Tuesday, May 16, 2006



While riding motorcycles is one the most fun one can have on earth, it is an activity of moderate danger. Statistics show that your risk of injury on a motorcycle can be 14-16 times higher on a motorcycle than driving a car. There are a host of reasons. They can be minimized, but not eliminated.

Smart riders wear protective gear, make sure their bike is in good working order, ride within their limits, work on their skills, and do not endanger themselves or others riding in traffic. Racing activity is for the race track.


All of us have seen the SQUIDs. Idiots, often in tank tops and flip-flops, pulling wheelies in rush-hour traffic. A good proportion of these SQUIDS are kids that have the undeveloped brains of testosterone fueled adolescents. Society makes allowances and provisions for their inexperience, unthinking bravado, and poor judgement. But the physics of motorcycles make no allowances.

The sport motorcycle of today has power and capabilities that are amazing. Most can exceed 260 kph. Many 300 kph. They are rocket ships on two wheels. And they are within the financial reach of most kids or their doting parents.

The article below is reprinted from the Sacramento Bee newspaper. The Author does not necessarily agree with all points in the article, but he cannot overestimate the need for safety and sanity, especially when dealing with young, old, inexperienced, inebriated, or still stupid motorcyclists.

Police prepare for 'squid season'

Spring brings out motorcycle riders — some over their heads after buying their first bikes.
By Jim Guy / The Fresno Bee

(Updated Saturday, May 13, 2006, 5:13 AM)
The license plate frame on the crashed sport bike says, "Cops hate me 'cause I'm faster."
Fresno police Sgt. Gary Beer keeps a photograph of the twisted Yamaha R6 involved in the fatal crash on Friant Road as a vivid example of how quickly things can go wrong for motorcycle riders who don't keep their throttle hands in check.

As the weather warms and brings out riders who might be tempted to race or do stunts, Beer and other members of the department's Traffic Safety Unit say they will be watching. Police and many experienced riders warn that the temptation to copy moves seen on Internet videos and in some magazines can be lethal for an inexperienced rider on a high-powered sport bike.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says speed is a factor in more that 40% of all motorcycle fatalities; among riders younger than 30, it is a factor in 60%.

"A lot of kids riding sport bikes are over their heads," says Brian Hance, a detective with the department's Collision Reconstruction Unit. "Ninety-nine dollars down and $99 a month, and you can ride a rocket."

What some motorcyclists call "squid season" (most say "squid" is short for "squirrelly kid") has already kicked off. Last month in Tulare County, 19-year-old Stephen Lira suffered major injuries when he attempted a wheelie on Highway 99. Several weeks ago, Beer was tied up at a DUI checkpoint when Fresno police's Skywatch helicopter spotted two motorcyclists riding wheelies down Blackstone Avenue. Because most of the city's traffic officers were busy with the DUI enforcement, no officers were able to respond in time.

Racers and stunt cyclists doing wheelies, "stoppies," (using the front brake to lift the rear wheel high in the air), or "burnouts" (revving the engine while the back tire makes a cloud of smoke) may not be so lucky in coming weeks.

Capt. Andy Hall, head of the traffic unit, said plainclothes officers driving unmarked cars will be at the forefront of the effort, trying to keep riders safe.
"This summer, we'll see some deaths," Hall says. "You will see us working it really hard. … You show off and you will get arrested for racing."

Officers in the unit can tick off example after example of motorcyclists killed while riding beyond their limits. The deaths aren't limited to younger riders of high-horsepower Japanese motorcycles. A recent study by the NHTSA found that over-50 riders on cruisers such as Harley-Davidsons and Yamaha Roadstars were also at risk of being killed. Still, sport-bike accidents often happen at a higher speed or in a more spectacular manner.
Fresno County sheriff's deputy Aaron Kilner became posthumously famous in 2003 for infiltrating Peace Fresno, and as a result appeared in Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 911."

Fresno police Sgt. Gary Beer keeps this photo as a reminder of how quickly things go wrong.
Special To The Bee

Members of the group saw his photograph in The Bee after he crashed his Yamaha R6 into a car. Investigators said Kilner had just left a local motorcycle shop and was wearing a borrowed helmet when the collision occurred. His rear tire skidded for 300 feet, Hance says.
Hance recalls a rider on a 186-mph-capable Suzuki Hayabusa who popped up the front wheel of his bike at Ninth Street and Ashlan avenue in 2003, then ran into a car, throwing off and killing his female passenger.

He has a photo of a crash last July involving Dallas Mossey, 31, who was riding a stolen Honda CBR600. Mossey lifted the front wheel and then landed it at a bad angle. The resulting wobble caused Mossey to crash, his body coming to rest beneath a cross outside a church at Crystal and Shields avenues.

California law allows anyone who is at least 151/2 years old and passes a written test to obtain a motorcycle permit, as long as they do not ride on the freeway, carry a passenger or ride at night. That doesn't sit well with everyone.

"I think it's insane," says Beer, who rides a Harley-Davidson and is a former motorcycle officer. Hall, also a rider, says parents often don't see the whole picture when they buy their child a high-powered sport bike.

"The kids might ride them conservatively around their parents, but once out of their parents' sight, it's easy to go wild," Hall says. "Most people get in an accident in the first six months after buying a motorcycle. Most likely, they are not taking in enough input. When I'm on my bike, I'm watching everything — the wheels of cars, the eyes of drivers."

Hall enjoys riding mountain fire trails with his 16-year-old son.
"I allow my son to ride, but not without me," he says.

Joseph Conterno, sales manager for Honda-Suzuki of Madera, also has reservations about a first-time rider getting on a motorcycle such as the Suzuki GSXR600 that's sold under the slogan "Own The Racetrack," a lightweight motorcycle that's capable of 160 mph.

"I'm a little different," Conterno said. "With some kids, they think that they have been riding a dirtbike for five or six years and now they think they can ride a GSXR600. I don't want that phone call the next day."
He tries to sell first-time riders a more manageable motorcycle.

Experienced riders in Fresno's Quarter Mile Club say their group avoids "squids," too. A few years ago, the group was often the focus of law enforcement efforts cracking down on speeding and street racing, members say. Dan Moore, 37, president of the club, remembers the time a police helicopter hovered overhead during a club run.
Now, the group avoids racing anywhere other than sanctioned tracks and takes a closer look at who can join.

"We make sure you have full insurance coverage, we make sure you aren't a 'squid' and we have a probation period," says Moore. Before, "We were taking everyone who had a bike with a fairing. We paid for it by bringing in people that weren't safe."

Blaine Shirkey, 38, vice president of the Quarter Mile Club, says he had a good friend who was set on buying a 1000cc Yamaha R1, one of the fastest motorcycles built, as a first motorcycle.
Shirkey, who like Moore rides an even faster Hayabusa, told the friend, Brent Wallace, 27, that he wouldn't help him learn to ride it. Wallace ended up buying an equally fast Suzuki GSXR 1000 anyway. He was killed in 2001 when he collided head-on with a car and then was struck by a pickup on Highway 168 near Sample Road. He had owned the bike for four days, Shirkey says.

Motorcycles have evolved so quickly in the past few years, becoming lighter and more powerful, that some members question licensing regulations.

Like police officers Hall and Beer, Quarter Mile Club sergeant-at-arms Eric Arcia says beginning riders should take a course from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.
Arcia, 35, also says it might be time to go to a tiered licensing system that would restrict first-time riders to less powerful motorcycles.

Says Moore: "The rules for allowing a 151/2-year-old [to ride] were made when 600s had 35-40 horsepower. Now, they are pushing 100.

"The margin for error has been greatly reduced from even 10 years ago. When you make a mistake, everything is compounded.
"There are no air bags, no seat belts and all the equipment in the world is only good for a slide."


One thing to note is that California has a mandatory helmet law. Most states do not.


[i] SQUID. Inexperienced/stupid sportbiker riding in an unsafe and stupid manner. Short for “Squirrelly” or “Squashed Kid”
[ii]OMMLET(TM)“Old Male Motorcyclists Lacking Experience and Training”. Midlife crisis types that last rode a Cushman scooter in 1963. Every third purchaser of a Harley-Davidson motorcyclist. The Author’s apologies to safe and responsible Harley riding men and women that take the Motorcycle Safety Courses and wear protective gear. (See, the Author can speak highly of Harley Riders in certain scenarios). The Author claims ownership and authorship of OMMLET(TM).