Archive for June, 2013

How to Go 200 MPH with a Stock Kawi Engine

Thursday, June 27th, 2013
Streamlined Motorcycles

Streamlined motorcycles at last year's Vintage Motorcycle Days. That raggedy-looking green bike is Vic Valdes, who made his streamlining out of discarded political posters.

I spoke with Craig Vetter last week, working on an article that I hope I’m not too late getting to Rider magazine. Vetter, as you probably know, is the designer of the Windjammer fairing and a lot of other things, and these days he’s really focused on fuel efficiency.

Vetter has worked out the design for what he calls The Last Vetter Fairing, which is body work that creates a streamlined motorcycle with upright seating and room to carry four bags of groceries.

He told me that in a recent test ride, with two identical motorcycles, one streamlined, the one that was streamlined got double the gas mileage of the stock bike. But he also talked about the power you need to push a bike down the road at 70 mph, and that comes out somewhere in the 20-25 horsepower range.

And here’s the kicker. If you’ve got too much power you’re not going to see any major miles per gallon increase with streamlining, he said, because all that power eats up too much gas.

“What you would notice is you could go probably 200 miles an hour. But where is it legal to go 200 miles an hour?”

I get the point but it still kind of tickles my fancy to think of my Concours going that fast. “I hit 189 miles an hour but the dang thing only gave me 68 miles to the gallon! What a gas hog!”

So anyway, it was a really good conversation and I couldn’t begin to use all the interesting stuff in that one short article for Rider so all the extra will make for some good blog posts here. Stay tuned.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Only a biker knows . . .: Motorcycle wit and wisdom, #27

Biker Quote for Today

I wanna ride this road!

Exploring Unpaved Colorado: Tarryall and the Hayman Fire

Monday, June 24th, 2013
Forest road through denuded hills.

The road winding through the area scorched by the Hayman Fire.

The whole point of getting a dual-sport bike was to explore parts of Colorado where the road is not paved. We did that this weekend.

The plan was to go down the road to Tarryall Reservoir and then loop back up to Bailey on a series of roads. We didn’t follow the agenda.

First off, we got off U.S. 285 about a mile and a half east of Jefferson, rather than at Jefferson as planned. That put us on Park County Road 56, Lost Park Road, rather than Park CR 77, which is Tarryall Road. That was fine because CR 56 was gravel whereas, as we learned, CR 77 has been paved all the way to Tarryall Reservoir. We ended going up through some beautiful country that we had never seen before, and that’s the whole point.

We met up with Tarryall Road a little north of the reservoir and cruised past and the pavement ended. But only for now. Turns out that the entire way from Jefferson down to Lake George, on U.S. 24 just west of Florrisant, is in the process of being paved. And what a nice route! Once they finish this will be a must-ride street bike route. It’s not very often that an entire new paved road becomes available. This will be a good one.

We didn’t go all the way to Lake George, however. I had been reading in Steve Farson’s terrific book, The Complete Guide to Motorcycling Colorado, about Matukat, a series of roads that runs from Bailey down past Wellington Lake and down through the heart of the area burned by the Hayman Fire a few years ago. This road meets up with Tarryall Road a few miles north of Lake George and we turned onto it, heading back north again.

As Steve describes it in the book, “From the roads you ride to the sights you see, this route delivers big time.”

Part of the route is wooded; much of it shows the charred landscape of the fire, although things are starting to green up again. It will be many years before the forest comes back the way it used to be but that provides an opportunity. We couldn’t help but think about how different the view is with so many of the trees gone. There were many places where we could see forever and the whole landscape was visible. If there had been tall trees lining the road we would have been happy to find the occasional unobstructed view so we could see the area around us. In fact, it makes me think about going back and shooting a bunch of photos from specific spots and then doing so again every 5 years for the next 30 years or so. And then what an interesting exhibition I could put on!

So we diverged from the agenda again along here. There are a number of intersecting roads and they’re not all well marked, so we missed our turn that would have taken us up by Wellington Lake and out at Bailey. Instead, we came out onto CO 126 down near Deckers and followed it up through Pine to catch U.S. 285 at Pine Junction.

Oh well, that just leaves us with a piece of road we still have to get to. Next time! And next time we’ll reverse course and head south from Bailey. And then probably find some different road going somewhere else. I mean, we’ve already seen Tarryall Road now. Although I will be back there on my Concours or my CB750 when that road is finished.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Going two-wheel on Ride to Work Day

Biker Quote for Today

One day, I will take it easy. Today won’t be that day.

My Inglorious Ride to Work Day

Thursday, June 20th, 2013
My Concours laying on its side.

This was not my smoothest move of the day.

Monday was National Ride Your Motorcycle to Work Day, so I did. I try to help promote this thing every year but it has been a long time since I’ve had an actual job to ride to. I do now, so I did.

You’ve probably already noticed the photo of my Kawasaki Concours laying on its side. Oh, yeah–that.

So I got to work expecting to see a whole bunch of bikes in the parking lot. Normally there are quite a few guys who ride pretty much every day when the weather permits. I was pretty surprised to get there and find the only other bike in this one of two motorcycle parking areas was that Honda Ruckus off to the right there. Didn’t ever get down to see who was parked in the second area.

OK, no big deal. I got off and set the bike on the side stand with that yellow disc under it so it wouldn’t sink into the asphalt. But with the slope of the lot my bike was sitting up too straight, worrying me that a good stiff wind could blow it over. It has happened before. No problem, I’ll just rock it up onto the center stand.

I have no explanation for what ensued. I’ve rocked that bike onto the center stand hundreds if not thousands of time. But the first time I tried it I couldn’t get it up. So I tried again. But something was wrong and instead of rocking it onto the stand, it just tipped over. Man, do I hate it when that happens!

Right at that moment there was no one around to ask for assistance so I took a whack at it myself. But a Concours is pretty darn heavy. I was getting nowhere when a guy I don’t know but had seen around the building came along and offered to help. We quickly got it back up. No damage.

He told me he rides a Vulcan but I was too distracted to pay much attention to anything else he told me about the bike. Next time I see him I’ll thank him again and ask.

So OK, it was no big deal but it sure was annoying. Plus, I’ve never had to pick that bike up all by myself. I’ve done that with my Honda but this bike is heavier. I’m not sure I could have. I sure wasn’t having any success before this other guy came along. Maybe the brain fart that was in effect that made me drop the bike was still in effect as I tried to lift it.

At least I rode to work on Ride to Work Day. Where were the rest of you guys?

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Going two-wheel on Ride to Work Day

Biker Quote for Today

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered. — G. K. Chesterton.

They Gave My KLR to Someone Else!

Monday, June 17th, 2013
Motorcycle Roadeo

A motorcycle roadeo followed the actual riding of this year's Randy Run.

Can you believe it? I showed up at the Frontier Club Saturday for the party and games that followed ABATE‘s Randy Run, and even bought a fourth ticket in the raffle, but the KLR 650 I had planned on taking home was given to someone else! That bike was mine! Some guy named Rod Sommerall (sp?) from Highlands Ranch. And he wasn’t even there to ride the bike home.

Actually, the raffle was a little anticlimactic because none of the three winners were present. Second and third place prizes were a Garmin GPS unit and a bluetooth communicator set. You didn’t have to be present to win. But it just lacked in impact when they called these three names and nobody stepped forward.

Figuring to make up for that a little, one of the guys in the band stepped up and called for the t-shirt he had donated to the silent auction. It was one of those typical Harley-Davidson dealership t-shirts, except this one said Kandahar Harley-Davidson, Afghanistan. I have no idea if there is a Kandahar H-D dealership but there is definitely a shirt.

So the band guy announced that they would keep pulling tickets out of the hopper until someone who was actually there won that shirt. It took several more draws but someone did finally win it.

Overall sales of the raffle tickets was disappointing for ABATE, although they did make a profit. A maximum of 2,500 tickets had been set but when I spoke with ABATE State Coordinator Terry Howard before the drawing she told me they had sold fewer than 1,000. That may have changed, however, as tickets were selling like crazy before the drawing. But I’m sure it was still nothing close to 2,500.

Apparently, though, this raffle was just a toe in the water, and immediately after the raffle a new raffle began and this time the top prize is a Harley. ABATE will have to sell a lot more tickets to break even on a bike that expensive but you have to suspect there will be a lot more people interested. I’ll pass along details and a link on that once they are available. But I don’t think I’ll buy any tickets for this raffle. I really wanted the KLR.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Going two-wheel on Ride to Work Day

Biker Quote for Today

You know you’re a biker if your ol’ lady can only eat a hot dog if it’s suspended from a string above your bike.

More on ScooTours Denver

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

I was talking before about ScooTours Denver and David Howard, who just set up this business and is getting it rolling. (Yes, that pun was intended.)

ScooTours David Howard

David Howard and the two Vectrix VX-2s we rode on Sunday.

As I said before, making a living renting scooters can be a hard thing to do, and it is not David’s regular job. That other one pays the bills but this one is more fun. He talked about how often someone will work a job for years that they don’t really like, and then retire and take up an interest, which then becomes a business where they make as much or more than they did on that other job all those years, and this one is so much more fun. David decided not to wait that long, but to cut right to it now. Who knows if he’ll be successful; right now business is “inadequate.” But he’s only been at it a very brief time, and meanwhile he does have business.

In addition to the simple matter of renting scooters, it is David’s intention to offer guided scooter tours of Denver, primarily historical tours. One that he has in mind is “Cold Facts on Colfax” tour, starting out west around Kipling and working east perhaps to Monaco. The guide would pull the group over periodically to talk about the history of the area they were in.

I asked if the plan was to have everyone connected by an intercom system but David said no, he had thought about that, but it just didn’t seem a good idea to offer that sort of distraction to a lot of people who were not experienced riders. Those folks need to be paying attention to where they’re going and to traffic around them, not turning their heads to look at some building as they ride past it. I had to agree. Strongly.

Another tour idea would be an arts district tour. He has people lined up who would be good guides for these tours. It’s just a matter of getting the business running so that he could be confident that there would be people actually signing up for the tours. At what point do you turn the switch, he’s wondering.

Actually, here’s an interesting thing. I just got an email from David while writing this and he tells me, “It is actually my wife’s business, truth be told. She has been a substitute teacher up through last week and is just turning her attention to this beginning tomorrow. I have helped get it up and running.”

Well, whoever’s running the show, I wish them well. We’ve just been recently on vacation where renting scooters to tourists is big business, so why shouldn’t it be a viable business in Denver. Lord knows we get plenty of tourists coming through here. And the rate is a heck of a lot cheaper than renting a motorcycle. Motorcycle rental can easily set you back more than $200 a day. At ScooTours the rate is $65 for the first two hours, $85 for the first three, or a daily maximum of $95. And I know in the places we were recently I would far rather have had a scooter than a motorcycle.

I’m rooting for you guys.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Ride report: Spending time on a Vectrix VX-2

Biker Quote for Today

I never fail…sometimes I succeed in finding out what doesn’t work.

The Skinny on ScooTours, Denver’s Scooter Rental Outfit

Monday, June 10th, 2013
Rocky and Rachel on scooters

Rocky and Rachel are ready to head for Red Rocks.

Making a living renting scooters is probably not an easy thing to do. In fact, David Howard, who has been running ScooTours Denver “since the snow stopped,” specifically did not ask folks who have tried it and quit it because he didn’t want to be talked out of his plan to do so. And you know what? His business model just might work.

David and I went for a ride Sunday on a couple of his electric scooters. David has these electric Vectrix VX-2s that we were on as well as a herd of Kymco People 50s, which are gas-powered. The key with all these scooters is that they are small enough that you don’t need a motorcycle validation on your driver’s license and you can park them anywhere, like a bicycle. That’s very important in the rental business. If your clients have to be validated motorcycle riders your potential for business just got cut by about 90 percent.

David promotes his business telling prospective customers he is set up just across the street from the blue bear, the big piece of public art that stares into the Denver Convention Center from the sidewalk. The way he is set up is what’s really interesting.

This block is where Bubba Gump’s sits, and the parking lot right next to the restaurant was where David worked out a plan with the operator to store his scooters. He was going to put a portable storage shed in one corner of the lot and work out of that shed. But the city said no.

Long story short, David confirmed with the city that it is legal to park small scooters like his on the sidewalk chained to bicycle racks. So he does. There are a few racks right by Bubba Gump’s and there are other racks around downtown where, when things are going on in those areas, he will park the scooters. They have seats of his signature green color that make them very visible and they are clearly marked as being for rent, with the phone number prominently displayed. If someone walks by and wants to rent one they call the number and David arranges to meet them and do the deal.

Walk-bys are his number one source of business, with number two being people who see people he has rented to riding by and getting interested. He also has made contacts with concierges at all the major hotels. That way, if a guest asks what there is to do in the area, renting a scooter and cruising around Denver is an option that may spark some folks’ interest.

So we were hanging out by the parking lot and David’s phone kept ringing. And people kept stopping to inquire. In fact, there were a couple guys in town for a convention there across the street who had seen the scooters the day before and decided they wanted to take advantage of a gap in their schedule to go cruising. Now was the time.

Unfortunately, as David explained to them, the paperwork and the prep–getting them familiar and comfortable with the vehicles–takes about 20 minutes and that would only have left them with about half an hour to ride. And they absolutely didn’t have time the next day or any other day of the week. Really too bad you guys didn’t call yesterday so it could have all been set up.

Meanwhile, we were there to meet Rachel and Rocky, who had called ahead to rent a couple scoots. Once they were mounted David asked them to ride around the parking lot a few times to get familiar with the scoots and also to help him get comfortable with them as riders. Rocky seemed totally natural right from the start. Rachel seemed tentative at first but very quickly her confidence blossomed and they were ready to roll. Rachel told me she has ridden jet skis, so she does have familiarity with the whole hand throttle, personal vehicle thing.

David then had them ride around the block just to get a bit more at ease, and then they were ready to be off. They have only been in Denver about five months and had not been to Red Rocks so that was their destination. It just seemed like a fun thing to do to head out there on a scooter.

So there’s more, and this post is getting long. I’ll pick back up next time.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Ride report: Spending time on a Vectrix VX-2

Biker Quote for Today

You’re a biker wannabe if you’ve never seen a sunrise from two wheels.

ScooTours Targets a Different Denver Niche

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013
ScooTours website

ScooTours is offering scooter rental and guided scooter tours of Denver.

I love the way people identify niche markets and go about serving them, and hopefully making a living in the bargain.

Enter ScooTours, a company in Denver that does not rent motorcycles–there are several others who do that–but does rent scooters. Plus, they offer guided scooter tours of Denver.

My introduction to ScooTours was when I got an email from David Howard asking if I could add his company to my Colorado Motorcycle Rentals and Tours page. I was interested so I checked out the site and went then ahead and got them added.

Of course I wasn’t done there. Anyone who knows me knows that I like to try out any powered two-wheelers I can, so I suggested to David that if he’d like to take me on one of his tours I’d be happy to write about it and help him get some publicity. I’m happy to report that he liked that idea so we are probably going to be going out this weekend. And this is great, too: he has gas-powered and electric scooters for rent. I’m really interested in electric scooters and David has some Vectrix models. Oh boy, this is going to be fun.

I’m also curious about the tours he is offering. He said he was still working on that, looking to line up the appropriate experts. I’m not sure what kind of experts he’s looking for but we’ll definitely be discussing that.

So you know I’ll be telling all about it right here. Stay tuned.

Biker Quote for Today

You know you’re becoming addicted to riding when the 1-1/2 mile trip to the grocery store takes 36 miles.