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September 7, 2013

Headout on the highway: Motorcylists offer tips for novices

By Nelson Bradshaw
The Daily Star

---- — Motorcycles and their riders are often seen and heard on Catskills roads and highways. For new people considering taking to the open road, seasoned riders offer advice about the investment required, and the risk involved. 

Several veteran motorcyclists offered their best advice to people considering becoming motorcyclists. 

Safety was at the top of Sherburne resident Jim Finch’s list. 

“Pay attention. Anything can pop out at you at any time,” he cautioned. “Make sure you’re not driving too close to anything. If you are new at it, you should be with somebody else. Don’t go out there alone.” 

He added an encouragement for riders to especially those people who wouldn’t care to be hit in the face by a swarm of insects or other airborne objects. 

Making sure you have safe equipment is also important. Beverly Kulikowski of Lake Road, Pa., said that when she and her husband got their current motorcycles, they had everything checked for safety and balance “for safety. To have fun and feel comfortable, you have to feel safe.” 

She also pointed out the importance of having the right equipment. 

Frank Parks of Stamford recommended that cyclists wear pants with protection both inside and out. “They’re made of some sort of abrasive resistant material,” said Parks. “Jackets, elbows and shoulders should be reinforced with the same materials.”

Also, Parks put in a good word for defensive driving. 

“You’re never going to win in any kind of collision with a car,” he pointed out. “As to that whole issue about texting and cell phone use, I can’t drive anywhere these days without seeing someone on a phone or tapping on something. There are a lot of distracted drivers out there.”

Harpersfield’s Keith Bell has been repairing motorcycles for several years. He stressed that the beginner motorcyclist should try riding as many bikes as he or she can before buying one. “Be patient. Sit on a lot of them until you find one that fits you right,” he advised.

Besides riding and repairing motorcycles, Bell belongs to a riding club in Harpersfield called “Worn and Weathered.” Bell is the group’s road captain. When they go on a ride, “Worn and Weathered” puts scores of cyclists on the road. Typically, the riders will ride between 125 to 140 miles. They do it to improve their skills, to have a satisfying social experience, and for the sheer joy of the ride. 

Bell also advises would-be bikers to start by finding out what courses are required as a part of preparation to become a legal motorcycle driver. There are other requirements as well, such as filling out an application, practicing and taking tests.

With the rise of the number of motorcyclists on the run, the number of motorcyclists taking to the road to for charity.

These runs are very popular in our region. But there are some people involved with the motorcycle rides who support them, but with reservations. One such person is Karen Vagilardo, who lost her son, Jason, to a crash in 2008, when he was 22 years old. Vagilardo was grief-stricken. She decided that she had to do something positive to honor her son and to reduce the number and severity of biker accidents. 

She established Jason’s Run in her son’s memory. This year, the fifth annual Jason’s Run had about 50 bikers and a lot of posters, banners and signs urging motorists to be aware of motorcycles. Jason’s Run encourages people to be aware of motorcyclists on the road.  The organization has been instrumental in getting the bright yellow “Check twice, save a life — motorcycles are everywhere” signs.

Parks offered advice on buying a bike. “No matter what style of motorcycle is chosen,” he said, “novice riders should pick moderate-sized engines, up to 500cc displacement.”

Motorcycle riding has seen a resurgence. In the ‘40s, ‘50s and ‘60s, was tainted by heavy drug use, violence and intimidation. But seems to have changed to be more for fun and to benefit others, often with an eye on safety.