Here is Ducati’s answer to BMW’s R1200GS. As Ducati itself calls the motorcycle, it’s “4 bikes in 1”. “A dream Ducati – 4 bikes in 1. A sport bike, long-distance tourer, urban and road enduro”. Multistrada’s offroad capabilities are obviously not up there with the R1200GS, but damn this motorcycle looks sexy! Over and over again, Italians do know how to design a motorcycle!
Armenians are proud people. We are proud with a reason and without. We are proud of our budding democracy, of our chess team, and, above all, of our history. We like to mention that once upon a time our country spanned from sea to shining sea and that we were the first nation to adopt Christianity as its official religion.
This little episode occurred in 301 AD: 12 years before Christianity was even legal in Rome. This change of religion was catalyzed by St. Gregory the Illuminator, now the patron saint of Armenia, curing then-pagan king Tiridates III of insanity, into which he had lapsed after torturing and killing a group of virgin Christian nuns. However, prior to this St. Gregory was imprisoned for 13 years in a deep pit (khor virap) by the same Tiridates III for being the son of his father’s enemy.
So every child educated in Armenia gets this history lesson, but not all of them get to see the actual pit. I had not until very recently. The virap has had a small chapel built over it since the days of St. Gregory, which is now a part of a monastery complex, situated in the Ararat plain, amid vineyards and orchards.
It was a rather short ride from the city, 30 minutes or so, on a boring straight road that didn’t give you much to look at, other than an occasional shanty roughly put together out of metal scraps in the middle of a fruit garden, where a family was laboring together hunched over the earth. The more boring and straighter the road, the more likely you are to speed though, so the highlight of the ride was the roar of the engine, the warm wind in my face, and the meditative state into which I lapse at high speeds. On the other hand, the last short section of the drive up to the Khor Virap monastery was extraordinarily picturesque, one so familiar and dear to the hearts of all Armenians: a church perched on the top of a steep hill with the snow-white Ararat hovering majestically in the back.
The first thing that struck me about the church was I guess the usual sight at most churches in Armenia on a weekend: the wedding conveyer. One somber couple followed the other into the church where the no less somber priest performed the rites and pronounced them united in the eyes of God, after which the couple was free to go and pose for pictures in the yard. And so there was always one couple getting nervous, stepping from one foot to the other in the church doorway, another couple at the altar, and the third looking at the cameras soberly, gravely, as if trying to understand the philosophical repercussions of “in sickness and in health”.
The brides’ mothers looked fussy as they arranged their daughters’ veils clumsily and gave them advices as to how to look their best in these pictures that immortalized the most important day of their lives. Maids of honor tried to present themselves to their best advantage in front of the grooms’ friends. Little girls in white dresses spun around and twirled their taffeta skirts in the church yard, looking dreamily at the brides, hoping that one day they will be marrying their own solemn-looking prince charming. But for now, at least they got the dress all ready…
The main church, St. Astvatsatsin, built in the 17th century, was rather typical, as far as Armenian churches are concerned, built out of smooth orange tufa stone. It sat in the middle of the courtyard contrasted by the rough-hewn stone walls around the whole complex. The back wall of the church was covered in inscriptions: mostly names and dates, some going as far back as 1920’s, making the sense of permanence and continuity real, touchable.
The St. Gregory chapel was smaller, simpler, rougher, the inside walls covered with soot, housing the pit that served as St. Gregory’s home and prison for 13 years. We parked the motorcycle helmets by the altar, hoping that no one would steal from a church, and descended into the pit. The vertical ladder just kept going and going and I started to wonder just where I would find myself when my feet hit solid ground again, somewhat like Alice. The pit was dark, full of tourists, and claustrophobic. I guess those pagan kings back in the day were not to be messed with. Couldn’t imagine someone being trapped there for years and years, without the sad-looking but efficient light bulb hanging lonely from the ceiling.
Inside St. Astvatsatsin numerous candles flickered in the breeze, as people whispered their secret wishes and most coveted dreams to the quivering flames, hoping that God will grant an answer to their prayers.
Outside the church there was a tribute to the Armenian pagan past: a cock was trotting around proudly, as a true Armenian cock would, still ignorant of the the highest purpose he was going to serve.
On the way back to the city we were bombing down the highway, going over 150 km/hr, probably the fastest that I have ridden on a bike (although I used to squeeze more out of my old Corolla), and the boyfriend’s medium-sized helmet was sliding back off my small-sized head, while trying to crack my neck in the process. The chin strap was digging in painfully, totally ruining this amazing experience of the world rushing past me at a (quite literally) breakneck speed. With all this sliding around that the helmet was doing , I realized that it was on my head just for placebo effect: I may have felt better about having my head protected, but it would probably not do much good during the meeting between my head and the pavement.
So the few lessons to be learned from this ride:
- Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity in 301 AD;
- Armenians have a lot to be proud of (in addition to the point above);
- When you are very low, there is nowhere else to go but up (from the depths of Khor Virap to a patron saint);
- And lastly, children, not only is it important to wear a helmet when riding a bike, it is also crucial to wear one your size.
Sunday was the first ride of the Season and it was decided that we were going to Noravank. Comprised of two XIII century churches St. Astvatsatsin and St. Karapet, I consider the whole monument on top of the gorge one of the most beautiful and St. Astvatsatsin perhaps the most beautiful church on the territory of the present Armenia.
Weather.com predicted a high of 16°C for the day and we figured it would be tolerable for a ride of ~260km wearing sweatshirts. There were some morning showers reported, so we decided to head out of Yerevan past noon. The air itself was so chilly in the wind that at some point we contemplated turning right to Khor Virap, which would slash our trip, leaving less than a quarter of the planned mileage. However, at the crossroads to Khor Virap we decided to stick to the plan.
Something that I just discovered near Khor Virap is that along the M2 road there are many stork nests built on top of the lightposts. The nests are huge and they look like hats for the wooden posts, and there is a stork standing in almost every one of them—looks awesome! The storks gave me a pleasant flashback to my childhood when they were somehow directly associated with Armenia in my perception, albeit being a child in Yerevan I had never even experienced a real encounter with a stork!
So we rode all the way to Yeraskh, which is of course the standard rest point where we took a Snickers & Bounty candybar break. I was eager to find an ‘extra large’ Snickers instead of the regular size, so we started traversing through all the local stores (which are really just old cargo containers turned into shops by cutting windows and doors into them).
And here we witnessed something extraordinary! There were other tourists taking a break in the area besides us, who I presumed were from Iran and were returning back after celebrating Novruz in Yerevan. Among these were two tan guys in mid twenties in one of the stores where we were looking for the large Snickers, and as all Iranians do in Armenia they were shopping for alcohol. These two in particular were going for some scotch and a bottle of Armenian brandy. While choosing and checking their goods out, they were chatting to the store owner, an old woman in her 70ies. A foreign speech catches anyone’s ear, especially if you are standing within half a meter of the speech source in a long–lost rural area in Armenia, and so I was trying to figure out how could that old woman speak Farsi so fluently, when it suddenly struck me—the speech sounded a lot more like Turkish than Persian! The guys paid for the goods and left, leaving an atmosphere of excitement in the dirty cabin and a sincere melancholic smile on the old woman’s face who obviously didn’t smile that often. I was already pretty shocked, and so I followed:
“Would you give me a large bar of Snickers?” I asked suspiciously.
After a short pause, the old woman replied with a mildly nostalgic voice, “I don’t have the large ones… You can have these, which are smaller…” At this point I realized the woman had a thick Baku accent. She seemed super nice, too.
“So, what’s up with those guys?” I tried to sound casual and careless.
“Ah, young Azerbaijanis… Came to visit from Iran. I used to live in Baku, before coming here… [pause] Still remember the language… not so well.” The woman too sounded suspicious but casual. “Had to check the amount by writing it down on a paper to avoid a mistake…” At this point she kept smiling like a kid who knows he’s done something wrong and yet enjoyed the experience.
“Thanks!” I replied.
I was feeling pretty confused. We walked out of the container and I told Nariné, although she was standing by me all the way:
“Those guys were Azeris…”
Two beautiful retro BMW motorcycles shared by folks in Google Reader looked so gorgeous that I could not resist posting them here.
First is BMW R7, a 1934 concept motorcycle.
Retro curves and round headlights are sexy. No, sportbike riders, you probably don’t get it.
Happy New Year to all of my dear readers!
As 2009 goes into history, it leaves only wonderful positive motorcycling memories. This was my most intense riding season, I put about 9000 kilometers on my odometer and I’m planning to do nothing less in 2010! During the rides there were of course wonderful friends and ridemates to share the joy and the most wonderful places and roads to discover and explore! And of course I blogged a lot!
On this I want to wish us all a very happy, a very exciting and a very passionate 2010. Let’s ride through it on two wheels and be safe, healthy and excited in doing so! Vroom!
Some of my memories from 2009 are in these pictures, and they are clickable too! Muah!
The pictures are also available on my Picasa account for your viewing pleasure!
Motorcycle Accident Cause Factors and Identification of Countermeasures Findings
Throughout the accident and exposure data there are special observations which relate to accident and injury causation and characteristics of the motorcycle accidents studied. These findings are summarized as follows:
- Approximately three-fourths of these motorcycle accidents involved collision with another vehicle, which was most often a passenger automobile.
- Approximately one-fourth of these motorcycle accidents were single vehicle accidents involving the motorcycle colliding with the roadway or some fixed object in the environment.
- Vehicle failure accounted for less than 3% of these motorcycle accidents, and most of those were single vehicle accidents where control was lost due to a puncture flat.
- In single vehicle accidents, motorcycle rider error was present as the accident precipitating factor in about two-thirds of the cases, with the typical error being a slideout and fall due to overbraking or running wide on a curve due to excess speed or under-cornering.
- Roadway defects (pavement ridges, potholes, etc.) were the accident cause in 2% of the accidents; animal involvement was 1% of the accidents.
- In multiple vehicle accidents, the driver of the other vehicle violated the motorcycle right-of-way and caused the accident in two-thirds of those accidents.
- The failure of motorists to detect and recognize motorcycles in traffic is the predominating cause of motorcycle accidents. The driver of the other vehicle involved in collision with the motorcycle did not see the motorcycle before the collision, or did not see the motorcycle until too late to avoid the collision.
- Deliberate hostile action by a motorist against a motorcycle rider is a rare accident cause.
- The most frequent accident configuration is the motorcycle proceeding straight then the automobile makes a left turn in front of the oncoming motorcycle.
- Intersections are the most likely place for the motorcycle accident, with the other vehicle violating the motorcycle right-of-way, and often violating traffic controls.
- Weather is not a factor in 98% of motorcycle accidents.
- Most motorcycle accidents involve a short trip associated with shopping, errands, friends, entertainment or recreation, and the accident is likely to happen in a very short time close to the trip origin.
- The view of the motorcycle or the other vehicle involved in the accident is limited by glare or obstructed by other vehicles in almost half of the multiple vehicle accidents.
- Conspicuity of the motorcycle is a critical factor in the multiple vehicle accidents, and accident involvement is significantly reduced by the use of motorcycle headlamps (on in daylight) and the wearing of high visibility yellow, orange or bright red jackets.
- Fuel system leaks and spills were present in 62% of the motorcycle accidents in the post-crash phase. This represents an undue hazard for fire.
- The median pre-crash speed was 29.8 mph, and the median crash speed was 21.5 mph, and the one-in-a-thousand crash speed is approximately 86 mph.
- The typical motorcycle pre-crash lines-of-sight to the traffic hazard portray no contribution of the limits of peripheral vision; more than three-fourths of all accident hazards are within 45deg of either side of straight ahead.
- Conspicuity of the motorcycle is most critical for the frontal surfaces of the motorcycle and rider.
- Vehicle defects related to accident causation are rare and likely to be due to deficient or defective maintenance.
- Motorcycle riders between the ages of 16 and 24 are significantly overrepresented in accidents; motorcycle riders between the ages of 30 and 50 are significantly underrepresented.
- Although the majority of the accident-involved motorcycle riders are male (96%), the female motorcycles riders are significantly overrepresented in the accident data.
- Craftsmen, laborers, and students comprise most of the accident-involved motorcycle riders. Professionals, sales workers, and craftsmen are underrepresented and laborers, students and unemployed are overrepresented in the accidents.
- Motorcycle riders with previous recent traffic citations and accidents are overrepresented in the accident data.
- The motorcycle riders involved in accidents are essentially without training; 92% were self-taught or learned from family or friends. Motorcycle rider training experience reduces accident involvement and is related to reduced injuries in the event of accidents.
- More than half of the accident-involved motorcycle riders had less than 5 months experience on the accident motorcycle, although the total street riding experience was almost 3 years. Motorcycle riders with dirt bike experience are significantly underrepresented in the accident data.
- Lack of attention to the driving task is a common factor for the motorcyclist in an accident.
- Almost half of the fatal accidents show alcohol involvement.
- Motorcycle riders in these accidents showed significant collision avoidance problems. Most riders would overbrake and skid the rear wheel, and underbrake the front wheel greatly reducing collision avoidance deceleration. The ability to countersteer and swerve was essentially absent.
- The typical motorcycle accident allows the motorcyclist just less than 2 seconds to complete all collision avoidance action.
- Passenger-carrying motorcycles are not overrepresented in the accident area.
- The driver of the other vehicles involved in collision with the motorcycle are not distinguished from other accident populations except that the ages of 20 to 29, and beyond 65 are overrepresented. Also, these drivers are generally unfamiliar with motorcycles.
- Large displacement motorcycles are underrepresented in accidents but they are associated with higher injury severity when involved in accidents.
- Any effect of motorcycle color on accident involvement is not determinable from these data, but is expected to be insignificant because the frontal surfaces are most often presented to the other vehicle involved in the collision.
- Motorcycles equipped with fairings and windshields are underrepresented in accidents, most likely because of the contribution to conspicuity and the association with more experienced and trained riders.
- Motorcycle riders in these accidents were significantly without motorcycle license, without any license, or with license revoked.
- Motorcycle modifications such as those associated with the semi-chopper or cafe racer are definitely overrepresented in accidents.
- The likelihood of injury is extremely high in these motorcycle accidents-98% of the multiple vehicle collisions and 96% of the single vehicle accidents resulted in some kind of injury to the motorcycle rider; 45% resulted in more than a minor injury.
- Half of the injuries to the somatic regions were to the ankle-foot, lower leg, knee, and thigh-upper leg.
- Crash bars are not an effective injury countermeasure; the reduction of injury to the ankle-foot is balanced by increase of injury to the thigh-upper leg, knee, and lower leg.
- The use of heavy boots, jacket, gloves, etc., is effective in preventing or reducing abrasions and lacerations, which are frequent but rarely severe injuries.
- Groin injuries were sustained by the motorcyclist in at least 13% of the accidents, which typified by multiple vehicle collision in frontal impact at higher than average speed.
- Injury severity increases with speed, alcohol involvement and motorcycle size.
- Seventy-three percent of the accident-involved motorcycle riders used no eye protection, and it is likely that the wind on the unprotected eyes contributed in impairment of vision which delayed hazard detection.
- Approximately 50% of the motorcycle riders in traffic were using safety helmets but only 40% of the accident-involved motorcycle riders were wearing helmets at the time of the accident.
- Voluntary safety helmet use by those accident-involved motorcycle riders was lowest for untrained, uneducated, young motorcycle riders on hot days and short trips.
- The most deadly injuries to the accident victims were injuries to the chest and head.
- The use of the safety helmet is the single critical factor in the prevention of reduction of head injury; the safety helmet which complies with FMVSS 218 is a significantly effective injury countermeasure.
- Safety helmet use caused no attenuation of critical traffic sounds, no limitation of precrash visual field, and no fatigue or loss of attention; no element of accident causation was related to helmet use.
- FMVSS 218 provides a high level of protection in traffic accidents, and needs modification only to increase coverage at the back of the head and demonstrate impact protection of the front of full facial coverage helmets, and insure all adult sizes for traffic use are covered by the standard.
- Helmeted riders and passengers showed significantly lower head and neck injury for all types of injury, at all levels of injury severity.
- The increased coverage of the full facial coverage helmet increases protection, and significantly reduces face injuries.
- There is no liability for neck injury by wearing a safety helmet; helmeted riders had less neck injuries than unhelmeted riders. Only four minor injuries were attributable to helmet use, and in each case the helmet prevented possible critical or fatal head injury.
- Sixty percent of the motorcyclists were not wearing safety helmets at the time of the accident. Of this group, 26% said they did not wear helmets because they were uncomfortable and inconvenient, and 53% simply had no expectation of accident involvement.
- Valid motorcycle exposure data can be obtained only from collection at the traffic site. Motor vehicle or driver license data presents information which is completely unrelated to actual use.
- Less than 10% of the motorcycle riders involved in these accidents had insurance of any kind to provide medical care or replace property.
The actual report is several hundred pages, so head over to the Motorcycle Misadventures to find out information on how to order it.
There are many interesting points in the list, and I am planning to discuss some of these in a followup post, so stay tuned!