Archive for June, 2014

Cell Phone Courtesy Month: Likely To Have Any Effect?

Monday, June 30th, 2014
Riders in the Black Hills

You don't see these guys using their cellphones but how much do you want to bet that people in cars take this road while using theirs?

I see that the American Motorcyclist Association is endorsing “Cell Phone Courtesy Month,” zeroing in on the “Focus on Driving” item in the list. Great idea, but we all know just about how much impact it is likely to have.

Just for background, Cell Phone Courtesy Month is something created by “etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore” and frankly it strikes me as being as much a promotional ploy for her business as anything, but if she gets some traction on it, good for her. Most of the items in her list have nothing to do with driving or motorcycles; they’re just common courtesy items that we probably all wish people would follow. Things like “Keep it private” and “Avoid ‘cell yell'” that we are all too familiar with.

But item number 12 is this:

Focus on driving. Practice wireless responsibility while driving. Don’t make or answer calls while in heavy traffic or in hazardous driving conditions. Place calls when your vehicle is not moving, and use a hands-free device to help focus attention on safety. Always make safety your most important call.

Wow, don’t we wish!?

Of course, Colorado has a law against texting while driving and we all know how that has totally brought an end to that practice, right? Yeah, right.

Meanwhile, people don’t have to be on their cell phones to create hazards for motorcyclists. Once again just this week I had the opportunity to loudly announce to someone wanting my lane that “Hey lady, I’m here!!!” She wasn’t on her cell phone; she was just annoyed at the slow driver ahead of her and wanted to zip around. Probably even checked her mirror, too, but did not turn her head to do a head check. Typical.

So I’m not going to get excited but it sure can’t hurt. What the heck, maybe it will make your next dinner in a restaurant more pleasant.

Biker Quote for Today

ATGATT: If you don’t think you need a helmet, you probably don’t.

Two-Up Motorcycle Camping Can Be Done

Thursday, June 26th, 2014
Motorcycle Camping

Two people really can go camping on one motorcycle.

Things didn’t go exactly as planned but by golly, we set out to go camping two-up on the Suzuki V-Strom 650 and by golly we did it. And most importantly, we picked up some pointers for test number two, presumably coming up later this summer.

Our start on Sunday was delayed a bit by light rain and heavy wind, but then things cleared. Still, off in the west it looked very wet.

We made it almost to Conifer before looking wet became getting wet so we pulled off to suit up. That’s when the first complication arose. We were planning on doing some hiking while up in the hills so I just wore my hiking boots. What I didn’t realize is that while I can get my rain pants on over any of my motorcycle boots, they don’t fit over the hiking boots. So there I was sitting alongside the highway in the rain taking my boots off in order to get my rain pants on. Now I know.

Of course, this is Colorado, so by the time we got to Bailey the sky was clear. We rode on to Grant and stopped there to take off our rain gear now that it was dry. We were heading to a campground up along Guanella Pass, so at Grant we turned onto what is on that side Park County Road 62. It’s also known as Guanella Pass Scenic Byway or just simply Guanella Pass Road. I knew the first 3-4 miles is gravel but that’s why we were riding the V-Strom. And we stopped at a roadside stand there in Grant to pick up some food for dinner. No cooking on this trip.

We got to our campground, got set up, and did all the things you do while camping: hiking, hanging out in camp, meeting your neighbors, whatever, and then sleeping.

Come morning I was really feeling the decision not to try to cook on this trip. We were above 9,000 feet and it was cold. We had no way to start a fire and no way to fix coffee. I’m going to have to figure out how to make that happen next time. So we ate our oranges and granola bars and just relaxed while waiting for the rain fly on the tent to dry. Then we packed up to go.

We had been looking at maps of the area and had seen that the road right by the campground runs up to Geneva City, a ghost town up there that probably has something to do with this area being known as Geneva Basin. We figured that since we were on the V-Strom, let’s go check it out.

Well, right off the bat the road was terrible. I’ve been on roads that bad myself on dual-sport bikes but with Judy on with me I just didn’t have the confidence–or foolhardiness–to chance it. This was already the first time I’d ridden off the pavement with a passenger and the last thing in the world I want to do is injure my wife. So forget Geneva City.

We headed back to the main road and headed up the pass. It was still pretty early on Monday morning, about 9:30 or 10 o’clock, so we pretty much had the entire road to ourselves. We took our time, enjoyed the scenery and the ride, and headed on down the other side toward Georgetown.

A few miles out of Georgetown we passed a young fellow with a skateboard (they call these particular ones “long boards”) and it appeared he was planning to coast down the hill. He was wearing a helmet but besides that just a t-shirt and jeans. We kept on going but a little while later, sure enough, he came ripping past us on the board and disappeared around the curves ahead of us. With all the 180-degree hairpin turns and the beauty, we weren’t in any hurry but he had a totally different agenda. How he maneuvered those turns I have no idea. We saw him and some buddies preparing to go back up just outside of town.

In Georgetown we stopped for a proper breakfast–with hot coffee–and enjoyed sitting out on a cafe patio on Monday morning while so many other folks were back at the grind. Then we cruised on home.

So what did we learn this first time? 1) Carry a writing implement so you can fill out the name and license plate stuff on the campground registration. 2) Bring bug repellent. 3) We’ve got to figure out some way to make coffee. 4) Don’t overstuff the bags. Even these Givi bags leaked a little because they were overpacked and bulging. 5) Two people can go camping on one motorcycle.

Next time we’ll try it on the Concours. I can tie the foam pads and tent on the back–I’ve done that kind of thing before–and there is still enough room in the side bags for other stuff once the sleeping bags go in. Maybe even enough room for a one-burner stove that fits inside a cook pot; I still don’t think we’ll be cooking dinner, though. And we’ll just pick a campground that doesn’t require an extended ride on gravel to get to it. The Concours hates gravel.

Hey, we did it!

Biker Quote for Today

“Those KLRs are full of potential. Just takes a rider…” — Jimmy Lewis

Trial Run for Motorcycle Camping Two-Up

Monday, June 23rd, 2014
Pack For Motorcycle Camping

Once I got the tent and one sleeping bag in there wasn't much room left in the side bag.

My wife, Judy, and I enjoy camping and we’ve talked for a long time about going camping on the motorcycle. Getting more serious about it, we recently bought down sleeping bags that are much more compact than the ones we’ve been using. Plus, with the V-Strom we now have the capability of going on gravel and dirt roads. We decided this weekend was the time to give it a try.

Now, I’ve camped on the bike by myself since forever. It’s easy to get everything on that one person needs. Going two-up, however, is entirely different. You’ve got to get twice as much personal stuff in and the passenger takes up space where camping gear usually goes. I saw a presentation a couple years ago at the Overland Expo where a couple who had ridden around the world on their KLR 650 talked about packing. It made sense then but now I don’t see how they did it.

We’ve both cut back our work hours to four days a week so in order to avoid crowds we figured we’d just go on an overnight somewhere close by, leaving on Sunday and returning on Monday. I’m writing this on Sunday morning and we’ll be leaving in about an hour.

On Saturday I figured I’d better start loading up the bike and see how it all fits together. The answer turned out to be not all that good. As you can see in the photo, I got the tent in one side bag with one sleeping bag. The other bag holds one foam pad and the other sleeping bag. I had nowhere to go with the second foam pad except to bungee it on on top of one of the sidebags. You can see that green pad in the photo.

The top bag holds our rain gear and with all this stuff loaded there’s not a lot of room for other camping gear. For instance, I have a little one-burner gas stove and it would fit but that would mean we would also need at least one pot, utensils, a couple plates or bowls, and probably some very small cooler to put food in along with blue ice. Trying to figure this out was driving me crazy until I decided that this is just a first test run and I’m not going to over-think it. We’re going to carry dinner that doesn’t require cooking and for breakfast we’ll just get by with granola bars, oranges, and water. For one morning I’ll get by without coffee first thing.

Now, truth is, there is still a good amount of space left in the side bags. Although the one side is pretty well taken up by the tent and sleeping bag, there is a lot of width to the bags and the other half of the clam shell is still empty. This may yet work out better than it appears to at first.

The other thing that occurs to me is that the Concours may turn out to be the better bike for camping, as long as we don’t need to go on gravel or dirt roads more than a very short distance. I know I could strap the tent and both pads on the back of the bike and then the sleeping bags and a whole lot more stuff could go in the side bags. We’ll probably do a second test run on the Kawi later this summer.

So we’re going to see how this works. I’ll tell you all about it soon.

Biker Quote for Today

You’re a biker wannabe if you won’t ride down a gravel road.

Most Riders Ignore Ride to Work Day

Thursday, June 19th, 2014
Did you ride to work on Tuesday?

Did you ride to work on Monday?

I guess I’m just one lonely voice in the wilderness. Every year I plug Ride to Work Day and never do I see those hordes of bikes out there that I hope for. Did you see them Monday? Neither did I.

I did ride to work on Monday and out of curiosity I counted the number of bikes I saw. I counted 16 besides myself going, and 12 coming home. I rode again today (Thursday) and on this totally non-special day I saw 21 bikes on the way in and 19 on the way home. So much for let’s all go ride to work on one particular day.

And by the way, I won’t be keeping a running count because it’s way too distracting. I had to keep telling myself to forget about the dang bikes, watch where you’re going and watch out for other traffic. Also by the way, I am pleased to say that on neither day did some other driver try to occupy the lane I was already occupying. That happened to me three times the previous two days I rode to work.

What was really odd, I thought, was that whereas there are four BMW riders who ride to work at the National Park Service nearly every day, on Monday of all days not a single one of them rode in. Of the seven or eight bikes that are typically parked in the lot there, only two Harleys came in. Plus me.

So yeah, apparently almost nobody pays attention to Ride to Work Day. That puzzles me. I mean, why wouldn’t you? I suspect the biggest part of it is that most riders have never heard of it. It needs better promotion. What can I do, other than what I’ve been doing for years? I’ll have to think about that. I don’t know about you, but I’d just love to see the streets of this town filled with motorcycles some day, making all the drivers’ eyes pop out wondering what the heck is going on. There’s got to be a way.

Biker Quote for Today

Ride to coffee, coffee to ride.

Monday is Ride to Work Day

Sunday, June 15th, 2014
Ride To Work Day 2014

Monday is Ride to Work Day. Let's flood the streets with motorcycles.

I would normally publish on Monday but then there would be no lead time. So today is Sunday and I’m alerting you that tomorrow, Monday, June 16, is Ride to Work Day and if you can you really ought to ride your motorcycle to work. I will definitely be doing my part.

We’re in luck, too, because it is supposed to be a gorgeous day. Warm, sunny, and little chance of rain. Just no excuses.

Of course excuses are way too easy to come by. I generally go to the gym after work on Mondays and Thursdays and it gets a little tight trying to fit my briefcase, my rain gear, and my gym bag all into the bags on my bike. There’s plenty of room for two of the three but getting all three in is pushing it. So the lazy side of me says, “Oh, forget it, just drive.”

The biker side of me, however, says, “No, no, no. Too many years you have missed this either because you were off on vacation on this date or because you had no regular office-type job to ride to. This year you can actually do it and by golly, you’re going to!!”

Of course, this year it will be easier, too, because now that I have the V-Strom with two huge side bags as well as a top bag, getting it all in won’t be a problem. So look for me on the road tomorrow.

And just in case you’ve never heard of Ride to Work Day (where have you been living?), it’s a day for motorcyclists to show solidarity and make the non-riding public aware of just how many of us there are out there, and that they need to be aware that we are there.

Lord knows the non-riding public needs to have their awareness raised. The last two times I’ve ridden to work I’ve had to dodge three drivers who decided they wanted to be in my lane and never bothered to see if perhaps that lane might be occupied. Yeah, they may have checked their mirrors but we all know that’s not enough. They need to turn their heads and look–do a head check. In once case the driver started moving into my lane but apparently managed to spot me and swerved back.

In the other two cases, they didn’t see me at all and when I blew my horn long and loud they were totally startled and waved their hands apologetically. I did use the horn for an excessive amount of time because I really wanted to make the point that it was not OK.

So come on, let’s make people wonder where the heck all these motorcycles came from. Ride to work tomorrow.

Biker Quote for Today

My first car was a motorcycle.

Planning for a Six-Day Colorado Ride

Friday, June 13th, 2014
Motorcycles In Colorado National Monument

There are so many great places to ride in Colorado you can't do them all in one trip.

I frequently receive emails from people asking me to suggest routes for them for their Colorado vacation rides. The latest was from Paul, who will be coming for six days of riding with some friends. They will fly into Denver and rent bikes, so he asked me for my thoughts on where they might go. Here’s my reply.

There are all kinds of alternatives, so I suggest you consider the parts and perhaps realign them to suit your inclination. But just supposing you were going to do a 6-day ride . . .

Head out to Golden and catch U.S. 6 up Clear Creek Canyon and then take the Peak to Peak Highway to Estes Park. Go over Trail Ridge Road and down to Grand Lake and stop there for the night.

Day two, continue on to Granby and take U.S. 40 west over Rabbit Ears Pass to Steamboat Springs, take CO 131 down to where it hits I-70, and take I-70 west through Glenwood Canyon. Spend the night in Glenwood.

Day three, go south on CO 82 to Aspen and over Independence Pass to the Twin Lakes area. Go south on U.S. 24 through Buena Vista, pick up U.S. 285 down to Poncha Springs, go west on U.S. 50 over Monarch Pass to Gunnison and spend the night there.

Day four, continue west on U.S. 50 to Blue Mesa Reservoir and then turn south on CO 149 to Lake City and over Slumgullion Pass to Creede and on to South Fork. Go west on U.S. 160 over Wolf Creek Pass to Pagosa Springs and spend the night there.

Day five, continue west on U.S. 160 to Durango and then go north on U.S. 550 over Red Mountain Pass to Ouray and spend the night in Ouray. Ouray is pretty much my favorite little town in Colorado.

Day six is going to be a long one. Continue north on U.S. 550 to Delta, then go east on CO 92 to Hotchkiss. Catch CO 133 over McClure Pass and down to Carbondale, to Glenwood Springs, and then blast back to Denver on I-70. It may be interstate, but in Colorado’s mountains, it’s some of the prettiest interstate in the country. And then, if you have time, when you get to Dillon, get off I-70 and take U.S. 6 over Loveland Pass. That trip down that pass will leave you with one final fabulous vision of riding in Colorado.

Let me tell you, some of this is hard riding. Doing 300 miles in one day on mountain roads is a long day. It’s not like freeway burning. And I don’t know what your timeline is as to when you’ll actually get going the first day or when you need to have the bikes back at the end. If those days are short, especially the last one, you’ll need to make some adjustments.

All in all, of these rides, the best in my opinion are Trail Ridge Road, Red Mountain Pass, Independence Pass, Loveland Pass, and Wolf Creek Pass. Any route you create that ties them all together guarantees you a great ride. Enjoy.

Biker Quote for Today

Only a rider knows how much a fellow rider suffers in the winter.

Rain Riders

Monday, June 9th, 2014
Rain On Motorcycles

Nothing like a little moisture to liven up your day on the bike.

You may have noticed we’ve been having rain lately. I do ride in the rain but lately I’ve seen some people who are much more hard-core than I am.

I rode to work one day recently when rain was predicted and sure enough, about 20 minutes before I was planning to leave it was coming down in buckets. I had brought my rain gear in off the bike so I was prepared to head out in the downpour if necessary.

To my good fortune, by the time I did leave the rain had stopped. I still suited up because I knew that with water on the street I’d still be getting wet.

What really surprised me on that ride home was how many other people on bikes I saw. And what really surprised me was how many of them were the cruiser types with no helmets and no rain gear. I mean, unless all these folks headed out as I had, right after the downpour stopped, they must have been riding in the rain. I’ve ridden in the rain with no helmet; I don’t like it. It stings! Those little drops are like needles. And no rain gear? Yeah, I’ve gotten soaked before, even got a bit of hypothermia one time, but that’s why I own and use a good rain suit. As I say, if you’re going to get out and ride with no helmet and no rain suit you’re a lot more hard core than I am.

I’ve also seem some people who weren’t as hard core, but they at least were out in it, though some looked miserable.

The one that really caught my eye, though–and boy do I wish I could have shot a picture–was a couple on a sport bike. Not sure what the bike was; I was looking at them. It was pouring and he had no helmet and just a regular riding jacket. She had no helmet, just a winter coat that looked soaked, and a huge backpack strapped on her back, also soaked.

Were they really happy to be out riding? Or was he in for some serious crap once they got where they were headed, about “I’m never riding with you again unless . . .”?

You know what I like? I like a jacket that seals snugly at the (high) collar, a helmet that comes down below the top of the collar, serious rain jacket and pants, rubber booties, and waterproof mittens that allow me to slip my gloved hands inside. A nice full fairing helps, too. I can ride all day with all that stuff because I’m warm and dry.

Apparently some people are OK with less. To them I just say, “Wow. You are hard core.”

Biker Quote for Today

Not knowing where you are going is part of the adventure!

Motorcycle Tours to Club Ned–Colorado Pot Touring

Thursday, June 5th, 2014
Dan Patino

Dan getting ready for a ride.

Marijuana tourism is a very real thing that has hit Colorado since pot was legalized, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that someone is now offering motorcycle tours hitting the high spots (I didn’t really intend that pun) of the industry.

And wouldn’t you know it, that enterprising person is my friend Dan Patino who runs Go 2 Motorcycle Tours. I’ve remarked before that Dan is one of the most entrepreneurial people I know and here he goes again.

Dan wrote me the following email:

interested in doing a story on a overnight tour I will be offering? It is the only one like it in the world. I will be the first motorcycle touring company embracing the Marijuana industry. I will be offering a overnight tour that visits dispensaries, and the world’s first legal Cannabis Club in Nederland. Overnight stay in Nederland with a shuttle to the club. I am about to post the info on FB then my website. My emphasis is to show a openness to the industry but also a responsible motorcycle operating. No guest will be operating under the influence but may wish to consume on the overnight.

Of course I had to say “tell me more.”

Dan’s reply:

I posted it on my FB page. I assume this click will let you view it. I want to emphasize a few things. One the reason, uniqueness of the tour, and responsibility.

The reason is the demand for visitors to want to visit and see a legal operation industry. Like ClubNed they get calls from all over the world inquiring about their operation and the industry here in Colorado. ClubNed is the only legal cannabis club in the world in operation.

Now the Uniqueness being Go2moto now the only touring company highlighting the industry in a private tour via motorcycle. To the only Cannabis club in the world.

Responsibility, upmost concern because we don’t ride under the influence. Like all tours, we don’t allow consumption of alcohol or and drug while operating a motorcycle. I get it. Cannabis tour via motorcycle, red flag! Like visiting Coors it can be done! Pictures, and knowledge of the industry is the focus of the tour. However the overnight stay in Nederland would give those an option to consume after the riding is done. A shuttle or a short walk will get those back and forth to their lodging, so no operation of bikes will be allowed until the following day. Specific on pricing will be available on upon request this being a private group tour. Prices depend on size of the group of riders.

Just from my experience talking with people from outside Colorado, I have no question there is a lot of interest in this legal marijuana thing. Dan may be on to something here. This is going to be very interesting to watch.

Biker Quote for Today

I have a fever, and the only prescription is more moto.

A Bucket List Ride

Monday, June 2nd, 2014
David puts on his chaps before taking off.

David puts on his chaps before taking off.

David from Ohio stayed with us last week, another Motorcycle Travel Network member passing through. By the time he got home he had been out for three weeks. Not an excessively long trip, but I guess for him it had been a long ride.

David has recently developed some unfortunate health issues and he was on a bucket-list ride. He had taken old Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. His take on it was different than any I had heard before.

What he found particularly striking about that route is how old and worn out so many of the buildings were. Route 66 was once a happening place and then the interstate took over and the old route faded. All these motels and restaurants that did booming business in their hey-day were now rotting hulks.

What must people from other countries think about the U.S., he wondered, when they come here to ride this road and see all this decrepitude? He talked about how someone referred to some of these places as “ruins” and how he had always thought about ruins in the sense of Roman ruins or Greek ruins. But these absolutely were ruins, just from a much more recent era.

He said following the old route was pretty difficult at times, which doesn’t surprise me. I did an article a few years ago about an outfit that leads a Route 66 ride every year and the main guy told me that in some places the official route changed as many as five times. Each year he would vary things by taking different segments.

At other times, said David, the old road ran right alongside the new road and he figured out he could cut short some of the longer, more boring stretches by taking the new road. He’d still be seeing the exact same things and passing through the exact same countryside. Is that cheating? Some games you don’t really have to play by someone else’s rules, you get to make up your own. Especially if you’re riding alone.

One of David’s biggest disappointments about this ride was also interesting. He was passing through Springfield, Illinois, and stopped at the Lincoln Home National Historic Site. This is a several-block area of old Springfield that has Lincoln’s home and all his neighbors’ homes just as they were when he lived there. An interesting coincidence here is that I was set to work on that park unit the very next day in my job at the National Park Service.

So what disappointed him is that he really wanted to see the actual original Gettysburg Address. And it wasn’t on display. They told him it is very fragile and is only available for viewing for short periods each year. I don’t remember exactly but they may also have told him that when it is on display it is not on display there, but somewhere else.

The next morning David rolled on across Kansas headed for another MTN stop out that way. We’ve become something of a route. Michel, our last MTN guest, headed out for that same Kansas stop after leaving us. And those Kansas folks have stayed with us previously. Everybody says the same thing: The Motorcycle Travel Network seems to be getting smaller and smaller. It may eventually sputter out. What a shame that will be if it happens.

Biker Quote for Today

Drive?! Why?! Cars have too many wheels… just makes me feel… awkwardly stable… I’ll ride thank you!