Archive for January, 2015

First Ride To Work For 2015

Thursday, January 29th, 2015
Motorcycles In The Hills

Lots of good riding this week.

I guess they’ve gotten pounded out East but here in Colorado we’ve had some gorgeous, warm weather. Of course I had to ride to work on Tuesday.

There was no way I was going out without my electric vest, and was glad for that in the morning. At first I thought I might regret not wearing my heated gloves but my fingers stayed warm enough.

As beautiful a day as it was you might have expected to see a lot of bikes out but I only noticed three, plus two motorcycle cops. Coming home I saw six.

One of the best things of all was that nobody tried to kill me. That doesn’t mean I didn’t encounter stupid drivers. On the way in I was cruising along when a woman decided to change into my lane, which was the left lane. Of course then she didn’t go one bit faster than she had been going in the right-hand lane. Each time we approached a green traffic light she would–with no cars closer in front of her than 150 feet–hit her brakes. And I watched as the cars in front of her got further and further ahead and we missed green lights we should have made. Arrrgh!

Coming home it was warm enough I didn’t turn on the vest. Such a nice day in January!

At one point I came upon a piece of carpet lying in the road, and I thought about stories I’ve heard of guys on bikes going over something like that and having it go flying out under their wheels, kind of like riding on ice. I swerved around that.

And then there was the evening commute idiot–almost the same kind of thing as the morning idiot.

In this case, though, the guy in the right lane had his left turn signal on and so I gave him plenty of room to move over. But he didn’t. After giving way more time than warranted I decided to shoot past him. No way was I going to pass him at an easy pace; sure as I started to do something like that he would have decided that now was the time to change lanes.

As soon as I got ahead of him he did change lanes. And slowed down. I watched him fade away in my mirror. It occurred to me that I was glad he didn’t pull over when I offered to let him because if he had I would now be the guy behind him cursing.

Why are some people so stupid?

So anyway, I was off work on Wednesday and had some errands to run so I did them on the Suzuki. A bit cooler, definitely more windy, but still a really nice day to ride in January. I love Colorado.

Biker Quote for Today

If I could fit them on my KLR, would I need to add auto-immune suppression meds to the tank with each fill up? (OK, I don’t quite get this one either but I still thought it was interesting.)

DA ‘Will Not Pursue’ Charges Against Terry Howard

Sunday, January 25th, 2015
ABATE shirt

Terry Howard will no longer be prosecuted for alleged theft from ABATE.

I just came from the ABATE District 10 meeting and once again it seems everyone else already knew what I only learned in an off-handed reference: The Denver District Attorney has decided to drop the one remaining charge against Terry Howard, ABATE’s former state coordinator. Although Bruce Downs, the new state coordinator, made the point that it should be stated in the terms that the DA “will not pursue” the charges any further. I’m not really clear on the semantic difference. Either way, Terry is no longer being prosecuted for theft.

As Bruce explained, ABATE was asked to provide a “victim’s statement,” which it did, and later the DA’s office got back to Bruce to inform him of its decision to call it off. He said the call had come on Wednesday or Thursday.

“That’s where it ends,” said Bruce.

At least that’s where the criminal aspect of the situation ends. Of course both ABATE and Terry Howard remain on the hook for this high-interest loan that the group has defaulted on and for which Terry co-signed. It’s probably going to be a long time before that business comes to an end.

Biker Quote for Today

Careful maintenance and preparation is critical to making sure your dirt bike is reliable enough to tow your buddy’s bike back to the truck.

2015 OFMC Trip Plan Laid Out

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015
OFMC 2014

Second day out on last year's OFMC trip, near Chadron, Nebraska.

With John having taken on the duties of OFMC trip planning, and me having given up on arguing with him about it, I just wait patiently for him to announce to us all where we’ll be going on our trip this summer.

Well, the word came out the other day and here’s where we’re going.

Friday: Denver to Estes Park – 100 miles on Peak to Peak Highway, through Nederland. Maybe meet in Blackhawk for brunch first.

Saturday: Estes to Oak Creek – 140 miles through through Rocky Mountain Natl. Park, Grand Lake, Hot Sulfur Springs, Byers Canyon, Kremmling, and Yampa.

Sunday: Oak Creek to Vernal – 166 miles on the “Twenty Mile Road” to Hayden and on US 50 to Vernal. It is 300 miles to Vernal for those “short riders” who may join us on Sunday.

Monday: Vernal to Ferron, UT. – 200 miles on new “chosen” scenic motorcycle roads through national forest. Scenic US 191 southwest from Duchesne, UT through “The Huntington Canyon Scenic Byway.”

Tuesday: Ferron to Hanksville – 160 miles on more new “chosen” scenic motorcycle roads through Miller Canyon, Fremont Junction over Hogan Pass, by Fishlake, Loa, and Capital Reef Natl. Park.

Wednesday: Hanksville to Ignacio – 266 miles on more new “chosen” scenic motorcycle roads through the crossing of the Colorado, scenic byway in Fry Canyon, and Reservation backroads to Cortez, through Durango.

Thursday: Ignacio to La Veta – 207 miles on US-160 over Wolf Creek Pass, across the San Louis Valley, over La Veta Pass to that nice little local owned motel by the golf course.

Friday: Golf Day in La Veta!!! – 12 miles to Cuchara and back for a “last supper” with the OFMC after a round of golf at Grandote Peaks.

John’s theme this year is new roads in Utah we haven’t been on. Those are the “chosen” ones, though I’m not clear on the use of that term.

So it sounds good to me. That’s why I quit fighting him about the planning. I do like to have a say in this but he always comes up with good ideas, so just let him have his fun.

What I’m really interested in is the other trips. There are many of us now who can take more than one trip a year and John is supposed to be planning a couples trip and maybe one or two others. I’m looking forward to a good summer.

Biker Quote for Today

A biker can smell a party 5,000 miles away.

Hopes And Doubts From ABATE State Board Meeting

Monday, January 19th, 2015
ABATE State Board Mtg

At Saturday's state board meeting.

I want to start off by quoting this to you:

Whether you support ABATE or not, they represent you legislatively, in state policy making, and as a face of Colorado riders. It reflects directly on you whether you acknowledge it or not. At the very least, care about your reputation…

I’ve wondered in recent weeks if readers here groan when they see ABATE in the titles of these posts. If you’re not a member, why should you care. That statement, from a thread on the Colorado Sportbike Club forum, is the reason. So, proceeding . . .

So, I went to the ABATE state board meeting on Saturday as I said I would, and found both reason for reassurance and for doubts. State Coordinator Bruce Downs stressed one point he has made before, which is that lax practices of conducting business in the past make it hard now to reconstruct the events that led to the group’s current financial crisis. That laxity has been banished as of right now, he noted, and he proceeded to run the meeting by the book. This is definitely a good thing.

The end of the year balance sheet was discussed, which shows the group in the black for 2014, and members present made a point of asking that the monthly reports be made available to all along with other related information. That members are paying attention is also a good thing.

Of course then there’s that issue of that towering load of debt with usurious interest rates, and ABATE has simply defaulted on that. There’s still only one way to characterize that and that’s very bad. The lender will not be going away.

Gary Davis, the representative from District 5, asked if discussion of this whole thing was on the agenda, and when Bruce said it was not he asked if it could be added. That discussion ensued immediately. Gary proposed that ABATE contact the lender, Quick Bridge Funding, to see if any sort of accommodation can be worked out. Another member who has experience as a loan officer agreed that it is far better to be in communication than to not be. As a motion to that effect seemed to be moving to a vote, Bruce said he felt it would be best to consult with an attorney with experience in this sort of thing first. Motions for both those proposals were passed.

That’s the bare bones of it; what was interesting was the discussion.

Early on, Bruce said that the loan was in default and, as for the lender, “they’re gonna play their hand.”

In what I thought was a very perceptive question, D-10 rep Rocky Wood asked if that meant that the group was just sitting back waiting to see if perhaps the lender would pursue Terry Howard, the former state coordinator, rather than ABATE, with the expectation that they would have a better shot at getting their money from Terry. Terry, of course, personally co-signed on this load and thus is liable if the group defaults.

The former loan officer spoke up at this point saying that considering the loan was to ABATE, and Terry was only the co-signer, they would definitely be coming after the group, and probably Terry as well. But no hope that all eyes would be turned toward Terry. So if the answer to Rocky’s question was yes, well, too bad. Ain’t gonna happen.

Several board members asked questions about how all this came about and I was struck with two thoughts. First, it’s extremely interesting to see board members, who were presumably there when this all occurred, asking the same questions I’ve been asking. Maybe that means those questions will eventually get answered. Second, however, is the disturbing thought that the people who were there when this all happened were apparently not paying enough attention to know what was going on. That seriously tempers the confidence the first point starts to build. What were you guys doing?

In the meantime, support for ABATE is diminishing, largely because a significant portion of membership feels Terry Howard has been thrown under the bus while another officer who would seem to have been every bit as much involved in the situation has felt no repercussions. Rocky’s question about ABATE waiting to see if the lender would go after Terry instead of the group goes straight to the heart of that thinking.

So I return to that quote I started with: “Whether you support ABATE or not, they represent you legislatively, in state policy making, and as a face of Colorado riders.” Can this group be saved? Does this group deserve to be saved? There are a lot of people asking these questions and they’re not finding any easy answers. I’m not finding any easy answers. I did just renew my membership but I know others who have not. ABATE of Colorado is facing a tough road going forward.

Biker Quote for Today

Never spit at a competitor when you’re wearing a full-face helmet.

Where Next With ABATE?

Thursday, January 15th, 2015
The ABATE booth at the 2010 Show And Swap

The ABATE booth at the 2010 Show And Swap

I was asked by a contact with the Colorado Sportbike Club about my thoughts regarding ABATE of Colorado going forward.

Do you think ABATE should continue/survive? If so, do you think the changes that need to happen could be executed? Where do we go from here?

I didn’t answer right away because I had to do some serious thinking. When I did reply, this is what I said.

Tough questions, which is why I didn’t reply immediately.

I do think we need some sort of lobbying group down at the capitol. And at this moment, ABATE is it. I heard from Terry that the legislators have made it clear that if ABATE ever got too chummy with the Confederation of Clubs that ABATE’s credibility would plummet and our voice would not be heard as welcome. So it’s not as if we could expect the COC to pick up the slack. An organization such as the Sportbike Club might be able to build a favorable presence down there but that would take time and I’m not aware of any such effort as of yet. So ABATE is what we have.

I just renewed my membership with ABATE. I joined years ago at the Last Brass Monkey Run so I’m always up for renewal at this time of year. I wondered about it because there are so many questions I, as a member, want answers to and haven’t gotten yet. But for only $30 I figured I’d go ahead. If dues were $100 I’m not sure I would have made the same decision.

I believe that Bruce Downs, as the new state coordinator, is sincerely interested in resolving a lot of the issues that lead to the group being where it is today. Bruce strikes me as a competent, intelligent person and I agree with him that looking forward is more important than looking back, though we definitely need to do some looking back.

I really don’t know the other people on the board and some of the negative things I’ve heard leave me less than totally confident about what we’ll see from there. I absolutely think ABATE needs to broaden its outreach beyond just the Harley crowd and I always applauded Terry’s work with the Sportbike Club and the MRA. From what I hear, some of the board members have a very different opinion in that regard. If that’s true I think those people need to ask themselves the question, do we represent all motorcyclists or just a certain group? And what are they, themselves, doing to bring in more members?

At the very least, it is my intention to get more involved either until I conclude it’s hopeless or–preferably–on an ongoing basis. I’ve always been moderately active and involved. That is, I at least come to meetings regularly and to some events. This coming Saturday (Jan. 17) I intend to go to the state board meeting, which will be at 11 a.m. at Mickey’s Steakhouse up at 72nd and Broadway. My impressions from that may have a significant influence on my hopes and expectations.

So we’ll see.

And so we will see. I’ll have more to say after the meeting, obviously.

Biker Quote for Today

If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is deadly.

First Ride For 2015

Monday, January 12th, 2015
Motorcycle on dirt road in snow

You can ride when it's snowing--I've done it--but I don't think anyone makes a habit of it.

It was surprising that I only saw seven other motorcyclists out on Saturday. It was a great day to ride, in the 50s. I saw joggers in shorts and t-shirts and besides, Sunday was to be cooler with possible snow on Monday. You better believe I got out. Maybe everyone else was watching football.

The weather was fortuitous. Up until the day before there was still ice covering our street. Saturday morning I took a walk down our street to make sure I had a clear path and to figure out what that path was. I also busted up a few bits of ice just to be sure. Then I waited till around noon for the sun to help out a bit more.

This whole bit of icy streets has me wondering. Before Hickenlooper was mayor the city never plowed residential streets. Hickenlooper instituted a policy where they hired contractors with a wide variety of vehicles to make sure all streets got plowed at least once, and it made a huge difference. Has our current mayor Hancock countermanded that directive, feeling that the city can spend that money better elsewhere? I’m not sure I agree with that, but if that decision was made I think it should have at least been announced. Anybody know the answer?

So any time I’m just out riding for the sake of riding I like to try to come up with a theme for the day. Heading out on the Concours I didn’t have one so I headed east on Belleview and turned south on University, figuring to loop back via C-470 and I-25. I thought about staying on University as it arcs on south and east, becoming Lincoln Avenue, and then turning north on I-25 but then I got my theme.

I did take C-470 and I-25 and then I got on the Honda and went right back down I-25 and west on C-470 and got off at University. Then I headed south. When I reached I-25 down there I headed north again to home, got on the V-Strom, right back down I-25 and got off at Lincoln Avenue and took that over to Parker. Then I turned north on CO 83 all the way up to I-225 and then home. Just a bunch of consecutive loops. Sure I’d have rather taken one long ride somewhere further but when you want to squeeze in at least a quick ride on three different bikes you do what works. If the weather cooperates later in the month I can do more. For now at least, January is in the books and all three bikes have been out.

Biker Quote for Today

If you love your motorcycle and let it go… and it comes back… you’re in the middle of a crash.

Getting Ready For Motorcycle Camping

Friday, January 9th, 2015
Gear for two-up motorcycle camping

Compact is the word when it comes to two-up motorcycle camping.

Judy and I tried out two-up motorcycle camping once last year. It was OK for a first time and we learned a few things. Now we’re acting on what we’ve learned and planning to really do this thing this year.

Compact is key when it comes to two-up camping on a bike. I’ve been camping by myself on my motorcycles plenty of times and it’s easy. The bike has plenty of room to pack one sleeping bag, a tent, a foam pad, food, and whatever else you need. It’s totally different when you’re two-up.

When you go two-up you now need two sleeping bags, two foam pads, clothes etc. for two, food for two, and a significant part of your packing space–the seat behind you–is taken up with non-gear, i.e., your wife/spouse/friend, whatever. That’s why a lot of people who are serious about this pull a trailer, but that’s not something I have any interest in.

So compact is the word.

We had already bought two down sleeping bags because they squeeze down smaller than our fiber-fill bags. Now we bought two Thermarest self-inflating mattresses. The two of them take up less space than one of the pads I used to use. That’s a step in the right direction.

On our test run last year we learned one thing profoundly: Having no provision for breakfast or even coffee in the morning sucks. Figuring we were going close by and just overnight we had figured we could do without that kind of thing. “Cold camping” I believe it’s called. So we woke up at about 9,000 feet elevation and it was cold and we had no way to even have a hot cup of joe. Rather than enjoy our camping experience we quickly broke camp and rode over Guanella Pass to Georgetown and had breakfast there. We’re not going to do that again.

Asking around I found that the consensus is that the compact JetBoil cookstove is the way to go. It’s designed for backpackers, so it’s small and light-weight. We don’t care about weight on the bike but we do care about small. The JetBoil and its gas canister are probably smaller than a two-liter bottle of pop. So we got one of those and also some dehydrated camping meals. Now we’ll heat water in the evening and pour it in on the dehydrated food and that will be dinner, and at the least we’ll heat water in the morning for coffee. Of course this all eats up most of the space savings we made with the smaller pads.

Which brings us to the choice of bikes. We took the V-Strom last year because it’s the dual-sport bike and seemed the natural. Plus, it has two very large Givi side bags that hold a lot, and I have a top bag on the rear as well. It might still be the bike of choice, especially if we’re going somewhere where we’ll have to be on a lot of gravel.

We do want to try the Concours, too, however. There’s no top bag, but unlike the V-Strom it is easy to strap a bunch of stuff on the rear, behind Judy. Plus, when you’re strapping stuff on the back, larger or awkward sizes are not much issue, whereas they are if you’re trying to get something inside something else. The two side bags are quite large, too, so I’m thinking it should certainly hold as much as the V-Strom. We’ll try the Concours on a trip where we know we won’t need to do gravel. The Concours hates gravel. Hates it!

I’m not sure if we’ll be getting more stuff or not. A tent that packs down smaller would be good on the V-Strom, but on the Concours it’s no issue. Less bulky clothing specifically designed for this sort of thing could save space. We’ll see.

Right now, though, we’re just waiting for warmer weather. I had hoped to get out for my first ride of the year today but freezing rain overnight and cold temps early in the day persuaded me otherwise. Camping weather–June–is still a ways off. Patience.

Biker Quote for Today

Companion wanted. Male motocrosser seeks caring and generous lady with her own dirt bike. Please send photo of dirt bike.

A Potentially Hazardous Ride

Monday, January 5th, 2015
motorcycle rider training

You learn a lot in rider training classes; what you need to do then is put that knowledge to use.

I like to think I’m a pretty good rider. Not only have I been riding plenty for 25 years, I have also taken the Beginning Rider Course, the Experienced Rider Course, and the Rider Coach training to teach others to ride. So I’ve learned a few things along the way. Presumably I put at least some of what I’ve learned to use.

I was coming south on I-25 recently and traffic was middling thick. Apparently I wasn’t paying enough attention because all of a sudden I saw brake lights coming on in a hurry on the cars ahead and I was way too close to the guy right in front of me.

I went for the brakes hard and felt my rear tire lock up and start to slide sideways. I wasn’t overly concerned because I’ve experienced this before and reacted by pulling my foot off the brake. We had even practiced exactly this in a track day lesson I took one time.

This time was unlike any in the past. Whether it was because I was going faster, or I wasn’t as quick at getting off the brake, or whatever, when I did pull my foot off, the bike certainly straightened out and stood up right away but the front end also shook violently. I realized that that was exactly the sort of physics that would, under more extreme conditions, result in my getting through over the front end in a high-side crash. Fortunately, this time I rode it out.

That got me thinking about what we discussed in class. The general rule of thumb is that if your front end starts to slide you release the brake immediately. When the rear starts to slide the teaching is to ride it out, because if you don’t, you’re looking for a high-side.

But there seem to be discrepancies here. As I said, at a track day class we practiced braking till the slide started and then releasing. And that makes sense. If you don’t slide too much the counter action when you release presumably won’t be that great. Apparently, though, at higher speeds, and the further you’ve gone into the slide, the greater the counter action.

So what do you do in a case like the one I was in? In the split-second I had to think there was no thought in my mind of riding it out because I was pretty sure if I didn’t get off the brake right now that my back end was going to sweep around and I’d go down in a low-side crash. And I didn’t want to do that. So I raised my foot.

I don’t have the textbook answer as to what I should have done in this situation. I do know that what I did worked, so I have to think that wasn’t a totally bad response. But I’m thinking I need to discuss this with some of the very experienced rider coaches I know and get their thoughts. If I learn anything valuable I’ll let you know.

Biker Quote for Today

If you get it out of shape, gas it hard. It may not help but it’ll make it spectacular for anyone watching!

Riding Numbers Looking Better In 2014

Thursday, January 1st, 2015
My three motorcycles

Having three bikes reduces the number of miles you put on any one bike.

My mileage numbers were up on all three bikes in 2014, so that’s the good news (at least as far as I’m concerned). And down on the car. I would have liked the numbers to go further in each direction but at least they moved in the right directions.

The Honda was up the most percentagewise, although it had the lowest base to start from. I rode it 712 miles last year, compared to a paltry 327 miles in 2013. That’s the thing with having three motorcycles: time spent on one is often time not spent on another.

The Concours numbers were still a tiny fraction of what they had been the four years I spent freelancing full-time, but at least I put in more than 1,000 miles on it, which I had not in 2013. Total miles for 2014 were 1,037, compared to a piddling 666 in 2013. Compare that to the 9,437 I put on the Connie in 2012. I’ll point out though that I took the Suzuki on the OFMC trips in 2013 and in 2014, so that reduced the Kawi numbers substantially. The Connie is the bike I normally like to take on that trip.

And how did the Suzuki do? It rang up 2,596 miles compared to 2,294 the previous year. So that was respectable.

Meanwhile, I only put 7,558 miles on my car, compared to 10,109 in 2013. Match that with the total of 4,345 for the three bikes versus 3,287 the year before and you get more than 1,000 more miles on the bikes and about 2,500 fewer car miles. I’ll take that.

The difference this year had an awful lot to do with the fact that I just simply rode to work more often in 2014 than I did in 2013. I also went to work less, having cut back from five days a week to four days a week in about June. And I still ride the light rail to work a couple days most weeks.

I’m looking for things to change seriously in 2015. My job at the National Park Service will be drawing to a close around the first of May and I just don’t see any way in the world that I’m not going to ride a heck of a lot more and drive my car a whole lot less. Plus, the OFMC is looking at taking several trips this summer instead of the usual one.

I have a strong expectation that 2015 is going to be one heck of a good motorcycling year. Bring it on!

Biker Quote for Today

I’d rather be a rider for a minute, than a spectator for a lifetime.