Meanwhile in Kansas

A pedestrian has been charged with murder in a motorcycle crash that killed a Kansas police officer, according to The Concordia Blade-Empire.

Officer Marc Henry was off-duty and riding his motorcycle southbound on Highway 81 in Ottawa County at around 2:30 p.m. Monday, June 12, the Blade reported, when he rear-ended a white Kia that had stopped on the highway to avoid hitting a pedestrian.

According to Ottawa County Sheriff Keith Coleman, “The pedestrian has been charged with ‘Pedestrian Under The Influence’ and ‘Murder In The Second Degree.’”

The incident is still under investigation.

More here.


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Top 10 Ways to Stay Alive When You’re Learning to Ride

Kind of when it comes to love, money, work, international diplomacy – everybody has to learn the hard lessons on their own. Some other things, though, it’s good to learn from those more experienced, those who’ve slid around the block a few times on their head. Well, sister, that’s me. There’s a lot to take in and understand when learning how to ride a motorcycle. It all looks so easy and fluid from afar, but there’s a lot that’s all happening at the same time, and it can be somewhat overwhelming. Fortunately, just like anything new, starting will be the hardest part. Here’s our best advice for staying safe while you get your sea legs.

10. Know how to ride before you hit the road

Many states require rider training, which is a big step in the right direction. If yours doesn’t, please don’t just take off on the road without getting some basic instruction first. Even if you know how to operate all the controls from riding a Mini Trail 50 ten years ago, take some time to re-familiarize yourself with how things work. In a perfect world, a day or two at an MSF course or something, or a weekend riding TT-R125s around in the dirt would be optimal.

In our imperfect world, just getting your new bike to a big empty parking lot and gradually working your way up to learning how strong your front brake is, how easy it is to change direction via the miraculous physics of countersteering, and just doing big loops around a couple of cones or tin cans to get an idea how far you can lean is a far better thing than just setting off into traffic.

9. Know thy Bike

I don’t think you’ll even find anything used that approaches the cool-per-$$ ratio of a brand-spanking, $5,299 KTM 390 Duke.

Either consider a new bike, or have a seriously experienced rider or mechanic check out the used one you’re thinking of buying. I remember riding around on my new-to-me Suzuki GS550 circa 1980 for a few days before stopping in at the local Suzuki shop, where somebody pointed out to me the axle clamp that held my front wheel on was missing in action. Do I need that? Only if you don’t want your front wheel to fly off. Don’t ask how I’ve learned about bent triple clamps and fork tubes. I wouldn’t want to experience high-speed tank slappers if I was just learning to ride.

We’re not all about boosting new motorcycle sales here at MO, but if you’re new to the game there’s a lot to be said for knowing everything on your bike is right, including new controls that work as designed, stiction-free and give you optimal, ahh, control. Once you’ve ridden a nice new motorcycle, you’ll at least always know how things are supposed to feel. Thanks to the Great Recession, there are quite a few great new bikes for around $5,000.

If you’re going used, either Google up a local independent bike shop or dealer to give your new machine a thorough going-over to make sure all systems are go. Back in the perfect world, you’d have that person or mechanic go with you to look at the bike you’re thinking of buying. Your brakes need to work like new. Your taillight and brake light are life-and-death matters after dark. Etcetera…

8. Be Seen

We teased him for it, but longtime Motorcyclist magazine EiC Art Friedman wouldn’t ride in anything other than a bright orange day-glo Shoei, size XXL, and it definitely made him easy to spot on a crowded street. Most of us are too fashion-forward at MO or maybe just not that bright, but there is no doubt that a hi-viz helmet and/or hi-viz anything makes you easier to see. The number-one thing that takes motorcyclists out is cars turning in front of us, because their drivers simply don’t see us. Making yourself more visible is an easy thing you can do to prevent that, and especially a good idea when you’re still developing your motorcycling sixth sense.

As you gain experience it’s still a great idea to wear fluorescent, but it’s even more important while you’re learning how not to be a statistic. Google up hi-viz motorcycle gear and you’ll find a ton of options.

7. Go at your own speed

The great temptation when you go out riding with a group, be it on dirt, pavement, or whathaveyou, is that just because you can see the guy ahead of you riding along at that pace, you can ride that pace too. What makes motorcycle racing so continuously entertaining is trying to figure out how one person, under the same conditions and even sometimes on the exact same equipment, can go faster than the other person. Think of learning to ride as a sport, because it is one. You wouldn’t walk onto a tennis court and think you could take on Rafael Nadal because you have the same racket and Nikes.

Don’t try to keep up with people when you begin to feel like you’re riding over your head. Believe me when I tell you, everyone in your group would much rather wait for you at the next intersection than have to go back and pull you out of a ditch. Much better to sit down with the person whose riding you admired after the ride, and ask how she learned to ride so well? That person will be more than happy to spill.

6. Be Proactive, not Reactive

There are at least two camps: I’m in the one that likes to always go a bit faster than the flow of traffic on multi-lane roads, because I feel safer coming up behind cars than having them come up behind me. Most of us sportybike people would, for whatever reason, prefer to deal with things ahead of us instead of behind: What’s passed is past.

Lots of other riders prefer to “cruise” at a more sedate pace – a thing we MOrons also do sometimes on smaller motorcycles or any bike that’s happier at a slower pace. When you’re riding slower than most traffic, please stay in the right lane, and please pay even more attention to your mirrors than you usually do – which should always be a lot. Whether you tend to ride faster or at a more relaxing pace, the goal is to never be surprised. Some things will always be out of your control. Others, like being rear-ended on your motorcycle, is something you should never allow to happen to you. Because you saw that truck coming in your mirrors and had an escape route (between the lines of cars, for those who don’t live in California).

5. Don’t drink and ride

This needs no explanation, and of course it includes any mind-altering substance. The statistics linking impairment and motorcycle crashes are painfully predictable. In the era of Uber and couchsurfing, there’s really no excuse.

4. Let it go

If somebody does you a dirty on the road, it’s best to just let it go and turn the other cheek. In car-on-motorcycle violence, the motorcycle almost always loses. Personally, rather than flipping the birdie, I’ll get in view of that person and give them a friendly wave and a big smile as I flip up my modular, maybe blow them a kiss. Angry, mean people hate it more than anything when you’re nice to them and they know exactly what they’re guilty of. Kill them with kindness. Then, since I’m on a motorcycle and they’re not, I leave them for dead stuck in traffic.

In the same vein, just because the light is green doesn’t mean go. It means look both ways and make sure it’s clear before proceeding: People race to make it through yellow and even red lights all the time, and you don’t want to become their hood ornament. Angry, insistent and self-righteous is no way to ride a motorcycle. What might be a fender bender in an automobile can kill or maim you on a motorcycle. Don’t think the rules of the road are going to protect you. You have to keep your blast shields up at all times, a thing that quickly becomes automatic and even empowering. The price for your motorcycle super powers is constantly forgiving the poor mortals stuck in cars. Heck, after a while you’re anticipating bonehead moves and not surprised.

3. Position yourself

Don’t follow so close that when the car ahead of you runs over the ladder that just fell off the gardener’s truck it hits you in the face shield. Stay back so you have time to react, and even if you live in a non-lane-sharing state, stay to one side of the lane you’re in so you can see farther up the road, between the rows of cars. That way, you saw that ladder working its way loose and had already moved two lanes over by the time it fell and scattered traffic. If somebody wants to ride on your back tire (you’re out of habit glancing in your mirrors every 5 or 10 seconds), move to the right and and encourage them to go past. Better yet, move constantly ahead through gaps in traffic, when the gaps are there, like a shark in a school of Toyotas. Drivers can’t help but see you when you’ve just passed them only a few feet away. But check your mirrors again to be sure you didn’t just pass an enraged psychopath with a motorcycle phobia.

Basically, always try to position your bike so you can see as far ahead as you can, watching for swerves (another ladder or possibly a weed whacker), gradual lane meanderings (texting) and brake lights (spilled my drink!). At night, don’t outrun your headlights – (another possible reason to look at a new bike with a nice bright one).

2. Embrace your invisibility

Don’t ride in blind spots? HELLO, they’re ALL blind spots! You’re a ghost. No one can see you. Accept that fact, and expect cars to turn left in front of you, to pull out in front of you, to pull into your lane, to empty soft drinks into your lap, flick cigarette butts in your face… In exchange for agreeing to have all that happen to you, you get to experience the joy of groundbound flight whenever you need to go somewhere.

But yeah, don’t ride in obvious blind spots. Slow down at intersections and try to glance both ways. After a while, you’ll learn to read subtle signals in drivers and their cars, and you’ll know which ones to literally steer clear of, or at least keep a sharp eye upon. After a while you’ll feel like you’re not as invisible as you once were. But it’s not the world that’s changed, it’s your ability to predict and deal with it. After a while, you feel invincible instead of invisible. Don’t believe yourself!

1. Helmet, gloves, ankle protection

HOLD IT RIGHT THERE SISTER! Where are your helmet and gloves?!

And are those boots CE-approved? Sometimes no matter how hard you try and how careful you are, weird things happen. A deer jumps in your lap. A bungee cord breaks and your bedroll locks up your back wheel. A meteorite takes out your front tire. It could happen. At that point, you’ll want to minimize the damage.

Some say All The Gear All The Time (ATGATT) and good for them. But that’s not always practical all the time for everybody, and all of us aren’t saintly. I insist you wear a good helmet, though – only because I cracked my head on the road when I was first learning, and as a rebellious 20-year old moron I doubt I’d have been wearing a helmet if the law hadn’t made me. I can still hear the crack and the skriiiish as I slid along the icy pavement. I wouldn’t be here today. In the ensuing years, helmets have saved my noggin at least, well there’s no time to count right now, a bunch of times.

As long as you’re dragging a helmet around, you might as well carry gloves too. There are 27 bones and 8,032 tendons and ligaments in each hand, and when you jack them up or just scrape them up and wait for the scabs to heal, you’ll be surprised how hard it is to do things you used to not even think about. And while we’re on the subject, ask anybody who’s ever blown up an ankle as a result of a motorcycle accident if they wished they’d been wearing, if not boots, at least high-top sneakers with some ankle protection. Those are the minimum requirements. Leather or good textile jacket, even better. Kevlar jeans, excellent idea. Now go forth and motorply, my people.

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This Monday, June 18th, Is Ride to Work Day So, You Know What to Do!

If it’s not already part of your routine, ride your motorcycle or scooter to work this Monday.

Begin Release:

The 27th annual Ride To Work Day demonstration can more than triple the number of riders on some roads. Most motorcycle and scooter clubs and organizations encourage riders to commute by scooter or cycle on this day. Riders seek employer recognition and support for this form of transportation and increased public and government awareness of the societally positive benefits of utility riding.

Adding motorcycles and scooters helps traffic flow better, according to Ride to Work, a non-profit advocacy organization. Studies have also shown that across the same distances, riders reach their destinations up to 20% faster than those using automobiles. Most motorcycles and scooters also consume less resources per mile than automobiles. “Riding to work on this day is fun and highlights value of motorcycling. Riding is a form of personal mobility that saves energy, helps the environment and provides a broad range of public benefits,” stated Andy Goldfine, this year’s event organizer.

The Ride to Work website includes:

  • Useful tools and in-depth information about issues and programs.
  • An interactive forum to discuss Riding to Work.
  • An assortment of Ride to Work supporting merchandise.
  • A wholesale program available to dealers and retailers.
  • A photo gallery to show your Every Day Ride on the website.

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BMW Revs Up for its BMW Motorcycle Owners of America International Rally

Attention BMW owners and enthusiasts, BMW Motorrad USA is prepping for its BMW Motorcycle Owners of America International Rally, which will kick off July 12-15 in Des Moines, Iowa.

BMW Motorrad USA:

WOODCLIFF LAKE, NJ – June 13, 2018 – BMW Motorrad USA will roll into Des Moines, Iowa with its distinctive demo truck and motorcycle apparel display for the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America International Rally, July 12-15.  The event, which attracts more than 7,000 participants, is open to BMW MOA members and guests.

BMW Motorrad USA will offer demo rides from the Iowa State Fairgrounds – BMW MOA Rally headquarters.   Rally participants, ages 18 and older, with a valid motorcycle license and proper riding gear will have an opportunity to test ride BMW’s full lineup of Adventure, Touring, Heritage, Roadster, Urban Mobility models and Sportbikes – including the new six-cylinder K 1600 B Bagger and its touring cousin, the K 1600 Grand America; the new single-cylinder G 310 GS enduro; and the C evolution electric scooter.  Sign-ups begin at 8 a.m.

The full rally registration fee (excluding children and day passes) includes admission to the rally Thursday, Friday, and Saturday; entry into door prize drawings; eligibility for Grand Prize drawings (including a BMW MOA prize motorcycle); and camping fees for the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

To pre-register for the BMW MOA International Rally, visit

For information and a complete schedule of events, visit

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Skidmarks: Touring on an Electric Moto

We’ve been force-feeding you an awful lot of electric-motorcycle content lately, but here’s something that’s been tugging at my mind for years. We know E-motos are good at racing, commuting and supermoto fundays, but their range – hovering around the 100-mile mark – is what’s limiting them from being truly all-around products.

Or is it?

The last time you went on a long motorcycle trip, did you just, as the Aerostich T-shirt says, ride, eat, sleep, repeat? Sometimes that is the case, but when riding the long way with a group of friends, the norm is 80-120 mile stints interrupted by maddeningly slow, frequent gas and rest stops.

You know how it is: the more people you ride with, the longer it takes to get everybody gassed up, rested, snacked, potty-breaked and smart-phone checked. And then there’s always one guy with his helmet and gloves off, chewing on an energy bar while everybody else are on their bikes, waiting at the gas station driveway, turn signals blinking hopefully. Come on, man! The bar closes at 9:00 in some of these little towns.

Brian Rice with his unlikely choice of long-distance touring bikes, a 2016 Zero DSR.

So as long as there are places you can charge your bike in 30 or 40 minutes every 100 miles, in theory you should be able to have a similarly dysfunctional (with emphasis on the fun) touring experience on an electric moto. That was the thought I was mulling over, but writing a whole column about that seemed like a lot of work… until yesterday.

There I was, column due the next day and Brasfield breathing down my neck (not really), and I had no idea what to write about. Luckily, Fate has a way of dumping things into your lap. As I dropped off a Lyft passenger in front of his hotel near the San Francisco Embarcadero, I spied a weird-looking motorcycle parked against a curb across the street, surrounded by tools and luggage. God, why are you so kind to us agnostics?

Serious, thin, pony-tailed and bespectacled, the 2016 Zero DSR‘s owner was as quirky and unexpected in appearance as his fully-electric steed. Turns out Brian Rice was on his way back from hiking in Marin county when his drive belt decided it had finally had enough after 30,000 miles. He found a convenient place to park and went home to get a spare belt, tools and a jack to get his bike back on the road. Unfortunately, he didn’t pack an Allen-head socket beefy enough to unscrew his swingarm, which is where I came in. For the trouble of schlepping our electric road-warrior back home to get the right tool I could get his story. Not a bad deal.

Wheel covers bump Brian’s range 3-5% and are made out of plastic and zip ties. Mooneyes, the famous custom shop, is interested in making a cool set of covers for him.

As I drove him first to his pad, then to the auto-parts store to get a new socket, he told me about his experience building a tourer out of a short-range commuter. Turns out, if there’s a guy anywhere purpose-built to pursue such a project, it’s Brian.

“I grew up in Houston around NASA engineers,” the 30-ish Rice told me. His father worked in CAD software sales, so naturally the younger Rice was “into super-nerdy stuff… Dick Rutan was a hero.” He dropped out of studying engineering at Texas A&M, opting for hands-on experience as a Navy electrical technician. He wound up in the nuclear powerplant of the megacarrier USS Carl Vinson.

“A lot of that stuff carried over into electric motorcycles. I know enough to avoid accidents where the power vaporizes a screwdriver and then you breathe in the metal vapor,” which he says is really a Thing That Happens, yet another reason to avoid the U.S. Navy. So when Rice acquired his Zero DSR, it wasn’t long before he started to modify it to suit his needs.

Electric motorcycle touring is also a Thing, a pretty well-established one in fact. We’ve reported on Zero hero Terry “Electric Terry” Hershner, a man who has garnered his own Wikipedia listing by being the first person to ride an electric motorcycle cross-country (in 2014), even though I totally thought about doing it first. Terry’s approach seems to be three-pronged: increase battery capacity, increase aerodynamic efficiency, and decrease charging time by adding chargers.

Of these three things, it would seem you’d get the easiest gains by simply adding bigger batteries, but you’d be wrong. Batteries are heavy, expensive and complicated to plumb into the electrical system. Adding a 3.3 kilowatt-hour “Power Tank” to a Zero S or DS nets you a 25% bump in capacity (and range), but also puts over 45 pounds right on top of the bike and digs a $2,895 hole in your wallet, too. Terry boosted his bike’s capacity to over 22 kWh, more than double the stock bike. He also doubled the weight of the stock bike. Brian bought a powertank, but it sounds like the biggest gains are elsewhere.

Don’t try this at home, kids! Rice’s rig has a lot of external wiring, but it’s in development and Brian usually has this stuff covered up and out of harm’s way.

Using his mad electrical skills, Brian replaced the standard on-board charger (which squeezes out just 1.3 kWh and takes 10 hours to charge his bike) with not one but three 3.5 kWh DigiNow chargers. That’s over 10 kWh of charging capability, and you don’t even need a DC fast charger to utilize it: just plug two standard Level-2 chargers (the kind you find at most public charging stations) into the bike: he’s installed two ports just for that reason, one on top and one on the side.

I wonder if he was thinking about that vaporized screwdriver the first time he fired it all up?

Now he has a bike that can charge from fully dead to just about topped off in 90 minutes, or as former Maximum MOron Sean Alexander would call it, five minutes. But in most cases, Brian charges from low double digits to somewhere in the 80s or low 90%, and that takes a lot less time; the last 10% can take 30 minutes or more as the system slows the juice down to balance out the cells. Most of Brian’s breaks are 30 minutes or less, sometimes not even enough time for a relaxed lunch. Trips from San Francisco to Los Angeles (my personal touring-day benchmark) are doable in eight hours or so, and he’s made it to Seattle from the Bay (800 miles) in just two days. And Iron Butts? Electric Terry did his first 1000-mile day all the way back in 2014.

But maybe the biggest hurdle is that soft stuff you’re surrounded by every day: the air. At 40 or 50 mph it doesn’t do much, but go over 60 and we all know it can start to really sap efficiency, especially on a naked bike like the DSR. Terry’s bike has gotten the full Craig Vetter treatment, and now the egg-shaped thing, equipped with more battery capacity than a Nissan Leaf, can go over 300 miles on a charge. Brian went the dustbin-fairing route as well.

Author wind tunnel testing at the Moto Guzzi factory, 1959

However, he wasn’t happy with the limited steering lock, size or the unsexy appearance of riding what looks like Flipper with wheels. He’s installed a much smaller Hollywood Electrics-designed fairing, and it looks darn sporty. Oh, and it still gives him a 25-30 percent bump in range over naked. With 16 kWh of battery, he can go 135 miles at highway speeds. I don’t know about you, but that’s usually more than I like to ride without a break.

Brian sometimes prefers the convenience of occasionally riding his other bike, a Suzuki V-Strom 650, but seems to prefer the novelty and adventurous spirit of electric touring. “It’s a lot of work, but it’s very enjoyable in a different way from a gas bike. You’re going to hear the birds chirp in the forest. There’s something very compelling about it.”

Rice, Rice, baby…

If you’re not as impressed by Terry and Brian’s engineering efforts as I am, I understand. But think how much more a big factory like Honda or BMW, with their armies of engineers, wind tunnels and millions of dollars could do. In fact, the technology exists now for a Goldwing-sized touring rig with enough battery capacity and efficiency to go 300 miles or more on a charge. Using DC fast-charge technology (or dual level-2), there’s no reason why such a rig shouldn’t charge back up to 95% in under 30 minutes. Using ultra-frugal parts sourcing (Zero seems to excel at this), the MSRP should be about what you’d pay for a comparable gasoline moto from BMW, Harley-Davidson or Honda.

Holy crap, the future is just around the corner, and guys like Terry and Brian are helping us get there. Check out Brian’s most-informative Zero motorcycle Wiki,, if you crave more detailed info about modifying Zero motorcycles for long-distance riding.

Gabe Ets-Hokin would like to point out that he is cited as a primary source seventeen times on Wikipedia and yet there is no listing for him, which he sees as a massive injustice. “I am doomed to anonymity, thanks to the MSM’s totally unfair obsession with people who actually do noteworthy things,” he whines.

electric motorcycle touring

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