motorcycle safety - val in real life

A Motorcyclist Wonders… Can You See Me Now?

It’s no secret that, in spite of a lot of effort by motorcyclists to remain visible while riding, the all-too-common scenario of “I didn’t see you!” is still the predominant reason riders are involved in crashes.

In the UK, there’s a motorcycling acronym: SMIDSY. It stands for Sorry-Mate-I-Didn’t-See-You. It has a flippant tone to it, but this is a very real issue for riders. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be riding; it means drivers need to step up and be aware of all road users.

As you know, in spite of training, awareness, and hi-viz gear, last year I was a victim of SMIDSY. Far more than a SMIDSY “Oops!”, it nearly killed me. I’m a testament to modern medicine to still be here and still have my leg.

As I returned to riding, I had to start from scratch since my bike, all of my gear, and most of my confidence was destroyed. I’ve already talked a bit about the process it took to get back to riding… everything from choosing a new motorcycle to the reality of getting back in the saddle.

Since my return Nina and I have put in over 5,000 miles together. However, she’s anything but hi-viz with her sleek, black look. As pretty as she is, I’d rather not die for vanity, so I’ve had to up my visibility game.

So with that preface, here’s the new gear setup that I hope adds to my motorcycle safety…

Hi-Viz lid…

motorcycle safety - val in real life
My all-black Moto Guzzi V7 Stone needed some brightening up with a Schuberth hi-viz helmet and an Olympia Switchback 2 summer jacket.

I went with a full yellow hi-viz helmet again. This time though, I opted for a Schuberth modular C3 in hopes of some wind-noise improvement over my previous HJC helmet. While I’m very happy the HJC saved my life, Schuberth has a fantastic reputation, especially for noise control. That comes with some sticker shock but having already been hit, it seemed a worthwhile investment.

Having said that, to the casual observer the helmets look no different really. I often get the comment by passers-by — “Everyone must see you!” — when I’m wearing it. What can I say? In a few-second interaction with a stranger, it’s usually “You’d think…” or “You’d be surprised…” Richer conversations allow me to help drivers understand what riders really need them to know about motorcycle safety.

Jackets…

It was summer when I began riding again. Even though I had a jacket that wasn’t hi-viz, I bought a new one that was. Admittedly, at first I was cynical since hi-viz didn’t save me from being run over. After some time, I realized that when you take precautions, you actually never know what you’ve prevented. So I went in for an updated version of my Olympia Switchback, the hi-viz Switchback 2.

Eventually I also replaced my hi-viz Olympia Ranger winter jacket with the same version that was destroyed in the crash. As I dove back into researching gear, Olympia was still my muse. When it comes to women’s riding gear, they’ve got it dialed in. I love the cut, adjustability, and design of their jackets.

For an example of the impact of hi-viz, check out my video from an MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) course I took with my friend, Hassan, last November. From the 1:40 to 1:50 mark, you can see the difference his hi-viz jacket makes. I know I certainly appreciate being able to easily see riders, cyclists, workers, and pedestrians when they’re wearing hi-viz.

More ways to improve motorcycle safety…

Historically, I’ve only ridden with my side cases on the bike when I needed the storage space for longer trips. These days though I find myself riding with them most of the time. They add size, creating a bigger profile for drivers to see. And this go-round I added reflective hi-viz tape to the back of my cases for improved visibility from the rear.

I also don’t always wear a hydration pack while riding but in the brutal months of a Georgia summer, I opt for a Geigerrig 710 in citrus. That allows me to stay hydrated without undermining the hi-viz on my jackets.

motorcycle safety- val in real life
My hi-viz strategies… reflective tape, jacket, helmet, and hydration pack.

Lights!

The most pronounced improvement in my visibility came from adding Skene lights to Nina. I discovered them thanks to a fellow rider at Horizons Unlimited Virginia last April. Skene brake lights flash in various sequences to draw attention and each light set acts as extra turn signals if you add the “Booster” option. The lights can also be set into different modes to serve as hazard lights if necessary.

For my setup, I added the Skene “P3” red rear lights (click for video) at the license plate. For the front of the bike, I opted for two amber sets of their “Photon Blasters” (click for video) on the forks — one set facing directly forward and one set to the sides. I mounted  them low on the front forks to create a larger visual triangle with the existing headlight and turn signal lamps.

Let me tell you, these lights do the trick. I get a lot of comments about how visible I am. If you miss seeing me now, you need to not be driving a car.

Some important notes about Skene if you’re considering their products:

  1. They offer a Safe Rider Rebate if you show them your certificate of completion in a safe-rider course.
  2. Fork mounting brackets will be up to you to purchase separately for installation due to the variability in motorcycles and your personal choices in how you want to mount them.
  3. As a shout out to Skene customer service, I will note that one of my lights had a few LED segments that failed. They instantly sent me a replacement, no questions asked.
  4. I’ve not been compensated by Skene in any way for this post. I simply think they offer great products and I want my fellow riders to live to ride another day. 🙂
skene lights - val in real life
View of Skene lights from the front. With the LED lights down low, they create a larger visual pattern with the bike’s headlight and turn signals.

 

skene lights - val in real life
Close up view of the Skene Photon Blasters in amber on Nina’s forks.

 

skene lights - val in real life
Rear Skene light setup alongside license plate. The flashing pattern of the lights is actually visually uncomfortable and gets driver’s attention.

And yet still…

I’m going to get very real here. Non-riders might feel a little uncomfortable. I want you to because I need you to examine your habits as a driver. So here goes…

The expense and effort many riders go to to be seen is substantial. And beyond gear, I’m constantly training and practicing to improve my defensiveness as a rider. I don’t personally know any drivers who aren’t also riders who truly work on their piloting skills. Maybe that’s the problem. At the very least, please take some time to read through some of the things riders need you to know.

Remember, I’m doing everything in my power to help you see me and avoid bad situations but that the hard truth is that it’s irrelevant if you are distracted while driving or are unprepared to deal with road users that aren’t automobiles.

Drivers, you are in control of a deadly weapon. Please act accordingly. I’m doing my part. I need you to do yours.

And now for your moment of green…

death valley - val in real life
Taking a cue from nature on how to stand out!

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