Archive for October, 2010

Coincidences Connect Me to Sidecar-Steered Rig Owner

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Glyn McDowell driving his rig from the sidecar

You’ve got to love coincidence. It came through for me this time.

Last summer my wife and I were going camping in the mountains. We were headed out US 285, getting near Bailey, when we saw a guy going the other way in a motorcycle sidecar rig. Not unusual, except that in this case, he was controlling it from the sidecar, not the bike. What the heck?

So almost as a throwaway, I put up a short note on Examiner.com saying, “Do you know this person? I want to meet him.” I figured maybe someone would respond, but I doubted it.

Fast forward a year. I was taking off one day this summer on my 1980 Honda CB750 Custom and it died on me about a mile from home. This was a day when the bike gave me trouble twice, and I wrote about it here. Almost as soon as I got the bike rolled out of traffic another guy stopped to offer assistance. This was Roger. Roger was very helpful, giving me a ride home to get a gas can and then helping me get it started when adding gas was not quite enough. I gave Roger my card, along with a big thank-you.

Imagine my surprise about two months later when I received an email from Roger. He had been to my Examiner page and had read the piece about the guy driving from the sidecar, and he had just run into him at a gas station. Roger got the guy’s contact information and forwarded it to me. How cool is that!

So I called the guy, Glyn McDowell, and went up to meet him at his home. He showed me his rig, took me for a ride, and let me drive it. Like they say, it’s dirty work but someone has to do it.

I wrote a piece for RumBum.com about Glyn and his rig and you can read it there. And this all happened because of a throwaway piece that I never expected to result in anything. I hope you go to RumBum and read the piece. It’s a pretty interesting rig.

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Biker Quote for Today

You’re a biker wannabe if you spit out the bug that just flew in your mouth.

I Finally Get the Harley Thing, Kinda

Monday, October 25th, 2010

I’ve never been a Harley guy and I’ve never understood why so many people are so nuts about them. So I took the opportunity of being invited on this four-day EagleRider media tour to spend it all on a Harley, in hopes that I would finally understand.

The Heritage Softail I rodeI think I do understand now, at least sort of. Actually, it would be more accurate to say I understand the appeal of cruisers more than I did before. Harley vs. some other brand I’m still not sure I get.

First and foremost, the Heritage Softail I was on was easy to ride. (That’s it in the photo.) I say that in context of my Kawasaki Concours, which I love now but which took me a couple years to really get comfortable on. The thing is, the Kawi has a high seat level and a very high center of gravity, so for a long time I wouldn’t dare ride it without my highest boots on. Nowadays I’m perfectly comfortable riding it in just sneakers, but that took a couple years before I reached that point.

The Softail, on the other hand, was just get on and go. With a low center of gravity and low seat height, I never had the slightest fear of falling over. I can understand that appeal.

I also liked having floorboards. I’ve always preferred to have pegs underneath me so I can stand up on bumps, and the one hard bump I hit on the Softail definitely flipped me way up off the seat, and back down hard. But I found that if when approaching a bump I pull myself up with the grips and stand on the floorboards, I can lift myself up to minimize the jolt. In the meantime, I was able to stretch my legs out at whatever knee angle I chose. I can definitely understand how my aging friends would be uncomfortable with keeping their knees bent all the time. I suspect I’m more limber than they are, but even for me it was nice.

There were other details I won’t bore you with, but there was also one thing I really did not like about the Softail. Apparently, when they come from the factory, the exhaust pipes do not have any heat shield. This leads to two things. First, the pipes eventually turn blue, which I don’t like. Second, it makes it very easy to burn anything that touches them. One day we rode in the rain and at lunch I noticed some black on the pipes. Then I noticed a shiny spot on my rain pants. It seems that you have to be careful at a stop to hold your leg far enough away from the bike not to get burned. How absurd is that?

So I’m not sold on Harleys, but at least I feel like it’s not such a mystery why so many people are. Thank you EagleRider for the opportunity.

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Biker Quote for Today

If it’s too loud you’re too old.

EagleRider Media Tour Was a Blast

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

EagleRider media tour group at Yosemite

Let’s see. If you had the chance to ride motorcycles through places like Big Sur and Yosemite, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and spend your nights in fancy hotels and eat in fancy restaurants, would you decline the offer? Me neither.

I got home last night from six days in California where I did all those things, courtesy of EagleRider, the largest motorcycle rental outfit in North America and purveyor of motorcycle tours. I was one of 18 writers and photographers invited on this media tour and I’ve got to tell you, we had a blast. Here’s a brief recap.

We arrived in Los Angeles and spent the night at Erwin’s in Venice Beach. Starting off the next morning, we rode up the coast and stopped for the night at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo. The Madonna Inn, for those like I was who are totally unfamiliar, is a very ornate, totally unique place. Every one of their rooms is decorated differently and many are pretty darn exotic. You can get a feel for it from their website.

The next day we continued up the coast, riding through Big Sur to our stopping point in Carmel. The last time I had been to Big Sur was about 1969 or 1970 so this might as well have been my first time. As everyone who has ever ridden it can attest, it’s always a balance between trying to look around you and trying not to run off the road on the bike. Prudence prevailed and none of us suffered any mishaps. I do know I stopped a lot. A lot.

On Day Three we headed inland to Yosemite National Park. Whereas we had had overcast and drizzle the previous days, this was the day when we had actual rain. Cold rain. Now, I wrote an article a couple years ago telling people to take their own gear along when they’re renting a motorcycle, because what you get from the company may not be very adequate, but I disregarded my own advice here. I couldn’t see any way to get my full-face helmet in my gear so I didn’t take it. That left me riding in the rain with a half helmet. Did I mention it was cold rain?

Fortunately it really wasn’t as unpleasant as I recall my previous such experience being, but in the future I will find a way to take my own helmet.

Anyway, we rode on into the park and enjoyed the scenery a bit. It was cloudy and rainy but that made for some more dramatic photos than what you would have gotten on a sunny day. That photo above is of part of the group getting posed for a picture on an overlook, with El Capitan in the background.

The next day we headed for San Francisco, looping around the bay on the east so we could cross over to Marin County on the San Rafael bridge and enter the city across the Golden Gate Bridge. Then we turned in the bikes, rode limos to our hotel on Fisherman’s Wharf, had dinner, said farewells to some folks, had brunch the next morning and then all dispersed. Rather than recap this all in detail here, all those links above will take you to greatly expanded pieces I wrote about each day on Examiner.com.

The People

So that’s the ride itself in brief. What that doesn’t address is the people, and the people were every bit as important in this being the great trip it was as the riding. I can’t talk about everyone here unless you want to read another 3,000 words, so I’ll skim.

John Campbell is editor of Canadian Biker Magazine, and a heck of a nice guy. Great sense of humor, very dry.

Donya Carlson is senior managing editor of Rider magazine. I have read her stuff for years so it was good to meet her. Super nice person.

Simon Weir is deputy editor for RiDe magazine in the UK. A lot of fun to hang around with.

Chris McIntyre is president of EagleRider. What an enthusiastic guy! He loves what he’s doing and it spreads easily to others on the staff.

Gunter Kykillus is EagleRider’s main man in the German-speaking countries of Europe. This guy never stops smiling. Big, big smile. He clearly loves what he’s doing, too.

I really feel like I ought to name a whole bunch of other people, so please don’t anyone be hurt that I didn’t mention you. I just know there are limits to how much people will read.

So anyway, we all understand that EagleRider put this whole thing together because they wanted to generate a whole lot of favorable publicity. Nevertheless, if it had been bungled badly I know we all would be saying so in our reports. But there was no bungling, the whole thing was well done, and we will all be writing very positive stories for the very simple reason that we all had a fabulous time. I consider that a pretty high recommendation. Thanks guys.

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Biker Quote for Today

On a motorcycle, you’re penetrating distance right along with the machine. In a car, you’re just a spectator; the windshield’s like a TV. — Von Dutch

On the Road with EagleRider; First Stop Venice Beach

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

EagleRider world headquarters

I mentioned previously that I had been invited to go on a four-day tour through the beauties of California with a group put together by EagleRider. Well, I flew to Los Angeles this morning and we hit the road tomorrow.

Tonight we’re in Venice Beach, at the Erwin Hotel. I don’t know a lot about this hotel but it’s supposed to be a classy joint. What I do know is that we’re on the sixth floor with balconies overlooking the boardwalk and the ocean. Too bad the fog hasn’t burned off today, as everyone was saying it would, because the sunset would probably be pretty spectacular but that doesn’t seem likely under the circumstances.

So anyway, I’ve ended up riding a Harley Heritage Softail, which seems to fit me pretty well. I had fears that the bike I ended up with might not be a good fit because I have short legs. Most of the Harleys I’ve ridden I’ve had an uncomfortable reach to the foot controls, but on this one it’s not a problem. It’s going to be very interesting to finally get some serious seat time on a Harley. I’ve never ridden any of them very much before.

So far I’ve met just a couple of the other writers on this ride, Natasha Dragun from Australia and Frederic Bagur (I think!) from Paris. The only person whose name I recognize is Donya Carlson, who writes for Rider magazine. Haven’t met her yet.

This is going to be an exotic few days, what with all the fancy places we’ll be staying and eating. I’m not normally a fancy-place sort of guy but I’ll do my best to make an exception this time. You can bet I’ll tell you all about it. Heck, maybe I’ll even try selling a story drawn from this trip to a travel magazine for a change, as opposed to a motorcycle magazine. We’ll see.

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Biker Quote for Today

Never look where you are going, always look where you want to go.

Dual-Sport Has Got to Be the Way to Go in Colorado

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Ron Coleman on a V-Strom up by the Caribou townsite

I keep saying it and I’m going to say it one more time: There are too many great roads in Colorado that I have never seen because I’ve only been riding a street bike all these years. I have got to get a dual-sport bike if I can just figure out a) where the money’s going to come from and b) where I’m going to store it.

I had the latest in a series of opportunities this past weekend to do some dual-sport riding. This time I went out with Ron Coleman, who runs Western Dual Sport Motorcycle Adventures out of Boulder, on one of his V-Stroms. The last time I went out with Ron we went up Fourmile Canyon and through the Wall Street area that later was the epicenter for that big fire they had up there. We then continued along the Switzerland Trail, which used to be a rail line many years ago.

This time we headed out of Boulder on the road up Sunshine Canyon, which took us through another area hit by the fire. What was really surprising about that part of the ride was seeing how selective the fire was. Some houses stood unscathed while others were ash heaps. In the trees there were paths visible where the fire burned some but left others green and growing. Pretty dang interesting.

We reached the Peak to Peak Highway and jogged south on it a short distance and then turned off on another gravel road that winds past Caribou Ranch. The days when this ranch was a premier recording studio are long over, and I’ve known for years where it was generally, but this was the first time I’d ever seen it.

We took another job off the Peak to Peak, and then a side-trip that took us up to the old Caribou townsite, now a ghost town. That’s Ron in the picture riding past the only remaining structures in what was once a gold mining town with a population of 3,000. And yes, that’s snow falling. Summer is definitely past.

Back again on the Peak to Peak, we turned off on the Coal Creek Canyon road and made a side-trip–gravel roads again–to the site of the Lincoln Hills resort that was a major draw for Blacks at a time when they were excluded from other, segregated facilities.

We returned to the canyon road, went up and over the ridge through Wondervu, and then turned off onto the gravel road that takes you past Gross Reservoir and eventually brings you out on the back side of Flagstaff Mountain. Then down Flagstaff Road into Boulder.

What a gorgeous ride! And sure, I’ve been on the Peak to Peak countless times, but I’ve never been on these other roads. Why? Because my Honda is barely tolerable on gravel and my Kawi detests gravel. In the meantime, the V-Strom is just every bit as comfortable on gravel as the Kawi is on the highway. But you know what? The V-Strom is also totally at home on the highway, and way more agile than the Kawi.

And there are a zillion more of those roads up there and all through the Colorado mountains. I don’t know how I’m going to make this work. I love my Honda. It’s the first bike I ever owned and I’ve been riding it for more than 20 years. I don’t want to part with it. And I love my Concours. I have to suspect that the V-Strom really is no match for it when it comes to serious touring. But I only have room in my garage for two motorcycles, not three. And I want a V-Strom in the worst way.

I’ve got to figure something out.

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Biker Quote for Today

Bounce like you’ve got hydraulics in your G-string.

‘Tales of Speed’ Going On Tonight

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

This is a little bit of short notice but I finally paid attention to it myself. Jerry Pokorny, who is associated with the British Motorcycle Association of Colorado and who I’ve mentioned here before, is the featured speaker tonight at Erico Motorsports.

Jerry Pokorny at the Bonneville Salt Flats“Tales of Speed” is the title for his presentation, and it is about setting land speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Jerry has set two such records, the most recent a little over a month ago on his 1954 BSA A-10 “Golden Flash.” He also set a record in 2008 on his 1945 Triumph 3HW.

Erico is located in downtown Denver at 2855 Walnut St. . The doors open at 6 p.m. and the presentation begins at 6:30. As an added attraction, after Jerry’s presentation, Erico will unveil the new Triumph Sprint GT.

The invitation I received said to RSVP to Tai at Tai@ericomotorsports.com. I’m not sure that’s totally necessary but it can’t hurt. I’m sure they’d like to know how many to expect.

Maybe I’ll see you there.

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Biker Quote for Today

You ain’t livin’ unless you’re livin’ on the edge.

A Guide to Motorcycle Museums in the UK

Monday, October 4th, 2010

Motorcycle Museums of the United Kingdom coverJust in case you’re heading to the UK anytime soon, and you’ll have the time and inclination to visit some motorcycle museums, I’ve got just the guide for you: Motorcycle Museums of the United Kingdom, by Cheryl Probst.

Cheryl is the author of a variety of guidebooks, so she has the thing pretty well down. The book covers about 37 (if I counted correctly) different museums all across the UK and occasionally adds relevant info about the cities or regions they are in.

A typical listing includes a short bit about the collection plus the URL for its site, if it has one. Under “Logistics” she then tells how to get there, the admission fee, and describes the facilities. There is also telephone and email contact information.

In a general piece at the front of the book, “History of British motorcycles,” Cheryl offers recommendations for those whose time is limited and want to make the most of what time they have.

The following image show a single page in the book, so you can get a feel for what it’s like. Many pages have photos, although this one does not.

a page from Motorcycle Museums of the United Kingdom

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Biker Quote for Today

Never mind the bollocks, where’s the apex?