Archive for December, 2012

Another Year When I Didn’t Make It To The Last Brass Monkey Run

Monday, December 31st, 2012
motorcycling in the snow

If you can ride in this I ought to be able to get down my street.

I seem to be really bad about this. I had every intention of going to the Last Brass Monkey Run. The fact it was cold was a plus because that meant I’d get to really test out my new electric gloves. But just as has happened in the past, my plans did not work out.

The problem is the weather. We had snow quite awhile ago now but it has been cold and colder and our street is still a sheet of snow and ice. There was no way in the world I was going to ride my bike down that street. Heck, I slip and slide on it in my car. And I don’t know about you but the idea of going to a motorcycle run in a car just doesn’t cut it.

So once again, my plans fell through.

Now it’s going to get interesting, though. Tomorrow is January 1 and that means I have 31 days to at least get in one ride on each bike. I never miss a month ever and you would think this would not be a problem. But hey, if it doesn’t at least warm up enough to melt that snow and ice on the street, it could be a problem.

It’s way too early to be getting worried, but you better believe the first chance I get to get out I’ll jump on it. At this time of year you’d better not snooze or the chances are very good you will lose.

So Friday is supposed to be 40 degrees, the only day this week higher than the 30s. Maybe Saturday will be the day. (I’ll be at work on Friday so that won’t be a day to ride.) Time to start keeping fingers crossed.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
A motorcycling year in pictures – 2012

Biker Quote for Today

Don’t stop riding until you get to the crash , you might save it!

Wrapping Up Another Year of Riding and Writing

Thursday, December 27th, 2012
Bikes head out on a ride at the Overland Expo

Bikes head out on a ride at the Overland Expo, one of the many places I went this year.

In my fourth year as a freelance moto-journalist I went all out. This has been the year I’ve dreamed of. And frankly, the coming year isn’t going to be anything close.

In the year 2012 I had another article published in Rider magazine and a couple published in Kawasaki’s Accelerate magazine. I rode my bike in 16 states and set a new personal record for total miles. I don’t know what that number is yet, because the year is not over yet, but it’s already a record.

I had some very cool gear given to me in exchange for testing and writing it. A bluetooth helmet-to-helmet communicator has proven to be a welcome little gadget, and a bluetooth-communicator-equipped helmet may yet prove to be even nicer. I just need some reasonably decent weather to continue testing that one. I’ve also received some good books, as well as some crappy ones, and some killer motorcycle maps.

July found me crossing the country on my way to Vintage Motorcycle Days, in Ohio, and earlier in the year I headed down to Flagstaff for the Overland Expo. Of course the OFMC took its annual summer trip. And I checked out STAR 2012, the Motorcycle Sport-Touring Association’s shindig.

I stayed with a whole bunch of folks from the Motorcycle Travel Network and we had a bunch who stayed with us. This thing beats the heck out of staying in motels. Cheaper and a lot more fun.

As I try to do every year, I rode a bunch of different demo bikes. I also had my first-ever flat tire on a bike and I got my first-ever speeding ticket on a bike. Oh well, it’s all grist for the pen.

I doubt I’m going to be able to say half as much about 2013 come this time next year because this freelancer got a job. It was pretty necessary considering that my main staple income source, RumBum, shut down, and my number two, Examiner, jacked around with their pay so badly that my earnings from them dropped by 90 percent. If you have noticed that I hardly write for them anymore, that’s why.

Still, I’m working now at the National Park Service, and if the clowns in Washington don’t pull some rabbit out of a hat soon I figure it’s contractors like me who will be the first to take the hit if the government agency we work for has to start trimming costs. At least this job has allowed me to pay off all this expensive dental work I’ve had done recently, and if a lay-off comes in a couple months–rather than next week–I’ll have put aside enough cash that I could end up doing a lot of two-wheeled traveling once again this summer. I’m a winner either way.

So hey, I figure I’m pretty dang fortunate. I’ve had a terrific year and the future looks bright. What more is there?

Recent from the National Motorcycle Examiner
Nothing at all.

Biker Quote for Today

“Whenever my mood turns foul and I find myself wandering beyond control, I pull out my motorbike and hurl it top speed down these unfit roads for hour after hour.” – T.E. Lawrence

Weather Looks OK For Last Brass Monkey Run

Monday, December 24th, 2012
Last Brass Monkey Run in 2008

Riders starting out from the Frontier Club for the 2008 Last Brass Monkey Run.

Yeah, it’s cold and gonna get colder the next couple days, but then we’re supposed to get a little warmer. Just in time for this year’s final organized motorcycle ride, the Last Brass Monkey Run.

The Last Brass Monkey Run is put on each year by ABATE of Colorado and it starts out at a couple spots, The Frontier Club in Aurora and Susie’s in Golden, and comes together at the Grizzly Rose.

Registration at the starting points begins at 9 a.m. and the party at the Grizzly Rose begins at noon. Registration is $10 for ABATE members and $15 for non-members. Plus, if you’re an ABATE member and you renew your membership at the event it only costs you $5 to get in.

Goings-on include food and live music, a chili cook-off, cash prizes, door prizes, 50-50, and of course the chance to catch up with friends and get in your last ride of the year.

Of course, if the weather turns nasty or you just can’t motivate yourself to get on the bike, you can come in your car. What the heck.

So hey! I’ll see you there, right?

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Butler Maps goes east to the Ozarks

Biker Quote for Today

Trailering your bike is a sickness. Call 1-800 2 SCARED TO RIDE

Getting Really Invisible On The Motorcycle

Thursday, December 20th, 2012
headlight on my Kawasaki Concours

Who knew the bulb blew?

Safe riding promoters tell you to ride as if you were invisible, because for the most part you are. Well, I took that one step further recently, I almost really was invisible, although I didn’t know it at first.

I recently started a regular day job–something I hadn’t had in nearly four years–and frankly, I don’t expect to ride to work very much. The direct route takes me up I-25 to 6th Avenue and then west. The part on I-25 is a bear, with really bad stop and go traffic. That kind of thing is murderous on your wrists on a bike, as I’m sure you know.

But I have ridden twice. On Wednesday before Thanksgiving I knew traffic would be light, and it was supposed to be a beautiful day. It was, and I rode.

Then the following week, also on Wednesday, it was going to be another gorgeous day so I decided I would take a longer route that would help me avoid the really bad traffic. That worked out OK.

So that evening I was heading home, and it was dusk, getting darker all the time. I started noticing that my headlight wasn’t doing all that good a job illuminating the road in front of me, but I could still see OK so I wasn’t concerned.

But it kept getting darker. And I was starting to have a suspicion that something was wrong. I suspected that my headlight was out. I flipped on the brights and there was definitely light. I flipped them back off and there did not seem to be any light. I wanted to pull up close behind a car and see if I was shining a light on it but couldn’t really do that at highway speed. Finally I just decided that oncoming traffic, I apologize, but I’m running with my brights on. And when I finally did get off the highway and pulled up close behind a car there was nothing when I flipped the brights off.

So essentially, I had been riding in the dark with no light to tell other drivers that I existed. Talk about invisible. And how long do you suppose the light had been out? I don’t ride at night a lot so it could have been a good long time. Now I know; all I have to do is remember to do something about it.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Going over the edge of the Grand Mesa

Biker Quote for Today

When in doubt, PIN IT! It may not help, but it’ll sure end the suspense…

Some Highlights From The 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball Run

Monday, December 17th, 2012
A BSA that rode in the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball Run

A BSA that rode in the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball Run.

This presentation on the 2012 Motorcycle Cannonball Run could have been better if the acoustics had been better. I mentioned to the guys afterward that I only heard about half of what was said, and Dan replied that I had done about 10 times better than he did. That’s too bad, because what I did hear was pretty interesting.

This thing was held up in Frederick at High Country Harley-Davidson, and there was a reason for that: Michael Lichter, the photographer who rode the entire ride sitting backward, was on a bike under the command of Dave Przygocki, whose card says he holds the title of Cycle Therapist and Sales Manager at High Country H-D. Lichter and Przygocki both shared in the telling, as did several others on hand who had made the ride.

Route guidance on this thing was pretty interesting for starters. Each bike had a scrolling sheet that the rider had to advance, telling them things like, “go 6 miles and turn left at the gas station.” One of the speakers–I forget who–told how there were times when he wondered if he had missed a turn, but would pull in to a gas station and see the oily drips and other detritus of this band of ancient motorcycles and be reassured he was on the right route.

And can you imagine riding 3,000 miles on a bike that is 75 years old? Those things broke down a lot when they were new; what do you thing they do now? There were tales of splitting the crankcase and doing entire engine rebuilds overnight, and we’re not talking about just one or two such instances. Another speaker noted that they had left a trail of irreplaceable parts across the country. You know, they’d be riding along and something would fall off, never to be found. Then the rider had to compensate in some way. Sometimes they had spares; other times they jury-rigged.

While some of the riders took advantage of modern riding gear, others went all the way and wore the kind of things that were available way back then. Things such as leather helmets.

Then there was the 5-foot, 1-inch woman whose bike had to be push started–that was how it worked when it was new. So she push started this bike the entire way across the U.S.

There was a lot more. You should have been there, if you weren’t. And there were a bunch of people there. I saw Linda and Russ McCartney, of Thunder Roads Colorado; Jerry Pokorny of the British Motorcycle Association of Colorado; and Todd Wallace, also of the BMAC and a restorer of old bikes. Alan ran into the guy he bought his current Harley from. It was old home week.

The word is that the next Cannonball should be in 2014. Just in case you want to join in.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Butler Maps goes east to the Ozarks

Biker Quote for Today

It takes less time to do things the hard way than to be too nervous to even start at all.

Doing The Motorcycle Cannonball Run Backward

Thursday, December 13th, 2012
Old motorcycle on the road

Not old enough for the Motorcycle Cannonball Run.

Here’s something on Saturday that sounds good. Dan and Alan and I will be there.

I frankly don’t remember all the details, but there was recently an event called the Motorcycle Cannonball Run, where a bunch of really old bikes rode from the East Coast to the West Coast. As I recall, you had to either be on a bike that was at least 75 years old or else you had to be 70 years old yourself. Or something like that.

That’s cool enough, but what if you did the entire ride facing backward? What better way to photograph the event–which is what this guy did–but can you imagine doing that? Of course, someone else was up front in control of the bike.

So here’s the scoop. This guy, Michael Lichter, will be at High Country Harley-Davidson on 1 p.m. on Saturday making a presentation about his experience. With pictures, of course. No charge. Also, Gary Wright, one of the contestants, will be there, too.

Here’s what the promo has to say about it:

  • 23 days on the road
  • 3,596 miles, if you didn’t miss a turn
  • 78 motorcycles built from 1913 to 1929
  • 78 riders ages from 20 to 70 years old
  • entrants from Poland, Japan, New Zealand, England, South Africa, Germany, Italy, USA, France
  • Excelsior, Indian, J.A.P., BSA, BMW, Triumph, Vellocette, Harley-Davidson, Henderson, Rudge
  • and just one guy rode backwards the entire way!

Sounds like something worth giving up a weekend afternoon for.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Only a biker knows . . .: Motorcycle wit and wisdom, #24

Biker Quote for Today

Just remember, once you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.

A Good Spot For A Motorcycle Repair Shop?

Monday, December 10th, 2012
Possible Motorcycle Service Location

If you want to start a motorcycle repair operation, this space right next to Susie's could be the perfect spot.

On the very off chance that you are looking to set up a motorcycle service shop and are looking for the right location, here’s a possibility.

I got an email recently from Joe Dunn, of CRESCO Properties, Inc., saying he has “about 3200 SF 5 bay repair shop for lease at 17981 W. Colfax Avenue in Golden, CO directly east of Susie’s Bar And Grill. Might be a natural for someone looking to relocate a shop since Susie’s is motorcycle friendly.”

Then in a follow-up email when I requested a photo, Joe said, “Looks like it would be perfect for motorcycle repair, and customers can get lunch and a brew while they wait. Rent for 3,163 SF is $2800 per month including taxes. Maybe one or more of your readers is looking to relocate their business.”

Now, there’s no finder’s fee or anything involved here; I have nothing to gain. But I thought I’d pass this along just in case someone out there is looking for exactly this sort of thing. FWIW. You can reach Joe at c.properties@comcast.net.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Butler Maps goes east to the Ozarks

Biker Quote for Today

And the Moto Gods said “Let there be tinkering.” And the people said “yes we will tinker, and we will buy parts, and we will clean old parts, until such time that old parts and new parts become one, and she rumbles forth anew. Yea, I will tinker.”

Getting Acquainted With New Gear

Thursday, December 6th, 2012
Hawk H-6607 Glossy Black Dual-Visor Modular Motorcycle Helmet with Bluetooth

This new Hawk helmet with the front flipped up. And hey, it has built-in Bluetooth communication.

Seems like every day is Christmas lately, and I have a lot of near gear to try out. In addition to the new heated gloves I’ve been writing about, I also just received a new helmet. The full name of this helmet is Hawk H-6607 Glossy Black Dual-Visor Modular Motorcycle Helmet with Bluetooth. OK, that’s a mouthful. Let’s break it down.

First off, it’s a modular, flip-up type of helmet. I’ve never used one of those before so that’s something to get familiar with. It’s also dual-visor, which is to say that it has a separate flip-down sun visor to use during the daylight and to flip up at night. And third, it has built-in bluetooth. I like that idea.

So I rode to work on Wednesday and had another chance to try out this new stuff. Wednesday was a beautiful, warm day to ride so once again it wasn’t much of a test of the heated gloves but it was an incremental advancement. This time I set both gloves to 75 percent power and that was probably more than I needed. Then on my way home the right glove, which I had been running at higher power the previous times I had worn them, ran out of juice. And as I pulled into the driveway the left glove was flashing to indicate it was about to go kaput, too. So I’m sure it won’t surprise anyone that when Gerbing says 2 hours on full power that truly does mean you’re not going to get more than 2 hours.

For the helmet it was my second test run. On Sunday I had gone out with it and had been surprised how noisy it was. One person I spoke with said that modulars are always noisier than regular helmets so I guess I need to factor that in. Plus, when I wore earplugs it was no problem at all. Beyond that, it is comfortable and doesn’t seem to take the breaking in that other helmets I’ve had have required.

The tinted visor needs some tweaking. It doesn’t want to stay up. When it insisted on falling down on Sunday afternoon that was no problem, but coming home Wednesday evening after dark I didn’t want that happening. Fortunately, it seemed that because I left the visor open a bit because it was so warm, that stopped it from falling except just once. I may just stick a little piece of tape on there or something, just to add a wee bit more friction.

I like that this helmet has a little chin shield that closes up the forward bottom portion of the helmet, blocking drafts. That will be nice in very cold weather.

I haven’t had a chance yet to try out the Bluetooth communicator. Maybe we can get out this weekend with Judy using our other Bluetooth communicator and see how that goes. And my experience up to now is that these communicators do work fine even if you have earplugs in. In the meantime, not to have to hassle with keeping the speaker/mic in place should be wonderful. I think built-in communicators is likely to become just standard equipment in a lot of helmets from now on. It makes so much sense.

So I’ve got a lot more testing to do on both these items, but there’s no hurry. In the meantime, a couple other packages arrived in the last couple days as well, so I may be giving my impression of some motocross gear–provided I have a decent chance to try it out. Which may not happen soon. It is December, you know. We’ll see.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner

New questionnaire added in women motorcyclist research project

Biker Quote for Today

It’s better to ride a boring bike than push an interesting one.

A First Ride With My New Heated Gloves

Monday, December 3rd, 2012
Along the Peak-to-Peak highway

Along the Peak-to-Peak.

Saturday was a gorgeous day so I had to ride. And it was really too warm to give my new electric gloves a test, but I figured they needed to be broken in and I could still try them out and see how warm they get. I also wore my electric vest just in case, but as I suspected, I didn’t need to plug it in.

So how were the gloves? First off, these Gerbing Core S-2B battery-powered gloves are a little stiff brand new, so breaking them in by wearing them is a good thing. I checked out their heated gloves that are powered by wires from your bike’s battery and they’re not so stiff. Presumably the latter gloves can carry more power and so need less of the fine wiring woven through them. The battery-powered gloves need to conserve energy to extend battery life, so they don’t use the brute force approach the others use.

I put the gloves on and turned them on and the feeling of warm all over my hands was instantaneous. For testing purposes, I turned the right glove up to full power and set the left at a lower level. In the process I found that it is easier to turn then on and set the level before you put them on your hands. It’s just clunky trying to do it with them on, though they are designed well enough that it can be done without too much difficulty. Still, it’s easier to do it with them off.

Riding on this warm day, you can bet my hands never got cold. And as you might expect, after awhile my right hand started getting too warm. It never felt like it was roasting–they don’t get that hot–but I did feel the desire to turn it down. And after awhile I turned the left glove completely off. My hand never got cold but I was aware that it was no longer receiving external heating.

The gloves themselves are quite comfortable. They seem to be extremely well made and could serve as just a regular pair of riding gloves if you chose. The one thing I had expected that proved correct was that the battery, which mounts in the gauntlet, was uncomfortable sitting right on top of my watch on my left wrist. So I took the watch off and put it in my pocket.

The gauntlets are not as wide as on my regular gloves, so it was a bit more of a trick getting them over my sleeves, but not a real hassle–just not quite as easy. But then they were nice and snug to help keep cold air out.

So far I rate them very highly. Of course, the real test will come when it gets colder. Just from my experience on Saturday I suspect I’ll end up running them either at full power or 75 percent power most of the time. At those levels the batteries are good for either 2 hours or 4 hours, and if it’s really cold I don’t expect I’ll be out longer than that anyway, so why not be as warm as possible?

More to come.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
New questionnaire added in women motorcyclist research project

Biker Quote for Today

You know you’re a biker if, when the weather is too bad for riding, you start your bike and sit on it in the garage.