Don’t Drop The Bike

June 26th, 2017
motorcycles lined up

Riding with buddies means you have assistance if you drop the bike. But sometimes you’re not with other riders.

One of the most annoying – not to mention embarrassing – things you can do is drop your motorcycle in front of the whole world. I’m not talking about going down, which is when you wipe out at speed. Dropping the bike usually happens in a parking lot as you’re trying to turn sharply with almost no speed. You lean the bike a little too far and suddenly 600 pounds of falling motorcycle overrules any thoughts you had of remaining upright.

The good thing about dropping the bike in a parking lot is that you have friends or at least helpful strangers to help you lift the bike back up. But sometimes it’s not that easy.

When friends can’t help

We were out on the first day of one of the early OFMC summer trips, and John was riding his brand new Honda Shadow. Bill was in the lead and as we passed a lake he spotted a dirt road running down to the lakeshore. Figuring it to be a good place for a break, he turned in and John followed, with me behind.

The road quickly got steep and rutted, not the type of thing we like doing on street bikes, but at this point we were committed. It was easier now to go forward than try to turn around.

Then John started losing it in a rut. The Shadow was leaning precariously and he had his foot down trying to keep it from going any further.

“Ken, help me. Help me!” he yelled frantically but I was dealing with ruts of my own and before I could do a thing to help John I first had to stop my bike in a stable location and get the kickstand down. John dropped the bike.

Fortunately I was there, we righted the bike, and rode on down to the shore, where Bill was wondering what was taking us so long. Riding back up we managed to avoid any mishaps.

When You’re Alone

Friends are great to ride with but sometimes you ride alone, at least I do. I was crossing Nebraska one day on U.S. 34 and spotted a farm road heading north from the highway that looked like a good place to stop and stretch my legs. I knew it had rained the night before but the ground look dry and firm. What I could not see was that it was only the surface that was dry, while underneath the earth was soaked.

There was solid gravel for about 20 feet away from the main road and rolling at about 3-4 miles per hour I hit the end of the gravel and my front tire splooshed into deep mud beneath what had appeared to be firm. In slow motion the wheel slid to my left and the bike and I went down to the right, with me dumped into the mud hole. There was no one else around.

Now, I know how to pick up a bike and I had done it before. You cock the handlebars as far as you can to the side it’s laying on, back into the saddle and tank, grip the hand grip and whatever you can get a hold of with your other hand, and then stand up carefully, lifting with your legs.

But I was in a mud hole. Have you ever tried to get firm footing in a mud hole? The first few times I’d start to stand up and my feet would slip and down we’d go again. I finally dug my heels down far enough to reach something a little more solid and did get the bike upright. I was now standing in a mud hole with my back to the bike. I had to very carefully turn around, very carefully throw my leg over the seat, and then hope the bike would start. It did and I inched my way toward solid ground until I could finally relax.

Then I turned around, got back on the highway and stopped at the first town I came to. I got a motel, ran the bike over to a car wash to get the mud off, and spent a good part of my evening cleaning mud off my leather jacket.

Given the choice between annoyance and embarrassment, I guess I’d choose the embarrassment. At least then you have someone to give you a hand.

Biker Quote for Today

Instead of trying to blend in and be like everyone else, I became a biker.

Old Bikes, Empty Roads, Riding Skills

June 22nd, 2017
old motorcycles

There were just a few old bikes at the Ameristar when I stopped by in the middle of the day. Everyone else was out riding!

The Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) is holding a get-together in Black Hawk this week so what more excuse did I need to take a ride up in the hills? Besides, we’re setting new heat records down here in Denver so a little cooler air can only be welcome. Of course, considering the event, I rode my 1980 CB750. It may not be an antique but it sure ain’t some spring chicken.

Bill and I rode to Black Hawk two Saturdays ago and the road up Clear Creek Canyon had a sign warning of road work and grooved pavement, so we took a different route. That sign was gone so I headed up Clear Creek.

As expected, there was a good bit of excellent, brand new asphalt and there wasn’t a lot of traffic. In fact, after awhile it got odd how little traffic there was, and then there was suddenly an endless stream of vehicles bumper to bumper. I (correctly) deduced there must still be some road work up ahead and at least one spot where the road is down to one lane. Fortunately I got there just as the throng in front of me started to move so all I had to do was slow down and keep cruising.

The gathering place for the AMCA was the 10th floor parking garage at the Ameristar Casino. Who ever heard of a 10th floor parking garage. But in fact it’s just a parking garage and you go all the way up to the top, at the 10th floor. I knew the group had a ride planned for the day and I didn’t expect many bikes at mid-day and again I was correct, but there were some, such as those in that photo above.

I only stayed around long enough to give the Ameristar some cash–just because they’re such nice folks, you know?–and then headed toward the Golden Gate Canyon road to head back down. There were way too many trucks in Clear Creek Canyon. I considered going down via Coal Creek Canyon but while I was in Black Hawk the wind kicked up quite a bit so I went with Golden Gate Canyon.

Good choice. There was nobody at all on this road. That is, there were just a few vehicles going the other way but I didn’t see any at all going my way until I was almost all the way down, at around Mount Galbraith Park.

So it’s not that I was trying to go fast but I bet I made it down that road in record time, for me at least. There was just nothing and nobody to slow me down. I went zipping along, straightening out the curves, and just generally having a really fun time. Just the kind of thing motorcycling is all about.

About halfway down, however, I started feeling the heat again. It was cool up high but hot and getting hotter down low. Thank goodness for my mesh jacket.

Then I had one more interesting encounter on my way home. Getting off 6th Avenue onto southbound I-25 traffic was backed up way more than I could see any reason for at this time of day, so it was stop and go. Except there was one guy on a Suzuki sportbike in the lane to my right who was refusing to so much as dab a foot. I might have been able to do that, too, but I wasn’t inclined to do the work. And it is work.

You have to simultaneously rev the engine so gyroscopic force keeps you and the bike upright while feathering the clutch and modulating the brakes so you go slowly, slowly, slowly. You’re always monitoring the gap in front of you as it shrinks and widens. It takes concentration and it is work. I just did the stop and start thing, riding most of the time with my feet just skimming the pavement. But I was enjoying watching him, and in all the time I could watch him he never once dabbed.

Good riding, dude!

Biker Quote for Today

Meditation doesn’t mean you have to sit still.

That Funny Smell Of Gasoline

June 19th, 2017
V-Strom

I’ve wondered about that smell of gas for a long time.

Don’t you love it when you solve a mystery that has puzzled you for ages?

I’ve had my 650 V-Strom for what, three years now? And from about as far back as I can remember I have noticed this smell of gasoline when starting off on a ride. It has gone away after awhile and there has never been a problem so I’ve just lived with it.

Now, I did ask Ron Coleman to check it out once when he was doing some other work on the bike for me, but he couldn’t find any problems. And of course because by the time he was looking at it it had been ridden awhile, he couldn’t even detect the odor of gas.

So Judy and I were just about to take off on this four-day ride with Willie and Jungle and friends a couple weeks ago and I decided to do something that, frankly, I don’t do often enough: check the oil. First I had to figure out how to check the oil. That’s how negligent I am.

I pulled out the owner’s manual and it said to rock the bike up on the center stand, start it up and let it warm up, then shut it down, wait about three minutes, and then check the sight glass on the side. So I rocked it up, fired it up, and then started looking around to find the sight glass. Not on the left side so I moved around to the right side.

The engine was still running, still warming up, as I crouched down to look for the sight glass. That was when I spotted a rapid drip of what was clearly gasoline coming from directly underneath the gas tank. Whoa, golly! I shut it off and told Judy we had a sudden change of plans and she needed to shift her gear from the V-Strom bag to the Concours bag. And off we went on the Concours.

Now it occurred to me that it would probably have been OK to ride the V-Strom, considering I’ve been riding it for years with this odor of gas, but I didn’t want to take any chances. So this past Tuesday I took it over to Joel at Mountain Thunder Motorsports and gave him the low-down. I explained that he needed to let it sit and then fire it up and look for the drip.

He called me a couple days later to say he had found the problem, a gasket getting old that would allow gas to pass out when dry, but would then soak up fuel and seal better. The bad news was that the gasket is an integral part of a larger part and that part is only available from Suzuki for $230. With labor the fix will cost me $500. Oh well, it’s only money, right?

Biker Quote for Today

Just bought bike parts . . . let’s see if I have enough money to eat.

Ride Your Motorcycle To Work On Monday

June 15th, 2017

Drivers are cruising along thinking, “My gosh, there are a lot of motorcycles on the road. I better be extra careful I don’t change lanes without seeing one, or turn in front of one!”

Ride to Word Day banner

Monday is a day when you should make it a
point to ride to work.

That’s the kind of thinking we would love all drivers to have going on in their heads, isn’t it? Well what are you–yes, YOU!–to make them think that way?

How about this. Ride your motorcycle to work on Monday, June 19. That’s this coming Monday.

Monday, June 19 is Ride Your Motorcycle to Word Day. The idea of this effort is to inculcate exactly the sort of thinking described above. Flood the streets with bikes and make drivers shake their heads in surprise at how many motorcycles there are out there. Make them aware we are there and hope that they will connect the dots to realize that they need to do that head check rather than just glance in their mirror. That kind of thing.

I could go on about the whole philosophy behind this event but why bother? This is the gist of it. Just ride your bike on Monday.

Biker Quote for Today

Hospital gowns don’t come in black leather. Ride aware.

Riding Practices Of Different Groups

June 12th, 2017
motorcycle atop Skyline Drive.

Every group seems to have its own approach to how to ride together.

Going riding with Willie and Jungle and some of their friends a week and a half ago I was very interested from the outset to see if this particular group was into staggered riding. It didn’t take long at all to figure out the answer was no.

Do we need an explanation? Staggered riding is where each rider alternate taking the opposite side of the lane from the rider ahead and behind them. That opens up sight lines and gives each rider a better view of the road ahead, and it also doubles the space between each rider and the rider directly behind them, which makes for safer riding.

I do a lot of my group riding with the OFMC and that is a group where staggered riding is not the norm. There have been a few of us who have lobbied for doing so but most of these old farts don’t give a hoot about it. Finally I resorted to always riding last so I can put myself in the position I desire and have no one behind me to sit right on my tail or anything.

With the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Riders Club, on the other hand, riding staggered is absolutely the norm.

So with Willie and crowd, we gathered in Pueblo and set out the next morning headed for Lake San Isabel. There were only four bikes at that point and Jungle took the lead. Kevin and Bonnie were in the number two spot, Judy and I were third, and Willie was in the rear.

The dynamic shaped up very quickly. Jungle stayed largely in the middle of the lane. Kevin stayed largely on the left so I took the right, although at any given moment Kevin might drift over. I just kept a good distance. Willie, in the rear, always stayed so far behind it didn’t matter where she rode.

The next day we had added a couple bikes but it was pretty much the same. Nobody but me seemed to pay any attention to keeping staggered. Oh well, it’s not like I was going to make a big fuss about it. I prefer riding staggered but if it really mattered a lot to me I would not ride with the OFMC. But it was interesting to be with a different group and see how they do things.

Biker Quote for Today

Wait! I do not snore! I dream I’m a motorcycle!

Very Pleased With Our New Sena Communicators

June 8th, 2017
Sena helmet-to-helmet communicators

Our new communicators are a huge improvement over what we had been using.

Sometimes you just need to spend the money, and afterward you’ll be glad you did.

For some years Judy and I have been using these early vintage UClear bluetooth helmet to helmet communicators but they have not been wonderful.

They were good in the beginning but technology had moved on and they were not doing so well now. On our snow-interrupted ride a month ago Judy could hardly hear what I said and while I could hear her, at any time she wasn’t speaking I was listening to loud static. Plus, we had always had a hard time getting them synced and in communication with each other. On that particular trip we probably used them less than half the time for all these reasons.

Back at home afterward I started looking around to see what was on the market today. Then I headed down to Fay Myers Motorcycle World to look at both communicators and helmets. It was my good fortune to hook up with Eddy at Fay Myers because Eddy spent a lot of time with me and was exceedingly knowledgeable.

I walked out with a pair of Sena SMH10 communicators.

Setting them up in the helmets was a pain but not a big deal. Then we had to figure out how to work them and it took some trial and error. We took a quick spin and found they worked much better than what we had been accustomed to.

The real test came last week when we were out on our four-day ride with Willie and Jungle and friends. The verdict: They’re great!

First off, the speakers are smaller so they’re much more comfortable than the old ones. They have greater volume potential so if we couldn’t hear well we could turn up the volume. They had no static, though we did have issues with wind noise across the microphones.

Most importantly, linking them and initiating communication is dead simple, and it works. On our old communicators we would follow the directions again and again and finally, at one point or another, they would work. Sometimes we’d just give up and go ride without them. These work quickly and easily every time.

You can call us satisfied customers.

Biker Quote for Today

Who needs a time machine when one twist of my wrist will leave you in the past!

Riding For The Fun Of It

June 5th, 2017
Up on Skyline Drive

Some of the folks on this ride had never been up on Skyline Drive, at Canon City.

Just home yesterday from a four-day ride with a bunch of folks. It was Willie’s birthday (and our wedding anniversary) so what the heck, why not go for a fun little excursion.

I’ve mentioned Willie and Jungle numerous times before. They live in Eagle and Willie runs a motorcycle tour company called Ball O’ String Custom Adventure Tours. Willie did the planning and organizing for this excursion so we knew we were guaranteed to have a good time.

We met up the first night down in Pueblo, Judy and I having taken the scenic route through the mountains to get there, rather than the interstate. At that point we had one Yamaha, two beemers, and us on my Concours. Plus there were a few folks in cars. Hey, no need to exclude people just because they don’t ride.

We had a birthday/anniversary party at the home of friends in the area and got the trip off to a good start.

Next morning we headed west out of Pueblo on CO 96, otherwise known as the Frontier Pathways Scenic & Historic Byway, to Wetmore, and then south until we hit the Greenhorn Highway, CO 165. This took us by Bishop Castle, though we didn’t stop at this point, on to Lake San Isabel and our quarters for the night at the San Isabel Lodge.

After unloading and settling in we headed back to Bishop Castle where we were to meet more folks. Just as we arrived the skies opened up so it got a bit wet and muddy, but what the heck. Everyone who had never seen Bishop Castle was properly impressed and those of us who had been there were–as always–interested in the ever-changing progress Jim Bishop has made since our last visits.

While there we also spoke with a couple guys on beemer dual-sports, one of whom had ridden the day before from Billings, Montana, to Denver, and the two of them had come here and were headed on yet to Creede that day. Serious riders here.

Back at the San Isabel Lodge we now had another Concours and two Harleys added to the group. One of the cabins had a huge main room, dubbed the Grand Ballroom, where everyone could gather and more birthday partying ensued.

Come morning some of the group rode directly to Cripple Creek but the majority of us went to Canon City where we rode the Royal Gorge train up through the canyon and back, with lunch served. Then it was on to Cripple Creek, with a detour to do the Skyline Drive loop. Then west on US 50 to pick up the back route to Cripple Creek.

Still more people joined us in Cripple Creek, so when we headed out to a dinner buffet there were 19 of us altogether. And once again Willie was serenaded with “Happy Birthday.”

Sunday morning then it was time for folks to go their separate ways. Judy and I headed north to Divide to pick up US 24, to Woodland Park, and then north the way we had come down originally. Lots more people–and a heck of a lot of motorcycles–on a Sunday than on the Thursday morning we had come down. And then back to Denver and home on US 285. It was a good little 450-mile, four-day run. And now, as always, we’ve got a whole lot of stuff to catch up on here at home. Ah, travel!

Biker Quote for Today

To every biker girl her helmet is her crown.

Guanella Pass Now Has A Page Of Its Own

June 1st, 2017
Guanella Pass page.

I just got a new page up for the recently paved Guanella Pass.

Well, it took me awhile. It always does. Guanella Pass has been completely paved for at least a year now, maybe longer, I don’t recall, but I only just now got it up on its own page on the website. Plus, a few days earlier, I set up the Motorcycle Camping on Guanella Pass page, with info about each of the four campgrounds along this road.

Previous to this–and previous to it being paved–I had this pass up on the Dirt Roads and Side Trips in Colorado page. Not any more.

The reason it takes me so long to get these things done is that there is so much involved. First I had to go ride the pass a few times, shooting photos and jotting down pertinent information. Then in the middle of it all I got this GoPro camera so I went and rode it again shooting video so I could include some video highlights of the ride.

Well, you can chalk that one up to learning how to use the GoPro. I won’t bother you with more detail of that, only just say there is no video on the page at this point. And the photos are basically OK for now; I had to patch together a bunch from several different trips up there over the course of several years. At some point I’d like to make it less of a hodge-podge.

I also decided I want to make Guanella the first of a second batch of web pages that are designed to be mobile friendly. Something you can view easily on your smartphone. And along with that I wanted to use an interactive Google map rather than the static Microsoft Streets and Trips maps I’ve always used till now.

Once again, there was a learning curve but I figured it out and that is what this new page has. There is an issue, though, in that at least on my desktop computer the map loads very slowly. Like, five to ten seconds, during which time there is just this empty rectangle. I may swap out the desktop version with a Streets and Trips map, while keeping the mobile-friendly page with the Google map.

And oh yeah, I haven’t got the mobile-friendly page ready yet. You can’t just do a copy and paste. What works on a big screen usually doesn’t work very well at all on a tiny screen.

I won’t bore you either with all the little tweaks necessary to integrate a couple entirely new pages into the overall website. Let’s just say there is a ripple effect that no one but me would even be aware of.

Now it appears they are finally paving the west side of Cottonwood Pass. I guess in about a year I’m going to need to do this all over again for Cottonwood.

Biker Quote for Today

Oh, you ride a motorcycle? That explains why you’re getting so many women.

You Find The Nicest Places On A Honda

May 29th, 2017
Carhenge

Carhenge the first time we saw it. It doesn’t look like this today.

Motorcycle touring is not like traveling in a car. A car is like a magic carpet: you just sit there and after a while you’re somewhere else. Riding a bike takes much more concentration and physical involvement. Consequently, for many of us, 200-300 miles is often a full day’s ride.

Motorcycle touring is more about discovering great places than it is about burning miles. Sure, there are the Iron Butt guys who go out and ride 1,000 miles in a day, but that’s not what I’d call touring. The beauty of the relaxed, easy-going riding approach is that you stop a lot, and sometimes those stops are the best part of the trip.

Case in point: My riding buddies and I were cruising down from the Black Hills, through western Nebraska near Alliance, and saw a place to pull off. (We’re really big on places to pull off – after an hour or so on the bike your legs are getting stiff, your butt is getting numb, and what could be better than to bask in the sun somewhere out in the middle of nowhere?) Looking around, we noticed there were trails heading into the trees, and somewhere off in there was something odd sticking up. We decided to go investigate, and then, our jaws dropped. “Oh my god, what is this?” we asked.

This was Carhenge. Imagine if you will, a farmer with a playful bent gathering a bunch of dead cars, planting them in the ground, stacking them up, and then painting them gray, to imitate Stonehenge, the Druid relic in England. And not just in haphazard fashion – the positioning of this oddball piece of art was carefully measured out to make Carhenge as true to the original as possible.

And we stumbled right into it. If we’d been in a car we would have just blasted on past.

Jerome, Arizona, was another of those serendipitous finds. Sure, today Jerome has been “discovered” and reborn with galleries, restaurants, and all the other things that come when a town becomes trendy. But we found it first.

A number of years ago, having spent the night in Sedona, Arizona, a trendy town that had already been discovered, we were heading to Las Vegas. Anyone whose intent was to get to Vegas would have taken the road to Flagstaff and flown west on I-40. That was not our intent; we were on motorcycles.

Instead, we headed west on 89A toward Clarkdale because the map showed some mountains and some twisty roads going over to Prescott. For a biker, twisty roads equals heaven. But we never dreamed we would find ourselves winding through switchbacks up the sheer face of a mountain, to find ourselves in a town built vertically on that face. This was Jerome, an old, nearly-abandoned, mining town.

Jerome has one main street that comes up the face of the hill, switches back and climbs higher, then switches back and climbs higher still. Some buildings have their front door on the same street as their back door, just at a different elevation. And of course the views are spectacular. We fell in love with this place. Apparently a lot of other people did too.

It’s not necessary, however, to stumble onto some unexpected gem to have a great stop on the bike trip. Just this summer my friends and I were heading toward Kamas, Utah, about to go over a pass, and there were black clouds up ahead. Prudence convinced us we’d better stop and put on rain gear. (Even though putting on rain gear is a pain and we try to avoid it unless it’s really necessary.)

In this case, as most of the guys were pulling on their rain pants, one guy suggested that if we just took a break there for a while the rain would pass and we could ride on without the gear. There was no shade where we were, and the sun was beating down, but just about then a cloud came over and the idea of waiting became very appealing.

Off came the rain gear, out came the cold beers, and for 45 minutes we sat and relaxed and reveled in the soul-fulfilling sweetness of just hanging out in some beautiful middle of nowhere. And then we rode on under clear skies. Beautiful indeed.

Biker Quote for Today

You don’t have to be a cowboy to ride off into the sunset.

CDOT Not Abandoning MOST Program In Transition

May 25th, 2017
CDOT's MOST webdsite

Part of CDOT’s MOST website.

The Colorado Legislature officially moved the Motorcycle Operators Safety Training (MOST) program from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) during this recent legislative session but that doesn’t mean CDOT is casting it aside during the transition. In fact, it seems like they may even have kicked things up a bit.

MOST is a program intended to promote rider training, with the idea that a rider who receives real training in operating the bike will be a safer rider than one who just learns by doing. I know this to be the case because I learned by doing and years later took some training courses. Guess what: I learned a bunch of stuff. I became a better and a safer rider.

May is commonly declared Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and so with that theme in mind I was recently contacted by Megan Tobias, a public relations rep working with CDOT to promote the safety effort. She was asking if I could do something in this space to help promote training efforts. And in fact, she offered that if I wished, they could set me up to take a course on their dime. “Even if you’re a skilled motorist, we have an array of more advanced classes that can help fine tune your skills. Locations and class levels can all be found here: https://www.codot.gov/safety/live-to-ride/get-training.html/.”

This is a new level of promotion that I haven’t seen before. And I suspect I’m not the only one Megan has contacted to try to get this information out to the public. I say good on CDOT.

So initially I declined Megan’s offer but thinking about it now I may take her up on it. For one thing, I know that the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, whose curriculum the MOST instructors follow, has revamped its programs, so if I take the Experienced Rider Course a second time it is presumably going to be different from the first time. Plus, I don’t care how good or experienced you are, there’s always more you can learn. You’ll read about it here if I do.

Biker Quote for Today

Never twist the throttle with your ego.