customs Front Room

Diva Customs Sportster

Bike to Bike Communication Systems Part 1

J&M CB Radio from Cycle Accessory Store

I currently do not have a communication device on my motorcycle but believe that bike to bike communication is way under valued. It is my belief that in the near future bike to bike communication using compact wireless helmet mounted bluetooth technology will become the norm and we will wonder how he got along without it. Something as simple as pulling over because you got some dust in your eye could be easily communicated to your buddy or group. Instead we usually tough it out and do the best we can until the irritation goes away, unless of course you ride by yourself. In that case you do whatever you please whenever you please.

I once went on an ice cream ride with my HOG Chapter where a member from another chapter joined us. He rode without putting any eyewear on. This is illegal and dangerous. I couldn’t tell if this was the way he liked to ride or not. I kept telling myself that it was not my problem, that if he wanted to pull over and put his eyewear on, then it was up to him. There were plenty of opportunities for him to do so but because he was new to the group he didn’t speak up. If I had a CB I could have called up to the lead Road Captain on his Ultra Classic and notified him of the situation to get his oppinion. After we got to the ice cream stop it became known that it was a mistake and he should have let us know he needed to pull over. If we could all communicate I think the experience of riding with a friend or a group of friends would be a hundred times safer and ten times more fun.

Here is a post on Motorcycle Philosophy about the impact of having to take a rest stop while riding with people who don’t take rest stops. Click here to check it out and think how different it would be if these riders could communicate.

Even though I think newer technologies will become the norm, the CB Radio will be more common for quite awhile among cruisers since most touring bikes are already outfitted with them. The sportbike crowd might adapt to FRS Radio and new technologies sooner because they are all on a level playing field. For those of us in the Harley crowd, many of our friends are already outfitted with CB on their Ultra Classics. My wife has done alot of research on the Internet and has only found one handlebar mounted CB Radio specifically for motorcycle use. It is the J&M model and can be ordered as a complete system from www.CycleAccessoryStore.com in North Carolina. Diana ordered a $600 J&M CB Radio system from them for my 2008 Christmas present but; I stupidly exchanged it for two Chatterbox FRS units. The Chatterbox system was half the price of the J&M and was supposed to be voice activiated. I thought that the hands free VOX system would be better than PTT (Push to Talk). Although the FRS radios wouldn’t allow us to communicate with our friends on CB I thought it was more important that Diana and I be able to communicate. The Chatterbox units we received didn’t work well at all and I returned them directly to Chatterbox for a full refund under warranty assuming this is not the way they are supposed to function (defective). I didn’t believe that replacements would work much better. I was tempted to buy the bluetooth Scala Rider system from www.CycleAccesoryStore.com (they have great customer service). At the moment this system is limited to communication between two bikes only. It is the most compact lightweight unit I have seen. It is a little egg shaped device you clip on your helmet. “Look Ma, No wires!”

It is winter time again and I find myself surfing the Net for an affordable compact CB capable of being rigged up to a motorcycle. The J&M is considered the top of the line but it is expensive, unattractive and might not be compatable with my split view mirrors. I came across the Midland 75-822 which appears to be the second most most compact CB radio on the market. It is a complete 40 channel CB radio system in a small handheld unit. It will accept a variety of accessory headsets. The Cobra 75 WX ST is smaller but I do not know if you can attach an accesory headset to it.

Midland CB 75-822 

The Midland 75-822 can be used as a portable (like a walkie talkie) or changes to a mobile unit. It has a belt clip, two battery attachments, a detachable antenna and the mobile attachment. The normal battery attachment holds 6 standard AA batteries. The rechargeable battery attachment holds 8 NiCad rechargeable AA batteries and comes with a plug to charge them up. It also comes with a short flexable detachable walkie talkie size antenna. The mobile attachment has connections for a base mount antenna and cigarette lighter plug. The idea is you can us this CB as a mobile unit in your car, jeep or truck and then take it with you as a portable outside the vehicle. Imagine using it to go on a camping trip. You can use it in the vehicle and then stay in touch with other users and listen to NOAA weather reports from your tent. You can use my 12 Volt Power Port to connect the cigarette lighter plug to your battery tender quick connect on a motorcycle. That means you just gotta figure out how to mount the base antenna and where to keep the radio. You might just want to clip it on your belt. It would be really cool if the little antenna worked well and you didn’t need the base antenna… but I doubt it. We’ll find out when it gets a little warmer. You can find this radio on eBay and Amazon.com for less than $90.

A company called www.HiTechWireless.com sells a motorcycle headset that is compatable with the Midland 75-822. It is called RiderComm and is made by RocketScience. You need to order it with the S1 connector. It is currently on sale for $89.95 and includes the headset with boom microphone, weatherproof PTT button and connecting cables. They told me the only customer complaint they hear is the length of the cables isn’t as long as some people would like and there are no extensions available. I bought the unit from HiTech Wireless and it arrived the next day via Federal Express. I was impressed considering there was no shipping or handling charge.

I bought the Midland CB with a Cobra 300 watt magnetic base antenna from Amazon for $101.72 with Free Super Saver Shipping and received the merchandise in about three days. Click here for more details on the Midland 75-822 CB radio at my Amazon store.

Now I am off to surf the Net for a magnetic tank bag to stash the radio in. “Hang Loose!”

A Few Nuggets of Wisdom from the Head Road Captain

This blog is in part meant to be a referance site for Road Captains all over the world. The how to and when to information on leading and sweeping group motorcycle rides is limited. Here are just a few nuggets from our Head Road Captain, Lem McMaster. These are pretty basic but important. I gleamed these from our monthly Road Captain meeting earlier this evening and was inspired to share them with you. Please drop in your own nuggets by leaving some comments.

The First Rest Stop: when you start a ride in the morning everyone is full of breakfast coffee and the first rest break should be set within the first hour or 80 miles. Let everyone use the restroom and adjust their gear. Sometimes you wear too much or not enough gear and you need to strip off or add some layers. Once this first stop is out of the way you can really roll.

Park Far Away from the Rest Area: when parking for a comfort stop don’t park at the front door to the gas station or convenience store. Park far enough away so you can walk a little bit and get the blood flowing through your body.

Be The Last: as the RC you should be the last to get gas, eat a snack, smoke a cigarette and so forth so that by the time you are done you know the pack riders have had enough time to do their thing and are ready to roll when you are.

Ride Your Own Ride: everyone must heed this advice. I am probably the worst about this. I worry about specific riders in the group and try to watch them in my mirrors. What I should be doing is focussing on riding my ride. There is nothing you can do for these people. They have to ride their motorcycles and you have to ride yours. If everyone is focussed on riding their own ride then everything will work.

You Are Always On Time: whatever time you get there is the right time. If you get there early, well you are still on time. If you get there late, well you are still on time. As long as you get there safe you are on time.

Overconfidence

Princess Road Captain

As a brand new rider, I was always cautious not to outride my abilities.  I was also careful to keep that same philosophy in mind when I upgraded to a big-twin Harley.  With the Super Glide’s lower center of gravity and greater stability it was easy to forget that I had only been riding for 3 years, not 3 decades.  My confidence grew quickly, and with it my skills developed as well.  I put 10,000 miles on my new bike the first year, and fellow First State HOG chapter members told me often that I was an accomplished rider.  It was even suggested that I enter our Road Captain training program.

My initial response was that I didn’t feel ready yet – I did not have a wide enough range of riding experiences.  I had only ridden on an Interstate once, had ridden in significant rain only once, hadn’t crossed any major bridges, had never gone on an overnight trip on my own bike, and hadn’t really seen any truly challenging twisties.  So I set myself some goals for the summer, and as it happened I accomplished nearly all of them in a single week that I put over 1500 miles on my bike.  It was like a whirlwind of opportunity and accomplishments.  I decided I was ready, but all of that just went to my head.

In mid-August school was about to begin and teachers came in for a week of training and preparation.  I rode my Harley to work every day.  We got out of a meeting a few minutes early and had 90 minutes for lunch one day.  I decided to take my bike for a nice ride around a few of the local back roads then pick up a quick sandwich at Wawa. 

Not being incredibly familiar with the roads, I missed my turn.  So I rode down to the next side street and make a quick u-turn…a little too quick!  My front tire slid off the side of the pavement and dropped into the grass, my handlebars jackknifed, and I just let her go down.  I knew that I was no match for an 800-pound Harley!  Luckily, a young man came driving down the road just then.  He helped me get the bike upright, then dashed back off in his car just as quickly as he had appeared.

“When you get overconfident, that’s when something snaps up and bites you.”

– Neil Armstrong

Then the bike wouldn’t start.  Ouch, I really did it this time.  Not only did I get overconfident and stop paying as close attention as I should, but now I am stranded in the middle of nowhere with no tools, a completely misaligned footpeg, a loose mirror that wouldn’t stay put, and a bike that won’t start!  (I was lucky nothing was actually broken.)  I honestly don’t know what I did, but somehow taking the key out and playing with the clock/odometer display cleared out the error code and I was able to start the motor.

So much for my ride.  So much for my lunch.  I rode quietly back to school with my tail between my legs, bruised ego, and beating myself up for being so careless.  I had always been so careful to ride within my capabilities and to keep a strong mental focus while riding.  Geez, I am an idiot!

As it happened, it was that very evening that our new Head Road Captain called to officially invite me to join the training program.  Then he said something that made me wonder if he was wise beyond even his own awareness.  He said, “You are a good rider, but don’t get ahead of yourself.  Overconfidence will cause anyone, no matter how experienced, to make mistakes.”

“Trust me, I know,” I replied…

Come to a Complete Stop

This week on Tuesday’s Tip: The benefits of coming to a complete stop at Stop signs.

This is specifically a tip for Road Captains leading medium to large groups. I am not instructing you to come to a complete stop at each and every stop sign, I am merely pointing out some of the advantages of doing so.

Coming to a complete stop and waiting for everyone to catch up and put their feet down is a good Road Captain habit. If you roll through intersections the tail end of the pack may have to run stop signs in an unsafe manner or stop and then exceed a safe speed in order to catch up with the pack. The tail may always be playing catch up like a slinky. By stopping and waiting for everyone to come to a complete rest you keep everyone together and can check to make sure you have the whole group. It also puts everyone at ease; no one will feel rushed. I think the best benefit is that everyone expects the bike in front of them to stop. When you have a group where most of the riders roll through the stop signs you have a dangerous situation because eventually someone is going to come to a complete stop and the guy behind him isn’t going to expect it. You may have a collision or a close call.