Ride a motorcycle and you're five times as likely to get hurt in a traffic accident as your buddy who drives a car. Ride a motorcycle and you're 30 times as likely as a passenger car occupant to die in an accident (over an equivalent number of miles traveled). These are the findings of a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report on vehicle safety, which points out that even if injuries from motorcycle-related accidents are on the decline, bikes still remain one of the more dangerous means of transportation around.
(We're still awaiting confirmation of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention follow-up report that the NHTSA study sparked an increase in the frequency of heart attacks among mothers of boys who insist on riding motorcycles.)
Careful riding habits can improve your odds of avoiding or surviving a crash. But given the statistics, it's important for bikers to control every variable they can. That all starts with making sure the machine you're riding on is safe in the first place. Here's our 2013 rundown of the three biggest motorcycle recalls of the year:
In August, NHTSA announced a recall of up to 11,097 2013 Kawasaki Ninja 300 and 300 ABS motorcycles manufactured between July 16, 2012, and April 27, 2013. According to the agency, "an improper setting in the Electronic Control Unit" could cause the motorcycle to stall when decelerating, increasing the risk of a crash.
Smaller in scale -- but bigger in significance for a company that's trying to relaunch the Indian brand -- was the August recall of some 861 Indian 2009 Deluxe and Standard motorcycles, 2009-2011 Roadmasters, 2009-2013 Vintages, 2010 Bombers, 2010-2013 Classics and Dark Horses, and 2011 Blackhawk Dark and Blackhawk models. Polaris Industries' (NYSE:PII) Indian Motorcycles division recalled 'em all in September.
NHTSA warned of potential problems with the rear rims on certain Indian Motorcycles bikes, which "may crack and cause a loss of air pressure." The anticipated number of recalls was small, but citing difficulty in identifying which specific bikes might be affected by the defect, Indian urged owners of all bikes from the model years cited to bring them into the shop for examination and, if necessary, repair.
Finally, the big recall story of the year was Harley-Davidson's (NYSE:HOG) October surprise announcement that 29,000 model-year 2014 motorcycles may have a problem with their hydraulic clutch systems. The recall encompasses 25,185 Touring motorcycles and 3,861 Softail Custom Vehicle Operations and Trikes built between May 3 and Oct. 14, 2013.
As the company explained: "Some of these motorcycles may exhibit a condition in which the hydraulic clutch system may lose the ability to generate enough lift to disengage the clutch," making it difficult to slow or stop the vehicle, and potentially causing an accident. The company issued an official "Do Not Deliver" notice to its dealers, and told owners "Do Not Ride" -- promising to pick up the bikes and deliver them to the dealers for inspection and repair, at no cost to owners.
Now that's what we call service.