Archive for November, 2010

Know State Motorcycle Laws When You Travel

Monday, November 29th, 2010

The OFMC at a stop

We were coming down from the Black Hills and had been in Nebraska for about an hour when we stopped at a table along the road. There was another guy there, in a car, and we struck up a conversation with him. Along the way he mentioned, “This is a bucket state, by the way.”

Oh really? We hadn’t known that and we had been riding without helmets on. Oops. We had done the same thing a year or two earlier when we rode into Nevada for the first time. Somehow we got all the way to Las Vegas before we learned they required helmets.

Of course that was a long time ago, before the Internet, and we could be excused our ignorance. Back then it wasn’t easy to know what different state laws are. And if a state does require helmets, why the heck don’t they put up a sign at the border that says so?

There’s no excuse anymore for being ignorant of the laws in a state you’ll be riding to. The Internet does exist now, and one excellent place to check up on all states is a handy page on the American Motorcyclist Association’s website. You go there and there’s a map of the U.S. Click on the state you want to know about and it takes you to a listing of what they require and forbid.

The very first item on the list, presumably because this is the most common question, is the helmet requirements, if any. Other information includes the following:

  • Safety Helmet
  • State Funded Rider Ed
  • Eye Protection
  • Daytime Use of Headlight
  • Passenger Seat
  • Passenger Footrest
  • Passenger Age Restriction
  • Helmet Speakers
  • Periodic Safety Inspection
  • Mirror Left(L) Right(R)
  • Radar Detector
  • Turn Signals
  • Muffler
  • Maximum Sound Level
  • State Insurance Requirements
  • Handlebar Height
  • Rider-Education
  • Accept Motorcycle Endorsement From Other States
  • Accept RiderEd Completion Card From Other States
  • Motorcycles operating two abreast in same lane
  • Lane Splitting
  • Lemon Law Coverage

I’ll bet you didn’t even know that some states have requirements or prohibitions in some of these areas. Heck, you might even learn something about your own state laws.

Any by the way, the page also has separate legal requirements for off-road bikes. All in all it’s a lot of good information.

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On the Road Again on My CB

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Yahoo! I got my CB750 Custom back from the shop and had the chance to ride it again. As I mentioned last week, I’d had electrical problems with it all summer, but now it’s fixed.

Me and the CB in CaliforniaAt least it better be, I paid more than $400 for a new stator and rotor. That’s after having it in once before where they cleaned the contacts and thought that was all that was needed. At this point I’ve paid almost as much in repairs this year as I’d judge the bike to be worth if I were to sell it.

Not that I’m going to sell it. This bike has a ton of sentimental value to me, starting with the fact that it’s the first bike I ever owned. How many people have you heard remark wistfully that they’d sure love to have that first bike back? For me, the answer is “a lot,” and I’m happy to be able to say I still do have that first bike.

And you know, I’ve been everywhere on this bike. That’s us in California there in that picture, and I’ve been all over the west on it. We’ve been together for more than 20 years, and that’s more than I can say even for my wife and me. Lyle Lovett has a line in his song, “Don’t Touch My Hat,” that goes ” . . and we’ve been together through many a woman.” Well that’s the deal here, too.

Of course, keeping a motorcycle running as it gets older gets harder and harder. The dealership I used to take the Honda to eventually fired me as a customer because they don’t want to work on older bikes. So I switched over to Mountain Thunder Motorsports, where Joel specializes in these old guys. I’m wondering how long it’s going to be before my Kawasaki dealer fires me and my 1999 Concours. I’ve already started taking it to Joel for some things.

Our first extremely cold weather hit the day after I picked up the bike, so we’ll see just how much I get to ride it in the near term. Doesn’t matter, though. It’s running good again and I’ll be on it whenever I can. Hopefully for at least another 20 plus years. Dang, maybe someday it will be worth a lot of money, like a lot of 50-year-old bikes of other kinds are now. Then I’ll be riding something classy.

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What I Want to Do: Motorcycle Bucket Lists

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

I never heard the term “bucket list” before that movie came out, but I’m very familiar with the idea of setting goals. A long, long time ago I read somewhere that a study of college students showed that 10 years later, those who left school with clear-cut goals in mind had accomplished far more than those who did not.

Motorcycles on Red Mountain PassBasically, if you set goals and review your progress toward those goals periodically you are much more apt to take the steps necessary to accomplish them. On the other hand, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.

So we get to bucket lists, the things we want to do before we kick the bucket. I wanted to do a column for Rum Bum about the motorcycling bucket list I would set for myself. But the truth of the matter is that I’m generally not much of a goal setter. I decided I’d take a look at what other motorcyclists include on their lists.

Maybe I’m blessed, or maybe it’s just that I’m a doer, not a wisher, but I was interested to find that many of the things a lot of riders have on their bucket lists are things I’ve already done. One that showed up repeatedly in my search was riding the Going to the Sun Highway up through Glacier National Park. Yup, I’ve done that. The Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon–I’ve been all those places more than once. Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur? You bet.

Beyond roads, there were other experiences: Ride in a sidecar–done that twice. Attend a Moto GP event–twice. Go to the Sturgis rally–twice.

Of course there were plenty of bucket list items I haven’t done, and it was interesting to see what other people yearn for. Riding the Blue Ridge highway and riding the Tail of the Dragon are two I haven’t done because they’re out east and I’m in the west. But they’re on my agenda. I’ll get there some day.

Another, as one fellow put it: Touch my wheel in every state and province. I can only tally up 18 states and 1 province so far so that’s another I would put on my list.

One that a surprising number of people listed, and which I have no interest in at all, is to ride an Iron Butt event. My attitude is “good for you guys” but doing 1,000 miles in one day just doesn’t sound like any fun at all. The occasional times when I’ve covered 500 miles in a day have been absolutely plenty for me, thank you. But hey, different strokes for different folks.

There was one guy, however, who had an item on his list that I think every one of us can agree with: Lotto. Win it. Buy any motorcycle I want.

I’m with you dude. Now all I have to do is start buying tickets.

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Keeping the Old Beast Alive

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

The last time I’ve ridden my 1980 Honda CB750 Custom was early October when I took it to the shop for repair of the electrical problem that has plagued me all summer. It’s still sitting there.

Me and the CB at the Canadian borderJoel, who runs Mountain Thunder Motorsports, my shop, tells me the issue is a burned out rotor, which is on order. It’s been on order for six weeks now.

That’s a problem those of us who ride older machines run into with some regularity. It’s hard–or damn near impossible–to get parts sometimes. In this case, getting a new rotor is dependent on Honda doing a manufacturing run of this particular part. Presumably they wait until demand builds up and it makes sense economically for them to do it. Meanwhile my bike sits and waits.

The issue for me, however, is that if it’s another month before they do a run it will be sometime in December before I have my bike back. And that would mean not riding the bike even once in November. Anyone who knows me knows that is totally unacceptable.

I’ve been riding this bike for more than 20 years, and when I bought it I made myself a promise that I would ride it at least once a month every single calendar month. It got pretty iffy a couple times but in all these years I have kept this string going. But now it is threatened.

So I did the only thing I could do. I told Joel it is extremely important to me that I have the bike back before the end of November and if that means replacing the rotor with a used part rather than a new one, then so be it. He said OK, he would do that, and he promised I’d have the bike back before the end of the month.

Obviously I’m hoping this doesn’t turn out to be an expensive move. Obviously, a used rotor has more of a chance of dying soon than a new one does. Will I be right back in for another one all too quickly? I sure hope not. And it may be silly, so you can call me sentimental or whatever, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take to keep my every-month string going.

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Biker Much Crazier (and More Talented) Than Me or You

Monday, November 15th, 2010

I got this video in an email from Jerry Pokorny, along with this note:

Would you believe I was the “stunt double” rider for this guy?

No, I didn’t think you would believe that one………………………………………..


Jerry’s right, you’ve got to see this.

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The Amazing Proliferation of Electric Motorcycles

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

A Zero electric motorcycle

I guess it makes sense that it’s happening first with motorcycles. Sure there are some hybrid cars out there, and you’ve got the (very high-end) Tesla roadster. But when it comes to going electric, motorcycles are way out in front.

Think about it. The biggest stumbling block in the quest to successfully produce and market electric vehicles is the limitation of battery power. And the lighter the vehicle, the greater distance you can coax out of those batteries. Motorcycles are lighter than cars. (Duh!) And sure, you can load more batteries into a car than you can onto a motorcycle, but weight is also a big factor in speed. It just makes sense.

Have you seen what is out there now in the way of electric bikes? I’ve been paying some attention but obviously not enough, as the November 2010 issue of Motorcyclist magazine has shown me. This issue, which I’m still working my way through, has story after story about one electric motorcycle maker after another. It’s incredible.

Probably everyone has heard of Brammo and Zero. They’re two of the best-known producers of electric bikes, and they sell smaller bikes with limited range and speed. But have you heard of the MotoCzysz e1pc? This is a superbike and it’s in its third generation. Have you heard of the Mavizen TTX02? Another superbike. How about the Roehr eSuperBike or the Mission Motors Mission One? This is not a complete list.

OK, so hold it. Why all the superbikes? Two simple answers. First, a sportbike is lighter than a bagger–you start small. Second, technological advances frequently come to the racetrack first. What works on the track eventually makes its way into street bikes. Plus, what better way to demonstrate that these things are for real than by going out and kicking the pants of gas-powered bikes?

Not that that has happened yet. We’re not that far along, although a new class in Moto GP has been created specifically for electrics.

Make no mistake. This is going to happen, and probably a lot sooner than most people think. And here’s something for many traditionalist nay-sayers to think about. Many of these companies are American. That’s American iron being produced. And there are a lot of ways to produce electricity that do not put money in the pockets of people half-way around the globe who hate us and wish us harm. The U.S. produces enough of its own oil that we can continue to drive our gas-powered bikes, so they’re not going away. The sooner we shift a significant portion of our vehicles to electricity the better off we’re going to be. It can’t happen soon enough.

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Round-the-World Ducati Rider Hitting Denver

Monday, November 8th, 2010

Paolo Pirozzi, on his Ducati Multistrada

The word from Erico Motorsports is that Paolo Pirozzi, who is riding around the world on his Ducati Multistrada 1200, will be coming through Denver this weekend and they’re rolling out the red carpet for him.

According to the blurb, Paolo has mapped out a 90,000 kilometer route that is taking him from Europe to Russia, Asia to Australia, then on to North American and North Africa, ending up back home in Italy. Ducati gave him the Multistrada for the ride but the Ducati community is taking car of everything else.

In Denver, there will be a meet and greet at Erico on Saturday from 2-4 p.m., after which he will be given a tour of the sights of Denver on a bus loaded with the first 20 to sign up. (“Yes, free beer on the bus,” says Erico.)

When the bus returns to Erico at about 5:30, the party will move to Vintage Moto at 2762 Walnut for a private viewing of Jim Dillard’s vintage motorcycle collection. Then the local Denver Ducati Owner’s Club will be taking the guest of honor out to dinner.

The entire event is open to anyone, although the bus is expected to fill up quickly. For more information, contact Erico at 303-308-1811.

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Adventure is not the road we travel, it’s the obstacles we overcome.

Butler Motorcycle Maps Adds Southern California

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Just a quick note here to let you know that Butler Motorcycle Maps has just added Southern California to the list of motorcycle-touring maps it offers. Already available are Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Montana. They will also soon have a Rocky Mountain states map combining all five of those mountain states in one map. These things are sizable already so I’m wondering if that one is going to be huge.

Butler Motorcycle Maps - CaliforniaI’ve written previously about these maps so I’ll just recap here. In addition to being tough and waterproof, these maps have all the best motorcycle roads in each state highlighted and detailed. I know they’ve done a good job of this because I have ridden extensively in the Rocky Mountain states and there isn’t a road I would add that they don’t already have. And they have a few I’m not familiar with. I’d say that’s a pretty strong recommendation.

As for this new one, Southern California, this is where it really gets interesting for me. I don’t know California very well, and I especially don’t know SoCal. I look at this map and I think, “Oh man. Look at that. And that. And that. I want to go there.” But you know, without something like this map, if I did go there I wouldn’t have any idea where to go. Clearly the main strength in these maps is cluing in people who are unfamiliar with an area as to what the area offers.

For instance, I was riding in SoCal just a couple weeks ago, and while I was on a tour where I couldn’t just split off and go somewhere else, I see from this map that we were very close to some really nice roads. Not that the roads we were on weren’t nice, mind you. We did, after all, ride Big Sur, and go to Yosemite, and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. But I had no notion that there were some other very good motorcycle roads that we just went right past. Next time I have a chance to get out that way I’m definitely taking this map.

I will make note here, for purposes of full disclosure, that I have an ongoing relationship with the folks at Butler. They have paid for one small ad on 1 page on my 100+ page website, and they do give me these maps for free, with the hope that I’ll write about them. Rest assured, though, that if I thought these things were crap I’d say so. But you won’t hear that from me because it’s not true.

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Fewer Motorcycles Sold As Hard Times Continue

Monday, November 1st, 2010

Old Bike Ride 8 - 2010

By technical definitions, we are no longer in a recession. By the anecdotal definition of millions of people still out of work, that’s hogwash. The reality is demonstrated by the status of the motorcycle market.

A report in the Financial Times last week says that U.S. motorcycle sales were down by more than 14 percent in the third quarter of 2010, compared to 2009. That makes it the 15th consecutive quarter in which the numbers have declined.

An interesting–and logical–note in the article says sales are off more in the U.S., primarily because we buy them more for recreation, while people in other countries buy them for transportation. You’ve got to get to work but you can do without that toy for the moment.

And here’s something I didn’t know. “Some Japanese bike makers did not produce 2010 models.” They were apparently so backed up with leftover models from 2009 that they quit building them. I wish the article said who. This was definitely news to me.

Even if new bikes aren’t selling, you’d better believe those of us who have bikes continue to ride them. This is demonstrated by another statistic, the sale of motorcycle tires. The article says tire sales (or “tyre” sales, since this is a British publication) were up 7.7 percent January through September. And to the producers, that translates into the likelihood that “replacement demand is building” for bikes.

I don’t have any conclusions to bring to all this. It was just some information I found interesting and felt was worth passing along.

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