Archive for December, 2014

New Colorado Helmet Law Threatening

Monday, December 29th, 2014
Motorcycle helmets

A bill to bring back a universal Colorado helmet law appears to be in the offing.

The legislative update at our ABATE of Colorado D-10 meeting on Sunday brought news of a bill possibly in the offing that would reinstitute a helmet law here.

According to State Coordinator Bruce Downs, Rep. Paul Rosenthal had first stated that he would definitely such a bill in the upcoming session. Rosenthal then apparently backed off from that, indicating that he might work on developing a base with an eye toward introducing such a bill in the 2016 session.

ABATE has been cooperating with two other major motorcycle groups in the state, the Colorado Confederation of Clubs and the US Defenders, preparing to fight any such bill.

The groups have put together a letter that will be made available at numerous motorcycle events, such as ABATE’s Last Brass Monkey Run this week and the Colorado Motorcycle Expo (formerly Colorado Motorcycle Show and Swap). Riders will be asked to sign the letter and provide their address, and then the letters will be sorted by the signer’s representative. Should a bill be introduced at any point the letters will be hand delivered to the appropriate representative.

The idea is to be ready, and hopefully to have thousands of signed letters in hand to be delivered.

“There’s no way this is going away,” said Bruce of the attempt to reinstate the helmet law.

According to Bruce, the organizations sought a meeting with Rosenthal to discuss the issue but the representative made it clear he would not be swayed by their arguments.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Only a biker knows . . .: Motorcycle wit and wisdom, 35

Biker Quote for Today

Full Throttle – solves the problem or ends the suspense.

More Questions Than Answers With ABATE

Friday, December 26th, 2014
ABATE Road Racing

Sponsoring racers is not likely to be an ABATE priority due to the group's current financial crisis.

I had a discussion recently with Bruce Downs, the new state coordinator for ABATE of Colorado, in regard to the financial issues the organization is facing. It was not a particularly satisfying conversation.

That’s not, in large part, Bruce’s fault. A lot of the questions I asked had to do with events that took place before Bruce stepped in as the new state coordinator. He has no desire to comment on matters that he had no knowledge of, and no one can blame him for that. In many cases he said that he was asking the same questions himself and so far had not been able to come up with solid answers.

I have to admit, too, that I had an erroneous understanding going into this discussion. With all the stories and rumors going around, Bruce had issued a statement to the membership denying/refuting specific claims and offering . . .

This is where I didn’t read carefully enough. I had the idea in my head that he was offering to speak to anyone who had questions about the matter. If I had really focused on his words I would have had a different take. Here’s what he said:

I would like to state right now that I am interested in getting to the truth about the rumors circulating about ABATE and its operation. I am willing to meet with anyone who can provide me with justifiable documentation as to the rumors.

And then this:

Again, I ask that anyone with justifiable documentation please come forward and show me the proof. I and others have dug deep and can find no evidence to support any of the rumors. I am willing to be corrected and will say so. If no justification can be provided any statements made are based on hearsay and innuendo and will be treated as an effort to defame ABATE and will be dealt with as such.

Not at all what I was thinking, is it? Bruce was not offering to answer questions, he was asking anyone with information to help answer his questions. So I soon got frustrated asking questions to which Bruce would respond that he didn’t know the answer. That was my own fault. But it had been my intention to speak with him even before he sent that note out, so my questions were the same as they would have been.

With that said, what did we discuss, and what did I learn? A little; not much.

My first question was broad: Considering how flush the organization was a few years ago, how did we get to the point where someone decided borrowing money at a high rate of interest was a good idea?

Because most of the money flowing through ABATE comes from rider training, this is inevitably where this question leads. Bruce walked me through the introduction of new competition and changes in the Colorado Motorcycle Operator Safety Training (MOST) program that reduced revenue per student. While a relatively stable number of trainees signed up for classes, trainers proliferated and ABATE, which at one time was training more than 5,000 per year, last year trained around 2,700. Meanwhile, the amount paid to training organizations by the MOST program in order to reduce the cost to the students, thereby encouraging more students to get trained, fell from $100-$125 apiece to about $35 now.

OK, I knew the generalities of all that, if not the particulars. So what did the board do, and when, to address this declining revenue?

“I cannot answer that question for you.”

Bruce was on the board in the early 2000s as Northeast Regional Coordinator but left the board before the downturn. So he was not there to be privy to the discussions that may have gone on.

Let’s move on to the stories about a $45,000 ad campaign that reportedly went nowhere.

I have no idea where that figure came from and to hear Bruce discuss it, he doesn’t either. In his message to the members he had said as much:

As to the rumor that ABATE spent $45,000.00 on advertising I can find no documentation or evidence that that claim is true. We did spend a lot (in my opinion) of money on advertising but nowhere close to the amount claimed. Please prove the claim or quit using false information.

He told me, “I have dug into the 2014 financials and there was nowhere close to $45,000 being spent on advertising, much less $45,000 over budget. It has come to my attention that this did not even occur this year. If that is the case, I’m still going to look into it, but if this is something in the past, it’s something in the past.”

Let’s move on to the loans that are crushing ABATE now. Who made the decisions to take out those loans?

Bruce doesn’t know. He wasn’t there when the decision was made and apparently conversations that seem crucial now were not seen to be significant at the time, so memories are vague.

Why were the loans taken?

“As I understand, it was because we were short money and needed to pay bills.”

That about sums things up. That’s about all Bruce was able to provide.

I want to make the point here that Bruce’s focus since he took over as state coordinator is primarily on the future, not the past. His primary focus is on accomplishing whatever is necessary for the organization to survive, and not so much on how we came to be in this spot in the first place. After survival is assured perhaps you can go back and look into how the problems came to be in the first place.

“I’m trying to give you as much information as I can. I don’t know that we’re ever going to . . . I think there’s way too many things that went on that we’re never going to be able to say, ‘This is the cause.’ I think it was a multitude of factors and hopefully we will learn from that. Hopefully the members will say, ‘Yes, I have a responsibility for this organization, and I am going to hold those more accountable in the future’ and go from there.”

I don’t argue with that priority. But as a member I’d still like to know how we came to take on these scandalous loans. I think it was Larry Montgomery who said at the first D-10 meeting where this was all announced, that “doing absolutely nothing would have been better than taking out these loans.” How the hell did that decision get made? I think we have a right to know.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Former ABATE of Colorado officer faces theft charge

Biker Quote for Today

The more complete your on-board tool-kit, the more likely it is that all your trail riding buddies will expect you to fix everything that breaks on their bikes.

Looking For Answers At ABATE

Monday, December 22nd, 2014
bikers blessing a motorcycle

The Blessing of the Bikes is an annual ABATE event.

A lot of people have had a lot to say about what has been happening within ABATE of Colorado since the news broke that Terry Howard had been fired as state coordinator and the organization is in deep financial trouble due to a loan taken out at an apparently loan-shark-level interest rate. I’ve been trying to sift the truth out from the hyperbole.

First though, let me provide an update on Terry. She was in court again on Friday for “second advisement” and a preliminary hearing was set for February 3 at 8:30 a.m. She is facing one charge: theft. A second original charge of forgery has been dropped. What she is alleged to have stolen, however, seems to be an issue.

I asked her, because I had absolutely no further information than that it was a charge of theft, what exactly it was that she was charged with having done. Not surprisingly, she declined to discuss it as her attorney had advised her not to. It soon came out, though, in the proceeding, that she could hardly have answered the question. Her attorney, Wade Eldridge, told the judge that the defense had never received any information on just what exactly Terry is alleged to have done. It’s hard to prepare a defense without knowing what the charge is, he said (my paraphrase). The judge agreed that the defense was due a “bill of particulars” and the district attorney in the case said that would be provided right away. So that’s where things sit at this point.

In the meantime, some members–or perhaps at this time former members–of ABATE are not at all happy with how this whole matter has been handled. Some of Terry’s most vocal supporters are members of the Colorado Sportbike Club (CSC), which is a group Terry reached out to and drew into alliance with ABATE. I said when I first reported on this whole affair that I hoped the relationship weathers this storm. I’m not sure it is going to.

There have been a number of posts on the CSC forum and elsewhere that take the ABATE board to task and point fingers at persons other than Terry as perhaps responsible for whatever money seems to have gone missing. You can check these out if you’re interested:!!!

Trying to stamp out some of the smoldering fires, Bruce Downs, the new ABATE state coordinator, issued a letter to the membership denying a number of charges and saying that, “I ask that anyone with justifiable documentation please come forward and show me the proof. I and others have dug deep and can find no evidence to support any of the rumors. I am willing to be corrected and will say so. If no justification can be provided any statements made are based on hearsay and innuendo and will be treated as an effort to defame ABATE and will be dealt with as such.”

I had been intending to approach Bruce with questions as soon as I felt I had enough background to even know what I wanted to discuss. This email came right at the point when I felt I was ready, so I immediately replied that I would like to take Bruce up on his offer to discuss things that was also part of his note. A couple days later we spoke. This post is already getting long so I’ll go over what came out of that discussion in a follow-up post.

Recent from National Motorcycle Examiner
Former ABATE of Colorado officer faces theft charge

Biker Quote for Today

Do not ignore fear – outride it.

‘And Whether Pigs (Hogs!) Have Wings’

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

The time has come, the walrus said
to talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing wax–
Of cabbages–and kings
And why the sea is boiling hot–
and whether pigs have wings.
–Lewis Carroll

Although I had wanted a motorcycle at least since I was 14, I never actually got one till far too much later in life.

I did, however, get into hang-gliding. I had a hang-glider and I was flying it, and I was pretty happy.

Then I crashed. In a major way. The only helicopter ride I’ve ever been on was when I was med-evaced to the hospital that day.

After I healed I repaired the glider and went back out several times to fly but each time it was the same frustrating thing: I would get up early, load everything into and onto the car, drive a good distance, set up the glider and haul it up some hill, and then wait all day for the wind to be right. But the wind was never right. So I would break it all down, load it back up, and drive home, having never gotten an inch off the ground.

Can you say frustrating?

Then one day I got the idea to sell the hang-glider and use that money to buy a motorcycle, where as soon as I would throw my leg over the bike I’d be doing what I came to do. And that’s what I did. The rest is history.

Well now someone has combined these two avocations. Watch this amazing video. Yes, he’s using a para-glider, not a hang-glider, but same difference. I was very interested to see his landing, because I figured that would be the really tough thing, but he pulled it off nicely. The ideas some people get!

Biker Quote for Today

Learning to ride at 41 is better than never learning to ride at all!

Riding As If Any Day Could Be The Last

Monday, December 15th, 2014
Helmet chin flap

I love how warm this flap keeps my chin and upper neck.

The snow arrived Sunday morning instead of Saturday night, as had been predicted. Doesn’t matter, it came.

Meanwhile, Friday and Saturday were good days to ride, and knowing at this time of year that any day could be the last rideable day of the year, you bet I did. Friday I rode to work, which has an even greater possibility of being the last day this year I can do that. It probably won’t be, but it has the possibility. And Saturday I took a ride up to Loveland for a meeting. Both were glorious.

Once again the cold-weather gear was crucial. The electric vest was key, and more and more, the heated gloves are also becoming key. Saturday I also wore my fleece-lined chaps because it was going to be a longer ride, at higher speeds, in cooler weather than Friday.

One item I haven’t mentioned before is this flap on the under side of my helmet, as you see in the photo above. I’m growing to love that thing. Wearing a different helmet on Friday, the wind came up under the helmet and my throat and chin were cold. On Saturday I wore the helmet with the flap and my chin was toasty. It’s an amazing difference. Of course, a turtleneck helped, too.

I’m getting more acquainted with the electric gloves as well. These are Gerbings and they are battery powered. Both the previous weekend and then again on Saturday I ran those batteries dead. That’s starting to give me a feel for just how long they are really good for. Which is to say, two hours at the number two setting is about all they’ll do. But I’ve also learned something else: they are, all by themselves, very warm gloves. Even once they go dead they do a darn good job of keeping your hands warm.

That makes sense. The designer wants to make the batteries last as long as possible. The warmer the gloves are just on their own, the lower the heat level can be set, and the longer the battery life. Now I’ll start experimenting with using them as the level three setting. If my hands are still acceptably warm, that should nearly double the battery life. It’s not really so important that your hands be toasty warm, but rather that they not become numb little ice cubes. Yes, I know some people will say you should just get gloves that plug into the bike, just like the vest, but I don’t like all those wires. And with batteries I can wear the gloves anywhere, not just on the bike.

It’s also nice that the gloves are getting more broken in now, less stiff, and are conforming to my hands.

So the forecast for the next week is cold with more snow flurries at least. Who knows when it will be decent riding weather again. It’s now time to start hoping for good weather at least on Dec. 31. That’s the date of the Last Brass Monkey Run, which is traditionally the final organized ride of the year. Of course, then there’s some group–can’t remember who, the BMW guys?–who do a January 1 ride each year. This is a big reason I love living in Colorado.

Biker Quote for Today

My motorcycle is a gift from my children, purchased with money they will not inherit.

Theft Charge Not ABATE’s Big Problem

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

I spoke to people from the Denver Police Fraud Unit and the Denver District Court Wednesday and got a few things clarified regarding the charge against former ABATE of Colorado State Coordinator Terry Howard. She definitely has been charged, but only on one count of theft. I had been told previously, and reported with caveats, that there were charges of forgery and theft. (I have updated that post with this new, solid information.)

ABATE D-10 patch

My ABATE D-10 patch.

There still isn’t much official information available yet but I did learn that there will be a “second advisement” at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 19 in Room 2100 at the Denver City and County Building. The case is #CR146265 in case anyone wants to pursue it. I will definitely be there.

While this case is crucially important for Terry Howard, not at all meaning to be dismissive toward her, it is really small potatoes for ABATE. ABATE has a much bigger issue, which is this crushing debt that threatens to wipe out the organization. I’ll be following the case but I’m going to be spending a lot more time trying to get answers to the questions regarding how ABATE ever got here in the first place.

I want to spell out the questions I’m going to be pursuing, both to let you know where I’m headed and also to organize my own thoughts on what I want to do. I’ll include a little history along the way.

There was a time not long ago when ABATE was flush. Revenues from the rider training program were in excess of $1 million a year, providing the group the cash to put the state coordinator on salary along with the rider training program manager (already being paid, I believe) and two folks to work in the office. Ben Hochberg was the rider training head and it was largely through his efforts that the program was doing so well.

Personalities were conflicting in the office, however. One thing led to another and Ben got fired. One thing I want to understand is how–and if–Ben’s departure ties in with the decline in the program and the revenue it brought in. Was there already a major decline in proceeds when Ben left? Or did the program nosedive after he left? I do know there were some issues before Ben left that he tried to warn the board about but I’m not clear if they were financial.

So Ben left and then what happened? I do know the state MOST program (Motorcycle Operator Safety Training) went through some changes, and I’ve talked about them here. Was that change in MOST all by itself the cause of ABATE’s financial crash? Or was firing Ben a decision that really should have been avoided at all costs? Or what other factors came into play?

Either way, it is my understanding–and I want to know a lot more about this–that ABATE launched an advertising campaign to the tune of about $45,000 and apparently was not very successful. I’m an active member. I go to meetings. I have never heard about this ad campaign. I want to know what it was for, what it entailed, what the results were, and who made the decision to do it, and why.

And then this expense apparently led to a need to take out a loan just to meet expenses. And ABATE apparently didn’t have the credit standing to qualify for a bank loan so Terry personally signed or co-signed for it. How did we fall so far so quickly? Why was this loan even necessary?

And after that came another loan, I guess intended to cover the first one. Who made that decision? What discussion went into that? And this is the one that is killing ABATE. I saw an article about exactly this kind of loan-sharking in the Nov. 17-23, 2014, issue of Bloomberg Businessweek magazine. Discussing this field of finance, the magazine says, “It’s a high-risk market, and interest rates can exceed 500 percent a year.”

And they quote someone who lost her company because of falling for this loan come-on: “It’s the worst possible decision you can ever make, because they own you. It’s crack for a business. You can’t get off it.”

I repeat: how did we ever get to this point? I want details and I want names. Not to blame and point fingers, but if the same people who made these decisions are calling the shots today then I’m going to have some serious issues about trust. And I know I’m not the only one. I was all prepared to write a check to do my part to help bail the organization out but when I started learning about all this I put down my check book. I’m going to need answers before I reach for that check book again.

Biker Quote for Today

I know there’s money in motocross. I put it there!

Former ABATE Head Reported Charged With Theft

Monday, December 8th, 2014

I went to the Denver Police substation yesterday to try to get confirmation and details, but apparently because this reported action came from the District Attorney’s Office the PD didn’t have it on their computer. I haven’t had time to contact the DA yet. So be advised that so far, all I’m about to tell is hearsay.

ABATE D-10 patch

My ABATE D-10 patch.

I heard from two people on Friday that Terry Howard, the former state coordinator for ABATE of Colorado, had been criminally charged. One of the two sources included the information that the charges were forgery and theft.

Update 12-10-14: I learned today directly from the Denver District Court that Terry has been charged with theft, not forgery.

This whole story has been exploding all around me. Because I seem to be the only one with journalistic pretensions following it, many people who have an interest and know about the matter has been contacting me. I definitely appreciate everyone who has contacted me but it’s going to take me awhile to sort through it all.

The greater number of the folks I have spoken with tend to have tried and convicted Terry in their minds. It was very interesting then to receive the email from someone who supports Terry and stands by her. There are a whole lot of interesting statements in her note that I hope to learn a lot more about.

For instance–and again, this is still only hearsay–apparently the organization needed a loan quickly to meet obligations but was not able to qualify for a loan from a bank. So Terry took out a $28,000 loan in her name–or personally co-signed for a loan, I’m not sure which–with the money going to ABATE. This person also says that “Terry also started finding discrepancies in the books. Before she could present her findings, and the day the check cleared for the $28,000 to keep ABATE afloat, she was suspended on suspect of theft and fraud and subsequently forced to resigned.”

Now, obviously, that sort of action doesn’t rule out the possibility of having committed forgery and theft, but it does put a little different light on the person who is accused. Likewise, some of the very negative information I’ve been given about Terry’s management of ABATE could very well be true–and I suspect some of it, maybe even a lot of it, is true–but that would not lead inevitably to the idea that she is also a forger and a thief. Nor would it suggest that she is not. They aren’t necessarily related at all.

I really see at least two linked but separate stories playing out here: First, how did ABATE get into this horrendous financial bind? And second, was there actually forgery and theft, and if so, who was the forger/thief? And in the meantime, there’s just too little information for anyone on the outside to make an informed judgment. Of course, that’s why we have courts and juries. We just hope that true justice prevails, whichever direction that may lead.

I will keep talking to people; I’ve barely gotten started. My pace will be slow. I’m not interested in getting the story first; I’m interested in getting it right.

Biker Quote for Today

Any bike can be taken off road. The question is: How much fun did you have doing it?

Riding On A Cold Day

Thursday, December 4th, 2014
Kawi On south Santa Fe

Out along south Santa Fe/US 85 on Wednesday.

Wednesday was quite cool, only in the low 40s, but I had the day off from my day job and I had three motorcycles that had not yet had a December ride. Of course I went out.

I knew it was time to break out the cold weather gear, but how much did I really need? One good thing about riding several bikes consecutively is that if you were cold on the first ride you can add more for the second. I definitely wore the electric vest; that was a no-brainer. I chose not to wear my heated gloves. The last couple times I’ve ridden it has been cool and my regular insulated gloves were plenty. I could have worn long underwear or my fleece-lined chaps, or both. I chose the chaps.

The first ride had to be on the V-Strom. When I had intended to take it out over the weekend I still hadn’t found my keys, so it didn’t go out then. This time it got first shot.

I didn’t turn the electric vest on at first but hadn’t gone far when I hit the switch. Yeah, it was definitely chilly. I also notice that my arms were getting chilly. The vest keeps the torso warm but the arms are on their own. And my feet felt a little cool. My legs were great, though. Those chaps have been a blessing every time I’ve ever worn them.

So it was chilly but still a nice day to be out, especially when you consider that most other people were working, while I was out riding my motorcycle. Totally works for me.

By the time I got back from that first ride, though, my fingers were little ice cubes, almost completely numb. Definitely adding the heated gloves for the next ride. I was also thinking about putting some of those chemical heat packs in my boots, though my feet were still only chilly, not cold like my hands.

Second bike out was the Concours. I figured I’d head southwest, over toward Sedalia and back up via Happy Canyon Road.

I forgot the chemical heat for my feet but they did OK. The heated gloves made all the difference in the world. I set them on the second-highest setting because I didn’t know how much charge they had and didn’t want to drain them before I rode the Honda. Plus, it’s OK to have slightly cool hands and that is probably better than having hot, sweaty hands. And either is better than ice cubes.

Another really nice ride. I do enjoy riding motorcycles. How is it that some people don’t understand what a wonderful thing this is?

I had let the day slip away, though, so by the time I was heading home the commuter traffic was already building and the temperature was already dropping. Plus, the gloves were running out of juice. I have charged them periodically over the warm months, just to be kind to the batteries, but had not done so in the last month or so. By the time I stopped to gas up one had died altogether and the other was flashing that it was on its way out.

So the Honda will have to wait for the weekend before it gets to go out. Darn, I’m going to have to ride one of my motorcycles again in a few days!

Biker Quote for Today

Two wheels take me faster than my stress can go.

Where Are My Dang Keys?!

Monday, December 1st, 2014
Kawasaki Keys

Try not to outsmart yourself when you stash your keys.

Do you ever get a little too smart for yourself? I certainly do sometimes, and did just recently.

We were planning a trip to California and while our neighborhood is very safe and I had nearly zero expectation that someone would break in while we were gone, I did nevertheless take a few security measures.

Normally I leave the keys to my motorcycles in a very convenient location and I always know exactly where they are. When I’m gone I’ve generally just stashed them in my sock drawer. Coming home I’ve always known right where to find them.

This time was different. I got the idea from somewhere that burglars will usually come into your bedroom and just pull all the dresser drawers out and dump them, in order to quickly determine if something is stashed there. I decided to put the keys somewhere else.

So we got home a couple weeks ago and it was bitter, bitter cold. There was no motorcycle riding going on at that point. Gradually it warmed up and it was very noticeable when one day I started seeing bikes on the street again. I had a lot of yard work I needed to get done so I held off on riding a little longer, until Friday of last week. Nice warm day; time to go for a ride.

OK, where are my keys? I checked about a dozen places, including my sock drawer, with no luck. Where the heck did I put them?

Then I remembered that I have always kept my spare keys in a pocket of my original leather jacket, and hadn’t thought to move them when I stashed the others. They were there and I went out for a really nice ride on the Concours. Plenty of time to find the others later.

Saturday was an even nicer day, sunnier and warmer. Time to take the V-Strom out.

Guess again. While I had the spare Honda and Kawasaki keys in hand, I never put the spare Suzuki keys on the same ring. I started tearing the house and the garage apart looking. Finally Judy said I ought to set a time limit and if I haven’t found the keys by then, take the Honda out. She was right and I did end up on the Honda.

Again, wow, what a great day to be out riding. One big reason I live in Colorado is so I can go out on great days like this in November, or December, or January, or even February.

But eventually I was back home again and now I had to get serious. What did I do with those keys?

I fished through the sock drawer again and again came up empty. I considered dumping it out just to be sure but was convinced I would have found them if they were there.

Below the sock drawer is the t-shirt drawer. I did pull that out and started pulling every shirt out and then (tinkle) a set of keys dropped out. And there they were, the rest of them. So much for my thoughts about the sock drawer not being a good place. How the heck was the t-shirt drawer supposed to be one bit safer? What kind of idiot am I anyway?

So now I’ve identified a number of truly better places to stash these keys next time I want to do that. And next time I’ll send myself a text message or something to tell myself where the heck I’ve put them. I’ll outsmart myself yet!

By the way . . . when I was out on the Honda I came across a guy on a Ninja stopped along the road so I stopped to ask if he needed help. He said he had someone coming with a pick-up but was hoping it would start on its own before then. He was thinking stator. He thanked me for stopping and I went on my way.

It occurred to me after I left that I wished I had thought to ask if he had checked the kill switch. There have been a couple times I’ve found myself sitting by the road because I accidentally hit the kill switch. Each time I sat there until that “Duh!” moment struck when I realized what it was. It makes you feel stupid but it’s one heck of a lot cheaper than replacing the stator.

Biker Quote for Today

Helmet not wore when go ride, and no damaging so far brain yet!