WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

EV Daytona Electric Motorcycle

By James - 2/27/2007

I finally found an electric motorcycle that makes no comprise in performance or range compared to a regular gasoline motorcycle. Here are the specs:

Maximum Cruise Speed: 93 mph
Zero to 60: 2.9 seconds
Range: 143 Miles Economy -OR- 49 Miles Street Rodding
Weight: 457 pounds to 550 pounds with batteries

Electric Motorcycle

I would have to chop that windshield, although it is supposedly for aerodynamic reasons. This is exactly what I need, maybe more. Unfortunately the asking price, $77,770USD, made me hurt more than laying my bike down at highway speeds. It makes sense, for that kind of range you need expensive batteries and an expensive charging system, not to mention a custom built bike.

Electric Motorcycle Batteries

So I continue on, although with some more hope that it is possible to create an electric motorcycle that will travel 40 miles at 55 mph. The interesting thing for me is the size of the rear sprocket. It seems too large based on the innate torqiness of electric motors. But if it works for them there must be a good reason for it.

Electric Motorcycle Sprocket

You can see more of the evDaytona here.


Is sharing lanes more or less dangerous than sitting in traffic?

By James -

Meet my newest best friend, FARS. FARS stands for Fatality Analysis Reporting System. It is a great web based application that aggregates fatal accident reports and lets you search , slice, and query all of their information. I use it when I smell B.S. from a person reiterating rhetoric and anecdotes as fact. I found it useful to enlighten a cager today on the topic of lane sharing.

Frankly I see motorcycles lane split in L.A all the time. They are not lane sharing They are lane splitting. It is unfortunately a burden on others and a hazard. It also raises insurance rates and lawsuits as riders who take a dangerous lane split inevitably sue the poor auto driver who doesn’t see them passing from behind with two inches to spare and unknowingly close the gap and are involved in an accident. Sorry but I am for a separate lane but lane sharing is ridiculous and dangerous.
- GWMobile

I am not sure that I would consider a cager “poor” if they change lanes without signaling for 100 feet or looking in their mirror. What about the “poor” motorcyclists that are killed or injured because people change lanes without proper caution? But lets make this about the numbers, not conjecture.

The Hurt Report contended that motorcyclists were safer sharing lanes than sitting at the end of a backup waiting for a car to rear end them. I wanted to look at the data and see if this hypothesis holds true. Here are some facts to chew on:

I could only get a complete set for 2005 from FARS so all data is from that year.

Percentage of fatalities resulting from a vehicle rear ending a motorcycle in:
Alabama: 11.9%
Arizona: 8.6%
California: 5.4%
Florida: 7.6%
Georgia: 0*
Louisiana: 5.7%*
Mississippi: 19.2%*
South Carolina: 10.2%
Texas: 9.7%

* Small data pool, results may be skewed.
States selected have a similar riding season.

If you look at just the largest states and only accidents that happened on the highway:

California: 6.0 rear-end fatalities/billion miles ridden on the highway
Florida: 9.0 rear-end fatalities/billion miles ridden on the highway
Texas: 9.4 rear-end fatalities/billion miles ridden on the highway

Is this because California drivers are especially careful? Or maybe they are more aware of the vehicles around them. Maybe Florida and Texas are much more congested. Percentage of fatalities resulting from a vehicle rear ending a passenger car:

California: 11.0%
Florida: 9.7%
Texas: 11.6%

So Californians are rear-ending cars and killing people at a similar rate as other states, but are not rear-ending motorcycles at as much as other states. This leaves me to ask, are there other factors influencing this trend? Are motorcyclists in the Golden state more visible than other states? Are the roads somehow safer for motorcyclists? Or is our unique ability to share lanes and not wait to be sandwiched by an inattentive driver helping us survive better than our out-of-state brethren? Here are the total fatality rates for these three largest states for multi-vehicle front-impact accidents of motorcycles:

California: 49.4 fatalities/billion miles ridden
Florida: 48.7 fatalities/billion miles ridden
Texas: 51.5 fatalities/billion miles ridden

So it looks like Californian bikers are fatally crashing into vehicles in front of them at the same rate as other states, but are not being rear-ended at the same rate. This leads me to believe that sharing lanes has a positive impact on preventing rear-end motorcycle fatalities, and a negligible effect on total fatalities. Insurance rates should be lower in California, not higher, although 3 fatalities for one billion miles seems like a small amount when spread over the large populations of insured drivers. Another conclusion from the Hurt Report was that less than 10% of riders did not have liability or health insurance, far below the national average of 30% for auto drivers. Let me know if there are alternatives to this conclusion, I can’t think of any.

For more info on splitting lanes:
Lane Splitting Articles


Splitting Lanes Past Dogs

By James - 2/25/2007

Traffic is stop and go. You are splitting lanes. As you squeeze past a bus, you see it. Ears flapping in the wind, eyes closed and nose up, enjoying the new smells of this stretch of road. It is a dog making the most of the car ride.

I am always uneasy when I encounter this scenario. I love dogs, but I know that one day, I will split past a dog with serious road rage. This week I encountered that dog.

Dog out the windowIn more than 7 years I have passed scores of dogs with their heads out the window. Some in the back of pickups, some with their heads out the back window of a Blazer or Forerunner. Almost all have had a curious interest in this bubble-headed human rolling on a noisy machine. Just about all I could have reached out and petted as I passed. So you can see, when envisioning the worst-tempered Kujo junkyard dog, why I might be apprehensive about passing certain breeds of unrestrained dogs.

I pass a lot of dogs in the back cargo area of Subabrus and Volvos. I have had these dogs bark at me, even though the windows are not open and I think that is part of the problem. Dogs can get “barrier frustration” and when a unexpected and unknown entity gets too close their instinct is to defend their territory. With the windows that muffle the sound and keep the dog from lunging at me, I don’t get startled by these instances.

Dog out the windowThe other reason dogs scare me while I am splitting is that there is no way to get away from them. You just have to blast past them minimizing your exposure. It kind of reminds me of Ulysses’ encounter with Charybdis on one side and rocks on the other. That is why I will be naming this mean-spirited dog Charybdis. I was traveling back from work on the Bay Bridge approach in San Francisco and spotted the dog about 7 cars ahead. As I approached the dog was eyeballing me intensely. This is your first clue. It was more than curiosity and I got a feeling that I should exercise greater care. It was a retriever mix, which usually have low aggression, but this one opened up once I was right next to it. It did not lunge or try to bite but it gave one of those “go away” barks that is really three short barks crammed into one loud “wofwofwof". The kind of bark that would go on longer but the dog runs out of breath. Slober was projected out and onto my visor.

Although I expected that someday this would happen, admittedly I was off guard when it did and the wobble was proof. My hart missed a beat, I tensed up and by instinct I steered away, towards a Jetta. I was able to straighten out but I was on an adrenaline rush for the rest of my commute. So whether you split lanes or not, be ready for that one in a million dog hanging it’s head out the window that wants a piece of you.

For more info on splitting lanes:
Lane Splitting Articles


Charges dropped in Billy Lane Crash

By James - 2/23/2007

According to a Florida news station,

Two charges have been dropped against a celebrity motorcycle builder in a fatal DUI case.

Billy Lane is still facing a DUI manslaughter charge, but is no longer charged with driving with a suspended license or driving under the influence with serious bodily injury.

Investigators said Lane hit a motorcyclist while driving home from a night of drinking in Cocoa Beach last September. Gerald Morelock was killed in the accident.

Tests showed Lane had a blood alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit.

I have some questions for the district attorney that might seem dumb for those who deal with our justice system frequently, but I do not understand this.

Why did they drop the two charges that Billy Lane is obviously guilty of? He was driving, this is not contested, while his license was suspended. He was drunk, according to blood drawn from Lane soon after the crash. These are black and white and should be the easy ones to convict on.

Whether or not Lane, driving drunk, was solely responsible for killing Morelock, without any mitigating circumstances, seems a lot harder to prove. So why would they drop the easy charges and pursue the harder, albeit most important and grave of the charges? Our justice system is not all or nothing, but if the defense can poke just one hole in the prosecution’s argument or my worst fear, a technicality gets the whole thing thrown out, Billy is a free man. At least with the lesser charges, he spends some time in a cell for actions that the evidence clearly shows he is guilty of. Can a lawyer chime in and explain this to me?

For more Billy Lane coverage:
Billy Lane Crash Coverage
Please show support to the family of Gerry Morelock


Mailbag: Motorcycle License Requirements

By James - 2/20/2007

I recieved an email from Chris . . .

I had a question about a motorcycle license.

Can you get one without a normal drivers license, like a permit or something??

Thank you.

Here in California you do not need a driver’s license to get a motorcycle license. All you need is:

  1. Fill out the DMV’s motorcycle license form (DL 44) and pay $26 (at the time of this writing)
  2. Pass the written test, you get three chances
  3. Pass the skills test or pass a CHP approved motorcycle rider training course

There are some caveats;

  • If you do not have a Class C (for automobiles) driver’s license, you will need to take the written automobile test and road test through the DMV
  • If you are under 21, the CHP approved motorcycle rider training course is mandatory
  • If you are over 21, the CHP approved motorcycle rider training course is optional, and completion will waive the skills test
  • If you are between 15 1/2 and 16 years old you can only get your motorcycle permit
  • If you are over 16 and do not take the skills or road test you can get a permit

With the permit you are not allowed to ride

  • with a passenger
  • at night
  • on the freeway

Most states are the same way and some have a few more or less hoops to jump through. I hope this helps and let us know how you are doing. See you on the road!


The GomiCycle Electric Motorcycle

By James -

Jesper at HelmetHair found a terrific video on how to convert your motorcycle from gasoline powered to electric. They convert a Rebel into an electric motorcycle and show the whole process. The details were left out but if you are thinking of doing one of these conversions yourself you will definitely need to read up on your electrical physics.

The Rebel is a common bike used for conversions. It has a low pricetag and is lightweight, although the downside is that it is hard to find a Rebel engine that is in bad shape. Those things run forever. The other common conversion is the Ninja 600. There are blueprints for converting the Kawi bike that map out everything you need to do.

Alas, the batteries are what are holding me back from starting my project. Range and speed are dependent on eachother and for my commute, it is stretching the limits. For a cool $20K I can get some Lithium Ion batteries that will last 32 miles at 55 mph, but that is out of my price range right now.


Please show support to the family of Gerry Morelock

By James - 2/15/2007

When Billy Lane struck and killed Gerry Morelock a few months ago I wrote an article about the coverage that the media had giving the incident. My main reason to write it was to point out the differences celebrities are afforded in reporting the news.

Well, that blog post turned into quite a firestorm. People who believe Billy Lane did no wrong squared off against people who believe that he should be put to death. Everyone else was caught in the crossfire. Over 700 comments were submitted and I tried to only censor the senseless.

Today Byron Morelock, Gerry’s brother added the 720th comment to the page.

A family friend gave me this blog to read. . .and i wish that I had not.

Yes there are many kind people with class on this site. There also are a number of crual, small minded folks too.

i feel like I need to defend Gerry. He can no longer do that himself. He had a good driving record. He was not “in & out” of trouble either. He was killed by a man with a criminal driving record that blatently snubed his nose at the legal system while driving without a license, speeding, passing on a double line and also DUI. Eye witneses said that Gerry was driving good on his side of the road when Billy Lane started and kept on passing several cars and slammed into Gerry. i always have and always will love Gerry . He brought a smile to everyone he met.

A few of you should be humiliated and ashamed from your comments. I thought that i could endure anything, but now i realize that i may have needed my brother’s strength more than I ever really knew.

Although I never like to hear that people who have read my blog “wish they had not", I understand and feel the same way about those “small minded folks". I believe that discussion is good and while I do not believe in much of what is said I respect that people have a different point of view and should be allowed to express it. It is obvious that those who are bashing Gerry and defending Billy are starstruck and morally comatose.

I did not mean for the post to stir up strong emotions and hope that I, and the biker community can share our support for you and your family.

Please use the comment form below to express your wellbeing to the Morelock family. Keep it civil, there will be no Billy or Gerry bashing on this page, only condolences for the death of a fellow biker and support for his family. RIP Gerry and I hope the Morelock family will find closure and justice.


Mailbag: Ethanol in your motorcycle

By James -

George emailed me with a question about burning E85 in his motorcycles.

What about burning E85 in 1964 Honda and 1983 Yahama motorcycles?

E85 is (from Wikipedia) fuel made from 15% regular gasoline and 85% Ethanol. Ethanol is an alcohol made from organic materials like sugar, corn, and brewery waste. Drink a beer and stop global warming! But seriously, Ethanol can be a viable alternative to oil which is hard to extract from the earth and located in hostile environments.

The real danger to running ethanol in your engine is the damage it may cause to magnesium, aluminum, and rubber parts in the fuel system. E85, or Flex Fuel engines have rubber conditioned to transport or store E85 and stainless steel that does not corrode when exposed to alcohol.

If you are really serious about converting your engine over to accept E85, the process shouldn’t be hard, as long as they are four strokes. A trip to your local auto parts store or favorite internet shop should provide you with what you need. Also read Roger Lippman’s excerpt about converting an old VW engine. I hope this helps.


Vote for your best and worst of 2006

By James -

The Rider’s Choice awards are now open for voting. Let the motorcycle industry know what you think.

Rider’s Choice awards


Motorcycle Clutch Levers - I won’t take them for granted

By James - 2/14/2007

Before my ride home I noticed this VFR750 parked next to mine. Half the clutch lever was broken off. It looks like this guy has ridden this way for a while. I tried shifting gears on my bike and pulling the clutch only using one or two fingers. It is hard! Whoever rides this bike must have a huge forearm. I shifted fine two or three times, but after that my fingers were done. Take a look:

clutch lever

clutch lever 2

Never take your clutch lever for granted!


Electric Motorcycle Project

By James - 2/8/2007

I saw the DVD “Who killed the Electric Car” last week and was immediately inspired to build an electric motorcycle for a commute vehicle. There are several reasons for this. First, the DVD is a great story. GM and Ford built electric vehicles for a mandate that California had in place in the ’90s and everyone loved them. Once the mandate went away, the companies didn’t let the owners renew the lease and destroyed most of them. It is confounding why a company would spend so much research and development to create a great product and then destroy it. We all know how hard GM and Ford need a vehicle that sells. I won’t ruin the movie for you but I highly recommend it. But back to me and my project.

I have been trying to work out what electric components I need, how many batteries, what voltage to run and what kind of bike to convert. My knowledge of electricity comes from my college physics class, which I have remembered more than I have forgot. But once I start connecting wires to terminals we will see how good my equations are.

My commute is 16 miles one way, 15 of those miles are highway miles. I can’t plug in at work, so my range has to be greater than 32 miles. That comes out to 4000 watt hours, which is a lot of batteries. Lead Acid batteries are the heaviest and cheapest. NiCD batteries are more expensive and lighter, around $6K for what I need. Lithium Ion batteries will cost about $20K. It seems that some petroleum companies have bought the patents to LiIon batteries and are limiting the research and licensing of the technology.

One roadblock after another but I am determined to get this project off of the ground. Let me know if you have an electric vehicle and if I am crazy for attempting this. I will keep posting about my progress and one day, I hope you can kiss my amps.

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