Archive for April, 2015

My (Unexpected) Last Ride To Work Ever

Thursday, April 30th, 2015
The OFMC at Grand Canyon

The OFMC on one of our numerous visits to national parks, this one being the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

For something kind of significant it was awfully ordinary.

I was expecting to ride a bike to work yesterday or today, with that being my final ride to work, but there was no work for me to do so I didn’t go in either day. Now on Thursday and Friday I will go in but I’ll need my car both days. That means when I rode to work last week on Tuesday, that was my last ride to work.

And I don’t mean just for this job; I mean forever. When I leave the office at the National Park Service on Friday I will be officially retired. Done.

Of course, I’ll continue to write, both here and other places on a freelance basis. I’m a writer. That’s what I do, like breathing. Plus, doing freelance work gives me an extra push to get out and do some great rides, and it also makes my expenses when I do those great rides tax deductible. Why in the world would I stop writing?

But I won’t be riding to work any more. So how was my last ride?

First off, it was a little cooler than I anticipated. In the morning I was glad I did wear my sweatshirt but the electric vest might have been welcome. Traffic on Hampden was seriously backed up for no reason I could perceive, until I got past Santa Fe. Then things opened up and I cruised. It was a totally uneventful ride.

Heading home I decided to leave a little early. The sky to the west was threatening in a big way and while I had my rain gear I really preferred not to have to use it if it could be avoided. Plus, I’ve got short-timer’s syndrome and by mid-afternoon I really didn’t want to be there any longer. So I left.

Raindrops were falling as I walked out to the bike but I figured once I started heading east I could outrun it. As I worked my way over to Union, south on Union, east to Kipling, and then south on Kipling to US 285 it was a steady, but light drizzle. Then I got on 285 and blasted and soon left the wetness behind me.

From there it was a simple, again uneventful cruise on home. No pictures, no stories to tell. And no chance for another, different final ride to work as I had expected. Oh well, mundane is fine, I guess. I don’t really have a desire to “live in interesting times.”

Biker Quote for Today

The difference between driving a car and riding a motorcycle is the difference between watching TV and actually living your life.

Motorcycle Noise In The National Parks

Monday, April 27th, 2015
OFMC at Colorado National Monument

The OFMC at Colorado National Monument.

For two and one-half years I’ve had our backs in the national parks, but that ends as of Friday.

As an editor with the National Park Service I have been in a position to crucially reword documents when they have spoken about how motorcycle noise is totally obnoxious and something needing to be eliminated. I have made it my personal job to change that wording to read something like “the noise of loud motorcycles” or “noise from loud vehicles.” The point being that, despite the general public perception, only some motorcycles are loud, not all of them. And noise from loud cars and trucks is just as objectionable as noise from loud motorcycles.

But my gig will wrap up on Friday, May 1, and after that there is no one who will be watching out for us in that way. So here’s an idea: how about if motorcyclists make it a point not to annoy the public, especially in the parks, with loud noise?

The National Park Service even has a page on their website about this issue. “Motorcycle Riding in the National Parks” only seems lukewarm as it is in regard to bikes, stating that “riding a motorcycle through a national park can be an acceptable way to experience our nation’s natural and cultural heritage.” You see that? “. . . can be an acceptable way . . .” That kind of gives the connotation that they’d really rather not have us there but if we’re not totally obnoxious they’ll tolerate us. And the site adds, “Over the past ten years, complaints from visitors concerning excessive noise from motorcycles have been increasing.” By the way, my editing duties do not extend to the website.

Now, lest those of us who don’t have Harleys with extra loud aftermarket pipes get too smug, let me point out that engine noise is not the only issue. If you have a sound system that blasts out music that you can hear when riding, that can be pretty unwelcome, too. Aside from bothering people, it bothers animals: “Noise can adversely impact wildlife by reducing the area over which they can communicate and listen for potential prey or predators. Natural sounds are also important to park visitors, 90 percent of whom say enjoying the sounds of nature is one of the top reasons they visit parks.”

So here is the NPS recommendation for riding your bike in the parks.

Ride Respectfully

  1. Obey speed limits.
  2. Avoid traveling in large groups.
  3. Avoid excessive acceleration or revving of the engine.
  4. Turn your engine off instead of idling.
  5. Use horns only when necessary for safety.
  6. Turn down radios or use a headset.
  7. Be extra sensitive near campgrounds, lodging, and visitor centers.
  8. Operate your motorcycle as quietly as possible to minimize disturbance to wildlife and other park resources and respect the experience of other visitors.

Biker Quote for Today

Happiness isn’t around the corner, it is the corner.

Honey, 42 Reasons I Need A Motorcycle

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015
Forty-two Reasons Why I Must Have a Motorcycle...Honey!

The book cover sheet in Word format.

I got a note from Dick Hakes telling me about his new book, available on Amazon, titled, Forty-two Reasons Why I Must Have a Motorcycle…Honey! It sounded interesting so I asked him to send me an electronic version or something so I could review it here.

This is a small book, quick to read, and definitely amusing. It’s really not “technically” intended for you, the motorcyclist, but instead for the wife/girlfriend/significant other of a wannabe motorcyclist. But I suspect Hakes hopes you, the motorcyclist will buy it anyway.

Hakes sets the tone in his dedication, where he tells of a guy approaching him and some buddies and talking motorcycles.

At one point in the conversation, I asked, “Do you ride?”
His face fell, he dropped his chin and shuffled his feet.
“No,” he said quietly. “The wife.”
We all knew exactly what he meant.
Buddy, this book is for you, too.

“Gentlemen, I feel your pain” the tale begins. “OK men. If you purchased this book, you may be desperate. Your woman (wife, girlfriend, significant someone) for reasons strange and mysterious is unhappy you desire a motorcycle. Broach the subject and she looks at you as if you were Hannibal Lecter.”

Hakes faced exactly this situation about 20 years ago when he decided he wanted to ride. He finally prevailed.

We still don’t talk about it much. Occasionally, she will hop on the back of my bike for a short trip on a nice day. In return, I try to be understanding about her material wants, even though I have to admit that they often make about as much sense to me as why men have nipples. We get along, we’re still in love and she no longer stares at my bike in lethal scorn every time she enters the garage.

At least I don’t think she does.

It turned out to be a good thing in his relationship with his son, too.

Yet, he took one dumbfounded look at my Harley and uttered a totally profound statement I will never forget:
“Dad,” he said. “This could be the one cool thing you have done in your life.”

There are some interesting and amusing reasons in here but this is one of my favorites:

Reason No. 13:
I’m doing it for you and the kids
I want my family – you and the kids – to be proud of me. But how can you be proud of someone who is not realizing his lifelong dream? (Then there’s some discussion, and it ends with this.) I have this dream. Always have had it. Let me reach it. Please. It would crush me to let you and the kids down.

OK, that’s just a teaser. If you want to see more it’s up to you. It’s a fun book.

Biker Quote for Today

I have six motorcycles. Had to rent a second garage to keep them all.

A Redo On The Motorcycle Examiner

Monday, April 20th, 2015
My National Motorcycles Examiner page

My National Motorcycles Examiner page.

Way back in early 2008 I was contacted about doing some writing focused on motorcycling for a new website called (For many of you, this is not news.) I accepted that offer and became the Denver Motorcycle Examiner, with an Examiner site user ID number of about 79. Which is to say, I was the 79th person signed up to post as “Examiners.” still exists today and while they no longer give you a number, if they did that number would probably be around 100,000 or even higher. A lot of people sign on and then drop off soon afterward.

At first it was exciting. We were creating something new. It didn’t pay much but the pay was steadily increasing. As other motorcycle Examiners joined I contacted each of them and we banded together to promote each other to mutual benefit. And I was then offered the option to become the National Motorcycle Examiner. So I made that move.

For a couple years the thing just grew. Every now and then they would upgrade the blogging platform (which is essentially what it is, although they don’t call it a blog), and things just got better and we made more money. Then the frequent changes in how they figured our pay took a downward turn. Every couple months they would announce some new procedure and each change meant exactly one thing: We were going to be paid less. In a very short time these changes resulted in my earnings dropping by 90 percent. Does it surprise anyone that I cut way back on my publishing on Examiner?

It might be more surprising, actually, that I continued. But by this time I had put up a substantial body of work and as these posts continued to be read I continued to earn at least a little. If I stopped publishing altogether Examiner would stop paying me, although they would continue to benefit from my work. So in the last few years I have put up usually one piece a month just to keep the payments trickling in.

And now, I recently went in to post my piece for the month and found that all of my work for the first six months as an Examiner had been unpublished. I immediately assumed that another upgrade in the software had resulted in making the very earliest stuff incompatible with the current system. I sent a note to tech support asking but when they replied they said, “Gosh no, we didn’t unpublish those.” Like I believed that. Then a couple weeks later I got a note saying, “Hey, just wanted to let you know we had to unpublish your early stuff because it was not compatible with the current software.”

So this presented a couple options. I could just let those pieces be gone forever, or I could republish them in the new system. In some cases this is a no-brainer. Initially I did a weekly thing called “Where to Ride this Weekend,” which was a listing of upcoming rides and events. In 2008. OK, those can disappear from the world and that’s just fine.

But then there were others that are more, to use the common term, “evergreen.” That is to say, timeless stuff that is relevant regardless of when someone reads it. First and foremost among those are my ongoing series of posts entitled “Only a biker knows . . .: Motorcycle wit and wisdom.” You know that thing I end each of these blog posts with, the “Biker Quote for Today”? I save each of those and when I have 20 I put them all up in an Examiner post. Well, the first half dozen of those got unpublished. You better believe I’ll be republishing those.

And you know what? This means I can keep current on Examiner and keep my pennies and nickels trickling in without actually having to write new stuff. Also, in the early days Examiner didn’t have the ability to use a bunch of photos, so I had a lot of good ones that never got used. Now I can republish some of these pieces and offer some additional good photos that no one has ever gotten to see before. In fact, I did that with this most recent post I republished, “Top Gun competitors zig and zag their way to victory — Redo.”

By the way, that “Redo” at the end of that title is what I’m using to indicate that this is a republished article.

And oh yeah, sometimes I still do original posts on Examiner because that credential, being able to call myself the National Motorcycle Examiner, gets me press passes to things I want to cover. So it’s worth it. There was a time when I could (and did) say, “I’m going to work full-time as the National Motorcycle Examiner.” It was fun while it lasted. Those days are over. But it is kind of fun going back now and reading some of this old stuff I wrote so long ago.

Biker Quote for Today

“I don’t feel like going for a ride today.” — said no motorcycle rider ever

Colorado Has A New Motorcycle Advocacy Group!

Thursday, April 16th, 2015
Credit: Motorcycle Advocacy of Colorado

Used with permission. Motorcycle Advocacy of Colorado (MAC) is looking to be a time saver for both motorcyclists and the government.

By Matt Wessels

Motorcyclists Advocacy of Colorado (MAC), has been registered. There is no online presence yet but the Facebook Page will be launched shortly, to be followed by a website and a full social media presence. The group’s Mission Statement reads: “A volunteer organization dedicated to transparency, accountability and honesty. Striving to enable motorcyclists to unite to maintain freedoms and liberties. Aspiring to enable joint efforts among members and governing bodies to educate and advocate for the riding community.”

The group was started because there is a growing need for motorcyclists to have a unified and effective voice with which to approach the governing bodies in Colorado. Governing bodies would include, but are not limited to Colorado’s Senate, House of Representatives, CDOT, DOR and the MOSAB committee.

The group’s focus is on communication and understanding. Everybody is busy, too busy, most of the time. Nobody has enough time to keep track of all of the issues which might, or might not be affecting them, politically and otherwise. Aiming to be a conduit, the group seeks to communicate these issues to their membership, and provide the feedback to our governing bodies.

Currently, the known issues include E-15 fuel, motorcycle only checkpoints, recreational vehicle access, trails, and ability to modify legislation. Less known concerns like the quality of training available, and a national push to legalize lane-splitting/filtering affect Colorado motorcyclists directly, as well as being part of the national voice.

Communications will come in all forms, from a printed monthly newsletter to those who request it, but most prominently on social media. An explicit desire to receive motorcyclists’ input has been extended from CDOT’s MOSAB committee so there is a genuine need. The group is accepting of all motorcyclists regardless of motorcycle type, age, sex, gender and believes every person’s voice counts. will continue to bring you coverage on this group as it progresses.


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Let’s Talk About Women

Monday, April 13th, 2015

By Matt Wessels

“The times they are a changin’ ” – Bob Dylan

Credit: Hotchkiss Trust

Effie Hotchkiss and her mother
Avis road across the US in 1915.

Throughout history women have shown their interest and capability on motorcycles. Effie Hotchkiss and her mom Avis crossed the US on motorcycle in 1915. The women-only motorcycle club MotorMaids was started in 1940 and is the oldest club of its kind. Elspeth Beard rode her motorcycle around the world in the 1980s. Kate Johnston just recently went from being a new rider to an Iron Butt record holder in three years.

According to the podcast Moterrific,  20% of the riding populace is now women. As our national and international cultural landscape continues to change, so also is the riding landscape changing. Women are tired of how they are treated and a nationwide movement has sprung up. I had a very enjoyable conversation with Ms. Rossi from Colorado’s own Scarlet Headers, a female-centric rider group, to gain a better understanding for how women perceive the riding world.

Credit Motorcyclist Onlin

Elspeth Beard circumnavigated the globe on a motorcycle in 1984.

Ms. Rossi started the Scarlet Headers as a judgement-free group for female riders because she was tired of dealing with the stereotypes and pressure from men. She described the general attitude of men as very competitive. This competitiveness tends to focus on technicalities–knowledge about the bikes and riding techniques. In addition, she described a macho attitude–to borrow a word from Spanish, “Machismo.” Add the competitiveness and machismo and the product is what she calls “men deciding to be dicks.”

She clarified that she isn’t a feminist and loves spending time with those men who don’t approach the world in this way. She went on to explain that she understands where this attitude comes from, and agreed that many times it might be a man’s way of trying to help. However, most of the time it comes across as chauvinistic, judgmental, and most importantly as pressure.

Pressure to keep up, either in the tech talk or on the ride. Pressure to be appealing. Pressure to be on her game. This pressure detrimentally affects the quality of the ride. More effort is spent on keeping up the image and fighting for respect than enjoying the ride. Escaping that pressure was the obvious solution. The Scarlet Headers is a group explicitly focused on removing this pressure and focusing on the enjoyment of riding.

Credit Scarlet Headers Instagram

Some of the Scarlet Headers out on a ride.

Most motorcyclists will tell you they ride because they enjoy the ride, not because they want to be superior, or assert their dominance. So, how then is any of this different between men or women? It’s obvious that men and women enjoy the ride in different ways. Men tend to like to talk tech (bench race) more, women tend to focus on the sense of community. Neither are mutually exclusive or limited to a specific sex.  There are many factors here including how boys and girls are raised and in such a short space it’s not possible to analyze all of them in depth. However, Ms. Rossi suggested 3 recommendations on how to be more accepting toward women in the motorcycling community:

Top 3 ways for men to interact with female riders:

1.) Remember that women enjoy motorcycling just as much as you do. Just because they might be new, or might not have the technical know-how doesn’t mean their experience on the bike is any different from yours. Nor is it your place to place expectations on how they enjoy their ride. So keep the judgement at bay.

2.) It’s not about the technicalities. Regardless of how knowledgeable somebody is, nobody knows everything, not even MotoGP racers. They know how to ride really well, but they have an entire support crew to deal with the tech, so dial down the tech talk. This also means that lecturing is a bit demeaning as it often results in information overload and keeps the focus on the tech instead of the experience. If you want to help, an offer to help hands-on with a smile and a caring attitude will go much further.

3.) Ask yourself what your true intentions are. If you’re interested in a woman, and you want to impress her, making her feel inadequate by lecturing or assuming what she wants you to do isn’t going to get you far. If your intentions, however, are to enjoy motorcycling with her, then you’ll probably have a caring attitude and end up impressing her anyway. If your intentions are to demean, disrespect, or discourage you are “The bigot,” “The stereotype,” and part of the problem.

There is no doubt that men and women who read this article will have an adverse reaction to it. They might have that reaction because for some reason they feel threatened, devalued, unnecessary, or guilty. They might think I have no right writing about this so let me be clear. This is NOT placing blame on anybody. This is NOT making men out to be terrible evil creatures. This is NOT making women out to be stupid. What this IS, is a step toward valuing and respecting everybody, so that motorcycling can continue to grow. A reasonable man will take this as a challenge to grow and develop. A reasonable woman will take this as a guide to grow and develop.


The Scarlet Headers are planning a ride for this day. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for details.

To spread awareness of female riders, the Women’s Coalition of Motorcyclists has designated the 1st Saturday in May (5/2/2015 this year) as International Female Ride Day. The Scarlet Headers will be hosting a ride for this, keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates.

If you’re reading this in another state, here are some other female-centric rider groups in other states:

California, Los Angeles: The East Side Moto Babes

California, San Fransisco: We Are Hot Riders

Georgia, Atlanta: The Lady Fingers

New York: The Misfires

Oregon: The Rainier Ravens

Utah: The Litas


Please share any other female-centric rider groups you are aware of!

One Less Colorado Motorcycle Rental Source

Monday, April 6th, 2015
V-Strom on Cinnamon Pass

Out on Cinammon Pass with Kevin back in 2010.

I was sorry to get the word from my friend Kevin Smith that he is shutting down Colorado Mountain Moto, his motorcycle rental business in Gunnison.

Said Kevin, “Seems I just can’t do enough volume here in Gunny. The good news is I can back to more riding and less working.” And yeah, we’ve already got some riding planned for the summer.

Kevin was the first one who ever got me out on the dirt on a V-Strom. He and I, with me on one of his V-Stroms, rode over Cinnamon Pass back in 2010 and to this day I swear that was one of the best days on a motorcycle I have ever had. It was the height of fall colors, a stunningly beautiful day, and what a total trip it was to be up in the mountains on this little dirt route having a blast.

Kevin is also the one responsible for me having my own V-Strom now. About two years ago he called me to say he had a line on a really good ’06 V-Strom that I could have very inexpensively if I wanted it. I said yes and a couple days later he showed up at my door with this bike on a trailer.

It’s too bad he needed to shut the business down, but I think I understand it. I did a post here awhile ago about the proliferation of motorcycle rental outfits in Colorado and at the time I quoted Ron Coleman, who runs Western Dual Sport Motorcycle Adventures, telling me that business is good and he just figures that the market is growing and there’s room for everyone, at least everyone who is out there now.

Presumably true, except that Kevin had one disadvantage: he was in Gunnison. Now you might think that would be an advantage because he’s right there in the midst of a lot of gorgeous riding. But in reality, most people who want to rent bikes to ride in Colorado fly into Denver and then pick up a bike from someone reasonably close by the airport. By the time they get to Gunnison they already are on two wheels.

So one note here: If you have an interest in a V-Strom or dirt bike, Kevin is now in the process of selling his. Drop me a line if you’re interested and I’ll put you in touch with him. I hoped to list here what he has for sale but he hasn’t replied to my query as of right now.

Update four hours later: Kevin just told me the only one has left now is “an 09 strom with 20k on it. it is orange and is lowered. Comes with tank bag engine guard ,skid plate, and soft panniers. Askin $4500 obo. ”

Biker Quote for Today

Dirt is for riding. Pavement is just to get you there.

Gotta Get The V-Strom On Some Dirt

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015
Castlewood Canyon And V-Strom

Looking over the old dam at Castlewood Canyon.

I was down in Castle Rock awhile ago and saw a road heading off to the northeast that I’d never been on and made note that I ought to check it out some day. Well that day came on Thursday last week. I picked that day not to work last week because it was supposed to be gorgeous and it was. Let’s take the V-Strom and find some dirt.

Douglas Country Road 43, which is what this was, also known as North Crowfoot Valley Road, runs diagonally. It’s almost always a good guess that any road that runs diagonally goes directly from one town to another. Like the Longmont Diagonal that runs directly from Boulder to Longmont. That was the case here, too. This road runs directly from Castle Rock to Parker. I had no idea there was a direct route and I had no idea the two towns were so close.

But the road was paved and it wasn’t very interesting. Darn. Now where am I going to go?

OK, I’ve been to Castlewood Canyon State Park several times but generally on the east side where the highway runs over the canyon and then you turn off to go into the park. I knew, however, that there was an unpaved road over on the west side that runs right by the old dam that broke many, many years ago causing a heck of a flood downstream. I’d been there once in a car but never on a bike. My new destination.

So I headed south on CO 83 out of Parker, turned west on CO 86 at Franktown and then quickly took a left onto County Road 51, which was my road.

I hadn’t thought about paying a park fee but there was the ranger shack and the signs telling you you were supposed to pay $7. I stopped to check it out. The shack was unmanned–although someone had left their keys in the lock!–and checked my pockets. I had a couple twenties but wasn’t going to pay a $7 fee with one of those. I also had a five and a bunch of change. I put the five and the change in the envelope and dropped it in the slot, after marking on the envelope, “It’s all I’ve got.”

I suppose I could have just ignored it all and ridden on but while I was there a couple rangers pulled up, coming from the direction I would have been heading . . . without my sticker. So it was probably good that I decided to pay, even if I shortchanged the state a buck and change.

And off I went. And it was good. I’ve had this V-Strom for almost two years now and have hardly had it on much dirt. Last year up in the Black Hills I went out on some dirt one day but it was terrible. It occurred to me afterward that the bike still had the street tire on the rear that it had when I bought it and that tire was by now almost bald. No wonder it had no grip at all on the loose stuff.

So now I have a good, almost new semi-knobby on the rear and this was the first time I’d had a chance to get in the dirt with it. What a difference! What great grip! What stability and confidence!

Oh, and it was a nice road, too. I came out of the park, turned west on South Lake Gulch Road, and wound my way into Castle Rock. Then home. A couple hours altogether. I’m looking to do a whole lot more of that in the very near future.

Biker Quote for Today

Dirt bikes are not for wimps. They are, however, quite suitable for the clinically insane.