5 (Mostly) Educated Predictions on the Motorcycle Trends

Summertime’s in full swing, which means highways are packed with the (unofficial) vehicles of the season: motorcycles.

To help celebrate motorcycle season and our recent motorcycle insurance launch in Wisconsin, here are 5 predictions to give you an idea of the mostly realistic (and only occasionally outlandish) motorcycle trends that could be on the horizon.

1. Women will soon top 10 percent membership in the AMA.

You probably already know — given just about every pop-culture representation of motorcycling ever — that the world of motorcycles has largely always been a boys’ club.

But that could all be changing. According to CBS News, the number of female riders in the U.S. is steadily increasing. Today, roughly 1 in every 10 motorcycle owners is a woman.

Women still comprise fewer than 10 percent of the American Motorcycling Association (AMA). But with improving motorcycle technology, broadening training opportunities, and increasing encouragement to ride, there’s no reason to think women won’t wheelie their way through that chrome ceiling very soon.

2. Indian motorcycles will return to glory.

Ask someone to name the most iconic motorcycle and you hear “Harley Davidson.” But ask someone else, someone older, and you just might hear another answer: “Indian.”

For the first half of the twentieth century, Indian was the Pepsi to Harley Davidson’s Coke — the only real competition for a market giant, one that (possibly) made a superior product. Indian motorcycles were known worldwide for their engineering excellence, sporting the first-ever electric starters and 4-cylinder engines.

Then the ‘50s happened, management changed hands, bikes stopped being made, bankruptcy ensued … these things happen. But now, Indian is back! Polaris has recently acquired the famous bike line, and behind the luster of the brand-new Thunder Stroke 111 engine (a bit bigger than Harley’s top motor, of course), they plan to make a splash. With its nostalgic appeal and 115 lb-ft of torque, I believe the new Indian will make a smooth arrival.

3. Your kids will learn to ride from your parents.

Motorcycling used to be a young person’s game. But from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s, we saw a major shift in demographic-based motorcycle trends. The average age of motorcycle owners went from 27 to 41, and the percentage of riders over the age of 50 skyrocketed from 8 percent to 25 percent!

So, while you probably had high hopes for teaching your own kids how to ride their first chopper once they got old enough, it appears it’s going to be your parents — James Dean-style coif firmly Brylcreemed into place, aviator shades bifocaled for safety — who will have first dibs.

4. You’re about to enter a period of great prosperity.

To answer your question, yes, this is the time when I jump from measured, logical predictions on motorcycle trends to straight-up imitations of the last fortune cookie I opened. But it feels kinda good, right?

According to Popular Mechanics, the engine size on a new line of bikes may be an indicator of how strong a motorcycle company feels the market is. More moderate bikes might indicate a slowed economy, while powerful, excessive models might signal a financial boom.

Needless to say, if you buy into this vague, yet beautifully unproven theory, then the recent release of Honda’s sporty 471cc trio can only mean one thing: cash out your 401k for those cheekbone implants you’ve always wanted!* You’ve got money to burn, baby!**

*Don’t ever do this.      
**No, you don’t.

5. Baggers will reign supreme (and the family road trip will go extinct).

Perhaps no style of motorcycle is hotter right now than baggers. Baggers are large, cruiser bikes that come from the factory with saddlebags installed. They’ve been a huge success because of their convenience (giving bikers unprecedented storage space) and adaptability (riders can customize saddlebags to fit their personality).

As for the second half of this prediction … well … who can resist trading in the family SUV for a much more fuel-efficient bagger? The chance to save money AND deafen your child’s cries of “Are we there yet?” with blistering 70-mph winds is too tough to pass up. I give it about 10 years before we’re all kick-starting our way to Grandma’s house.

Can Meditation Make You a Better Driver?

More than 2,000 years ago, the Buddha sat under the shade of the Bodhi Tree, closed his eyes, and meditated to reach enlightenment.

The jury’s still out on whether meditation can lead us to bliss. But we do know that meditating can enhance our immune systems, strengthen the connection between brain cells, and even improve test scores. Which begs the question: If it can do all of these things, can meditation make you a better driver too?

No studies exist on the subject (ahem, researchers), but a convincing argument could be made for meditation’s ability to turn us into better drivers. Here’s how.

Meditation can relieve stress

Traffic, other drivers, and road hazards can make even the most mild-tempered among us flash with frustration. (Admit it: you’ve raged, raged against the dying of the green light before.)

Turns out, though, that a little bit of “om” can help you say “ahhh.” Adding to the body of research on meditation’s stress-relieving powers, a new study from the University of California at Davis shows that meditation is associated with lower stress hormone (cortisol) levels.

And lower levels of stress can translate into a calmer, more collected you capable of handling the aggravations of the road — which can potentially lower instances of road rage. (As a perk, avoiding road rage can also keep insurance rates low.)

Meditation can help you stay focused

The University of California at Santa Barbara recently found that meditation can improve attention, memory, and GRE scores. Students who participated in a 2-week mindfulness training course showed higher reading-comprehension scores, better working memory, and reduced instances of mind wandering.

Of course, better test scores might not make you a better driver. But the ability to focus on the task at hand and avoid distractions (like texting, tweeting, and eating) will.

And hey, focused driving can mean fewer car accidents and lower insurance rates.

Zen for the road

Even if you don’t meditate, it can be easy to bring peace and focus into your driving life. Sometimes, all it takes is a few simple reminders.

On that note, we leave you with some driving mantras to take on the road. Peace out.


Do You Know Your Curb Colors?

Have you ever pulled up to a colored curb and wondered, Wait, can I park here? Depending on where you live, you might see a variety of curb colors indicating where you’re allowed to park and under what conditions.

In New York City alone, for example, 9.3 million parking tickets were paid out in 2011 at an average of $79.27 per ticket — and that’s not including towing fees. In California, parking in a spot reserved for the disabled will run you $976, a figure that nearly doubles on the second offense.

With that in mind, knowing how to recognize parking zones is a crucial survival skill for city slickers and suburbanites alike. And although these colors aren’t standardized between states, or even cities, we’ve got you covered. Here’s what you need to know.

No national curb color standards

While the Federal Highway Administration does not have any universal curb color standards, it does make some general recommendations in the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices.

One thing the Manual suggests is not relying solely on curb colors in areas where snow is likely to bury the curb. Rather, they suggest relying on signs:

Where curbs are marked to convey parking regulations in areas where curb markings are frequently obscured by snow and ice accumulation, signs shall be used with the curb markings…

It also notes that white and yellow curbs are sometimes used for “delineation,” or visibility, so again it is highly recommended that you read signs to ensure absolute clarity. But that doesn’t mean a colored curb without a sign is fair game. (It’s never that easy, is it?)

Here’s what the Manual says about colored curbs without explicit signs:

Curb markings without word markings or signs may be used to convey a general prohibition by statute of parking within a specified distance of a stop sign, YIELD sign, driveway, fire hydrant, or crosswalk.

The moral of the story is this: it’s up to you to figure where you can and can’t park. If you can’t see the curb color or aren’t sure what it means, look for a sign. And if you can’t find a sign anywhere, well, park at your own risk.

California’s colored curbs

Let’s look at the rainbow of examples in California. The California Driver Handbook says:

Red: No stopping, standing, or parking.

Blue: Parking is permitted only for a disabled person or a driver of a disabled person.

Green: Park for a limited time.

White: Stop only long enough to pick up or drop off passengers or mail.

Yellow: Stop no longer than the time posted to load or unload passengers or freight.

Red curbs are typically reserved for emergency vehicles and are often found in front of fire hydrants. They’re also usually long enough to fit a fire truck. And take note: you can get a ticket for being parked in a red zone even if you’re with the car.

Blue curbs are reserved for drivers or passengers with disabilities. These spots require the driver to have either a special license plate or a placard hanging visibly from the rearview mirror. (On a side note, many celebrities, from Usher to Mila Kunis to Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, have been sighted parking in one of these spots. Tsk, tsk!)

Green curbs vary. You can usually park there, but only for a limited time. That time can range from 10 minutes to a few hours. Fortunately, there are usually signs, so make sure you read them.

And what exactly is the difference between yellow and white curbs? The main difference is that yellow curbs indicate that a driver must stay with their car. It’s not always enforced … but better safe than sorry.

New Jersey’s curb colors

While few states can match California’s wide range of colored curb options, you should still be on the lookout for painted curbs when you’re parking. Hoboken, New Jersey, for example, has similar statutes, but there are some differences. Here’s what the city’s website says:

Red: Parking prohibited at all times.

Blue: Parking reserved for Handicapped permits only.

GreenParking reserved for Corner Cars (car-sharing) vehicles only.

White: Parking restricted by meter/permit regulations.

Yellow: Parking prohibited except for certain times/purposes.

As you can see, red and blue are the same in New Jersey and California (and many other states): red is for emergency vehicles and blue for disabilities. Yellow curbs, however, cover a variety of situations, like loading, time limits, extended parking, etc. Green and white curbs in the Garden State have different meanings than in California: Green is for carpooling (rather than limited-term parking) and white signifies metered parking (rather than drop-offs).

When in doubt, check for posted parking signs

If you don’t live in California or New Jersey, don’t assume any of these rules apply to your area! In Florida and Illinois, for example, yellow curbs indicate no parking whatsoever. They’re more akin to a red curb in California.

If you encounter a colored curb and have no idea what it means, look for a sign. In most cases, you’ll find one. If not, don’t risk it. Look it up when you get a chance and remember it for future reference.

So remember: colored curbs carry heavy fines. Pay attention or pay the price. (See what I did there?)

Now get out there and park like a pro.

6 Must-See Roadside Attractions Along Route 66

With summer now officially in full force, I can’t help but fantasize about all the summer road trips I’d like to take. And what evokes the great American road trip more than Route 66? Connecting Chicago to Los Angeles, this 2,400-mile stretch of road has captivated the imagination and incited wanderlust since its completion in 1937.

Although Route 66 was officially decommissioned in 1985, we can still get our kicks and see the vintage vestiges of America’s most famous highway.

6 Must-See Route 66 Attractions

If you’re making the cross-country road trip this year, do it like the old-timers by heading east to west. And, of course, check out these 6 must-see attractions along the way.

1. Grant Park — Chicago, Illinois

Route 66 officially begins right at the entrance of Grant Park. Aside from being the starting point of “The Main Street of America,” Grant Park also hosted the 1893 World’s Fair — where Cracker Jack made its sweet debut and Pabst won its iconic blue ribbon.

What to look for: the “End Historic Route 66” sign.

Where to find it: intersection of Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois

2. 66 Drive-In — Carthage, Missouri

On such a long journey, you’re going to need some entertainment along the way. Why not stop at one of the few remaining drive-in theaters and catch a flick or 2 (the second movie is free)? A lot has changed since the theater opened in 1949, including the death of the drive-in, but you can watch movies the way road-weary travelers did.

What to look for: the original neon sign, playground, and Art Deco concession stand and ticket booth.

Where to find it: 17231 Old Route 66 Boulevard, Carthage (Brooklyn Heights), Missouri.

3. Milk Bottle Grocery — Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Route 66 is known for kitsch. And a giant milk bottle crowning a tiny, triangular building spells kitsch like no other. The eponymous grocery store is gone, but in its place is Saigon Baguette. If the sight of all that milk leaves you craving refreshments, stop in for a banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich) and iced coffee.

What to look for: It’s a giant milk bottle. How can you miss it?

Where to find it: 2426 North Classen Boulevard, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

4. Cadillac Ranch — Amarillo, Texas

Originally commissioned by Stanley Marsh 3 as an art installation in 1973, Cadillac Ranch is just weird enough to make it one of the most popular tourist attractions along Route 66. After all, where else are you going to find 10 graffitied Cadillacs buried nose-down in the ground?

What to bring: spray paint! Cadillac Ranch is one of the few places where you can release your inner artiste and graffiti to your heart’s content.

Where to find it: along I-40 (old Route 66), just outside Amarillo.

5. Wigwam Village Motel #6 — Holbrook, Arizona

Teepees made of concrete and steel … that you can sleep in! Sure, you could find bigger hotels, but you can’t beat the vintage vibe and the bragging rights. I mean, “have you slept in a wigwam lately?”

What to look for: original handmade hickory furniture, classic cars, and Route 66 memorabilia.

Where to find it: 811 West Hopi Drive, Holbrook, Arizona.

6. Santa Monica Pier — Santa Monica, California

Where Route 66 ends is continually debated. For some, it’s at the intersection of Olympic Boulevard and Lincoln Boulevard. For others, it’s at Santa Monica Boulevard and Ocean Avenue. Regardless of who’s right, Santa Monica Pier has been the de facto end of Route 66. In 2009, it became the official one.

And why not? Where else can you go after you reach land’s end?

What to look for: the historic carousel and hippodrome, Ferris wheel, street performers, and of course, the “end of the trail” sign.

Where to find it: 200 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California.

Discover more highway history

If you ever wondered about how highways got started anyway, here’s an overview on “the greatest public works project in history.” Plus, the hotly debated history of seat belts.

Driving with Glass: Possibilities and Pitfalls

As the whizzes at Google work feverishly to blur the line between sci-fi fantasy and real-world computing yet again, the online community is buzzing with optimism, speculation, and even a little dread. Everyone seems to have an opinion on whether Google Glass will simplify modern life or serve as another distraction for a generation of tech junkies more likely to tweet than talk face to face. Here at Esurance, opinions are equally split on how this new technology will play out, and even more so with how driving with Glass might impact the safety and sanity of our roads.

As our very own Steven Mautone (Esurance’s web production manager) eagerly awaits his beta version of Google Glass, conversation around the office swirls with lively debate regarding potential possibilities … and potentially deadly pitfalls.

Driving with Glass: the possibilities

Easier navigation

If you’ve ever driven down the road while frantically typing an address into your phone before you get to the next exit (and I’m not saying I have), then you can imagine how much easier it could be to simply say, “Ok, Glass, how do I get to Tommy’s Joynt?” And what if, instead of balancing your phone on your knee and glancing down every 3 seconds to make sure you haven’t missed Geary Street, you could just look up and to the right to ensure you’re still on the right track?

With its hands-free access and ease of use, it’s easy to see how Google Glass might eliminate some of the distraction and stress that often come with trying to find your way around.

A built-in driving buddy

Now imagine if Google Glass could tell you if you’re speeding, remind you to get gas, coach you through changing a tire, or help you to know what to do after an accident. Imagine knowing about traffic jams before you were stuck bumper to bumper. Or having constant updates about how far it is to the next gas station, rest stop, or hotel.

Could Google Glass help you find nearby amenities, let you know road conditions, warn you about accidents, or help you find the best BBQ shack in Tennessee? At this point, who knows. But if it could, it would pretty much be the best driving buddy ever. And you wouldn’t even have to share the beef jerky.

Driving with Glass: the potential pitfalls

Even more distractions

Of course, with all this possibility comes the very real concern that drivers might become even more distracted as they download and process a constant stream of information. As we know from a previous post, manual distraction isn’t the only type of distraction to be concerned about. Cognitive distraction — what we do with our minds — can also play a big part in how focused we are (or aren’t) on the road.

Texting and talking on the phone while driving are considered dangerous and illegal in most states. But people still do them with surprising frequency. It seems our inherently busy lives often overcome our common sense and the need for safety. And while Google Glass eliminates the need for keypads and fumbling around, it seems likely that the increased capability, coupled with the fact that it’s hands free, will only encourage an increased sense of being able to do more while driving.

Even more attempted multi-tasking

With drivers in some of America’s most bustling cities spending upwards of 40 hours a year sitting in traffic, it’s easy to imagine the temptation to spend part of this time trying to get something done. How many times have you seen someone on their laptop or tablet tapping out a quick email while they inch along the highway during their morning commute?

If all it took was a glance up and to the right to find out if a client sent over that contract or if your boss got back to you regarding today’s meeting, would you be able to resist trying to start the work day from the road?

Furthermore, would Google Glass make it easier than ever for people to update on Facebook (“Stuck in traffic, again!!”), check in at the office, or catch up on email in their cars? Would you want to check out your finances before you got to that gas station 17 miles ahead on the left? Or see pictures of the hotel before you arrive to check in?

The jury’s still out on driving with Glass

While we wait for Google Glass to hit the market, we still have more questions than answers. As a modern company, we’re as excited as the rest of the world to see what possibilities this new technology may hold. But as an insurance company, we can’t help but share in some of the concern over what this might mean for driver safety.

Stay tuned for more on the subject as Steven Mautone tests out Google Glass and shares his experiences working, living, and yes, driving with Glass. In the meantime, let us know where you stand. Will Google Glass be a driver’s best friend … or more distracting than anything we’ve seen so far?

Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter #DrivingWithGlass.

Related links

Will Google Glass end distracted driving?
Several states propose outlawing Google Glass while driving
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