Archive for August, 2010

Motorcycle Touring with a Trailer

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Motorcycle trailer

Camping on a motorcycle trip is a good way to go but if you’re riding two-up you might as well forget it. If you manage to get all of two people’s camping gear on the bike you’re not going to have room left for much else.

Unless you pull a trailer. Then it’s whole new ball game.

Ken and Janet Knox are motorcycle travelers who stayed with us recently, via the Motorcycle Travel Network, and behind their Ultra Classic they pull a trailer. It was custom-painted to match the bike and the pair look great together.

Asked about it, Janet initially responded that, “The only advantage for me is that I can pack more stuff.”

Ken made the point, however, that it enables them to carry camping gear with them. Of course, he points out, “If Janet would bet her license and ride her own bike we could camp without pulling a trailer.”

“That would mean work for me, and I’m not into working,” she retorted. “I’m on holiday.”

Turning serious, she continued that she likes that, “When we camp we pull in at 3-4 p.m. and look for a site, then interact with people. We meet more people that way. That aspect is nice, although the comforts of a motel are better.”

Ken added that “Campgrounds are generally in a beautiful spot, whereas motels are on the main drag.”

Still, if they get into town later, or if it is raining or looks like rain, they’re not likely to camp. But it’s nice to have the option.

As for how the trailer affects the ride, Ken said, “You don’t even know the trailer is there. It does increase gas consumption, and on long, steep uphills you have to upgear, at least on a Harley.”

There’s one other advantage: Their trailer has a 12-volt plug so they can charge their cell phones while riding. Hey, what else do you need?

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Full Throttle Saloon: Building for bikers in a big way

Biker Quote for Today

You’re a biker wannabe if your longest road trip this year was to Hooter’s for bike night.

The Troubles I Bring On Myself

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

I’ve written previously about mechanical difficulties I’ve had with my 30-year-old Honda CB750 Custom. Well, it’s happened again and this time I have no one to blame but myself.

As an aside, there is no better time than now to rave about the free roadside assistance you get if you join the American Motorcyclist Association. I’ve been towed three times now this summer and it didn’t cost me a penny. Just a lot of time waiting for the tow truck.

Charging my batterySo I’ve known I have an electrical problem, and by testing I’ve been able to determine that the battery is fine. That means the charging system has an issue. But I wasn’t willing to let it go at that and just take the bike over to my mechanic. I’m on a pretty tight budget these days and if I’m going to pay for a new stator I wanted to be sure I really needed it.

My way of confirming that the issue truly is in the charging was to ride the bike. With the battery fully charged it fires up and runs great. With no charge reaching the battery, the lights and spark plugs gradually drain the battery until the bike stops dead. This time, however, I packed up my battery charger and an extension cord, figuring that if it died somewhere I’d have my confirmation and then I could find someone who would let me plug in for a few minutes.

Gosh my plan worked well. I was on my way to the gym and it died about 10 blocks away. This wasn’t quite what I had hoped because I knew of an exterior outlet at the gym and I figured I’d limp in and then give it a charge while I worked out. But no problem, I’d get a charge from someone here that would get me to the gym and proceed as planned.

Long story short, I did find a Burger King close at hand where the manager agreed to let me plug in for 20 minutes. Oh, did I mention that I have a trickle charger? Twenty minutes with a trickle charger doesn’t do much. I sat there at Burger King for 2 hours until I could finally start the bike and ride to the gym.

At the gym I plugged in as planned and went about my business. When I came back I turned the key and pushed the starter button and got . . . nothing. It turns out that outside plug does not have power going to it, and apparently if you hook a battery up to a charge unit and there is no power flowing into the battery it drains the battery instead.

So it was time to call for a tow. And of course they never get there in less than an hour. All in all, it was not the best use of my time, especially considering that I’m now going to need to take the bike in and pay the repair bill just the same.

But oh boy, I’ll know that I really need to spend that money.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Iron Mountain Racing takes 3rd in ALCAN 5000

Biker Quote for Today

If it’s supposed to move and it don’t–WD-40. If it ain’t supposed to move and it does–Duct Tape.

My Role as Facilitator

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Pikes Peak International Hill Climb

Here’s an out-of-the-ordinary sort of situation that just occurred.

Running the Passes and Canyons website as I do, I frequently receive emails from people with questions about routes or lodging or motorcycle rentals or whatever. But recently I got a totally different request. Here it is:

Hi Ken – I was reading through some of your site and was interested in knowing if you knew anyone in this area offers rides in this area? I drove up Mt. Evans with friends in the car the other day and noticed all the motor bikes heading up. It looked like a great way to see some of the magnificent drives around here. Thanks, Daphne

After ascertaining that Daphne was interested in finding someone to take her for a ride, not to rent her a motorcycle, I considered offering to do it myself. Hey, I’m self-employed, earning money any way I can, why not? Well, the why not was the thought that if I did arrange a business deal with her where she hired me to take her for a ride and something bad happened, I could be screwed.

So then I thought of Ron Coleman, who runs Western Dual Sport Motorcycle Adventures. Ron is someone I know, who advertises on this site, and I figured he is set up with liability waivers and all that stuff, so he would be a good possibility, if he was interested.

Long story short, I got this follow-up email from Daphne just a few minutes ago:

Hi Ken – I just wanted to let you know that Ron Coleman did take me out for a scenic ride yesterday and it was wonderful! It goes without saying, what a nice guy Ron is, but I also found him quite interesting and fun to be with. I really enjoyed the opportunity to be able to take a ride while here in Colorado, the experience was great and the scenery incredible!

Thank you for your help in putting us together!

Sincerely, Daphne

So how cool is that? It’s one of the things I enjoy about doing this website: helping people in whatever way I can. Daphne, you made my day.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Iron Mountain Racing running very strongly in ALCAN 5000

Biker Quote for Today

Everything looks better from the inside of a motorcycle helmet.

Butler Motorcycle Maps Pass the Test

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

You need to understand that I’m very hard on maps. As far as I’m concerned, they’re disposable, and ripping is just part of the gig.

Enter Butler Motorcycle Maps. These guys are riders who decided to make motorcycle-specific maps, by motorcyclists, for motorcyclists. So far they have released maps for Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho.

The way I fold mapsThere are two things that make these maps attractive to motorcyclists. First, they highlight the best roads in each state based on what they know we like, i.e., scenery, twisty roads, two-lane, and all that. Second, they’re durable. They’re not printed on paper. It’s probably some kind of plastic, but whatever it is, they are waterproof and tear-resistant. Good things to have out on a bike.

Of course this is where my style of usage comes into play. I have a tank bag that has a map display on top. The problem with the map display is that it is not sized to fit any map conveniently. Conveniently, in my mind, would be something that allowed you to use the basic folds of the map and show two panels. The display on my bag is too short and too narrow, so I end up folding maps every which way to make them fit. (See the photo above.) The consequence of that is that they tend to rip along the folds and fall to pieces quickly.

I was in Sturgis last week, and on Thursday I left and went to Yellowstone. The Butler guys had a booth in Sturgis that I just happened to stumble upon. I was already familiar with them because they had comped me a couple maps and had taken out an ad on the Passes and Canyons website. I stopped in to say hi and they gave me the two latest maps, Wyoming and Idaho.

I then proceeded to use the Wyoming map as I made my way to Yellowstone and then home to Denver. It didn’t fit any better than any other map in my display so I manhandled it the way I do all maps.

The result? When I got home I opened it out, smoothed it off, and refolded it along the original folds and it’s good to go. Now, it looks a bit rough. You’d never mistake it for new. It has wrinkles and creases, and it didn’t want to fold back perfectly and probably won’t ever again. But it’s absolutely usable, it’s not torn, and I suspect it will hold up to that same treatment many more times.

What’s more, it is also good in its other function of highlighting the best routes. I’ve ridden all over Wyoming, so there are almost no roads highlighted on the map that I’m not familiar with. There is one, a bit of two-lane between Laramie and Cheyenne. So I know the roads they’ve marked and I agree with them. These are the best roads in Wyoming.

If this sounds like the sort of thing you’d be interested in, you can buy these maps for $14.95 either through their website or from selected dealers. Tell them Ken sent you.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Iron Mountain Racing tackles the ALCAN 5000

Biker Quote for Today

A bend in the road is not the end of the road . . . unless you fail to make the turn.

Striking It Lucky in Casper, WY

Monday, August 16th, 2010

I slept last night in a good hotel. I went shopping today for jewels.
–Joni Mitchell

Credits to Joni, I did sleep last night in a good hotel, though I did not go shopping today for jewels. Fact is, I found a jewel last night when I rolled into Casper, WY.

I had been in Sturgis for four days for the rally, and then went to Yellowstone to meet up with my wife and her family for a family get-together. I headed home to Denver yesterday, not knowing what my route would be, where I would stop for the night, or whether I just might go all the way home, about 600 miles.

my room at the Sand and Sage Motel in CasperPulling into Casper, a bit more than halfway home, I hit a Starbucks to use their WiFi. I hoped there might be a Motorcycle Travel Network person close who could put me up for the night, but checking the MTN site I found there are no members in Wyoming at all. I also thought about going on to Wheatland and staying there, but I knew there were only two motels there and a quick check showed that they were both way out of my price range.

So it was going to be Casper or all the way home, another five hours of riding. And as far as I was concerned it was going to depend on price. If I could find a decently priced motel I’d stay in Casper.

Coming into town on the old U.S. 20, I figured I’d find some old (read: cheap) motels. Just before I reached the river and the bridge that takes you into downtown I saw a sign a block off the highway for the Sage and Sand Motel (901 W Yellowstone Hwy, Casper, WY 82601).

Now, this caught my attention because we have stayed at the Sage and Sand Motel in Saratoga, WY, many times. Were they connected? No they weren’t, the manager said, and he was asking $50 plus tax for a night. That was beyond my limit so I thanked him and turned to go. Making some money is better than making no money, however, so he offered me a price reduction and I checked in.

But before all this, he had showed me the room. I was blown away. This is a nondescript older motel in an industrial area and the room was beautifully decorated. (See the picture.) Underneath the shabby exterior, this was a classy place. So when he dropped the price I was ready to go for it. And for the first night in eight, I slept in a bed, rather than on an air mattress. Nice.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Sturgis rally 2010: Trikes at the rally (with photos)

Biker Quote for Today

For some there is therapy; for the rest of us there are motorcycles.

Hoka Hey confounds right to the end

Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Hoka Hey award ceremony

One of the hallmarks of the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge from the very start has been the poor or non-existent communication coming from the organizers. This situation continued right up to the award ceremony Wednesday night at the Broken Spoke campground outside of Sturgis.

The organizers had eventually announced that the winner would be named and the prize awarded at the Broken Spoke. But then Will Barclay was named the winner, and Barclay told an interviewer that he had already received his winnings. That left a question in many people’s minds about whether the award ceremony would still be held. With no word to the contrary, those of us in Sturgis planning to attend the ceremony assumed it was still on.

But there are two Broken Spokes, and the Hoka Hey site didn’t specify which one. I went to the Broken Spoke in town and nobody there had heard of the Hoka Hey. One helpful fellow checked and told me absolutely that the ceremony was not going to be held there. That left the campground.

We ran out to the campground a little before 7 on Wednesday and looked around for an event about to begin. There was nothing we could see so I asked one of the sound guys getting set up for that night’s performance by Gallagher. He had never heard of the Hoka Hey, it was now 7 sharp, and he told me that at the very least, there was not going to be any Hoka Hey ceremony on this stage.

Great. Do we stick around? Is there anyone who can answer some questions?

But then, at maybe 7:10, the owner of the Spoke got up on the stage and started talking about the Hoka Hey. And a few minutes later, there’s Big Jim Durham up on stage, and we have an event. So much for the sound guy having a clue about what was going on.

Ultimately the event came off, Will Barclay received his “rubber” check, and Durham announced that there will be another Hoka Hey next year, with a prize of $1 million.

I have one word of advice for Durham or whoever organizes next year’s event: communicate.

I honestly have no idea whether Durham is a scam artist as some people claim, whether the designation of Barclay as winner is totally legit, or what’s true and what isn’t. Without first hand information, and investigative resources far beyond my abilities, I’ve just done my best to sift through what people have said and check the facts I could check.

But let’s say that the whole thing was on the up and up right from the start, and all this skepticism and criticism were totally off the mark. Durham and the rest could have allayed an awful lot of these issues if they had simply communicated better.

  • Release the list of competitors before the race begins
  • Release checkpoint lists daily during the race
  • Release the “photo finish” photograph that proves Barclay’s tire was four inches ahead of Frank Kelly’s
  • Demonstrate to the media before the finish occurs just how the photo finish equipment is set up and will work

And there is so much more. If they had made a practice of making the whole event as transparent as it could be, there would not have been all these murky areas to raise suspicions. It would appear that there would still have been skeptics, but there would not have been this widespread doubt that resulted simply from the fact that no information was available.

And it also wouldn’t hurt if Big Jim would engage his brain more often before opening his mouth. It wasn’t the media that “got it screwed up” that he was claiming the FBI would administer the polygraph tests. Durham said that in so many words, and his statement is readily available for anyone to listen to. He made numerous other statements, too, that later proved to be incorrect or had to be clarified. Jim, you don’t have anyone to blame but yourself if you make a wrong statement and people call you on it.

So now the Hoka Hey is wrapped up, at least for now. I, for one, am happy to lay it to rest. But I’ll be back with more if there is anything more to report. There are some lawsuits out there . . .

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Sturgis rally 2010: SD Guv rides and wins Noisy Dozen award (with rally photos)

Biker Quote for Today

Helmet laws suck. They interfere with natural selection.

Sturgis Bike Week: The Cheaper Alternative

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Camping at Sturgis

I’m in Sturgis for the rally but it’s not like when the OFMC did the rally in 2006. This time I’m alone, and I’m here to work. And I want to make money, not spend it, so no $500 per night hotel rooms in Rapid City this time. Sure, we split that four ways, but that’s still $125 per person per night. Ouch!

This time I’m camping. That’s my tent and my Kawi in the picture above. I’m actually right in Sturgis and it’s amazingly inexpensive at the Vanocker Campground where I’m dug in. The cost is just $15 a night and they have showers and a little cafe for breakfast. On top of that, coffee is free at the cafe and food is good as well as affordable. The one guy running the operation cooks up your order on a small stove while you sit at the table outside and chat with fellow campers. My large breakfast taco was only $3.

As always, there are pluses and minuses. There isn’t much shade, so when I arrived yesterday at about 3 p.m. I was lucky to find one of the only two somewhat shaded spots left. And if it rains hard, as is predicted for later today and tonight, camping could be fun, not to mention riding my road bike across this field.

And then, of course, there are the neighbors. I’ve always heard that it’s the campgrounds where the fun is at Sturgis, but that may be referring to places like the Buffalo Chip, where they have concerts. At places like Vanocker it’s more a matter of meeting and getting acquainted with the folks next to you. Except that guy.

There’s always a “that guy,” isn’t there? In this case, that guy is some jerk who drove his semi-sized rig and large trailer in and set himself up this morning at about 5:30 a.m. Far be it from him to just stop along the road somewhere and get a couple hours sleep, before arriving after everyone was up. No, he came right in while it was still dark and made damn sure everyone was aware he had done so. There’s something about a semi maneuvering back and forth about 20 feet from your tent that makes it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Not to mention his Doberman, who got out and started barking. Thanks, asshole!

So anyway, I’m looking for the real Sturgis experience this year. Maury LaRue, the mayor of Sturgis, tells me they estimate rally-goers spend an obligatory 2 hours and 37 minutes in Sturgis, and the rest of the time out cruising or hanging out at their motels/campgrounds elsewhere. I’m figuring on more like 70 hours, myself. And if, unlike yesterday, I don’t have to spend it all working I may even have some fun. Wish me luck.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Destination Sturgis: Joining the motorized river

Biker Quote for Today

All who wander are not lost. Be a traveler, not a tourist.

Lingering Questions on Hoka Hey

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

The word from Will Barclay, the putative winner of the Hoka Hey Motorcycle Challenge, is that he has already had his $500,000 prize wired to his bank account, so it would appear that some folks’ expectation that no payout would ever be made was unfounded. Still, as one comment on Examiner in regard to this said, “This completely exonerates the organizers of all improprieties associated with the race. NOT!”

Hoka Hey riders before the race (Photo: David Stephens)

Nobody has done a better job than Cyril Huze of stating the questions that Big Jim Durham/Redcloud ought to answer. I doubt we’ll ever see answers to those questions, however. But here’s the latest.

Quick Throttle ran an interview with Barclay and it’s an interesting read. The story was picked up by U.S. Rider News and in a comment on that story, Frank Kelly, or at least someone who claimed to be Kelly, disputed the “photo finish” decision that ruled him out of the money. Kelly and Barclay had been in a heat for the finish and agreed to cross the finish line together and split the prize. Durham announced, however, that there could only be one winner, and that winner was Barclay because Kelly had been disqualified.

Now, I say, “at least someone who claimed to be Kelly” because there’s no way be sure here whether someone else simply posted this comment and claimed to be Kelly. With that understanding, here’s “Kelly’s” comment:

I have a bit of heartburn with alot of people saying I was disqualified or that I disqualified myself, no such thing happened. My name is on offical checkpoint sheet. The reason I was told by Jim “Red Cloud” Durham that Will was the winner and we couldn’t split the pot is that the Hoka Hey Organizers said that there could only be one winner and in their “photo finish” Will’s tire was a couple of inches ahead of mine. I haven’t seen the picture yet. I was told from Jim “Red Cloud” Durham that if Will didn’t pass his polygraph then I was next in line to have to take it. I am not sure where this info is coming from but someone is getting lied too.

So in keeping with the tone set by Cyril Huze in his questions, I think it’s also fair to insist that Durham release the photo, as well as the particulars of how this image was captured. Are we talking about serious photo-finish equipment such as they use at racetracks? Or is the photo simply one shot by someone sort of close to the finish line, sort of almost perfectly in line with the finish line?

Maybe they did have that sort of precision equipment in place and in operation. But it is exactly these sorts of unknowns that will continue to cast a shadow over the Hoka Hey until solid answers are provided. And double-checked. Because if one thing is certain it is that Jim Durham is, at best, careless with his words. He accused me and other reporters of error when we reported that he claimed the FBI would administer polygraph tests to potential winners. “That’s another thing they screwed up,” he said. Well, I know I was quoting his words exactly when I wrote that he said that, because I heard him on the radio interview he did with KBBI radio in Homer, AK. And there are other, similar instances.

So, congratulations to Will Barclay, and kudos to all competitors who finished. But is everything about the Hoka Hey settled now? NOT!

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
BMW test rides: R1200RT and F800GS

Biker Quote for Today

Biker: A drunk liar in dirty clothes who plays with a large vibrator in public.

Riding a Bunch of BMWs

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

I rode up to Loveland the other day with my friend Randy and his neighbor, Donny, to Northern Colorado Euro Motorcycles, where BMW had come in with a truckload of bikes to offer demo rides. I’ve never had much opportunity to ride any BMW bikes, other than a K1300GT I test rode last fall in Keystone, so I was pleased at this opportunity.

me on an F800STThe four bikes I rode were very different and my thoughts on them are comparably different. The one I really loved was the R1200RT, a touring bike that was just about as sweet as you could ask for. In fact, it was such a nice bike it’s hard to think of anything to say about it other than it was just a great bike. I will mention, though, that it was just a little odd, at least in my experience, because the mirrors were below the handlebar, so you look down to see them and in the top of the mirror you see your hands. Very odd, but I’m sure you’d get used to it.

I also rode the dual sport F800GS. I haven’t done much dual sport riding and this was by far the tallest bike I’ve ever gotten on. There was no way I could push up off the sidestand other than to throw my weight that direction and count on catching myself on the other side before going over. At stops I either slid off on one side or barely touched ground on both sides on my tiptoes. But that’s nothing uncommon for a bike that needs deep suspension.

The thing about this test ride, however, was that it was on the pavement. If a dual sport bike is in the middle between street and dirt, this one is biased toward the dirt, and we didn’t get to go there with them. As it was, I felt very much that that was where it belonged, and that I didn’t much care for riding it on the pavement.

The next bike was also a half-and-half bike, the F800ST, with the ST referring to sport touring. (That’s me on the F800ST in the picture, which Randy shot.) This bike puts the “sport” into “sport touring.” As nearly perfect as it might have been for me and my preferred style of riding, the pegs were so high that there was no way I could ride this thing all day without my knees being in agony. It has great power and is fun to ride and if you’re less than 5’6″ it could be your dream bike. If you’re taller, however, forget it.

My final ride of the day was the all-out sport bike, the S1000RR. A bit of a disclaimer here: I’ve never ridden a sport bike before, and now I know why. With the high pegs and the low grips, I was perfectly set up to play leap-frog, and there’s no way I am going to ride in that position for long. For those who like those kinds of bikes, I suspect you would love this one. I know I didn’t ride it anywhere close to its capabilities. I just wanted to see what it was like to ride a sport bike, plus I wanted to compare it to the F800ST, which itself seems so biased to the sport side of its own equation.

So that’s just a quick run-through. I’ll go into more detail sometime soon on Examiner.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Motorcycle-specific maps offered by Butler Motorcycle Maps

Biker Quote for Today

Just because I am a BMW apologist, doesn’t mean I have to be snarky.