Saturday, August 22, 2009

But how do I do a wheelie on it?

If you're as...uh, let's say as seasoned a rider as I am, you might remember that in the 1960s Cycle World ran a series of cartoons about the mythical Uno-Guzzi one-wheel racing bike. Now, it seems, reality is catching up with the U-G concept.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Distraction Control

"The issue has become even more important in recent years as advances in mobile technology have made it easier than ever to become momentarily distracted by operating the controls of a cell phone, stereo system, a global positioning unit, or some other device."

The above is excerpted from an AMA press release dated August 6. It begins: "The AMA Board of Directors adopted an official position on the issue of distracted driving and inattentive vehicle operation at the Board's July 27 meeting."

It shouldn't surprise you to learn that the AMA's position on distracted driving is that they're against it. (Read the entire release here.)

What might surprise you is the proliferation of devices designed to fit motorcycles that are just as distracting to motorcyclists as any gizmo you'll find in a car. Stereos have been around for donkey's years. Ditto CB radios. Lately it's Bluetooth headsets that, among other things, let you make and receive cell-phone calls while riding.

In early 2006 I tested a couple of Bluetooth headsets for a magazine I write for. I dutifully tried out all the features, including the cell-phone interface, and determined they worked as advertised. Then I phoned the editor. "I have a philosophical problem with these products," I said. "They do what they're supposed to do, but they're distracting as hell to operate. Talking on the phone while riding is bad enough, but you also have to take one hand off the bar and grope around on the side of your helmet for tiny buttons while listening to a sequence of beeps that tell you which button you've just hit."

"Why not just pull over to the side of the road first?" the editor asked.

"If I'm going to do that, I might as well just take the cell phone out of my tank bag and make the call," I said.

"Hmm," the editor said.

I finished up the evaluation with a caveat, which to his credit the editor printed: "But we...have to wonder if that’s something bikers really need, or if it’s just a way for us to become part of the epidemic of inattentive driving."

At the time I worried I was going out on a limb by saying that, but now I sound downright prophetic.