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#1
Old 12-05-2005, 11:59 PM
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Motorcycle Safety - Crash bars. Good or useless?

I recently kicked off my early midlife crisis by buying myself a big awesome motorcycle. I've become obsessed with motorcycle safety, taken the MSF course, bought a riding outfit with reflective stripes and CE approved armor throughout, read David Hough's book on motorcycle safety. I take an hour or two a week in an empty parking lot practicing quick stops and other safety drills.

And oh yes, Quartz, I notice that in every motorcycle thread you post "Make sure you carry an organ donor card." I assure you I do.

In the interests of being as safe as possible, I'm thinking about getting a crash bar. It seems like they would be effective in ensuring my leg didn't get crushed in the event I did go into a slide. In researching the subject, I found this article which seemed to contain some contradictory information. Some experts think crash bars actually increase the likelihood of injury.

So What I wonder is:
- Does anyone have any info on whether crash bars are a good/bad thing? Anectdotal evidence is fine - there doesn't seem to be a lot of hard evidence out there.
- If they do increase safety, is it enough to balance the fact that crash bars wide enough to hold the bike up look kinda dorky?
- Further, wouldn't they drag on the ground?

Comments?
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#2
Old 12-06-2005, 03:43 AM
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Anecdotal evidence is fine? Ok, then in that case...
My bike used to have low pegs. Going around a corner, and hitting one of them on the ground scared the shit out of me. Of course, they'd fold back within half a second causing no more trouble. It looks like those crash bars would severely hinder cornering.
Also, IMHO, being able to safely clear your bike is one of the most important things in an accident. YMMV.
#3
Old 12-06-2005, 06:58 AM
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Join Date: Sep 2003
Location: Southeast Florida USA
Posts: 19,692
I once got knocked off my non-crash bar equipped bike doing 70+ on the freeway. That and 30+ years riding are my only expertise. So ...

I don't see crash bars as adding safety for your body. They may reduce the damage to the bike once it's sliding, i.e the crash bars get destroyed instead of the engine end-case.

Consider the bike laying on its side with the crash bar touching the ground. Now where are you going to be? Not sitting tall in the saddle at that heel angle. You'll already have fallen off the bike.

Based on my experience, people in leathers and fallen bikes both decelerate at about the same rate while sliding across the pavement, at least until they get slowed down. I and the bike passed each other 2 or 3 times between 70mph & 15mph. Then I slowed rapidly & the bike went about 20 feet past where I stopped.

I don't see crash bars adding anything to that experience.

if crash bars do anything, they serve to make you sklittish about really laying the bike over, and a bike ridden very uprightly and conservatively is one unlikely to ever slide out the outside of a curve. OTOH, buying a touring-type bike to begin with already puts you in the crowd that doesn't get frisky on twisty roads.

As well, there are a lot of ways to crash, or be crashed into, and overplaying a curve is hardly the main cause of motorcycle accidents even amog the crotch-rocket set.

My IMHO bottom-line:
Dorkness factor: high.
Accident likelihood reduction: nil, maybe even slight increase in accident potential.
Post-accident bodily injury reduction: nil.
Post-accident bike damage reduction: some.
#4
Old 12-06-2005, 07:30 AM
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I once dropped my bike on gravel, while travelling extremely slowly. The bike fell on my leg. I'm thankful for the crash bar. No physical injury, zero damage to the bike except for some scratches on the bar.

That said, I had just started riding a large(ish) bike and wasn't used to it yet, and it was an unlikely sort of accident. IMO, the crash bar can be useful in preventing injury, but once you get past a certain level of confidence on the bike, you're unlikely to have the kind of accident that would prove its worth.
#5
Old 12-06-2005, 07:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LSLGuy
I don't see crash bars as adding safety for your body. They may reduce the damage to the bike once it's sliding, i.e the crash bars get destroyed instead of the engine end-case.
This is my experience also. Saved a lot of chassis/body scrapes when I taught novices how to ride also, as they inevitably drop the bike.
#6
Old 12-06-2005, 07:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LSLGuy
I don't see crash bars as adding safety for your body. They may reduce the damage to the bike once it's sliding, i.e the crash bars get destroyed instead of the engine end-case.

Consider the bike laying on its side with the crash bar touching the ground. Now where are you going to be? Not sitting tall in the saddle at that heel angle. You'll already have fallen off the bike.
One would hope you'd be away from the bike, but this isn't always the case. I've been in two low sides. The first one I hit a deer and I can tell you that I wish I had something like bars on the bike as I got dragged by the bike for quite a distance. The second time I hit some black ice. The second time it was on my Concours that has hard bags. I know I came down with the bike then too, but I was able to get away because the bags held the bike up off the ground.

Quote:
Based on my experience, people in leathers and fallen bikes both decelerate at about the same rate while sliding across the pavement, at least until they get slowed down. I and the bike passed each other 2 or 3 times between 70mph & 15mph. Then I slowed rapidly & the bike went about 20 feet past where I stopped.
Not in mine, when I was able to get out from under the bike it slid a good amount, of course the deer was still attatched to it. From what I've read people slow down much faster becase they are lighter and have more surface area on the ground. In the case of my Connie there's only the bag's corner, footpeg, mirror and a few minor other parts that touch the ground.

Quote:
if crash bars do anything, they serve to make you sklittish about really laying the bike over, and a bike ridden very uprightly and conservatively is one unlikely to ever slide out the outside of a curve. OTOH, buying a touring-type bike to begin with already puts you in the crowd that doesn't get frisky on twisty roads.
I don't know about that, I've ridden with guys who do put them on their touring bikes that would shame most any rider. Though the ones in the picture from the OP do stick out way too much. You can get them that don't stick out too far, they make them for the Connie and I've thought about getting them just because it costs so much to replace the plastic.

As for the article in the OP, many of his articles are very biased, to the point of if you don't do it my way you're wrong. Some of the stuff he writes about is ok, but much of it is opinion. You're much better off with the Hough books.
#7
Old 12-06-2005, 08:00 AM
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In my one encounter at speed with doing my part for civic engineering and doing hardness testing with the road, the bike slid a lot farther than I did. Doing other after action reports with other riders who've conducted other impact tests with the local roads my humble opinion is the bars aren't worth much for you, just the bike.

I've put these on my Tiger and couldn't be happier. Going on dirt and gravel roads they've spaired the bike a lot of damage to the fairing and engine cases.

Welcome to the sport.
#8
Old 12-06-2005, 09:48 AM
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Posts: 57,289
I think crash bars are intended to protect the engine, not the rider. I have 'crash bars on the Seca II. They're about 20cm square and protect the bits of the engine that stick out the most.

My YZF-R1 has 'frame sliders' that serve the same purpose. You can see a rear one just below the muffler, and the front one in the cut-out in the white fairing. The idea is that they'll protect your frame and expensive plastic fromdamage in a slide. Fortunately I haven't tested them yet.
#9
Old 12-06-2005, 11:33 AM
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My brother was showing me his Gold Wing, and he explained that crash bars also aid in getting the bike back to vertical after it falls down. The bike is almost balanced on the bars, so getting it back on the tires is easy. From there, it's not much effort to raise it back to "up."
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#10
Old 12-06-2005, 11:49 AM
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This is all great info. I still haven't made a decision - but I'm certainly not looking at this with the urgency I had before. It sounds like Crash bars might be okay, but they're no substitute for practicing safety drills, reading safety strategies, and paying close attention to the traffic I'm sharing the road with.

I'm curious - those of you who have dropped your bike or gone into a slide with no ill effects, did you ever call the cops and have an accident report filled out? One of the problems with getting good statistics on motorcycle accidents is measuring the number that go unreported. It seems like fatalities are the only accidents that go reported.
#11
Old 12-06-2005, 11:57 AM
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By the way, if you're curious, my bike is a Suzuki Marauder 1600. It's a bit bigger (and more expensive) than I really wanted for a first bike, but I've found it's really hard to find a bike which I can fit on comfortably (I'm 6'7''.) This bike was highly recommended on the tall guy sites.

Despite the conventional wisdom that you should work your way up to a bigger bike, I find that I ride this bike better than any of the smaller bikes I rode previously. At 225 pounds, I weigh as much as two small people, and I need a heavy enough bike to counteract my size. IMO, the CW should be "Find a bike that fits your size, first and foremost."
#12
Old 12-06-2005, 12:24 PM
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Location: Chicago, IL, USA
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I'm by no means an expert, but I've always been taught that crash bars are there almost exclusively to protect the bike, not the rider. Thats not to say that there aren't occasions in which the rider will be helped by them, but it's also not to say you won't be harmed either.
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