Archive for March, 2008

Passes and Canyons Sets New Record

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Please excuse the self-indulgence but I’m really pleased and want to share this. Cue the fireworks.

I'm celebrating!

I just want to announce that this month, March 2008, is the first time in its history that this Passes and Canyons, Motorcycle Touring in Colorado website has exceeded 3,000 unique visitors in the space of one month.

Now, that’s not a big deal for a lot of sites. Heck, if Google got only 3,000 visitors in one second they’d probably be checking their systems to see what was wrong. But I’m not Google. I put this site up about two and one-half years ago and I’ve been pleased to watch its growth. Traffic generally trends upward from January through July and then trends downward from August through December. Then the cycle starts all over again.

What that means is that this is only the beginning. Although it has already — thanks to you, by the way — set a new record this month, the trend suggests it will continue to set a new record each month for the next three or four months.

The bottom line here is very simple: I’ve put an enormous amount of work into this site and it just makes me feel good to see that that effort is appreciated. Thanks to all of you for making this possible.

Biker Quote for Today

Motorcyclist are all bound together by a brotherhood tie through their love of the sport, and what difference does it make what make of machine he rides as long as he belongs to the clan. – Walter Davidson 1920

New Bikes Featured In New York Times

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Here’s something you don’t often see. There was an article in Wednesday’s (3-26-08) New York Times about a bunch of new motorcycles being released. Apparently the article is reprinted from AutoWeek because you can read it on their website. Or read it on the NYT site and get the tables and photos.

Titled “Posh Bikes Rev Up Amid Slowdown,” the gist of the article is summed up in the lead paragraph:

Get set for an invasion of high-end motorcycles–just as the economy is heading into a possible recession.

The article continues, saying:

Manufacturers are rolling out a troop of powerful, opulent, feature-laden machines at prices that would have seemed outlandish for something on two wheels just a few years ago. Several motorcycles that recently went on sale or are expected in dealerships this spring cost between $15,000 and $40,000, more than a Mercedes-Benz C-Classs sedan.

While at first seeming to raise a red flag about pricey new bikes at a time when the economy is hitting a reef, the article then goes on to discuss the reasons why motorcycle sales may be recession-proof. These include the statistics about the aging riding population, with more money and more time to ride, as well as the idea that even people of average means can afford a higher-end bike, as opposed to the flashier, higher-priced cars.

Models discussed in the article include the Ducati Desmosedici, BMW HP2 Sport, Victory Vision Tour Premium, Harley-Davidson Rocker C, Honda Gold Wing Airbag, and MV Agusta F4-R 312.

Biker Quote for Today

If you wait, all that happens is that you get older.

Discuss Signs And Safety Practices

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

If you ride with buddies — and who doesn’t? — I cannot over-stress the importance of making sure that everyone understands the principles your group will follow on rides.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. My buddies John and Bill and I have been riding together for nearly 20 years. We take week-long summer trips and go on various other rides over the year. We have had the good fortune not to have had any accidents along the way. Barely. That’s the issue.

We very nearly did have a serious accident on one of our early rides. I was in the lead, with Bill behind me, and John behind him. We were coming up a road that was snaking up a mountainside and I saw ahead of us a pull-out on the left with a terrific view of the valley below us. I slowed down as I considered stopping, and just as I decided that I would pull over Bill went shooting past me on my left. If I had made my decision to pull over half a second sooner he would have T-boned me and who knows how bad the injuries might have been.

So essentially, what I’m saying is that the most serious danger we have ever encountered was not at the hands of some inattentive driver, but at our own hands. There’s no excuse for that.

Every group needs to have signs and signals, and use them. The first and most obvious one is to signal your turns and look before turning. That applies to anyone on the road and should be so obvious as to not need mentioning, but I didn’t do either that day.

Other good things to have agreed-on signals for are gravel or other obstacles on the road, and reminding someone to turn off their turn signal. Indicating you want to make a stop is another obvious one.

What about the less obvious? For example, when it was just the three of us we all understood that when passing through a town we would stay bunched close so that everyone would make it through any traffic lights. It was up to the leader to judge before going through whether the others would have time to make it. Now that we ride with a bigger group I don’t think we’ve had this discussion with the other guys. Consequently, we end up getting all disjointed and needing to pull over and wait. Sometimes, with a larger group, that’s just inevitable. But not always. It’s guaranteed, though, if the last guy is half a block behind the next guy. Stay close.

It should be understood, too, that when making a turn at a crossroads, you wait until you’re sure the guy behind you has seen which way you’re going.

What else? I’m sure there are more things to discuss and agree on. The main thing is to raise the subject and then make sure everyone is on the same page. It will make your rides safer and help avoid stupid delays and hassles. Do it!

Biker Quote for Today

Don’t lead the pack if you don’t know where you’re going.

Bring Own Gear When Renting

Monday, March 24th, 2008

I don’t travel for business a lot, but when I do I try to mix business with pleasure. If I can, I try to arrange it so I can be there over the weekend. Then I’ll arrange to rent a motorcycle. What better way to see a different part of the country than where you usually ride.

Here’s a tip I learned the hard way. I got sent to Nashville a few years ago, and it was only for a day, but I set it up for a Friday. I flew in Thursday night, went to work on Friday, and then, of course, I picked up the tab for my lodging on Friday and Saturday nights, rather than return to Denver.

Saturday morning I went to a nearby Harley dealership where I had reserved a bike and picked up my Road King. I had brought my leather jacket but they had told me when I made the reservation that they could provide me with a helmet and a rain suit. So I didn’t bring my own. Well, it turned out that the only helmets they had were open face. OK, no big deal, in fact, maybe nice. More open and airy, you know.

Well, not so nice. Unfortunately it was a rainy day. The open face helmet meant my face got very wet and my glasses were constantly covered with water droplets, making it hard to see. On top of that, when I pulled out the rain suit they had given me it turned out to be a one-size-big-enough-for-anyone unit. I could get into it, and it kept me dry, but you could have gotten two more of me in there as well.

Lesson learned: Take your own gear. It may be a bother on the airplane but you’ll be glad you did.

Biker Quote for Today

If you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride.

High Plains Raceway Getting Set To Launch

Friday, March 21st, 2008

Do you remember Second Creek Raceway? You know, it was out a little east of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, a little west of where Denver International Airport now is.

If you do remember it you’re probably aware that it is closed now. It seems they built housing developments nearby and the poor homeowners couldn’t abide the noise from the racetrack. Never mind that the racetrack was there long before their houses were. Of course, there’s an airport nearby, too. Maybe they’ll try to get that closed.

Well, here’s the good news. Second Creek is on the verge of doing a phoenix gig and rising from the ashes. The new name will be High Plains Raceway and it is out on US 36 about 17 miles east of Byers.

You can find out all about it here.

This new raceway is a joint effort among the folks who ran Second Creek, various clubs (mostly racecar clubs) that used Second Creek, and some corporate sponsors who presumably have some sort of interest in the business end of it. They’re conducting a fund-raising campaign, have about $2.3 million so far, and need $3 million.

They also have all the necessary permits in hand and “we are fast approaching the funding required to begin construction.”

The site is more than eight times the size of Second Creek so it should be a pretty nice facility. I don’t know if you have ever done a “track day” where you get to ride on a racetrack, with not fears of oil or gravel and no inattentive SUV drivers to contend with, but if you haven’t you should. Done in conjunction with some training on better riding they can benefit just about anyone.

Stay tuned. I’ll keep you up to date on the progress, and the opening, and then any motorcycle events held out there. Heck, you might even want to go out for the car races. This stuff can really be fun.

Biker Quote for Today

Never trade the thrills of living for the security of existence.

Valve Stem Extension Is A Blessing

Wednesday, March 19th, 2008

Do you have wheels on your motorcycle like those on my Honda CB750 Custom, that make it almost impossible to connect an air hose to them? Here’s what I’m talking about.

CB750 valve

Now, back when this bike was made I think most air hoses just had those simple, round heads that would fit in just about anywhere. Nowadays, however, the norm is any of several varieties, none of which you can squeeze into a space like this and get a good connection. You can understand that this makes it difficult when you see that you’re a little low on air. And of course we all know that riding with low air pressure just chews up your tires in a big hurry.

What to do? Well, I finally came up with an answer as to what to do. I was at one of the local bike shops and saw this thing that caught my eye. It’s a little valve-stem extender that slips easily into your pocket.

valve extender

This thing is great. You just screw the big end onto your valve stem and then connect the air hose to small end. There’s a cap that screws on when you’re not using it to keep it clean. Nothing to it. This little baby cost me $10 but checking on the web I found them selling two for $10.

When I saw this I asked what may have been a silly question, but if I asked it you may be asking, too. The question was, will these things throw your wheel off balance? The salesman said no, you don’t leave it on all the time. You just put it on when you need to use it and then remove it. That way you only need one. If you left it on all the time you’d need two. Besides, if you left it on all the time and it wasn’t secure enough it could work its way off and you’d lose it.

So there you have it. Maybe this little baby will be as useful to you as it is to me.

Biker quote for today:

Keep your bike in good repair: Motorcycle boots are NOT comfortable for walking.

“Dirty” Roads Now Shown On Website

Monday, March 17th, 2008

I’ve started adding something new to the website, a listing of good-quality unpaved roads that you can ride even on a street bike.

The instigator for this was Larry Matkovich, who runs Larry’s Custom Cycle in Canon City. He asked why I didn’t have any and I replied that the website was primarily for people on cruisers and street bikes. Larry said he knows of some very nice roads that may be gravel but are easily navigable on street bikes just the same. I told him I don’t know many of these roads but if he could supply the info I would be happy to get it up on the site. Can do, he said.

Well, Larry’s coming through on his promise so I am, too. Check out the Dirt Roads and Side Trips page for what we’ve got so far. And then keep checking back as we add more. Also, if you have any to suggest, just send me the information at ken at motorcyclecolorado.com. Thanks.

New Zealand Rides The Rockies – Day 10

Friday, March 14th, 2008

Recap: Steve and some buddies are coming from New Zealand in 2009 for some motorcycle touring in Colorado and Utah. This series of posts lays out their proposed routes, with my comments. Your comments are welcome as well.

Day 10

Oh no! This 10-day motorcycle ride around the Rockies is coming to an end. Today is the final day. Dang. Oh well, Steve and the gang are in Golden and need to end up back in pretty much the same place in order to turn in the bikes and head home. Today they’re going to cruise the Peak-to-Peak Highway and check out the canyons leading up and down between this road and the flatlands. They don’t have a detailed route in mind so this can be taken as a possible route. Here’s the map, and the enlarged view.

Peak-to-Peak Highway and adjoining canyons

At day’s end yesterday, our group came down US 6 through Clear Creek Canyon, so we don’t really need to backtrack today. Going north out of Golden on CO 93 it is just a couple miles to the turn-off to CO 46 up Golden Gate Canyon. This is a favorite ride and a great way to start the day. Winding up the canyon, you reach CO 119, which is the southern portion of the Peak-to-Peak. From here we’ll turn north, to the right.

Now, there are any number of ways you could do this ride. I’m going to suggest that they just go all the way to Estes Park in the beginning and then work the canyons on the way back. That means CO 119 as far as Nederland, then CO 72 to where it terminates into CO 7, and then CO 7 to Estes Park. Don’t be surprised coming into Estes Park if you come upon a traffic back-up, there are herds of elk around here that are not shy and everyone stops to look.

From Estes Park we now turn east on US 36. This road goes down the North St. Vrain toward Lyons. At Lyons you just cruise through town and out the other side and you’re back on CO 7, which goes back up the South St. Vrain to where you met it before. At that point it’s time to head south on CO 72, the road you came north on.

Heading south on CO 72 you come (again) to Ward, and the intersection with Lefthand Canyon Drive, or Boulder County Road 94. Go ahead and take this turn. It runs down (surprise!) Lefthand Canyon and comes out to US 36 north of Boulder. Head south toward Boulder but when US 36 jogs to the left, stay straight on CO 7, Broadway. This will be a nicer ride through town.

Broadway leads you right into the middle of Boulder, where you take a right on either Walnut or Canyon and on out of town directly into Boulder Canyon on CO 119. There are a number of places to stop on your way up this canyon, and one of the best is Boulder Falls.

CO 119 reconnects you with the Peak-to-Peak at Nederland. Nederland, by the way, is where the Caribou recording studios were located, where a lot of great music was recorded in the 1970s.

At Nederland we stay on CO 119, which heads south, but very soon turn off onto CO 72, which goes down Coal Creek Canyon. Of course, before it goes down too far it first has to go up and over the crest at Wondervu. Nice switchbacks along here and Wondervu is a good place to stop for a break. Coal Creek Canyon comes out CO 93 at the former Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant. This plant used to build the plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons, but has been decommissioned and is now undergoing environmental clean-up.

We head south on CO 93 and another short jaunt brings us back to Golden and the end of the last day of this terrific trip. Now — darn! — they’re going to be stuck riding the terrific roads in New Zealand again. Until the next time! See you then.

New Zealand Rides The Rockies – Day 9

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Recap: Steve and some buddies are coming from New Zealand in 2009 for some motorcycle touring in Colorado and Utah. This series of posts lays out their proposed routes, with my comments. Your comments are welcome as well.

Day 9

Today is a bit of a contradiction for our riders. It will be one of the shortest days in terms of miles but it will be one of the biggest days in terms of where they’re going. Today’s ride will go over Trail Ridge Road and to the top of Mount Evans, along with some other pretty good stretches. Here’s the map and here’s the enlarged view.

Loveland to Golden, via Trail Ridge Road and Mount Evans

Right off the bat, Steve and the group head out on US 34 up the Big Thompson Canyon. What a nice way to start the day. This beautiful canyon goes up to Estes Park, which, despite the name, is a town, not a park. The park people sometimes get it confused with is Rocky Mountain National Park. We’ll get to that later.

Because this will be the first time for these folks going up the Big Thompson, they’re proably going to want to just ride the whole canyon. If you’ve done it before, however, and are interested in an alternate route, you can take CO 43 between Drake and Estes Park. There are some hairpin turns on this that might make you think you’re in over your head.

At the head of the canyon is Estes Park. This is a very nice town but it has gotten very crowded. Count on slow going through here as you make your way to the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. Oh, and that big old lodge you see on the hillside? That’s the Stanley Hotel, where they filmed “The Shining” with Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duval. Red rum anyone?

US 34 continues through Estes Park and into Rocky Mountain National Park and then winds its way up over Trail Ridge Road, the highest through road in the U.S. This road closes for the winter but should be open by the time Steve and crew get there. Trail Ridge Road is one of the must-do rides in all of Colorado. Plan to take your time. You really won’t have any choice, but you won’t want to rush anyway.

The highway comes down from Trail Ridge Road into the town of Grand Lake. This is a very nice town and well worth a stop. From there, US 34 goes on down to where it hits US 40 just outside of Granby. Here Steve and the others will need to make a decision. He’s considering taking a quick run west on US 40 to Kremmling and then back. He just doesn’t want to miss anything. What there is on that stretch is Hot Sulphur Springs and a nice bit of canyon. Is it worth the extra time and miles? I don’t know. They probably ought to check the time and see how much of the day has already elapsed. This may be a short ride in mileage today but it’s far from done at this point.

Whatever they do, eventually they’ll head south on US 40 to Winter Park and then up and over Berthoud Pass. Berthoud is another very nice pass, and the road is in very good condition thanks to a lot of money spent on upgrades in the last few years. From the pass, US 40 runs down to Empire, where it meets I-70.

A short jaunt east on I-70 brings the group to Idaho Springs, where they will get off the interstate onto CO 103 over Squaw Pass. Squaw Pass is a nice ride on its own but the real draw here is that this is the route to CO 5 that takes you to the top of Mount Evans. If you thought Trail Ridge Road was a slow ride, be prepared to go even slower. I don’t recall for sure but I believe the speed limit on this entire stretch is 10 mph. There is also a toll, by the way. That’s OK. It’s worth it, and you pay less for motorcycles. And no matter what time of year it is, don’t be surprised if you get snowed on a little.

After Mount Evans the route continues on CO 103 toward Bergen Park. A left onto CO 74 a few miles brings you to another left onto Jefferson County Road 65, which meets up with I-70 a little east of Idaho Springs. More importantly, it meets up with US 40 at the same spot and it’s really US 40 that we want. US 40 parallels I-70 on the north as it goes down the west side of Floyd Hill. At the bottom of Floyd Hill both roads intersect US 6, which is our ultimate goal.

US 6 winds down through Clear Creek Canyon, coming out at Golden. One of the first things you’re sure to notice is the Coors Brewery. You may even smell the malt before you see the plant. Golden is tonight’s stopping point, so this day’s ride is done.

New Zealand Rides The Rockies – Day 8

Monday, March 10th, 2008

Recap: Steve and some buddies are coming from New Zealand in 2009 for some motorcycle touring in Colorado and Utah. This series of posts lays out their proposed routes, with my comments. Your comments are welcome as well.

Day 8

Today is going to be a bit more relaxed for our riding crew, as the distance is less than 300 miles. These guys have been racking up more than 300 miles almost every day. Assuming the start is indeed Eagle, they’ll be heading up to Steamboat Springs, over Rabbit Ears Pass, across North Park, and then up Cameron Pass, down Poudre Canyon and eventually end up for the night in Loveland. Here’s the map; click to see it enlarged.

Eagle to Loveland

Leaving from Eagle, Steve and the gang will head east a few miles on I-70 until they get to Wolcott. Here they turn north on CO 131 headed for State Bridge. At State Bridge they will have a decision to make. The original plans called for taking the Trough Road northeast through Radium to Kremmling. What they had not counted on, however, is the fact that this is a gravel road. They’re not fond of gravel on big street bikes, and Steve said he’s also unsure whether their rental contract allows riding on gravel.

While I don’t know about the contract, I do know about the Trough Road. It is very good gravel and a very nice ride. The guys I ride with don’t like gravel either, but it was one of them who showed us this road in the first place and we took it. It was great, no problems at all.

So if they take the Trough Road, our riders will come out at Kremmling, where they will pick up US 40 west for just a few miles to CO 134, which crosses Gore Pass and reunites them with CO 131 at Toponas. The alternative would be just to stay on CO 131 at State Bridge, skipping the Trough Road and Gore Pass. It’s up to you guys, but it’s a short day anyway, so I’d say do it.

Either way, the route now continues up CO 131 to meet US 40 a little south of Steamboat Springs. They’ll ride on into Steamboat, probably have lunch and get gas, and then backtrack a little as they head east on US 40 over Rabbit Ears Pass. This is a good one and will be an enjoyable ride. Descending, they will reach Muddy Gap Pass and the turn-off for CO 14, taking them north into North Park and to Walden. At Walden they stay on CO 14, which turns southeast and passes through State Forest State Park and up over Cameron Pass. There’s some mighty good scenery on the way up.

On the way down the highway passes through Poudre Canyon. Poudre Canyon is one of the prettiest canyons in Colorado so this will be a treat. Be sure to stop a few times and enjoy it. Sleeping Elephant Mountain is particularly interesting.

Moving on down the canyon they will eventually come out on US 287 north of Fort Collins and follow that highway to Loveland and the end of today’s ride. That will mean doing some city riding but Fort Collins is a nice town so it’s not a bad thing to do. However, there is an alternative.

Alternate Route

It just happens that I know an excellent alternate route that will allow the group to totally skip Fort Collins and enjoy some more mountain/canyon riding. As they get down close to the mouth of the canyon, there is a turn-off for Larimer County Road 27, otherwise known as Stove Prairie Road. This is a nicely paved, very windy two-lane that rises up over the ridge separating Poudre Canyon from Buckhorn Canyon. The Buckhorn then carries you down to Masonville. At Masonville you can either go up around Horsetooth Reservoir and drop down into Fort Collins on the south side or take CO 56 down to where it meets US 34 coming out of the Big Thompson Canyon. From there it’s a short ride east to Loveland. Enjoy.