Archive for December, 2010

I Didn’t See the Motorcycle

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

The most common words spoken by drivers who hit motorcyclists are, “I didn’t see him.” For a lot of riders, those words are unacceptable.

map of intersectionI’m sorry to say, however, they are often true. So like it or not, we who ride have to adjust to that fact in order to ensure our own safety.

My friend John is one of those who argue that any driver who hits a motorcyclist and claims “I didn’t see him” needs to go to jail. I agree that if the failure to see has to do with the driver paying attention to their cell phone or anything else other than driving, serious consequences are in order.

But that’s not always the case. I’ve told here previously of the time, many years ago, when I was in a car waiting to make a left turn off a main street. As I started to turn my passenger yelled at me to stop, and I did just in time not to hit a motorcyclist coming the other way. I didn’t see him. And I wasn’t doing anything other than driving. I just didn’t see him.

Well, it happened again now, just a week ago. It would take too many words to explain the streets so just look at the map. A guy on my block rides a Ducati. I left the house in my car and was at the end of the block intending to take a left turn to get out of the neighborhood. I looked left and right and started to pull out.

As I pulled out I saw–only then–that the guy on the Ducati was coming up the street. Now, he wasn’t going fast because he had just turned onto that street, and he was going to turn right anyway, so no harm was done. But the fact is, that Ducati has such a narrow profile when you look at it head on, that it’s a lot easier not to see than some big bagger with all the gear.

Studies have shown that motorcyclists and family members of motorcyclists are far more attuned to the presence of motorcycles on the streets, and thus are far less likely to get in crashes with them than the general populace. And yet here I am, a rider with many years on the bike, and I still did not see this guy. Needless to say, I found this very disturbing. I just did not see him. How could that be?

The bottom line on how it could be, however, is that it is. And that’s why we have to be responsible for our own safety. We have to ride as if we are invisible, always anticipating the stupid moves that those idiot cagers might pull–even if on some occasions the idiot cagers are also riders themselves.

I’m not making excuses, but every single one of us makes a mistake now and then. And it doesn’t matter to your shattered skull that your crash was due to some other guy’s mistake. We are responsible for our own safety. Accept that fact and act upon it and you’ll greatly enhance your chances of riding safely for many years to come.

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Biker Quote for Today

Anticipate!-most “accidents” are predictable, and avoidable.

From Cycle World to ??: What Happened to David Edwards?

Monday, December 27th, 2010

Along with a lot of other people I was surprised a few months ago to open the latest issue of Cycle World magazine and find that Mark Hoyer was suddenly the editor. What happened to David Edwards? Edwards had been the editor for years and now, without a word, he was gone.

David EdwardsThat latter fact suggested that there were issues and conflicts. Usually when a long-time editor leaves a magazine he or she does a farewell column and introduces their successor. Not so in this case. Even when I was Senior Editor for the Sentinel newspapers and left unexpectedly in a hurry–my decision, but not a happy one–I had the chance to run a farewell column. Not so David Edwards.

Figuring that the folks at the big motorcycle magazines must know each other, I asked Donya Carlson, the Senior Managing Editor for Rider magazine, what she knew about Edwards’ departure. (Donya and I were among the group who spent four days riding California on the EagleRider media tour in October.) She said she didn’t know anything, and that they were as curious as anyone else.

Of course I also wondered where he would go. It’s got to be damn hard to find a job anywhere comparable to being the editorial honcho at one of the country’s premier moto mags. On that last question, and the reason for this post, is that there is now at least a kernel of an answer.

I’m not sure if this is in the magazine, but yesterday on the Motorcyclist magazine website I discovered an article, “The Bob Dylan Motorcycle Crash,” written by none other than David Edwards. So presumably Edwards is doing some freelancing. Good for him for getting a piece published; I know how tough that can be. He at least has better contacts than I do.

So anyway, it’s none of my business or of yours, but we can’t help but be curious. What in the world happened that he was gone that suddenly? I don’t suppose we’ll ever know.

And good luck David on making your comeback. For your sake, I hope to see your byline again somewhere on at least a semi-regular basis.

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Sometimes it takes a whole tank of gas to leave your troubles behind.

Motocross Plans for 2011

Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

I’ve only been to one motocross event, and I’ve certainly never ridden motocross, though it looks like a hoot and a half, but maybe I’ll at least get to another one in 2011.

Motocross racers at the startI got an email today from the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) announcing their Pro/Am motocross racing schedule for next year and one of the events will be here in Colorado. They’ve got 53 events on their calendar and number 20 will be in Brush on May 30. I’ve put it on my calendar.

Not knowing all that much about Pro/Am racing, I’ll pass along to you what the AMA says about it. First off, these are the events where amateur racers “earn the credentials to line up at an AMA Supercross or AMA Pro Racing Motocross event.”

Additionally, “The AMA Racing Pro/Am program is critical to the natural progression of a rider through the amateur ranks of AMA amateur motocross all the way up to getting their AMA Supercross license,” says AMA Director of Supercross Kevin Crowther.

To be considered for a professional motocross license, competitors must have earned at least 75 advancement points (at the time of application) in AMA Racing Pro/Am motocross events in a continuous 12-month period. Points are based on overall finishes in either the 250 Pro/Am and Open Pro/Am classes. Points from each class are not combined.

Whatever it’s about for the guys on the track, for the spectators–I’m thinking–it has got to be fun. I’m going to plan to go and presuming I do you can bet I’ll be right back here telling about it.

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They don’t expect you to finish. That’s why it’s the Dakar.

Ride–And Walk–Warm In Winter

Monday, December 20th, 2010

OK, it may be too late to put this on your Christmas wish list so maybe you’ll just have to buy it for yourself.

Gerbing Hybrid LT heated jacket.jpgGerbing, the heated riding gear folks, have just announced a new heated jacket, the Hybrid LT, that plugs into the bike, but can also be hooked up to a battery so you can be warm even off the bike. The battery fits in the jacket pocket and is supposed to be good for keeping you warm up to three hours.

I don’t know if you’ve tried heated gear but I love it. As long as I’m riding, my electric vest keeps me nice and toasty. It’s when I get off that things get chilly. I’ve thought for a long time that it would be good to have a battery-powered vest so it would work away from the bike. Heck, you could wear it to football game or any other outdoor activity that doesn’t have anything to do with riding.

But what I particularly like about this idea is that you get all the heat you need while you’re riding and then only start using the battery after you’ve arrived. If you only had a battery and rode half an hour to get somewhere, you’ve only got two hours of power if you also intend to use it riding home. With both sources you ride however long it takes, stay warm off the bike three hours, and then ride home as long as it takes.

This goes on my list of good ideas. Plus, it’s an attractive-looking jacket.

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Keep the bike. Ditch the fiancee.

Sorry, You Can’t Have That Motorcycle

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

Rider on a Ninja

A big Oopsie! award goes out this week to Kawasaki. It seems the producer of the super hot Ninja sportbikes had a bit of a design or production glitch.

The Ninja ZX-10R is the 998cc member of the Ninja family and a popular bike. However, if you want one of these babies just at this moment you’re out of luck. In fact if you already bought one you’re out of luck.

Kawasaki announced a couple days ago that it was putting a “technical hold” on all 2011 ZX-10Rs and telling dealers to return any unsold models to the company’s warehouses. What’s more, they are contacting all buyers who have already taken delivery to reimburse their purchases and take the bikes back. That’s right, you bought that, and paid for it, but you can’t keep it. We’re taking it back.

Of course, after whatever fixes that are needed are made, the bikes will be distributed again to dealers and they’ll go on sale. Buyers, on the other hand, are apparently not guaranteed to get “their” bike back, even if they had already done some customizing. Instead, they will “be among the first to have the option of receiving a new unit once the technical hold has been lifted.”

In its statement about the technical hold, Kawasaki was not specific about the nature of the issue. They did say that the ZX-10R will only go back on sale once “Kawasaki is 100 percent confident they reflect company standards for this highly technical, race-bred machine.”

OK, and so here’s a question: What’s the difference between a “technical hold” and a “recall”?

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Biker Quote for Today

It’s not the bike so much as it’s the rider. Put the stock pistons back in the bike and quit messing with shit you don’t understand.

From the Government and Here to Help–Right!

Monday, December 13th, 2010

The Motorcycle Riders Foundation (MRF) sent out a release the other day that will make you just shake your head. They tell about a recent meeting with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) where the gap between the motorcyclists and the safety bureaucrats could not have been wider.

Motorcycle Riders Foundation logoRather than paraphrase it all I’ll just quote from the release:

The government safety group continues to deny that the recent drop in motorcycle fatalities could have anything to do with education and awareness, instead maintaining that that the decrease was a result of people riding less. However, the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) reported that during the same time period, 2008-2009, vehicle miles traveled for motorcycles were up 6.8% or 27.6 billion miles in the U.S. The MIC also reported that tire sales, a unique measure of motorcycle use, were also up 9.6% in 2008-2009.

NHTSA also continued to defend their discriminatory practice of funding motorcycle-only roadside checkpoints, including their recent $40,000 award to Georgia’s Department of Public Safety. The idea is based on no science or research, but simply the notion that pulling every motorcycle off the road at the discretion of law enforcement will “save lives.”

Another interesting note in this broadly focused release is information on how the incoming Republican Congressional leadership relates to the motorcycling community. The MRF says that John Boehner (R-OH), who will be the next Speaker of the House, “has been a long-time friend of the MRF and ABATE of Ohio, and we look forward to continuing working with him in his new role.”

The MRF also notes that “The new chair of the powerful U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure (T&I) will be John Mica (R-FL). Representative Mica has been a constant supporter of the MRF and all of our initiatives, as well as a very staunch advocate for ABATE of Florida.”

That bit about Boehner puts an interesting perspective on things. I know that for far-left Democrats, Boehner is seen as really evil. And yet if you’re a motorcyclist you have to think that maybe there’s more to him than just “evil.” It goes both ways, of course. Far-right Republicans also seem to see certain Democrats as pure evil. Gosh, maybe that’s not really true.

You’ll notice I used the terms “far-left” and “far-right” rather than just “Democrats” or “Republicans.” That’s to make the point that most Americans are much closer to the middle than to the extremes, regardless of which party they’re affiliated with.

Excuse the political interjection into what is normally a motorcycle-focused blog, but just this morning I’ve been watching online the launch of an organization called No Labels, website www.NoLabels.org. The group’s basis is in pushing elected officials of both parties to put aside partisan bickering and do what’s right for the country. Wow, what a concept.

I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll stop demonizing your guy if you’ll stop demonizing mine. And then let’s both push them to get things done to get this country moving again, even if it means compromising with each other.

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Biker Quote for Today

Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die today. –James Dean

Work Work or Play Work, a Choice I Need to Make

Friday, December 10th, 2010

Motorcycles up on Red Mountain Pass

My life got complicated yesterday. I’ve been in touch with Ben Hochberg at ABATE of Colorado about taking their motorcycle trainer training so I can work as an MSF instructor teaching new and experienced riders to be better riders.

My interests are numerous. First, I’m trying to make a living as a motorcyclist, primarily by writing about motorcycling for any publication that will pay me. Being an MSF instructor doesn’t pay a lot but I’m in an every-little-bit-helps situation, trying to piece together a bit here and a bit there to equal a living wage.

Also, being an instructor would undoubtedly provide me with a lot of material for my writing. Heck, just taking the training course will provide me with material even if I never teach a class. Plus, taking the training and teaching the courses would inevitably make me a better rider myself.

And third, I enjoy teaching. I’ve had a few jobs over the years where part of what I did was to train others and I find it very rewarding.

So what’s my dilemma? Well, Ben told me yesterday the dates of the class, two weeks in June, and those are the same two weeks in which I was planning to do a motorcycle trip to California with some friends. Dang!

Of course that trip would also be fodder for my writing, and I don’t take vacations, so I’d be cranking out articles for Examiner.com and RumBum.com and others the whole while I was gone. But it would still be play as work, whereas doing the training would be more work as work. And who wouldn’t rather play than work?

I know the logical choice here is to stay home and do the training. Both the training and the trip would cost me money, some of which I would recoup through my writing, but the potential earnings of becoming a trainer far outweigh what I’d earn from the trip. And paying the bills is a nice thing to be able to do.

But I’d rather go on the trip. Wouldn’t you? Gosh, it just sucks to be me, doesn’t it? Don’t I wish I just had some job sitting at a desk and pushing papers all day! Yeah, right.

So anyway, if you have any thoughts to offer me on this decision I’d be happy to hear them. It just had to be those two weeks, didn’t it?

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I’m a highway junkie! Lord, I love a white line!!!

New Gig for This Motorcycle Writer

Monday, December 6th, 2010

I picked up some new work the other day and I’d love to tell you where to go to read what I’m writing, but at the moment I don’t even know myself.

Stunt rider at SturgisJust to bring anyone up to speed who isn’t familiar with what I do, I’m a writer and a rider and I’ve made it my job to combine the two. In addition to this blog, I write for Examiner.com, RumBum.com, do occasional pieces for CycleConnections.com, and have various other outfits that sometimes will hire me to do a piece.

My dance card is not full, however, so I’m always looking for another gig, and this time I decided to check out Elance. That as in E for online and lance, for freelance. It’s a digital meeting place for freelancers and the people who need freelance work done.

An there it was, a gig posting titled “Motorcycle Articles Needed.” I put in a bid and the next day got an email from Michael A. saying “You’re exactly the guy I’m looking for.”

Michael has hired me to write eight pieces for him, with complete freedom to choose my own subject matter, provided that I somehow draw into the discussion some of the brands and models sold by the dealership Michael does work for. Which is to say, this is more or less advertising copy, though only in the sense that many websites where the focus is on selling want honest to goodness content to draw readers to the site. I’ve done some of that before.

At this point I have no idea where this stuff will appear, whether I’ll be identified as the writer, or even how it will be used. There is likely to be more of this work in the future, though, so I’m sure I’ll learn all this eventually. It’ll be interesting to see.

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Midnight bugs taste just as bad as noon time bugs.

Electric Motorcycles, the Old Style

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

Chris Ravana on an electric motorcycle

I had a really interesting visit today with Chris Ravana, of Blindspot Cycles, with him showing me a couple of his homemade electric motorcycles.

The way Chris does it there’s nothing magical, or even particularly high-tech, about building an electric bike. He goes to a salvage yard and buys an old junk motorcycle body, picks up a few necessary parts, and then puts an electric motor in it. The motor runs off a stack of standard automotive-type batteries, although they are of the deep-cycle variety that can stand to be deeply discharged before being charged again.

And there’s nothing all that special about the motor. It’s just a basic industrial-type electric motor.

The whole business couldn’t be much more straightforward. I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here because I’ll be writing a lot more about Chris and his bikes for RumBum.com and Examiner.com, but, as always, I wanted to tell you the backstory here.

I just ran across an article about Chris and what he’s doing by chance, somewhere on the web, and it turned out he lives just up north in Fort Collins. I emailed him about getting together but didn’t hear anything back, so I called. He apologized for not replying but told me his wife had just had a baby the day before. So he’s been a little, shall we say, busy. Oh yeah, some excuse.

Today was a beautiful and warm day so I jumped on the Kawi and headed up there but along the way it got very cold. I was glad I had my electric vest. We talked about his bikes why he does all this, as well as the other things he does, and then it was time to ride.

Chris had two bikes prepped for us and off we went. This is not the first time I’ve ridden electric motorcycles but it’s still a kick. They’re silent when you’re sitting still, but twist that throttle and you absolutely do go forward, as in right now. Then you can cruise along side by side and talk, because there’s no engine noise. Not shout, talk.

What can I say? It was a lot of fun. He’s an interesting guy.

And then, just to show you how fickle the weather in Colorado can be, I headed back to Denver and rode back into sunshine and warmth. I knew there had been a beautiful day somewhere around here.

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Biker Quote for Today

If motorcycles are not allowed in heaven then I’ll ride mine to hell.