Cycle Gadgetry: A Convenience or a Catastrophe-in-the-Making? Part II

//Cycle Gadgetry: A Convenience or a Catastrophe-in-the-Making? Part II

Cycle Gadgetry: A Convenience or a Catastrophe-in-the-Making? Part II

Editor’s Note: Yesterday, we heard from Bud Milza who expressed his rather strong opposition to the notion of cluttering your motorcycle with intercom systems, GPS systems and other electronic paraphernalia. Today we get the opportunity to hear the other side of that communications conundrum from Jason Hayes, a proponent of such technologies.

Is staying connected staying safe?

By Jason Hayes

In today’s society, small devices such as cell phones, MP3 players and GPS devices are a part of everyday life for a lot of people. Being safe on the road with these devices is not all that difficult if you know how to use them and— just as important — know when to use them. Many a traffic accident could be avoided if people would use common sense while operating these gadgets on the road.

From my own personal experience, I have found that taking advantage of these technological wonders have done nothing but enhance my motorcycle-riding experience. I ride on down the highway with an intercom system that allows me to listen to music, talk to a passenger, talk to another rider, call someone, and even hear directions from my GPS. Before the advent of intercom, the only means of communicating with my passenger was to take my eyes off the road, turn my head around and yell as loud as I could. Now I simply start talking and the music turns off automatically so my passenger can hear my voice. When the conversation ends, the music automatically comes back on, and I am riding through the countryside, once again enjoying my own custom playlist.

Listening to tunes on a motorcycle is every bit as safe as enjoying music in a car. When played at the appropriate level, you can still hear everything going on around you because intercom systems use speakers, not ear buds. Speakers allow you to hear ambient noise while riding.

Another safety issue comes into play when you try to communicate with your riding partners on the road. Rolling up alongside someone and “flashing some hand signals” not only takes your eyes off the road and your hand off the handlebars, but it is also a distraction to the person riding next to you at speed. With the intercom system, I simply start talking and it activates the other rider’s intercom. We can chat freely, just as if we were sitting next to each other in the front seats of a car. Intercoms serve another purpose on the road and that’s communicating safety. While riding the canyons in Sturgis this year, my friends and I were able to rip around corners and let each other know what was coming up next or when it was safe to pass.

The proper use of a GPS on your motorcycle is most important and — just like in your four-wheeler — the device should be properly mounted and the destination set before you head out. If you have invested in the correct GPS mount, you can position your device to provide you the best view from your vantage point. And thinking of this device as simply an “idiot box” just means you don’t know how to use it or you are afraid to use it.

With a GPS, you just set your destination and ride, which is much safer than having to look straight down at a map pouch or being forced to pull off a busy highway every 50 miles or so to check a map.

Technology has produced a boatload of gadgets for bikers that enable us to listen to music, talk to one another while riding, and even see or hear where to turn next. When it’s time to ride, I can think of nothing better than listening to Tom Petty on the radio while racking up miles. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I like the idea of carefree comfort and convenience. I don’t question whether or not I missed a turn 20 miles back. I don’t clutter my mind with wondering if there’s a gas station nearby. I just enjoy the ride.

Having said that, I feel obligated to leave you with one bit of advice: Get well acquainted with your technological toys before you go out riding. Read the instruction manual and operate the equipment while the motorcycle is on the kickstand. And make sure the device is properly mounted on the bike. And whatever you do, don’t get underway and then start fumbling through your coat or tank bag trying to change the song or see the directions. Riding connected is easy and safe if you employ common sense.

About the Author:


  1. Colin Walker January 16, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    Just ride how YOU want to but do not prejudge others, There is lots of roads out there and many different routes!!
    Ride – 1800cc Wing.

  2. Archie D. January 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Remember that all this techno stuff are tools. Tools help us work less or faster. They should always be considered a convenience and not totally relied on. Riding to me has always meant adventure, no matter what the distance. Where the tires meet the road is what really counts. all the tech available won’t tell you what is in the road ahead. keep your eyes open and enjoy the ride.

  3. mike v. January 12, 2011 at 5:38 pm

    I travel cross country both in the U.S. and Canada quite a bit. Personally I don’t want to know whats around every corner or over the next hill. It’s part of the adventure!

  4. Billy Dean January 11, 2011 at 9:16 pm

    I sing and hum to myself while riding. Even if not, there is usually a song playing in my head…, which I eventually catch myself humming to. I guess that doesn’t work with an intercom, Huh?
    I tried the music “gadgits” a few times… but what a pain keepin’ those buds in your ears and adjusting the volume by smaking your coat pocket with your thumb, (A guy could wreck! Jason is correct on this count) with the only solution being to buy a many multi-hundred dollar helmet with a “system”.

    Its great to just listen to the wind over my helmet, or the pulse of the motor.

    I love looking at maps, (although never while riding); unfolding the sections to reveal the whole state without “zooming out” and seeing how far it is without “scrolling”. To place my hands with fingers spread and thumbs touching and pinky tips anchored on “here” to “there” is wonderfully tangible.
    I enjoy stopping along the way to talk with the locals to make sure the road is going where I thought it is, (if/when I’m not sure), but I’ve never had to pull over “every 50 miles or so” to check, either. I can see where that would be a pain to be relieved of.

    I make mental notes of the landmarks and features as I go by…, in case I take a wrong turn and circle back by mistake. Maybe I just have more time than the rest of you fellows, since I have no motel reservation to get to.

    You are free to ride the way you like.., but I always thought it was about the unexpected sight, turn, town, stranger, or what ever comes along, rather than always knowing exactly what (you think) you’re doing.
    But if they ever make motorcycles for outer space, I’ll probably need all the techno I can get my hands on. sigh……, or get better at astronomy since it will likely be tougher than finding Route 66 with a hand held map in a place where oxygen is plentiful.

    What the IRON BUTT must have been before GPS.

    I wonder if Peter, Dennis and Jack could have avoided demise if they’d had a GPS? We’ll never know, nor if the story would have been as strong if they had.
    Whatever you are gaining from the techno “toys”, I believe something else will be lost, but it’s motorcycling and so.., its your choice.

    Billy Dean
    2007 H-D Road King FLHP,
    no windshield.

  5. Dan January 11, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I almost always ride the back roads. Mostly cause I hate pounding the highway and I enjoy the slower pace and scenery of the countryside. This year, I added a GPS to my Superglide mainly cause it sure is nice to find a gas station when you need one, not to mention a cold drink. I also like NOT paying attention to where I’m going and just riding, but when it IS time to head home, just telling the GPS to “take me home” and not worry about “where the heck am I”. I don’t want any other gadgets, but a NAV system has spoiled me.

  6. Cade January 11, 2011 at 6:45 am

    I’m with the technology crowd on this argument. Personally, I see nothing wrong with the proper use of technology while riding. It can make the ride enjoyable and safe. Comm systems let us talk to our riding partners (which is part of the reason we ride, camaraderie) and nav systems help us get to where we’re going. If you want to ride just for the ride, turn it off. You don’t have to use it all the time, but it is nice to have.

  7. John Bod December 18, 2010 at 7:02 am

    So absolutely true!

  8. Terry E December 17, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    I dont ride my bike to listen to the radio. I dont need a gps. i dont answer telephone calls. I ride to get away from all that and relax.

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