What is ABATE?

ABATE_patch

ABATE is an acronym that originally stood for “A Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments”, but has since taken on several different but similar meanings: “American Bikers Against Totalitarian Enactments”, “American Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education”, “American Bikers for Awareness, Training & Education”, “American Bikers Aimed Towards Education” and “American Bikers Advocating Training & Education”.

The idea for ABATE was conceived in 1972 by Lou Kimzey, editor of the biker magazine Easyriders. Lou, as well as many others, was beginning to feel the heat from state and federal lawmakers who sought to put pressure on the biker world by enacting restrictions focused mainly on motorcycle modification. Choppers, motorcycles that have been stripped down to their bare essentials and enhanced with sky-high sissy bars and grossly extended forks, were deemed unsafe by the U.S. DOT (Department of Transportation) and thus began the relentless pressure that chopper enthusiasts still face today.

As Kimzey was calling for unification in the biker world to fight these restrictions and laws, others were forming similar groups such as the MMA or Modified Motorcycle Organization and other biker rights groups. These sprung up all over the country and in 1974, Easyriders began to offer charters as well as publish contact information so that others could get involved and organized.

Here in California, as early 1966 mandatory helmet legislation was in place, but at the time, the only groups who publicly opposed it were the motorcycle clubs such the Hells Angels who even staged a good, old fashioned 1960’s style sit in on the state capitol lawn (so it is rumored). Clearly, there was a need for organization and a voice to legitimize the biker world.

Over the years, ABATE has faced much criticism. Because of its roots in the outlaw motorcycle world, it has been often looked upon as a group of unruly upstarts who buck the system under the guise of individual freedom. Often times, the charters meet up at local taverns to organize, discuss and make plans, which make it appear as if they advocate reckless behavior over safety. Many have publicly criticized the organization only to be met with a swift rebuttal that oftentimes harkens back to our Founding Fathers and how they did much of their own planning in America’s taverns to fight for individual freedoms and fight oppressive tyranny.

Despite the nay-sayers, ABATE has been extremely successful in organizing bikers all over the country. Their list of accomplishments, made mostly through perseverance and insistent involvement in local and state politics, is impressive. It includes such things as ensuring that high performance sport bike riders receive full coverage insurance; opening the HOV (high occupancy vehicle) lanes to motorcycles and defeating laws against lane-splitting. ABATE has also been extremely supportive of the CMSP (California Motorcycle Safety Program); the promotion of May as Motorcycle Safety and Awareness Month and making the Purple Heart license plates available to motorcyclists. Local charters are also involved in charities and food drives that provide food to needy families and individuals at holiday time.

Currently, the organization has thirty charters here in California with two in Orange County. If you would like to get involved in preserving biker rights, opposing or supporting specific legislation or getting involved in charity work, contact Steve Howe (Local #8) at santabeard@yahoo.com.

Lane-Splitting in California

lane splitting

California is the only state where lane-splitting (or filtering) is legal.  By legal, I mean that it is permitted, but there are no official laws regarding the practice:

California law does not allow or prohibit motorcycles from passing other vehicles proceeding in the same direction within the same lane, a practice often called “lane splitting,” “lane sharing” or “filtering.” (DMV.ca.gov)

Lane-slitting is when a motorcyclist rides between two lanes of traffic moving in the same direction in order to avoid being rear-ended, which accounts for about a quarter of all accidents involving a motorcycle and car.

The debate between both motorcyclists and motorists who oppose the practice and those that support it has been ongoing for years now.  Studies and statistics aside, bikers have been slitting lanes in California for decades and most of those who share the road with them are likely not even aware of the ambiguity surrounding its legality.

A bill was put forth last year (AB 51) attempting to put guidelines on the practice, thus making it legal with certain restrictions.  AB 51 was authored by Assemblyman Dan Quirk (D-Hayward) and included guidelines such as speed limits while lane-splitting (motorcyclists could go no faster than 15 MPH above the moving traffic and no faster than 50 MPH overall).  A two-year study on lane-splitting by UC Berkeley concluded that riders who employed the practice were safer than those who sat in place in traffic, thus increasing their vulnerability to be hit from behind. AB51 has been put aside for now so supporters can have more time to work on the measure.

There are car drivers who intensely dislike lane-splitting and even some who go out of their way to inhibit it by blocking the motorcyclist’s way or, incredibly, opening car doors on them.  While this is not the norm, it is of note here because of the amount of tourists California has on the road at any given time.  Riders who rent motorcycles here in California should bear in mind that although the practice of lane-splitting is not new, it is still disliked by many local drivers who view it as an unsafe and unfair way for motorcyclists to avoid traffic.  In addition, there is also danger from out-of-state drivers who might not be aware of lane-splitting.

If you have questions or concerns about lane-splitting, be sure to talk to the guys at OC Motorcycle when you rent your bike and route your trip. Vigilance is the key when riding a motorcycle and if you are new to riding or not familiar with California driving and traffic patterns, lane-splitting should be avoided.

Orange County is Preferable to Los Angeles

L.A. traffic

These days, staying behind what is sometimes affectionately referred to as the “Orange Curtain” isn’t such a bad thing. With Los Angeles ranking in as America’s second largest city (behind New York), it’s no wonder that traveling beyond the Orange County line is looking less and less desirable every year.

The traffic is Los Angeles County is notorious for gridlock, accidents, ill-timed roadwork and more. To get anywhere, commuters need to plan their “escape” well, taking in time of day (which seems to matter less and less), roadwork and conditions, weather and ultimate destination. Leaving early doesn’t help, nor does heading out on an “off day”. Most people just get into their cars or hop on their motorcycles and hope for the best while relying on radio reports, GPS, tips and traffic apps like WAZE.

We here in Orange County have it comparatively better. Of course there is still plenty of traffic, but it’s not nearly as mind-numbing as it is in our dear sister county to the north. Locals know that weekday mornings on the 405 are slow, but that’s because people are going to work. Likewise, the 55S will be backed up during the summer with beach-goers.
Usually, there is a specific reason for the traffic here in OC and because of that, it is easier to deal with. Well, somewhat. No one likes to sit in traffic, but it just seems less hopeless and downright depressing here.

If you’re on a motorcycle, splitting lanes is an option here in California. Doing so in congested Los Angeles County is much more dangerous, especially with desperate drivers recklessly changing lanes or illegally crossing over in to the carpool lane without warning.

Besides, there’s plenty to see and do here in our smaller, less congested county. Renting a motorcycle from OC Motorcycle and heading out onto the highways and roads here in Orange County is easier and more pleasurable than dealing with the ins and outs of Los Angeles and her environs.

With fall approaching, it’s a great time to reserve a bike from OC Motorcycle and explore our laid back and beautiful county!

Riding in a Group

staggered riding formation photo

We’ve all seen it: a group of motorcycles gracefully wending their way down a highway or country road, but do you know just how much practice, coordination and planning go into group riding?

Cruising along a nice open road or even getting to that road via the freeway, riding solo is usually how we do it. But part of the reason that we ride is for the camaraderie of other riders who know the joys of the experiences we have out on the road.

Unfortunately, many riders are woefully unequipped to ride in a group. Simply calling a few of your buddies and taking to the open road can cause all kinds of unforeseen problems. There are many variants within any group and with motorcyclists these include skill levels, experience and types of bikes.

Before heading out with a group of riders, the first thing you should do is hold a meeting to discuss location, road conditions, skill levels, destination, stops and what to do should a rider become separated or lost. A rider with a good skill level should be chosen as a leader and there should be another skilled rider near the back of the pack to watch those less experienced in case they need assistance.

Remember that motorcycle club that you saw riding in a tight formation down the road? Well, clubs, whether they are the Hells Angels or the Disciples Christian Motorcycle Club, have a strict formation that they adhere to when riding in a group. Riders always maintain a staggered formation meaning that two riders are alongside one another in the lane, but one is a bit forward, the other behind. Depending on the number of members, it will usually go something like this:
Road Captain and President
Sgt. at Arms and Vice President
Patch Holders in groups of two
Prospects in groups of two
Friends of the club in groups of two

Some clubs have Assistant Road Captains who fall behind the other riders.

You can see that this group can potentially be very large, but remember that these riders are at an expert level. Ideally, your group should not exceed ten riders and while you are not likely to have an Executive Board with a President, Vice President, etc., one position that warrants looking into is that of the Road Captain.

The role of the Road Captain in a motorcycle club is that of “leader of the pack”. The responsibilities of this position include mapping the route to be taken, where the group will stop and when, riding in the lead position and enforcing group riding rules and formation. The Road Captain is usually a very experienced rider and he sets the pace of the ride and makes on-the-road decisions such as when to pass a vehicle or avoid an obstacle. The Road Captain communicates these instructions to the rest of the group through hand signals, which are universal in the motorcycle riding world.

Motorcycle-Hand-Signals-Riders Edge

You can see the importance of having a competent leader for your group ride, so choose someone who can handle the job well.

Once you have chosen your lead rider, you’ll need to place the others in formation according to skill. Behind the leader should come the least experienced riders who can then be followed by more skillful ones.

All riders should arrive prepared meaning cell phones fully charged and tanks full of gas. Riders should have inspected their bikes beforehand and checked tire pressure, oil levels, etc. beforehand. Someone should also carry a first aid kit and some basic tools should a rider need a quick and easy repair.

Be sure that you don’t have any show-offs or rogue riders in your group that can endanger the rest if they decide to zoom out of formation on their own. Should it be necessary for the group to pass, it should be done in single file.  Also, be sure and take plenty of breaks, especially if your pack is new to riding in a group and/or you have some less experienced riders.

There are several experienced riders at EagleRider Newport Beach who can help you plan your group ride, rent you or your friends some motorcycles and give you plenty of helpful tips and pointers to make sure your ride is safe, comfortable and most of all fun!

Collision Repair

motorcycle crash1

Well, it’s happened. That old motorcycle riding adage spoken by all seasoned riders has finally hit home: “There are only two kinds of riders-the ones that have had an accident and the ones that will”.

I remember my two accidents very well. Both were at low speed and both did not involve another vehicle of any kind. You might think that not much damage could be done in these situations, but you’d be wrong. My brand new Harley Sportster needed a lot of not just cosmetic work, but repairs to make it ride-able again.

The first thing to do is lick your wounds, make sure you’re okay (on the second accident, I suffered “water on the knee” and was on disability for 4 weeks) and then find a motorcycle repair shop that can do collision work.

OC Motorcycle has experience with collision repair work and can help you get your bike road-ready again. There is bound to be some feelings of failure or sadness whenever you “lay your bike down”, especially if it is your own fault, but the great people at OC Motorcycle understand this and will not make you feel any worse because you had a fall. I know I was pretty devastated, mostly about the damage that had been done to my bike.

Discuss with your mechanic what repairs need to be done in order to get the bike up and running safely again first and then talk about the cosmetic work, which many times can dealt with simultaneously.

Once you’re feeling better about things, this may also be a perfect time for you to consider doing some customizing or modifications since the bike needs work anyway. Changing a few things on your bike after an accident is a good way to help you put the past behind you and move forward and some modifications can actually help you to avoid an accident in the future. Maybe your seat wasn’t the most comfortable one for you or the controls should have been moved forward. The handlebars might work better if they were drag bars or the grips might need extra surfacing for better traction.

The best thing you can do after an accident is dust yourself off and get back in the saddle. Making an appointment at OC Motorcycle to discuss what needs to be done to your baby will go a long way toward making that a reality.

Getting a Motorcycle License

MSF1

The motorcycle world is notoriously filled with risk takers. The danger and excitement often draws the irresponsible like bears to honey. Sadly, many new riders think that if they know how to ride a bicycle and drive a car, they know how to ride a motorcycle. This mentality can lead to many dangerous situations for both the rider and others that share the road with him or her.

Even if you know how to ride a dirt bike or have some experience riding a street bike, you need to get your motorcycle license before heading out onto the highway. You’ll be surprised at how much you’ll learn and your self-confidence will get a boost before you hit the road legally. You may even get a break on your insurance as well.

One of the best ways to learn to ride a street bike is to sign up for the MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) Basic Rider Course. This course provides both classroom instruction and riding practice in a controlled environment, usually a large parking lot.

I took this course back in 2001. At the time, my “experience” consisted of riding on the back of a few street bikes and my brothers’ dirt bikes back in high school. At the first meet-up, I remember the instructor asking the class for reasons one would ride a motorcycle. Many good answers were brought up such as fuel efficiency and parking perks, but when everyone had provided an answer, the instructor asked, “What about for fun?” Yes, we had forgotten about that one…

The MSF provides low cc motorcycles (around 250 or less) and helmets for the riding portion of the course, but you’ll need to dress accordingly, which means jeans, a long-sleeved shirt, a jacket, boots and gloves.

The course starts at truly to most basic level: learning where the controls are, turning the fuel and bike on, finding neutral (raise your left hand). Next, you’ll walk the bike in first gear up and down the course. The riding lessons progress slowly, but by the end you’ll be zipping between cones, braking effectively and leaning into those curves.

In California, you get the additional benefit of having the riding portion of your DMV test waived if you successfully pass the MSF course. You will still have to go in and take the written portion, so stop by one of their offices and pick up the handbook for studying.

Once you have your M1 license, it’s time to rent a motorcycle from EagleRider Newport Beach and practice with some more experienced riders. It is not advisable to strike out on your own, even if you have now successfully obtained your license. The folks at EagleRider Newport Beach will be able to give you some advice and perhaps some suggestions as to where might be a good place to either practice or go out on that first ride with your more experienced friends. Give them a call or stop by to find out more.