Archive for December, 2009

Best PC Blog Rides of 2009

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

It has been a good year for this motorcyclist, and a lot of the good parts have been reflected here in this blog. Here’s a recap of the highlights, in case you missed any of these.

Having a Great Time at the Motorcycle Ice Races
The year got off to a really fun start when we went to see the ice races. Yes, it was cold, but even Judy had a blast. It’s almost January now so we’ll be heading back up soon for another dose.

new year's greetings from the OFMCCheckin’ Out the Swap Meet
This is another January tradition. I’d be going to this event if for no other reason than all the great photos I get of fancy motorcycles.

Rounding the Curves at High Plains Raceway
What a surprise to happen by High Plains Raceway and discover that it was ready to open. The last I had heard the likelihood of that had been given to me as slim or none, but there it was.

Working for Dedicated Motorcycle Parking
This was a story that I picked up on and followed that promised good things for bikers in Denver. The city was planning to set up motorcycle-only parking in currently underused spaces around downtown. Unfortunately, as with so many other things, the recession nipped that bud. While the cost would have been negligible, any cost that was not mandatory was deemed expendable. Maybe next year.

12 Motorcycling Lessons I’ve Learned
This was a series of articles I had done for, which I made available here in booklet form.

A Day at the Motorcycle Races, New Track Inaugural
High Plains Raceway did indeed open and I was there for the first ever motorcycle racing event held.

Meeting Up with the Run for the Wall in Limon
This was the first of what has become a series of events that I’ve covered via participants who send me reports. As this thundering horde came through Colorado on its way to D.C., I went out and met them in Limon.

Broken Wings: The Back Story
Broken Wings: When a biker goes down hard” was one of the best pieces I’ve ever written, and as I have taken to doing, I told the behind the scenes story here, while running the story itself on

Three Days on the Bike, An Exploration
I rode old U.S. 6 from Denver to the state line with Utah, seeing just how much of the old road survives what with I-70 taking much the same route.

Taylor Canyon and Cottonwood Pass Are Keepers and I Finally Make It To Kebler Pass
I finally got to some places in Colorado I’d never been to. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Heading to the Bonneville Vintage GP and Concours
Taking this moto-journalist thing seriously, I headed out to the salt flats for this event. Had a great time.

Douglas Pass Deserves to Be on the Website
Another great Colorado road I’d never been on. Now if I can ever find the time to get this up on the site like I promised.

My Chance to Ride a Racing Sidecar–Barely
Part of the reason the trip to Bonneville was such fun.

30K Harley Rider Does Iron Butt Extreme
I got a tip about this guy who rode 30,000 miles in 30 days, and called just as he got home. What a terrific story.

OK, that’s some of the good ones. There are more but I don’t want to drag on too long here. If you’ve been keeping up with these stories as they’ve been written I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride at least a little bit as much as I have. More to come in the new year.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
What’s up (Way up!) with ape hangers?

Biker Quote for Today

If you’re riding on 2 wheels then you’re OK by me!!

Product Review: exo2 Heated Vest and Gloves

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

exo2 The Heat Inside vest and gloves

It’s bitter cold and snow is on the ground (and the roads!) and Dom Chang is reveling in his Ural sidecar rig that allows him to ride even in these conditions. This is the time of year for heated motorcycle gear. Fortuitously, I recently had the opportunity to test some electrics.

Mind you, I’m a firm believer in this stuff. I’ve had a Widder (company defunct now) electric vest for years and you’d better believe it’s been in use recently. What I tested was the StormRider body warmer, which is essentially a vest, and the StormShield gloves, which (surprise!) are heated gloves. They’re produced and sold by exo2 The Heat Inside.

Long story short, they worked great. The body warmer was very similar to my Widder vest, although it has more insulating power on its own, without the electrics turned on, and I appreciated the ability to adjust the heating level. My Widder is either off or on, unless you have a control unit, which I don’t.

The gloves were something new for me. First off, they’re heavy duty motorcycle gloves in their own right. They’ve got strategic padding and reinforcement, little wiper blades sewn onto the thumbs for wiping your visor and also provide significant insulation. Turn them on and you feel the heat instantly on the back of your hands. Very nice.

Rigging all this up was a bit of a challenge. You need to connect to your battery, then run the controller cable up to somewhere around the handlebars and instruments. There was nowhere for me to easily connect on my Concours so I just jerry-rigged it since I was only going to have it for a couple months to test. The cable splits coming off the battery and the other end runs to the vest. Another cable connects at the vest and that goes to the gloves. That cable itself splits and you run them up your back and down your sleeves.

Would I buy this gear? If I didn’t already have an electric vest I would definitely have purchased this one rather than returning it to the manufacturer. Of course, they would have given me a discount, so that would have helped make the decision easy. And I would definitely like to have those gloves, but rigging everything up for just the gloves, while still needing to rig up my Widder vest, would have been a bit much. Using the vest and gloves together just makes more sense.

If you don’t have electrics you don’t know what you’re missing. Don’t park that bike for the winter. Ride it. But stay warm in the process–it’s a lot more enjoyable.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
MotoAdventureGal update: Reaction to a woman riding solo

Biker Quote for Today

So how long did it take you to push your bike 4k thru the snow?

Product Review: Video Sunglasses a Mixed Bag

Friday, December 18th, 2009

I mentioned on Tuesday that I was testing some video sunglasses that come equipped with a video/still camera and microphone, for use in the manner of a helmet cam. After using them a bit I have to say my assessment is mixed.

shot with my Nikon
    Shot with my Nikon

First off, if you want to see some video I shot, riding through the colorful beauty of Red Rocks park just west of Denver, click this link here. It will open Windows Media Player or whatever the default application is on your machine. I tried to embed the video here, but the WordPress blog software is apparently known for making that difficult.

shot with DigaSpy in still picture mode
    Shot with DigaSpy in still photo mode

Now, as long as the window that opens matches the size of the video it’s not a bad image. Originally it opened for me at nearly full screen and looked terrible, but then I realized the video is only 640 x 480, so I shrunk the window to approximately that size and the image, though obviously smaller, was far better. Yes, you can get helmet cams that record in HD but you’ll pay a lot more for them than for the DigaSpy, which is what it is I’ve been testing.

shot with DigaSpy in video mode
    Shot with the DigaSpy in video mode

That’s right, the name is “DigaSpy.” As Tony Ibarra, the CEO of Digatron tells me, the camera-glasses were originally marketed for covert surveillance purposes. It was only after he started getting some interest from motorcyclists that they realized there was a whole other potential market.

The other mode offered by DigaSpy is still picture mode. Either by pressing a button on the frame of the glasses or clicking a half-dollar-sized remote you can also shoot an individual-frame still photo. Initially Tony gave me the low-end model with a .3 megapixel image. I quickly found that to be totally unacceptable so he swapped me for the top-of-the-line model with 2 megapixels. That was definitely an improvement, but with even cheap digital cameras having higher resolution than that these days I just can’t see a lot of use for this. Yes, you can shoot pictures from on your bike as you cruise along, and that would be a strength. But at least for me and for my purposes, if the shot is that good it’s worth it to me to stop and pull out the Nikon. It may be a different matter for you.

Just so you can see the comparison I’ve put up three shots of the same scene. The first was shot from a standstill with my Nikon. The second was shot from a standstill with the DigaSpy on still photo mode. The third was recorded on the DigaSpy in video mode and I captured the image from the video. I’ve done color correction and sizing just as I always do with images I intend to use.

The DigaSpy also records audio and in a calm environment the sound is good. If you view the video, however, you’ll see that on the bike you just get constant wind noise. So if you wanted to walk around at a party filming your friends it would presumably work quite well. Watching the video from the bike you may as well turn off the audio.

I know that Tony wants to crack the motorcycling market, so my hope is that they will continue developing this product and overcome the shortcomings I’ve identified. If it looks like it will meet your needs now, you can purchase the DigaSpy from Digatron. The .3 megapixel model costs $149 and the top-of-the-line model is $229. Plus, there are two intermediate models.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
J2 races Baja: The long way home, an adventure in itself

Biker Quote for Today

The only time you have too much fuel is when you’re on fire.

Product for Review: Diganet Video Sunglasses

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

This is going to be interesting. Earlier today I picked up a pair of glasses equipped with a microphone and digital camera, for testing on my motorcycle. They’re like a helmet camera except they go on your face like any glasses. And they have both clear and dark lenses, so the name on the box is “Video Sunglasses.” The brand is DigaNET.

video glassesThe way I see it, these things have a lot of potential. Many times I’ve ridden through Glenwood Canyon and wanted to get pictures for the website that do it justice, but the only way to do that would be to stop on the highway–not a safe move. A helmet cam has come to mind more than once.

Plus, when I’ve been out shooting pictures for the site, on more occasions than I can count I have ridden along thinking “That might make a good shot” but by the time I’m saying that I’m already blasting past the point. How nice it would be to just see the great view, look at it, and presto, it’s been photographed.

So anyway, I’m going to be testing these things in the next week and will have a report for you soon after. The first thing I can tell you is that they won’t work with a full-face helmet. I tried and there is no way to get them on after you have the helmet on or to put them on before donning the helmet. So that’s an issue. Maybe the manufacturer can come up with a design that does work with a full-face helmet. I’ll be doing my testing with my half-helmet. Obviously, if you don’t wear a helmet there’s no problem at all.

One other interesting thing about these glasses: They were originally designed with covert surveillance in mind, and it is only due to interest shown by motorcyclists that the company has turned their attention in our direction. They contacted me via the Passes and Canyons website asking if I wanted to carry their ads on the site. I said I want to test this thing. And that’s how we got to where we are now. Stay tuned.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
J2 races Baja: First leg of the race and a premature ending

Biker Quote for Today

If you’re lost, you’re most likely off the beaten path and that’s the best path to be on.

The J2 Racing Baja Saga–Quite a Tale

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Jason Hill and John Lowe went to Ensenada last month as J2 Racing to compete in the 2009 Baja 1000, but the race ended very early for them when John crashed and broke his wrist and other bones. That’s Jason on the right, John on the left.

J2 Racing, John Lowe and Jason HillWhile I quickly received, and passed on, the general information, Jason has now provided me with the full story, and what a story! I’ve started putting the whole thing up on in segments and you can read the first segment now. I’ll be posting the additional segments one per day until it’s all up there.

So what’s up next on my agenda? Well, when I initially made contact with Jason on the Adventure Riders forum I received a note from another fellow who asked if I’d be interested in covering the ALCAN 5000 via their team. Oh, OK, that sounds interesting.

In case you’re unfamiliar with it, the ALCAN 5000 is a team racing event with cars and/or motorcycles. They cover 5,000 miles (surprise!) and a good bit of Alaska and Canada. This particular team will have two cars and two bikes. The race isn’t until next summer so I won’t be doing much with it for awhile.

And then, asking Jason what’s next for J2 Racing, he says they now have their eyes on the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb. That’s great because I had my eyes on that, too. And it looks like I won’t even have to go looking for a team. This could become addictive.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Seasonal giving displays the best in bikers

Biker Quote for Today

I ride faster than I should but slower than I wish. I know there is risk, but I balance it against skill and luck and that act is a big part of why I ride motorcycles and why I bother with a trip like this. – Neduro

The Time of Year for Biker Giving

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Feed the Children and bikers

Motorcycle groups are known for their generosity, especially around Christmas time. Toys for Tots rides are common as well as a variety of other similar events.

unloading food boxesI spent a good part of my afternoon today with other members of my ABATE District 10 as well as members from other districts and other organizations unloading a truck with food enough to feed 400 families for a week. The $11,000 to pay for it all came from ABATE fundraisers as well as events put on by the Frontier Club, VFW Post 3631, and the Friends of ABATE.

The event is officially the ABATE District 10 Erica Reyes Kids Without a Christmas. This is the second year D-10 has done this. The Aurora Police Department and the Aurora Fire Department will handle selecting the needy families and distributing the goods. In addition to food, this year there were two pallets of winter coats donated and Avon donated a large quantity of their products.

ABATE D-10 also shared some of the food with D-5 to help them out in their own charitable efforts. Altogether, approximately 40 people from D-10, D-5, the APD, the AFD, and the local Star motorcycles owners’ group gathered to greet and unload the truck.

Randy Savely, D-10 Representative, said, “It’s been great. We enjoy it. We’re letting them know we’re not all bad guys out here.”

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Motorcycle crash expert Harry Hurt dies

Biker Quote for Today

don’t care ’bout going fast…just want to go far…

Motorcycle Accidents Caused by the Road?

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

“Accidents caused by the infrastructure account for 14% of the total according to MAIDS.”

motorcycles in red-rock countryThat quote in a press release caught my eye. I’m signed up to receive press releases from a lot of organizations and this latest one is from the ACEM, the European Motorcycle Industry. MAIDS is the Motorcycle Accidents In-Depth Study which analyzed more than 900 motorcycle and moped accidents during the period 1999-2003 in five sampling areas located in France, Germany, Netherlands, Spain and Italy.

The release went on to say “Poor conditions of many European roads and city streets and the fact that PTW’s specific needs are still often neglected in road engineering are the main reasons for this situation. Rider behaviour in addressing each situation plays therefore a major role in PTW safety.”

PTW, by the way, stands for “powered two wheelers.”

So how often do you think about accidents being caused by poorly designed or maintained roadways? That really doesn’t cross my mind at all, so to see that 14 percent of motorcycle accidents are blamed on the infrastructure is an eye-opener. And it demonstrates the value that can come out of the new motorcycle safety study here in the U.S. If recurring types of such defects can be identified then municipalities and other governmental entities can be more aware of the need to rectify these situations.

At the same time, I consider this argument a little specious. Each of us is responsible at all times for our own safety. If you crashed on a piece of road and someone else didn’t, you did something wrong, while they did the same thing right. We can’t count on all roads we ride being perfect so you’d better ride in control at all times and respond to reality. The life you save may be your own.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Basket-case motorcycle restoration: Hard work, and then satisfaction

Biker Quote for Today

When in doubt, slow down. No one has ever hit something too slow.