Archive for November, 2008

Sons of Anarchy, Now That I’ve Watched a Couple

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

OK, non-TV-watching guy that I am, I watched the first two episodes of Sons of Anarchy, this motorcycle gang series on FX. Not that that makes me some all-knowing and wise person in regard to the show, but I wanted to give my impressions. If you’ve seen the show I’d love to hear what you have to say about it, too.

Sons of AnarchyFirst off, it’s pretty violent. Especially the first episode; the second episode not so much. Still not something my wife would want to see.

Secondly, it’s pretty cynical. Paid off cops and other officials are just par for the course.

Third–and this is interesting–it’s all about family. Since I don’t normally watch television I haven’t seen all the Sopranos shows but I suspect it’s like that in a way. They’re all family, and family is what matters. It’s just that in this case, it’s a family of thugs and murder, extortion, and gun-running are family values. It kind of shows up the misnomer of the religious right and how they say they stand for family values. What they really mean is that they are in favor of enforcing their own family values, never mind if you have different values in your family.

That comparison to the Sopranos strikes me as especially relevant here. This is a show about a biker gang, but at least in the first two episodes, the only thing that makes them a biker gang is that they ride motorcycles. Otherwise they might as well be the Sopranos. Yes, it’s a little early but so far motorcycles really haven’t played any sort of role in the show. They could have filmed the same show with all the characters getting around in Honda Accords. It has nothing to do with bikes.

Anyway, the story line is starting to develop and from a detached point of view it’s interesting to see how they’re setting up the characters so you’ll hate them or love them or connect with them in one way or another–whatever it takes to get you to tune in next week. I’m not on the verge of getting caught up in this show but I will watch a few more episodes just to get a good feel for the thing. And if there’s anything worth discussing I’ll come back to this topic. Time will tell.

Biker Quote for Today

Live to Ride, Hope to Live.

Hamlet on a Hog–What’s the Take on Sons of Anarchy?

Monday, November 24th, 2008

I’m probably way behind you on this. The simple fact is that my wife and I don’t watch television. Really. We don’t. I know it’s hard to believe. But for that reason, until today I had never heard of this new motorcycle gang show on this season, Sons of Anarchy. And the word is that the series is based loosely on “Hamlet” (you know, that king of the Danes thing by Shakespeare).

Sons of AnarchySo is it any good? Is it worth watching? Is it worth doing something I’m not accustomed to doing, i.e., turning on the TV? I don’t know, but I’m going to find out. And the really amusing thing in this internet age is that I’ll do so without turning on my television. If you go to the official site, the one in that link above, you can watch any episodes you want on your computer. I really like that because otherwise I would have to catch whatever episode was on and come in in the middle of the story. On the web I can start with the pilot episode and catch up at my own speed.

I’m really curious whether this thing is going to be–or already is–seen as creating another negative stereotype against bikers. Of course, this being American television, you can’t have protagonists who are unadulterated bad guys. So the Sons of Anarchy do bad stuff, like selling smuggled guns to gangs in East LA, but in their own home of Charming, CA, these good bad guys keep the bad bad guys from selling meth on their turf. How do I know all this if I haven’t seen the show? I read it on Wikipedia.

Now, certainly I’ll have something further to say on this once I watch a few of the shows, but if you’re way ahead of me and have been watching it since it premiered, maybe you could give me a feel for it from your perspective. I suspect this is already a much talked about subject among bikers, although my buddies haven’t mentioned it. Could I possibly be ahead of them?

What a concept: me watching television. What’s the world coming to?

Biker Quote for Today

Faster, Faster, Faster, Till the thrill of speed overcomes fear of Death.

First Sighting: Can-Am Spyder

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

I showed up for my first day on the new job Tuesday and right there, in the primo spot in the parking lot, like the guy must have been the first person to come to work that day, sat a brand new Can-Am Spyder.

Can-Am SpyderI’ve read about these things in the motomags but this was the first one I’ve ever seen. And I still don’t know what to think of it. It a three-wheeler with two in front and one in back. This particular one was bright red and still had the temporary tag on it.

The thing about these is that while it is really cool looking, very sleek and shiny, and looks like a lot of fun, what it looks like most is a snowmobile on wheels. I’ve never ridden a snowmobile but they’ve always looked like a lot of fun, too, but the question that seems to be asked the most is this: Is it a motorcycle? I’ve read a bunch of articles and the bottom line is, it’s up to you to decide.

If you want to learn more about it, here’s an article on Edmunds.com where they talk about putting it through the paces. They liked it.

The full name for the Spyder is BRP Can-Am Spyder Grand Sport Roadster. It is manufactured by Bombardier Recreational Products, which is the BRP in the name. Bombardier makes small aircraft, including those really little commercial jets you may have flown in on Northwest Airlines. They own Cessna, too, I believe.

So that was an interesting way to start the first day on the new job. I’ll probably never find out who owns it, though. Too many thousands of people working there. And with the change in the weather he probably won’t be riding it to work again any time soon. But I’m glad I got to see it.

Biker Quote for Today

Would I buy one of everything? Oh, hell yes, if I could. But that’s a little out of my reach so you have to be selective.

Colorado Now Offers Separate Licenses for Motorcycle Trikes

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Gold Wing trikeWhat do you do if you’ve lost a leg but still want to pilot a motorcycle trike? In most states, to operate one of these vehicles you need a motorcycle validation on your driver’s license. That can be hard to get if you’re disabled in any of a number of ways.

Well, Colorado has answered that question. This one slipped by me but Terry Howard, State Coordinator of ABATE of Colorado, brought it to my attention when we spoke recently.

As of this summer, Section 1. 42-2-103, of the Colorado Revised Statutes, says, in part:

The department shall also require an applicant for a limited three-wheel motorcycle endorsement to demonstrate the applicant’s ability to exercise ordinary and reasonable care and control in the operation of a three-wheel motorcycle.

The act further states:

A person with only a limited three-wheel motorcycle endorsement may operate a three-wheel motorcycle but shall not operate a two-wheel motorcycle on a roadway.

This provision also applies to bikes with sidecars.
So there you go. You no longer have to have a full motorcycle license to ride a trike in Colorado. Credit for this goes primarily to ABATE of Colorado and the efforts it put behind getting this measure passed. By the way, ABATE of Colorado also offers rider training courses for three-wheelers and sidecars.

Biker Quote for Today

It is not what you ride, it is the fact that you ride.

Now What, an OFMC Auxiliary?

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Dennis just traded his Gold Wing for a Harley and a couple days later another email came from Johnathon: He bought a new bike.

Felicia on her RebelThat’s it in the picture. It’s a little small by OFMC standards, but then so is his wife, Felicia. That’s her on this Honda Rebel 250.

Johnathon said it was his bike, but gosh, it’s just too small for him, “so I guess my wife can have it.” That makes Felicia the first of the OFMC wives to ride her own. But I don’t guess she’ll be joining us on our summer trips, so does that make her OFMC Auxiliary? If women find that concept offensive these days don’t tell her I said it.

Felicia is a good one to have her own bike. She likes taking trips with Johnathon, but more than that, she’s a gutsy rider. The two of them went to Costa Rica and on their return we heard from Johnathon how they rented ATVs for a day and she smoked him blasting down the jungle paths. He’s an experienced biker but she rode that thing like she was born to it.

So good for you Felicia. Come join us on the next day ride, but even though I’d like to take the Rebel for a test ride I don’t think I’ll be offering to swap bikes. She’s only about 5 feet tall, you know. I don’t think I’d want her on my very tall Concours.

Biker Quote for Today

My favorite ride? Tomorrow’s!

British Cops Propose Bike Ban, or Did They?

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

There has been quite a discussion going on over on my Denver Motorcycle Examiner webpage in regard to a post I made there about a possible British motorcycle ban.

I picked up a news article from www.motorcyclenews.com, a British website, that said the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) in England told a committee of Parliament that “Motorcycles are seen in the UK to be, in the majority of instances, vehicles of choice rather than necessity and one might consider if our congested roads are any longer fit for purpose for these motorised toys.”

Well, that’s a show stopper. The article also spoke about an ACPO claim that many street bikes have too much power, and an ACPO request for chips in license plates to help identify bikes even if the police can’t catch them.

The post drew a number of comments from British bikers, such as f0ul who said:

The police in the UK have been as totalitarian as they can get away with over the past few years.

They managed to get at least 7 national shows banned over 2008 – they have been pushing for the national parks to have a motorcycle ban for a few years although I don’t think they will be able to do it because almost all proper laws in the UK are worked out in the EU by today.

With a number of bike manufacturers still in Europe (BMW etc.) this sort of law will be seen as a detriment of trade and there is no way the Germans will allow that!

However, there was another post “on behalf of the Association of Chief Police Officers” that said:

ACPO does not advocate the prohibition of motorcycle use on public roads. It is nonsense to suggest that ACPO is seeking a ban on motorcycles, given that most police forces in the UK actively deploy and consider motorcycles to be a key part of their transport infrastructure.

So the following day I published this reply as a follow-up post, expressing some reservations but concluding that without actually reporting the document in question I had no way of knowing whose version was closer to the truth.

Then I got comments on that post. John Procter had this to say:

Perhaps you need to look at the rather lengthy report that contained the ACPO statement. It may not be as draconian as initial snapshot reporting suggested, but there could still be some concern. The truth of the matter might be that some police chiefs are VERY anti bike, e.g., North Wales’ infamous police boss. However, a major problem we have here in the UK is very poor policing of our roads with a high dependency on speed cameras. Lack of traffic police has led to poorer driving with consequent effects on vulnerable motorcyclists, leading to worrying casualties.

I thanked John for helping clarify some of the issues here. I didn’t promise to read the report. Then the latest comment was a copy of an updated news report from the (I believe London) Telegraph. The reporter, Kevin Ash, wrote:

In a press release responding to concerns about the ACPO submission, David Griffin, Deputy Chief Constable of Humberside, stated: “It is nonsense to suggest that ACPO is seeking a ban on motorcycles,” even though it is clear in the report that ACPO suggests prohibiting motorcycles from some roads. The press release also said that ACPO does not have a position on imposing specific power limits on motorcycles, yet they appear to have a position in the submission to the Transport Committee.

Another strange claim by ACPO to the committee is that motorcycling presents a problem of “Vehicle Excise Duty evasion on a massive scale.” This appears to be based on a DVLA report published at the beginning of this year suggesting that almost 40 per cent of motorcycles are untaxed, even though an apology was later issued by the Commons public accounts committee when it was discovered the figures were wrong, and the true number was only slightly greater for motorcycles than cars, at about six per cent. In its submission, ACPO used the 40 per cent figure to suggest that motorcycles should be fitted with electronic chips to allow automatic vehicle identification. ACPO did not respond to The Daily Telegraph’s query about this.

A further inaccuracy presented to the committee by ACPO is that, “Production machines are readily available for use on our roads with top speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour.” In fact there are no production bikes capable of more than 200mph, even without the motorcycle industry’s voluntary 186mph speed limitation.

So, he said, no I didn’t, yes you did. It’s looking pretty messy over there. What does that have to do with us in the U.S., or more specifically in Colorado? Nothing directly, but you know that if laws like that get passed over on that side of the pond, someone over here will surely make similar proposals. I know I say this a lot, and I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but this is exactly why I belong to the American Motorcyclist Association and why you should too, or else to the Motorcycle Riders Foundation or to your local ABATE. These are the guys fighting to protect our rights.

Biker Quote for Today

The great thing about riding through strange new places is that it invariably shows me just how wrong I am about them until I actually go there. Actual experience beats half-assed assumptions and prejudice.

Here’s the Word on Tiered Licensing

Monday, November 10th, 2008

This is great. I got the answers I was looking for on the issue of tiered licensing, which was raised several times at the Meeting of the Minds awhile back.

The person providing the information is Don Creamer, who is the state Legislative Affairs Specialist for ABATE of Colorado. Rather than paraphrase Don, I’ll just present his info directly.

First Don gave a better synopsis than I have of what tiered licensing can look like. Here’s what he said:

Tiered licensing consists of restricting riders to certain size engines on their bikes based upon their age. As an example, a 16 year old may only be able to ride a bike with 50cc’s or less, and this would be noted in some way on their operator’s license. In Europe the “unlimited” class (i.e., any engine larger than 650 cc) is limited to those 24 or older. For that reason many riders wait until they are 24 before they consider getting a bike.

This type of licensing relies upon the flawed assumption that age equals maturity and ability to handle a larger/more powerful machine.

When I asked Don what the issues were, as far as ABATE is concerned, this was his reply:

Fairness is also the driving issue (sorry for the pun) when it comes to tiered licensing. When you look at the numbers of fatalities involving automobiles as opposed to motorcycles, the “need” for tiered licenses for only motorcycles is not supported. It is surprisingly rare for a young person to be killed on a bike that has a large engine – kids can’t afford them! However, kids are regularly killed (usually in bunches of two or more) in cars that have large displacements when compared to bikes. So, who do the lawmakers go after? The motorcyclists of course. We are an easy, visible target. Down here in the Pikes Peak region, the kids who can afford to buy the hot crotch rockets (Ninjas, etc.) are the military troops who want additional excitement after spending 15 months in Iraq or Afghanistan getting shot at. Those 19 and 20 year olds can afford it because of their regular paychecks, sign-on bonuses, etc. College and high school students can’t.

Look at student parking lots at schools, and you won’t find many motorcycles. Most of these kids drive cars to schools and to their jobs. They can’t afford a bike for nice weather and a car for when it snows or rains. Their parents would explode if the legislature required those kids to drive small cars which provide less protection (but can still go pretty fast.)

If the legislature wants to get serious about doing something for kids they will require the wearing of helmets by children when they are riding in a car! The traumatic brain injury per capita rate is 14 times higher there than from motorcycle accidents. Now THAT requirement would cause some yelling!

I hope that this helps.

So that’s the scoop. Thanks Don, I really appreciate your help here.

Biker Quote for Today

It’s simple—Just Ride!

OFMC Adds a Harley, Loses a Gold Wing

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Dennis' new HarleyDennis announced happily, in an email with photos, that he has taken possession of his new Harley-Davidson FLHX Street Glide. That’s it in the photo.

That means the OFMC now has four Harleys, four Hondas, one Kawasaki, and one Yamaha. Dennis sold his Gold Wing.

The real irony of this is that it could have happened months ago. We were off on the summer road trip and one of the Harley riders had mechanical problems with his new bike. So he and several others hit the Harley dealership in Durango. Stranded there for half a day, they all spent some money, but Dennis had his eye on a Street Glide just like the one he has now.

There’s a real problem when a company has a product that is so in demand that it sells itself. The “salesmen” tend to become “order takers.” Well, this particular order taker who Dennis was talking with had a live one on his hook and didn’t do a thing. So Dennis walked out without the bike, but he knew now what he wanted.

And now he has it.

Biker Quote for Today

Sit tall in the saddle, hold your head up high – Keep your eyes fixed where the trail meets the sky – And live like you ain’t afraid to die – And don’t be scared, just enjoy your ride.

Clarifying Issues from Meeting of the Minds

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

I discussed the recent Meeting of the Minds conference that was held recently here in Denver by the Motorcycle Riders Foundation. At the time there were a couple issues I was unfamiliar with that I wanted to learn more about. I now have more to report.

Cruising along Trail Ridge RoadFirst off, I was apparently a little off in my description of the issue of mandatory rider training. I said that MRF members “are concerned about a move to make such training mandatory, because they fear that the capacity does not exist to offer that training to that many people.” That was what I thought I had heard, and maybe to some extent that concern exists.

However, I spoke last week with Terry Howard, State Coordinator for ABATE of Colorado, and she gave me a totally different take on the topic. Speaking strictly for ABATE of Colorado, Terry said the only issue she has with mandatory training is that it apply to motorcyclists AND to motorists. That was really a “Doh!” moment for me. Of course. It would be totally discriminatory to require motorcyclists to have rider training while not requiring drivers to have driver training. We’re both operating motorized vehicles on the same roads and highways. And lord knows we all know that those folks in their cars need better training on avoiding those of us not enclosed in steel cages.

But it occurs to me as well, that as much as we talk about how many motorcycle accidents are caused not by the biker but by the rider, the same is actually true of car on car accidents. Probably in most two-car accidents, only one of the drivers is significantly at fault. The other is probably just as much a victim of the other driver’s carelessness as we are when it’s a car on bike accident. So absolutely, if our legislators want to impose mandatory training on bikers, we have got to ensure that ALL motor vehicle operators have the same requirement. Of course, then we really get into the issue of training capacity, as I mentioned originally.

The other unclear issue from MotM is something Terry was not as able to clear up. That was the idea of tiered licensing. She said she doesn’t really know the issue because Colorado doesn’t have it. The only thing she could tell me is that she thinks it is possible Colorado could move in that direction because of the upswing in popularity of scooters. Anyone on a scooter bigger than 50cc has to have motorcycle validation on their license, but below 50cc there is no requirement. Terry told me that some ABATE members have raised the issue because they see these low-maximum-speed scooters as hazards slowing down traffic on busy arterials. But there is no such proposal currently and ABATE is not pushing for it. So I guess for now tiered licensing will remain an issue for other states, not Colorado.

Biker Quote for Today

Bikes parked out front mean good chicken-fried steak inside.