Archive for February, 2009

Moving Deeper Into the Motorcycling Community

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

I attended my first ABATE meeting on Sunday. This would be ABATE of Colorado District 10. I had no real idea what the focus of the meeting might be, or even what it really means to be a member. But I figured it was time to learn.

ABATE D-10 patchI’ve always been inclined to activism. Years ago I was a lot more interested in politics than I am today, so I didn’t just vote, I was an active party member. Heck, I was even a precinct committeeman for a while.

Then I became disillusioned with the party and left it.

With motorcycling, my activist bent has developed more slowly but it has been a clear direction. Initially all I wanted to do was ride, either with my friends or by myself. But then an incident occurred that raised the issue of making helmets mandatory again and I felt I had to speak out.

I wrote a letter to the newspaper and it was printed. That prompted a local member of the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) to contact me and send me a membership application. And I joined. I’ve been a member now for 16 years.

Being an AMA member made me a lot more aware of the legal issues arising and being addressed around the country and within my own sphere I became an advocate. You know advocacy is needed when you find that you have to explain to your own parents why insurance practices that discriminate against bikers are wrong.

I took the next step when I built the Passes and Canyons, Motorcycle Touring in Colorado website. For the first time I was moving beyond my own immediate circle, out into the broader world. Shortly after launching the site I added this blog. That provided me an impetus to not only attend events but to meet the people attending and the people putting them on in order to write about them with more authority.

One things leads to another, and through the blog I was contacted to write for as their Denver Motorcycle Examiner. I’ve always been a writer, and I used to be in the newspaper business, so this was like coming home. Being an Examiner opens more doors than just being a blogger and I’ve extended my scope to focus on more and more of the people and organizations that make up the local motorcycle community.

The more I wrote about ABATE’s rider training program, and the group’s efforts in the legislative arena, the more I came to ask myself why I was not a member.

So now I’ve joined. And my first impression is that I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. I look forward to seeing more, and to becoming a real part of it.

Biker Quote for Today

If you want to complain about the pace being set by the road captain, you better be prepared to lead the group yourself.

Repairing the Saddle on My Motorcycle

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

I went to Steele’s Salvage and replaced my saddle some years ago when it was getting totally ripped up. To my dismay, I recently noticed that this newer saddle was starting to tear. Bummer.

patching with Liquid Leather - beforeThen I saw an ad for a product that I figured would be worth a try. It’s called Liquid Leather. With shipping, it cost me $8 from Amazon. I tried it out this weekend and this is my report.

For starters, as you can see in the photo, it was a very small tear. That may mean this is not as good a test as it could be, but I didn’t want to wait for it to get bigger just for the sake of doing a better test.

The package comes with eight different colors of repair goop, an applicator, and several texture sheets that help the repair blend in better. So following instructions, I cleaned the area really well, made sure it was completely dry, and then smeared the goop on the spot. Obviously, you want to apply it fairly evenly. Then I slapped on the texture sheet and that was it. Wait 24 hours, peel off the texture sheet, and you’re done. Couldn’t be simpler.

So how did it work? First let me make a couple points. These may not have been optimal conditions. For one thing, the tear was right at the ridge where the passenger portion dips down to the rider portion. For another, it’s winter, so even sitting for 24 hours out in the cold may not be enough. Still, if that is an issue, they really ought to tell you so. Third, if you use it several times you may get better at doing the job.

patching with Liquid Leather - afterSo here’s a shot of the finished product.

As you can see, it doesn’t look perfect. And depending on the light it can be pretty noticeable. But that’s why I think with a little practice I could do better. This being my very first time I do think I have the ability to learn from experience.

While it’s not perfect, it’s definitely better than just leaving the tear to get bigger. What I really think is the most important thing here is how well this holds up. Only time will tell on that count and for that reason I don’t consider this a final. I’ll touch back in on this in about 6 months to tell you how it’s holding up. Or sooner if it just all falls off a week from now. Likewise, even if it comes off and the repair fails two years from now I’ll let you know. But at the very least, I’ll check back in at some point with an update.

Biker Quote for Today

Maintenance is as much art as it is science.

Join (or Renew) AMA and Dump AAA

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

If you pay to have roadside assistance for any of your vehicles you need to know about what the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) is now offering. Free roadside assistance for all your vehicles as a no-extra-charge part of your membership. And membership is only $39 per year.

American Motorcyclist AssociationCompare that to the American Automobile Association (AAA), where a basic membership is $73 per year and that won’t cover your bike. You can go with a premium membership that will cover your bike and that will cost you $177 per year.

How can AMA do this? You only get this benefit if you sign up with a credit card and agree to automatic renewals. They say they spend nearly $1 million on renewal notices each year and they’re looking to save a lot of money there. Plus, you know they have to be expecting a lot more renewals when it’s automatic. It’s just too easy when you get that notice to put it aside and forget about it, and then they’ve lost a member.

So even if you don’t ride it would make sense to join AMA just for the roadside assistance. Why pay more to AAA and get less?

Here’s the list of particulars of the program, straight from the AMA website.

* Coverage for bikes, cars, pickups, motorhomes and trailers registered to you, your spouse, and dependent children under the age of 24, living at home or away at college.
* Coverage in all 50 states, plus Puerto Rico and Canada.
* Towing up to 35 miles.
* All dispatch and hook-up fees.
* Flat tire assistance.
* Mechanical first aid: minor adjustments (excluding parts) to repair the vehicle.
* Emergency fuel delivery.
* Wheel and tire road hazard coverage for the member’s vehicles, including trailers.
* No exclusions for older motorcycles.
* Up to five dispatched service calls per year.
* Towing a disabled motorcycle or other vehicle to a shop or the member’s home.
* Emergency Trip Interruption Service: Up to $100 a day for three days ($300) in reimbursement for meals and lodging if a member’s car or motorcycle is disabled in an accident, and/or while the member’s vehicle is being repaired far from home.
* Toll-free assistance available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, from two national call centers.
* AMA Roadside Assistance pays first. No need to pay and wait for reimbursement.
* Free trip-routing service.
* Free limited legal services.
* Free online rewards mall.

Do I think this is a good deal? I learned about this on Sunday, after mailing my AMA renewal on Saturday. I went online and signed up for another year with a credit card and agreeing to automatic renewal. You bet I think it’s a good deal.

Biker Quote for Today

Classics are great, built to last, but when they don`t wanna run they’re a pain in the ass!

Cold-Weather Testing Fleece-Lined Chaps

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Saturday was very cold, so of course I went for a ride. Three rides, actually.

Cold weather was what I wanted because I had just received a new pair of fleece-lined chaps and I wanted to try them out. Here’s the full disclosure.

Lorna Reed, over in Palisade, had contacted me awhile back to inquire about advertising on the Passes and Canyons website. Lorna, through her company, Colorado Chaps, makes and sells chaps for bikers, horsemen, and anyone else who wants them. Long story short, she offered to make and give me a pair if I would try them out and then write about them in this blog. Mine to keep, regardless of whether I liked them or not, but she’d prefer if I didn’t write about them if I didn’t like them. Lorna was confident I would like them, however, and her confidence was well placed. I definitely give them a recommendation.

Colorado ChapsSo let me tell you about my testing methodology and the results.

First I went out for a fairly short ride, with just my jeans, to get a feel for just how cold it was. It was cold! As soon as I took off down the street I felt the cold cutting through the jeans and my legs were not happy. Even after that brief ride I had to sit at home and warm up a bit before the next ride.

For my second ride I put on my trusty leather chaps that have been my standard cold weather gear. These are really top-quality chaps, with really thick, heavy leather. If leather chaps were going to keep me warm, these would do it.

Leaving the house it was immediately noticeable how much warmer it was than with just my jeans. Other parts of my body were cold but my legs felt fine. I took a much longer ride this second time, most of it on the highway, to give the cold a chance to do its stuff.

The cold did do its stuff. Aside from the fact that my fingers were turning to ice, the leather got cold and I could feel that cold through my jeans. The chaps were blocking the wind but that wasn’t enough to keep me warm. Nothing we don’t already know, of course. Leather is not a cold-weather insulator, it just blocks the wind and offers good protection if you go down.

Back at home again I really had to warm up before my third ride. Under other circumstances I would have ridden my Kawasaki so its fairing and engine heat would keep me warm, but today I had deliberately chosen the Honda because I knew it would be colder. The sacrifices I make to bring you good information . . .

OK, so I put on the Colorado Chaps fleece-lined babies and off I went again. Same route as the last time. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t get cold. On a day like that you’re going to get cold no matter what. But the difference was clear. That fleece lining made a big difference. Plus,the heavy-duty Cordura nylon shell didn’t get as cold itself as the leather had, or at least it didn’t manage to transmit that cold to my legs.

The chaps were snug but not so tight as to make it hard to bend my knees. As with the leather chaps, around the top where they ended, the breeze got in and was chilling. But lower down there was no air infiltration and I stayed reasonably comfortable. I was pleased. I’ll definitely be putting these to use. Thank you Lorna.

So here’s the plug. Lorna runs a small Colorado business and she produces a good product. Plus, the price is definitely affordable. The heavy duty Cordura like mine costs $75 for a pair, plus $35 for the fleece lining. For $25 more you can get Kevlar in place of the Cordura. If you ride a Harley or some other bike where you risk contact with hot pipes, $20 will get you a “pipe patch” to protect them. And there are other extras you can order. Each pair is made to fit so you need to take your measurements with your riding gear on. Visit the website for the full scoop, or call Lorna at 970-464-5803.

Biker Quote for Today

May the sun be at your back, the wind in your face, and the bugs in your teeth.

Stayin’ Alive: Keeping the Old Beast Running

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

I made a run over to Steele’s the other day. In case you’re unfamiliar with the place, Steele’s Salvage at 2025 W. Union, is a junk yard for dead motorcycles.

Steele's SalvageMind you, Steele’s is a lot more than that. They sell used bikes of all kinds, they do service, and they sell both new and used parts. But it’s the salvage yard — to use the more PC term — that is totally fascinating.

There must be a couple thousand motorcycle carcasses parked row on row on the property. Many are just rusty hulks, others have clearly been consumed in flames, while many are in perfectly fine shape, ready to donate an organ to keep the brother you’re riding alive. All of them are in a greater or lesser state of disassembly.

I ride an old bike, a 1980 Honda CB750 Custom, so it’s no surprise that I have done business at Steele’s. At one point my saddle was so torn and ragged that I came to Steele’s for a replacement. It’s a pretty easy guess that dealers don’t carry replacement saddles for 20-year-old bikes, but that’s why God invented salvage yards.

Another time I needed a fusible link. In the case of the CB, this is just a small, slotted piece of copper that makes all the difference in the world as to whether the bike will run or not. You could probably put a box with a thousand of them in your pants pocket but you won’t find a single one at a Honda dealer these days. At least not one for a 1980 model bike.

At Steele’s I asked at the counter and they didn’t have any in stock, but they pointed me to the part of the yard where the Hondas reside and invited me to help myself to any I might find.

Not surprisingly, the spot in the wiring where the fusible link goes was empty on all the bikes I checked. But the factory sent the bikes out with spares. Inspecting the storage area on several bikes, I found half a dozen and laid claim to them all.

So I’m probably set with fusible links for the life of the bike. And when it finally dies it will probably end up at Steele’s or some place comparable, along with a few spares. They may some day serve to keep someone else’s old beast on the road.

I know there are plenty of folks who only want the latest, the hottest, and the fastest bike available, and for them, Steele’s is irrelevant. But for those of us who ride and love older bikes, Steele’s is the difference between the life and death of an old friend.

Plus, it’s just fun to wander around through all those old junkers.

Biker Quote for Today

It’s an old motorcycle. The wind is supposed to blow your head around, it’s supposed to leak oil, the brakes should suck, and every now and then, it should scare you so bad you piss your pants.

Trippy Video: Girl on a Motorcycle

Monday, February 9th, 2009

This is so sixties. I just stumbled across this video from a 1968 movie called Girl on a Motorcycle. It starred Marianne Faithful and I hadn’t realized she was so cute.

I have no idea what the story line is but apparently riding bikes in the ’60s was psychedelic, at least if you were female. Enjoy.

OK, it looks like this may not show up if you’re using the FireFox browser, so here’s a link:

Biker Quote for Today

Go Fast & Take Chances!!

Elephant Ride Shows Who Has the Guts — Adventure Riders

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

I’d been hearing rumors about this but finally confirmed it just a few minutes ago. The Elephant Ride over Guanella Pass from Grant to Georgetown is on for this weekend.

Mind you, this is no ordinary ride. First off, Guanella Pass is covered in snow and has not been plowed. Second, most of these guys are going to be camping at Grant the night before. Is that tough enough for you?

And who are these crazies? Why the Adventure Riders. You may recall that I have mentioned this group on a number of occasions. They’re the ones who did a fund-raising ride to support a group the provides medical care to remote areas in Africa.

I doubt I’ll be able to make it up there on Sunday but if any of you guys reads this and wants to send me some photos and a report I’d love to hear from you and pass it all along.

Have a blast you guys.

Biker Quote for Today

I refuse to tiptoe thru life only to arrive safely at death.

Checkin’ Out the Swap Meet

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

So we enjoyed the motorcycle show and swap meet this weekend at the National Western Complex–once we were able to park and go in. Parking really was an issue, though.

custom motorcycleWe met up at a nearby restaurant and then cruised over to the show. First we tried to follow the seemingly obvious route, only to find ourselves stuck in a total traffic freeze. After sitting through several light cycles without moving we pulled out and turned into the neighborhood, knowing there was nowhere to park there, but at least it would give us a chance to rethink.

One of the guys said he was pretty sure that if we had taken the frontage road in front of the complex we’d come to motorcycle parking, so we tried that. Sure enough, there it was, but it was full. All the other parking lots in the area, of course, cost $8 and up per bike. That just didn’t sit well with us.

I knew that there was a huge parking lot over on the other side of the Coliseum so I led the way over there. That lot was $8, too, so I went on around to the back side of the Coliseum. There we stopped and conversed. Finally resolved that we were just going to have to bite the bullet and pay up, I led on around on a route I thought would take us back to the road. Instead, it took us . . . into the parking lot.

We looked around, thinking “Jeez, we’re in the parking lot.” So we parked. And no one came and asked us for money so we headed for the show.

A long line outside was daunting, but it moved quickly, so we were soon inside. Along with what seemed like every biker in a five-state area. There certainly were colors from groups from far and wide. And lots of people. A lot more than we remembered from other years we’ve gone.

So we wandered around and looked at a lot of bikes. On some the artwork was amazing. A few others you had to wonder why the owner thought this was cool. And then there were acres of booths selling everything from used engines to leather and chrome goods to just about anything in any way associated with motorcycles. I managed not to spend any money but we can’t all make that claim.

We didn’t stick around for the wet T-shirt contest this year. Friggs summed it up saying that the last time he went to a wet T-shirt contest they told him he was too old, too fat, and too short. He said he asked how tall you have to be to compete.

It was a good show and a great day to go for a ride. Then Sunday surprised us being warm and clear again so I got out again today. What a great weekend!

Biker Quote for Today

We, the few, the proud, the motorcyclists of the world, refuse to sit down in comfort, insulated from the environment, and run the gauntlet of life with a front row seat. And we wouldn’t want it any other way.