Archive for May, 2010

Monkey Gripper Becomes Go 2 Motorcycle Tours

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Go 2 Motorcycle Tours

I guess maybe it wasn’t particularly intuitive that Monkey Gripper was the name for a motorcycle touring company, while Go 2 Motorcycle Tours makes that abundantly clear. This is just a heads-up that my friend Dan Patino has changed his business name and created a whole new website.

Regular readers of this blog may recall me speaking of Dan and Monkey Gripper last year as the guy who helped plan the Dirty Dozen Adventure for the Cures ride. On that ride, 12 women who were not experienced dirt riders were taken on a seven-day ride through the mountains of Colorado on some roads they found more than a bit challenging. The event was a fundraiser for breast- and ovarian-cancer research.

I mentioned then, too, that Dan had asked me to work with him as an additional guide on his tours, but the economy was so lousy last year that for Dan and others there was virtually no business. This year is looking up already, and he has tours scheduled and has again asked me to help out. You bet I said yes. He even has my picture and bio up on the new site already. Hot diggety! I’m looking forward to this.

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Biker Quote for Today

Adventure is what happens when you thought you were going to have a good time.

A Life on Two Wheels

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

These next few weeks are shaping up to be some of the busiest I’ve ever had, all relating to riding motorcycles. Let me give you an idea of what’s in store.

Today I take off on a two-day ride to shoot photos for a story I’m working on for Rider magazine. I did this ride once last fall but then found out my camera didn’t shoot in high enough resolution to meet their needs so I’ll do it again with my new camera.

Taylor Canyon in ColoradoThen next week I’m taking off for a four or five day ride with my friend John. We’re heading for New Mexico, hoping to spend some time there before the blazing hot weather hits.

On June 12, Judy and I are heading for the Black Hills on vacation. This will coincide, not by accident, with the Cushman Club of America’s 2010 national rally in Sturgis, SD. Their theme this year is “Come play where the big boys play,” and the visuals of Sturgis engulfed in scooters will be just too good to miss.

The following week I’ve been planning to do some coverage of the run-up to the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, culminating with the race itself on June 27. I’ve been connecting with contestants so I can cover that event through the eyes of someone actually involved.

While I absolutely will do some hill climb coverage, I received a call today from the editor of a motorcycle sport touring magazine asking me to go with him to Taos that same week for the Motorcycle Sport Touring Association’s annual gathering. If I can manage to squeeze it in I guess I’ll try to run down to Taos in the middle of the week.

Then there’s other stuff like the Hoka Hey Challenge and the latest Motomarathon event that, if I do any reporting on them, will have to be done secondhand. Hey, I’m only one guy.

So what have you got going on in June? I hope you’re going to get out and have some fun, too. Get on that bike and ride!

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Biker Quote for Today

Life is an adventure, and I refuse to live a boring one.

Riding Zeros and Old Motorcycles

Monday, May 24th, 2010

A very busy weekend, what with all the motorcycle riding I had to do. This is a dirty job and . . . oh yeah, you probably don’t want to hear it. OK, it’s a sweet job.

Zero electric motorcyclesOn Saturday, as I said I would, I went to test ride Zero electric motorcycles. Local Zero rep Chuck Pratt and a bunch of folks from the home office were on hand with a variety of bikes, offering test rides to all comers.

It was an absurdly windy day and there was no dirt to test ride the dirt bikes in, but it was still enough to get a feel for what an electric motorcycle is like. After being reassured that the thing really is running, as you sit there without holding a clutch in, squeezing brakes, or anything else, you twist the throttle and by golly you take off!

I’ll be giving a full report on about the Zeros, and I’ll come back here and link to that report once it’s up, but there’s one extremely interesting thing I want to share with you here. If you live in Colorado, you can have a Zero S (street) or DS (dual sport) for an incredible price.

They are listed at about $10,000 but thanks to state and federal tax credits for purchases of electric vehicles, a Colorado resident can ride off with one for only $5,100. That’s mostly thanks to the Colorado tax credit, which is the largest offered anywhere in the country. If I had room to park a third bike, and a normal job that actually paid real money, I’d be a fish on the line for them to reel in. You might want to consider it.

Old Bike Ride 8

Old Bike Ride 8Sunday was a whole other gig. Working through Norton Colorado, a group of local Norton owners, Bob Ohman put together this eighth annual ride of old bikes. The loosely structured–and completely unenforced, as far as I could tell, but who cares?–rules were you needed to be riding a bike at least 25 years old or be at least 65 years old yourself. I rode my 1980 Honda CB750 Custom.

This was a ride the way things used to be before lawsuit-happy Americans ruined things for themselves and others: no riding fee, no liability waiver–just come and join the gang and go for nice ride on a terrific day for riding. And there were Ducatis, Hondas, Nortons, BSAs, Yamahas, Harleys, at least one Laverda, and a bunch of others. Oh yeah, an Indian or two.

Heading out, the first thing we did was ride to the top of Lookout Mountain and then stop near Buffalo Bill’s grave for more schmoozing and oogling of old iron. Then back down the hill and up Clear Creek Canyon to the Peak to Peak Highway, and north to the Millsite Inn, outside of Ward, a popular biker stop.

After lunch and more oogling it was pick-your-own-route back to Golden and regroup, or head on home. Other than being more chilly than expected up on the Peak to Peak, we couldn’t have asked for a nicer day to ride and it was a lot of fun. Last Sunday in May; put it on your calendar for next year.

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Riding the old bikes

Biker Quote for Today

I may be a poor rider, but my bike sure is SLOW.

Ready to Ride Some Zeros

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Hot diggity, I’ve been waiting for this. Come Saturday I’m going to finally get the opportunity to test ride some Zero electric motorcycles.

Zero electric motorcycleI first started trying a couple months ago to set something up so I could see what these new-fangled electrics are like. Well, the day is nearly here. And you can bet I’ll have plenty to say afterward. Stay tuned.

I’m counting on getting to ride all four of the 2010 models, but that may depend on how many other people are there with the same intentions. Zero currently sells these four:

  • Zero MX is a motocross bike, set up for the track and for jumps
  • Zero X is a dirt bike, for trails and technical stuff
  • Zero S is a street bike
  • Zero DS is a dual sport bike

The one thing I’m wondering about is if we’ll get a chance to actually ride the dirt-oriented bikes in dirt. This event is taking place at a parking lot and if all we get to do is ride the dirt bikes around on the pavement that won’t be truly satisfying. Who knows. I guess I will come Saturday. And you will soon afterward.

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Biker Quote for Today

Loud pipes risk rights!

Three-Wheeling Through the Foothills on a Spyder

Monday, May 17th, 2010

I want to give a big thank-you to David and Wade at Colorado Sport Bike Rentals, in southwest Denver, for giving me this opportunity: I recently took their rental Can-Am Spyder out for a day to see just what these things are like.

Can-Am SpyderIn case you’re unfamiliar with the Spyder, that’s it in the picture there. It’s a three-wheeler with two bike-sized wheels in front and one car-sized wheel in back. As such, it turns like a car, with you steering to the right to go right, and steering left to go left. You do not lean into the turns the way you do on a two-wheeled cycle. Rather, you brace yourself on the rear-set pegs and lean across the body of the bike into the turn. It takes some getting used to.

I was out on the Spyder for 4-5 hours and the broad, well-padded seat never got uncomfortable. These machines are definitely good for riding all day. Being accustomed as I am to a large windshield or full fairing, I did wish I had something more than the bikini fairing to block the wind.

The Spyder is a pretty heavy machine so it’s probably a good thing that it comes with a reverse gear. You have to learn the drill to engage it: Drop into first, pull the R lever toward you, then click the foot lever down again. Easy as long as someone has explained it to you in advance, as David did. And in case you forget, the owner’s manual is slipped up under the cowling above the instrument panel.

The suspension was nothing to brag about going over rough pavement, but that’s true of my Concours, too. These things aren’t cars.

So I headed out after a brief familiarization in the parking lot and paid special attention to the attention the Spyder and I attracted. If you want people to look at you the Spyder is definitely your ticket. Stopped at a red light, a mom and her kids in the car next to me were all eyes. At another light on Federal Blvd. two guys eyed us with considerable interest and the passenger rolled down his window with one question: How fast does it go?

I couldn’t give him a good answer because I hadn’t been on the highway with it yet, but I can tell you now it will go as fast as you need to go. The engine is about 1,000cc and while it is not exploding with power it does respond to that twist of the wrist. And trust me, until you get some miles on it, you’re not going to want to twist that wrist very far, especially in the curvy stuff. Heading up Bear Creek Road to Evergreen I was definitely slowing the traffic behind me.

Stopping in Evergreen and several other mountain towns I deliberately set myself up to be approached by the curious people walking past. They didn’t disappoint me. The most common question was, “Do you need a motorcycle license to drive one of these?” Yes, you do, although here in Colorado you can actually get a trike license that lets you drive a three-wheeler but is not valid for you to ride a two-wheeler.

With three wheels, and perhaps due to seeing those two wheels in front of me, I never even had the inclination to put my feet down when coming to a stop.

Eventually I did get the hang of it and the more I did the more fun it was to ride. By the time I was headed toward Golden down Clear Creek Canyon I wasn’t even delaying the traffic behind me. But neither was I in any danger of getting a speeding ticket. I’m betting that if you ride one of these things regularly and get really used to it it all gets to be second nature.

Probably the bottom line in all this is, would I buy a Spyder? Truthfully, no, I would not, not at this time. I like two wheels one heck of a lot. But let some time pass, to where I’m getting quite a bit older and riding a two-wheeler is no longer a good option, and yes indeed, I could be in the market. In the meantime, if you’re looking for something completely different just a day or several, you can rent one from David and Wade. They’d be happy to hear from you.

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Biker Quote for Today

We don’t stop riding because we get old, we get old because we stop riding.

Bikers Helping the Needy . . . and Others

Thursday, May 13th, 2010

I spent much of the day yesterday with a lot of other ABATE of Colorado members handing out free food to needy families. At least some of them were needy.

ABATE food distributionThis event arose out of something my ABATE chapter, District 10, did back in December. Working with an organization called Feed the Children, as well as several other groups and agencies, we distributed a semi-load of food packages to needy families at Christmas time. The Feed the Children people felt we did such a good job that they came back and asked if we’d now like to do eight truckloads.

That’s a much bigger job to organize so the job was taken on by the state organization, ABATE of Colorado, along with the Motorcycle Roadracing Association and the Colorado Sportsbike Club and various social services agencies. And yesterday was the day.

Working through the agencies, 3,200 vouchers had been handed out to families and they were responsible for coming to pick up the goods. We had been alerted to expect perhaps 20 percent no-shows, but yesterday’s weather was pretty crappy so that number was much higher. After an initial flurry of activity things died down and there were a whole bunch of us sitting around with a heck of a lot of food waiting to be claimed.

I don’t want to make unfounded assumptions about some of the people who were given vouchers, I’m sure many had perfectly valid reasons they couldn’t show up. But I have to believe that for many of them, if they couldn’t be bothered to come get free food, they must really not be all that needy.

So what ended up happening is, they put out an announcement over several radio stations that there was free food waiting for anyone who was in need who wanted to come get some. After awhile there was a lot of traffic again, but looking at some of these cars you had to wonder. Yes, most of them were beaters, and those people really seemed like they could use a helping hand. And then there were the ones in cars way more expensive than what I drive.

And while most of the people who answered to radio announcement came and got their food and left, there were some who obviously figured this was worth a scam. We were particularly amused by the two young guys in a nice car who came through the line and when we asked them to pop the trunk, there were food boxes already in there. They had apparently just gone through a different line than ours, went around again, and came back through again. We gave them one more box and sent them on their way, but somehow I don’t think they were particularly needy.

The bottom line to it all is that yes, we did help out some folks who could use some help. And a few scammers got some free food. In the meantime, there were a whole bunch of ABATE members who gave freely of their time, many taking time off work to do so, to help other people they don’t even know.

These are some good people.

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Biker Quote for Today

I spent most of my money on beer, bikes, and bait. The rest I wasted!

U.S. Highland to Begin Motorcycle Production

Monday, May 10th, 2010

I’ve never heard of U.S. Highland, have you? Apparently they make motorcycles engines and now they’re planning to make motorcycles–a lot of them–in the near future. This photo is one of their promotional shots, of the Desert-X.

The U.S. Highland Desert-XWhat I’m able to learn is that this is a Swedish company that moved to the U.S. two years ago. They set up shop in Oklahoma, in the town of Mounds. I’ve never heard of Mounds, either.

The company currently has 30 employees but says it will be hiring 300 when it goes into production. They plan to build both street and off-road bikes, although it is expected that making motors for other companies will remain a large part of their business.

At a time when other manufacturers are struggling it’s good to see someone with bright hopes for the future. Let’s wish them success.

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Biker Quote for Today

Get yourself to the hills and be uplifted, assuming you’ve got some good knobbies.

New Motorcycle Books Hitting the Market

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Motorcycle booksI did a critique recently of “The Old Man and the Harley,” an interesting book in some ways, in need of better editing in others. I’m not sure if that was the trigger but I got an email more recently asking if I’d be interested in receiving the motorcycle books published by Motorbooks, Inc. and reviewing them. Of course I said yes.

So I got my first batch yesterday and I’m looking forward to digging into them. These are the four.
How to Restore Your Motorcycle, 2nd Edition
Maximum Control: Mastering Your Heavyweight Bike
Modern Motorcycle Technology: How Every Part of Your Motorcycle Works
The Vincent in the Barn: Great Stories of Motorcycle Archaeology

I’ll have a lot more to say about them once I get a chance to read them but I have noted a couple things already. First, three of these four would seem to be a good, complementary set. Read Modern Motorcycle Technology to understand how it all works, then read The Vincent in the Barn to see how old bikes have been rediscovered. After that, go out and get your own old bike and let How to Restore Your Motorcycle guide you in getting it back in shape.

One amusing semi-contradiction is that The Vincent in the Barn talks about discovering old bikes, whereas How to Restore Your Motorcycle states explicitly, “let me disabuse you of the notion that a lot of collectible vintage bikes are lying around in barns, basements, and garages waiting to be picked up for a song.” I suspect both are correct however; it does happen but don’t base your whole plan on it.

There are also more books coming that are not ready for release yet, and I’ll be looking at those as they come available. I think I’m about to broaden my knowledge in a number of ways.

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Biker Quote for Today

Home is where your bike sits still long enough to leave a few drops of oil on the ground.

Motorcycle Blogs You May Want to Visit

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Gary France is a Brit who is planning an extended tour via motorcycle in the U.S. this summer. He and I have been in communication in regard to his route and I periodically check his blog, Well, I checked it today and he had just put up a post about a motorcycle insurance specialist, Carole Nash, who had put up a list of her Top 20 Biking Blogs. As you might expect, the list leans a bit to British blogs but not entirely. Gary’s blog was one of them. As I guess they say in England, he said that “I am chuffed to bits.” (That means he’s pleased.)

cool detail shot of a motorcycleNow, the reason I was thinking about Gary is that I was going to do this post about him and his planned ride. The time is drawing near. But when I saw the list I figured I’d pass that along to you. In Carole Nash’s post she tells a bit about the blogs and has a screen shot of each one’s home page. I’ll just give you the links and a couple comments.

It’s a good list. There are several I recognize and would include in my own list if I was making one. They include Helmet Hair, Bikes in the Fast Lane, and Cyril Huze. Worth checking out.

Helmet Hair
Bikes in the Fast Lane
Forty Years on Two Wheels
USA Tour on a Harley Davidson (this is Gary France’s blog)
Ouch! My Piles!
Atlas Rider
Fuzzie Galore
No Foreign Lands
Knuckle Buster
Saul T Nutz
Twisting Asphalt
The Kneeslider
The Scooter Scoop
Honda Motorcycles Blog
Swag’s Rant
Motorcycle Training Blog
Cyril Huze
Faster & Faster
Chessie’s Tales, Motorcycles and Rides

By the way, Chessie is another I’m familiar with and that’s because she has read some of my stuff and left comments. I’m pleased to see her in this list, too.

Finally, as a bonus extra, commenter Glen Hughes noted on Carole Nash’s post that she left out this good one, which I’m also familiar with: Rippin Kitten.

Of course I would add the Passes and Canyons Blog as a favorite, but you already know about that one. And I’d also give you Redleg’s Rides. So that should keep you busy for awhile.

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Biker Quote for Today

Motorcycles tell us a more useful truth: we are small and exposed, and probably moving too fast for our own good, but that’s no reason not to enjoy every minute of the ride. ~ Dave Karlotski