While some of the danger involved in riding motorcycles can be attributed to poor driving skills or intoxication, there are facts that do not lend themselves to interpretation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) noted that during its last review of data in 2012, motorcycle fatalities increased over 7 percent, while states without helmet laws showed ten times more fatalities than those that mandated helmet use when riding a bike.
About 15 percent of all highway deaths were from motorcyle riders, making motorcycle riders around 30 times more at risk than car and truck drivers — and about 50 percent of bike crashes involved no other vehicles. Clearly, motorcycle riders’ biggest enemies are themselves. To the end of reducing the number of motorcycle injuries and fatalities, there are bikes that make safety features a priority. Here are seven models that aim to keep riders safe with innovative equipment.
1. Victory Cross Roads 8-Ball ($15,999)
The good-looking Cross Roads 8-Ball is more than just a pretty bike from Victory. Featuring a 26.3-inch seat height that is the lowest in the 1740cc class, the bike allows riders to maintain control of it at low speeds or sitting at stoplights. That low height also makes it easy for riders of any height to keep their feet in place. In a vehicle type that is all about balance, riders can find huge safety benefits from the 8-Ball.
Victory’s Cross Roads 8-Ball delivers 4.7 inches of travel in its rear suspension system as well. This feature provides a smoother ride over banged-up roads when you don’t want to lose focus or control of the vehicle.
2. Ducati Multistrada D-Air (N/A)
If you’re looking for the very latest in motorcycle safety technology, the Ducati Multistrada D-Air of May 2014 has set the bar high. It features a Dainese airbag jacket that wirelessly senses the movements of the bike so that the airbag will deploy in case of crash. It is the first of its kind to use wireless technology for this advanced safety feature.
When a “genuine accident is detected,” the airbag will deploy in 45 milliseconds or less. There’s no danger that can hit riders faster than this speed. Unfortunately, the Ducati Multistrada with the airbag jacket included is available only in Europe in its first production run.
3. 2014 V Star 250 ($4,390)
In the case of a blistering Ducati or big-engine Victory, the power of the motorcycle itself creates part of the danger riders need to confront. Another way of finding greater safety on a bike is opting for a smaller engine and smoother torque output, especially when the bike in question is the first in a rider’s life.
Yamaha offers some lightweight, efficient bikes in its Star line that are ideal for beginners still getting the hang of two-wheelers. In the 2014 C Star 250, riders aren’t getting a monster that will gun past Corvettes on the highway. Instead, they’re getting a smooth ride with front disc brakes and a seat height of just 27 inches. This bike won’t get you in a lot of trouble with the proper amount of rider education.
4. Harley-Davidson Road King ($18,249)
Harely-Davidson went into Project RUSHMORE with the idea it would improve the riding experience on every level. To tackle the safety quotient on its bikes, H-D developed the Reflex Linked Brakes with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) available in the Road King. Electronic linking provides the right amount of brake to whatever wheel needs it the most.
Additional safety technology in the Road King includes the dual halogen headlamps and fog lights, brighter turn signals and brake lights, and more responsive steering controls.
5. 2014 Honda Interstate with ABS ($14,240)
In Honda’s lineup of touring bikes, long-distance safety features get their due in the 2014 Interstate with ABS. Recent tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have proven that bikers with ABS on their rides were 37 percent less likely to be involved in fatal motorcycle crashes. For the added investment of $1,000 on a 2014 Honda Interstate, the ABS is well worth the money.
The front and rear disc brakes comes standard with the 1312cc V-Twin engine, but the ABS option is a must when safety is your top priority.
6. Indian Chief Vintage ($20,999)
Many bike manufacturers offer base models without quality safety equipment, forcing riders to see the price balloon by the time quality safety technology becomes part of the package. In the case of the Indian Chief Vintage, plenty of high-tech safety options come standard.
It starts with the ABS that’s included in every factory Indian Chief Vintage. Vaulting down the open road with 119 lb-ft of torque may present dangers, but riders will have the advantage of dual brakes up front with four-piston caliper and floating rotor, plus single-disc brakes brakes in the back. The detachable Lexan windshield (also standard) protects riders from dirt and debris that may cloud your vision on a day of touring.
7. 2014 Suzuki V-Strom 650 ABS Adventure ($10,049)
Once Suzuki began equipping its V-Strom 650 with an anti-lock braking system, the bike has proven to be the top seller in its class. Sporting a 645cc V-Twin engine with quality low-rpm performance, the bike is as easy to ride as it is to stop, but the stopping part is where its finest safety features reside.
The 2014 V-Strom 650 Adventure delivers a lightweight, compact ABS with a five-way adjustable front forks and 5.9 inches of travel. Dual 310mm disc brakes up front and a sinlge 260mm disc brake in the back are the keys to stopping. Its adjustable standard windshield can be used at three different heights, while a twin-spar aluminum frame increase stability at higher speeds. The 2014 V-Strom 650 offers high safety specs in an affordable package.