Riding safely in style: Motorcyclists share their precautions when taking road

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Caitlyn Richey

In Texas, all riders 20 and younger need a helmet. Graphic Designer Caitlyn Richey designed this infographic after researching motorcycle laws. “Typically helmets are one of the No. 1 things that people notice because that is what makes you a human on the bike,” counselor and rider Bobby Storey said. “White helmets and yellow helmets, people tend to recognize.”

Reading Time: 8 minutes

 

In the sea of high school experiences, a counselor and a student have found something in common: their love for motorcycles. Motorcycles have always been a big part of counselor Bobby Storey’s life growing up. During his adolescent years, his father always wanted a motorcycle, and during Storey’s junior year of high school, his father finally did get one. Similar to Storey, Dawson Svoboda has ridden dirt bikes and motorcycles with his dad since he was 3 years old.

 

Emotion: Personal connection that comes with riding motorcycles

Bobby Storey got his first motorcycle in the spring of 2011.  

 “My dad used to ride motorcycles and race them out in the desert in California while he was growing up,” Storey said. “He was always talking about getting a motorcycle all through my elementary and all through my middle school, and finally, when I was a junior in high school, he bought (one).”

In Texas, all riders 20 and younger need a helmet. Graphic Designer Caitlyn Richey designed this infographic after researching motorcycle laws. “Typically helmets are one of the No. 1 things that people notice because that is what makes you a human on the bike,” counselor and rider Bobby Storey said. “White helmets and yellow helmets, people tend to recognize.” (Caitlyn Richey).

Motorcycles are special to Mr. Storey because of the strong family connection.

“(My dad) is a really safe guy, and he’s the one that told me all of these different stats about the helmet and the lights,” Storey said. “(He taught me) the smartest way to protect yourself while still having a lot of fun.”

Sophomore Dawson Svoboda said the reason he got into riding motorcycles was to earn his motorcycle license so that he can ride with his dad.

First, I had to get my driver’s license. Then from there, I had to take a bunch of tests to get it,” Svoboda said. “It costs about well over $300 to get it, but it was all worth it in the end because no one ever gave me the hassle about getting the motorcycle or driving on the street or anything like that because on the license plate is a number, and that number signifies that you are that age and that standard.”

Drivers safety: How drivers can be safe around motorcyclists

Drivers can create a safer environment on the roads for both motorcycles and other vehicles. Some of the actions drivers can take that could keep others themselves and other motorists safe include not slamming on the breaks, using a turn signal, and generally being more considerate of other people on the road. 

“When you are on the bike you are hyper-aware of the stuff that is going on around you,” Storey said. “Like when the wind is pushing you, and depending on how fast you are going, you might be stuck in their air turbulence, and so the best things are using your signal and recognizing that, ‘yes, the bike is probably trying’ to get around you. Lane-splitting is illegal in Texas, generally being aware and not freaking out, like ‘yes, that bright light is annoying, but this person probably wants to get around me.’”

Bobby Storey test rides his motorcycle through the parking lot outside the cafeteria. “I wish I would’ve known just a little bit more about how alluring the power is of being able to go really fast, really quick,” Storey said. “I think that probably would’ve gotten me into it a lot sooner.” Storey is a counselor at Prosper High School. (Caitlyn Kennedy)

According to Storey, being aware that motorcyclists are there and treating them as if they are not a biker — but a person — makes everyone on the road safer.

“So maintaining your speed and acting as if the bike isn’t even there because it’s not like a wasp flying into a room where you’re like ‘ahh get it out,’” Storey said. “But it does trigger those like, flight or fight fears because it is a motorcyclist, and they are unpredictable.”

According to Storey, driving motorcycles have changed the way that he drives cars.

“I’ve become more cautious and very defensive when I’m driving,” Storey said. “I’ll look, and if they don’t have very dark-tinted windows, I look to see where their head is looking and what their eyes are doing. I’ll look to see if their wheels have started rolling forward a little bit and then they stop, which means they’re thinking, which means that they’re probably going to pull out in front of you at the last second.”

Motorcyclists are required to do all they can to be safe, but Svoboda said does have a simple piece of advice for all drivers. 

“Pay attention,” Dawson Svoboda said. “I had this one occasion where this driver wasn’t paying attention, and he almost hit me.”

Physics: The science behind a motorcycle myth

“The adage ‘loud pipes save lives’ is pretty popular,” physics teacher Brad Stevenson said.  “But, there are two main things, physics-based, that get in the way of that.”

Bobby Storey puts on his protective gear in order to ride his motorcycle. Storey recommended that this article should be written to promote motorcycle safety. “There’s a lot of really cool gear out there,” Storey said. “(Don’t be) afraid of going on to the Facebook market page or Craigslist to buy a second-hand jacket or a second-hand pair of pants.” (Caitlyn Kennedy) 

First, tailpipes direct noise backward. 

“The noise is pulling away from the people it is trying to warn,” Stevenson said. “So, drivers can’t really hear the bulk of the motorcycle’s noise until the motorcycle passes.”

The second issue is called The Doppler Effect. Deeper noises will penetrate through a car easier than a higher-pitched noise. Deeper noises travel through solid structures better. Due to the doppler effect, any sound that goes forward is being compressed. Because of the fact that the rider is also going forward at a high rate of motion, the deeper sound waves of the motor are being compressed. Compressed sound waves end up becoming higher pitched, which causes the issue of the sound waves not being able to travel through the car as well.

Cars also have noise-reducing technology that will take road noise in and play sound waves that cancel out much of the road noise. This causes the drivers to not hear the motorcycle, which disproves the “Loud pipes saves lives” adage. 

Motorcycles safety: How motorcyclists stay safe

In addition to trying to use sound, riders have ways to promote visibility and make it easier for drivers to see them.

“There are a lot of things that bikes can do to be a little more visible,” Storey said. “There is the high-visibility gear, which I try to wear. There is this acronym that the Motorcycle Safety Foundation talks about.

Pullquote Photo

It is ATGATT which is All The Gear All The Time. That’s having all of the actual protective gear.”

— counselor Bobby Storey

 

The most important gear that motorcyclists have to wear are bright-colored safety jackets that have padding all around the sides and the back, a bright-colored and detailed helmet, thick gloves, long pants, and closed-toed shoes. 

Typically helmets are one of the No. 1 things that people notice because that is what makes you a human on the bike,” Storey said. “White helmets and yellow helmets people tend to recognize about a third of a second faster, and so depending on how quickly you’re traveling, that’s 20 extra feet. That’s 100 extra feet that you wouldn’t have if you didn’t have a brighter helmet.” 

Having the right gear can be expensive, but motorcyclists are recommended to prioritize their safety. They prepare for the situation when someone pulls out in front of them, and when they are going to fall. Storey said it is smarter to spend money on gear and safety equipment and be prepared to fall rather than not to have the proper equipment and get badly injured or even killed. 

“Another thing is getting additional lights on the bike,” said Storey. “I have the standard headlight, and down by the floor, I have two additional lights.” 

This idea was originally introduced by the train industry. They came to the conclusion that people were pulling out in front of trains because a train would only have one big bright light. Because of this one light, it is difficult to perceive the distance of how far away the train is. By adding light to the bottom of the motorcycle and creating the biggest triangle possible, it makes the motorcyclists more noticeable and makes it easier to tell how far away the motorcyclist actually is. 

Fun aspect: What makes riding motorcycles worth the risks

While there are dangers to riding a motorcycle, there are also fun aspects of it. 

“On the fun side, the power to weight ratio is incredible,” Storey said. “My car has 170 horsepower, and you really have to get the RPMs way up there. But the bike, and certainly other bikes, are going to have 120 horsepower for a fifth of the weight, so you can really get up and going, which I like to call the ‘oh gosh’ feeling of this thing is really taking off underneath you.” 

Svoboda loves the little things about driving. 

“My favorite thing about riding a motorcycle is probably the way that you feel.””

— sophomore Dawson Svoboda

“You feel free, and it’s fun going on the twisties, and it’s just you and the bike,” Svoboda said. “You and the bike and the pavement. Except, you don’t want to touch that pavement.” 

Advice: Motorcyclists would like to give new motorcyclists

Quick-decision-making skills and being aware of their surroundings are two of the most important skills to develop before riding a motorcycle.

“I thought riding a road bicycle would be almost similar to riding a motorcycle, but it’s actually mountain biking that has really helped me out a lot more,” Storey said. “Because of all of the quick turns, you really have to look as far ahead of you as you can to see.”

Storey said he also would have benefited from knowing another reality before he started operating a motorcycle.

 “I wish I would’ve known just a little bit more about how alluring the power is of being able to go really fast, really quick,” Storey said. “I think that probably would’ve gotten me into it a lot sooner.” 

According to Storey, while it is important to be aware of the dangers of riding a motorcycle, riders also need just to be safe and have fun. Start by focusing on what you can control. The throttle may be the No. 1 thing to know.

“Don’t mess with the throttle so much. Focus more on the clutch at first. Because, that is really what gets people in trouble is like, not understanding that even a 16th of a rotation on that throttle is very different from one bike to another, like, where the sensitive spot in the clutch is so you can actually get going.”

Bobby Storey is examining his gear before he puts it on. The helmet is a bright yellow and white to make him more obvious to drivers on the road. “Typically helmets are one of the No. 1 things that people notice because that is what makes you a human on the bike,” Storey said. “White helmets and yellow helmets people tend to recognize faster.” (Caitlyn Kennedy) 

 The No. 2 thing is having the correct gear. 

Make sure that they have the gear. They have the DOT, and possibly even a Snell-approved helmet,” Storey said. “Because there are a lot of helmets you could buy that are knock offs that just have a sticker that says DOT on them and gloves that have skid protection on them and possibly even knuckle protection.” 

It is important to get the right gear, even if it is expensive. 

“There’s a lot of really cool gear out there and not being afraid of going on to the Facebook marketplace or Craigslist to buy a second-hand jacket or a second-hand pair of pants,” Storey said. “So be very sensitive with the throttle control and protecting yourself because it can go very crazy very fast.”