Beginner Motorcycling

Information on Motorcycling for Beginners

Bilt Raptor Motorcycle Helmet Review

Bilt Raptor Motorcycle Helmet

Bilt Raptor Helmet

Bilt is one of the house brands of the Cycle Gear motorcycle gear store, and the Bilt helmet line runs from $30 cruiser half helmets to modular bluetooth helmets in the low $300s price range.  The Bilt Raptor motorcycle helmet is a full-face motorcycle helmet that is in the low $100 dollar price range, and represents a good value for those looking for a good cheap motorcycle helmet for themselves or a good cheap backup motorcycle helmet for passengers or guests.

Bilt Raptor Helmet Specifications

The basic Bilt Raptor specifications are as follows:

Shell: Polycarbonate

Shape: Long Oval

Main Face Shield: Clear Quick Release Shield

Sun Shield:  Internal Drop Down Sun Shield (replaceable)

Vents: 3 on Front (1 chin, 2 forehead, + rear exhaust vents)

Colors: A variety of colors and designs, no neon high-viz

Weight: 3.52 pounds

Safety Standards: DOT standard and ECE standardBilt Raptor Full Face Helmet

The Raptor has a sleek aerodynamic shape and in my opinion looks quite good.  Of course, looks are subjective, but I like both the shape and the looks of the three air vents on the Raptor.  As for comfort, the washable padding on the Raptor is quite comfortable to me, and those three airvents provide quite a good bit of ventilation and really help lessen the fogging up that I often have problems with.  The Raptor also has a nice drop down sun visor that is easy to activate while riding and is both slightly darker than many drop down sun shields and for me is also great in that it provides good coverage but yet does not rub against my (slightly large) nose.  Don’t get me wrong, the sun shield is not super dark, but a lot of drop down sun shields that I’ve seen are very light, so I was pleased with the one on the Raptor.

Of course, a side effect of those big vents is that the Raptor can be a bit on the loud side.  However, as I’ve mentioned before every rider in every type of helmet need to be using motorcycle hearing protection every time they ride at highway speeds.  And for me the trade-off for better ventilation and less fogging is worth it.

A final aspect of the Raptor helmet that deserves comment is that the Raptor is one of the lowest costing helmets I’ve seen that meets bot DOT standards and ECE (European) safety standards.

The Verdict

Overall, I think the Bilt Raptor is a great value for a cheap ECE motorcycle helmet, and it is well ventilated and has very good features for a low cost full-face helmet. You can click one of the listings below for color and pricing information.

Why You Need Motorcycle Hearing Protection

motorcycle hearing protectionEven the best and most expensive motorcycle helmets available do not protect your hearing.  That’s right, even if you’re wearing a good quality full-face motorcycle helmet (which you should) studies have shown that your hearing is still likely to be damaged by wind noise if you don’t use motorcycle hearing protection.

Studies show that even 15 minutes of riding a motorcycle at highway speeds without ear protection can cause hearing damage.  And a U.S. Department of Transportation study shows that at 70 miles per hour even the most expensive motorcycle helmets do not prevent 100 decibels of wind noise.  And the type of motorcycle and type of motorcycle windscreen do not significantly change this (even though you may not feel as much wind).  In some cases, a single ride can lead to permanent hearing loss.

So, every motorcycle rider who will be riding at highway speeds should wear motorcycle ear protection.  The good news is that cheap foam earplugs can be just as effective (or sometimes more effective) than more expensive hearing protection.  So, I bought a big pack of cheap foam ear plugs to make sure I have enough for me, my passenger (pillion), and I put some extras in jacket pockets and luggage to be sure that I’m not caught without hearing protection on my motorcycle.  With the foam earplugs, just be sure to compress them and insert them deeply into the ear and hold them in place for about ten seconds to be sure they stay in place.

Riding a motorcycle is a lot of fun, but don’t forget to take the steps necessary to protect your hearing.  Make inserting hearing protection a part of your pre-ride routine, so that you don’t put your helmet on until after your plugs are in.  Ride safe, and have fun!

More on motorcycle hearing loss: Hearing Loss in Motorcyclists

How to Shift a Motorcycle

motorcycle shift paternIn this post we’ll continue our articles on the basics of riding a motorcycle and discuss shifting a motorcycle.  If you missed our recent articles on basic motorcycle controls and how to start a motorcycle you may want to read those before reading this article.

So, you’ve know where the motorcycle controls are and you’ve gotten the motorcycle started.  As stated in our last article, if you’re new to motorcycling or riding a motorcycle that you’re not familiar with, you should do this exercise to feel how the bike throttle and friction zone of the clutch work: (1) sitting on the motorcycle with your gear on, pull the clutch lever all the way in and shift to first gear by pushing the shifter down as many times as it takes to get where it won’t go down any further — this is 1st gear; (2) keeping your feet on the ground, feel the friction zone of the clutch by slowly letting out the clutch a bit (without giving throttle) and then pulling it back in before stalling (if you stall, put in Neutral and re-start); (3) again keep your feet on the ground, and feel the throttle response by doing the same exercise with a small bit of throttle; (4) put the bike back in Neutral (Neutral light should illuminate) with both feet on the ground and start to push forward and check that the front brake will stop the motorcycle, and do a quick check on front and back brakes separately in the first 20 yards or so after starting out on your motorcycle.

O.k., you’re off and running in 1st gear and have tested your brakes a little, so what next?  Once your RPMs go up where you need to shift, then squeeze in the clutch lever while rolling off of the throttle, firmly shift up into 2nd gear with your shifter foot (left foot for most modern motorcycles) and roll back on the throttle.  Doing a firm and full shift is especially important in shifting into 2nd gear, otherwise you might wind up in Neutral by accident (if so, simply quickly repeat the above: clutch, throttle down, shift up, throttle on).

Once you are riding about, you’ll often need to dowshift in traffic, before stopping, before cornering, etc.  The motorcycle downshifing process is similar: squeeze the clutch, blip the throttle, shift down and throttle on.  By “blip the throttle” I mean for a split-second roll on the throttle more (to get RPMs up a bit) then close the throttle before pressing down on the gear change lever with your shifting foot.  When going down from 2nd to 1st, be extra sure to firmly and fully push down on the motorcycle gear change, so that you don’t end up in Neutral.  Again, if you do end up in Neutral don’t panic, just repeat the process above.

So there you have it, basic motorcycle shifting instructions.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments section below.  Happy riding!

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How to Start a Motorcycle

motorcycle controls drawing

Basic Motorcycle Controls

In one of our recent articles we explained the basic motorcycle controls for modern motorcycles.  Now, we’ll go over the basics of how to start a motorcycle.

First, you will need to insert the ignition key and turn it clockwise to the ignition position.  Next, you will need to make sure the motorcycle transmission is in Neutral (most modern bikes won’t let you start the bike in gear with the kickstand down).  If you don’t know how to find Neutral, we will cover that in our next article on shifting a motorcycle.

Next, make sure the engine cut-off switch (or “kill switch)  is in the “run” setting, not in the engine “kill” setting.  At this point, if your motorcycle is fuel injected you can start it by pressing the start button.

For motorcycles with carburetors, before you press start you will need to make sure (1) that your fuel supply valve (if you have one) is turned to the on position; and (2) that you adjust your choke/enricher (usually either near the clutch lever, or somewhat near the fuel supply valve) to get extra fuel in the mix to start (many bikes need half-way or none on warm days, full way on cold days, but each one is different).  Once you’ve done all that you can start it by pressing the start button or using the kick starter if you have one.

Let the engine run a bit to warm up. On a carbureted motorcycle, after you’ve let it run with the choke out a bit you’ll want to push it back in before you start riding.  If you start pushing the choke in and the engine sounds like it might die, pull the choke back out and let the engine warm up a little more.  Most fuel injected motorcycles will start out automatically with a richer fuel mix, and will automatically go to a normal mix after warming up — you’ll be able to hear a change in the sound of the idling motorcycle engine.

Now the engine is on and warmed up.  I recommend that on any motorcycle you are not used to that after you sit on the bike you should do this exercise to feel how the bike throttle and friction zone of the clutch work: (1) sitting on the motorcycle with your gear on, pull the clutch lever all the way in and shift to first gear; (2) keeping your feet on the ground, feel the friction zone of the clutch by slowly letting out the clutch a bit (without giving throttle) and then pulling it back in before stalling; (3) again keep your feet on the ground, and feel the throttle response by doing the same exercise with a small bit of throttle; (4) put the bike back in Neutral (Neutral light should illuminate) with both feet on the ground and start to push forward and check that the front brake will stop the motorcycle, and do a quick check on front and back brakes separately in the first 20 yards or so after starting out on your motorcycle.

Hope you find this helpful.  In our next article about how to ride a motorcycle, we’ll cover shifting in more detail.

Harley Davidson Financing for Private Party Used Motorcycle Loans

Used Harely Sportster 48

I recently learned of a pretty cool financing program that Harley Davidson has  for used Harley motorcycle loans.  It’s called the Harley-Davidson Rider-to-Rider Financing Program, and it can make private party used motorcycle sales (like buying a used motorcycle through Craigslist or Autotrader, etc.) a bit more convenient for both the buyer and the seller.

This is different from buying a used Harley being sold by a Harley dealership — as with the Rider-to-Rider program the individual person who owns the used Harley is still the seller.  However, with this program the person buying the used Harley can apply for financing through Harley Davidson.  Harley claims that their used motorcycle loan rates are competitive, and that all buyers will be considered — so they should have some options for bad credit motorcycle loans.  The Rider-to-Rider program allows buyers to add in Harley upgrade accessories, services and clothes into the loan, and also allows buyers the opportunity to have the used Harley inspected by the Harley dealership.

For sellers of used Harleys, this program allows the sellers to advertise that used motorcycle financing is available.  Sellers can even put a link in their Craigslist ad or other ad that the buyers can click on to apply for used motorcycle loans from Harley.  Harley also helps sellers with all of the documents necessary for the sale, and can help process the payoff of any Harley motorcycle loans that you may have also.

The Harley Rider-to-Rider program sounds like it could be pretty helpful to buyers and sellers.  If you’d like to see more details about used Harley motorcycle financing, you can find it here:  Harley Private Party Financing  Or you can check out the latest deals on Harleys here:  Harley Motorcycles for Sale.

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