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.