Archive for August, 2008

A Motorcycle Like You’ve Never Seen

Friday, August 29th, 2008

Just when you thought you’d seen it all, trust some 19-year-old kid to come up with the most revolutionary two-wheeler yet.

The Uno electric vehicleBen Gulak, from Toronto, has developed an electric-powered vehicle with two wheels side by side. It has gyroscopic stabilizers that allow it to stand upright, and you lean forward on it to move forward, much like Dean Kamen’s Segway. The further forward you lean, the faster it goes. To turn you lean in the desired direction.

Called the Uno, the starting point is a Yamaha R1 frame, but the commonality ends right about there.

Gulak is clearly a whiz kid, and he was inspired when he went to Beijing for an international science fair. He saw the smog created by all the two-stroke scooters and motorcycles and decided an electric vehicle was what was needed. Gulak worked out the basic design on his own but turned to Trevor Blackwell, the inventor of the Eunicycle, a single-wheeled gyro-stabilized vehicle, for further development assistance.

So far, the top speed is 15 MPH, but Gulak thinks it can get up to 40 MPH with further development.

Keep your eyes open. I’m thinking we’ll be seeing more of this soon.

Biker Quote for Today

Just ride the damned thing.

Big Changes on Web Site

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

It has taken me quite awhile, and I’m not finished yet, but there is a lot of new material on the Passes and Canyons, Motorcycle Touring in Colorado web site. Although I’ve been all over this state numerous times, there are some areas I haven’t gotten back to since I started building this site — until this summer.

Let me give you a quick run-through of what is new.

I’ve added photos to the Red Mountain Pass page. This is one of the premier passes in Colorado and the photos show it — finally!

I’ve also added photos of Colorado 65 over the Grand Mesa. The mesa itself is beautiful but the ascent and descent have breathtaking vistas.

One couple of passes I had overlooked are Cumbres and La Manga Passes. It had been long enough ago that I had been there that when I started on the web site I forgot how nice they are. So I’ve added them. (And they are a pair, it’s one stretch of road.)

Wolf Creek Pass is another that I had on the site but did not have adequate coverage of. Now it’s there. McClure Pass is another.

In addition to these passes, I have added a lot of motorcycle-accessible campgrounds along these same routes. I know that this is not of much interest to a lot of people but for those of you who do camp, anything I’ve listed can be reached on two wheels without too much hassle.

And finally, I put up some photos from Rim Rock Drive through the Colorado National Monument, as well as some more photos from Skyline Drive in Canon City.

And I’m still not done. Within the next couple weeks I should have the rest of it complete. Keep checking back. Thanks.

Biker Quote for Today

The road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began. Now far ahead the road has gone and I must follow, if I can.

Update on Guanella Pass

Monday, August 25th, 2008

I wrote just three days ago about the conditions on Guanella Pass, so with that on my mind, when my wife wanted to head for the high country the next day I knew where I wanted to go.

The last time we were up there was two years ago, and what we saw then was what I described. Well, there is a lot that has changed in two years.

For one thing, the reconstruction work I mentioned has begun, and going up from the Georgetown side the road is horrible. Horrible! It’s one lane in several places, with traffic signals stopping you or letting you pass, but the road surface on most of it is so bad it’s amazing. I can hardly believe the county would let it get this bad, although I wonder if perhaps it is the heavy construction going on that has torn the road up like this. If that’s the case then of course they won’t want to repair the road surface until the heavy work is done. The project won’t be completed for another couple years.

After awhile you get past the mess and then the road is pretty good the rest of the way up. It’s mostly paved, although still rough, and just as you near the top it turns to gravel. It’s definitely passable. We couldn’t really tell what the condition was two years ago because it was all covered with snow at that time.

And it is beautiful up on top! It was beautiful last time, too, but it was an all-covered-with-snow beauty. I had forgotten just how spectacular it is when the snow is gone.

Heading on down the other side it continues as gravel and gets to be a lot of washboard. Then abruptly, about a mile from the top, you hit nice new asphalt. We guessed that this was where we hit the county line. If you look at the picture I included in the last post and you see the poor surface, that’s all been redone. The new asphalt continues for several miles and then you get back to the older surface and intermittent gravel. It’s all very passable, although if it has rained you will face mud.

So bottom line on all this, I still wouldn’t take a Gold Wing on this road but anyone who doesn’t mind doing some dirt would find this a really nice ride. You’ll need to go slow on the part where the surface is so bad but you definitely can do it. Just try not to get caught in a thundershower.

Consequently, I will be adding this road to the Dirt Roads and Side Trips page of the website.

Biker Quote for Today

Patience is the ability to keep your motor idling.

Guanella Pass Is Good for the Adventurous

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

Guanella PassOne really nice ride that I don’t have on the website is Guanella Pass, which runs from Georgetown on the north down to U.S. 285 at Grant, west of Bailey, on the south. Here’s a map but the mapping software doesn’t bring in smaller roads unless I zoom in more, and then it won’t all fit on the screen. I don’t have this pass on the site because a significant portion of it is unpaved, particularly up at the top where the going can be quite rough.

Still, if you’ve got the right kind of bike and an adventurous spirit, this is a really nice pass and there’s not a lot of traffic. Plus, it’s close in to Denver so it makes an easy day ride. I would strongly recommend you not try this on your Gold Wing, however.

If you do decide you want to take this ride I would also strongly recommend that you do it in the middle of summer. The last time we went over it, two years ago in late April in a car, there was still snow at the top and even in the car it was treacherous. Not to mention muddy as we got down below the level of the snow.

There has been talk over the years of paving Guanella Pass completely, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen. It is already paved for a good bit, although the asphalt is old and in bad shape. That may be changing, however. The most recent push for paving the entire road was fought out between those for and those against, with those against saying it would ruin the beauty and charm of the route. I don’t think there is any doubt it would have a significant effect, because I’m sure it would bring a lot more traffic up there.

Guanella PassThe dispute was settled with a decision to improve the road, partially to prevent erosion, but not to pave or widen the whole thing. I’m guessing that means the old, broken-down asphalt will be repaved, some areas particularly prone to erosion may be paved for the first time, and other lesser enhancements made. This photo gives you a bit of an idea about the condition of the asphalt, at least back in April 2006.

If you’re not inclined to take this road on your bike you might want to consider going in your car. It really is beautiful, there are some very nice campgrounds up there, and there is a lot of wildlife. We saw mountain goats and big-horn sheep as well as other animals. Here’s a shot of one of the guys we saw. He was being pretty protective of the females in his group.

Wildlife on Guanella Pass

Biker Quote for Today

There is no such thing as a bad day when riding a dirtbike.

Back Roads and Side Trips You Might Like

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

We spent a long time going not very far on the second day of the OFMC’s yearly trip this year. As any experienced rider knows, that often implies an especially good ride. It was.

Map of the day's ride

Here’s a map of the route. I’ll have to describe some of it to you since the map doesn’t give enough detail.

We started the trip by getting together in Cripple Creek. Most people reach Cripple Creek by coming down from the north, from U.S. 24 at Divide. Many don’t know there is a back way. We left Cripple Creek via the back way.

To find this road, you take the main drag all the way through town and then hook a right, followed by a quick left. You’re on your way. This is Teller County Road 1. It’s a nice, twisty two-lane that passes through some very pretty country. Go about 7 miles and then turn left on Teller County Road 11. More nice back road. You eventually reach Colorado 9 just a few miles north of where it intersects U.S. 50, a little west of Canon City.

So that’s one back road worthy of a ride. An alternative would be to turn off Teller 11 onto Teller County Road 112, which comes out to Colorado 9 at Guffey. That’s also a nice ride.

We headed on south to U.S. 50 and then turned west. In a short distance we reached Fremont County Road 3, which is the back route up to the Royal Gorge. This very old, very narrow, very twisty little strip of asphalt winds its way up and around to the bridge. You do have to pay to cross the bridge, and if you don’t you have to go back the way you came, but if you’ve never been to the Royal Gorge you really ought to spend the money to do it once. It’s worth it. Plus, we asked for a motorcycle discount and got it. And the road is great.

Once we crossed the bridge we rode back on out the main road and rejoined U.S. 50, and this time we turned east, to Canon City. As you near Canon City you want to keep an eye out for the road over Skyline Drive. This one-lane, one-way, 15-foot wide strip of pavement runs up and along the hogback that overlooks the city. This is a great ride. It’s only 1 mile but it’s a truly spectacular mile.

From Canon City we headed southeast to Florence and then turned south on Colorado 67. This becomes Colorado 96 and turns southwest and then intersects Colorado 165. We made the left turn onto 165 and rode down the 10 miles or so to Bishop Castle. I won’t spend time describing the castle here, just check out the link.

After climbing around in the castle we retraced our route to Colorado 96, headed on west, and reached Colorado 69 at Westcliffe. There we turned north and rejoined U.S. 50 one more time at Cotopaxi. U.S. 50 then carried us up the Arkansas River Valley to Salida, where we stopped for the night. We weren’t more than 50 miles from where we started but what a great day’s ride!

Biker Quote for Today

The twisties – not the superslabs – separate the riders from the squids.

Does Your Group Use Signals?

Monday, August 18th, 2008

It can be tricky trying to communicate with your buddies when you’re out riding and you don’t all have radio communicators. Do you have signals that you’ve agreed on? Does everybody know what they are? Do you use them?

Signaling a hazard aheadThe OFMC is probably pretty typical in this regard. Early on, John and Bill and I recognized that there were a couple things we needed to be able to communicate to each other. We didn’t knock ourselves dead trying to think of every eventuality. We just came up with about three that we considered extremely necessary.

Were they what other bikers use? Heck, we didn’t know, and we didn’t really care. As long as we understood them that was all that mattered.

Now, however, we travel with a much larger group, generally eight or nine. And have we sat down and discussed signals with all these guys as they have joined the group? No.

With that lapse in mind, about a week before we took off on this year’s bike trip I emailed the group a link to a page I had found on the Colorado VTX Range Riders site. This page shows a number of signals that I presume are pretty widely understood. I figured we might as well at least think about how we might communicate better.

So the interesting thing is that while none of the guys sent a response to my email, it turned out they did check out the page and even paid attention to it. I only realized this at one point during the trip when I heard one of the guys say to another that “You must have looked at that list of signals because I saw you indicating that dead animal on the road.”

And what is even more surprising is that I recorded it on film (pixels?). I had ridden ahead of the group to shoot some pictures and heard them coming along, so I turned to shoot some shots of them riding by. When I looked at the shots later, son-of-a-gun, there’s Johnathon kicking his right foot out to tell the guys behind him that there’s a hazard in the road ahead.

Gosh, I felt like maybe I’d done something good.

Biker Quote for Today

Practicing the dark and forgotten art of using turn signals since ’88.

DOT Sec. Mary Peters Good for Bikers, Wrong on One Priority

Friday, August 15th, 2008

I’ll cut straight to the chase. I still disagree with U.S. DOT Secretary Mary Peters in her effort to divert money earmarked for motorcycle rider training to promote helmet usage.

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation sums up the issue in this way:

The . . . funds were a direct result of years of intense lobbying by state motorcyclists’ rights organizations and individual motorcyclists from across this country, and were intended for two very specific aspects of motorcycle safety — motorcycle rider education and motorist awareness of motorcycles. These two aspects of motorcycle safety have been grossly under-funded at the state level for years, often solely at the direct expense of motorcyclists themselves through licensing and registration fees. . . . Should Peters get her way, that trickle becomes nothing but a drip.

A little background. I wrote about this first in this post after reading about it in American Motorcyclist, the monthly magazine of the American Motorcyclist Association. I was pretty down on her. Randy Bingner then replied that what Mary Peters is doing for the motorcycling community is substantial and overall, “It is very difficult to be critical when you look at the big picture.”

I told Randy I’d take another look and delve deeper into the issue. Well, I’ve done that. I wrote favorably about her efforts in general two days ago but I still have to disagree on this one point. And I’m not the only one.

Here are three quotes from three organizations that sum this matter up pretty succinctly:

The only true steps to motorcycle safety are proactive measures which prevent a collision from occurring at all rather than reactive steps that may offer some level of injury reduction only after a crash has already taken place. — Motorcycle Riders Foundation

The evidence is obvious: Crashes kill bikers. Conversely, Crash Prevention saves lives. — ABATE of North Carolina

We all know that “safer crashes” are no substitute for “crash prevention.” — ABATE of Arizona

This is what I’ve said right from the beginning. To quote myself, I said “That’s why I believe that diverting funds from motorcycle safety training to mandating helmets is wrong-headed. We all need to wear helmets at times; some of us wear them all the time. We should all also take an occasional refresher training course. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation and ABATE have expanded their offerings lately due to demand. What we don’t need is some bureaucrat, even one who rides, cutting training funds.”

I stand by that statement. The point I want to make however goes back to what Randy was saying. We are better off having a biker sitting in her chair than not. Mary Peters has done a lot of good things in her tenure in office. But nobody is perfect, and even family members can disagree. What we need to do now is not scream obscenities at her for her one mistake, we need to applaud her for the good things she is doing and work diligently and patiently with her in trying to help her see the error of her ways in this one area. And fight it hard in Congress if that becomes necessary.

Biker Quote for Today

Most vehicles have one person in them. So if you have one person riding a 400-pound vehicle, and another person riding a 4,400-pound vehicle, why are you putting the restrictions on the motorcyclist? You should really be putting the restriction on the person driving the SUV. — Jay Leno

Follow-up on Mary Peters, Secretary of US DOT

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

At the urging of Randy Bingner I have been doing some research to learn more about U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters’ efforts in regard to motorcycles and motorcycling. Let me recap.

Mary Peters rides a Harley. She’s one of us. And as one of us she has used her authority to promote issues of concern to us. For the most part this is very good. You can read the DOT’s recommendations in its Action Plan to Reduce Motorcycle Fatalities. The proposals include:

  • Conducting the Motorcycle Crash Causes and Outcomes Study, a comprehensive examination of the factors that causes crashes, which will help the Department develop stronger programs and strategies to combat the rising trends in motorcycle crashes.
  • Developing National Standards for Entry Level Motorcycle Rider Training that will set the baseline for novice motorcycle rider training programs conducted in the United States.
  • Amending Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 218, Motorcycle Helmets, to address the falsification of helmet certifications facilitated by the current labeling requirements of the motorcycle helmet standard.
  • Distributing Roadway Safety for Motorcycles, a brochure containing official guidance on designing, constructing, and maintaining roadways for increased motorcycle safety, to road planners, designers, and engineers.
  • Creating a training program designed to educate police on motorcycle safety and the specific enforcement efforts they can undertake to reduce motorcycle crashes.
  • Marketing a “Share the Road” campaign kit for use by States, local communities, and motorcycle organizations.

There is no question that reducing motorcycle fatalities is of concern to us all. As reported in the Action Plan, “In 2005, the motorcycle fatality rate was 73 per 100,000 registered motorcycles. By comparison, the fatality rate in the same year for passenger vehicles per 100,000 registrations was 14.” Put a little differently, in 2006 motorcycle fatalities exceeded pedestrian fatalities for the first time ever since records have been kept.

Far too many of these deaths are at least associated with alcohol use and riders who are not licensed to ride a motorcycle. These deaths can be prevented. As Randy said in an article he wrote for his local HOG group, “far too often, we are killing ourselves.”

So what’s the issue? Well, as I reported in an earlier post, Sec. Peters has proposed that money earmarked for rider training programs be diverted to efforts to increase helmet usage. And while we may all be family, family members sometimes disagree. That would be the case here. A number of organizations that you know, and may even belong to, are not happy with this proposal. They include the American Motorcyclist Association, the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, and various ABATE chapters.

I’ll address their concerns in my next post.

Biker Quote for Today

There are drunk riders. There are old riders. There are NO old, drunk riders.

MRF Meeting of the Minds Set for Denver in September

Monday, August 11th, 2008

MRF Meeting of the MindsWe all know that bad legislation that would unfairly affect motorcyclists gets introduced and sometimes passed in legislative bodies at all levels. Who should we thank when these proposals are defeated or revoked? I’ve mentioned the American Motorcyclist Association on numerous occasions, and they do a lot of work in this area. Another organization fighting for our rights is the Motorcycle Riders Foundation.

Here’s what the MRF says about itself on its website home page:

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF), incorporated in 1987, is a membership-based national motorcyclists’ rights organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. The MRF monitors and when necessary, sways federal legislation and regulatory action that pertains to street riders. The MRF concerns itself with what is going on in the arena of motorcycling safety education, training, licensing, and public awareness. The MRF provides members and state motorcyclists’ rights organizations with direction and information to protect motorcyclists’ rights and motorcycling. The MRF sponsors annual regional and national educational seminars for motorcyclists’ rights activists and publishes a bi-monthly newsletter, The MRF Reports.

Well, the MRF is coming to Denver. Every year the organization holds two regional and one national conference. The Meeting of the Minds, MRF’s national conference, will be held in Denver this year Sept. 25-28. This is the kind of conference you will want to attend if you care passionately about protecting our rights. Registration before Aug. 18 is $60 for members, $70 for non-members.

The agenda includes topics such as “The Motorcycling Community – Working Together,” an international transport forum on motorcycle safety, impaired riding, state legislative updates, and more, as well as some fun activities and — or course! — a ride.

I’ll be bringing you more information about this as it draws near, and with any luck I’ll manage to attend at least part of it. If you want to attend, here’s the link for registration.

Biker Quote for Today

Training, the best safety and performance “equipment” you can get!

Revisiting Mary Peters, Biker and DOT Secretary

Friday, August 8th, 2008

I wrote an unfavorable piece about U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters that you may recall, about her efforts to divert money earmarked for rider training to promote helmet use and state laws requiring helmet use. Randy Bingner replied to that and I’d like to share our discussion.

Randy’s initial response was this:

I suggest step back from your focus on helmet laws and look at everything Mary Peters is doing for the motorcycling community. It is very difficult to be critical when you look at the big picture.

I was interested and wanted to know more. I sent Randy this reply:

I appreciate your comment on my Mary Peters post. I’ll be completely honest with you and say I don’t know much at all about what she has done or tried to do except what I read in American Motorcyclist. I would be really pleased if you would write a guest post addressing that topic. Something to balance out my frankly more superficial take on the matter. Are you interested?

Here is Randy’s answer:

I have been at the Sturgis rally the past week and just got home. You could Google and find no end to information. Basically, in my opinion, the most telling quote from Mary Peters, and I will paraphrase, is that when highways are designed, constructed, and maintained, the motorcycle should not be an afterthought. I am attaching a recent article I wrote for the back page of another newsletter. The fact that this initiative exists is due in large part to the fact that we have a rider at the head of the USDOT. I am an AMA member, but I do not agree with all positions it takes. Motorcyclists are a comparatively small group when you look at all users of the transportation system. The more we get divided, the easier it will be to lose rights and privileges. I am for freedom of choice. I chose to wear a helmet and leather.

So that’s a starting point. I intend to follow Randy’s suggestion and do some research to learn more about what Mary Peters has done, and I’ll pass that along to you. And I want to thank Randy for offering his take on the matter.

I do want to make one other point, however. I stand by my original argument that taking money from rider training to push for helmet requirements is inappropriate. Helmet usage becomes moot if accidents are avoided in the first place. I think rider training is the most important of the two.

Biker Quote for Today

Ride as if your life depended on it!!