Monday, February 8, 2016

Shocker : motorcyclist fatalities skyrocket after Michigan repeals helmet law.

This ought to surprise nobody, but in the three years since Michigan repealed their mandatory helmet law for motorcyclists, the accident and injury rates have skyrocketed. Deaths at the scene of the accident have quadrupled. Deaths in hospital from head injuries have tripled. Severity of injuries to the head have massively increased. Why? Because people are idiots. When the helmet law was in effect, 14% of riders rode without helmets. Since 2012, that number has jumped to 68%. Apparently these people's brains are so dumb that they can't figure out to protect the skulls they live in.
Helmet law or not, I always ride with a helmet. And an armoured jacket, leather boots and armoured reinforced gloves. It's common sense. Well - it should be - but for 68% of the riders in Michigan, it seems they have no common sense. They don't seem to care about their own lives, or the effect their death has on their friends and families. They don't seem to care about the cost to all taxpayers who are having to foot the bill for uninsured riders who are killing themselves. They don't seem to understand the effect that a crash has on the other people involved. But shit - yeah they understand 'Murica, freedom, fuck yeah! You know what - being mandated to wear a helmet is not infringing on anyone's freedom.
Injuries soar after Michigan stops requiring motorcycle helmets

Monday, February 1, 2016

The rise of fuel-delivery services

In the same way that Uber and Lyft crowd-sourced taxis and ride-sharing, there are an increasing number of companies springing up who are catering to the laziest of lazy drivers - those who can't be bothered to fill their own car with petrol. PurpleDelivery, FuelMeApp, FuelDrop and FillD (among others) all offer the same basic service. For a small fee (usually $5) they will fill your car up anywhere. You just need to leave your petrol cap unlocked (or give them your keys) and give them your credit card details.
What could possibly go wrong?
Apart from the obvious issues with giving a complete stranger your credit card details and the keys to your car, there's the 'green' issue to consider. When you fill up, you drive your one car to the filling station and fill it up. When someone comes to you, you've driven your one car to where you are, and now they're driving to meet you, arguably doubling the CO2 emissions required to fill your car with petrol.
Then there's the cost consideration. All the services say their fuel is a 'fair price' but in checking, they're all a good 10¢ to 20¢ above the price you would pay at the pump if you filled your own car up. Add on to that the $5 service fee and it begins to look a lot less attractive.
What about grade? If you have a high compression engine, you need higher octane fuel. I think we can surmise with absolute certainty that most of these companies would happily charge you 20¢ above the premium price whilst delivering the regular grade petrol to you.
Then there's the liability of a crowd-sourced network of privately-owned cars and trucks driving around with jerry cans full of gas in the back. If you were a driver for one of these companies, I guarantee your insurance wouldn't cover you for transporting a volatile compound, nor conducting business. Plus, generally speaking, you need the volatile compound warning placards on the outside of your vehicle if you're using it to transport stuff like petrol. Do you really see people wanting to put this on this private vehicle?:
Don't be lazy. Just go and get petrol yourself like you've always done. It's really not that difficult.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The obligatory winter tyre post

I write this post every year because it's important. People ignore their tyres (the same way they ignore oil changes) but when piloting a two-ton weapon, the only control you have over the thing is the four dinner-plate-sized contact patches between the tyres and the road. Ignore the tyres and any hope of controlling the car goes out the window. Summer tyres are just that - warm weather, summer tyres. They are completely useless in the winter. Sure you might think they feel OK but when the time comes that you really need them - an emergency stop or evasive action - trust me - they'll be utterly useless.
All-season tyres are a bit of a misnomer. The tyre industry understood long ago that people ignore their tyres, and the percentage of people who actually care enough to change from summer to winter tyres is pitiful. So they came up with 'all-season' tyres. These are not really all-season tyres because they're a horrible compromise. They're bad summer tyres, and bad winter tyres. In fact if you want to be that lazy, just go ahead and put summer tyres on because at least then you've got reasonable rubber under the car for 8 months of the year. As oppose to all-season tyres where you have a piss-poor compromise all-year round.
Winter tyres are what you should be using in cold weather. In fact I would prefer the whole summer/winter thing to be changed to 'warm weather' and 'cold weather' tyres. Cold weather tyres have two very important changes compared to warm weather tyres. They're made of a much softer rubber compound that remains flexible to much lower temperatures, and the tread is designed offer a much better chance at gripping on snow and ice.
Yes yes I know - you're reading this and thinking 'but it doesn't snow where I live - it's just cold'. Doesn't matter. If the air temperature where you are is below 7°C in the winter, then the road temperature is going to be below 2°C and you need cold weather tyres. Summer and all-season tyres become rock hard at those temperatures and coupled with warm-weather tread patterns, they're largely useless in cold weather.
Remember - it's not the acceleration you need to be worried about. It's stopping and turning on cold, or icy and snowy roads.
The one caveat with cold weather tyres - once the average temperatures go above about 12°C, get them off and put the warm season tyres back on. Otherwise the warmer road surface temps will eat the super soft rubber compound on the cold weather tyres for breakfast and you'll end up with no tread left. If you want all that summed up in a video - check this out, done with trikes, instead of cars, so you can see what a difference winter tyres really make:

Monday, January 18, 2016

Robby Gordon follow up.

This video surfaced today which proves everything I've said about Robby Gordon. He didn't finish the Dakar because he was being an ass on the transport stage on the last day. He rammed a support vehicle causing an accident that was bad enough the his co driver and three people from the support truck had to be airlifted to hospital. This is the epitome of Robby Gordon. He's dangerous, he doesn't care about others and he doesn't care for rules. He should follow through with his threat and never come back. 
You can watch the video here:

Not happy with ruining his own rally, Robby Gordon ruined Sheldon Creed's too.

Ah yes. Robby Gordon. The entitled prick I love to hate. In this year's Dakar - as expected - Robby Gordon was a non-feature. Frankly I don't know why he keeps taking part - he clearly doesn't have the skill or mental attitude to even get close to the top. Instead he relies on cheating, then plays the blame game. This year he was caught speeding in one of the transport stages, and immediately blamed the Dakar organisation, saying that they make up the rules as they go. As with almost everything Gordon says, this too was wrong. The Dakar has had established speed limits on transport stages - especially in built-up areas and through villages - since its inception. This is nothing new - this rule was not 'made up on the fly'. But Gordon was the only person to flout this rule, he got caught and penalised, and in his mind that was somehow not his fault. What made this incident worse was that he passed a vehicle that had it's distress beacon running, typically meaning the driver was injured and in need of help. Gordon ignored this too, preferring to look after himself than show some compassion for another driver who might have been badly injured.
When he's not cheating (or punching his co-driver - yes - there's video although it was never shown in the US) he spends a considerable amount of energy berating the other teams. A couple of years ago, he said "MINIs are for girls". This was just before the MINI team handed him his ass on a plate. He's accused every other driver in the top four teams of cheating, despite him being the one who always cheats and gets penalised (remember the air-injection system a couple of years back?). He can't retain team mates, mostly because he's self-centered and thinks everyone should be there to help him, but not the other way around. Nasser Al-Attiyah learned that the hard way in 2012 when he stopped to help Gordon but the next day when he needed help, Gordon blew past him like he didn't exist.
Sadly, it's not just Gordon - it's his team's ethos. This year, his second driver - Sheldon Creed - was showing some excellent progress, coming ahead of Robby in almost every stage. He was humble, he got on well with the other drivers in the bivouak and he was knuckling down and just getting on with it. Sadly he suffered the random hand of fate that happens on the Dakar and his team - at Robby's behest - made him skip checkpoints to get to the end of the stage. As would be expected, Creed was disqualified.
Now to put this into perspective, on the same day, Sébastien Loeb rolled his Peugeot and did far more damage to it than was done to Creed's car. Loeb and his navigator tore the body off (what was left of it), replaced the transmission, the propshaft, one complete suspension assembly and two wheels in 40°C heat, and still made it through all the checkpoints to the finish, losing only an hour. By comparison, the damage to Creed's car was limited to a bent rim, collapsed suspension and bodywork damage.
Gordon is the antithesis of what it is to race in the Dakar. Camaraderie, teamwork, the safety of others and the outright competition are all factors in this rally. But in Gordon's mind, he thinks he deserves to win at any cost, and if someone gets in his way, they'll suffer the consequences. He never stops to assist people who clearly need help. He rams other drivers. He's forced motorbike riders off the trails regularly. He's violent, prone to tantrums and a danger to everyone around him on the rally.
If Robby Gordon follows through with his threat to never come back to the Dakar Rally, it'll be the best outcome I could imagine. He should go back to whatever it is he normally does and leave those of us who love the Dakar to enjoy it without his unneeded presence.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Come winter, come the one-eyed monsters.

PSA: if one of your headlight bulbs goes out, replace it. Don't drive around with the other one on full beam - it's not a substitute and it's inconsiderate (and dangerous) to other drivers. Compared to the costs involved in owning a car, replacing a headlight bulb is basically free. It takes 5 minutes even on the most awkward car so there's no excuse.
The other problem I see in the winter is people who think that daytime running lights = automatic lights. No - they're absolutely not the same thing. Daytime running lights are the sidelights that come on in some cars when the ignition is turned on. They only come on at the front, so when you're driving in the dark on a cold winter morning, the main headlights aren't on, and the tail lights aren't on. You either need to turn the headlights on yourself, or if you have auto lights, make sure the switch is in the 'auto' position.
Either way - manual or auto lights - change the damned bulb and don't be so lazy!