SkidBike Demo – Las Vegas, NV: April 10 & 11, 2013*
Sgt. Ryan Dorrheim – Fargo Police Department

*Note: This review was written for the original, single-carriage SKIDBIKE prototype.  For current information on the new, dual-carriage design, please visit the “How It Works” page.

SKIDBIKE Testimonial from the Debut of the SKIDBIKE in Las VegasBefore I start discussing this product demo, I want to express my gratitude to the North Dakota Department of Transportation – Traffic Safety division for giving me the opportunity to partake in this event.  I also want to thank my employer, the City of Fargo Police Department, for the investment of their time for me to attend the SkidBike unveiling.  Lastly, great thanks and praise to the Cedergrens, SkidBike, SkidBike employees and the wonderful contacts I met who made me feel like family and listened to the feedback I provided.

SKIDBIKE is debuted in Las Vegas, by SKIDCAR SYSTEMS, INC.From the developers of SkidCar and SkidTruck, a device used to safely teach drivers vehicle limitations on surfaces where the coefficient of friction is lowered, comes their latest safety training product called SkidBike.  Similar in training concept as SkidCar, SkidBike is a device applied to a motorcycle which can maximize or reduce the coefficient of friction between the front tire and the surface of the pavement.  Why would anyone want to reduce the amount of “grip” on the front tire of the motorcycle? And on top of it, call it a safer training device for improved riding skills?  Before I get into answering these questions, we must first need to look at why motorcycle operators get hurt in the first place.  I do not plan incorporating statistics in this report, but I will speak from my training and knowledge on the subject matter.

Along with motorcycle operators riding well outside of their capabilities in a careless manner, poor surface appraisal, and not scanning what’s ahead, some of the main reasons operators crash (and ultimately get injured or killed) is from improper braking and improper steering.  In a panic situation, an rider may grab and over-brake a front tire causing it to skid.  At this point, the operator has about 0.4 seconds to decide what to do before seeing a change in horizon and meeting the pavement… sliding to their next collision with what they wanted to avoid in the first place.  The same is true for poor surface appraisal (which I have been guilty of) and entering into a lean/turn on slick pavement with too much speed. Or, over-braking (either rear brake or trailing too much front brake) while in a lean/turn which causes a tire to lock and forces the operator to either correct their mistake or prepare for the impending impact with the ground (and hopefully slide to impact nothing else).  In other panic situations, operators have been known to revert back to their 4-wheeled steering practices of ” turning right to go right,” which inadvertantly can steer a 2-wheeled vehicle directly into the object they’re trying to avoid.

SKIDBIKE is debuted in Las Vegas, by SKIDCAR SYSTEMS, INC.“IT’S ABOUT GRIP, NOT SLIP”®, was the slogan I saw printed on these odd looking wings extending off each side of this black Honda CRF250L dual-sport motorcycle.  My training in crash reconstruction, experience investigating crashes and experience as a trained motorcycle operator had me instantly agreeing with SkidBike’s choice of slogan (which can also be applied to SkidCar).  Without proper control and grip (where the rubber meets the road), a driver/operator is mixing a recipe for disaster. Without training, how is the driver/operator supposed to react?

To get a driver’s license to operate my family car, I studied a book  and completed  a written exam to get a Learners Permit.  I practiced driving with an experienced driver.  I was lucky to have a father who let me drive on a frozen lake – steering and stopping on ice.  I passed my driving exam and obtained my license… only to skid past the right turn to my grandparents’ lake cabin as my parents let me drive to a winter family gathering.  The point of this story is many driver/operators read a book, practice a little, receive some coaching, pass a test with the hope they react correctly when faced with some form of situation.  I agree experience is the best teacher.  I understand and have experienced the concept of “failing forward.”  But in some real world situations, experience isn’t the safest teacher!

SKIDBIKE is debuted in Las Vegas, by SKIDCAR SYSTEMS, INC.So, why would anyone want to reduce the amount of “grip” on the front tire of the motorcycle? And on top of it, call it a safer training device for improved riding skills?  Simple,  SkidBike allows the operator to experience a front tire lock from over-braking at much slower speeds in a safer environment with little risk.  A Rider Coach then can give some verbal correction and the motorcycle operator can return to practice a proper braking technique – feeling a weight transfer on the motorcycle and achieving threshold braking to stop the bike as safe as possible.  SkidBike takes it further than just straight-line braking skill building, and applies its’ technology to braking in turns, and riding with a lowered coefficient of friction (rubber meeting the road) in turns.

Besides interacting with the staff from SkidBike, I talked and listened to the other test riders at this unveiling.  Skill levels ranged from MSF/ABATE Instructors, Police Motorcycle Trained, Professional Sport Bike Operators to Novice and, “I’ve never been on a motorcycle before.”  I spent just over 25 minutes on my test ride and the remaining 8 1/2 hrs watching, listening, talking, debating, taking pictures, shooting video and discussing the potential applications for this well engineered training tool.  I was asked by the NDDOT to take a serious look at SkidBike and provide them my evaluation with certain questions in mind.

  • Cost – The projected cost for the training device should be around $16,000 to $18,000.  Granted this does exclude the motorcycle, it does include the SkidBike device, installation of the device and training (like a train-the-trainer) to make sure the device is being used properly and correct coaching is given to motorcycle student.
  • Liability – The Company stands behind their product and manufacturing.  Much like their SkidCar, the SkidBike device needs to be used, applied and maintained appropriately.  Proper safety gear must be worn by the operator.  Proper training and instruction needs to be given and monitored by the trained Rider Coaches.  Just as the MSF/ABATE classes presently being held in North Dakota, which includes the riding of actual riding of motorcycles on coned courses, there is always a risk of being liable in case of a crash, injury or death.
  • This may be my own opinion, but I watched two individuals who were absolutely scared to ride motorcycles (and have never operated one before), receive some quality coaching on the SkidBike motorcycle and were riding quite comfortably within 20-25 minutes.  They were practicing braking, clutch use, shifting.  The key to the SkidBike application is it allows the bike to lean without tipping all the way over.  The wings pretty much act like training wheels.  The lean angles can be adjusted… probably best to suit the experience of the operator.  Given staff never said this to me, it would almost seem like teaching a brand-new rider skills on a SkidBike device would be much safer than without the device (which is how I learned… not without a few falls though).
  • Would there be application to add SkidBike to the ND Motorcycle Safety Program?  Yes, without a doubt.  This entire report is written in my personal opinion.  I am not a salesman and I don’t work for SkidBike.  What I have seen combined with what I experienced operating the motorcycle during this demo is where I am drawing my own conclusions.  Giving a student, a citizen of North Dakota, the opportunity to truly, safely, learn from their mistake in a controlled environment could potentially save a life.  Some State and Local Governments, along with private businesses, have already implemented driver education (almost like “Behind the Wheel”) with the use of the SkidCar & SkidTruck.  I see a similar opportunity with the SkidBike when it comes to the present MSF Classes being held in the State.
  • Pros & Cons – I seemed to have talked enough about the pros.  So, what are the cons?  About the only thing I experienced, going into this demo as an trained experienced rider, was finding it a bit difficult to get beyond taking corrective action to actually feel and experience a front tire lock on a motorcycle (I kept wanting to properly re-apply the front brake).  But after I got used to the fact I didn’t have to go fast to experience a tire lock from over-braking, I slowed down and quickly realized the training lessons which could be achieved.  The operator has the ability to raise and lower the coefficient of friction, but I am banking it should be under the supervision of the Rider Coach.  Although the device is a complete BLAST to ride, it is NOT a toy!  Granted it is still possible for the operator to separate from the motorcycle even though the bike doesn’t actually crash, consideration should be given that a student rider could potentially experience a fall – but at much slower speeds.  I should mention, during my demo, at no point did I separate from the motorcycle during, what would have been, a crash. My speeds varied from 5 to 25 MPH.

I will provide the videos and pictures from this demo with this report along with some information provided by SkidBike. Airbag-Equipped Motorcycle Vests & JacketsDuring this demo, I was also introduced to another safety product which adds an entirely different level of safety for ANY motorcycle operator, horseback rider, ATV enthusiast, snowmobiler and probably a number of other activities where a risk of a neck & core injury could be mitigated.  The product was called “HIT AIR.”  We had to wear the product during the demo and the CEO of the company, Alan Cunningham (also one of the SkidBike demo riders like me) provided a demonstration of his device which has been used by the Japanese Police Force for over 18 years. To be brief, it is a lightweight vest which is lined with an airbag triggered to inflate if the operator separates from the motorcycle to restrict neck movement and provide a cushion of air between the body’s vital core and whatever objects,(including the pavement) your body is about to impact.  At a cost of about $400, this product is reusable and is charged by a specially engineered CO2 cartridge which is also replaceable and inexpensive – additional CO2 cartridges can be easily purchased through their website.  For more information regarding HIT AIR vests, please explore:   Remember, you “The Rider” are NOT replaceable.  Safety should always be first.