Skip to main content

What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

Gear review: Givi GPS and Smartphone Holder


I've lived in Her Majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland now for almost 9 years. And I still don't get the roads.

I mean, I get the basic stuff –– ride/drive on the left, don't turn on a red light, try not to run into any old ladies or children, etc. –– but the more intrinsic stuff still escapes me. The layout of British roads doesn't make sense in the way that American roads do.

Here's what I mean: a few years ago, I was visiting Seattle for the first time and drove into a part of town (Fremont) for which I didn't have a detailed map. However, with just a basic sense of where I was in the grand scheme of things (i.e., north of downtown, west of Interstate 5 and east of Puget Sound), I was able to navigate to a restaurant I had read about that morning in a local magazine. 

That's it. I had an address and an idea of where a square mile of space existed on the planet Earth. With that information I was able to find a single building. Because American roads make sense. Or, at the very least, they make sense to me because I was born and raised in the God-Blessed United States of America (Yee-ha!)

In Britain, however, there is no way I could pull the same trick. Primarily this is because all the roads in this country were drawn by 3-year-old children with ADHD while they were riding horses and being force fed candy. Roads are inexplicably curvy and run in nonsensical directions.

Go to Google Maps, mis amigos. Type in directions from London to Swindon. You'll see that the M4 is the fastest, most-effective way to get between them. Look at how stupidly curvy that route is.

"Oh, come on, Chris," I can hear you say. "It's not that curvy."

No, it wouldn't be if there were mountains or any other large things in the way, but there aren't. That part of Britain is flat. As flat as North Dakota. The curves serve no purpose..

Look in particular at the bit of the route between Reading and Swindon. Do you see a lot of big towns in between? No. No you do not. There is absolutely no reason for the road to be weaving all over the place like that. 

It should be a straight line. In the USA and Canada and, well, just about any other country where people understand the basic tenets of the "Getting From A To B" concept, the road from Reading to Swindon would be straight and it would not take more than an hour to travel between two cities that are only 30 miles apart.


The inefficiency of British roadways is exacerbated by the fact I didn't grow up with them. I don't have an intrinsic understanding of how roads here work, as I do with American roads; I am not hard-wired to understand this silliness.

All of which explains why I find sat navs (aka GPS devices) to be invaluable. Well, OK, perhaps "invaluable" isn't the right word. I haven't been able to justify the purchase of a fancy motorcycle-specific device. Those things are expensive and, for my purposes, at least, don't really offer anything different than the far cheaper devices you'd use in a car.

The Givi GPS and Smartphone Holder is a handy bit of kit that allows you to use your existing car device or phone on your motorcycle. I've had one for a little more than a year now and have found it to be generally pretty handy, with only a few quibbles.

What's good:

Effectively, the holder comes in three parts: a big case in which you place your sat nav or smartphone, a bracket to mount the case onto your handlebars, and a waterproof cover. The bracket mounts pretty easily to your 'bars wherever you've got space and can be adjusted somewhat for angle. I've used this set up on both my Honda and my Suzuki without problems.

The case easily clicks on or off the bracket, which makes it easy to take with you when you leave the bike. The case mounts very securely, but for peace of mind there's also a safety strap on the case that you can loop onto your 'bars. I've found this strap to also be handy for clipping the case to a bag or my riding trousers when I'm off the bike.

The case zips open and has a few bits of foam padding that you can add or remove depending on the thickness of whatever device you're using. There is an opening at the bottom of the case to allow a power cord to your device if you're lucky enough to have a 12v outlet on your bike. On a side note, having a 12v outlet is the bee's knees –– thank you, Suzuki, for putting one as standard on the V-Strom 1000.

The holder case has a large, clear vinyl window flexible enough that you can type commands onto your sat nav device without too much difficulty (assuming you're not wearing gloves). In sunny conditions, the glare from this window can make it hard to see your sat nav's screen but in low light or cloudy conditions it works fine.

All the bits are durable and of good quality. I've ridden thousands of miles using the holder and it still looks new. On the bike, I find it "fits" in terms of aesthetic. It doesn't look cheap or out of place, which isn't really something I could say for the gaudy controller for my heated grips.

What's not so good:

I've already hit on the biggest problem with this bit of kit: it's not terribly useful in sunny conditions. Here's a picture I took recently in Brecon Beacons National Park. You can see the holder in the lower part of the photo.


Note that you can easily read my dashboard display, but the sat nav looks like it's turned off. It's not; it was on and set to its brightest display setting. Unfortunately, if the sun is angled right, the holder's vinyl window makes your sat nav's display virtually unreadable.

Because I try to only use a sat nav as back up, having spent a lot of time staring at actual maps before heading out to ride, this flaw hasn't caused me too much frustration over the past year. It helps, too, that I live in Wales, where it's rarely sunny. But I will admit that the flaw worked me into screaming rage last spring, when I found myself unable to get out of Edinburgh.

I don't have any sort of Bluetooth device in my ear, so my use of a sat nav on a bike is purely visual. Obviously, being able to hear directions would be helpful. If you've got the technology for such a thing, I'd probably suggest using it, despite my personal aversion to having audio devices in your helmet. Without such audio direction I find that the holder places my sat nav a little too low for my liking. I would like for the display to be higher, more directly in my line of vision. Touratech has a bracket adapter that would allow me to put everything a few inches higher. I may eventually bite the bullet and buy one of those.

Meanwhile, I've never been willing to test the effectiveness of the waterproof cover. A sort of hood that slips over the holder, I just don't feel I could trust this cover to protect an electronic device against British weather. In times when I've had to ride in heavy rain I've tucked the sat nav away.

A motorcycle-specific sat nav, like a TomTom Rider 400 or Garmin Zumo 590LM, is waterproof. Those devices also have longer battery life than a standard car-intended sat nav and a few motorcycle-focused features, such as the ability to deliberately choose curvy roads.

Ultimately, though, using the Givi GPS and Smartphone Holder is a hell of a lot cheaper. I bought mine for about £30. The holder comes in a number of sizes, so be sure to measure whatever device you'll be using and pay attention to the exact model of holder you get. Pack a map on particularly sunny days.

Comments

  1. The feature I use most on my motorcycle specific GPS is the ability to plan routes on a PC using for example TYRE and then to port them onto the GPS.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll admit I'd like to be able to do that. Sadly, I use a bargain second-hand TomTom. You get what you pay for, I guess. One day I'll find the money for a TomTom Rider 400.

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Ride review: Harley-Davidson XL 883 L (aka Sportster SuperLow)

Yes, as a matter of fact, it is like riding a tractor.
That's the criticism so consistently levied against Harley-Davidson motorcycles: that there is something agrarian to the experience. And I can now say from personal experience that all those critics are right. But I can also say those critics are leaving out a key piece of information, which is this:
TRACTORS ARE FUCKING AWESOME!!!
It's a tractor that hurtles forward with roller-coaster intensity, a tractor that goes really fast, a tractor that makes you feel like Brock Lesnar in a children's ball pit. A tractor from the Land of Bad-Ass, with which you can sow the seeds of awesomeness.
But let me back up a bit...
A few days ago, I decided to take the day off, solely for the purpose of getting a chance to ride around and finally make use of the free breakfast coupon sent to me by Thunder Road. As I was gearing up, I suddenly decided that since I was already heading west, I might as well push a few miles further and che…

Ride review: Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt

Imitation, Charles Caleb Colton famously noted, is the sincerest form of flattery. If that's true, the flattery the Harley-Davidson Iron 883 receives from Yamaha's XV950 is enough to make one blush. Put the two bikes side by side, and the inspiration for the latter is undeniable. Yamaha claims its bike has a "new neo retro Japanese look," but that's clearly just nonsense –– lorem ipsom that was used instead of "totally looks like a Harley-Davidson Iron 883."
Certainly the XV950 –– known as the Star Bolt in the United States –– isn't the first example of a Japanese OEM adhering faithfully to the styling cues of America's best-known motorcycle manufacturer. The orthodox members of the Church of Jesus Harley Latter-day Davidson write these bikes off as "wannabes," and tend to be pretty dismissive of anyone who would dare consider purchasing one. But I'm going to commit blasphemy here and tell you that the XV950 is unquestionably the …

Ride review: Triumph Bonneville

"OK," I said. "I want one." "Well, you know, maybe you should ask your wife first." "She loves Triumphs," I said. "Still, Chris. You should give it a think. Go home, discuss it with your wife, give yourself a chance to think clearly. After all, this is one of Triumph's most popular models; there's plenty of stock available."
The voice of reason in that conversation was Drew, the salesman at Bevan Motorcycles. He was doing his best to talk some sense into me after my test ride of the 2014 Triumph Bonneville. I was wild-eyed and yammering like a teenage boy who has touched boobies for the first time. This, my friends, is what the Bonneville does to you. It is an instantly rideable, instantly enjoyable, instantly lovable motorcycle that surprises you in just how good a simple motorcycle can be.

The Bonneville, of course, is a storied machine that's been around in one form or another for 55 years. It is a classic. Partially b…