Archive for July, 2010

Book Review: The Devil Can Ride

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

When the Ducati turned up in my driveway, nobody knew what to do with it. I was in New York, covering a polo tournament, and people had threatened my life. My lawyer said I should give myself up and enroll in the Federal Witness Protection Program. Other people said it had something to do with the polo crowd.
The motorcycle business was the last straw. It had to be the work of my enemies, or people who wanted to hurt me. It was the vilest kind of bait, and they knew I would go for it.
Of course. You want to cripple the bastard! Send him a 130-mile-per-hour cafe racer. And include some license plates, he’ll think it’s a streetbike. He’s queer for anything fast.

The Devil Can RideThat’s Hunter S. Thompson speaking there. He was into motorcycles.

If you ride motorcycles the chances are good that you like to read about motorcycles. Taking me for example, I get three moto magazines in the mail and occasionally pick one or two up at the newsstand. And then there are the books.

I read a really good book just recently and I’m passing it along to you as a recommendation. The book is The Devil Can Ride: The World’s Best Motorcycle Writing. It is a collection of pieces by different authors, edited by Lee Klancher. The quote above is from “Song of the Sausage Creature,” and it’s one of the pieces in the book.

This book is not just a collection of well-known articles by well-known writers, however. Some you’ll recognize but many you will not and often the ones who write the most interesting stuff are the folks you never heard of. The whole time I was reading this I kept wondering how Klancher came up with all of these pieces.

Take Elena Filatova, for example, and her piece, “Ghost Town.” She likes to ride her bike through ghost towns, but no, we’re not talking about some old west USA ghost towns. We’re talking Chernobyl. You know, as in the area in Ukraine where the nuclear reactor melted down and poisoned everything for centuries. Apparently it’s not overly dangerous to pass through these areas, you just don’t want to stop or spend too much time there.

I travel a lot, and one of my favorite destinations leads north from Kiev, toward the Chernobyl Dead Zone, which is 130 kilometers from my home. Why is this my favorite? Because one can take long rides there on empty roads.
The people all left, and nature is blooming. There are beautiful woods and lakes.

There is a broad range of motorcycling included here, ranging from adventure tourers to one-percenters to the totally weird. George Orwell (or at least his motorcycle) to Robert Pirsig to T.E. Lawrence, as well as a few familiar names like Brian Catterson, Kevin Cameron, and Peter Egan. Plus, as I said, all the people you never heard of.

This is a good book. Publish and send me a Volume 2 and I’ll dive right into it. Meanwhile, you might want to check out the only volume available now.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
William Barclay declared winner of Hoka Hey, to receive cash via wire

Biker Quote for Today

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.

Wanting a New Motorcycle

Monday, July 26th, 2010

We just got back from our annual OFMC motorcycle trip and already the musical chairs have started. With our group up to 10 guys now, it seems like every year someone shows up on a new bike.

Motorcycles at the Snake River CanyonLast year it was Dennis, having traded his Gold Wing in on a new Harley Street Glide. This year Brett sold his Fat Boy to his brother Matt and got himself a new Street Glide almost just like Dennis’s. And Matt came along for the first time, the new kid, on what is now his Fat Boy.

Already now we know there will be at least two people on new bikes next year. During this year’s trip Bill and Friggs swapped bikes a couple times so Friggs could get a taste of Bill’s Fat Boy. You see, Bill is very interested in a new Harley Ultra and meanwhile, Friggs has decided it is time to move up from his old Virago. So Friggs will buy Bill’s Fat Boy and Bill will get his Ultra.

Incidentally, that will move our group one further into the Harley column. Just a few years ago we went out with nine guys and among them were five Hondas, one Yamaha, and three Harleys. With Bill and Friggs dealing it would line up for next year at three Hondas, one Kawasaki, and six Harleys.

Except that may not be the line-up. John has also made up his mind that the time has come to replace his 16-year-old Honda Shadow. And he, too, had been seriously eyeing the Harleys all these other guys are riding. However, to my surprise, he told me the last day of the trip that he had been cured of his Harley envy. It seems he talked with some of the Harley guys and was aghast at the cost of the regular service requirements to maintain the warranty, as well as Dennis’s remark to Friggs that the new handlebars Friggs wants for the Fat Boy will run him about $800.

Mind you now, John has an almost totally stock Shadow and it has been pretty nearly everything he has wanted. He has never been in the position of spending money on his bike. I agreed with him that the Harley prices seem pretty high but when I bought my Kawasaki Concours the first thing I did was put on risers to bring the grips 3 inches closer to me, at a cost of $300. And then I added a backrest for Judy so she feels more secure on behind me, also at a cost of $300. Harley gear may be more expensive but all motorcycle gear is pricey.

So it looks like John will be on a new bike next year but at this point he doesn’t know what it will be. I’m betting it’s a Gold Wing.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
OFMC sees green in Idaho and Montana

Biker Quote for Today

Remember, only you can convince yourself to ride a wheelie on a Bagger!

A Really Sweet Motorcycle Road in Northeastern Wyoming

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Great motorcycle road in northeastern Wyoming

Oh man, did we ride a great road today. Of course we rode some pretty nice stretches yesterday, too.

Yesterday we came across Montana, mostly on I-90, but when you’re riding through gorgeous country even the interstate is good. We got off I-90 at U.S. 212, right there at the Little Bighorn Battlefield Monument, and after visiting the monument we headed east. This was some great country and well worth riding. A good day.

We ended up last night in Broadus, MT, split between a couple motels, neither of which was particularly nice, but both of which were extremely cheap. And if you’re staying in Broadus you’re not going to do much better.

Today we continued east on U.S. 212 until we reached the tiny community of Alzada, which is just about 3 miles from the stateline between Montana and Wyoming. Right there is a turn for MT 367, which, at the state line, becomes WY 112 in Wyoming, running down to Hulett. Hulett, of course, is the town closest to Devil’s Tower.

We rode south and the country was very pretty but it just kept getting better. And better. And even better. We swept through some gorgeous valleys, over some great hills on windy roads, and crested a big pass that gave us an awesome view ahead, plus, over to the west, of Devil’s Tower, rising above it all. Yahoo!

From there the road winds down into Hulett, which is a very nice little town. So nice in fact, that once we left Deadwood headed somewhere further west, reached Hulett after just 50 miles or so, and decided to stop for the night because we liked it so much.

No stopping for the night tonight, however, so we ate and then pushed on along WY 24, which reached U.S. 85 just south of Belle Fourche. That road was fabulous, too, although you knew instantly once you reached South Dakota because the terrain was totally different. I’ve seen that so many times I have to believe that when they decided where to draw state lines they looked for radical changes in topography.

Anyway, from Belle Fourche it was south to Spearfish, up Spearfish Canyon, and on to Deadwood, where we now remain for the night. What can I say? This is just another great motorcycle trip.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Motorcycle touring with the guys: Introducing old sights to new eyes

Biker Quote for Today

Real bikers ride beyond the coffee shop

MRF Concerned About New Noise Limits

Thursday, July 15th, 2010

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering lower noise limits on motorcycles and that has the Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) concerned. Part of that concern has to with the fact that the change would only apply to motorcycles. An 83 decibel (db) limit is currently in effect for all vehicles.

MRF logoIn a release today the MRF stated that the EPA has only sent letters requesting data to nine companies. This fact is troubling, the MRF says, for a couple of reasons.

First, it is not representative of the much larger motorcycling community that will be affected by changing the regulation, rendering the survey results questionable at best. Second, any time a federal agency wants to spend taxpayer money to survey a group of 10 or more individuals or organizations, they must obtain approval from the US Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The approval process isn’t easy and can often be drawn out, giving American citizens the right to weigh in on the agency’s application for permission to survey. However, when an agency only contacts nine organizations, they don’t have to tell anyone or get permission from the OMB to move forward on the survey, making the process lack transparency.

The MRF says it finds the focus solely on motorcycles “discriminatory and simply unacceptable” and it is “working with Congress to get the EPA to explain their intentions and motivations. The MRF is also working to meet directly with the EPA to further determine exactly is going on with this issue.”

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Tragedy at newest American motorcycle manufacturer

Biker Quote for Today

Let’s ban idiots, not the equipment they annoy us with.

Walking the Motorcycle Walk

Monday, July 12th, 2010

Riders and bikes on the Old Bike Ride 2010

Ever since March 2009 I have been committed to making my living as a freelance motorcycle journalist, and I’ve done fairly well at it. At least I’m keeping my head above water. But if you’re going to be all motorcycles all the time, I figure you really ought to be riding a lot more than you’re driving your car. And in that department I hadn’t been quite making it.

Well now I am. I always check my mileage on all three of my vehicles every January 1, and I decided it was time to see where I’m at this far into 2010. Yahoo! So far this year I’ve put more miles on my Kawasaki Concours than I have on my car. Add in the mileage I’ve put on my Honda CB750 Custom and the numbers are even better.

Altogether I’ve covered 8,135 miles this year and 3,893 of those are on the Connie. The car has only gone 3,735 miles in the same time. The Honda has clocked 507 miles. I guess it’s the one I’ll ride today.

And the numbers are going to get even better. The OFMC is leaving on our summer trip on Friday, so that will add somewhere close to another 2,000 miles to the Kawi. Heck, I’ve never gone through a set of tires in one year but this might be the year.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
FBI will have no involvement in determining Hoka Hey winner

Biker Quote for Today

Trailers are for sissies, don’t be a girlie man.

Writing and Riding: They Do Go Together

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

Man, you write about one book you read and before you know it you’ve become a book reviewer. At least that’s what has happened with me, and I have to believe there’s a connection.

It started when I did a review of John Newkirk’s The Old Man and the Harley. This was a book I bought because it sounded really good and I figured that maybe I’d be able to snag an interview with the author, considering that he lives here in the Denver area. I never asked for an interview because I found the book disappointing but I did publish a review.

The Vincent in the BarnIt wasn’t long after that when I was contacted by a rep from Motorbooks asking if I’d like to have some of their latest books to review. I said yes and so far I’ve received a variety, including such as The Vincent in the Barn, Race Tech’s Motorcycle Suspension Bible, How to Restore Your Motorcycle, and The Devil Can Ride, to name just four. So far I’ve posted reviews of three of these in various places.

Next I heard from Cheryl Probst, who had just released her latest book, Motorcycle Museums of the United Kingdom. Would I like a review copy?

Sure, you bet, though I haven’t had time to do much with it yet. I’m going to try to get to it soon.

After that I heard from Avalon Travel asking if I’d be interested in reviewing Gary McKechnie’s latest motorcycle touring book, Great American Motorcycle Tours. Or would I perhaps like to have him do a guest post for any of my publishing venues. Yes and yes. Again, I hope to get to this soon.

Finally–at least for now–I was contacted by a different rep from Motorbooks. I replied explaining that I was already dealing with another of their reps but it seems they put out enough different titles that they divide promotion among several reps. So Rep 2 can supply me with different books than Rep 1.

OK, great, go ahead and send me Motorcycle Journeys Through the Pacific Northwest , 2nd Edition. I’ll add it to the stack. And I will get to it sooner or later.

So look at this as sort of a heads-up. If there are any of these you’d be especially interested in hearing about let me know and I’ll move it to the top of the stack. Otherwise I figure I’ll keep plugging along until we get into winter weather, at which time I’ll have more time to read and there will be less going on in terms of rides and rallies and all those summertime motorcycle things we do. Then maybe I’ll have to start a book club.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
The Devil Can Ride: Riders can write

Biker Quote for Today

A skittish motor-bike with a touch of blood in it is better than all the riding animals on earth… –T.E. Lawrence

What Bikers–Or Motorcyclists–Are All About

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Parked on Pikes Peak

I think I put up something similar to this awhile back, but maybe that was somewhere other than this blog. Anyway, this is different.

Do you ever have people ask you what motorcycling is all about, or what bikers are truly like, or any of those sorts of questions? Well, here’s a place you might refer them to get some answers. It’s a post on a motorcycle insurance blog entitled “Top 49 blogs for Understanding the Biker Culture.” Yeah, these are insurance guys doing this but it’s still kind of an interesting list.

Here are a few representative examples of their list. Please note that I’ve cleaned up their grammar a bit just because I can’t stand putting bad grammar on my blog.

Motorcycle slang — Here are a few slang terms in motorcycle culture.

Biker Language — Here are some more terms you will hear when biking and what they mean.

Culture — Learning how times have changed the culture around motorcycles.

Stereotypes — Look at what some of the stereotypes of bikers are.

Hells Angels — Here are some frequently asked questions about the Hells Angels group.

Now, the first thing you might wonder is just how reliable this information is. Well, some may not be, but you’ll notice that that link on the Hells Angels goes to the Hells Angels website. So I’d guess that’s pretty reliable info. Other sites linked to include familiar ones such as Clutch and Chrome, Biker News Online, Women Riders Now, as well as plenty you’ve probably never heard of.

And their use of the term “biker” is not the narrow usage some prefer, essentially referring to 1%ers, but the broader usage that includes everyone who rides. So Superbike and motocross are included as well as American Legion riders, Vietnam vets, and more. It’s a broad collection.

So there you go. Just thought you might find something of interest.

Update, Aug. 23, 2010:
Hey, this is fun. I received a note from Kristy Osgood, who is connected to this site listing these blogs, informing me that they had added my blog–this blog–to their list. Very cool. Thanks, Kristy.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
No winner named for Hoka Hey on July 4

Biker Quote for Today

Women come and go, but motorcycles are forever.