Opinion: Sacrificing safety for style

Dustin's current collection.

The motorcycle aftermarket is a thriving global enterprise. I’d hazard a guess that most riders will somehow personalize their motorcycle in some way over the course of its lifespan to improve performance, comfort or aesthetics. I’ve done something to every bike I’ve owned over the years. Taste is a subjective thing, but sometimes these modifications can negatively impact your safety or increase your chances of getting a ticket.

Since purchasing my Thruxton 1200 R last summer, I’ve slowly been chipping away at some modifications that make it mine. Swapping the stock pipes for a set of smaller Vance and Hines brushed stainless steel slip-ons shed a significant amount of weight and added a nice deep, rumble but they aren’t loud enough to be illegal or obnoxious. You may recall about my experience getting pulled over by Toronto’s finest last summer who had a group of friendly bylaw officers check the noise levels of the Kawasaki Z H2 I was riding. As nice as they were, I didn’t want to make a habit of it.

Friendly Toronto bylaw officers do a sound reading of the 2020 Kawasaki Z H2 while Dustin awaits his fate.

Next on the agenda was a fender eliminator kit. The Thruxton is a gorgeous motorcycle, but the massive rear fender adorned with large, bulbous lights and a plethora of reflectors had to go. I searched long and hard for a solution that would be high in quality but more importantly, not impede the ability of motorists to see my taillight and turn signals. This is somewhat of a sketchy grey area within the aftermarket, with some providers offering products that don’t just bend the rules, they flat out break them. I was riding in a large formation behind a friend last summer who was has a fully kitted-out Softail. The problem is – I couldn’t tell when he was using his brake light or turn signals, so every movement came as a surprise. Riding behind him was exhausting because I had to be extra diligent in following his every move. Other motorists likely won’t pay as much attention which could land him in trouble one day.

Not nearly as big, but at least the tail tidy Dustin chose is bright.

When I started riding, I decked myself out in brightly coloured riding gear to be as visible as possible, but as time goes on, I’ve started gravitating towards dark charcoal and black. Maybe I’ve gotten cocky or perhaps I’m just jaded. The majority of motorists on the road can’t even be bothered to look up from their phones let alone check their mirrors or blind spots, so I’ve learned to simply ride like I’m invisible but even I have my limits.

The tail tidy kit I purchased from Analog Motor Goods is bright enough to be visible day or night and also incorporates a license plate bracket that is prominently displayed and well lit. I’ve got enough speeding tickets and infractions on my record, the last thing I need is another reason to be pulled over. I see a lot of riders taking liberties with the placement of their plates. In fact, the previous owner of the Yamaha R6 I bought myself last summer removed the rear plate in favour of a sketchy bracket under the tail that can hardly be seen even if you’re looking for it. It didn’t matter to me personally because I only plan on using the bike for lapping days, so I removed the bracket completely. If I was riding it on the street, I’d find a safer solution.

Specific details regarding proper placement within the Highway Traffic Act are somewhat vague and open to interpretation. “Every number plate shall be kept free from dirt and obstruction and shall be affixed so that the entire number plate, including the numbers, is plainly visible at all times, and the view of the number plate shall not be obscured or obstructed by spare tires, bumper bars, any part of the vehicle, any attachments to the vehicle…” You may think it would be easy to argue your case, but get a testy Police officer having a bad day and they could take numerous courses of action that won’t be in your favour. The Hamilton Police officer who tackled a rider sitting at a stoplight last summer justified his actions by saying it was because the bike’s license plate wasn’t visible. Reasonable? No. But, it still happened.

I’m all for shedding weight and reducing drag while improving the overall look of your bike, but it’s probably a good idea to stay relatively within the boundaries of the laws relating to motor vehicles, however ridiculous they may seem at times. Regardless of how visible we are, there will still be motorists who won’t see us, but we can at least try to make it easier for them.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Many Suzuki’s have signal lights that have no reflector inside the housing. I noticed my friends signal lights were hardly visible during the day. I modified both my Suzuki’s to make them much brighter. I find it hard to believe the stock ones meet federal requirements.

  2. From a design point of view, I’m no fan of the bulbous brake and turn signals Triumph chooses to stick on the majority of its models, no matter how low or high they are in price. I understand that standardizing such components saves money in engineering and production, but it puzzles me that they devote such time and attention to ensuring a “classic look” only to let down the overall effect with “parts bin” indicators and brake lights. I was considering a non-current BMW R nine T Racer that the dealership had done a tail tidy to. For me, the updating struck me as a little too modern looking for this style of bike and tucked the licence plate so far under the tail as to render it practically invisible. When I asked the salesperson if this wouldn’t draw attention from the local constabulary, his reply was that many of his customers were police officers who drove bikes with similar modifications. Surely there must be a happy medium out there…

  3. Excellent points. I just cannot fathom someone taking a motorcycle, which is already conidered difficult to see by motorists, and making it even harder to see by putting those short, tiny indicators on it. Its unsafe, and a violation of the safety standards. Indicators must be spaced far enough apart that theyare easily distinguished from the head our tail light.i had this debate with a customer when I worked the service counter at a dealership. He brought a sportbike in for a safety inspection and the mechanic failed it over aftermarket indicators. The customer was livid. He took it somewhere else and they passed it.

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