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Shifting Gears – Motorcycle Basics

Before you set out on the road, you need to know a little bit about how a motorcycle operates. First, some super simple physics.

Staying Upright

Did you ever wonder how a motorcycle can stay upright when it’s moving? Everyone knows that sitting still, a bike (and its rider) will fall over unless they have support. But a moving motorcycle somehow stays up without a lot of effort. Weird.

The technical answer involves some complicated physics about angular momentum and torque. But let’s skip all that and take an everyday example. Hold a bat, heavy end up, in your palm. It will tend to fall over. It’s statically unstable. But wiggle your palm to keep it continually right under the heavy end, and the bat will stay upright. It’s dynamically stable. Something similar works with motorcycles.

When you drive forward friction and your small balancing movements constantly adjust the center of gravity of the bike and rider. The result is similar to the upright bat. The bike and rider stay upright.

Maneuvering the handle bars to get that smooth rideMoving forward

Over the decades there have been several different designs, but today most motorcycles have standard operating configurations. The steering mechanism is a simple lever. Other types, like steering wheels, joysticks, and others have been tried.

The right handle grip contains the throttle. The original meaning of ‘to throttle’ is ‘to slow down or hinder’. Here, it has the opposite meaning. Twist it back toward you and the engine gets more gas. With the brakes off, you’ll go faster. Common knowledge.

On the left handle grip of the handlebar is the clutch. Pull it in to change gears, then release – not too fast, not too slow. Also fairly well known. Not too many motorcycles have automatic gear changing mechanisms, but they exist.

Beneath your left foot is the gear shift. Squeeze the clutch lever, ease off the gas, and move the gear shift up or down. Then release your left hand, push the throttle and go.

Slowing Down

The front brake lever is attached to the right handle grip. The front brake supplies most of the friction needed to slow down the bike. In some cases, as much as 80%. Pulling it too hard and too fast can flip the bike (and you) over, especially on downhill angles.

Near the foot peg on the right side is the rear brake lever. Push it down with your right foot, and the rear brake mechanism is engaged. Usually, the front and rear brakes are used simultaneously. Feathering the front and rear can cause undue wear on one or the other.

Some bikes have linked braking systems. Pressing the rear brake engages part of the front brake. Synchronization is key to smooth, safe stops. Most rear brakes today are disc type – one or a pair of pads squeezes against a metal disc in the center of the wheel and friction slows the bike to a stop.

Turning off

Most bikes today have a ‘kill switch’. Sometimes reaching for the key to turn off the motor can cause the bike to become unbalanced. Sometimes you fall off and have to shut off the engine in a hurry. In either case, using the kill switch to kill the motor fast provides a safety backup.

There are lots of variation beyond the basics. Some bikes have an old-fashioned, but still frequently used, kick starter. Others have a push button starter. Some have sidecars, custom suspension, electronic de-fogging mirrors, mileage and GPS computers… the list is endless. But they all have the necessary components discussed above. If they don’t, your bike is busted.

Doing a Bike Tour Around Central Park

New York’s Central Park is the most popular destination in this city for picnics, trail walking, and trail biking. Although its opening times is not 24 hours, it still enjoys a lot of visitors all year round.

Bike tours are common in Central ParkMind you, Central Park is not any other park that you can just walk around in one day. It features 800 acres full of lush greenery, artificial lakes, picnic areas, restaurants, outdoor gym equipment, and playgrounds. There are so many things to do around Central Park, and it can be a challenge if you intend to explore the entire place. It is easy to get lost, too.

When walking, it will take you weeks to go on and off the park to explore its entirety. However, with biking, traveling becomes manageable. You get to visit more sites in a short amount of time, and you are given more freedom to explore given that you can bring your bike anywhere.

If you intend to bike Central Park, which route should you take? Do you need to sign up for Central Park bike tours available in the area? If you can do it yourself, why not!

Before we get to the recommended route, let us first give you a rundown of the basic rules in biking around New York.

New York’s biking rules

1. By law, children under 14 years old must wear their helmet at all times. However, for safety reasons, it is highly advisable that everyone must wear their helmet while biking.

2. When biking, always go in a counter-clockwise direction.

3. Always use the bike lane; never go biking on pedestrian lanes.

4. The road must be shared with cars where cars are allowed.

5. A bike is considered a vehicle. Therefore, pedestrians always have the right of way.


Now that we’ve given the basic biking rules, here is a route you can take when biking around Central Park. There are other routes available, but this is an excellent choice for first-time explorers of the park:

1. Start your ride at the Grand Army Plaza entrance. It is an attractive area to retrace your steps back to because it is a prominent site in the park.

2. Ride towards East Park Drive which allows you to get into one of the loops of Central Park.

3. Connect to Park Drive where you get lovely views of the park. Go along this route until you get to 110th St.

4. It is going to be a bit of an uphill along this route, but continue cycling until you get to the northern end of Park Drive.

5. Since by law you have to bike in a counterclockwise direction, turn to the south until you get to the west area of the park.

6. Continue along this route which provides a pleasant reprieve from the uphills you’ve experienced at Park Drive.

7. You will reach the Grand Army Plaza at this point, and you’ve now finished your bike trail.

Without stopping, this route takes 2-3 hours. However, it is a waste to just pass by all the stops if it is your first time exploring Central Park. Feel free to get off your bike to grab a snack and drink, take pictures, and visit sites. It is going to be a fun activity even if you do it alone, with your family, or friends. And also, if you get lost just ask for the Grand Army Plaza, and you will, for sure, trace back your way.

Risks When Riding a Motorcycle

Every person that owns a motorcycle is probably aware of all the dangers that come along with it. But, some people may not know the actual statistics of injuries and deaths.

Responsible riding of motorcycle to prevent reckless accidentsMotorcycle Statistics

It is a necessity to wear a helmet on a motorcycle, but even though some motorcycle riders wear helmets that does not necessarily mean he or she can get in an accident and walk away without any injuries. Motorcycle statistics have not been updated in a few years, but there are some interesting statistics on riding motorcycles.

  • Since 1997, there has been an 89% increase in motorcycle fatalities. This is simply because more people are purchasing motorcycles. Obviously, with more motorcycles on the road, there are more chances for accidents.
  • Drivers between the ages of 20-29 are targeted for the largest percentage involved in fatal motorcycle crashes. For the most part, these accidents can put the blame on speeding. So many young people are less experienced, and when that is put together with speed it does not create a nice ending.
  • Although the percentage rate has dropped in the last ten years, the largest percentage of motorcycle riders involved in fatal crashes have been over the legal limit of alcohol. It is dangerous enough driving a car with more than a .08 blood alcohol content, so why would it not be more dangerous on a motorcycle?
  • 72% of motorcycle drivers in the age range of 40-49 have been alcohol-related.
  • 70% of all motorcycle fatalities have occurred on highways that are undivided. Always make sure to polish up motorcycle skills before driving on any road, especially highways!

Lessen the Chance of Motorcycle Injuries

Even though motorcycles are dangerous, there are a few ways that injuries can be prevented. The obvious way is to drive safely and watch out for other vehicles.

  • A motorcycle safety course is always a good preventative for accidents and injuries. All states require a driver to have a motorcycle license, especially if it is the person’s primary vehicle. However, Texas does not require a driver over the age of twenty-one to wear a helmet if they have taken a safety course.
  • Wear the correct attire. Always wear jeans and comfortable shoes with a helmet. On top of that, it is a great idea to wear a riding jacket. If an accident occurs, the jacket will protect the arms from road rash, and the jeans will protect the legs.
  • When wearing a helmet, be sure there is a safe and stable face shield. Many motorcycle drivers wear goggles or protective sunglasses, but others have face shields.
  • It is very common for other cars not to see the motorcycles around them, so always be courteous to other drivers and pay attention!

Again, just because a helmet is worn on a motorcycle does not mean injuries will not occur. Always take every kind of precaution while riding a motorcycle, and remember the popular saying: Support life and put a helmet on!

Why Motorcycle Riders Should Always Wear Helmets

The question is whether motorcyclists should wear helmets, not whether there should be helmet laws. It’s okay to “agree” that riders should wear helmets and still “disagree” that helmets should be mandatory by law! Whether or not one wears a helmet should forever be the individual’s choice. This article states that helmets are a good idea and hopefully makes a few points regarding why wearing a helmet makes sense. Facts, figures, and available research on helmet use can be construed to argue for or against, so the following is just one person’s opinion.

Overall Safety

Reasoning that people should wear helmets while motorcycling is similar to the question of whether seat belts should be worn in a car or truck. Although on rare occasions a seat belt may cause harm in a crash, chances are far greater than the seat belt will save the person from more severe injuries or death. The probability that a helmet worn in a motorcycle crash will save a life is far greater than the likelihood that the helmet would cause harm. I’ll side with possibility on this one. As for the common excuses for not wearing helmets, read on:

Limited Vision and Hearing

If your helmet is limiting your vision, then you’re not wearing the right one. This is based on personal experience. For years I wore a full face helmet, and my limit of visibility was that I needed to turn my head farther to check blind spots and to back up my bike. To back up the bike, I found myself turning to the point that I needed to turn my shoulders also to see directly behind me, making it hard to maintain balance while pushing the bike backward. I accepted this difficulty as being worth it for the protection I was getting from the helmet. After many years of riding, on the recommendation of a safety class instructor, I tried a half-helmet and found it solved my backing problem and made it easier to check the blind spots when riding. The full face helmet may offer better face protection in a crash, but in my case, it’s a personal choice and finding a balance between head protection and visibility. Each person is different. The point: helmets are available in a wide enough variety of styles to suit a wide variety of individual requirements. The same answer applies to the “impaired hearing” concern.

Too Hot

Although quality helmets are made with vents to help with this, there’s no denying it can still get sweaty under there. Again, I choose to deal with the occasional sweaty head and “bad hair” for the payoff of protecting my head in a crash. If I’m ever in an accident where my head hits the pavement or another object, I’m more comfortable with the thought of sweaty head and possible concussion as opposed to an air-cooled head with a smashed skull.

Helmets Don’t Look Cool

I’m willing to sacrifice looks for safety because I value living far more than I care about someone else’s opinion of whether I look good or not. If you’re riding only because you want to look cool, then you’re missing the point of riding. Again, there are so many styles of helmets available that not looking good is, let’s face it, a lame excuse.

Too Expensive

Isn’t that like saying you can’t afford the maintenance for your car? Consider it cost of ownership. You can afford the motorcycle; you can afford the helmet. Although a quality helmet can range in price from $80 to $300 or more, that’s still in many cases less expensive than a leather jacket or just one of the many “accessories” we buy for our bikes. Think about the value and how “expensive” the helmet is, if a day comes when that helmet saves your life or prevents a permanent brain injury.

I’m not going to be in an accident: that “it won’t happen to me” attitude is unrealistic. Even the most experienced and advanced riders will encounter flat or blown tires, road hazards, mechanical problems and other drivers who cause accidents. There’s always the possibility of something happening that’s beyond your control. Again it’s a matter of protecting yourself against the probability of a crash no matter how good of a rider you may be.

If you decide it makes sense to wear a helmet, keep in mind that helmets work better when they fit correctly, are DOT/and or SNELL approved to meet established safety standards, and when they’re worn on the head as opposed to riding on the helmet lock or elsewhere on the bike. Helmets should also be replaced regularly. There are resources available everywhere for those who want to learn more. All the above points are simply a helmet advocate’s point of view, written with respect for the right of a person to choose not to wear a helmet, no matter the reason. A person of sound mind and mature age should have the right to choose whether or not to take this safety precaution while riding.

Efficiency & Eco-Friendliness of Scooters

When comparing cars and bikes/scooters, there can be many things which can be considered but one of the most important things is their efficiency, or you can say contribution towards the environment.

Scooters are tinier and could navigate through cramped city streetsCars are the most common means of transport these days, and so, there are millions and billions on the road today. However, scooters or bike accidents are less. Riding a motorcycle or scooter requires a useful skill and one should be more careful while riding because these are on two wheels. Yes, that is true but, if considering the fuel efficiency and environmental alternatives scooters play an essential role in keeping the greenhouse gases low in the atmosphere.

They can go as much as four times than cars while consuming same quantity of fuel. Secondly, the amount of gases produced by these two-wheelers is much low because of their engine capacity and power.

Scooters and motorcycles take less space and hence are less prone to get stuck in traffic. They help in reducing the traffic jams. Also, riding a scooter can be much more fun than a car.

Riding a scooter or a motorcycle is almost an exercise. Riding requires:

  • Controlling weight
  • Weight transfers
  • Concentration on road
  • Movements

.. all this is an exercise. According to a survey, riding is good for health. The rider is not bound or confined within four walls or in a small room.

In the end, it can be said that riding can be much more enjoyable, fun, good for health and a substitute for cars while considering urban and environmental problems.

The Necessity of a Motorcycle Pre-Ride Check

It can be easy to get in the habit of jumping on the motorcycle each day for the commute or each weekend’s ride without actually checking the motorcycle out before leaving. But, when it comes to vehicles, a small problem on the bike can equal a painful or deadly experience.

Careful pre-ride checks will ensure a smooth rideBefore going out, there are a few items that can be quickly checked on the motorcycle. Each thing only takes a few seconds to check and is well worth spending the time.

Tire Pressure

Some tires lose pressure very slowly, and it can be easy to miss this with the naked eye. That is why it is important to have a pressure gauge nearby. If checking the pressure before a ride, keep in mind that it is the cold pressure, and the tire pressure will expand during a trip. Tire pressure should be checked regularly as over or under-inflated tires will cause handling and stability issues.

Fluids

It is always a good idea to check the engine oil regularly. Most motorcycles aren’t set up like cars: there isn’t a dipstick to pull out. Motorcycles have a small window which provides a view of the oil levels. When checking the oil, be sure to set the bike level to the ground to get an accurate reading. According to certified motorcycle technician Steven DuParc, try to keep the oil level just below the highest tick mark. If the oil goes above that mark, it can get into the air box.

Brake fluid can also be easily checked on a motorcycle. The front brake reservoir is usually on the handlebars with a window and guideline. The rear brake reservoir is towards the rear side of the bike and can sometimes be under a cover, but should also be checked regularly.

Lights

Check both the front and rear turn signals on each side to be sure they are working. When checking the brake lights, be sure to check using both the handbrake and the foot break separately. A trick if checking lights in bright light is to hold a hand in front of it. The light will reflect off the hand, making it easier to see.

Chain

The chain tension doesn’t need to be checked before every ride, but a quick visual inspection can be performed to verify it’s not too loose or tight. The chain should be checked for tension at each recommended maintenance interval.

Spraying the lubricant on the chainWhen it comes to cleaning and lubing the chain, it is also a good idea to do it after returning from a motorcycle ride. At that point, the chain is warmed up, and it will be easier to remove the grime and dirt on it, and the heat will allow the new oil to seep in better. Plus, by lubing the chain after a ride, it will be ready to go before the next one.

Overall Visual Inspection

Take a quick rundown of the motorcycle. Look at the engine or the ground around the bike. Are there any leaks visible or drops on the ground from something that might indicate a problem? Does it appear that anything has loosened or dropped off since the last time the motorcycle was taken out? Since most motorcycle components are readily viewable, by doing just a quick walk around the problems can be found and fixed before starting up the bike.

A quick walk around inspection of a motorcycle is a task that should only take a few minutes to do. Checking the tires, fluids, lights, and chain can be done visually and easily remedied before each ride. A check-up can assure a rider that there is one less thing to worry about while cruising down the road.

Brake Info – Introduction, Disclaimer and Basic Hydraulics

We do not expect that this guide will turn you into an expert overnight. We have made every attempt to be accurate and easy to read. But we cannot impart the gifts of skill, experience, and common sense. If after reading these pages you feel inclined to carry out alterations to the braking system of a bike we will not accept responsibility for what happens next. You are responsible for your actions, and this guide has been placed online to only offer an introduction into the braking system and to hopefully give you a more significant background into how things work, what effects changes may have and what different parts of the system do. We will obviously be happy to answer any questions.

Twin cylinder motorcycle enginePOWER

Fact is that the most powerful part of your motorcycle is not the engine – it’s the brakes. For example, a GSXR1000 can do a standing quarter mile in 10.8 seconds with a terminal speed of 138mph. Yet, the brakes can do the same amount of work, but in reverse, in just 6.8 seconds.

HYDRAULICS

The name hydraulics comes from the Greek word ‘hydro’ meaning water and ‘aulos’ meaning pipe. The basics of any hydraulic braking system are as follows. For a hydraulic system to function it must be closed and full of fluid and leak-free. No fluid can be allowed to leave, and no air can be allowed to enter.

In a closed, sealed hydraulic system as outlined above the following laws are true Fluid cannot be compressed to a lesser volume, no matter how high the pressure Pressure is equal over all surfaces of the containing system The things that concern us most with brake hydraulics are the following :

Pressure

It is a constant in the hydraulic system. If you put ten psi into a system hydraulic laws, state that this ten psi will act on all surfaces within the system equally. Pressure In = Pressure Out.

Force

A 1 square inch master cylinder with 10 lbs. of force applied to it will produce 10 lbs. of force per square inch or 10 psi. If the calipers have a surface area of 10 square inches, then the force here will be 10 x 10 lb which will mean the calipers produce 100 lb of force. The pressure acting on the system is the same, in this case, ten psi, but the force can be altered by changing the surface area of the calipers.

Fluid Displacement

Installing Brake Lines on a YamahaIf our one square inch master cylinder travels forward 1″ then the amount of fluid it displaces will be one cubic inch. If this fluid is then spread over the 10 square inches of the caliper, the calipers will only be able to move 1/10th of an inch. You will have a huge force (100 lbs.), but the caliper pistons may not move forward enough to grip the disc tightly and so give a weaker brake. This can be seen to happen on some motorcycles which have a small master cylinder piston and two pot calipers. If the two pots are exchanged for six-pot calipers, then the surface area increases and the force increases at the caliper, BUT the small master cylinder only moves a small amount of fluid which in turn equates to a lower movement of the caliper pistons.

Lever Pivot Point

Any effort you apply with your hand should push the pads against the disc. But your hand isn’t that strong. To make the point grab hold of something and squeeze it hard – do you think that’s enough pressure to stop 270kgs of bike and rider from 180mph? Initially, the brake lever itself gives you an advantage by multiplying the force at your hand through the lever. For instance, the distance from the lever pivot point to the middle of the lever (where your fingers are) might be 130mm. And yet the distance from the pivot point to the point where the lever acts on the master cylinder might only be 20mm. So, roughly speaking any force applied to the lever will be 6.5 times greater at the master cylinder (130mm/20mm = 6.5).

FAQ

QUESTION – Can you use any fluid in the braking system?

No, you cannot. The fluid in the braking system must be a designated brake fluid which meets with certain specifications – DOT3, DOT4, DOT5 or DOT 5.1 are the most common and your owners manual will inform you of the fluid used as a standard in the system. Don’t use aircraft hydraulic fluid (even if you can get hold of it) – it isn’t the brake fluid equivalent of Avgas and do not use the mineral based fluid formulated for Citroens either

QUESTION – What types of brake fluid are available?

Brake fluid testThere are two types of fluid: glycol-based and silicone-based. You can use one or the other but NEVER mix the two fluids. If you want to use a different fluid than the one in your system ( glycol to silicone/silicone to glycol), then you will need to flush the system before changing. Brake fluid is available in different specifications to meet American Department Of Transport (DOT) requirements. These DOT regulations are occasionally updated but primarily the higher the DOT rating, the higher quality, higher boiling point and more expensive the fluid. DOT3 is the basic brake fluid. DOT 4 is a higher standard, and both of these fluids absorb water – they are hygroscopic, but DOT4 fluid contains additives which prevent water affecting the performance of the fluid to the same degree. DOT 5 was originally formulated for silicone based brake fluid although there is now a new DOT5.1 standard for glycol-based fluid which has some of the desirable properties of silicone fluids. Both types – glycol based and silicone have different pros and cons though.

QUESTION – What are the boiling points of brake fluids?

Brake fluid works in a harsh environment being close to the heat generated by the braking system the fluid heats up and under extreme conditions such as racing this can lead to the fluid boiling. These manufacturers found that by increasing the boiling point, the fluid performed better in use as when fluid boils it leads to cavitation within the system and loss of braking pressure. The boiling points are as follows :

               Minimum Specification                    Good Brand Min Spec
DRY WET DRY WET
DOT 3 205 Deg C 140 Deg C 220 Deg C 150 Deg C
DOT 4 230 Deg C 155 Deg C 260 Deg C 170 Deg C
DOT 5 260 Deg C 180 Deg C 270 Deg C 190 Deg C
DOT 5.1 260 Deg C 180 Deg C 270 Deg C 190 Deg C

Wet figures above show the drop in performance when the fluid has a specific water content (less than 3%). For example, when DOT 5.1 is contaminated with 3% water (which is considered a lot) performs almost as well as basic DOT 3 in prime condition. The most important thing to do is regularly change your fluid – we suggest every three months, but manufacturers suggest at least once every twelve months. After six months use a typical DOT 3 fluid may have had it’s boiling point lowered from 205 degree’s C to about 165 degree’s C

QUESTION – What are the pros and cons of fluids?

DOT 3 and DOT 4 are hydroscopic – they allow water to be absorbed into the fluid. This means that when heated up a fluid with water in it will boil more quickly (water boils at a lower temperature than brake fluid) which will lead to cavitation. DOT 5 does not absorb water and will not strip paintwork but as the water is not absorbed it merely sinks to the bottom of the system which is usually the caliper where operating temperatures are very high. Water in the caliper is bad as it can cause corrosion within the caliper although silicone fluids contain corrosion inhibitors and as water has a lower boiling point than fluid (100 Degrees C), there is more chance of boiling under relatively light braking. Glycol based fluids can strip paintwork whereas silicone based do not. Silicone fluids also have a very long life which is why it is used in military vehicles which may be stored for years without use but be expected to be ready for action at a moments notice.

QUESTION – Do -02 lines give more pressure than -03 lines?

No – the fitting of the smaller dash two hoses sold by some manufacturers makes NO difference to the pressure produced at the caliper as is commonly believed. There are no substantial benefits associated with the use of dash two hoses except that the manufacturer can charge you more for them. The only way to increase pressure coming out of the system is to increase the pressure going into the system. 500 psi in equals 500 psi out – Fluid cannot be compressed to a lesser volume, no matter how high the pressure and Pressure is equal over all surfaces of the containing system.

QUESTION – What is the difference in performance between two full-length front lines and an over-the-mudguard line kit?

Nothing except for the way the system looks. Both systems operate in the same way and give you the same performance. As the system is a closed hydraulic system without air in it when the fluid moves at one end the same movement takes place at the other end. Because they have different lengths doesn’t mean that the system will work slower at one end than the other. Imagine pushing two sticks away from you which are both 6″ long – the ends both move at the same time. Now imagine pushing two sticks – one is 6″ and the other is 36″ – the ends still both move at the same time. So the over the mudguard gives the same performance as the two full length – it’s just which you prefer.

QUESTION – What’s better – three front lines using the OEM splitter, two full-length fronts or 2 fronts with one over-the-mudguard?

Front mudguard kitAs we have said above the three systems, give the same performance, but the three-line front has an additional two possible leak points in the system, is heavier and harder to bleed than two front lines. It is easier to fit though as you follow the OEM setup. Another thing to remember is to do you race or use the bike on track days? If so go for the two full-length front as in the UK one of the ACU rules state that you are not allowed an over the mudguard system unless it is an original system.

QUESTION – Friction

Friction is resistance to sliding. Any two objects in contact with and trying to move relative to each other have friction. This can be low or high depending on the types of surface in contact. If two surfaces in contact are sliding, the friction produces heat. In braking systems, friction is used to produce heat.

The process of creating this heat stops the motorcycle. The amount of friction between two surfaces depends on the materials and their roughness.

The amount of friction is described by a number called the coefficient of friction. This number is obtained by Friction Force being divided by the Perpendicular Force. To make matters more complicated, the coefficient of friction has two different values. It is higher when there is no sliding, but as soon as the surfaces start to move relative to each other, the friction coefficient drops to a lower number.

This is why it is harder to start something sliding than it is to keep it sliding. After sliding starts, it is called dynamic coefficient of friction. The higher the number, the higher the amount of friction and the lower the number, the lower the amount of friction.