Archive for September, 2009

A Motorcycle Guy Ends Up Interviewing A Musician (And Biker)

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

The best thing about being the National Motorcycle Examiner for is the doors that are constantly opening for me because of it. One of the odder opportunities to come my way recently was the question, would I like to speak to singer/songwriter Andy Chase. And oh yeah, Andy is a motorcycle lover.

Andy Chase on motorcycle in Times SquareMind you now, I’d never heard of Andy Chase, of Brookville, which is what he calls himself in his solo project, or Ivy, in which he is part of a threesome that includes the bassist from Fountains of Wayne. I thought it was pretty odd to get this email but, because music is another passion of mine, I figured what the heck. The worst I could do would be waste an hour of my time, and in the meantime, it might turn into something really interesting. Not to mention different. I like different.

So we ended up setting yesterday as the day to talk. The date is significant because Andy’s latest Brookville release came out today and tonight he’ll be in San Francisco playing the first gig in his tour to promote the new album.

Tracy, Andy’s publicist, had suggested in her initial email that she’d be happy to “set up a time to chat with Andy Chase about his bikes, and how the lifestyle affects his art.” OK, I figured, my first question to Andy would be along the lines of, “How does your lifestyle affect your art?” I mean, I’m a motorcycle guy, writing for an audience of motorcyclists. Make me care. Make my readers care.

Andy’s short answer was simply, it doesn’t. OK, think fast Ken, what do you ask now?

Fortunately I thought to ask him if there were any interesting and/or amusing stories to tell from the taping of his video for “Great Mistake,” the first single from this album, “Broken Lights.” Bingo. I was in the money. You can read his amusing tales of the shoot in the Examiner piece, “Talking motorcycles with Brookville’s Andy Chase.”

We talked about riding, too. Andy has a Ducati ST4S, a Moto Guzzi Stone, and a BMW 650 GS. The bike he’s riding in the video is the Guzzi, but don’t spend too much time watching the video to get a good look at. Andy told me they weren’t sure if there would be issues using a recognizable bike in the video so they put the tape together with shots that make it nearly impossible to tell what he is in fact riding.

Although he grew up riding dirt bikes, Andy told me he has gotten into road riding primarily due to the traveling he has done with bands over the years. He’s a New York kid and I guess he didn’t see too much of the country. Once he started seeing the whole U.S. he wanted to see more, and started doing motorcycle touring so he could really see it. The Ducati is his tour bike of choice.

All in all, it was an interesting conversation and it gave me some good material. As a writer, good material is one of the best things you can have. Who knows. Maybe I’ll start doubling as a music critic. I’m already getting emails from his publicist about other acts. Thank you Examiner for opening another door.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Model on-highway sound legislation drafted by AMA–if only cities will use it

Biker Quote for Today

Every time I start thinking the world is all bad, I see some people on motorcycles, it makes me take another look–Steve McQueen

Motorcycle Safety Features Coming From Honda

Thursday, September 24th, 2009

“Advanced Safety Vehicles” is the term Honda uses for its efforts to build vehicles with advanced safety features. I’ve written before about conspicuity enhancement, where designing motorcycles that appear to have angry human faces make them more noticeable to drivers. Now I’ve learned about some more of what Honda is working on.

I thought about paraphrasing what Honda says about “LONG design” but what the heck, I’ll just quote. I can’t say it any better than the did and I doubt they’ll come after me for cribbing their text, when what I’m doing is giving them some good publicity. So here are the pictures and the info. And here’s the link to the Honda site.

Angry motorcycle face

separating lights makes motorcycles safer

LONG Design
Since the light from a conventional motorcycle’s headlights comes only from the center of the vehicle, it is often difficult to judge a motorcycle’s distance and speed—often it seems to be farther away and moving more slowly than reality. To achieve nearly the same level of visibility as automobiles, ASV-3 motorcycles are outfitted with two sets of high-intensity LED lights at two different heights. This improves motorists’ ability to judge a motorcycle’s distance by approximately 10%, and improve the ability to assess its speed by approximately 20%, as compared with conventional motorcycles.

In addition to the placement of lights, Honda is also developing a camera system that shows what’s behind you on a screen on your bike’s dash. They call this their “Rear View Assistance System.” With cameras and screens constantly dropping in price, this is likely to be standard equipment before we know it.

Keep the good ideas flowing guys.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Bikers and their love affair with chrome

Biker Quote for Today

Anything that was sort of ahead of its time, in its time, that’s what I like.–Jay Leno

Not the Best Fall Ride Ever, But Not Bad

Monday, September 21st, 2009

Judy and I headed up for a fall ride on the Peak-to-Peak highway Saturday, and what a gorgeous day for a ride it was.

We were both really up for this because we haven’t gone for many rides together lately. In fact, it was becoming more and more clear to me that I hadn’t been doing any rides at all for enjoyment lately. I ride plenty, but it’s mostly for transportation. Time to have some fun.

Peak to Peak highway with fall colorsThere were only two problems: traffic and traffic.

We took off up I-25 to catch the 6th Avenue expressway west and out of town, but nearing Broadway the traffic was parked on the interstate. No problem, we’ll just jump off at Broadway and go north and catch 6th that way.

So we got to Alameda and I headed west again, hoping the highway would be clear at that point. We drew near and there was a traffic jam, so we turned north on Delaware, to 1st, to Santa Fe, with intentions of catching 8th west and onto 6th.

Guess again. There was construction on Santa Fe, narrowing traffic to one lane. We crept and crept and finally got past it, got to 8th, and got onto 6th. Only took 45 minutes. :>(

OK, so then it was great. We blew out 6th Avenue, curved around Golden onto CO 93, and then turned west on the road up Golden Gate Canyon. This is what motorcycling in Colorado is all about. Nice curves, towering rocks and cliffs, green forest . . . just sweet.

On up we climbed to where we hit the Peak-to-Peak, CO 119 at this point, and turned north.

It was definitely cooler up on the Peak-to-Peak than it was in town but we were dressed for it. The sun was shining, traffic was light, and there were a lot of motorcycles. Nice day.

We stopped in Nederland to stretch a bit and also to get some ice cream, but in the old part of town where we were we didn’t find it. No problem, Judy suggested we head down to Boulder and get ice cream there.

Boulder Canyon was a sweet ride, too, of course. This whole route is nice, and so close for an afternoon ride. We got to Boulder, headed for the Pearl Street Mall, and found that they have dedicated motorcycle parking right at Pearl Street. Couldn’t ask for better.

We got our ice cream and sat out doing some people watching. Boulder is not like so many other places. People watching here is definitely world class. Lots to see.

Then it was time to head on home and I figured to go down Broadway and take 93 back to Golden, rather than taking the Boulder Turnpike and having to deal with traffic in the center of Denver.

Guess again. We managed to time it perfectly to hit football traffic after the CU Buffs had just beaten Wyoming. All I can say is, working the clutch must really build up the muscles in my left arm. This mess made what we had run into in Denver look not nearly so bad.

Finally we got out of town and even then, 93 was choked with departing football fans. It was stop and go much of the way to Golden. We ended up back home about two hours later than that ride should have taken. A great day up in the mountains but oh man, the city just killed us.

Not to self: Stay away from Boulder on Saturday during the football season.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Pikes Peak Motomarathon rides southern Colorado

Biker Quote for Today

Helpful Hint: Traffic lights timed for 35mph are also timed for 70, 105, and 140!

Route for Five-Day Colorado Motorcycle Trip

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

I frequently am asked about routes for motorcyclists planning their trips to Colorado, and I’m always glad to offer critiques and suggestions. I figured I’d go ahead and share this recent request with everyone.

Hey Ken, coming to Colorado Oct 2 to do a 5 day ride.. Any suggested routes? Want to go through Vail and Aspen…thanks for your thoughts!

Colorado motorcycle trip map
My response
It appears you’re coming from Michigan, so I’m going to look at this from east to west and back east again. I don’t know if you’ve been here before or this is a first time so I’ll treat it as first time.

One thing you need to bear in mind is that in October it can get pretty cold at higher elevations, and snow is not out of the question. That said, here’s a route you might consider. The two end points are Loveland and Fort Collins, and you could start at either and end up at the other, doesn’t matter. We’ll start from Fort Collins.

Take CO 14 up the Poudre Canyon over Cameron Pass and down into North Park at Walden.
From Walden, stay on CO 14 down to Muddy Gap and then take US 40 over Rabbit Ears Pass.
This takes you to Steamboat Springs, which you might want to visit but if so you’ll then backtrack a couple miles to get to the next road.

Go south out of Steamboat on CO 131 to Toponas and then take CO 134 over Gore Pass to rejoin US 40 and go south a few miles to Kremmling.

Go south from Kremmling on CO 9 to Silverthorne and pick up I-70 over Vail Pass and down to Vail. I’m guessing you want to stay a night.

Continue west on I-70 a short distance to the Minturn exit and take Tennessee Pass up to Leadville on US 24.

Continue on to the Twin Lakes turn, at CO 82, and go over Independence Pass to Aspen.

If you’re planning on staying in Aspen this will be a short day.

Stay on CO 82 to Carbondale and then go south on CO 133 over McClure Pass down to Hotchkiss.

Pick up CO 92 to Delta and then US 50 toward Grand Junction. Before you get to GJ, turn off on CO 141 to Gateway and down to Naturita. This is the Unaweep Canyon scenic byway.

At Naturita, continue on CO 145 to Placerville and on toward Lizard Head Pass. Along the way you’ll want to run into Telluride and maybe spend the night. Then you’ll return to the road and actually go over Lizard Head Pass.

Take CO 145 down to Cortez, US 160 over to Durango, and then head back north on US 550 over Red Mountain Pass through Silverton to Ouray and Ridgway and Montrose.

At Montrose go east on US 50 past the Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Blue Mountain Reservoir to Gunnison and then past there over Monarch Pass and down to Poncha Springs.

Pick up US 285 and follow it north to Fairplay, then take CO 9 over Hoosier Pass to Breckenridge and to Frisco where you rejoin I-70.

Go east on I-70 to the Empire exit and US 40 and then take US 40 over Berthoud Pass and down to Winter Park.

Follow US 40 to Granby and then catch US 34, which takes you through Rocky Mountain National Park and over Trail Ridge Road, down to Estes Park.

Continue on down US 34 through the Big Thompson Canyon to Loveland.

That ought to just about do it.

Now, there are some places I left out because I’m not sure how much hard riding you might like to do. Take a look at this and if you want to add more let me know and we’ll work it out. But be aware that mountain riding is slower than crossing the plains, and 250 miles in a day can be plenty. Especially as the days get shorter.


Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Pikes Peak Motomarathon rides southern Colorado

Biker Quote for Today

Get your motor running, head out on the highway

Sometimes the Simple Stuff Is All It Takes

Monday, September 14th, 2009

For 10 years my Kawasaki Concours has fired up for me immediately every time, not counting the times when the battery was shot and needed to be replaced. Those weren’t the bike’s fault, that was the battery, and all batteries die eventually.

So I was a little concerned while I was up in Keystone, CO, covering the International Women and Motorcycling Conference that on two mornings I had to turn it over repeatedly before it caught. Still, it got cold those nights, my whole bike was covered with frost each morning, and I chalked it up to cold.

When I was back home later, and tried starting it, you can imagine that I was considerably more concerned when I had trouble again. Something was clearly wrong. Just what I need, a mechanic bill.

I asked our resident mechanic and his presumption was much like my own: carbs need cleaning. Ouch. I’ve had that done and it’s not cheap. What’s more, I just had it done not that long ago so if that was what was needed again I was not going to be happy.

So I went over to Vickery Motorsports, my local dealer and the place where I bought the bike, and told my story to the service manager (sorry, I didn’t get his name). He asked how long it had been since I’d had a tune-up. Oh yeah. Too long, I had to admit. Well, do this then, he said: clean the air filter and replace the spark plugs. If that doesn’t work, check back.

Great. That wouldn’t cost nearly as much as cleaning the carbs and I could probably do it myself. I went upstairs and bought the plugs and thanked him again on my way out. “Be really sure to clean the air filter,” he repeated, stressing that part. I read that as meaning it was particularly important.

Now, I’m no great mechanic. I don’t generally work on my motorcycles beyond lubing the chain on my Honda and checking the tires and changing the oil. And I quickly found out that replacing the plugs on the Kawi requires removing the gas tank to get to them. That’s out of my comfort zone. But I checked my tech book and getting to the air filter was no problem.

I pulled out the filter and followed instructions on cleaning it and put it back in. Then I turned the key and pushed the start button. Vrrooom! Instantly. And it has started instantly every time since.

So wow. That is so nice. Yes, I’m still overdue for a tune-up, and I’ll get to that soon, but isn’t it amazing what even simple maintenance can do. And of course this makes me feel good about continuing to do business at Vickery. Thanks guys.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Alpine Loop Scenic Byway: Another sweet Utah Motorcycle road

Biker Quote for Today

If the bike ain’t brakin’ properly you don’t start by rebuilding the engine.

My Chance to Ride a Racing Sidecar–Barely

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

There’s nothing like screaming around a racetrack at 150 miles an hour while hanging your body out of the vehicle to get your blood pumping. I had the chance to do exactly that last weekend at Miller Motorsports Park, outside of Tooele, UT, where I went to cover the Bonneville Vintage GP and Concours.

racing sidecar
    That’s me in the rear

The ride was a Formula 1 sidecar, piloted by Rick Murray, now the past-president of the Sidecar Racers Association-West. You can read about my ride on; this blog post is the back story of how this ride came to be, and almost never happened.

I was immediately drawn to the sidecar racers, just because what they do is so exotic, and so different from your basic motorcycle racing. You’ve got a motorcycle totally sheathed in aerodynamic bodywork, with one person driving and another person whose job it is to hang way over the side to provide counter-weighting to keep all three wheels on the ground. Sure, motorcycle racers wear pucks on their knees that they drag as they lean way over in curves. Sidecar passengers would need entire suits made of puck material, except their intent is not to drag.

Of course, at slower speeds the passenger doesn’t have to engage in quite such extreme behavior, and in fact the sidecar folks like taking others for “taxi rides” just to give them a feel for it. When I heard this I immediately asked where I should sign up.

It turned into a bit of dominos. The sidecar guys were all for giving me a ride, but they needed the OK from the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association (AHRMA), the event organizer, to take me on the track. I went and spoke to the AHRMA people.

The AHRMA people like having the sidecar people give taxi rides because that’s good PR for the vintage racing event, but they needed the OK from management of the track. All this was on Friday.

On Saturday I checked back and there seemed to be issues that were not easily resolved, though I have no idea what they were. One thing was certain, however, and that was that there would not be any taxi rides on Saturday. Try again tomorrow.

Sunday came and I tracked down the AHRMA folks again and pleaded my case. Apparently, this very topic had just been under discussion “upstairs” and as much as they’d like to offer taxi rides, it wasn’t going to happen. There was no time to squeeze it into the schedule. No taxi ride for me. Rats!

So I went back up to the press box and was working on another story when I heard a guy a couple tables down saying he was going for a taxi ride. How can that be, I asked, I was just told they weren’t doing them. He said he had talked with one of the sidecar teams and they offered to take him. I explained what I had been told and we went to talk to the folks who said they’d take him.

I told the team what the AHRMA people had told me and they said, well, if that’s what AHRMA says then that’s that. No can do. But that didn’t faze this other taxi rider. He wondered aloud if some strings could be pulled, and we headed out to do that. I asked him if he had strings to pull and he said he certainly expected that he did, he was the Sales Manager there at the track and was responsible for bringing about $5 million into the facility each year. (I forget his name. Sorry man, I wish I’d written it down.)

We went and found the AHRMA people and asked if it was the OK of the track that was needed. Yes. He grabbed a walkie-talkie and called his boss and asked if it was all right for the sidecars to do some taxi rides. His boss said yes. Presto, we were in. In minutes we were both suited up and loaded into our respective sidecars and out on the track.

Does the term “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know” ring a bell?

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Fowler Formula racing: Speedsters on a budget

Biker Quote for Today

Speed overcomes clearance–always!!

Douglas Pass Deserves to Be on the Website

Monday, September 7th, 2009

Douglas Pass, in Colorado

And here I thought I had all the good passes in the Colorado included on this Passes and Canyons website. Wrong. I just did Douglas Pass last week and it’s going to need to be added.

Update: I did, at long last, add this pass to the website. It only took about 13 months to make the time. Here’s the link: Douglas Pass

Douglas Pass mapIt’s not that I didn’t know this pass existed, because my buddy John rides that route periodically when the OFMC comes home through Dinosaur. John lives in Montrose so he splits off from the group in Dinosaur and heads down CO 139 home. He has told me there is a pass there but he never really impressed on me that this is a really nice pass.

So anyway, I was headed for the Salt Lake City area last week to cover the Bonneville Vintage GP and Concours and, although it was out of my way, I decided to check out this road. Yeah, I’m a little overdue. This was worth the extra miles. And I got photos and other information so I’ll be adding Douglas Pass to the website as soon as I can make the time.

One other note: I was also looking at Baxter Pass as a possible route but fortunately I had the chance to ask someone at a Colorado visitor center about it and we looked on the web. Baxter Pass runs sort of parallel to Douglas Pass, a little to the west, from Mack up to Vernal, UT, but it is a really bad road that even jeeps have trouble on. Just so you’ll know.

Update 9-24-12: I just got this note from Doug Bulkeley, saying “Just a note to tell you that Sept. 21, 2012, I came over Baxter Pass with a 34′ rv 5th trailer pulled by a 2012 Chevy 2500HD 4X4. Damn GPS said that was the quickest way. 5 hours later I disagree. I wouldn’t mind doing it again with an ATV and a camera. The only good thing was that it was dry. I may be working near Ridgway next summer. Oh, and by the way, I’m 70 years old.”

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Beauty and history at vintage motorcycle Concours d’Elegance

Biker Quote for Today

I come from the era when you ride for an hour, and then you wrench for three hours, so the idea that you have a machine where you just ride, well, it’s not an alien concept, but I just feel I’m missing part of it.–Jay Leno