Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

This week, we’ve been thinking about the way biking fits in with families. Bikes are mostly a solo activity, even when you’re riding with others. One person, one bike, unless your partner doesn’t ride. Once you have kids, they tend to get left out of your riding activities, or else you have to give up the bike and replace it with an SUV.

We started with some great stories about people whose dads encouraged them to ride, as well as those who didn’t. We then looked at the controversial topic of whether it’s okay for kids to ride pillion, and found some discussions putting forward all sides of the argument.  For those who want to take kids with them but don’t want them on the back of the bike, there’s always the option of a sidecar, and we found some beautiful retro sidecars made by Liberty.

To end off the week, we gave you some tips on how to honor your dad for Father’s Day. You can do better than a cheap card and a tie – right?

How To Truly Honor Your Dad

We don’t usually post links to fashion blogs, but this post over at SmartBargains is one of the best things I’ve read about Father’s Day in a while. Instead of buying your dad some crappy card, a tie and a steak, like you do every year, do something special for him. How about buying him a day out somewhere, or cooking him a fantastic meal?

Spending time with your dad tomorrow is probably the best gift you can give him. Father’s Day is about family and respect. Show him you care.

We Salute The Flag

Today, June 14, is Flag Day, where we commemorate the adoption of the US flag in 1777.

Did you know that until the Civil War, individuals rarely flew the flag? In the 1860s, it became a symbol of the North, and since then, it’s been common for patriots to fly the flag at home, on vehicles, or at their workplaces. And the flag wasn’t even standardized until 1912 – until then, the stars could have six or eight points, and the flag itself could be any proportion.

Here’s a history of the Stars and Stripes, and here’s some info about Flag Day itself.

Sidecars – Family Biking

One option if you want to take your kids out with you is a sidecar. They used to be really popular in the 50s, mainly because they were so much cheaper than cars. You can still get them – here’s Liberty Sidecars, who do some fantastic chairs in a classic style.

Sidecars are perfect for carrying luggage, passengers, or even dogs, but are they really as much fun as riding solo bikes? If you’re a sidecar owner, tell us about your experiences – good or bad!

Should Kids Ride Pillion?

Yesterday we talked about how people got their start in biking. Many started young, riding on the back of their dads’ bikes. But is it safe for youngsters to be passengers on bikes? How old should they be before you take them out with you?

It’s a controversial topic.  Some think that the earlier you start them off, the better. Others think that there’s no place for kids on bikes. This piece from BikeSafer takes an interesting approach, saying that it’s a matter of freedom.

“We don’t endorse child passengers. Riding is a risky activity and should be done voluntarily. We doubt if small children can make an informed decision on these matters.”

We’ve also found a couple of forums where people have put forward arguments for and against, at BikeChat and AdvRider. What do you think?

Did Your Father Inspire You to Ride a Motorcycle?

Who got you your first ride? Was it something your dad encouraged, or did you go ahead and do it despite their disapproval?  Did you get to ride pillion as a kid, or were you told to stay well away from your dad’s bike?

Readers on about.com share their stories about their dads and bikes. Some of them go back to the 1920s, when bikes were new. What’s really encouraging is the number of stories from women talking about their supportive dads. We say, dads, teach your daughters to ride!

Revving Up For Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day this Sunday, but you remembered that, didn’t you?

This week, we’re going to look at families and bikes.  Most of the five million bikes in the US are owned by middle-aged men, many of whom are family men with wives and kids. So are the rest of the family involved with biking, or is it just Dad’s thing?

If you’re one of those dads, do you take your kids riding with you? Would you be happy putting them on the back of the bike and taking them to school or to their friend’s house? Will you teach them to ride? Will you let them have their own bike, or will you be getting them a car? Do you envisage a day when you’ll be out riding with your kids? If you’ve done a family bike trip, we’d love to see your pictures and hear your stories!

Looking at it another way, did your dad encourage you to ride? Or were you one of those rebels who bought a bike despite your parents’ disapproval?

We’re going to spend this week looking at dads and bikes. Because we love them both.

Let’s Ride!

So where are you going this summer? Are you just going to your nearest rally, or are you heading out across the country to somewhere new? We’ve got plenty for you to choose from.

For the touring rider, there’s Americade Expo in NY this week, and Killington Classic in Vermont in August. For the Harley lover, we picked the Harley Rendezvous Classic, also in NY from June 21-23. And for those who want something wild and crazy, check out this weekend’s Redwood Run in CA, Bike Week Oklahoma from June 13-23, or the Bama Bike Fest Summer Rally from June 27-30.

And don’t forget this month is Father’s Day on June 16 – how better to celebrate than by taking your old man to a rally and buying him a few beers? That’s got to be better than a Hallmark card and a gift token for a steakhouse, right?

Bike rallies are, for many of us, the essence of being a biker. It’s about making friends, maybe people you only see once a year. It’s about solidarity, and knowing that you’re part of something big, a fellowship that celebrates freedom and individuality. And it’s about having fun and partying in the way that only we know how. Once you’ve been to a motorcycle rally, you’re changed forever.

We know there are hundreds more great biker events all over the States, from huge gatherings to smaller local rallies. If you’re going to an event, or organizing one, let us know and we’ll mention it in our next post on upcoming events. And of course, you can post about  your events on our Facebook page!

Don’t forget, stay safe, especially when you’re heading home after a hard weekend of partying. Too many bikers are killed and injured on their way to or from rallies. Don’t let that be you.

Bama Bike Fest Summer Rally

At Ackers Farms near Forkland, AL, June 27-30 they’re holding the “Deep South’s Wildest Motorcycle Rally & Party!” It’s 18+, and anyone under 21 must be accompanied by a guardian over 21. RVs and other vehicles are welcome, and there are free hot showers, ice, and other facilities. But you don’t want to know about that, do you? You want to hear that there are live bands, wet T-Shirt contests, drinking games, bike games, adult games and all that good stuff – basically bikers doing what bikers do best!

The official site for this rally seems to be down, but it’s still being advertised on CycleFish and MotorcycleEvents, so we assume it’s still on… If you know otherwise, please let us know!

Ride To Work Day

On June 17, the third Monday in June, we want as many of you as possible to ride your bikes to work. It’s part of a national movement to raise awareness of motorcycles, to put pressure on lawmakers to create motorcycle-friendly roads, and to make the morning commute safer and quicker for all of us.

Most motorcyclists keep their bikes for hobby riding. The bike sits in the garage all week, and only comes out at weekends. Of the five million bikes in this country, only 150,000 are used for getting to work. The rest of the time, you drive your car.

It’s no surprise. You’re not going to get rained on. It’s easier to carry your laptop. You don’t have to worry about keeping your suit clean. You can make those important calls as you drive. You don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to stash your helmet. You’re not breathing in exhaust fumes when you’re stuck in heavy traffic on the Interstate. We’ve all heard the reasons, and they’ re all true. But have you thought how different your daily commute could be if you did it on two wheels? You could be arriving at work with a smile on your face, instead of trying to shake off the frustration and wish away the simmering road rage.

Motorcycles Make Sense For Commuting

Okay, hold tight, we’re going to throw some numbers at you.

The average commuter  in the US travels 29 miles a day, at an average speed of 32 mph, which equates to an hour a day commuting. Motorcyclists save up to 33 minutes per hour when riding through towns and cities, and 20 minutes per hour on other roads. In other words, bikes are nearly twice as quick. If you’re a typical commuter, you’re wasting as much as ten hours a month just sitting in traffic when you could be riding. That’s basically a whole day of your life doing absolutely nothing except getting frustrated and cursing at the other drivers, every single month. Twelve days a year. Over a whole year of your life, gone.

And of course bikes are cheaper to run. Once you take into account small bikes and scooters, the average two-wheeler delivers 50mpg, compared to 22mpg for cars. That’s less than half the fuel costs.  With your typical monthly commute at 600 miles, the car’s using 27 gallons, while the bike’s using just 12. At $3.50 a gallon, you’re saving over $50 a month, or $600 a year. What could you do with $600?

If you look at the big picture, those fuel savings really add up. On Ride To Work Day, the extra 150,000 motorcyclists add up to a one-day saving of 60,000 gallons of fuel across the nation. If those people stuck with the bike every day, that would make 15 million gallons of fuel saved every year. And of course, with the lower emissions from bikes, that means our air is cleaner, our health and our children’s health will benefit, and we wouldn’t need to be importing as much oil from overseas.

Inside our cities, bikes reduce the need for parking. You can fit three to five bikes in a single car parking space. In high-density urban locations, parking is an expensive use of city center real estate, but it’s necessary. More bikes would mean less parking space required, which means more space available for commercial and residential premises. And we’d all be spending less on parking fees – if you’re spending $5/day to park your bike instead of $15/day to park your car, you’re saving an incredible $2,500 a year. That’s got to be worth it. (And if you’re in somewhere like Manhattan where parking fees can hit $50/day, you could be saving even more than that!)

Commuting by bike saves time, saves money, saves fuel, and saves the environment. Why aren’t more of us doing it?

Make Our Roads And Cities Safer

129 million people commute to work every day. Of those, just 148,000 ride motorcycles. That’s about 0.11% – about one in a thousand. Our roads, our highways, and our city streets are designed for cars and trucks. Drivers are conditioned to look out for larger vehicles, and don’t always see the bikes. And when cars and bikes collide, it’s always the biker who comes off worst.

If there were more bikers on the road, two things would happen. First, drivers would be more aware of bikes and would look out for them. That’s not just wishful thinking. Research has repeatedly shown that where bikes are more common, drivers adapt their behavior to compensate for them. They’re better at checking blind spots, looking before switching lanes, and taking extra care when pulling out of side streets. It’s partly that they get more used to seeing bikes, and partly that where you have a lot of bikers, drivers are more likely to be personally familiar with someone who rides regularly and has personal experience of the risks and dangers involved.

Secondly, traffic laws and city ordinances will be changed to accommodate bikers. We can demand laws that protect bikers, treating them as vulnerable road users and adding extra penalties for careless car drivers. In some countries, and in some parts of the US, motorcycles are allowed to pass between lanes of traffic. It’s called lane splitting or lane sharing. This helps reduce congestion – in slow traffic, the bikes can get through and keep moving. It’s also safer for the motorcyclist, who can see ahead by looking between the vehicles on either side. In some cities around the world, you have lanes devoted to motorcycles, which allow two-wheeled traffic to flow freely even when the cars and trucks are jammed solid. And with more bikes on the roads, there’s more pressure to provide dedicated bike parking areas.

Just look at the numbers. It wouldn’t take much of a change to make a big difference. If just 1% of car drivers switched to riding their bikes to work, that would take over a million cars off the roads, every single day. And instead of 150,000 of us riding our bikes to work, there would be 1.5 million. That’s the kind of number that makes city mayors, transport officials, city planners, and elected representatives take notice.

It’s already working for bicycles – cities across the US vie to be the most bicycle-friendly locations. But bicycles don’t work for everyone. We’re not like Europe where everything is close by. We need powered transport to cover the distances to our workplaces. We need to focus our efforts on making sure that motorcycles have the same respect and the same facilities as pedal-powered bikes.

Think of it this way. Over five million people have bikes – and nearly all of them sit idle every day. Right now, there’s probably one person in your neighborhood who rides to work every day. Maybe it’s you.  But if one person in every street rode their bike – we would change the morning commute for everyone. If you’re not that person – then now’s the time to step up! Make the change, and maybe you’ll inspire someone else too.

How You Can Take Part

Obviously, ride your bike to work on June 17! That’s a great start. The more of us who do this, across the entire nation, the more awareness we can all raise for bikers as a whole. It doesn’t matter what kind of bike you’ve got – a superfast Japanese crotch rocket, a lumbering piece of Milwaukee iron, or a tiny little scooter. If it’s got two wheels and an engine, take that instead of the car.

Take a passenger if you can. That’s one less car on the road, and it’s a way to demonstrate how efficient bikes are. Maybe you’ll convert a newcomer to riding motorcycles, or perhaps you’ll remind someone who hasn’t ridden for a while how much fun it can be.

If you’ve got a spare bike in the garage, consider loaning it out for the day. Maybe your old set of training wheels would be perfect for a neighbor’s kid, or you’ve got a buddy who used to ride but had to lose the bike when he had kids – we all know plenty of those. Yeah, we know it’s not easy lending your ride, but it’s in a good cause, right?

Anything you can do to promote the event and get other people involved will make a big difference. If each one of you just persuades one more person to ride to work on that day, it’ll help swell this into a real movement with real power. Tell your friends on Facebook, email, Twitter and make sure they know about it. The RTW site also has stuff you can use to make flyers, posters, signs and pins. Put up info at work, and on the day, have stickers or pins that riders can wear.

Finally, take a group photo on Monday with all the riders at your workplace and send it into RTW. The more of these they can assemble, the more power it gives them in promoting the event in future years and working for your rights.

Further Reading

You can find all you need to know from the official Ride To Work Website at http://www.ridetowork.org/

They’ve got great resources there, as well as interviews with the organizers, fact sheets, and logos you can use for making stickers, cards, and other promotional material. You can also donate to the cause and help them get more people out of their cars and onto bikes.

Let’s make America motorcycle-friendly!