Archive for October, 2008

Setting the Record Straight on Eye Protection

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

I eagerly opened the latest issue of AAA Colorado’s EnCompass magazine when it arrived the other day. In the previous, September-October, issue they had printed an outrageous letter from a member who obviously doesn’t engage her brain before opening her mouth. I had written in rebuttal, and while I wanted to make sure they had printed my letter, I wanted even more to see if the editor had added an editor’s note in regard to the two letters. Bingo! They printed it and there was an editor’s note!

Let me back up and fill you in on all this.

Two issues ago, EnCompass had a couple good articles about how drivers need to share the road with motorcyclists and informing drivers of things they might not know about motorcyclists, such as issues with oily pavement and that sort of thing. They also spoke about the legal mandate to wear eye protection.

eye protection
We all wear eye protection

In the subsequent issue, someone wrote in making the bald statement that “less than 50% of motorcyclists conform” to the eye protection mandate. I was blown away, both by the idiocy of the statement and also by the fact that the magazine had printed the letter with no note or anything about the glaring inaccuracy of that statement.

So I wrote a letter in reply. I said that I’ve been riding for more than 20 years and I always look at bikes on the road and have almost never seen a rider without eye protection. I said that with bugs and grit and everything else, it”s not a question of whether you’ll get hit with the stuff, it’s a question of how frequently, and that for that reason we would wear eye protection even if it wasn’t the law.

Then I proposed that the editor or staff take a simple test: Notice for one week all bikes you see and look to see if the rider has eye protection. I said the number without protection would probably be zero.

Finally, I told them I thought they were a bit irresponsible for printing that letter without any verification or asking the writer to provide verification of their statement.

So they printed my letter, but the editor”s note didn’t say anything like “You’re right, we did your test and didn’t see a single rider without eye protection” or anything like that. What they did say was “As in other publications, letters to the editor are not intended to be read as anything other than the writer’s opinion; AAA does not fact-check them or judge the validity of those opinions.”

Oh really. I happen to be a former newspaper editor and I guarantee that that was not the way we operated. We believed we had an obligation to present accurate information to our readers, and if someone wrote a letter making absurd claims there was no way we would print that verbatim without either an editor”s note correcting the inaccuracy or contacting the writer for them to correct it first. Plus, this was not a statement of opinion, the writer put this out there as a fact! We were always happy to let people state their opinions, no problem there. It was the facts we cared about.

So let me make one point that shows how absurd this response from EnCompass is. Does anyone really believe they would have printed the letter without any editing or checking if the writer had said “more than 50% of motorcyclists deliberately run over small children every day”? Or how about “more than 50% of motorcyclists are pedophiles”? Are they really not going “judge the validity” of those statements? Hogwash!

Oh well, at least they printed my letter and I set the record straight.

Biker Quote for Today

The superior rider uses superior knowledge to avoid situations that require superior skill.

Stove Prairie Road a Good Ride, But Don’t Go Down

Monday, October 27th, 2008

An interesting news report about the Fort Collins Chief of Police. He was up on Stove Prairie Road and went down on his buddy’s Road King. He suffered a broken pelvis but got back on the bike and rode into town to the hospital.

“It was very apparent something was really wrong,” said Chief Dennis Harrison.

Yeah, I guess. Call me a wuss but I think I would have waited for the ambulance. Oh, and no mention about the condition of the bike.

Stove Prairie RoadNo place is a good place to go down but Chief Harrison did pick a nice place to ride. I’ve been on that road many times and I strongly recommend it. What it is best is a way to avoid going through all the sprawl of Fort Collins when you’re on your way up the Poudre Canyon. The Stove Prairie Road runs over the ridge from the Buckhorn Canyon to the Poudre. Here’s a map showing the area.

What you do is head west out of Loveland on US 34, like you’re going up to Estes Park, except just a bit west of town, as you get past the hogback, you go north on CO 56 to Masonville. At Masonville you go left at the T intersection. Right takes you down by Horsetooth Reservoir and into Fort Collins. Left takes you up the Buckhorn.

You don’t need to worry about finding the Stove Prairie turnoff because that’s the way the pavement goes. Where the Buckhorn road and the Stove Prairie road diverge the Buckhorn road turns to gravel. So stay on the pavement.

The road rises up to the tiny community of Stove Prairie and then heads down into the Poudre. A left takes you up the Poudre on CO 14, over Cameron Pass, and down into North Park. A right takes you very quickly to the Mishiwaka Inn, the best bar in these parts, and then down to hit US 287 just a couple miles outside of LaPorte.

There’s one other good riding option you might want to be aware of, and that is the Rist Canyon road. From up on top, at Stove Prairie, the Rist Canyon road (Larimer County Road 52E) takes you directly down into LaPorte. Once you come over the crest it is a very steep downward run that is reminiscent of coming into Golden on the Lookout Mountain road.

It’s all good riding. But you’ll enjoy it more if you keep the rubber side down.

Biker Quote for Today

Never ride faster than your guardian angel can fly.

Your Two-Wheeled Addiction

Friday, October 24th, 2008

The Mongols are in the news this week, although I’m certain they would prefer not to be.

Chrome
All that chrome

For those of you who don’t live in the states where the busts took place, and may not have heard, the Mongols are a biker gang and a number of their members have been arrested and charged with “murder, attempted murder, assault, as well as gun and drug violations.”

To tell you the truth, until this news story broke I had never heard of the Mongols. Everyone has heard of the Hell’s Angels, the Sons of Silence are well known around here, but the Mongols? Who knew?

Of course the reason I’m mentioning them here is the motorcycle connection. We’re bikers, they’re bikers. Need we say more?

So what I’m wondering is why “motorcycle clubs,” which is less of a pejorative term than “biker gangs,” so often seem to end up in the business of murder, attempted murder, assault, as well as gun and drug violations. I mean, you never hear about car clubs — you know, Corvette clubs, antique car clubs, whatever — getting busted for these things. You never hear of UNIX user groups, or stock investing clubs, or RV clubs getting into this. Why biker, excuse me, motorcycle clubs?

Of course, there’s the outlaw image. Which came first, the outlaw image or the outlaw behavior? The biker mystique in this country is definitely based on freedom. Being out on the road without the constraints of Joe Average, not tied to all the societal taboos that so many people accept. But that’s not really true, to a large extent. We all know that most of the guys with ponytails and earrings and tattoos also have mortgages, wives, kids, and go to work five days a week.

Still, the political leanings of a large percentage of bikers is definitely libertarian. “As long as I’m not hurting someone else, let me do what I want. Don’t hassle me.” I subscribe to that philosophy myself, whole-heartedly. Heck, I’m a registered Libertarian. But murder, attempted murder, and assault don’t fit into my scheme of things. People do get hurt when you do those things.

Of course, the guns and drugs go hand in hand with the violence. If you have lots of cash on hand, or drugs worth a lot of money, other bad guys will want to take them from you. The Libertarian approach (that’s with a capital L) would be to legalize the drugs and take the profit motive away. Then if you want to kill yourself with heroin that’s your choice. But nobody’s going to kill you to take your heroin from you.

I’ve gotten a long way from motorcycles, which is supposed to be what this blog is about. Let’s see if I can wrap up and pull this all together. This is stream of consciousness, you understand.

Why do biker gangs deal drugs? Heck, why does anybody deal drugs? It’s a (somewhat) easy way to make a lot of money. I think that’s really what it comes to. If someone could make more money even easier doing something legal, they probably would, wouldn’t they? And any time free from having a job gives you more time to ride. And all that money allows you to buy that high-priced Harley and spend a ton more on all that chrome and paint.

So that’s the answer. Lay the blame at the door of Harley-Davidson!! Biker gangs sell drugs to feed their Harley addiction! Someone needs to have a talk with Willie G.

Biker Quote for Today

Most motorcycle problems are caused by the nut that connects the handlebars to the saddle.

Ouch! What Not to Do on Your Bike

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

Here’s a short video. This took place in Spain. Put it down on your list of things not to do.

Biker Quote for Today

Keep the paint up, and the rubber down!

Kids and Bikes Belong Together

Monday, October 20th, 2008

I saw an item recently about how the legislature in Massachusetts was considering prohibiting anyone under the age of 14 from riding a dirt bike. This ban would apply to snowmobiles and ATVs as well. My research suggests that 10 is the age currently set by law there. Other states range from no legal restrictions to various other ages.

Dad preps son's bike before MX raceI have real problems with these laws. I was out at Thunder Valley Motocross Park last week and there were racers of all ages. Take a look at this photo of a dad working on his son’s bike in preparation for the race. This is family togetherness, parents and children out doing really fun things together and building strong family bonds. (Also notice the camera attached to the top of the kid’s helmet!)

I can’t tell you how much I wish this would have been my father. My dad was a good father but he was a bit removed and there wasn’t much we actually did together. I was nuts about motorcycles and saved money and planned to buy my first bike when I turned 15, which was the legal age at that time. The day arrived, I had the money, and my mother told me there was no way I would ever have a motorcycle while I was living in her house.

Contrast that to a dad who buys his son a bike and all the gear, takes him out to ride, and spends all that time with him. I loved my father and I miss him but I would have given anything for him to be more like the dad in this picture.

So the idea that the nanny legislators of any state think they have to protect children from their apparently idiot parents just does not set well with me at all. Sure kids on dirt bikes fall down. So do kids on bicycles. And skateboards. We all had our share of bumps and bruises while growing up. That’s what childhood is, a chance to learn what works and what doesn’t work so well. You do something stupid and it hurts and you think twice before doing it again. Protect your child from all injury and what happens to them when you’re no longer there to protect them?

Biker Quote for Today

It’s like this: Whenever there’s a car accident, people go, “Oh, it’s a car accident.” Whenever there’s a motorcycle accident, it’s outrage.–Jay Leno

Rider Training Funds Still Threatened

Friday, October 17th, 2008

What Mary Peters started, others seek to continue. I’ve given considerable coverage to the proposal by U.S. Sec. of Transportation Mary Peters that funds earmarked for motorcycle rider training be diverted to lobby for mandatory helmet laws.

Experienced Rider cardPretty much all major motorcycling organizations have opposed that, and I reported in a report from the Meeting of the Minds that Peters has backed off on that proposal. Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) President Kirk “Hardtail” Willard cautioned me that despite her statements in that regard, he was still waiting to see her send the letters to that effect to the states.

Well, now the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) reports in the latest issue of American Motorcyclist that a group called the Governors Highway Safety Association has now taken up the issue. American Motorcyclist says:

Christopher Murphy, chairman of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety agencies, made the request in testimony to the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s Subcommittee on Highways and Transit this summer.

The opposition to this misuse of funds stems from the conviction that the key to lowering fatality rates is not in having safer crashes, it is in avoiding more of those crashes in the first place. As Doc Ski noted at the Meeting of the Minds, you will die if you get in a bad enough accident, regardless of whether you’re wearing a helmet.

So Mary Peters may have heeded the outcry and reversed her stance, but now that the genie has been let out of the bottle it may not be that easy to put it back in. This is why we need to support organizations like the AMA and the MRF.

Biker Quote for Today

Thin leather looks good in the bar, but it won’t save your butt from road rash if you go down.

Slinging Mud at Thunder Valley

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Do you do it in the dirt? To be honest, I’ve only been dirt-biking once but after going to the MX races at Thunder Valley Motocross Park this past weekend I have a serious yen to do it again.

MX racing at Thunder ValleyOn a cold, gray day following two days of rain, the operative word was “mud.” And watching these folks, from the very young to the decidedly older, slinging mud and plowing furrows through the curves was just a kick.

This event was the state championships but don’t ask me who won in what class. I wasn’t there for that. I was just out for a good time and I really had one. I can give you some of the particulars, though.

First off, Thunder Valley is owned by the City of Lakewood, and is privately operated by Sherri and David Clavaugh. You pay $25 for a year’s membership and then you pay $12 each day you come out to ride. They’re open Wednesday through Sunday all year round, excepting, of course, days when the snow shuts them down.

On occasion, as on this past weekend, there are scheduled events going on. The Sports Riders Association of Colorado sponsors races around the state, of which this championship run was the season finale. In June or July each year Thunder Valley hosts a national motocross event that draws the top pros from around the country, along with about 20,000 spectators.

The course is set into the slope of the hogback, on 130 acres on the west side of Rooney Road. If you’re coming down CO 93 from where it crosses I-70, Thunder Valley is that dirt-bike track you see just to your west immediately south of the interstate.

One thing I really like about it is that it’s really open. You can go anywhere you want around the track to get whatever view of the racing that you want. Tunnels let you into different parts of the infield but you can just walk across the track as long as there aren’t any racers coming. Of course you sign a waiver when you pay your admission fee. It cost me $13 to get in on Sunday but I’m not sure if that is the standard admission fee.

So I tell you, the roar of the machines, the way the riders pop up and drop down on the whoops, the way the mud goes flying on those curves–it was all a blast. I’m definitely going back, and who knows, maybe I’ll figure out a way to get my hands on a dirtbike of my own. I would LOVE to ride that track!

Biker Quote for Today

Riding fast on the road is only limited by your mental health. Riding fast on the track is only limited by your ability.

Time to Repair the Blog Again

Monday, October 13th, 2008

OK, normally I would have a post today that has to do with motorcycles. However, because my web host did some upgrading of their servers it was necessary for them to update my version of WordPress, which is what I use for this blog. And as always happens when they do that, it broke some of the pieces. So today I’ll spend my time fixing the blog. Sorry.

Mount Evans Road First to Close for Season

Friday, October 10th, 2008

It’s getting to be that time of year. The road to the top of Mount Evans has closed, so that means other roads can’t be far behind.

Others that close for the winter include:

You can keep tabs on which of these are still open, as well as get real-time info on road conditions around the state at the Colorado Department of Transportation site.

The other roads are maintained all year round but you never know when they’ll be getting snow. The truth of the matter is, although I ride down here on the flatland all year round, I almost never ride in the mountains after October. There are more hardy riders than me, though. Redleg comes to mind. He seems to ride anywhere he wants any time he wants. You’re a better man than me, buddy.

Biker Quote for Today

Winter is nature’s way of telling you to polish your bike.

Unleashing the Fire Storm

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Some things just take you by surprise. As you may be aware, I write for Examiner.com as their Denver Motorcycle Examiner. I post on this blog three times a week and I post on Examiner three times a week.

Well, yesterday I wrote a piece entitled “Share the road, not my lane.” It was about how a car pulled across the center line–directly into my path–as he was passing a bicycle. I won’t go into more specifics; if you ride you know it all already.

Imagine my surprise when I checked this morning and found that more than 2,000 people had read that post so far and there were six comments. And more surprisingly, three of the six were hostile toward motorcycles and motorcyclists. Two were favorable and the sixth was more neutral.

One of the hostile comments was the sort of thing you just blow off and ignore:

You should cry more.

The woman who was neutral had this to say:

True, but you have to keep in mind how often those of us in cars see motorcyclists zip between us, riding the line on the highway. Maybe they guy just thought, “Well, they do it all the time, why can’t I?” I’m not defending his actions as they were very reckless.

Then, there were these:

Sure thing douchebag, but make sure you don’t share my lane the next time there’s a red light and a line of traffic that you really want to sidle past, m’kay?

And what are you going to do about it when someone does? And another thing, with the engine cooling excuse ready at hand when you pass huge traffic jams, you cannot expect to be taken seriously when you claim that your personal space corresponds with traffic conditions, because basically, that is what you are saying. When guys like you behave normally in traffic jams, normal people will begin to show you some respect, or at least, stop hating your guts.

It would be easy to dismiss these people as jerks but I don’t think we would be wise in doing so. Considering that these are the people who are out on the road with us, and we’re the ones who always lose in a collision, we need to consider any validity there might be in their statements.

The one argument they all make is that bikers share their lanes at times. Now, if you’re in California and you’re lane-splitting, that is absolutely legal. And I can see how that diminishes the argument that motorcycles have a right to the entire lane, just as cars do. We can’t have it both ways. At the same time, that in no way excuses the reckless, dangerous stunt I described. If I hadn’t swerved that driver would have had to choose between a head-on with me or running the bicycle off the road into the rocky hillside.

Elsewhere, lane-splitting is not legal, although here in Colorado I don’t ever see people lane-splitting anyway. I do, however, see bikers passing on yellow lines (because we know that we can do it safely) and ignoring other laws that were designed with cars in mind, not bikes. It might be worth our while to think about how the people in cars see these things. Obviously some of them, rightly or wrongly, see them as unfair, improper, and justification to act improperly toward us.

Food for thought.

Biker Quote for Today

Remember all the others on the road are crazy & out to kill you.