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Group Riding Best Practices

motorcycle group riding
Riding in a group, especially in busy urban areas, can be either fun and empowering or stressful and even dangerous. Follow the guidelines in this story, and hopefully your next group ride will be an enjoyable and safe experience.

For some, group riding is a quintessential part of the motorcycling experience, a rolling social gathering that happens as naturally as a family party. It’s a fun way to keep a group together when traveling, and modern communication technology has only made it easier. Yet even seasoned riders, if they spend most of their time solo or don’t know the others in the group well, can feel a bit unsure about the rules, expectations and etiquette of group riding. So to help you navigate the dos and don’ts of riding in a group and become the person everyone likes to ride with, we’ve put together this handy primer.

The Basics

Staggered formation. You’ve probably noticed how groups of riders space themselves out within their lane; we call this “staggered formation.” The purpose is pretty simple: it allows each rider a clear view ahead, along with space to the side for any quick or sudden maneuvering in the case of road hazards like potholes, rocks, critters, debris, etc. The leader is typically in the left portion of the lane, rider No. 2 is in the right portion, rider No. 3 in the left and so on. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends spacing yourself so that there is a two-second gap between you and the rider directly in front of you (see graphic below). As speeds increase, that means a longer distance, and at slow speeds (especially in heavy traffic areas) that means closing ranks and tightening up the formation.

Who rides where? Put an experienced, responsible rider in the lead position. The leader should obviously know the route you’re taking. The least experienced rider in the group goes next, in the No. 2 position behind and to the right of the leader. The last position, also called the “sweep,” should be another highly experienced rider. The sweeper should carry a first aid kit and tools, and should also know the route in case the group gets separated.

MSF staggered formation
Staggered formation is fundamental to group riding. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends maintaining a two-second gap between you and the rider directly in front of you, and roughly a one-second gap between you and the next rider in the formation. At slower speeds, that means tightening the ranks. Graphic courtesy the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

Group size. Try to keep your group manageable — between five and seven riders is a good size. If necessary, break up large groups into smaller ones. 

Lane changes. Good leaders will be watching their mirrors, and will wait until there is a large enough space for the whole group to move over. Sometimes that’s just not possible, in which case the riders make individual lane changes, returning to their positions within the new lane. Maintain your speed when changing lanes! Remember that there are riders behind you who need to move over as well.

Communication. This is especially important in a group. The leader will often activate his or her turn signals early; following riders should also use their signals, essentially passing the message back. Some groups also like to use hand signals for upcoming turns: left arm straight out to the side for a left turn, left arm raised at a 90-degree angle for a right turn. There are a few other “universal” hand signals in the moto world: extending a hand down and opening and closing your fist tells another rider their turn signal is still on, and sticking a foot or hand out indicates a hazard in the road on either the left or right side. Below is a chart from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation showing some other common hand signals. Each group has their own way of communicating, so don’t be afraid to ask before you leave!

MSF hand signals
This chart from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation shows common hand signals used in group riding. Still, you should always check with your group to see if they use any special signals or ways of communicating.

Curves. When the road gets twisty, throw the staggered formation out the window. Forming a single file line gives you the space you need to lean and adjust your line if necessary. Remember this might also mean giving the rider ahead of you some extra space. 

Passing. Never blindly follow riders ahead of you when they pull out to pass a car. Move over to the left portion of the lane and wait until you have a clear view of the road ahead. That may mean waiting until the rider in front of you is safely back in the lane ahead of the vehicle you’re passing. Then check your mirror to make sure another speed demon isn’t trying to make the pass from behind you.

Being passed. Being passed by a single vehicle is easy: just let them go. There may be times when the vehicle doesn’t have the room to get around the whole group in one go. Don’t take offense, even if they’re obviously just being impatient. Open up a space and let them back in. There’s no sense in riding too close and putting yourself and the rest of your group in danger. 

But what if it’s another group of riders passing yours? Well, first off get in the habit of watching your mirrors (see Advanced Course below). That way you won’t be startled when riders start blasting past you. As the sweep rider, if you see another group approaching from behind, move to the right and wave them past. This lets them know that a) you see them, and b) you’re going to maintain your position to the right to safely allow them to pass. As a mid-pack or lead rider, keep an eye on your mirrors. If the headlight of the bike behind you moves to the right, look for passing riders and move right as well, waving them by. This can take time as the second group filters past, but just hold your right-side line and give your fellow riders a wave as they move on.

Staying together and on-track. Each group has its own procedure for this, and it’s something that should be discussed before you leave. Some groups prefer to stay in a pack at all times, with the leader pulling over immediately if you get separated, for example at a red light. Others, especially on long trips or when riding off-road, use the buddy system or back-marker technique. When approaching a turn or confusing intersection, check your mirrors. If you don’t see the rider behind you, pull over and wait. Basically you’re making sure that each turn is marked, and the sweep rider can pick up any stragglers.

Advanced Course

Now that you’ve got the basics down, let’s talk about being a better group rider. Instead of blindly following the tail of the rider in front of you like a bored packhorse, being aware and proactive will make you a more proficient, safer rider with whom others want to ride!

Awareness. This is something you should be practicing anytime you’re on the bike, not just in a group. You’re always scanning ahead, checking your mirrors and watching the patterns of other drivers, right? Don’t get lazy just because you’re surrounded by your “pack!” Watch your leader. If your group is stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle and the leader starts to peer around them, you can guess that a pass is imminent. Be ready to change lanes or pass quickly, safely and efficiently, keeping the whole group moving. If you’re on a multi-lane highway, the sweep rider could move over early and “set a pick” for the riders ahead, keeping the lane open for them to easily slide over.

Look farther than 20 feet ahead of you. See that “stale” green traffic light that could be getting ready to turn yellow? Be prepared for the rider in front of you to hit the brakes if the light changes. See the guy in the SUV in the next lane over, slowing down and looking over his shoulder? He likely wants to change lanes — keep an eye on him, and consider slowing to let him in, especially if your group is a large one.

Go with the flow. Group riding rules are not always black and white. For example, on long highway stretches it’s common for the group to spread out as everyone finds their own pace. Just be sure that you follow your group’s established procedure for back marking at turns. In areas of heavy traffic and slow speeds, try to keep your formation tight. Don’t be “that rider,” who dawdles and allows large gaps to form between you and the rider(s) ahead, then bolts through yellow lights at the last second, leaving those behind high and dry or forced to attempt to make the light. If your group hits some twisties and you find that you can’t keep up, don’t worry, just ride at your own pace. Wave the rider(s) behind you past if they want to go faster; at minimum, the sweep rider will stay with you and the rest of the group will wait for you to catch up ahead. This is part of the fun of group riding: you know your “pack” will take care of you.

Try to be consistent. It’s a lot easier to ride with people who are predictable. Hold your line, be smooth and steady with your speed and pay attention to your surroundings. Your fellow riders will thank you!

Final Exam

No, there isn’t actually a final exam, but I do want to leave you with this parting advice, and it’s the most important: ride your own ride.

Ultimately, we are all responsible for ourselves and only ourselves. Even though you’re in a group of other riders, you alone are in control of your bike and are therefore on a solo ride. If the group is doing stuff that makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Ride your own pace, don’t run the red light even though the two riders ahead of you did, and if you need to take a break, signal to your group and pull over. And don’t attempt an unsafe pass — your group won’t leave you behind.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Storm Chaser: The Dangers That Follow Heavy Rains

Flooded street
Rising water during an isolated storm floods the road and drags gravel, silt and debris onto the roadway.

The sun may be shining now, but the dangers associated with that recent downpour may still be lingering around the next corner.

Many of the roads we love most meander along streams and rivers. During a storm, those ribbons of water often flood the adjacent roadway and then recede, leaving a mess of trouble for the rider. Even in areas where no stream is nearby, rushing water can instantly appear as storm runoff descends from hillsides, sloping yards and steep driveways during a heavy downpour. The waters rage across the road surface, dragging rocks, sticks, tree branches and an abundance of mud.

None of us likes to ride in foul weather. But, while we may be mindful of danger when dark clouds and lightning appear, we often forget about risk once the sun emerges and the road surface dries. When rain has moved on, it’s easy for us to move on as well, picking up the pace and riding as if everything is normal. But road conditions are often not back to “normal” in the hours — or even days — following a severe storm.

dirty road surface
Just a few hours after the storm, the sun shines and the road dries, but dangerous silt and debris can catch the unsuspecting rider by surprise.

Look for uneven color on the road. Light tan areas on the surface may be fine silt that has been washed onto the road by recent flooding. It is usually seen in low spots on the road and can be particularly slippery, especially in the middle of a turn. Be even more vigilant to look for dark areas that may indicate remaining damp areas — especially in the shadows. These dark spots can be as slippery as grease and could put a rider down instantly if the bike is leaned or if brakes or throttle are applied while riding through it. If you can’t avoid it, coast through with no throttle or brake adjustments while staying as upright as possible.

Notice unusual collections of gravel, dirt and debris at the road’s edge. That’s a sign that water has crested above the road level recently. And a good indicator there may be large areas of debris up ahead.

While you’re at it, scan side roads and gravel driveways for ruts and washouts that may suggest debris has washed out onto the road surface up ahead.

We’ve all heard talk about the calm before the storm. But for the rider, it’s the calm after the storm that we need to be extra mindful of.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Clearing the Air: Air Filters 101

types of motorcycle air filters
Effective air filtration is critical to your engine’s survival. When it comes to removing debris from the air you can rely on OEM paper (right), oiled cotton gauze (middle) or oiled foam (left).

The air filter is the unsung hero of every engine on the road. Without it, dust and debris in the air would wear down your piston rings and cylinder walls like a storm erodes a coastline. As the filter does its job it gets loaded up with dirt, and a dirty filter is going to rob your engine of power and put a dent in your fuel mileage. That’s why you’re supposed to replace the filter every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. And when it comes to replacement air filters, they come in three flavors: OEM paper, oiled cotton gauze and oiled foam.

Most OEM filters are made of cellulose, or paper, like a coffee filter. Tiny pores in the paper let air through but keep the vast majority of dirt out. Many modern OEM filters even have a viscous coating to help trap fine dust. The problem is, paper filters are restrictive and those tiny pores plug up quickly. So to get more flow and increase the filter’s dirt-holding capacity, the element is pleated, like an accordian. It only takes up a little more space than a flat filter, but has vastly more surface area and thus more pores, more airflow and a longer service life before it gets stopped up.

OEM motorcycle air filter
Paper filters are considered surface filters, because they block debris right on the face of the element. That limits their total debris load, which is why paper filters feature so many pleats.

OEM filters are very effective, but their priority is filtering particulates and protecting the engine, not maximizing air flow. So a big downside is that they’re restrictive, at least compared to “high flow” performance filters. They’re also disposable, as in once it’s dirty, you throw it out and replace it with a new one that may cost $20 to $40.

Aftermarket filters are appealing for two reasons. First, they can offer increased airflow, which could make more power — more on that in a minute — and second, they’re almost always reusable.

OEM motorcycle air filter
Old-school paper filters were white, but most modern OEM filters are either green or red due to their viscous coating. This sticky substance helps the filter capture fine dust.

K&N is probably the most well-known aftermarket filter on the market. It resembles an OEM paper filter, but the pleats are composed of layers of oiled cotton gauze, not a single sheet of paper. The gauze is more porous, so it flows more air. In fact, if you hold it up to the light you can actually see through it, which doesn’t seem like a great characteristic for something that’s supposed to keep dust out of your engine. Luckily, the filtering material is oiled, so as dirty air swirls through and around the fiber filaments, the oil grabs and holds the grime. And a K&N style filter can hold a lot of dirt, which often means more miles before you need to wash it.

You’ll see all the crud the filter collects when you wash it out. And that’s a key benefit to oiled-gauze filters — you can reuse them over and over. A K&N does cost more than an OEM paper filter, usually about 50% to 100% more, and you’ll need to buy the $20 cleaning and re-oiling kit, but in the long run it can save you money, not to mention save trash from going to a landfill somewhere.

K&N motorcycle air filter
Oiled-gauze filters like this (used) K&N are made up of several layers of cotton fabric sandwiched between metal screens. A loose weave allows air to pass through easily.

Next up is oiled foam. You see this style of filter stock on off-road vehicles because oiled foam can hold a lot of dirt while still flowing well, so they’re well-suited to super dusty environments where a paper filter would clog up quickly. They also function when wet since the foam and oil aren’t absorbent. Get an OEM paper filter or gauze filter wet and the fibers will swell, strangle airflow and possibly stall your engine.

Oiled foam operates on the same dirt-capturing principle as the K&N, but it’s thicker. In fact, it’s what’s known as a “depth” filter and is typically an inch thick. Air has to wiggle and wind its way through the foam, which is not only layered coarse to fine, but saturated in a super-tacky oil that grabs and holds grime. It’s a very effective means of filtration as long as there’s still oil available to capture dirt.

foam motorcycle air filter
Foam filters are common on off-road vehicles. They perform well in dirty and wet conditions, though they require frequent washing and re-oiling.

When a foam filter gets dirty enough that all the oil dries out, it’s possible for dusty air to make its way through the foam and into your engine. That’s obviously bad news, which is why oiled-foam filters need to be washed and re-oiled as often as every ride, and it’s a messy procedure. Servicing the air filter that frequently may be OK for a dirtbike or quad with an easy-to-access airbox, but any sort of accelerated maintenance schedule is going to be hard for street riders to swallow, no matter how good the filter is.

foam motorcycle air filter
Foam filters are made of open-cell, reticulated material that’s coated in a tacky oil. The foam acts as a maze for dirty air and the oil grabs and traps grime as it passes by.

Another, often predominant reason riders install an aftermarket filter is to get more power out of their engine. However, a noticeable power increase is highly unlikely without complementary modifications. An engine is an air pump and it can only inhale so much air, so unless you’ve done something to take advantage of a freer-flowing air filter — like installing cams or a race exhaust, and definitely tuning your fueling — you’re not going to gain any perceptible performance from dropping in an air filter. In fact, if you neglect to tune your bike’s fuel, either with a re-jet on carbureted models or a remap on EFI bikes, you’ll likely experience running issues.

foam motorcycle air filter
This cross section of a used CRF450L filter reveals its thickness and the different density foams used in its construction. Dirt has not even begun to penetrate to the finer interior layer of foam.

So, which filter is best for your bike? It really depends on your application. If you’re a street rider who logs lots of miles and wants maximum protection, you can’t go wrong with an OEM paper filter. The extended service interval alone is appealing, particularly when the airbox is hard to get to. If, however, you ride in especially dusty conditions, have a modified engine, or simply don’t like the idea of a throw-away air filter, an oiled-cotton or oiled-gauze element is a great option. Each style of filter has its pros and cons, and now that you know what they are you can decide which type is right for you.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Retrospective: 1958-1966 Matchless G12/CS/CSR 650

1961 Matchless G12CS
1961 Matchless G12CS. Owner: Steve Eorio, Paso Robles, California.

The 1950s and ’60s were the era of the UBM — Universal British Motorcycle — a parallel OHV twin sitting upright in the frame, in the 500cc to 750cc range. The original UBM was the Triumph 5T Speed Twin of 1938, soon to be copied by half a dozen of the major British motorcycle companies. Matchless, which built its first motorcycle at the Plumstead works in southeast London around 1901, came up with its own version in 1948, the 498cc G9, with a 66 x 72.8mm bore and stroke. And a fully sprung frame, with a swingarm rear suspension.

It should be noted that in the 1930s Matchless bought the AJS marque and the company became Associated Motor Cycles, Ltd., or AMC, the major difference between the two brands being the lettering on the gas tank.

The G9 engine differed from other UBMs in that it had a third bearing on the crankshaft, between the two connecting rods, to give added strength. The engine’s dry sump lubrication system used the camshaft to run two oil pumps, one on each side of the crank, aiding in efficient lubrication; apparently these engines could go 75,000 miles before any major work was needed. Quite remarkable for a UBM of the era, when top-end jobs were often done at 20,000 miles, bottom-end at 40,000.

1961 Matchless G12CS

The two cylinders were separate, as were the heads, and while this seemed to work well with the 500, as the engine grew larger the lack of rigidity appeared to enhance vibration. During the 1950s most factories increased the size of the engine, with 650cc being considered the maximum reasonable size for a UBM, due to those vibratory concerns. In 1955 Matchless elected to bore out the engine to 72mm for an increase to 593cc — called a 600, designated as a G11. This was followed by the G11CS, or Competition Sprung, a street-legal scrambler with easily removable lights, and the G11CSR, a more roadworthy version, often called the Coffee Shop Racer. The CS models came with higher compression ratios and other performance enhancements…and often more problems. The frame used a single downtube to meet up with the full cradle holding the engine.

In 1958 Matchless offered 17 different models, including the first G12 650. The very important American market had been demanding that 650, the dealers needing it to compete with the Triumph and BSA 650s. Small problem: the engine could not be bored out any more. Solution: increase the stroke to 79.3mm, or 646cc. That was the G12, with the basic road-going model having valanced fenders and a reliable 7.5:1 compression ratio, and two sportier CS models with an 8.5:1 compression ratio and light alloy fenders.

1961 Matchless G12CS

The restroked engine required a new crankshaft, made of “nodular” iron, which flexed enough to reduce vibrations. It was also designed to incorporate a Lucas alternator, though still with six-volt electrics. A new frame with twin downtubes now welded to the full cradle was developed, which did help in reducing the vibration inherent in a 650 vertical twin using a 360-degree crankshaft, although the single-tube frame was also used. The motorcycle seen here, which was built from bits and pieces, has a 1961 G12 engine in a 1959 single downtube frame. An AMC Teledraulic fork is up front, a pair of Girling shock absorbers at the back.

Gas tanks varied in size according to the model and year, but this ’61 G12CS carried only two gallons, all you would need in a race, and was said to weigh 425 pounds with a full tank. And with 5.3 pints of oil in the reservoir.

Other changes occurred over the G12’s years, including 12-volt electrics, sending out decent visibility from the seven-inch headlight. The basic G12 had 18-inch wheels, while this CS was running 19-inchers. Distance between the axles was a little more than 55 inches. Brakes were single-leading-shoe drums, an eight-incher on the front, seven on the back.

1961 Matchless G12CS

One interesting bit of history is that the Matchless marque was originally sold in the U.S. by Californian Frank Cooper, who became the AMC importer around 1946. He did quite well selling singles to win desert races, though the twins were not as popular.

In 1953, AMC acquired financially troubled Norton, although Norton production and sales remained quite separate, the U.S. importer being Joe Berliner, or J.B. Then, in 1960, AMC bought the Indian Sales Corp., which had been selling rebadged Royal Enfields — this was to get the Indian dealers, such as they were, to sell Matchboxes rather than Royal Oilfields. And AMC summarily fired Cooper, after 14 years of good work.

However, AMC filed for bankruptcy in 1962 (Cooper must have laughed), resulting in Matchless being merged more closely with Norton, and Berliner having to deal with Matchless as well. In early 1963, J.B. Matchless Corp. put a full-page ad in Cycle magazine promoting the G12CS and G12CSR…along with the 750cc G15 Matchless, which looked surprisingly like the Norton Atlas model that had appeared in 1962. In 1963 that old 1952 Matchless/Norton arrangement, keeping them separate, changed drastically as bill collectors were pounding on both doors, and Norton production moved from its old Birmingham factory 100 miles southeast to Plumstead.

Not surprisingly, interest in the G12 waned considerably. The last Matchless ad I could find in a U.S. moto-mag was in Cycle’s July 1966 issue, featuring the Atlas-based G15, and mentioning one G12CSR and two G80 singles. At the time British bureaucrats, knowing nothing about motorcycles, thought they could save the industry by merging Matchless, AJS and Norton into the company of an affluent entrepreneur and racecar driver, Dennis Poore. Poore was already looking after the Villiers engineering firm, which made most of the British two-stroke motorcycle engines. The Matchless and AJS names dropped from sight, and the new company was called Norton-Villiers.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2020 Indian Challenger Limited | Road Test Review

2020 Indian Challenger Limited
The 2020 Indian Challenger is an all-new bagger platform featuring the liquid-cooled PowerPlus 108 V-twin. This is the top-of-the-line Challenger Limited. (Photos by Barry Hathaway)

Since its relaunch for 2014, Indian has struck a balance between honoring the past and looking to the future. Its first few models — the Chief Classic, Chief Vintage and Chieftain — had skirted fenders and an air-cooled V-twin with downward-firing exhausts that evoked nostalgia for Indians your father or grandfather used to ride. But when it brought back the Scout for 2015, it broke from cruiser tradition and gave it a high-revving, liquid-cooled V-twin. And last year Indian introduced the FTR 1200 street tracker with a high-performance engine and optional rider-assistance electronics.

2020 Indian Challenger Limited
The Indian Challenger is a bagger designed not only for style and performance but also touring. Its fairing and electric windscreen provide good wind protection, its seat and riding position are all-day comfortable and its luggage capacity is 18 gallons (68 liters).

Indian has also renewed its head-to-head competition with Harley-Davidson,
reigniting a fierce rivalry waged on racetracks, at factories and in
dealerships during the first half of the 20th century. Indian ended Harley’s
decades-long dominance of flat track with consecutive AFT Twins championships
in 2017-2019, and no doubt a sizable portion of Indian’s sales over the past
few years have come at Harley’s expense.

Indian PowerPlus 108 V-twin
Although the PowerPlus 108 V-twin is thoroughly modern with liquid cooling, single overhead camshafts and four hydraulically adjusted valves per cylinder, it takes its name from an engine Indian introduced in 1916. The name was also used by the Gilroy and Kings Mountain revivals of Indian.

Now Indian has introduced a new model for 2020 whose name
makes its intentions clear: Challenger. Its big, beating heart is the all-new
liquid-cooled PowerPlus 108, a 1,768cc (108ci) V-twin that makes a claimed 128
lb-ft of torque and 122 horsepower. Indian’s air-cooled Thunder Stroke 111/116
V-twin has powered all of its heavyweight baggers and tourers. Rather than
implement partial liquid cooling like Harley-Davidson did with its Twin-Cooled
Milwaukee-Eight V-twin and BMW did with its R-series boxer twin, Indian decided
to go all-in with liquid cooling for the PowerPlus. It didn’t have to go far
for inspiration. Indian’s middleweight Scouts are powered by a liquid-cooled,
60-degree V-twin with DOHC and 4 valves per cylinder, and the PowerPlus has the
same engine configuration and number of valves but uses a SOHC head.

2020 Indian Challenger Limited
The 2020 Indian Challenger Limited is available in Thunder Black Pearl, Deepwater Metallic and the Ruby Metallic shown on the bike we tested. All Challenger models get the protective plastic covers on the lower front of the top-loading saddlebags.

Indian says the PowerPlus “was developed with a big-piston, big-torque mindset with an end game of maximum power delivery across the entire curve.” When we put the Challenger on Jett Tuning’s dyno, its belt-driven rear wheel cranked out 113.3 lb-ft of torque at 3,500 rpm and 107.6 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, with redline at 6,500 rpm (see chart below). That unseats the previous king of torque among V-twin tourers we’ve tested, the Yamaha Star Venture (110.9 lb-ft of torque, 75.9 horsepower), as well as the top-of-the-line Harley-Davidson CVO Limited (110.0 lb-ft of torque, 96.0 horsepower). The Challenger’s broad mountain of rear-wheel torque tops 100 lb-ft from 2,400 to 5,600 rpm, and its horsepower curve increases steadily from 2,000 rpm to its peak.

2020 Indian Challenger Limited Dyno Chart
2020 Indian Challenger Limited Dyno Chart (tested at Jett Tuning in Camarillo, California)

The PowerPlus 108 gets the job done with an oversquare bore
and stroke of 108.0 x 96.5mm, an 11.0:1 compression ratio and dual-bore 52mm
throttle bodies that take big gulps of fuel and air. It has a unit crankcase with
a semi-dry oil sump, overhead camshafts with hydraulic chain tensioners and
valves with hydraulic lash adjusters. Power is sent to the rear wheel through a
6-speed constant-mesh transmission with an overdrive top gear and a
cable-actuated wet assist clutch.

2020 Indian Challenger Limited
At 848 pounds the the Indian Challenger Limited is no lightweight, but its frame-mounted fairing, strong aluminum chassis, compliant suspension and decent cornering clearance help it hustle through corners with ease.

In the world of baggers and
tourers, there are two distinct camps: those with fork-mounted fairings, like
Indian’s Chieftain and Harley-Davidson’s Street Glide, and those with fixed or
frame-mounted fairings, like Indian’s Challenger and Harley-Davidson’s Road
Glide. By taking weight off the handlebar and fork, motorcycles with
frame-mounted fairings require less steering effort than those with fork-mounted
fairings. Our road test of the Challenger, which included hundreds of miles and
countless tight, technical corners along California’s Big Sur coast,
demonstrated just how agile and well balanced an 848-pound bagger can be.

2020 Indian Challenger Limited
The Challenger has a slim fender that shows much of the 19-inch front wheel, and perched on top is a LED-illuminated Indian warbonnet. The base-model Challenger gets all-black cast wheels; the Challenger Dark Horse and Challenger Limited get contrast-cut wheels with TPMS. The 320mm front rotors carry 4-piston Brembo monoblock radial calipers.

Hidden beneath the Challenger’s 6-gallon tank is a modular aluminum backbone frame similar to the one on the Chieftain (they share the same wheelbase and rake/trail figures), but rather than straight downtubes the Challenger’s flare out and are sculpted to wrap around the radiator like they are on the Scout’s frame. Indian’s stout aluminum chassis, which share a significant amount of DNA with the frames that contributed to the impressive handling of Victory’s big touring models, feel rock solid.

2020 Indian Challenger Limited
There’s no hiding the big radiator in front of the PowerPlus 108 V-twin, but Indian did a good job of sculpting the frame’s downtubes around it, just as it did on the Scout.

Pushing hard on Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, a 25-mile twisting goat path that climbs over the Santa Lucia Range and puts any motorcycle’s handling to the test, the Challenger never lost its cool. With a non-adjustable 43mm upside-down fork with 5.1 inches of travel, a preload-adjustable hydraulic Fox rear shock with 4.5 inches of travel and 31 degrees of cornering clearance, the footboards rarely touched down and the ride was responsive, taut and comfortable. The Challenger rolls on 19-/16-inch cast wheels shod with Metzeler Cruisetec tires, and a pair of big 320mm front rotors clamped by 4-piston Brembo monoblock radial provide ample stopping power, though they could use more initial bite. New for 2020 is what Indian calls Smart Lean Technology, which uses a Bosch IMU to enable cornering ABS and traction control (TC can be turned off but ABS cannot) as well as Drag Torque Control.

2020 Indian Challenger Limited seat
The supportive seat has a height of just 26.5 inches, yet the Challenger still provides 4.5 inches of rear suspension travel. A wrench in the toolkit makes it easy to adjust preload on the hydraulic Fox rear shock.

A big bagger like the Challenger
will spend most of its time cruising at a more modest pace on less taxing
roads, and it excels in such an environment. The PowerPlus 108 not only
delivers right-now torque for rapid acceleration, its liquid-cooled design also
means much less heat radiates into the cockpit, eliminating our biggest
complaint about the air-cooled Thunder Stroke. Even with liquid cooling, though,
the PowerPlus offers rear cylinder deactivation at stops to further reduce heat
from the exhaust header beneath the rider’s right thigh. Throttle-by-wire
enables electronic cruise control as well as three riding modes—Sport, Standard
and Rain—that adjust throttle response.

2020 Indian Challenger Limited
The liquid-cooled PowerPlus 108 eliminates most of the radiant heat that has been an ongoing complaint of ours about the air-cooled Thunder Stroke engine. Rear cylinder deactivation at idle is also available on the PowerPlus to reduce heat from the exhaust header under the rider’s right thigh.

As much as we appreciate the Challenger’s performance and handling, what delivers the mail in this segment is style, sound and comfort. The Challenger’s snout-forward, wide-mouth fairing was clearly inspired by the Road Glide’s sharknose fairing — both even have closable vents on either side of the headlight that bring fresh air into the cockpit — but the Indian sets itself apart with LED running lights/turn signals that bracket the headlight, an electrically adjustable windscreen with a 3-inch range and a dashboard that’s much closer to the rider. The Challenger offers good wind protection, a supportive seat with a high rear bolster, rubber-mounted footboards and enormous top-loading saddlebags with remote locking (total storage capacity, including two small fairing pockets, is 18 gallons, or 68 liters).

2020 Indian Challenger Limited
The Indian Challenger’s design was clearly inspired by its counterpart with a frame-mounted fairing, the Harley-Davidson Road Glide. Which is the better bagger?

There are three versions of the
Challenger. Standard equipment on the base model ($21,999), which is available in
Titanium Metallic only, includes ABS, keyless ignition with remote saddlebag
locks and the Ride Command infotainment system with a 7-inch customizable color
touchscreen and a 100-watt audio system. The Challenger Dark Horse ($27,499-$28,249),
which is available in several matte colors with blacked-out finishes, adds
Smart Lean Technology, navigation, a customizable route builder, connected weather
and traffic services and contrast-cut wheels with tire-pressure monitoring. The
Challenger Limited ($27,999-$28,749) we tested is available in several metallic
colors and adds color-matched fender closeouts and highway bars.

2020 Indian Challenger Limited
The cockpit of the 2020 Indian Challenger Limited includes a pair of analog gauges (speedo and tach) with inset digital displays and a 7-inch color touchscreen for the Ride Command infotainment system with 100-watt audio. Keyless ignition is standard, and the fob can be used to remotely lock/unlock the saddlebags. A small button under the right speaker unlocks the fuel cap.

Even though the larger air-cooled Thunder
Stroke 116 was also introduced for 2020, satisfying customer demands for more
torque while also edging out Harley’s Milwaukee-Eight 114 by a couple of cubic
inches, the PowerPlus 108 is the engine that will take Indian’s heavyweight
models into the future. It offers the performance, comfort and lower emissions
that only liquid cooling can provide, and in the Challenger it delivers impressive
grunt and smoothness without giving up the rumbling character that makes a
V-twin the most popular type of engine among American motorcyclists. That plus
muscular, modern style, an excellent chassis, a full range of available
technology, generous wind protection and luggage capacity and plenty of
long-haul comfort make the Challenger one heckuva bagger. We look forward to
seeing how it stacks up against the competition.

2020 Indian Challenger Limited
Cruising along a scenic stretch of California’s Highway 1 on the 2020 Indian Challenger Limited.

2020 Indian Challenger Limited Specs

Base Price: $27,999
Price as Tested: $28,749 (Ruby Metallic color)
Warranty: 1 yr., unltd. miles
Website: indianmotorcycle.com


Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse 60-degree V-twin
Displacement: 1,768cc (108ci)
Bore x Stroke: 108.0 x 96.5mm
Compression Ratio: 11.0:1
Valve Train: SOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: NA (self-adjusting)
Fuel Delivery: EFI, 52mm dual bore throttle body x 2
Lubrication System: Semi-wet sump, 5-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet assist clutch
Final Drive: Belt


Ignition: Electronic
Charging Output: 803 watts max.
Battery: 12V 18AH


Frame: Modular cast aluminum w/ engine as stressed member & cast aluminum swingarm
Wheelbase: 65.7 in.
Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/5.9 in.
Seat Height: 26.5 in.
Suspension, Front: 43mm USD fork, no adj., 5.1-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, remote adj. for spring preload, 4.5-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 320mm floating discs w/ opposed 4-piston radial monoblock calipers & ABS
Rear: Single 298mm floating disc w/ 2-piston pin-slide caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast, 3.50 x 19 in.
Rear: Cast, 5.00 x 16 in.
Tires, Front: 130/60-B19
Rear: 180/60-R16
Wet Weight: 848 lbs.
Load Capacity: 537 lbs.
GVWR: 1,385 lbs.


Fuel Capacity: 6 gals., last 1.0 gal. warning light on
MPG: 91 AKI min. (low/avg/high) 35.7/37.8/39.7
Estimated Range: 227 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 2,500

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2020 Ducatis: Streetfighter V4, Panigale V2, Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour | First Look Review

Ducati has announced its entire 2020 motorcycle lineup, which includes new models such as the Streetfighter V4 and V4 S and the Panigale V2, updates to its Panigale V4 and V4 S, a new version of the Multistrada 1260 S called the Grand Tour and the Scrambler Icon Dark.

Check out Rider’s Guide to New 2020 Street Motorcycles

2020 Ducati Streetfighter V4 and V4 S

2020 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S
2020 Ducati Streetfighter V4 S

After a four-year absence, the Streetfighter returns for
2020 and is now a naked version of the Panigale V4 with an upright handlebar. Its
1,103cc Desmosedici Stradale V4 makes a claimed 208 horsepower at 12,750 rpm
and 90 lb-ft of torque at 11,500 rpm. Features include “biplane wing”
aerodynamics, a full IMU-based electronics package with riding modes, fully
adjustable suspension (Showa Big Piston Fork, Sachs shock), a Sachs steering
damper, Brembo Stylema monoblock front calipers, Pirelli Diablo Rosso Corsa II
tires, a TFT display and LED lighting. With its 4.23-gallon aluminum tank full,
the Streetfighter V4 is said to weigh 443 pounds.

The higher-spec Streetfighter V4 S gets Ducati Electronic
Suspension (DES) EVO, Öhlins suspension (NIX-30 fork, TTX 36 shock and steering
damper) with Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 control system and forged aluminum Marchesini
wheels, and claimed curb weight is 439 pounds.

Both the Streetfighter V4 and Streetfighter V4 S come in
Ducati Red with a dark gray frame and black wheels. Pricing and availability
are TBD.

2020 Ducati Panigale V2

2020 Ducati Panigale V2
2020 Ducati Panigale V2

The Panigale 959 has been renamed the Panigale V2, and it’s
powered by a Euro 5-compliant version of the 955cc Superquadro L-twin that
makes a claimed 155 horsepower at 10,750 rpm and 77 lb-ft of torque at 9,000
rpm. For 2020 the Panigale V2 gets all-new bodywork, a full IMU-based electronics
package with riding modes, fully adjustable suspension (Showa Big Piston Fork,
Sachs shock), a Sachs steering damper, Brembo M4.32 monoblock front calipers, Pirelli
Diablo Rosso Corsa II tires, a TFT display and LED lighting. With its 4.5-gallon
steel tank full, the Panigale V2 weighs a claimed 441 pounds. The only color
option is Ducati Red with black wheels; pricing and availability are TBD.

2020 Ducati Panigale V4 and V4 S

2020 Ducati Panigale V4
2020 Ducati Panigale V4

Introduced for 2018 as the first mass-produced Ducati to incorporate a 4-cylinder engine, the Panigale V4 and V4 S have been updated for 2020 with “a series of refinements [that] make for an easier, more user-friendly, less fatiguing ride while simultaneously making the bike faster not just on individual laps but over entire timed sessions.” Adapted from the Panigale V4 R, the V4 and V4 S get a new aerodynamics package for improved stability, modified Front Frame stiffness for better feel at full lean and new settings for the electronics, suspension and throttle-by-wire mapping.

The Panigale V4 and V4 S are powered by a version of the 1,103cc
Desmosedici Stradale V4 with “new rider torque demand control logic” that makes
a claimed 214 horsepower at 13,000 rpm and 91.5 lb-ft of torque at 10,000 rpm.
The Panigale V4 features a full IMU-based electronics package with riding
modes, fully adjustable suspension (Showa Big Piston Fork, Sachs shock), a
Sachs steering damper, Brembo Stylema monoblock front calipers, Pirelli Diablo Supercorsa
SP tires, a TFT display and LED lighting. With its 4.23-gallon aluminum tank
full, claimed curb weight for the Panigale V4 is 436 pounds.

The higher-spec Panigale V4 S gets Ducati Electronic Suspension (DES) EVO, Öhlins suspension (NIX-30 fork, TTX 36 shock and steering damper) with Öhlins Smart EC 2.0 control system, forged aluminum Marchesini wheels, a lithium-ion battery and sports grips. Claimed curb weight is 430 pounds.

Both the Panigale V4 and Panigale V4 S come in Ducati Red
with a dark gray frame and black wheels. Pricing and availability are TBD.

2020 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour

2020 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour
2020 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour

Joining Ducati’s adventure bike family for 2020 is the Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour, a special version with enhanced style and touring capability. Powered by the 1,262cc Testastretta DVT L-twin that makes a claimed 158 horsepower at 9,500 rpm and 95 lb-ft of torque at 7,500 rpm, the Grand Tour features riding modes that adjust power, throttle response, ABS and traction control settings, a full suite of IMU-based electronics (cornering ABS and traction control, cornering lights, wheelie control), semi-active Ducati Skyhook Suspension Evolution, an up/down quickshifter, hill hold control, cruise control, Brembo M50 monoblock front calipers, a TFT display and the Ducati Multimedia System. The rider’s seat height is adjustable, and the Grand Tour comes standard with a centerstand, hard saddlebags, heated grips, a keyless gas cap and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

The 2020 Ducati Multistrada 1260 S Grand Tour comes in Sandstone Grey with Ducati Red trims, red frame and black wheels with Ducati red trims. Pricing and availability are TBD.

Returning for 2020 are the Multistrada 950, Multistrada 950 S, Multistrada 1260, Multistrada 1260 S, Multistrada 1260 S D|Air, Multistrada 1260 Pikes Peak and Multistrada 1260 Enduro.

2020 Ducati Scrambler Icon Dark

2020 Ducati Scrambler Icon Dark
2020 Ducati Scrambler Icon Dark

Joining the Icon, Full Throttle, Café Racer and Desert Sled
in Ducati’s 803cc air-cooled Scrambler lineup is the Icon Dark, a matte black
version with a black frame and black seat with gray piping. All Ducati
Scramblers are Euro 5 compliant without any loss in performance, and cornering
ABS is standard equipment.

Other returning Ducati models for 2020 include (pricing and availability are TBD):

  • Panigale V4 R
  • 1299 Panigale R Final Edition
  • Diavel 1260
  • Diavel 1260 S
  • XDiavel
  • XDiavel S
  • Hypermotard 950
  • Hypermotard 950 SP
  • Monster 797
  • Monster 821
  • Monster 821 Stealth
  • Monster 1200
  • Monster 1200 S
  • SuperSport
  • SuperSport S

Source: RiderMagazine.com

The Quail Gathering XI

Quail XI, Quail 2019
The weather was wonderful, the motorcycles beautiful (mostly), the food delicious, and more than 3,000 people came to enjoy the show. Photos by the author and David Fairchild

The Quail Motorcycle Gathering has been going on for 11 years now, and I’m happy to say it was just as good the 11th time around. You ride along Carmel Valley Road, going east from Carmel, and signs soon indicate the Quail Lodge is off to the right (on Valley Greens Drive, in case you need that for your GPS). Ride past the lodge, cross a little bridge, then you see a lot of white tents off to your right and a straight road ahead — lined with hundreds of parked motorcycles.

Find a slot to back your bike into, and then walk over to the entrance. For 11 years I’ve left my gear on the bike and never lost anything, but there is a free “gear valet” tent should you be of a nervous nature. If you didn’t get an $85 ticket ahead of time, pay your $95, pick up a very well-done program — makes a great souvenir — and head on in. By 11 o’clock some 3,000 people are walking around this large grassy area, looking at more than 300 motorcycles on display, from scooters to customized creations, some gorgeous, some bizarre. A tasty lunch is provided for the price of the ticket; since the culinary pavilions are open from 11 to 3, peckish types can eat several lunches. Encircling the grass are a whole lot of tents featuring everything from motorcycle manufacturers to auction houses to medics with their electric bicycles, waiting to rush off and succor any ailing individual…perhaps someone so stricken by the beauty of the motorcycles that he or she faints from overwrought pleasure.

The Quail has never discriminated, as long as a machine has two wheels (sometimes three) and a motor, internal combustion or electric. For the awards there are nine traditional competing classes running from Antique to Custom/Modified, and a dozen featured classes that can be quite subjective, as they include subjects like Innovation and Design & Style. The tents on the sidelines may be showing off the very latest in modernism, including a rather expensive Arch motorcycle from the company of which Keanu Reeves is part owner; one of those will probably appear in the next “John Wick” movie. Or the latest battery-powered streetfighter from Italy, the Energica Eva, claiming a top speed of 125 mph and a range of less than 100 miles.

Since 2019 is the 50th anniversary of Honda’s CB750, that was a major part of the show. And it happened to be the 100th anniversary of the Brough Superior, so there were a few of those on display, most restored, but one had 90-year-old paint. By the way, it is important that that word Superior word be kept in there, as Daddy Brough had been building Brough bikes for a few years, since 1908, and then his son George came along and had the nerve to make what he claimed was a superior version. Which, apparently, it was. More than 3,000 Brough Superiors were built between 1919 and 1940, and to the surprise of many perhaps a third survive to this day. But not a single Daddy Brough to be seen.

Quail XI, Quail 2019, Brough Superior
This 1939 Brough Superior SS100 used a 998cc Matchless V-twin, and the 100 stood for guaranteed miles per hour, not engine size.

Somewhat more CB750s came off the production line, like 53,000 in 1969, and I’ve seen the figure of 444,000 total for the single overhead cam version, which was around for a long 10 years before becoming the double overhead cam. And Honda models with that 750cc (roughly) air-cooled in-line-four engine have stayed around into the 21st century. A pseudo-replica came out in 2007, though I don’t think that model ever made it stateside due to problems with the Department of Transportation.

More than 7,000 of the first batch of CB750s were called “sandcast” models, but an interesting tidbit of information is that the sandcast name is a misnomer. As Honda was concerned about the sales possibilities for this all-new-and-different motorcycle, rather than making more expensive production casting dies for the long run, it used less expensive gravity-casting metal molds for the first batch of engine cases. This left a rough finish that was mistaken for sand casting. Once the popularity of this bike was established, production die-casting molds were made.

Quail XI, Quail 2019, CB750 display
That is part of the Honda CB750 display, and the people who brought their CB750s to display are relaxing, while the mass of viewers are busy viewing.

A third featured class was for (pre-2000) Off-Road Wonders, covering every aspect of off-roading, from enduros to motocross. History tells us that observed trials riding began in Scotland more than 100 years ago. It was fun to look at some middle-aged machines intended for grueling events like the original Paris-Dakar Rally in the Sahara Desert.

Quail XI, Quail 2019, Sportster Enduro
We’re not sure why anybody would want to turn a Harley Sportster into an enduro bike, but this aesthetically questionable version was done by Jim Carducci.

Since The Gathering happened to coincide with International Female Ride Day, three women had their time on stage, including much-published Cristine Sommer-Simmons, who has motivated a lot of women to try the pleasures of motorcycling. The star of this three-way chat was obviously 11-year-old Kayla Yaakov, who has been road racing for two years and winning — much to the disgruntlement of those she has beaten. Also on hand was Ginger Damon, of Moto Couture, a company making fashionable protective gear for women.

There is always someone of note to serve as the latest Legend of the Sport, and this year it was legendary racer Malcolm Smith, who starred in the “On Any Sunday” movie. When he got on stage with his movie buddy Mert Lawwill, listening to their reminiscences hosted by Master of Ceremonies and sartorial wonder Paul d’Orleans of The Vintagent was pure pleasure.

Quail XI, Quail 2019, Malcom Smith
The Quail always nominates a Legend of the Sport, and for 2019 it was Malcolm Smith, who was one of the trio starring in the “On Any Sunday” movie.

The judges, under the leadership of Somer Hooker, finished their work in early afternoon, and more than 30 awards were handed out — Sam Roberts’ sandcast 1969 CB750 won Best of Show. All of the awards can be found online.

As a postscript, I will add that it takes a lot of work to keep a show like this going, and a fellow named Gordon McCall should probably take credit for that. He’s a local man, raised on the Monterey Peninsula, and well versed in the art of promotion as he puts on expensive car shows and very expensive airplane events. He is also good at promoting himself, with a pleasant short article about his buying his first motorcycle (a Honda 50) at age 14 appearing in an April edition of The Wall Street Journal.

Quail XI, Quail 2019, best of show
That’s Sam Roberts looking proud as his 1969 “sandcast” Honda CB750 just won the Best of Show award. (Photo by Tom Meadows)

How do The Gathering’s finances work? At last count there were 46 sponsors, from Geico insurance to Marianne’s ice cream — which people have been enjoying since 1947. The sponsors all contribute to the costs, from rental of the property for three days to feeding the crowd. And the tickets bought by the attendees probably add $250,000 or more. Money in, with money out including expenses, charitable donations and profit — if there is any to be had. The 2020 show is already being advertised…May 16th.

Keep scrolling for more pictures of the bikes at Quail XI….

Quail XI, Quail 2019, Curtiss Warhawk
The Curtiss Warhawk is powered by a 2,063cc OHV V-twin bolted into a monocoque frame, and can be yours for a mere $105,000; only 35 will be built.
Quail XI, Quail 2019, BMW with sidecar
Cars being expensive in the early 1950s, sidecars were popular; this classy outfit has a 1954 BMW R67/2 bolted to a S500 Steib.
Quail XI, Quail 2019, 1953 Indian Chief
This 1953 Indian Chief is the final example of the original marque; its demise was partially attributed to the company’s not upgrading the flathead V-twin to overhead.
Quail XI, Quail 2019, Revival The Birdcage
Revival Cycles’ “The Revival Birdcage” custom has a titanium trellis frame built around the Big Boxer engine that will power a BMW cruiser in 2020.
Quail XI, Quail 2019, Laverda
Laverda was a noted Italian company in the 1970s, coming out with very fast motorcycles, including this 3C triple with two disc brakes on the front wheel.
Quail XI, Quail 2019, Asymmetric Aero
So what is this curious machine? It’s called the Asymmetric Aero, powered by a Triumph 650 pushrod engine, and did 175 mph at Bonneville Salt Flats.
Quail XI, Quail 2019, vintage scooters
Anything with two—or sometimes three—wheels and a motor is welcome, as with this quartet of scooters, a Lambretta at the front, a trio of Vespas behind.
Quail XI, Quail 2019, BSA Bantan, Moto Guzzi Cardellino
A pair of tiddlers, with a 1950 BSA Bantam 125 in British post-office red, backed by a 1956 Moto Guzzi 65cc Cardellino in MG red.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Inside Arai Helmets

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
Michio Arai, son of company founder Hirotake, and Michio’s son Akihito (on bike), two of the three generations of Arais that have been making premium motorcycle and auto-racing helmets for nearly 70 years.

After spending a few years behind bars and a desk at Rider magazine, I like to think I have some important things figured out. “Nonplussed” doesn’t mean unimpressed. Lean and believe. Bread plate on the left, drink on the right. And wear ATGATT (All of The Gear All of The Time), especially an approved helmet, preferably full-face. What about Snell vs. DOT vs. ECE 22.05 helmet certification standards? Yes, there are significant differences among them, but those differences really only come into play if you can predict what type of accident you’re going to have. The important thing is to find an approved lid that is comfortable and fits well, has good optics and doesn’t contribute to fatigue with excess noise or weight. A helmet that you like. A helmet that you want to wear, and always do.

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
Arai Americas Managing Director Brian Weston holds a “preforma,” or bird’s nest layer of chopped Super Fiber ready for the mold.

Arai has been making helmets motorcycle riders and countless successful racers want to wear for a very long time, since its first fiberglass-shelled model sold in Japan in 1952. Company founder Hirotake Arai, the son of a hat maker, was an enthusiastic motorcycle rider who established a headgear and textile factory in Saitama, Japan, near Tokyo, in the late 1930s, and after World War II made helmets for construction workers. When his buddies at the local racetrack asked him to make helmets for them, Arai created the first Japanese motorcycle helmets from fiberglass, resin and expanded polystyrene foam (EPS), effectively launching the Japanese motorcycle helmet industry. Despite focusing on head protection for fellow riders first and business concerns a distant second, the company flourished producing “HA” (Hirotake Arai) branded helmets, especially after establishing the “bag molding” technique with 2-piece metal molds that is still in use for most composite helmets today.

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
After the preforma or “bird’s nest” is inserted into the mold, one of Arai’s shell experts carefully places the reinforcing layers inside it, then a second preforma is put in to hold everything together, creating in effect a bird’s nest sandwich.

Soon after Hirotake’s son Michio (a rider since age 7) returned to Japan from college in the U.S. to help with the family business, Arai produced its first Snell-certified HA helmet in 1963. Exports began and the U.S. distributor who would eventually start and become President of Arai Helmet USA in 1977, Roger Weston, helped convince Hirotake to change the brand name from HA to simply “Arai” for obvious reasons.

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
An amazing number of preforma and reinforcing layers of fiberglass are used in each lid, some Super Fiber, some AR Mat and others Zylon or even carbon fiber.

Today Arai Helmet Ltd. has factories in Saitama and Shinto, Japan, and is still a privately owned family business, now in the capable hands of Michio “Mitch” Arai, 81, and his son Akihito. Production has ranged from a pre-recessionary high of more than 450,000 helmets annually to about 280,000 today, all by hand with the exception of six robotic lasers used to cut and trim the shells. Mitch and “Aki” Arai, along with Roger Weston’s son Brian — now Managing Director of Arai Americas — recently decided it was high time to pull back the veil on Arai’s skunk works in Japan with a press tour and ride that would showcase its new Regent-X full-face helmet (review coming soon) and two overriding aspects of Arai helmets: an unfailing attention to tradition, details and quality from its factory workers and helmet experts, many of whom have been with the company for decades; and Arai’s strong belief that in addition to absorbing impacts, a helmet’s shape must allow it to slide smoothly and deflect, or “glance off” impacts in order to prevent rotational energy from entering and affecting the wearer, hence the use of roughly the same smooth, egg-like shell shape since the 1970s.

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
EPS pellets of four or more different densities are used to create the EPS liner that crushes to absorb impacts.

So far no one has found a better material for a motorcycle helmet’s protective liner than EPS, and like most premium helmet companies, Arai forms its liners from EPS pellets of different densities — lighter for the thicker areas like the crown and forehead, heavier for thinner spots. Where technology and cost collide with tradition and safety is in the helmet shell, the designs for which vary greatly among manufacturers. Although the days of polycarbonate, injection-molded shells not holding up to more rigorous standards are long past, Arai believes that composite shells made of laminated fiberglass layers and resin can be stronger, lighter and safer, since the shell absorbs some of the impact by crushing or delaminating and better resists penetration (both a polycarbonate and composite helmet must be replaced after a serious impact, since the EPS liner will have been compressed).

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
The only robots in Arai’s four factories are the laser cutters used to trim the newly formed shells, one at its R&D center in Saitama and five more at the molding facility in Shinto.

Rather than throwing out a shell design and starting over each time, Arai’s current Peripheral Belt-Structural Net Composite 2, or PB-SNC2 (used in high-end models) and PB-Complex Laminate Construction, or PBcLc, shell designs have evolved from numerous CLC designs since the first in 1977. Both start with Super Fiber, fine strands that have 30-percent more tensile strength than ordinary fiberglass. These are chopped, sprayed with resin and blown onto a perforated, rotating vacuum dome, creating a strong “bird’s nest” of sorts that is heated to retain its shape. This bird’s nest is placed into a two-piece mold, and then up to 18 reinforcing pieces such as Arai’s peripheral belt of Zylon (also used in bulletproof vests) around the top of the eyeport and the Structural Net Composite, or SNC, that helps hold the layers together, are carefully placed inside the bird’s nest. Another bird’s nest is placed on top, sandwiching the whole thing together before the resin is poured in and the hot mold is closed up with a thick airbag inside to squeeze the layers together. After 13 minutes what began as a complicated sandwich of Super Fiber, fiberglass mat and Zylon layers that can take years to learn how to assemble has formed into a light, thin but ultra-strong integral shell.

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
Each and every shell produced 200 kilometers away in Shinto or nearby in Saitama must pass final inspection at this facility in Amanuma, where shells are checked for thickness, weight and visible irregularities.

After the virgin shells are trimmed around the bottom and their vents and eye ports cut by the laser, what follows is flurry of handwork and quality control by dozens of skilled workers, and with the exception of some paintwork and plastic part production it’s all done in-house. From sanding, priming, painting, water-decal application, strap riveting, and inserting the EPS liner to gluing in the eyebrow vents and comfort liners and numerous QC inspections, each worker doesn’t just do his or her job — each inspects and insures the quality level of each lid and genuinely cares about the result. What struck me most about Arai was not the modernity of the factories or quantity of helmets being produced, but rather that it doesn’t modify the design or what it feels is the safety level of its helmets in order to lower cost or make production more efficient or more automated. Just as it did in the 1950s, Arai genuinely cares about protecting fellow riders first and business concerns second. As Michio Arai said before we left, “Doing what we believes in gives us pride. We are not good businessmen, but we are determined to provide protection for the heads of fellow riders.”

Keep scrolling for more photos….

Arai Helmet Factory Tour
Michio Arai, 81, talks about Arai Helmet’s history in Saitama. The iconic photo in the background is of his father and company founder Hirotake standing on the saddle of his Harley in the late 1930s.
Arai Helmet Factory Tour
Punching out reinforcing layers en masse at the Shinto factory.
Arai Helmet Factory Tour
A machine weaves strands of Super Fiber for reinforcing layers like the peripheral belt that goes around the eyeport.
Arai Helmet Factory Tour
This is how a shell looks right after it’s removed from the mold. Now it’s off to the laser cutter. Note the staples used to hold some of the fiberglass layers together are all located in the eyeport, which gets cut out.
Arai Helmet Factory Tour
Since resin is relatively heavy, as little as possible is used to form a shell, leaving a rough finish that requires an incredible amount of handwork to get it ready for primer and paint.
Arai Helmet Factory Tour
Graphics that aren’t painted are typically water decals painstakingly applied before the helmet is clear coated. Interestingly decal application is all done by women, who Arai has found have much more patience than men for the intricate work.
Arai Helmet Factory Tour
We were treated to an exceptional preview of the new Arai Regent-X Helmet’s performance with a lengthy ride from Saitama to the famously twisty roads of Gunma Prefecture near the Shinto factory. Many thanks to Honda Motorcycle Japan for providing the bikes.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

2020 Kawasaki Z H2 | First Look Preview

2020 Kawasaki Z H2. Images courtesy Kawasaki.

Hold on tight. Kawasaki has announced it’s bringing its balanced supercharged 998cc inline four to its Z lineup of naked motorcycles with a new flagship model, the 2020 Z H2.

Read our Road Test Review of the 2018 Kawasaki Ninja H2 SX SE here!

More detailed information will be made available at the Z H2’s U.S. debut later in November, but for now we know that it will feature a specially designed trellis frame, Showa suspension, Brembo Monobloc brake calipers, LED lighting, a full-color, switchable TFT display, smartphone connectivity and a full suite of IMU-based electronics (riding modes, power modes, KTRC, KCMF, KIBS, KLCM, KQS and cruise control) and an assist-and-slipper clutch.

The 2020 Kawasaki Z H2 will be available in Metallic Spark Black/Metallic Graphite Gray/Mirror Coated Spark Black at an MSRP of $17,000. Stay tuned for further details.

Keep scrolling for more photos….

This image shows the massive air intake feeding directly into the balanced supercharger.
2020 Kawasaki Z H2.
Full-color TFT display has a switchable background.

Source: RiderMagazine.com

Before Help Arrives: Being Prepared in the Event of a Motorcycle Accident

During the first few minutes after TJ’s crash, he was woozy and in some pain. Once the adrenaline wore off, his condition became more serious. But without first aid training all we knew to do was call for help.

Like it or not, accidents happen. Fortunately, they tend to be rare events, and when they do happen they’re often minor, such as a parking lot tip over that does more harm to our pride than our body or bike. But sometimes accidents are more serious. Sand or gravel may cause us to lose traction. We may overcook a decreasing-radius corner. Or we may have a close encounter with a car or a leaping deer.

As responsible motorcyclists, we owe it to ourselves, our friends and our loved ones to be prepared in case an accident happens. If we’re riding in or near an urban area, then we can usually count on having a cell signal, the ability of first responders to access the scene quickly and the proximity of a hospital. But even in urban areas it could take up to 30 minutes or longer for an ambulance to arrive on the scene.

What should you do until help arrives? And what if the accident happens when you’re riding out in the country or other remote area? Those are exactly the sort of places we love to ride, where we can escape from the city or suburbia to enjoy winding roads and off-the-beaten-path scenery. How would you call for help? And even if you can call for help, how long will it take for an ambulance or helicopter to arrive?

A few years ago, during a dual-sport ride with friends, our buddy TJ crashed his GS on a downhill, landing on his right shoulder. He was woozy and in pain, but he was able to get up, remove his helmet and speak coherently. After a few minutes, TJ told us his fingers were numb, his arm felt cold and he had a history of heart problems. We were lucky. We had a weak cell signal and were able to use my GPS to provide precise coordinates to the 911 dispatcher, and an off-duty paramedic and a nurse happened to be in the area and attended to TJ while we waited for a helicopter. TJ was airlifted to a hospital where he was treated for a dislocated shoulder, a chipped bone in his upper arm and a bruised collarbone. 

We were relieved that first responders were able to provide assistance and evacuation so quickly, but what struck me about that incident was my ignorance of what to do other than dial 911. Recently I completed a weekend-long Wilderness First Aid course put on by NOLS, the National Outdoor Leadership School. Aimed at those who recreate outdoors where emergency medical response can be expected in less than eight hours, the course teaches the Patient Assessment System, basic first aid and how to make evacuation decisions.

As luck would have it, members of the Pathfinders militia were training in the area, and a nurse and a paramedic from the group attended to TJ until a helicopter arrived. Since help is rarely available in remote areas, it’s good to be prepared with first aid training, a first aid kit and a reliable way to contact first responders.

One of the teachers was Dave Craig, a Senior Instructor at NOLS who is a Wilderness EMT as well as a motorcyclist. He enjoys long, exploratory rides on his Suzuki DR650S throughout Arizona and down into Mexico. When I asked Craig how wilderness first aid applies to motorcycling, he said, “When it comes to first response to a motorcycle accident, whether in remote areas or not, there are several important elements. First, secure the scene to prevent further injuries.” This is the first step in the Patient Assessment System (see sidebar below). If the accident occurs on the road or a popular trail, enlist friends or bystanders to control oncoming traffic, and beware of other potential hazards. If the injured rider is trapped under his or her motorcycle, make sure the bike is picked up safely without putting you or others at risk.

“Second, you should be prepared with training and materials to attend to threats to life,” said Craig. “Take a first aid/CPR course and always carry a first aid kit with medical gloves. For the injured rider, first assess the ABCs — Airway, Breathing and Circulation, and check for serious bleeding. Next, evaluate D — Disability; in particular, do you need to protect the spine? And E — Expose any injuries so they can be examined.” This is part of the initial assessment in the Patient Assessment System, which is the first priority after the scene has been secured.

Many believe you should never remove a motorcyclist’s helmet if he or she has been in an accident. However, a full-face helmet’s chinbar covers the rider’s mouth, making it difficult to check airway and breathing. (A flip-up or modular helmet allows a rider’s face to be exposed without removing the helmet.) Also, if the accident occurs in a remote area where it could be an hour or longer until help arrives, removing the helmet allows the rider’s head to be examined for injury and helps keep them cool and comfortable. Whether or not the helmet is removed, ensure that the rider’s head is supported to protect the spine. 

“And third, after completing a thorough patient assessment, you need to have a way to contact emergency services in the areas in which you ride,” Craig said. At a minimum you should carry a cell phone, but a satellite communicator, such as those made by Garmin or SPOT (see Resources), is a great backup because they work anywhere and transmit precise location coordinates to first responders. Be sure to keep your phone and/or communicator in your pocket rather than on your bike in case you and your bike go separate ways in an accident, particularly if you’re riding solo.

Accidents are emotionally charged situations — for the rider(s) involved and for bystanders. If you witness an accident or are one of the first to arrive on the scene, it’s important to stay calm and help keep others calm. Assess the situation before diving in; help secure the scene and act in a thorough, deliberate manner. Just as motorcycle skills training prepares us to be better riders, hands-on first aid training prepares us to act with confidence so we can assist the injured as well as first responders. Always have emergency contact and personal medical information on your person in an easy-to-find location, as well as a first aid kit, a cell phone and, if traveling in remote areas, a satellite communicator.

Roadguardians.org offers an 8-hour Accident Scene Management Bystander Assistance Program for motorcyclists.

Patient Assessment System

Scene Size-up

Identify hazards to self, other rescuers, bystanders, patient.

Determine mechanism of injury.

Form a general impression of seriousness.

Determine the number of patients.

Protect yourself with body substance isolation (e.g., wear gloves).

Initial Assessment

Obtain consent, assess for responsiveness and protect the spine.

A – Airway: Open the airway; look in the mouth and clear obvious obstructions.

B – Breathing: Look, listen and feel.

C – Circulation: Check pulse at the neck; look and sweep body for severe bleeding.

D – Disability: Decide if further spine protection is needed.

E – Expose and examine major injuries.

Secondary Assessment

Head-to-toe examination (look, listen, feel, smell, ask)

Measurement of vital signs (responsiveness, heart rate, skin, respiration, temperature, pupils)

Medical history (chief complaint; SAMPLE — Symptoms, Allergies, Medications, Past history, Last intake/output, Events)

Source: “NOLS Wilderness Medicine, 6th Edition” (see Resources below)



Accident Scene Management Bystander Assistance Program for motorcyclists; 8-hour course; visit roadguardians.org 

American Red Cross Adult First Aid/CPR/AED Course; 6-hour course (certification valid for two years); visit redcross.org 

NOLS Wilderness First Aid Course; 16 hours over two days (certification valid for two years); visit nols.edu

“NOLS Wilderness Medicine, 6th Edition,” by Ted Schimelpfenig (Chapter 1 covers the Patient Assessment System in detail); $16.95, visit store.nols.edu

First Aid Kits/Supplies

American Red Cross’ online store sells a variety of first aid kits, supplies and instructional books; visit redcross.org/store

NOLS Med Kits are made by Adventure Medical Kits and range from the basic, 3.7-ounce Med Kit 1.0 ($16.95) to the well-stocked, 25-ounce Med Kit 5.0 ($84.99); resupply packs and individual supplies also available; add a NOLS Wilderness Medicine Pocket Guide for $4.99; visit store.nols.edu

Personal Medical Information

Smartphones typically have easily accessible medical information and an emergency contact, as well as the ability to dial 911, directly from the home or lock screen. Look up the details for your device and fill in the forms as completely as possible.

Rescue Facts Emergency Pack, which attaches to apparel or helmet with hook-and-loop, contains a rewritable medical information form so it is easily accessible by first responders; $10, visit aerostich.com

Satellite Communicators

Garmin makes several products with inReach technology that allows two-way text messaging and S.O.S. signals via the global Iridium satellite network; starting at $349.99 plus required service plan; visit garmin.com 

SPOT makes one-way (Gen3) and two-way (SPOT X) satellite communicators for sending text messages and S.O.S. signals; starting at $149.99 plus required service plan; visit findmespot.com

Source: RiderMagazine.com