Archive for March, 2014

New: Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route

Monday, March 31st, 2014
Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route

A video worth watching on the Butler site.

Those folks at Butler Maps just keep on going. The latest offering they’ve come out with is the Arizona Backcountry Discovery Route. This one is looking even more ambitious than most.

First let’s lay some groundwork. Butler produces and sells maps that highlight the best motorcycle roads in whatever state the map is for. They’re waterproof, rugged, beautiful maps that cater to what we’re interested in. And they’re good maps. Judy and I have traveled with a slew of maps and with her doing the navigating, and she says the best are definitely the Butler maps.

Then Butler took another step, introducing the Backcountry Discovery Route series. In these they map out a mostly off-pavement route from one side of the state to the other. Bill Eakins at Butler tells me they are very specifically routes that are good enough that you can ride them with a big adventure bike; no little dirt bikes necessary.

But that doesn’t mean it’s all easy riding. No way!

That’s what I was saying at first. You may want to take a couple minutes to go watch this video from their ride of the Arizona BDR. It’s not just beautiful scenery or cool riding. There are several scenes where these guys on these big adventure bikes wipe out.

And the map this time has more alternate routes than I recall on other maps. In some cases they say “Difficult Alternate. Damage possible.” Or “Roads are impassable when wet.” And this one I love: “Expert only. Damage to bike is possible due to rocky sections! No bailouts 16.8 miles.” And then, “Deep sand 3.3 miles.”

Yeah, this is why it’s called adventure riding. I’ve ridden in deep sand for a tenth of a mile a few times and that was more than plenty for me. And then there was the time I got in really deep sand and ended up going end over end after about 10 feet.

It all comes down to how you like your riding. Some folks never leave the pavement. Others like things a little spicier. If you’re the latter sort, these Backcountry Discovery Routes are right up your alley.

Biker Quote for Today

Sometimes I get off the bike before it has come to a complete stop….

Support Your Biker-Friendly Establishments

Thursday, March 27th, 2014
motorcycle parking only

This is the kind of sign you want to see.

My Mom is turning 90 soon and we’re planning to take her to the beach down in South Carolina. Arrangements have all been made but I was very interested to see in the reservation confirmation for the hotel we’re staying at that they’re a little picky about their clientele.

In the description of the unit we’re renting there are some no-nos: non smoking / two car parking / no motorcycles / RVs / boats / etc.

OK, I understand non smoking. I can see that RVs might take up too much space in the slots they have marked out, although they might specifically designate some larger spots for those. And I understand boats because then you’d probably end up parking your car in another space. Besides, that’s what marinas are for.

But no motorcycles? Really, why? If Judy and I showed up on the Concours you wouldn’t let us park? It’s not like we would be taking up a lot of space. I assume it’s the noise of some bikes and it’s just easier to issue a blanket prohibition rather than say no loud bikes. Jerks.

It’s too late to change plans; the money has been paid. So just in case you’re heading to Myrtle Beach anytime soon, let me just advise you that you may want to avoid the Beach Club at Windy Hill–they’re the jerks.

Which breathes new life into my efforts on this website to provide a listing of biker-friendly motels and hotels in Colorado. I had been thinking recently that it maybe wasn’t all that much of a service because it seems like everyone accepts bikers happily these days. Well, I guess not everybody. It’s good to get a wake-up call now and then.

If you’re going to be traveling in Colorado and want to be sure you’re welcome, the list is a good place to start. Every one of those places either contacted me to ask to be listed as biker-friendly or else I have stayed there or someone else has stayed there and found them to be welcoming to bikers. They’re not all great; I’ve panned a couple, but they were biker-friendly nonetheless. I put places on the list for no charge, so if you have some you think should be added please send me the information. And I’ll also point out that I have two advertisers who actually pay money to get their promotions in front of motorcyclists, so you know they’re biker-friendly: the Hotchkiss Inn, in Hotchkiss, and the Rabbit Ears Motel, in Steamboat Springs.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll have a few words with the management of this place in Myrtle Beach when I get there. If it’s an interesting discussion I’ll tell you about it afterward.

Biker Quote for Today

If it ain’t dirty you ain’t riding enough.

ABATE’s Randy Run for Injured Bikers Suspended for 2014

Monday, March 24th, 2014
Randy Savely

Randy Savely, the namesake of the Randy Run.

A poker run to raise money for injured bikers has been put on hold this year due to a lack of people to do the grunt work of getting it organized and promoted.

ABATE of Colorado’s annual Randy Run was to have been held on June 21 but the event has been scrubbed.

The Randy Run started out as an ABATE District 10 event, named for Randy Savely (in photo) who lost a leg in a crash where a driver turned left into him as he crossed an intersection. ABATE members came to Randy’s aid and support after his mishap and it was decided that a run to raise money for such situations would be a good thing.

After a couple years, the state organization took the run on as a state event, lifting some of the load off the members of District 10, although it was still D-10 members who volunteered to do most of the work. In addition, the state organization agreed that all districts would contribute a portion of the money they make on their own runs and other events to the Randy Run fund, so that the fund would not be dependent solely on the Randy Run itself.

The only constant is change, however, and that includes the situation in D-10. Many of the members most active on this event have dropped away from the group and Randy himself is not in a position to do much. Lay-offs at his job have resulted in him having to work six 10-hour days a week, and he has developed some health issues related to his leg as well.

At the most recent state board meeting the decision was made to pull the plug on this year’s event, although the fund will continue and requests for aid will still be met. There just won’t be a Randy Run this year. A decision will be made on a 2015 event later once it becomes clear what support there would be available.

Biker Quote for Today

Ride for the soul!

Discovery’s Top 10 Motorcycle Roads

Thursday, March 20th, 2014
Heading For The Beartooth

Heading through northeastern Yellowstone on our way to the Beartooth.

You’ll never get everyone to agree on what the top 10 motorcycle roads in the U.S. are, but there’s no need to. Everyone has different ideas and appreciates different things.

Nevertheless, it’s always interesting to see someone else’s list of what they think are the best. My friend John, one of the original OFMC riders, sent me this item from the Discovery channel and part of what I find interesting about it is that I’m really not familiar with a couple of these roads.

I don’t think they are ranked, but they’re presented in a 10, 9, 8, . . . sort of fashion that suggests #1 is the best. I don’t think that is what they meant, but that provides more grist for dispute if you choose to see it that way. I’ll take it from the top.

10. Route 50, The George Washington Highway, West Virginia
My first assumption was that this was the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which runs out of Washington, D.C., but then I saw that this road is in West Virginia. Hmmm. Never heard of it. Of course I’ve never spent much time in West Virginia, so I guess I’ll just add this to my list of places I need to get to.

9. Needles Highway, Black Hills, South Dakota
Oh yeah, this one I can vouch for. In fact, we’re going to be on that road again this summer on the OFMC trip. We’ll be spending three days in the Black Hills and there’s no way you’re going to skip this one.

8. Tail of the Dragon, Deal’s Gap, North Carolina
Everyone knows about the Tail of the Dragon. I’ve never been there but frankly, from what I hear, it’s gotten a bit blown out of proportion. I know they talk about 318 curves in 11 miles but heck, I was on a road down in New Mexico a couple years ago that ran a lot longer than 11 miles and probably had just as many curves per mile.

7. Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia
It has been a whole lot of years since I’ve been on the Blue Ridge, and never on a motorcycle, so this one is definitely on my list. That along with Skyline Drive, through Shenandoah National Park. I wasn’t really familiar with Skyline Drive but I just worked on Shenandoah last week in my job at the National Park Service and decided then and there that this was another one I have to get to.

6. Beartooth Pass, Wyoming
Oh yes. Fabulous. We’ve been on this one a couple times. Dress warmly. Even in July and August.

5. San Juan Mountain Skyway, Colorado
Another big oh yes. Red Mountain Pass, the route between Durango and Ouray is one of the very best roads in Colorado. What more can you say?

4. Tunnel of Trees Road, Michigan
This is a different sort of one. I would never have heard of it except that we ran across it while coming down through Michigan in 2012. This road runs along the western shore of the lower peninsula portion of the state, and it’s about as curvey as the Tail of the Dragon. Just as with the Tail, you can’t really do much sightseeing because you’d darn well better keep your eyes on where you’re going. And don’t go too fast.

3. Cherohala Skyway, Tennessee
This is another one I’ve heard of but have never ridden. We lived in Tennessee many years ago so it’s possible I’ve been on it but that would have been as a kid. Now I want to see it as an adult.

2. Arkansas Pig Trail, Arkansas
What? I have never heard of this one. What? Where? They say it’s “the Arkansas Dragon.” OK, it’s in the Ozarks, so that tells you something. Add it to the list. I’m sure I’ll be back in Arkansas some day.

1. The Three Sisters (aka The Twisted Sisters), Texas
At least I’ve heard of this one, though I don’t really know anything about it. I see that it’s down west of San Antonio, but it’s been so many years since I’ve been to San Antonio that I forget what that country is like.

But this is why I don’t think the real intent in counting down, rather than up, is intended to rank these roads. I don’t think anyone would say the Twisted Sisters are better than the Beartooth. I also have to question the selections for this list. (Like I said, everyone has their own ideas about these things.) I’d like to ride the Twisted Sisters but is this ride really better than Trail Ridge Road, which is not on the list? Or how about the Going to the Sun Highway up in Glacier National Park? Or the Pacific Coast Highway through Big Sur?

No, I think they tried to balance the list across the country, not really pick the real top 10. But I don’t care. I like the list. I like getting turned on to some places I didn’t know about. And considering I’ve only been on 4 of these 10, that gives me some riding to think about. And plan. And do. That works for me.

Biker Quote for Today

When you stop chasing dreams, that’s when your getting old…until then enjoy the ride.

Motorcycle to Person Ratio High in Colorado

Monday, March 17th, 2014
Motorcycles in Sturgis

No state has more motorcycles per person than South Dakota, even when the rally is not on.

My friend Dan sent me this chart that shows how many people there are per motorcycle in the various states, plus D.C. Out of 51, Colorado comes in 14th. Now, just so you’ll understand the numbers, a rating of 1 would mean there was one person for every motorcycle in the state. A rating of 5 would mean there are five people for every bike, so presumably there are a lot fewer of them riding.

In Colorado the ratio is 29 people for every bike. That would mean there are 28 people out there per bike who don’t have a motorcycle, except there are folks like me who have three, so that means there are 86 people who ought to be wishing they were me.

It’s probably not a big surprise that Colorado ranks high. With the beautiful weather we have here and the gorgeous places we have to ride, how could we not be in the top third. So who else ranks high on the list? Probably other places where they have great weather and great scenery, right?

Well, how about New Jersey, with 27 people per bike. What, New Jersey beat us out? Yeah, they rank 13th, just one ahead of us. Go figure.

OK, well, California certainly has to be high, right? Umm . . . how about 43rd? Wow! As many bikes as there are in California, there are 47 people for every one of them.

Now, who’s at the top probably won’t come as huge surprise: South Dakota. South Dakota has only 12 people for every bike–I wonder how many of them are running? Could be that a lot of bikes break down at the rally and never leave. Or it may just be that those folks in South Dakota really love motorcycles.

The worst state of all is not actually a state, it is the District of Columbia. There are 172 people in D.C. for every bike. Obviously this count is skewed a little when the Rolling Thunder gets there. But I’m guessing these numbers are based on registrations. Those Rolling Thunder people don’t live there, they’re just visiting.

Second from the bottom is Mississippi. They have 106 people for every bike. Wonder why that is? They’ve got good riding weather all year round, unless maybe summers are unbearable due to humidity and heat.

Then the rest of the bottom 10 are, climbing, Louisiana, Texas, New York, Georgia, Maryland, Utah (Utah!!), California, Hawaii, Kentucky. What in the world is Utah doing so low on this list? It’s every bit as great a place to ride as Colorado.

The rest of the top 10–oh heck, I’ll go all the rest of the way down to Colorado–so the the top 14 are: South Dakota, New Hampshire, Iowa, Wisconsin, Wyoming, North Dakota, Vermont, Montana, Minnesota, Alaska, Idaho, Maine, New Jersey, and then Colorado.

Do you see a pattern there? I don’t. You’ve got several New England states where they have terrible winters; great places to ride, like Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana; and then the ones that make you say, “Huh?”, like Iowa and Minnesota. We’ll let Wisconsin slide by because they’ve got Harley there. Otherwise I’d be lumping them with Minnesota and Iowa.

Not quite what you might have expected, is it? I don’t know, maybe New Jersey is hiding something from the rest of us. Maybe I’ll have to go find out for myself. Some day.

Biker Quote for Today

When I finished high school, I wanted to take all my graduation money and buy myself a motorcycle. But my mom said no. See, she had a brother who died in a horrible motorcycle accident when he was 18. And I could just have his motorcycle.

The Best of Each Bike

Thursday, March 13th, 2014
Kawasaki Concours, Honda CB750 Custom, Suzuki V-Strom 650

My three bikes: Kawasaki Concours, Honda CB750 Custom, Suzuki V-Strom 650

With winter weather being unpredictable, and with my commitment to myself to ride each of my bikes at least (at least!) once every calendar month, it’s not unusual for me to take a spin on each one all in one day at this time of year. Just to make sure I don’t get blindsided by a snowstorm, you know, like that one that swept through on Tuesday.

Getting on each bike back to back to back in one day gives me an opportunity to compare them to each other, and the things that I particularly like or don’t like about any of them really stand out. Here’s what I find noticeable about each one.

2006 Suzuki V-Strom 650
This one is the light-weight. It has the most pep and it’s extremely agile. With the top box I put on it it is also the one with the most luggage space, by quite a lot. Heck, I got the top box partly because I almost never need the huge side bags that came with it, but I do want space to stash a helmet and rainsuit.

I like the Wee-Strom because it gives me a lot of leg room and it has deep suspension for soaking up big bumps. Of course, it’s also the only one that is really good off the pavement so of course I love it for that–that’s why I bought it.

What it does lack is power. It’s only a 650, after all. I said it has a lot of pep, but that means it’s quick, it accelerates rapidly. Get on the highway with it and you better not expect to cruise at supersonic speeds. It also–so far–lacks highway pegs, so it’s not the best distance bike, either.

1999 Kawasaki Concours
The Connie is the one with supersonic speed. This bike will go faster than I’ll ever take it. At 1000cc, this is the bike that will cruise all day very comfortably at speeds that get you where you’re going in a hurry. Plus, the seat is comfortable on long rides, the riding position keeps my back from aching, and the highway pegs I got from Murph’s provide long-distance comfort. And the fairing is great. This is the bike I want to get on and just stay on. And on and on.

The side bags on the Connie are not as large as on the Wee, but they’re big enough. Plus I have a good tank bag that keeps a few things extra handy.

Probably the worst thing about the Connie is its weight. I’ve never had to pick it up all by myself and I dread ever having to do that. Yeah, I know the routine, and I’m sure I’d manage eventually, but it would not be fun.

1980 Honda CB750 Custom
One of the best things about the Honda–my first ever bike–is how low it sits. The Concours is very tall and has a lot of weight up high. The Suzuki is also very tall, but much lighter. The Honda is the only one of the three where I can get both feet flat on the ground at the same time. Heck, I can even bend my knees.

While the Honda is in the middle both weight-wise and engine-wise, it is definitely the slowest of the three. I didn’t know it until I had owned the bike for a lot of years that 1980 was about the time when Congress was considering banning bikes they felt went too fast. To dissuade our elected representatives from doing so, some of the manufacturers–including Honda–built bikes for a few years that were deliberately crippled, and wouldn’t go over a certain speed. The speedometer on this bike only goes up to 85, and in all the years I’ve owned it I’ve only pegged it once. That said, it will actually cruise a lot more comfortably for a lot longer time at 70-75 than the Suzuki with its little 650cc engine.

The Honda also has the least amount of storage space. I have a pair of soft bags that are big enough to travel with, and it has a rack on back that I strap stuff to, but that’s a pain compared to just throwing stuff in hard bags like I can do with the other two bikes.

Still, the Honda is the bike that finally fulfilled my motorcycle dreams after dreaming for far too long. It may be old, it may be slow, but it still puts a smile on my face. And we have a lot of history.

Bottom Line
If I had to choose just one bike it would be the Concours. I’d hate to have to make that choice, though, because the Connie hates gravel and I want more and more to get off the pavement. That’s what the V-Strom is for. And the Honda is an old friend, who it’s nice go out with now and then. We’re no longer joined at the hip the way we once were, but this is an old friend I’ll always make time for.

I guess I’ll just have to keep riding them all.

Biker Quote for Today

Riding a motorcycle is fun. Riding a supermoto is inexplicable.

Checking Out New Roads

Monday, March 10th, 2014

I had to ride on Sunday. The weather insisted and so did my bikes. After running some errands on the Kawasaki I got on the Honda to do some cruising. There were some roads south of town I wanted to explore.

Roads on a map

These two roads are so new they're not even on the map.

Of course one problem was that I didn’t know the names of these roads. I knew when I went past the exit off I-25 for Ridgegate Parkway that that was where I had wanted to get off. No problem, two exits further south is Happy Canyon Road and in all the years I’ve lived here I’ve never taken that road. I figured now was the time.

I got off on Happy Canyon and found that just like the exit just to the north, Castle Pines Parkway, this road goes through Castle Pines. I had just been down that way a couple weeks ago. And sure enough, Happy Canyon came out on U.S. 85 just a very short distance southeast of where Castle Pines and the Daniels Park road come out. So fine, I made the three-quarter-mile jog to the Daniels Park road and went back to I-25 that way, and then north to the Ridgegate Parkway exit.

What I had in mind was the road that runs along the hillside alongside the highway, just because I’d never been on it and previously had not known how you even got to it. As I headed the short distance east from the highway to the southbound road I was interested to see that Ridgegate Parkway continued east and I wondered where it went. I decided to go south on the road I planned–which turned out to be Havana, at least up at this end–and then come back up and go further east on Ridgegate.

Havana, or whatever it became, was a nice winding cruise and where did it come to but to Castle Pines Parkway as it continued east. Wonder where that goes? I’d never been on it before either, so I figured I’d follow Ridgegate some other time.

By the way, that map you see here shows in yellow this route I took. The mapping software is 2010 version but this extension of Castle Pines Parkway to the east is so new it isn’t even on the map.

It turned out that the road worked its way east and north, looping around the also pretty new Reuter-Hess Reservoir, which I believe is a joint venture between Parker and Castle Rock. The reservoir is so new it hardly has any water in it. Presumably that will change.

As I went on I eventually came to an area where new houses are going up and a sign welcomed me to Parker. This must be far southwest Parker, and it’s nowhere near the old part of town, the Parker that was all of Parker the first time I ever was there. The road became Hess Road and it brought me out on Parker Road about two miles south of the old part of town.

I cruised on north toward home until the bike suddenly lost power and started acting badly. Oh rats, don’t make trouble for me today! Then I had a thought, glanced at the trip meter, and flipped the lever to go to reserve. The power surged again and I had a reminder to get gas before I went home.

I wanted to get out on the Suzuki as well considering how unpredictable the weather has been but I also wanted to work in my garden. I had a ride out east planned for the V-Strom but after a couple hours in the garden I figured that ride could wait, and instead I would take this bike and actually ride east on RidgeGate Parkway as I had intended to do on the Honda.

That’s the line in blue on the map, and this road is also so new it doesn’t even show on the mapping software. This road also twisted around east and north and it eventually was labeled Main Street. It took a while but it did indeed take me right into old Parker, on Parker’s old Main Street. So now I know.

And now I see, looking at the map, another road that runs off of Founder’s Parkway in Castle Rock, goes northeast, and meets Hess Road just west of Parker Road. Never been on that road. Guess I’ll have to go take a look.

Biker Quote for Today

So what bike are you going to try it on? If someone loans me a KTM 950 I’ll give it a swing, no guarantee on what the bike will look like after.

Interested in Motorcycle Art?

Thursday, March 6th, 2014
David Uhl--A Milwaukee Morning

David Uhl's "A Milwaukee Morning"

I’m doing this as a favor to my wife’s niece but if you’re interested it might be a favor to you, too.

The school Mindy’s kids go to is holding an online art auction to raise money for . . . I don’t know, she didn’t say. Schools always need money, right?

So one of the offerings–or maybe there’s two copies offered, not clear on that either–is a picture done by renowned motorcycle artist David Uhl. You can go to his website to see what he’s all about. I guess the guy has been around quite awhile and is pretty successful. I think you’ll like some of his stuff that you can see on the site.

The photo in the auction is the one pictured above. I deliberately took a screen grab from search results because of course the picture is copyrighted and I’m hoping it’s OK for me to use it in this manner so that prospective buyers can see what it is they’re being asked to bid on. Hey David, if you don’t like it let me know and I’ll take the image down. Just trying to be helpful here. The point is, they don’t have an image on the auction site, so who’s going to bid on something like this sight unseen.

This particular picture is one Uhl did at Harley’s request for their 100th anniversary. Mindy says that “They are really nicely framed and will likely go for around $400-500 but retail at ~$2000 from what I see on the website. (I think that is unframed.)” So if you’re a fan of Uhl then this could be your chance to get a real bargain. Plus, right at this moment, probably at least in part because there’s no image to show prospective bidders what it is, there are no bids on the piece.

In case you can’t make out what it is, it’s a crated Harley getting loaded onto a horse-drawn wagon to be delivered somewhere. Here’s what Uhl’s site says of the picture.

There is a symbolism to this work; the warm light of the factory spills out onto the fresh snow on the street. The early dawn seems silent, but this is just the beginning. New crated motorcycles are being loaded onto a horse-drawn flatbed wagon, and America has no idea yet that these powerful machines will become the symbol of freedom and independence that they are today. The horses appear slightly impatient; ready to get this show on the road!

OK. I hope it sells and someone gets a really good deal, while the school makes some money.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Only a biker knows . . .: Motorcycle wit and wisdom, #31

Biker Quote for Today

On a perpetual dirty road tour in the land of Hicks and Nothing…

Riding a Dream Job? Maybe, Maybe Not

Monday, March 3rd, 2014
Ride leaders in front before the start of a demo ride.

Ride leaders in front before the start of a demo ride.

Consider this remark:

“People think it’s pretty glamorous, and it is. I’m doing a dream job, riding motorcycles. But it’s a hell of a lot of work.”

That summation comes from a motorcycle demo ride leader, someone paid to ride motorcycles all day and take other people for rides. A dream job indeed.

Until you consider the long hours, low pay, and general crud work it so often entails. This behind-the-scenes look at the world of demo riding comes via an experienced ride leader, who declines to be named, but whom we we call AJ.

Demo rides are a big tactic in motorcycle sales. When you buy a car you take it for a test drive. When you want to buy a motorcycle, generally you can’t just hop on it and go ride. Even experienced riders are more prone to accidents on an unfamiliar bike, and dealers are understandably reluctant to entrust an expensive new bike to a rider whose skill level is unknown. Thus, many motorcyclists end up buying a bike they have never ridden.

Would you buy a car you had never driven? That’s where demo rides come in. Some times a dealership will bring in a truckload of bikes that are sent around by the factory for the purpose of giving riders an opportunity to test ride them. At other times, one or more brands will send their trucks loaded with bikes to motorcycle rallies or other events. Prospective riders have to register, show their motorcycle-validated driver’s license, have a helmet and other required gear, and sign a waiver absolving the company if the rider gets hurt.

Once riders are assigned to their bikes for a particular demo ride, they follow a ride leader, who rides the designated route, controls the speed, and does what he or she can to ensure a safe, fun ride. In most cases there is also another ride guide at the rear–the sweep–to deal with any problems that might occur.

“We chat them up at registration,” says AJ, “trying to determine their riding skill. Sometimes we have to tactfully steer someone who is maybe five-foot-two away from a taller bike that they’re interested in to a shorter one that fits them better.”

Despite everyone’s best efforts, accidents sometimes do happen.

“Last season we had a rider who missed the curve and went straight off the road into the forest,” says AJ. “The bike bounced off a number of trees and was totaled, but the rider was OK. I had to consider the safety of the rest of the group and in the meantime, the riders in the next group had no idea what had happened. Crashes are difficult. We try to minimize them, but they do happen. It’s a dangerous sport.”

Not All Riders Are Trustworthy
And sometimes the riders simply lie about their ability.

AJ tells of one rider who signed up for the smallest bike, then rode very slowly, didn’t stay in the lane, and held up the group. Half-way through the ride the ride leader pulled over and asked him how it was going.

“Fine,” he said, “I’m just nervous.”

“Well, today’s your lucky day, you’re gonna get to ride with me,” she told him, ending his solo ride.

He climbed on behind her and while it is customary for the passenger to hold onto the rider, his hands kept sliding up over her breasts. She shoved them down repeatedly and when she recognized the same guy the following year she spread the word that no one should allow him to ride.

In another instance, says AJ, “I had one woman who signed up saying she had been riding for 15 years. Then she ended up looking to me more as an instructor. She started out starting out stalling the bike repeatedly, she nearly dropped it, and she got very flustered. In a situation like that you have to handle it tactfully, and not turn them against the brand. As the leader, I told her to come back at 5 p.m. and I’d do a solo ride with her. That defused it and got her out of the public eye. She came back at 5 and I took her for a couple laps around the parking lot.”

Of course, ultimately the ride leader’s job is to help sell motorcycles.

“I bend over backwards for a serious potential buyer,” says AJ. “In order to accommodate riders I’ll sometimes suck it up and do one more ride at end of day, whatever is necessary to make them feel important.”

Those days can be very long.

“We get there a couple hours before first ride goes out, check he bikes, warm them up, set everything up, and then we haul ass all day long.”

The work begins with unpacking the trailer and setting up awnings and the demo area. Every load is different, there are no diagrams, and, says AJ, “It’s a little bit of organized chaos.”

Once set up, it can be a challenge to keep things flowing smoothly. Every hour you must “get the ride out on time, deal with a group of riders of varying abilities, get them off the bikes, chat them up, and then get the next group out. There’s no time for anything, not even potty breaks. We barely have time to eat, and you can’t eat in front of the public. You’ll step behind the truck and grab two bites of a sandwich—if someone thought to provide food.”

Packing up at the end is also, in AJ’s words, “a real drag. They don’t want to pay for an extra day so we have to pack up everything after a full day of demo rides, then hope they don’t fly you home on the red eye. I’m pretty wiped out after an event.”
The employment arrangement for ride leaders varies by manufacturer. One brand may hire contractors directly to staff their programs, while another may outsource the function to a company that itself brings in contractors. One company, Yamaha, has hired employees specifically to do demo rides and, at least at times, Harley-Davidson has held lotteries in their factories, with the winners getting paid to go out on the road with the demo trucks.

Despite the negatives, however, AJ does still describe this as “a dream job.”

“We do get to go to cool places and ride motorcycles—if you have the energy to do that after working all day. But there is much that goes on behind the scenes that the riders just don’t know.”

Perhaps not so much now.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Only a biker knows . . .: Motorcycle wit and wisdom, #31

Biker Quote for Today

I have friends, and I know other motorcyclists. But truly the best are friends who are motorcyclists.