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Customize Your Patrol Bike

Patrol vehicles need to be configured for an agency's needs.

November 02, 2009  |  by David Craig - Also by this author

Coronado (Calif.) police motor officer David Craig makes a u-turn, while on patrol.

A few inexpensive touches can enhance officer safety and make motor patrols safer.

As sophisticated as the motorcycles ridden by officers and deputies these days have become, they still require customization for each department's enforcement needs and environment.

When my agency, the Coronado (Calif.) Police Department, first got the green light to go with the Honda ST1300-P, there was only one agency in the nation that used them. Design information was hard to come by, and I was constantly weighing the cost and effectiveness of everything we added.

Unfortunately, budget drives how much cool stuff ends up on your bike. But even under typical agency budget constraints, you can still have a very safe, very effective tool to ride. I was fortunate to have a supportive administration that made safety a priority. As a result, my ST was not only safely equipped but had features that allowed me to observe and manipulate my bike's equipment without having to take my eyes off the road. 

Probably the best investment my agency made in aftermarket equipment was the protection bars. Produced in a collaborative effort with Thunderworks Mobile Engineering's team, the bars are made from 1-inch steel tubing and were designed to come into effect only after the bike's own protection, such as tip-over bars, as well as side and ground clearances. Our bars are so stout, my bike sustained zero damage when shoved off its sidestand by an unruly college crowd. Many protection bars on the market are made from ¾-inch steel tubing and can be crushed into the plastic. This can cause more damage than if the bike had no aftermarket protection at all. 

Also, lights and switches should be mounted so that the rider can manipulate them without looking down or with a minimum of hand movement. I had a "momentarily on" micro-switch placed into the top of my clutch lever that controlled the siren.  When I need to give a quick "chirp" of the siren to vehicles or pedestrians, a simple movement of my index finger gives the offenders an earful. Using that micro-switch, the standard police switches on the left bar, and the custom push-pull thumb switch for the radio PA, I can do nearly anything I need to by barely lifting a finger.

Another great custom touch is to add LED indicators inside the dash for lighting. This can help reduce the number of times you'll drive off from a stop with your forward red or rear 'porch lights' on.

These are just a few examples of what can be done to improve a patrol bike. Some can be expensive and budgets are tight these days. So if you can't do all of them, I recommend that safety be given top priority.

Get with a good law enforcement vehicle outfitter to see what is possible, and what's pie-in-the-sky. While some custom features will seem like luxuries, the dollar savings in the end can make them very cost-effective.

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