Monday, July 20, 2009

California Riders Beware!

Fenris' (my Street Glide Autobot) registration was up for renewal in May. Just before the registration was due, I received a notice in the mail, on State of California, Department of Motor Vehicles letterhead, stating my registration would be suspended effective July 16 if proof of insurance was not provided.

Apparently, carriers who insure California drivers are now required to submit proof of financial responsibility ELECTRONICALLY to the State. The notice advised that my insurance company had not submitted electronically (despite the fact that we have 6 vehicles registered in California and only Fenris was at risk for suspension).

Instead of paying my registration renewal online, as I was able to do, I took a day off and went to the DMV. My insurance was verified, my registration renewed, and I was assured that all was well.

On Saturday I received a notice, again on DMV letterhead, indicating that Fenris' registration was suspended as of July 16.

Outraged, I called the number listed on the notice and advised of the steps I had ALREADY taken in order to avoid this bureaucratic SNAFU. I was advised that the "OFfice of Financial Responsibility" was a "third party" and NOT affiliated with the DMV. Which, of course, prompted me to ask why the notice of impending suspension and the notice of suspension itself were both printed on letterhead clearly stating "State of California, Department of Motor Vehciles?" And why the instructions on said notices detail that payments should be made to the Department of Motor Vehicles, and not some "third party?"

The singularly unhelpful "third party" representative provided me with a fax number and adivsed I should fax my proof of insuirance right away, then immeidately call back for verification. Which I, of course, did. When I called back for verification, I was told by yet another "third party" representative that it takes 24 to 48 hours to verify my fax and enter the information into the system. They would not even verify that my fax had been received.

The moral of the story: if you receive a notice that your registration is going to be suspended because your insurance carrier has failed to electronically provide proof of financial liability, DO NOT go to the DMV to submit. Submit proof of insurance as instructed on the notice and CALL YOUR INSURANCE CARRIER to ensure that the information they have on file for you and your vehicle match the information the DMV has on file.

This has been a public service announcement from one who's spent the day being ass-f**ked by a "third party." You know that means no reach-around.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Skill Building

As a new rider, EVERY day is a skill-building day. Ride your own ride. Never outride your skill set. Ride with friends and never feel as though you have to keep up - your friends don't mind waiting for you while you build your skills at your own pace. And ALWAYS remember the basics that will save your life: maintain appropriate speed, maintain appropriate distance, keep your head up, scan as far ahead as practical, and maintain visibility.

Today, my crew and I rode about 150 miles, about half and half between freeway and city riding. It was a skill-building day, as there were many events that tested my ability as a rider and also tested my fortitude as a socially acceptable person. Had I been a brand new rider today, it might have been more of a bone-setting day rather than a skill-building day.

Face it: people aren't looking for motorcycles on the road with them, despite the fact that there are thousands of us out there. Car drivers are looking for other CARS. Car drivers are focused on where they want to go and not on who is sharing the road. Car drivers assume that the other folks on the road are as stable, protected, and practically anonymous as they themselves are. Car drivers don't always look both ways at intersections, and often start moving through the intersection before they've even looked ONE way. Car drivers don't always know where they are going and may brake erractically, change lanes often and without warning, or suddenly stop altogether. Car drivers sometimes are so fucused on making that left hand turn before the light changes that they don't notice the motorcycle traveling the opposite direction until they actually broadside it. Car drivers honk their horns for no apparent reason. Car drivers throw things out of their windows. Car drivers change lanes without signalling and cut across four lanes of traffic at 80 miles per hour because they realized they've passed their exit.

The Event of the Day today was random and sudden stopping. In a three-hour ride, four cars stopped suddenly right in front of me, each time while I had another rider directly to my left. For new riders, the REALLY important thing to remember in these situations is without power, a motorcycle has no traction. If a rider panics, pulls in the clutch and hits the brakes (probably locking up the rear wheel in panic), there is no traction whatsoever available to actually avoid a collision. 70% of a motorcycle's stopping power comes from the front brake. USE IT. Slow yourself as quickly as possible, downshift appropriately (you'll stall if you don't and then you have the same problem - no power), and SWERVE if still necessary. Power = traction and traction = stability.

Quick-stops are something easily practiced in a nearby parking lot. It's worth the time to practice this skill regularly... I guarantee you'll use it.