Motorcycling – like fishing, golf, running and bicycling – is hugely popular here in the North Star state. In fact, according to Department of Transportation records, motorcycle ridership has been at record-high levels in Minnesota, with more than 230,000 registered two-wheelers and approx. 400,000 licensed operators in the state.
In the following pages we have assembled some brief reading about on-road, off-road and on-track rider training options, 50cc licensing, what to look for in insurance, some recent stats from the DPS, info on theft & security, and a run-down of tech tips to ensure your bike runs and rolls without issue.
You may think you couldn’t possibly absorb anything from this section, but think again. The best riders never stop learning.
As with any business or service provider, those with the largest marketing budgets often create the most visibility. Rider training organizations are no different.
So, when newcomers to motorcycling look into how they can become licensed, it’s likely that the first offering they’ll run across in their search will come from the government-funded Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center (MMSC) and the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF).
But there are additional options, with several private training providers that offer both basic and advanced rider courses, as well as specialized off-road and on-track training.
If there’s a certain type of riding you’re interested in, you’re likely to find someone in Minnesota who would be willing to train you.
Ride Safe, Ride Smart!
St. Paul Harley-Davidson
Zalusky Advanced Riding School
Experienced, or Confident?
The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) has historically described its rider education programs as Basic Rider Course 1 (Beginner Rider Course) and Basic Rider Course 2 (Experienced Rider Course).
This year, a change was made. The course formerly known as the Experienced Rider Course has been renamed as the Confident Rider Course.
Designed to enhance the skills of newly licensed and returning riders, the Confident Rider Course is offered at 30 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities at a charge of $55.
Riders spend most of the five-hour program riding on a course. Skills Practiced include cornering, counter steering, maximum braking, riding strategy, risk management, swerving, tight turns, traction management and U-turns. There are no tests in this course.
Participants ride their own motorcycle during the course. To be eligible, motorcycles must be street legal, licensed, insured and pass a basic inspection.
Additionally, riders must:
• have a valid driver’s license with either a motorcycle endorsement or a valid motorcycle permit.
• show proof of insurance
• have 1,000 miles of riding experience in the past year.
• be proficient in the basic skills of clutch control, straight-line riding, turning, shifting and stopping.
• wear a DOT-approved helmet, eye protection, long sleeves, long pants, full-fingered gloves and over-the-ankle footwear.
Participants under 18 must have their parents sign a waiver form prior to on-cycle instruction. Passengers may participate at no charge.
Completion earns you polished skills and a MSF Basic Rider Course 2 completion card. Also, check with your insurance carrier; some may offer reduced rates for your continued training.
Are you a dealer, have a club or other riding group? Private courses are available at 50% off the regular tuition costs.
Find 50cc of Fun in 2014
When I was in ninth grade, a Tomos Golden Bullet moped served as my entry into the world of two-wheelers, expanded my metro travels, and even helped attract a few ladies (my apologies, girls, for those exhaust pipe burns).
Every memory of that bike is a good memory. Luckily, when I’m feeling nostalgic, all I have to do is walk out in the garage, where the diminutive 28-year-old smoker with pedals still sits next to its far younger and more powerful brethren.
Nowadays, a Motorized Bicycle Permit is required for folks who do not have a driver’s license, are at least 15 years of age, and wish to ride a moped on the street.
To be perfectly clear: In Minnesota, motorized two-wheelers registered and plated as a “moped” have a piston displacement of 50cc or less, a maximum of 2hp, and a maximum speed of 30mph on a flat service. The term can be used in describing the traditional pedal-type moped, as well as with certain sizes of scooter. If you’re looking at 50cc scoots, it’d be a good idea to ask your dealer which category that particular model falls into.
The best way to earn a Motorized Bicycle Permit is to enroll in a classroom-only moped course offered via the MMSC. Classroom topics include riding gear, preparation, risk management, street strategies, special riding situations and the dangers of impairment. MMSC Moped Courses are offered at 30 Minnesota State Colleges and Universities at a cost of $35.
Remember: Minnesota state law requires young people to wait until they are 15 years old to apply for the motorized bicycle permit, although participants can be age 14 to take the course. Also, while a person holding a valid driver’s license may legally operate a moped without a moped permit or license, unlike in other states – South Carolina, for example – cancelled, revoked or suspended drivers are not eligible to obtain a moped permit or license.
Ensure You’re Getting the Best Insurance Deal
Ready to saddle up for the 2014 riding season? Before you go, make sure you’ve reviewed these 10 tips for maximizing the value in your motorcycle insurance coverage.
Consider Your Type
Riding a full-on 600cc supersport rather than a 650cc standard will make a difference in your insurance rates. In fact, the difference already shows in bikes as similar as the Kawasaki Ninja 1000 and Z1000.
You’ll be offered differing levels of motorcycle insurance coverage. Choose wisely. Depending on how valuable your ride is, you may opt for basic coverage or full-coverage, including comprehensive and liability insurance for bodily injury and property damage.
In Minnesota, the minimum required coverages to satisfy financial responsibility requirements are $30,000 per person / $60,000 per accident in Bodily Injury and $10,000 per accident in Property Damage.
Remember, though: Most damage occurs to you and your bike – not what gets in the way. While Minnesota law mandates that your auto insurance includes coverage for you if you are involved in a crash with an underinsured or uninsured motorist, there are no such mandates for you with your motorcycle coverage. This means if you are involved in a serious accident with a motorist who has minimal or no insurance, you could be faced with many bills and out-of-pocket expenses of your own. Talk with your insurance agent about adding these very basic protective features to your motorcycle policy.
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Pay In A Lump Sum
You can save a few bucks by paying your premium annually, rather than semi-annually, quarterly or monthly. Also remember, the higher your deductible, the lower your premium.
Where It Sleeps
Where you plan to keep your motorcycle is among the first questions insurers often ask, and the first place you can look to save some funds. Obviously, keep your bike locked in the safety of a garage rather than on the street or behind your house. Depending on the neighborhood, you may want to keep it locked up inside the locked garage.
Remember The Bolt-Ons
Most motorcycle insurance providers will cover the basics, so if you’ve added on some extensive and expensive options, be sure to seek out additional accessory coverage.
Stop Riding So Damn Much
Own a trailer queen? Your insurance agent may grant a lower premium for a mileage cap on coverage. In other words, in some cases, the fewer miles you ride in a year, the lower your premium will be. It’s the same guidelines used for classic or show cars.
Join The Club
Believe it or not, some insurance companies will give you a premium discount simply for being a member of an approved riding club. Manufacturer-sponsored riders groups and can be a good source for insurance discounts, too.
Ride Longer, Save More
Experienced riders earn lower rates with some insurance companies. Check to see whether experience counts toward a deal with your provider.
More Savings for More Training
Taking a safety course, such as those offered by the MSF, also could earn you a few bucks back per month.
Try To Bundle
Most providers will offer you discounts for insuring your vehicles along with your home. Check to see whether your carrier bundles.
MN Cycle Fatalities Up 9% in 2013
Minnesota motorcyclists lost 60 fellow riders in 2013, according to preliminary data from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. The DPS says there were 375 total traffic fatalities in 2013, down from 395 in 2012.
Despite a weather-induced shorter riding season, the number of rider deaths increased nine percent from 2012, when 55 riders lost their lives.
Motorist failure to yield right-of-way, operator error and alcohol continue to be common contributing factors.
Fifty-seven crashes resulted in the 60 rider deaths, of which 30 only involved the motorcycle. Failure to negotiate a curve was cited 20 times in those crashes.
“We can all do more to keep motorcyclists safe on the roads,” said Bill Shaffer of the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center (MMSC). “Riders can take responsibility by keeping their skills sharp through training, wearing high-visibility protective gear and riding sober. Drivers can share the road by giving riders room and taking the time to look twice for motorcyclists.”
Last year, 20 rider fatalities occurred in July, making it the deadliest July on record for motorcyclists and the second deadliest month in the past 15 years. August 2008 was the deadliest month, with 21 rider fatalities.
Minnesota has among the lowest fatal crash rates in the nation, but Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota rate among the worst in the nation when it comes to adopting basic highway safety laws, a nonprofit lobbying group says.
Earlier this year the Washington, D.C.-based Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety released its 11th annual report card grading all 50 states and the District of Columbia on whether they have adopted 15 “lifesaving” laws related to impaired and distracting driving, teen driving and protecting vehicle occupants.
States received a red “dangerously behind” rating if they had adopted fewer than seven of the laws and lacked primary-enforcement seat belt laws for both front and rear passengers.
North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana all fell into that lowest category, along with Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire and Wyoming.
The group gave Minnesota a less-critical yellow rating, recommending it adopt five laws. The one suggested law of particular importance to us – motorcyclists – is to require all riders to wear a helmet, regardless of age. State law now requires helmets for riders under age 18.
Ten states and the District of Columbia received a green rating, the highest rating.
Cycle Thefts Decline in 2012
Late in 2013 the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) released a report on motorcycle thefts in the United States for 2012, the most recent such figures.
Minnesota ranked 32nd, with 356 cycle thefts in 2012; Wisconsin ranked 33rd, with 284 thefts; Iowa ranked 36th, with 247 thefts; South Dakota ranked 49th, with 38 thefts; and North Dakota ranked 50th, with 37 thefts.
California was the state where the most motorcycle thefts occurred in 2012, with 6,082. Florida, with 4,110 thefts, was second. Texas (3,400), North Carolina (2,574) and Indiana (2,334) complete the top five states.
The report is based on National Crime Information Center (NCIC) motorcycle theft data. A total of 46,061 motorcycles were reported stolen in 2012 compared with 46,667 reported stolen in 2011 – a decrease of 606 thefts or 1 percent.
As for brands, Honda had the highest reported thefts in 2012 with 9,082. In second place was Yamaha with 7,517. Suzuki (7,017), Kawasaki (4,839) and Harley-Davidson (3,755) round out the top five makes.
Among the most-stolen bikes were 2006 & 2007 Suzuki and Honda models, and 2007 & 2009 Yamaha models.
While the recovery rate for automobile thefts in 2012 was 53.9 percent, for motorcycles in that same year it was only 39 percent (17,757 units recovered vs. 28,304 units unrecovered).
If not quickly recovered, stolen motorcycles are often “chopped,” with their parts finding their way into the black market supply chain. Others are kept intact and resold to unsuspecting buyers after crude attempts to alter their identification. Still others are hidden away for years and, on occasion, recovered as they are in the process of being exported in shipping containers.
Get Your Motors Running
It’s that time of year again. Well, looking out the window, it’s almost that time of year again. Time to go out in the garage and unwrap that two-wheeler you swaddled up so delicately for its five-month slumber.
You did clean and lube and park your bike protected from the elements in a dry place, didn’t you? Did you place it on a wheel stand or two? Did you hook it up to a Battery Tender? No?
No worries. Joe Farber, service manager at the Hitching Post’s Hopkins location, has 10 quick tips to insure your bike will be ready for riding season.
1) TIRES … “Check your tire pressure, because after six months that cold will have made your tires lose quite a bit of air.” Check tread depth using the ‘ol head of Lincoln, sticking the penny in between the grooves. If you put a penny in and can see the head, you may need some new rubber. This process should be a part of the walk-around you do every time before getting on your bike.”
2) FUEL … “For fuel injected bikes, you should have filled your gas tank full and added a bit of Stabil last year when you put the bike away. For carbed bikes, it’s good to fill the tank, add Stabil, switch the petcock to the off position and run it until it dies from being fuel starved.
“If you have old gas from the previous year and didn’t use Stabil, you’re probably going to want to drain that gas out of it. If you’re not going to do that, I suggest you go get some non-oxy premium and run it through. That’s probably the best option.”
3) OIL/FILTER … “If you didn’t change your oil in the fall before you put the bike away, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to put some in now. Obviously, that goes hand-in-hand with a new filter.
“Often, riders will change the oil to prepare for storage but then go out and ride during final good weather days. I usually tell people that, if they have 1,000 miles on their oil when it goes into storage, they should replace it when it comes out of storage.”
4) OTHER FLUIDS … “Brake fluid levels usually get overlooked. Brake fluids aspirate and attract moisture, which in turn lowers the boiling point of the fluid – leaving you with spongy feeling. The fluid is supposed to be, according to the manufacturers, replaced about every two years or every 12,000 miles.”
5) BATTERY … “Hopefully you’ve had your battery on a trickle charger while in storage. If not, you’re going to want to do that immediately. After six months, it’s probably dead. At a minimum, if you don’t have trickle charger like a Battery Tender, you’re going to want to unhook the battery and set it in a cool, dry place.”
6) CHAIN / SPROCKETS … “Make sure to clean and lubricate that chain rather than just gob more lube on a grimy chain. If you think you need a new chain, it’d probably be a good idea to get a new sprocket. Checking your chain’s condition should be a part of the walk-around you do every time before getting on your bike.”
7) WASH… “To clean bikes in the shop we use Bike Spirits – an all-purpose spray polish – and a very, very soft and clean micro-fiber cloth. You can use soapy water on your bike, just like washing a car in the driveway, but take care not to concentrate any of the spray near the airbox or major electricals.”
“A good tip that I like to tell people about – especially for bikes with conventional forks – it to wipe the grime off of the bike’s fork tubes. That way, when you compress those forks, you won’t pull all of that dirt up inside and cause more problems. Use a clean, soft cloth that doesn’t have any other solvents on it and just wipe clean in a downward motion.”
8) BRAKES … “The brakes aren’t going to change over winter, so just take a look at the front and rear brake pad thickness and make sure you’re ok there. Remember to check that fluid reservoir.”
9) LIGHTS / SIGNALS … “Are they in working order? This should be a part of the walk-around you do every time before getting on your bike.”
10) “GO OUT AND RIDE!”