Archive for November, 2014

Liking the Same Motorcycles

Thursday, November 27th, 2014
My three motorcycles

Here you see my taste in motorcycles.

I had occasion to speak with Ben Hochberg, the former head of the ABATE of Colorado rider training program, and once we were done with the topic at hand we, of course, shifted to discussing motorcycles.

“What are you riding now?” Ben asked.

I told him that of the four bikes I’ve owned I still have three and they are the 1980 CB750 Custom, my ’99 Concours, and my latest, the 2006 V-Strom 650. Get a load of what Ben told me about his bikes.

Sometime in the last couple years he sold his old Kawasaki KZ 750. Now, just like my CB, the KZ is from the era of the UJM, the universal Japanese motorcycle, where function defined style and therefore there were a whole lot of bikes that were virtually identical.

Ben said he was really, really interested in a V-Strom 1000, and came very near to buying one that was remaindered with a great asking price, but ultimately just couldn’t justify even that expense.

Nevertheless, he needed a good bike he could burn some serious miles on because his training activities often take him some distance from home. So when a friend from New York came to visit, a guy who rides an older Concours like mine, Ben decided to take a look at Connies on craigslist. There he found a mint condition 2003 (?) bike with just 10,000 miles on it for a fabulous price. He thought about it but still couldn’t justify the spend.

He did mention it, though, at one point and the friend asked to see the ad. Calling it up on his phone, he showed it to the friend, who got seriously excited and told Ben, “You’ve got to call the guy! It’s going to be gone!” Ben demurred, at which point his wife, Sheila, told him, “Call the guy.” He said to Sheila, “I love you!” and dialed the phone.

Besides the bike involved, it is similar to my situation with the V-Strom. After I got my second bike my wife told me if I ever intended to get another I would need to let go of one of the two I already had. Then, years later, the opportunity came for me to get the V-Strom and I was just wavering. Without mentioning anything about that previous conversation, Judy told me, “Buy the bike. You’ve wanted one for a long time.” Yeah, I love you, too, Judy.

Ben asked about my set-up on the Connie and I told him the first thing I did was to get risers so I wouldn’t have such a serious lean toward the grips. Check. Ben has gotten adapters that allow you to use a tubular handlebar, which then gives you a wide selection so you can have them come up and back to whatever point you want.

“Have you ever thought about getting highway pegs?” he asked.

Oh yeah, I have them and I love them.

“Where did you get them?”

From Murph. Anyone who rides a Concours knows Murph’s. He has designed and produced a whole lot of the best accessories for Connies. And yes, those are the highway pegs Ben has gotten for his Connie.

Now, he has also gotten an aftermarket windshield and I haven’t done that. I’m perfectly happy with stock on that item.

So obviously we must have very similar tastes in bikes, which surprises me because the last time I saw Ben he was riding some big Harley cruiser. I guess that Harley is long gone. He also has a Buell that he says he’ll never part with. I’m not a Harley guy at all and I doubt I’ll ever have a Buell, though I’d take the Buell before I’d take the Harley. Pretty interesting, though, all this similarity.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
ABATE of Colorado in a fight for its life

Biker Quote for Today

The shortest distance between two points is for people who can’t ride.

Sweeping Changes At ABATE; Investigation Update

Monday, November 24th, 2014

First let’s address the investigation into possible financial misdeeds at ABATE of Colorado:

ABATE D-10 patch

My ABATE D-10 patch.

At our District 10 meeting on Sunday, Metro Regional Representative Larry Montgomery confirmed that, at State of Colorado direction, the Denver Police fraud unit was brought in on the matter. To recap, the ABATE board discovered some financial irregularities, investigated, and ended up firing State Coordinator Terry Howard for a “failure to perform” her fiduciary duties. The situation was then reported to the state, as required by law governing 501(c)3 organizations. At the October D-10 meeting we were told that the state would decide what happens next.

The state decided that going to the fraud unit was what was next, and Larry said that unit did an investigation and has now turned their report over to the District Attorney to decide where it goes from here. There is no timetable as to when any decision will be made or any action taken.

Now let’s turn to the group’s financial woes, which are in fact a fight for life or death.

Bruce Downs, a long-time ABATE member, has been chosen the new state coordinator by the board, pending resolution of one minor issue regarding who can serve as state coordinator. Bruce spoke at length about the problems, how we got there, and how we hope to get out of them. I’ll try to cut it down to the basics.

A number of years ago ABATE was one of only a few organizations offering motorcycle rider training in Colorado. ABATE was bringing in more than $1 million a year in training revenue, and the organization became dependent on that cash flow. In recent years new competition has emerged and the landscape has shifted a good bit as well. However, no one at ABATE was sounding the alarm and things continued as before, even though the revenue picture was changing.

Update 11-25-14: I’ve been contacted by Ben Hochberg, who ran the training program for several years, and he assures me he was sounding an alert, but nobody listened. I’ll have more on this soon.

In January of 2013 a $40,000 loan was taken out and later that loan was replaced by another one. The terms of the second loan were onerous. Service on that loan is now costing ABATE $287 a day. Larry and Bruce both declined to name names or provide details, but said that a lack of organizational oversight permitted this bad deal to be made. Now the group has to get out from under this “deadly” (Larry’s word) burden.

Bruce told us that “ABATE is now being run by committee.” This means that one arm of the organization cannot commit the group to anything without the OK of the other, relevant arms, and the board makes all final decisions.

As part of that, he also said, ABATE will focus on its true mission, being a motorcycle rights organization, with rider training a secondary pursuit. Training classes are being cut and training bikes are being sold. Revenue from these bikes will be a significant part of making ends meet for the immediate future. Each district in the state will raffle off one bike, several will be placed with a consignment house for sale, and others will be listed on craigslist.

All paid staff members have already “fired themselves” and are performing essential duties on a volunteer basis. The printed Spokesman newsletter will be published online only next month and will cease publication after that. From then on, Bruce will issue an update every other week on what is happening and where matters stand, and the district reps will be expected to pass this along to their members.

Meanwhile all the districts in the state have been asked to send all their funds, minus $50 to keep their checking accounts open, to the state. District 10 voted on Sunday to do that. An appeal has been put out to members for donations and the Motorcycle Riders Foundation, the national equivalent of the state-organized ABATEs, passed along the appeal nationwide. Responses were immediate, ranging from a couple pledges of cash to “Your problem–too bad.”

If possible, ABATE would like to raise $40,000 from investors to purchase a certificate of deposit, which would be used to secure a loan on better terms so as to pay off the “deadly” loan. Those who put in money for the CD would be paid back with interest at the end of the CD’s term, seven or eight years. Bruce estimated the payments on the new loan would be around $500 per month, versus the current $287 per day. If the group defaulted on the new loan, the bank would take the CD and all the investors would lose their money.

Although Bruce expects it to take at least a year to get the organization fully sorted out and on a new, more sustainable path, whether or not it will survive to carry out these plans is currently the biggest issue. It should be decided within the next two month, he projects.

These were Bruce’s closing remarks:

“It’s time for the choir to start singing. This is not going to be Bruce’s organization; it can’t be one or two people. . . . I know everybody gives a lot of time; you’ve got to give more. I don’t know what else to say, right now we’re sink of swim. We’ve got maybe 30, 45 days, to figure it out. We’ve got to make ABATE a business like it should have been all along and we’re going to do that, if that’s what everybody wants to do. If everybody wants to sit back and say, ‘Ah Larry will do it or Bruce will do it,’ it ain’t gonna happen.”

Biker Quote for Today

You wouldn’t be riding a motorcycle if you weren’t an optimist.

ABATE in Dire Straits

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Do you think it’s a good idea to have an organization that stands up at the state level for motorcyclists’ rights? That’s what ABATE of Colorado does. When there are laws proposed that would be harmful to us, we have someone down at the Capitol fighting for us because we have ABATE. But for how long?

ABATE D-10 patch

My ABATE D-10 patch.

I was very surprised to open my email this evening and find two messages. First this one:

The financial picture presented at the SBOD Meeting on November 15th was extremely dismal. ABATE of Colorado is in a very serious financial situation. With training income diminishing this time of year, our cash flow is severely negative. Our current past-due bills, plus those that will become due in December, greatly exceed our liquid funds and accounts receivable. The Financial Oversight Committee has done everything possible to keep the doors open, but this requires the efforts of all ABATE of Colorado members and districts as, collectively, we are ABATE of Colorado.
Actions taken to date include Deb, Perrie, and Don voluntarily “laying themselves off” and then coming in to keep vital functions going on a volunteer basis. Bills are getting paid as money is available.
We discussed many options to increase our cash flow at the SBOD Meeting, such as: selling excess training bikes; raffling off bikes; posting bikes on Craig’s list; consigning bikes for sale in Colorado Springs; donations from members, sponsors, and other SMROs; and soliciting investments in a CD so we can secure a loan. While these are good ideas, none get us “immediate” help.
One way to help us pay our bills right now would be for each district to forward to the State account all but $50 or so of their district treasury. Please consider our dire need and give what you can. Keep in mind that districts do not exist without the state organization being viable.

And then this one:

Due to various circumstances, ABATE of Colorado has found themselves in financial dire straits. In an attempt to overcome this situation, we’d like to secure a loan to help us through the winter months.
A bank we contacted will give us a loan equivalent to the amount of a purchased Certificate of Deposit (CD). We’re asking supporters of ABATE to invest in a CD. We realize your investment wouldn’t be a “great” return on investment, but it would enable ABATE to secure a much needed reasonable interest loan to pay off our extremely high interest / short term loan.
When the CD matures in about 7 to 8 years, your investment will be returned along with the appropriate interest earned. Your investment will be deposited in a separate account until enough money can be secured to purchase an appropriate CD (which we hope will be only a few weeks) and will not be used for anything else. We’ll contact you when the CD is purchased with the mature date and rate of return. A signed receipt will guarantee the above promises.
Thank you for supporting ABATE and investing in a CD to help our financial situation. Please respond by Friday, November 28, 2014.
Below is a temporary receipt for investment, to be followed by a formal official receipt for investment from the ABATE State Office.

I will be digging in my pocket. Even if you don’t choose to be a member, if you think what ABATE is doing is valuable, I urge you to help out, too.

Biker Quote for Today

It’s not about the bike nor the ride; it’s about the adventure in life we all seek. Great memories are made of taking the trail less traveled and explored.

Scoot in San Francisco

Monday, November 17th, 2014
Scoot San Francisco

Scoot Networks scooters ready for you to climb on, parked two blocks from our B&B.

OK, this will be my last blog post dealing with our recent trip to California. But this was the one I actually planned before we left.

Just days before we headed for the West Coast I happened upon an article about Scoot Networks, which is an outfit that is set up in San Francisco offering electric scooter rentals. From what the article I read had to say I expected to see a lot of these easily recognizable red scooters in the mix of traffic. I was intrigued.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that I have an interest in electric motorcycles in general and a personal interest–as in I want one–in electric scooters. So the idea that someone is renting them, and at a very low price, definitely caught my eye. And it was right where we were headed. Cool.

I didn’t see a single Scoot (as opposed to scooters generically) on the streets. And it wasn’t until the night before we left, with time in the morning only to get to the airport, that I noticed that just two blocks from our B&B there was a charging/parking site where four Scoots sat. So I went over quickly in the morning and got that photo above.

Nevertheless, in a crowded, busy city like this, scooters are a great way to get around quickly and easily. And of course it’s all handled with an app.

The way you use Scoot is you create an account and then when you want to ride one you use your smartphone to see where near you there is one available. You then plug your phone into the Scoot and off you go. There are three levels of membership but if you plan to do it regularly the only rational option would seem to be the top-level package, Scoot Pass. For $29 a month, with two months free so a $290 cost for a year, the first 30 minutes of any ride is no additional charge. If you’re just getting around the city, that’s probably going to be most of your rides right there. Then for anything past the first 30 minutes it’s $1.50 for each additional 30 minutes between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. and just $0.25 per 30 minutes from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

We’re talking cheap. Just for comparison, we took buses a lot while in the city and each time I got on a bus it cost me $2.25.

Now, these Scoots are all single-seaters, so if Judy and I had wanted to go somewhere on them she would have had to rent one, too. She doesn’t ride so that would not have worked. There’s no way she would have wanted to learn to ride a scooter in the middle of the San Francisco congestion. But imagine if you lived there and could pick one up close to home and drop it close to work. You could pay $290 a year and that would be your total cost of commuting. Plus, you’d be on a scooter, and that’s fun!

I don’t know how successful the business is. As I said, I didn’t see any of them on the street. And the scooter business seems to be funny. In places such as Key West there are lots of scooter rentals and it is absolutely the best way to get around that very congested town. And they do land-office business. On the other hand, here in Denver, ScooTours Denver rents scooters and I’m not sure how much business they manage to do. I’ve dealt with those folks in the past, and they advertise on this site, but my recent attempts to contact them have not been successful. So I don’t know; I hope they’re at least making enough to continue in business.

So no, I didn’t have the opportunity to ride one while we were out there. But maybe next time you’re out there you might want to give it a try. And now you know they exist.

Biker Quote for Today

He was so slow, there were bugs on the back of his helmet.

Not a Harley in San Francisco

Thursday, November 13th, 2014
Scooters In Rome

There's a reason this scene is common in Rome.

We were just in San Francisco for a few days and it was interesting how these things work: We didn’t see one single Harley or big motorcycle in the city. We did, however, see plenty of small bikes and a ton of scooters.

It’s pretty much that way in Rome and Paris. We’ve been both places in recent years and far more than San Francisco, those cities are chock full of small bikes and scooters. San Francisco is nothing compared to them.

It makes perfect sense. Lane splitting is legal in all three places but you just can’t lane-split with a bike the size of a small car. While San Francisco has a lot of sport bikes and dual sports, the two European cities are awash in scooters. They’re cheap to operate, you can park them anywhere, you can slip between the cars to filter to the front–it’s perfect. If I lived in any of these cities the scooter would be my first choice for transportation. For the life of me, I can’t understand why–and how–anyone drives a car in Rome. That city is impossible.

But I never thought there would be no Harleys at all in San Francisco. I mean, of course there must be some–we just didn’t see any. Not even a Sportster. But as soon as we crossed the bay and got into Oakland there they were, plenty of them. And up in Marin County, north of the city across the Golden Gate, there were plenty of hogs. Just absolutely none in the city. You better believe there’s a reason for that.

Biker Quote for Today

Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.

In Case You Go There

Monday, November 10th, 2014
Port Costa California

"Downtown" Port Costa with the Burlington Hotel on the right and the biker bar on the left.

You may never find yourself anywhere close, but in case you do I want to tell you about a really sweet little off-the-beaten-path town and biker bar up at the far north end of the San Francisco Bay Area.

It’s Port Costa and we heard about it from a park ranger at John Muir National Historic Site in Martinez, California, just a short distance away.

The national historic site was the home of John Muir, good buddy of Teddy Roosevelt and acclaimed the father of the National Park Service. Seeing as how I work for the park service, this stop was one on our California vacation agenda. We had been in the city (San Francisco, that is) for a few days and then headed out to go to the wine country.

When we were ready to leave the park we were interested in finding some place nice but not overly expensive as knew any place around Napa would be. We were particularly interested in the area on the south shore of the strait and Suisun Bay, which separate the northern part of the Bay Area from Napa County.

“Take California 4 west to the very next exit and get off on McEwen Road to Port Costa,” one of the rangers told us. “It’s a really cool little town and they have a great biker bar there.”

Who could resist that?

So we did and you have never seen a narrower, twistier little road than this one. It led into this funky little town that was just a trip. At the end of the road was the strait. This place had once been a busy shipping area for locally grown wheat.

The downtown consists of six building. The Burlington Hotel, where we stayed, is one of those grand old hotels of days gone by, only this one is still not exactly restored to its old grandeur. But it was cool and funky and we liked it.

Across the street was . . . I don’t know what. That is, I don’t know what it was built as. A warehouse? Hard to say. But it now houses one of the most interesting bars and restaurants you’ll ever find. You’ve surely seen some of these chain restaurants that fill the place with all this collection of antiques and kitsch and whatever. They’re trying to be this place. This is the real thing.

And it’s a favorite of bikers. The parking lot was loaded with bikes the whole time we were there, and what a collection of bikes. There were old Nortons, modern Harleys, ancient stripped down cruisers, not to mention some old Hondas and old Triumphs and you name it. In fact, it was surprising how many of these bikes were old.

And then there was the rest of the town. We walked down the main street and it seems everyone in town has done what they could to make their house and yard as original, as totally different, as imaginable. And there are chickens walking around, numerous motorcycles in various stages of repair, orange trees full of fruit–an incredible mish-mash.

So I’m telling you, if you ever find yourself out in the area, go there. This is a hidden gem. Heck, the park ranger who told us about it said he had lived in the area his whole life and he only found out about this place a couple months ago.

But I will warn you: nothing is cheap there. Beer is beer but the restaurant serves lobster, steak, prime rib–the whole shebang, and you’ll pay. Likewise, the hotel may still be shabby but it ain’t cheap, either. But it’s such a cool place.

Biker Quote for Today

We are here to show those guys that are inching their way on the freeways in their metal coffins that the human spirit is still alive.

Rocky Mountain Adventure Riders Plans ‘Ride With Respect’ in Utah

Thursday, November 6th, 2014
Rocky Mountain Adventure Riders website

The Rocky Mountain Adventure Riders website.

I don’t list motorcycle events outside of Colorado on my Colorado Motorcycle Rides, Runs, and Rallies page but I do go outside the state here on the blog. So I’m taking this moment to alert any adventure riders out there to something going on in Utah that you might find interesting.

The Rocky Mountain Adventure Riders group is exactly what the name implies, a group of folks who like to get off the smooth stuff onto where riding is more of a challenge. And on April 16-19 of next year they are planning a Moab Rendezvous. Organized in partnership with the Moab-based organization Ride With Respect, the event seeks to raise money for that group in order to help in their struggle to keep trails open to off-road riders.

This is from the Ride With Respect website:

Ride with Respect aims to protect natural resources while accommodating diverse recreation on public land. We reach this goal through trail/restoration projects and educational programs. In combination, these initiatives work to concentrate vehicle travel to established roads and trails.

Off-trail travel most often results from confusion. Ride with Respect delineates appropriate routes through positive and negative trail marking. We improve trail conditions to minimize their deterioration and consequent widening. By documenting the effects of our trail work, we further general knowledge of techniques that ensure recreation is a renewable resource.

Off-trail travel is also caused by ignorance. We foster conscientious use by educating through interpretive signs and personal contacts. By offering certified rider-training classes, we instill environmental ethic and safety consciousness in children.

The founders of Ride with Respect are based in Moab, Utah. They have diverse backgrounds, with motorcycling as a common thread. They represent the interests of all recreationists.

Here’s what the RMA Riders site has to say about the event:

If extreme riding is your flavor, then the Moab Rendezvous will appeal to you. This ride will test your skills and your mental toughness out in the lonely landscape of the Moab, UT area. Yes, riding friends, we are putting on the first Rendezvous to be held in the most logical and friendly to OHV environments known to our community.

No matter the skill level there will be rides lead for all on various size Dual Sport and Adventure bikes.

Their will be lead rides of local trails. In fact we will be encouraging you to participate in the rides. We also encourage you to bring out your small bike and your large bike to enjoy both the single track trails like Slick Rock or the bigger big friendly trails like the White Rim Trail. We are proud to announce that we will be working with ‘Ride With Respect’ to raise them much needed money to keep these trails open to all.

And here’s more from RMA Riders:

Our sport is at risk!!!

Did you know that most of the treasured riding areas in Colorado are under constant attack? On an annual basis, we face losing access to ride on our public lands, both Forest Service and BLM. We need your support and partnership to continue the fight and defend our rights!!!

Rocky Mountain Adventure Riders is a Colorado-based non-profit American Motorcycle Association Group with a mission to positively impact and influence the lives of those that ride with us, respecting each other and supporting one another. Additionally, RMAR supports fund-raisers for state and/or local trail riding clubs or Associations/Coalitions/Alliances that champion our sport and/or fight legislatively/politically for public land access for motorcycling.

Sounds to me like a good event and a heck of a lot of fun to boot. I may just have to consider going on this myself. Of course, getting over to Utah on the V-Strom in April could be the real challenge. We’ll see.

Biker Quote for Today

Scientists call it C9 H13 NO3. You call it adrenalin. I call it my dirt bike.

Grabbing the Opportunity

Monday, November 3rd, 2014
motorcycle out by Cherry Creek Reservoir

It's definitely looking like autumn out by Cherry Creek State Park.

Can you believe it’s November? This is the point where it often gets hard to squeeze in a ride. It seemed for a long time as though it snowed every year on Halloween, but not this year and not the last couple years. And once you got that cold blast in late October, winter would really set in in November.

Knowing how this has worked so often in the past, and also that the forecast for Monday said snow was possible, I figured Saturday was my golden opportunity. Although a bit overcast, it was warm and very pleasant–a good day to ride. And as anyone who knows me is aware, I make it a point to ride each of my bikes every single month, and if I didn’t take advantage of such a nice day in November, and things then turned ugly, I would be kicking myself.

First I climbed on the V-Strom. Another thing that happens every month is that it is time to pick up wine. For a wedding gift all these years ago someone gave us a membership in the Wine of the Month Club at the Vineyard, a nice little wine store in Cherry Creek. We have kept renewing ever since and it makes the Vineyard a natural destination. I’m sure I show up there on one of the bikes at least six months out of every year. I did it again on Saturday.

That trip took me to the north and a bit west. Getting on the Concours next I turned southeast. I like to ride across the top of Cherry Creek Dam because the view up there is so nice. I cruised on out on Parker Road as far as Arapahoe Road and then went west, then north on Peoria because I wanted to come up alongside Cherry Creek State Park on the south. I was hoping to get a good photo of fall coloration and the result–not as good as I hoped–can be seen above.

Home again, and then it was time for the CB750. I headed south this time, thinking southwest but not sure where.

Going south on DTC Boulevard I came to Orchard. Unlike Belleview and Arapahoe, the major streets to the north and south, Orchard does not go through from I-25 to points west, even though it is a major street east of I-25. I’ve known this for a long time and so I’ve avoided that stretch of Orchard for many, many years. So many, in fact, that I had forgotten where exactly Orchard does go, and why it is impassable. What better time than when you’re just out cruising and exploring to find out. I went west on Orchard.

At first it fooled me because it was at least a straight, through street, although it did narrow down to two lanes west of Holly. But it was a pleasant ride through Greenwood Village, one of the ritzier enclaves for the folks with more money than the rest of us. It was the kind of place that made me think, “Gosh, this could be a nice place to live if I had about eight times as much money as I do have.”

Then it started twisting. I don’t mean that in terms of “the twisties” that motorcyclists love. I mean that in terms of Orchard coming to an end and forcing a turn north on South Jackson and then west again on Long Road, followed by a T-intersection where going right said “No exit” so it had to be a left. Now I was totally on residential streets and shortly I was back on Orchard again, where it again looked like a major street. I know, though, that if I had turned east there on Orchard it would have very quickly dissolved into residential streets again. So now I remember why you don’t ever take Orchard when you want to get through that area. They don’t want you to, so they made it as impractical as they possibly could. You get to do that when you’re designing residential neighborhoods for the upper crust.

So I headed west on Orchard the short distance to University and then north on University to Belleview, east on Belleview, and on home. Not a particularly long ride but an interesting, enjoyable one nonetheless, and all three bikes had been ridden in November. OK, bring it on Mom Nature–I plan to ride more in November but even if you make it impossible for me I’ve already got you beat this month. December will be a whole other issue. (But you just wait; I’ll beat you then, too. I always do.)

Biker Quote for Today

Ever get lost? You know, that good kind of lost — come to a dirt road intersection and you have no idea where you are or which way to turn? I like when that happens!