Archive for October, 2014

Finding a New Road

Thursday, October 30th, 2014
motorcycle ride in the hills in the fall

Fall is such a glorious time to ride in the hills.

Is there anything sweeter as a motorcyclist than getting turned on to a really nice new road? Friggs did me that favor this past weekend.

Friggs has a brand new Harley Road King and he understandably has an urge to get out and ride it. He called and asked if I was interested in a ride and of course I said yes.

I thought the plan was to head up Deer Creek Canyon, on over to Conifer and to Evergreen and somewhere from there. However, we headed up Deer Creek Canyon and about half way up we made a left turn. This was–apparently–Deer Creek Road, although it curves around and later becomes Pleasant Park Road. So call it what you will.

We cruised along up this canyon–or gulch, or whatever you want to call it, a drainage–and it showed once again what someone who flies a plane told me once: There are people living all over up in the hills. It doesn’t matter where you go, there are a lot of houses up there.

As you might expect, at one point we left the canyon floor and started climbing the wall. Switchbacks, of course, steep slopes, and no, nobody living along this stretch of the road. And then we were getting up high and the view was getting pretty nice. What a sweet road.

We finally did get up on top, though I’m not sure what we were on top of. A ridge? A hill? A plateau? All I knew was that now the road straightened out and leveled off.

Not for long, though. We soon started down and the road got curvy again. At this point I was assuming we were going to hit U.S. 285 at some point, but where? I didn’t care, I was just enjoying the ride, but I had to be curious.

On and on we went and then there we were. We came out at the old former Safeway store up in the Conifer area. This was that road you see when you’re going toward Bailey on U.S. 285 that goes left from that little shopping center, and that maybe you’ve thought at times about following. Now I know.

So the rest of the ride was pretty nice, too. I mean, it’s Indian summer in Colorado so the weather was gorgeous. How could it not be a good ride? We headed over to Evergreen, on to Bergen Park, took County Road 65 to hit I-70 just east of Floyd Hill, and then east on the interstate. Not for long, though. We got off at Genesee and ran over to the top of Lookout Mountain.

This is where things sometimes got dicey. Everybody on two wheels was out this day and that means there were a lot of bicyclists. That had been true on Pleasant Park Road, too, but there wasn’t much other traffic. Here there was a lot of everything. On more than one occasion I moved to the center to pass someone on a bicycle only to find that a car coming the other way was straddling the center line to pass a bicyclist going the other way. Time to get a little close to the bicycle.

You just had to pay attention, though, and all was fine. The view coming down Lookout Mountain was typically spectacular and then we were in Golden. Friggs headed north, I headed south, and that was it for a sweet late season ride in the hills.

Biker Quote for Today

Go that way really fast and if something gets in your way, turn.

ABATE Cautious In Finance Issue Follow Through

Monday, October 27th, 2014

I wouldn’t have missed my ABATE District 10 meeting Sunday for anything. Theoretically Rocky, our newly drafted district rep, was to inform the membership of the issue that led to the firing of Terry Howard as state coordinator and read a prepared statement from the board.

ABATE D-10 patch

My ABATE D-10 patch.

Before the meeting got started there was no discussion of the issue, which led me to wonder if a lot of these folks had no idea or if perhaps everyone knew a lot more than I knew and for them there was nothing to discuss. Then I heard a little veiled, discrete mention so I suspected it was the latter.

We got to this topic in the agenda and again there was almost nothing said and no one asked any questions. This was too much for me. I said that if I hadn’t received a tip that something was going on and if I hadn’t pursued that to where I received a copy of the board’s statement, I would have been sitting there asking “What the hell are you people talking about??!!” And I got some questions answered. Here’s what I’ve learned.

As we already knew, Terry was removed because the board concluded that she had not fulfilled her fiduciary responsibility to the organization. Apparently there were some expenses that were paid for more than once. I have no idea if there was anything more than that. And something of that sort could easily happen by accident–heck, I’ve paid the same bill twice myself once or twice. So the board is wise to phrase it the way they did. You can be bad at managing money without being a criminal.

I asked if there was a criminal investigation underway. The internal investigation is continuing, we were told, and in compliance with the law regarding a 401(c)3 organization, a report has been made to the state and to the City and County of Denver. What happens next may depend a lot on the response from them. That response is not expected for a couple weeks.

So that’s not a lot but it’s something. It’s more than I knew before. And I really did feel like everyone else in that room knew way more than I did, but most of them are officers or state staff members or whatever–insiders–and I’m just a member, nothing else.

Oh, and as for Rocky reading the board statement, up to that point he still had not seen it himself. More than one person suggested strongly that this whole business be made known to all ABATE of Colorado members immediately. This sort of delay is unconscionable.

Biker Quote for Today

The good news is that heaven has a motocross track. The bad news is you’re racing next Tuesday.

Motorcycle Dreaming

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014
Pacific Coast Highway On Motorcycle

Riding the Pacific Coast Highway is on many bucket lists but I've done that already.

John is our trip planner and I’m hoping he’s in full gear at this point. I know that each year soon after the OFMC trip he’s already busy thinking about next year’s trip.

This next year could be quite a year. Many of the guys I ride with are already retired so there’s really no reason not to go on more than one trip each summer. And by next summer I’m going to be done with this National Park Service job and will go back to being just a freelance writer. That means I’m going to have a lot more time again.

So I was interested to get an email from John saying this: “I am putting together several options for next years ride including 3 day, 8 day, and 12 day rides…maybe we should do all of these…to places like Oak Creek, Encampment, and Grand Lake; Red River, LaJunta, and Cuchara; Ely, Jackpot, and Pocatella: Kalispell, Banff, and Jasper. Also thinking about going for a ride with Dennis and Friggs down South. It’s my way of dreaming (my bucket list overfloweth)…”

What was my reply? “Let’s do them all!”

So John’s mentioning bucket lists. What would be on mine? (Presuming I had one, which I don’t.)

Let’s see what I can come up with.

Take an overseas tour. Yeah, OK, so this one is a bit pricey. I know companies such as Edelweiss Bike Travel offer some fabulous trips just about anywhere you want to go, and a lot of other companies do as well. Some European trip would suit me just fine. The basic price would be at least $2,500 per person (Judy would not be happy if I went alone) and that would not include airfare and other expenses. Oh well, you can’t take it with you so let’s spend the kids’ inheritance.

And that’s about as far as I get. I consulted an article listing biker bucket list items but here’s what they were:

1. Take a motorcycle trip of more than 2,000 miles. I’ve done that plenty of times.
2. Attend a major motorcycle rally. Done that plenty of times.
3. Ride these amazing roads. There were five listed and I’ve done three, leaving the Tail of the Dragon and the Blue Ridge Parkway. I’m not that interested in the Dragon but I do intend to ride the Blue Ridge. But I’m not sure that’s on my bucket list.
4. Take a trip abroad. Right, I talked about that.
5. Do a track day. I did that several years ago. Wouldn’t hurt to do it again.
6. Ride a dirt bike. Yeah, that’s why I bought the V-Strom.
7. Put more miles on your bike in a year than on your car. In 2011 I put 10,000 miles on my Concours and less than 6,000 miles on my car. In 2012 it was 7,000 and 3,500. Check.
8. Put at least 200,000 miles on your bike. OK, this one I like. But with three bikes it makes it harder. So far on the three bikes I own I’ve got a total around 140,000. I’m sure that figure will exceed 200,000 in the next few years. But that is a worthy goal.
9. First and foremost, get a motorcycle and learn to ride it. Well, check, obviously. But for so many people this ought to be first and foremost on their bucket lists. None of the rest of this happens without it.

Now I see why I don’t have a bucket list. I love living life rather than dreaming about it.

Biker Quote for Today

Motocross is like football — but without a bunch of guys showering together when it’s done.

ABATE Removes State Coordinator

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Sad. That’s the word that, for me at least, sums up this bit of business.

ABATE D-10 patch

My ABATE D-10 patch.

I got a tip the other day that something was going on at ABATE of Colorado, that Terry Howard, the state coordinator, had been removed under very unpleasant circumstances. I immediately started trying to find out what the situation was.

Not surprisingly, the state organization is being pretty close-mouthed but they did prepare an official statement. Here is that statement.

In September, 2014, the ABATE of Colorado Board of Directors was made aware of discrepancies in one of ABATE’s bank accounts. At the September BOD meeting, in keeping with the fiduciary duties of the Board of Directors to the membership and the organization as a whole, a committee was formed to investigate these issues.

Although the investigation is far from being completed, by the end of two weeks, the committee had found enough evidence to support the allegations of Breach of Fiduciary Duties the State Coordinator. An emergency meeting of the Board of Directors was called for Saturday, October 4, 2014, at which time the decision was made to terminate the employment of [then] State Coordinator, Terry Howard.

The future of ABATE, and where we go from here, will be formally discussed further at the November (and future) board meeting(s). Don Enninga, assistant State Coordinator, will be acting as State Coordinator while we transition.

One plan at this time is that ABATE will be going back to a volunteer State Coordinator position. Interested parties should submit a Letter of Intent to the Board of Directors.

Please be assured, the Board of Directors and the ABATE office staff are working diligently to prevent future issues and will be keeping you, the membership, updated.

At this point that is all I know. Obviously, I’ll try to learn more and will report on what I find.

But again, the whole thing, to me, is very sad. I’ve known Terry for a number of years now and I like her and I’ve always thought she was doing a heck of a job as state coordinator. Regardless of what the facts of this matter are, ABATE will no longer have her there doing this job.

Let me give you an example of her efforts.

A number of years ago I unknowingly set some wheels in motion. I was doing a lot of work at that time as the National Motorcycle Examiner for I was (and am) an ABATE member and I got to wondering why it was that the sportbiking crowd and the various state ABATEs were generally unfriendly with each other. So I posted on some sportbike forums asking opinions of ABATE and the reasons.

Boy did I get a response.

It turned out that the sportbikers, who for the most part are ATGATT folks, dislike ABATE because they saw these groups as being anti-helmet. Perhaps some state groups are but in my experience they are more anti-helmet law, which is to say, they prefer to have government stay out of it and let the rider decide. I know ABATE of Colorado strongly encourages wearing helmets, but is against having a law requiring them. That’s my own personal opinion as well.

But in the course of all the discussion there was a comment from someone in the Colorado Sportbike Club who said his group was not down on ABATE the way so many groups in other states are.

Terry Howard was reading these articles and the discussion they were generating and when she saw that statement she immediately contacted that person and when the dust had all settled ABATE of Colorado and the CSC had formed an alliance and the two groups have been working together on issues of concern to all bikers ever since. I may have set the stage but Terry was the one who made that happen. Colorado may be the only state in the country where these two groups are united. And I hope this relationship weathers this storm. I don’t see why it shouldn’t but you never know.

So yes, I think it’s incredibly sad. I don’t know what Terry has or has not done and I don’t even know what she is accused of having done. But I do know that ABATE is a loser in all this. There are no winners. It’s just sad.

Biker Quote for Today

If people focused on the important things in life, there’d be a shortage of dirt bikes.

Running Out of Gas

Thursday, October 16th, 2014
Kawasaki On Pikes Peak

Just a photo illustration of the idea of being out there far from anywhere with the bike not running.

I ran out of gas on my way to work the other morning. I don’t know about you but that just seems to happen to me periodically. With no gas gauge on the CB750, just reserve, you never really know how low you are.

It wasn’t the first time.

This time around I had been riding in the hills the day before with the guys and switched over to reserve. I have a fair idea how far I can go once I switch to reserve and I calculated that I could get home and then get over to where I like to gas up on my way to work the next morning. I was heading west on Hampden just west of University when I learned that that estimate was wrong. I came sputtering to a stop at Gilpin. Don’t you just hate when that happens?

I was fortunate in this case. I rolled the bike a long block or so to where Old Hampden diverges from the main road and from there I just coasted down to the station I knew was nearby. I probably only lost 10, maybe 15 minutes in the whole thing and wasn’t even late to work.

But how many other times have I done something like this? I make fun of some of my friends because they freak out about gas when they’re just getting close to going to reserve. They never actually go to reserve if they can help it. I figure that’s what reserve is for; you hit the point where you need to flip that lever and then you start looking around for a station.

Sometimes I misjudge.

I think the first time I ran out of gas on a bike–it was the CB; that’s the first bike I ever owned and which I still own–I was out running around with a young lady I had designs on and apparently I had forgotten to flip back off reserve when I had filled up last. So I was expecting to need to go to reserve but then when the bike finally started sputtering I found the lever in the wrong position and the tank completely dry. We had a good walk that day. Nothing ever developed in that relationship.

There was another time when I was on the Concours with my wife and we had been out riding with a bunch of folks. Everyone parted ways down in Colorado Springs and we headed back to Denver on CO 83. Everyone else had gotten gas back in Florence but I didn’t fill up because the Kawi holds 7.5 gallons and I knew (I just knew!) I had enough to get home. Oops.

We were just a couple miles south of Franktown when we coasted to a stop in front of a farm house. It took some knocking but someone finally answered the door and they said yes, they did have some gas. We would need to push the bike all the way around the back of the house, up a bit of a hill, to where they had a tank. Shucks, I figured if we could just put a pint in an old coffee can that would be fine to get on to Franktown, but I didn’t want to argue–they didn’t seem exuberantly happy to be bothered by us. So we did, and paid them for a gallon and were on our way.

Another time Judy and I were on the Honda and I don’t remember how it was that we ran out but we did. We were somewhere up in Westminster or Commerce City and just came to a stop by the side of the road. Very quickly a guy in a car stopped and offered to help. He said he would take me to get gas. I got in and off we went and he explained that he was sort of a freelance roadway assistance program and he would sure appreciate anything I could give him for his help. Considering the situation I was glad to give him $20. He was glad to receive it.

Are those the only times? I don’t know; those are the only ones I can remember. Maybe my buddies aren’t so silly freaking out over getting near reserve. Maybe I should be a little more like them. Not a lot, mind you, but a little. I’ll bet it’s a long time before I run out again, though. It takes a while for memory to fade.

Biker Quote for Today

A motorcycle functions entirely in accordance with the laws of reason, and a study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a miniature study of the art of rationality itself. — Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The Scooter I Didn’t Buy

Monday, October 13th, 2014
EVT America R30

An EVT America R30 scooter like the one I didn't buy.

I make no bones about the fact that I want a scooter. Scooters are just plain FUN to ride.

So I really thought I was going to buy one Saturday but it didn’t happen. Very disappointing.

I would really like an electric scooter. They’re quiet, they don’t pump out poisonous gas, and the ongoing cost of operation is just about nil. So I was really pleased when I saw on craigslist an electric scooter for sale down in Castle Rock. The guy didn’t list an asking price, saying simply that he wanted it out of his garage because he needed the space.

I contacted him and arranged to come down and check it out. I also asked what ballpark price he was looking for because, as I told him, if he didn’t want to let it go for, say, less than $1,000 I would save both of us the trouble because I’m not looking to pay anything close to that. He was a bit cagey–a good negotiator–and did not cite a number but asked me what my range was. I said $400 to $800 and he said he might be willing to come down to $800.

OK, I wasn’t excited how that played out but when I checked to see what these scoots–an EVT America R30–sold for new I saw that it was around $2,000. This one had only 500 miles on it so I figured that if I paid $800 for it that would still be a bargain, even if I could have paid even less.

I went down and checked it out and took it for a test ride. All in all it seemed like a decent little scoot, perhaps a bit inexpensively put together, but you do get what you pay for. But the test ride showed issues right from the start.

I pulled out of his driveway, which has a Hollywood curb. A Hollywood curb, in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, is when instead of putting in a curb cut for your driveway, the entire curb is sloped so you have an bit of a bump going in or out. I went over the edge of this curb and hit the street hard. Whatever front shock this thing had was clearly trash. Fine, you can replace shock absorbers.

Taking off down the street the thing showed plenty of pep. I went zooming around and–as I keep saying–it was a heck of a lot of fun. But I did some esses back and forth and made some turns and the front end was raising some concerns. It didn’t seem very stable and gave what I took to be warning of steering head issues. I had no idea what it might cost to do work on the steering head.

Back at his place, pulling back into the driveway over the Hollywood curb, it was another severe thunk of the sort that could easily send you flying if you were going very fast. I told him about the front shock and the steering. He held the front wheel steady while I pushed the handlebars left and right and there was a noticeable click and shift that they made while the wheel didn’t move. No wonder the steering felt unstable.

I was torn. I clearly was not prepared to pay $800 for something with these problems, but you don’t see many electric scooters for sale so I was asking myself if there was a price at which I would be willing to buy it even with these issues. And I told him plainly what was going on in my head. He acknowledged the issues and said he would be willing to take just $500.

Finally I concluded that no, I wouldn’t be interested in this scoot at any price. I told him it wasn’t the shock; shocks can be replaced. It was the steering. I thanked him and left.

I got home to find that he had called saying he found the problem with the steering, it was just a nut that was loose, would I like to reconsider? I was interested but figured before I answered him I would check out what it would cost to replace the front shocks. I had to do some searching but finally found a website focused on electric vehicles and a page for this particular scoot. Here I found something very interesting. In the listing of features it mentioned “rear shock absorbers” but not a word about front shocks. I also found an owner’s manual and in the diagram where it points out the different features of the product it pointed to the rear shocks but not to the front end where something that seemed to be shocks were clearly visible.

My conclusion was that although there is something up front, some sort of piston, there apparently is only the weakest possible spring and it is perhaps not something that can be replaced.

So with no actual front suspension and no way to do anything about that, I was losing interest rapidly. Then the idea that a single nut was the only thing holding the steering in place didn’t inspire confidence either. I sent him an email saying no thanks.

Very disappointing. I still want a scooter, and I’d especially like an electric one. But I guess I’m going to have to keep looking.

Biker Quote for Today

Four wheels is for people with no balance.

When Drivers Pay Attention

Thursday, October 9th, 2014
Motorcycles in traffic

Everyone else on the road doesn't have to be your enemy.

Nobody tried to kill me this week.

I rode the Concours to work on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and every ride was uneventful. In thick rush-hour traffic. And not once did some idiot on their cell phone try to pull into my lane without looking. Or anything else. Amazing.

What was perhaps just as amazing was how I was able to observe a number of people really paying attention. Coming home on Wednesday, for example, I was headed south on Kipling and someone in the right-hand lane put on their turn signal to pull left. They were ahead of me and there was room for them to pull in but I backed off the throttle a bit to give them even more room. But this person knew I was there, and they were being very careful not to endanger me. They hesitated.

So I backed off even more to make it totally obvious that I was giving them space, and they finally did pull over. Hey, I’m glad to make room for you. You’re my friend. You looked, you saw me, and you were serious about not creating a hazard. I like you.

And there were other times as well. None quite as obvious as that one, but people really were paying attention. And nobody tried to kill me.

Oh yeah, it was also gorgeous weather to be riding. It’s hard to make going to work any nicer than this. Thursday was not a day to ride, for various reasons, but Friday may be. I just hope I can keep the string intact.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Only a biker knows . . .: Motorcycle with and wisdom, #34

Biker Quote for Today

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” — Kurt Caselli

First Report From New Sidecar Rider

Monday, October 6th, 2014
Goldwing sidecar rig on Red Mountain Pass

Alan and Cheryl with the Goldwing sidecar rig on Red Mountain Pass.

My friend Alan, whose Harley got wrecked when a deer ran him down, has replaced that ride with a sidecar rig. I had put him in contact with another sidecar rider I know, Dom Chang, and I presume Dom provided Alan with some good information on the subject.

Alan sent along a report of a recent multi-day trip he and his wife, Cheryl, took in the new rig and I’m taking the liberty of passing that along. Alan reads this blog so hey Alan, if you object, just let me know. But I’m guessing you won’t.

The ride was a blast! Cheryl loved it. Some things we learned about the rig that we will make some minor additions and modifications but overall we are pleased. We purchased an oscillating fan in Moab and used it. Although the sidecar has ventilation, there are times when it is hot outside but you don’t want to lower the top and remove the windows. Having a fan to move air even when you are stopped helped a lot. We will mount the fan inside the sidecar and put in a switch so you can use it when needed. Have a very tight window to snap shut on the left side and I will have to do a little stretching of the window to make it easier to snap shut. Also, I am going to add two plastic labels to the switches on the left side so you can tell which one opens the top and which one is the PTT for the CB radio. We brought a blanket along and found it helpful when the temps got to 39 degrees one night in Gunnison but it was also helpful generally. That is about it. Really some minor items in the whole scheme of things.

Was it comfy? Yes, very. So much so that Cheryl fell asleep many times just like when she rides in a car.

How did it handle? Well this is definitely not the rig to do canyon carving but it did well. Handles similar to a Harley trike but with differences. Pulls to the right on acceleration and little to the left when braking. Noticeable? Yes? Anticipated? Yes. Problematic? Not really.

I think we gave the rig a thorough workout. I really like the power and stability of the Goldwing. Also, having reverse without having to pay $2,000+ is definitely worth it. We traveled Denver to Moab (took the river road and overnight), then to Naturita, to Lizard Head Pass, to Telluride, to Montrose (overnight), to Durango, to South Fork, to Lake City, to Gunnison (overnight), to Fairplay, to Denver. We put 1,000+ miles on the rig, went over 10 10,000 foot mountain passes, had Interstate, 4 lane and 2 lane roads, highway speeds 75mph+ and 2 lane mountain pass roads of 15-40mph. The rig did everything we asked of it and yes, we like it!!!

Sounds good, Alan. Enjoy the ride. And now I guess Cheryl gets to enjoy the ride, too. That definitely works.

Biker Quote for Today

A shot of espresso is worth another 100 miles.

Stupid Questions People Ask

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

I was looking around on Adventure Rider and ran across a thread titled “Stupid questions people ask you when stopped.” Some of them were pretty good so I figured I’d pass a few along here.

dirt bikes in Dinosaur National Monument

Did you guys ride those here?

The guy starting the thread rides a BMW and he offered several:
Sir, is that a real BMW or it’s just the badge?
Duuuuude, does your bike has two engines?! (asked a number of times, I usually try to explain the boxer design, but if all fails I tell them the right one is the turbocharger)
Since when does BMW make motorcycles?

Then this one is from a woman rider:
Is that your motorcycle? Did you ride that here all by yourself?

How about this:
I stopped at an intersection and a teenager walked up to me and said, “Can I take it around the block?”
My response.” What?? No way.”
His response, “Hey, I’m not playin”
I just laughed and rode off. People are insane.

Here is, as the fellow says, a Ural specific one:
Is that real?

And in the category of “you just don’t get it”:
As I was pulling my helmet on a dude walked up and asked ‘What kind of bike is that?’ I looked down at the tank on my Commando that has large gold letters saying ‘Norton’ and said, ‘it’s a Norton.’ He looked it over once again and asked ‘Is that made by Harley or Honda?’

And this:
The dumbest thing I ever got asked is, “Can you pull a wheelie on that thing or are you too scared?”

This hasn’t happened to me, at least not yet, but I guess it could:
I had a 9 or 10 year old boy ask me if I “get a lot of chicks with that.” This while on my Vstrom with my wife on the back!

Of course we’ve all heard this one:
Aren’t motorcycles dangerous?

Sometimes it’s the responses that are good:
I walk into Starbucks (my regular one) this afternoon, helmet in hand.
“Do you ride a bike?” asks the fine young man.
“No, I’m just very clumsy” I reply.

And this:
I suppose this is a somewhat reasonable question, but someone once asked me what kept me from flying off the bike when I hit a bump. My reply?

On another note:
When are you getting some pipes? I could barely hear ya pull up.

And another in the response category:
My new response when I get to school wearing ATGATT:
“You ride today?”
“No, I took the jet.

OK, enough for today. We’ll come back for some more some other time.

Biker Quote for Today

“That’s all the motorcycle is, a system of concepts worked out in steel.” — Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance