Allstate Motorcycle Insurance – Loud pipes are all the safety equipment you need.


Featured prominently in the February 2012 American Motorcyclist is a full page ad for Allstate Insurance that depicts one of the worst characterizations of motorcycle safety I’ve ever seen in the magazine.

Before I get to their ad, first a little history on Allstate and their support of the motorcycling community. According to the October 2001 issue of American Motorcyclist, Allstate was one of the insurance companies that was blacklisting certain high performance motorcycles because apparently they were terribly unsafe. The list of motorcycles they blacklisted showed they had no clue about motorcycles, and even if the concept of not insuring certain motorcycles because they were “unsafe” was valid, they missed the mark when they targeted certain motorcycles.

For example, they banned every motorcycle made by Moto Guzzi, and Ducati. Were they racist against Italians or what? Sure Ducati has a reputation of making some great sportbikes, but they also make adventure bikes and sport touring bikes. Those two classifications generally get good insurance rates, because it’s an older, more experienced, and safer group of riders that own them. I’d also venture to say from my observation over the years that adventure riders and sport touring riders are the ones you’ll most likely find wearing all the gear, all the time.

And that brings me to the ad in this month’s magazine. For a company that has a huge financial stake in promoting safe motorcycling to send out this image is not only bad business for them, but it sends out an entirely wrong message to the public. They’re basically telling motorcyclists that you don’t need to do anything to protect yourself, because when you crash, we’ll be there to pick up the pieces.

So just like when I was a kid and I played “Find what’s wrong with this picture”, I got out my virtual crayons and highlighted the most glaring things that make anyone who is interested in motorcycle safety and presenting a good image for motorcyclists cringe. (click on the ad to see my comments)

Riding Gear

Rider’s have a responsibility to reduce their own risk. Why should my insurance premiums pay for treatment of head injuries, broken bones and road rash that could have been prevented by wearing the proper safety gear?

  • Helmet – The rider is wearing what is probably the unsafest legal helmet. While the model of helmet depicted is probably a legal model, it is a small step above the illegal helmets that the Harley crowd favors. It is a huge step down from a full face helmet that has a chin bar that actually protects your face when it meets the pavement or the side door of an SUV.
  • Allstate Motorcycle Insurance adJacket – A leather jacket or a nylon jacket with armor would be preferred to protect against road rash should he have an accident. Armored padding protects bones during a fall.
  • Pants – Same story as the jacket. Jeans protect very little.
  • Gloves – Why would you not even wear gloves? Aside from giving some relief for vibration (which I’m sure that machine has), after the helmet, they are perhaps the most important and commonly worn protective gear.

Motorcycle Equipment

Let me just say, I think cruisers are a joke in the first place. To hamper performance, comfort, handling, and braking performance so you can look cool is just stupid.

  • Ape Hanger Handlebars – There’s a reason they’re illegal in some states and it’s because they have a very bad effect on handling. Of course the whole layout of that bike means any accident avoidance is going to be limited to yelling “Oh, Shit!”.
  • Turn Signals – I’ve seen Harley riders with no turn signals on their bikes. Apparently it’s much cooler to take your hands off the handle bars and do those nifty hand signals. Love it when it’s the passengers job to be the signaler.
  • Headlight – I’ve been riding for over 30 years and ever since I started it’s been the law that motorcycles must run with daytime headlights. But this guy is saying he’s extra cool, he’s not a safetycrat, he doesn’t need some government official telling him how to protect himself so he went to the trouble to disable his headlight.
  • Front Fender – Fenders are required so that tires don’t kick up rocks, or spray you with water. Seeing as this guy is riding with a bare face and bare hands, you’d think maybe he’d want a fender. Also on many bikes the front fender is needed to provide stability to the forks. But being cool is better than having a safe and better handling bike, so let’s remove it.
  • Brakes – Other than most dirt bikes and the smallest economy beginner bikes, most bikes built these days have two front disc brakes for better stopping power. Depending on the bike style, 80% to 100% of the stopping power comes from the front brake(s). Maybe he didn’t want to overwhelm the minimal traction that stylish but skinny front tire could provide.
  • Loud Pipes – Everyone knows that if you install illegal and obnoxiously loud open pipes on your bike, you don’t need all that other safety equipment. For some unknown reason, loud pipes envelope you like some impervious “Star Trek” field force that protects you from texting teens in SUVs, oily spots on the road, and suicidal birds. The fact that everyone stops what they’re doing and looks at you is just an extra bonus.


What a piece of crock! They don’t want me riding a bike that has massive acceleration to get out of someone’s way, a bike that has quick handling to swerve out of harm’s way, or just not get me in trouble in the first place, and they don’t want me riding a motorcycle that has brakes strong enough to jolt your eyeballs out of their sockets, but they’re totally fine with the image in this ad? I’m sorry, but I won’t be doing business with Allstate. Ever!

Windy Ridge

Yesterday was a beautiful day in Ferndale, so location scouting was as much of an excuse as I needed to get the KLR650 out of the garage and load it up with camera gear. Last month on our hike to Punta Gorda, I was regretting that I had left my polarizers in one of my other camera bags, so I thought I’d make a return trip out there. I also wanted to explore Prosper Ridge Road and Windy Point Road a bit to see how close they would get one to the light house.

Prosper Ridge Road is a fairly smooth gravel road, the kind of road I ride the KLR on a lot. But turning off onto the unmarked Windy Point Road I wasn’t sure if it was the road or a private ranch road. Shortly after turning off I passed a sign saying 4 wheel drive only. The good news was that it was a public road. The bad news was that my ride was about to get more difficult. The road became a deeply rutted two track with lots of loose rocks, and then I could see that it dropped sharply down the hill.

I debated trying this while riding by myself, but it’s always easier to proceed down than try to turn around in such situations, so I slowly picked my way down. I figured this was why I traveled with a SPOT. I finally arrived at the parking area at the bottom of the hill and peeled out of my now sweat soaked jacket.

First let me say there is a reason they call this area Windy Point. It truly lived up to its billing, and each time I parked the KLR I had to make sure it wasn’t going to get toppled in the wind. I think that alone rules out this area for photoshoots. Been out in this area twice and both times the wind has made it hard to stand at times. That doesn’t make for successful photoshoots. So as pretty as this area is, I’m crossing it off the list.

But there are other reasons to come out here. The views are just stupendous. Even on an evening with no clouds and an offshore fog bank ruining the sunset, it was still gorgeous as the land shows little effect from man’s settlement. It was also interesting to see how much the rocky shoreline had changed in the few weeks from my last visit.

My first visit I noticed several of the tidal rocks covered with a bright green mossy looking growth. But this trip I realized that the growth was the beginning of the summer crop of algae, and it had turned to a much less photogenic shade of brown. The areas of the rocks that weren’t covered with aglae, were densely packed with mussels. It was hard to find areas to walk through the tide pools without crunching them.

Since the sunset wasn’t much I packed up a bit early and headed back up the beach to where the KLR was parked. By the time I left the parking lot it was getting dark and I rode through a violent bug storm, the likes I haven’t seen since my last visit to Teluride. Taking advantage of this wealth of flying food, birds were swooping in from left and right, not realizing that the reason they could so easily spot the bugs was that they were being illuminated by a fast approaching dual sport motorcycle. The first hit came from the front on the helmet. A minute later I felt the second strike on the side of the helmet even though I tried desperately to dodge the incoming. Another minute went by and a third bird got more than it bargained for, bouncing off of my Kilimanjaro jacket.

Once I got back to Mattole Road the bombardment halted. But that wasn’t the end of the animal threats for the night. Just as I got back to the coastline section, the feeble KLR headlight (on high beam even) gave me a split second warning that two cows were out for their nightly jog down the middle of the road. Just after I got my breath back from that one a rabbit darted out from the left but wisely decided to retreat before he became less three dimensional. After I started the climb back up I had a raccoon pull the same stunt. Shortly after that the wind started really picking up and it was a race to see if I could beat the fog rolling in.

I soon lost that contest and found that a curvy bumpy road at night in the fog with a terrible headlight will decrease your fun and speed. Especially when you encounter a large owl trying to take off in your path but the wind is preventing an efficient departure. A lucky duck from me saved an otherwise unlucky owl. Of course the ride couldn’t have been complete without an appearance from Bambi, but at least she had her self preservation in mind and she quickly scurried off in the right direction.

By the time I started down the Wildcat into Ferndale it was so drippy I had to have my visor open to be able to see anything. But I did make it home safely despite everything that nature tossed in front of me.