Motorcycle Rider Basics

Conversation with a Motorcycle Cop

motorcycle copSo I stopped to get gas the other day and ended up in a conversation with a motorcycle cop. or maybe I should say motorcycle policeman or motor officer. I’m not really sure if cop is considered a derogatory term anymore or not. If it is, I am apologizing to all the policeman out there right now because I have a huge respect for all policeman.

Okay now that that’s out of the way, here’s what happened. I had finished getting gas when California Highway Patrol Motorcycle Officer pulled in and parked next to me on his BMW, outfitted with all the police goodies. I suddenly had a dilemma. My '06 wide glide has essentially straight pipes. Actually I have replaced the screaming Eagle exhaust pipes with Thunder City baffles which is simply a flat fender washer welded inside the center of the baffle. They are really loud. (I like loud pipes, but that’s a conversation for another day.) In short, I was paranoid about starting up my motorcycle and leaving because I didn’t want to get an equipment violation of the loud pipes. so I struck up a conversation and here’s how it went.

We exchanged the “Hi, how's it going?” blah, blah, blah, and I asked him,

Q: So at the end of the day are you more of a motorcycle rider or a policeman?

A: Hmmm, that’s a tough one. Every day there’s so much going on that I never think about the motorcycle much. I just know that if I have a headache at the end of the day it was a real intense day. If I had any weather like hail or rain, I start thinking about the motorcycle. I guess I would have to say I’m a policeman first and a motorcycle rider second. I don’t ride on my off time but I do have a dirt bike at home and I go out once in a while on it.

Q: How about your safety gear? I see you have a three-quarter helmet, why not wear a full face helmet?

A; Actually I wouldn’t mind a full face helmet but that three-quarter helmet is department regulation. The CHP has done some studies on full face helmets and they are reluctant to standardize on a full face helmet based upon the public’s reaction to this helmet.

Q: Oh, OK, I get it. The CHP does not want the Robocop look?

A: Yes that’s it. have you seen (he mentions a nearby community Police Department) wearing full face helmets with the blue face shield? Those guys really have the Robocop look. but it’s more than just the look that the CHP is concerned about. The attitude is that an open face helmet allows better communication with the public in general.

Q: A motorcycle officer once told me that he defined an excellent rider as a rider who could do their whole shift and never put their feet on the ground. How do you define an excellent rider?

A: I define a excellent rider as one who does not fall down very often (He laughs.). Actually, we received refresher motorcycle rider training every 90 days. That refresher training tends to keep us really focused on what we are doing on the motorcycle.

He went on to tell me about a time when he fell, 15 years ago, at high speed, on the Los Angeles freeways. He said he was going really fast, about 85 mph, enroute to an emergency call, when he went down. He said he went down on the shoulder next to the center divider and somehow his motorcycle continued forward while he went over the divider and rolled in the fast Lane in the oncoming traffic. He rolled over a couple lanes without being hit and a tractor-trailer truck saw him and slammed on the brakes. The truck was in the middle of a jackknife stop as he rolled under the trailer. The only thing that hit him was a piece of metal under the trailer which smacked his helmet hard enough to crack it and knocked him unconscious. He ended up with a slight concussion but no other injuries. And as he told me this story I could see that he was reliving the crash as he told the story. It was quite dramatic.

Q: I changed the subject. I think I saw a woman motorcycle cop the other day. Do you have a female motorcycle policeman?

A: Yes we do. We have to in our department and I think down in LA they have 8 or 9 female motorcycle officers.

I could have stayed and talked to him for another couple hours but he got a radio call, gave me a smile,  jumped on his BMW and blasted off.

In this blog I write about equipment and rider safety. It is very hard for me to imagine trying to be a policeman on a motorcycle doing a policeman’s job. Like I said at the beginning of this post, I have an enormous amount of respect for these officers of the law.

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. You say you believe in loud pipes but you were afraid to start your bike in front of that police officer, inviting a ticket . That should tell you something. Actually, the only person that hears your pipes is the guy right next to you, not the guy coming toward you, or even the guy behind you, especially when most people drive with the car buttoned up, the AC on, and the radio blasting. So you might just get a really slight modicum of safety in echange for irritating everyone for two blocks around you not in a car. To me, the “loud pipes saves lives” argument is just an excuse for grown men to make a lot of noise like little boys.

  2. Loud pipes is a very passionate topic. For six months I rode my HD Wide Glide 40 miles daily, to and from work. 20 miles on city streets and 20 miles on the freeway. My bike had Screaming Eagle pipes which are about 50% louder than the factory pipes and I experienced about one close call per week. (Usually cars making lane changes without looking first.)
    I then replaced the Screaming Eagle baffles with Big City Thunder baffles which increased the noise level another 50% or almost as loud as straight pipes. During the next six months, my close calls dropped to about one per month. Not very scientific but personally, I can not argue with the results.
    Thanks for your comments and yes, there probably is a little boy inside of me getting a kick out of the rumble and roar of my exhaust. -Frank Gates

  3. You said, “I could have stayed and talked to him for another couple hours but he got a radio call, gave me a smile, jumped on his BMW and blasted off.”

    I’ll bet you were glad about THAT?! You didn’t have to start your bike in FRONT of him, and risk a ticket! If he took any time at all to look your bike over, he MUST’VE known anyway………straight pipes are hard to miss!!

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