Archive for August, 2015

MSF Awarded MOST Admin Contract But Total Control Protests

Monday, August 31st, 2015

I heard at the recent ABATE District 10 meeting that the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) was awarded the contract to administer Colorado’s Motorcycle Operator Safety Training (MOST) program, but the other bidder, Lee Parks’ Total Control is protesting that award.

Let’s recap.

Colorado MOST program logo

Colorado MOST program logo

The MOST program is paid for out of extra fees each of us pay each year when we renew our motorcycle registration. The program has passed most of that money along to motorcycle rider training programs to keep their prices for their training programs as low as possible, with the intent that this would encourage more riders to get trained.

With little oversight, however, it developed that some of this money was not being used as intended and so the state decided to hire a contractor to oversee the program. Bidders on the contract were Total Control and the MSF, both of which are curriculum providers. And therefore, in some people’s minds, awarding the contract to either would be a conflict of interest.

That much is pretty straightforward. From there it gets really twisted. My associate, Matt Wessels, had intended to present a comprehensive discussion of the numerous claims and counterclaims regarding the MSF and MOST but after I ran a post quoting some of what Matt had told me, I received an email from Robert Gladden at the MSF claiming that much of what Matt said is untrue.

“Based on the words I see here I can guess who is likely sources are and they have long history of making similar false claims about the MSF,'” said Gladden.

I replied to that email making the point that I had asked the MSF for comment and had not heard back from them, but that Matt and I would welcome the opportunity to speak with them. The reply to me was “Our media department received your inquiry and are working on a response, we are waiting for a few more pieces of the puzzle to come together.” That was May 15 and the last I’ve heard.

However, more recently I checked in with Matt on this and he told me, “Concerning the MOST issue, taking to heart that last email that was sent to me, I saw I needed to keep digging, and have been doing just that to unearth this incredibly convoluted history. Gotta set the records straight and finding the people with an accurate account of what happened a decade and a half ago is very difficult, however, should have something soon.”

So now you’re up to date.

Biker Quote for Today

Motorcycling is not, of itself, inherently dangerous. It is, however, extremely unforgiving of inattention, ignorance, incompetence, or stupidity.

Two-Up Motorcycle Camping Take Two

Thursday, August 27th, 2015
The kawi at Cold Springs Campground

The Kawi at our campsite.

Judy and I went camping on the Kawasaki yesterday in the rain. Are we hard core? How hard core is that?

Fortunately, Colorado weather being what it is, we only caught a few raindrops, although as we approached Golden the entire town was smothered in dense, grey rainclouds. But we skirted west of town on still-rain-wet roads and turned up the Golden Gate Canyon road and never did need to stop to gear up.

We weren’t going far. If you take the Golden Gate Canyon road (County Road 70) west to the Peak to Peak Highway and then go left about 50 yards you’ll find Cold Springs Campground, which is a Forest Service campground. We weren’t looking for anything fantastic, we just wanted to go camping somewhere and try out the new, more compact camping gear we have gotten since our first two-up motorcycle camping experiment last year.

As it turned out, the gear is great but the campground is pretty darn nice, too. Much better than we anticipated. First the gear.

We got new Thermarest inflatable mattress pads and they take up less than one-third of the space of our old ones. That made a huge difference all by itself. It meant, for instance, that we had space to carry food, which we did not have the last time.

It also gave us room for a JetBoil, an extremely compact one-burner camp stove. This little giant boils water in two minutes, even at higher altitudes, so we could cook. Hot meals! Hot dog!

Food, of course, can be one of the bulkiest things you can carry. For dinner we took a Backpacker’s Pantry freeze-dried entree, Katmandu Curry. Freeze-dried entrees have come a long way since I first ate a few back in about 1973. It comes in a sturdy, foil-like package and all you do is heat water and pour it in. Give it a stir and then let it do its thing for about 20 minutes. We poured it into these super thin, take-up-almost-no-space-at-all bowls we got from REI, and that and part of a loaf of sour dough bread made a good, amazingly filling dinner.

For breakfast we had brought bananas and some Starbucks instant coffee that is way better than what instant coffee ever used to be like. Plus we had some granola and took a zip-lock bag of dry milk. We mixed water with the dry milk and poured it over our granola and Judy used some in her coffee. As Judy noted, we’d probably gag trying to drink the milk straight but the longer it soaked into the granola the better it tasted. Oh yeah, coffee was drunk out of a collapsible cup and out of the JetBoil container.

So the stuff we got worked well and did its job of freeing up space. Now we want to try going for two nights. We figure if we’re on the Kawi there is still space to bungee a bag of clothes with the tent, on the back. Don’t really know yet how all this works on the V-Strom.

Then there’s the campground. First off, it’s a gravel road but it’s really, really good, which is to say, even the Concours didn’t mind, and the Concours hates gravel.

We walked around and at the western extent of the campground there was a trail leading on so we took that and ended up connecting with an old road, so we followed the road. And there were old campsites along this road. We deduced that the campground originally ran all the way down a mile or more to where the road once again hits the Peak to Peak. And there are abandoned campsites all the way to that intersection. Closed at both ends (as we found out), there is no traffic and it was a very nice walk. Then once we got back to where we had first followed the trail we saw a sign pointing to a trail up a hillside saying only “Vista.”

The spiderweb of intermixed trails going up this rocky outcrop all eventually led us to the top and from there we could see half of Gilpin County laid out before us (or at least it seemed that way). And while it was an easy climb on the one side, on the other side the cliffs drop off straight down at least 70 feet. Very dramatic, but probably very few people even know these cliffs are there because the trees below reach just about up to the top of the outcrop and completely hide them. But it was very cool. Our stroll around the campground ended up lasting probably three hours as we explored all this. And then there were trails leading up the hill behind our campsite that we did not explore on this visit. We’re going to have to go back.

So yeah, two-up motorcycle camping works. And you don’t even have to go far from home.

Biker Quote for Today

The road is eternal, the wind is constant — what else comes with a guarantee like that?

ABATE Seeking Clarity For Motorcyclists On Express/HOV Lanes

Monday, August 24th, 2015
The new ABATE state headquarters

The new ABATE state headquarters at 17th and Chambers where the D-10 meeting is held.

If you ever question whether some sort of group that stands up for motorcyclists is needed, here’s a situation that should answer that question for you.

Part of the discussion yesterday at my ABATE District 10 meeting was on the rules surrounding use of new express lanes and HOV lanes in the Denver area. ABATE is working with the state to try to work out the fairest, most reasonable way for motorcycles to be part of this structure.

For starters, we ought to keep in mind that under federal law, motorcycles are entitled to use HOV (high-occupancy vehicle) lanes. Thus, if you are going up I-25 from downtown at the right time of day you can use the HOV lane. But how do the new express lanes along US 36 up to Boulder work?

Judy and I drove up to Boulder recently and wondered exactly that. It was not at all clear to us whether, because there were two of us in the car, we could use the new express lanes at no charge or would we get a bill in the mail. (Quick note: by 2017 use of the HOV lanes will require at least three people in your car.) If you’re wondering the same thing, here are links to ExpressToll and the express lanes sites. You may find some answers there.

But there are issues. I’m not totally clear on all this myself so understand that I may be getting some of this wrong, but here’s my understanding. First off, if it’s a toll road, such as E-470, everyone pays a toll. That’s the simple part. But apparently, if you intend to use the express lanes up the Boulder turnpike it is free for cars with two or more people or for motorcycles but only if you first create an account with ExpressToll. This requires a payment of $35 that is intended to be payment in advance for any tolls you do incur. But if you’re on a motorcycle you will never incur any tolls so they will basically just hold your money.

Does that sound a little foolish? ABATE thinks so and is trying to get it changed so motorcycles just simply don’t need any of that. Plus you have the very real issue that if people from elsewhere, whether it be Grand Junction or Ohio, ride through Denver on their motorcycles, they may think it’s OK to use the express/HOV lanes and find themselves receiving bills for having done so. Plus, it may be that they will be billed double because it takes someone human to look at the pictures to determine that it was in fact a motorcycle, and that human element adds to the cost. What? This is where I’m truly unclear on it so take this with a grain of salt.

The point is, apparently if you do not have the little UPC code or whatever taped across the top of your headlight for the cameras to read you will be charged for using the HOV lane despite the fact that you are on a motorcycle. But that would seem to go against federal dictates that motorcycles can use HOV lanes freely. Perhaps you’ll want to be contacting your elected representatives to let them know about this issue and your position on it. Meanwhile, that’s exactly what ABATE is doing.

Biker Quote for Today

Murphy’s Motorcycle Laws: 6. Nothing is harder to start than a used motorcycle being shown to a prospective buyer.

Riderless Bike: What’s The Point?

Thursday, August 20th, 2015
Riderless motorcycle

The concept as visualized.

OK, I do understand the point; it just seems so wrong.

I’m talking about an article I ran across titled, “Police Bikes That Have No Rider.” The article discusses what is essentially a land-based drone motorcycle intended as sort of a RoboCop. What the heck, if Google can create a driverless car why can’t someone create a riderless motorcycle? Apparently they can.

The gist of the concept is this:

Deemed the interceptor, this concept is a driverless police vehicle. It would be equipped with 3D cameras and an extremely complex monitoring system. The “drone” will be able to monitor the streets, issue citations, and record violations in real time. Another widely accepted use for this vehicle would be nightly patrols and neighborhood watch, while being almost completely silent.

What we seem to be looking at is a very much cooler rendition of R2-D2. Just kind of a droid.

But with no rider there is no one to enjoy the bike. How wrong is it to have a motorcycle that cruises around but there’s nobody riding? Motorcycles are meant to be ridden.

Of course the real issue with something like this is the same as with those automatic traffic cameras that catch you speeding or running a red light (or yellow light, depending on how they’re set). Let’s face it: Every one of us speeds at times, and theoretically it would be possible to fine everyone every single time they committed any infraction, but I don’t think anybody wants that. So consider this additional portion of the article:

Not only does the Interceptor monitor for speeding violations, it is also constantly scanning and running liscense plates to check for registration violations. When it senses a violation the Interceptor records the action in real time. Making use of its state of the art audio visual system to make sure that the entire encounter is recorded, including real time stats that include speed, and direction. The Interceptor will then immediately issue a citation that will be delivered via e-mail, text, or postal service. The Interceptor will then continue on its way, there is no need for the vehicle to stop. If the violator continues the illegal behavior the Interceptor will notify local offices and they can then stop the suspect.

Does the name “Big Brother” creep into your thoughts?

Anyway, be alerted. This is something we may see in the future. That means it’s time now to be thinking about how we feel about this sort of thing and formulating the opinions we want to pass along to our lawmakers when the time comes, or perhaps even before.

Biker Quote for Today

Didn’t see me? Or didn’t look?

Two Peaks, One Day–Want To Go?

Monday, August 17th, 2015
Concours On Mount Evans 2011

The Concours on Mount Evans in 2011 when I did the piece for Accelerate.

I emailed the OFMC asking if anyone wanted to accompany me on this ride I’m planning but got little response. Only Friggs was interested but even he would only have been in for half. I ride alone a lot but this time I’m thinking I’d enjoy company. Want to go for a ride?

What I’m thinking is what I call the “Tale of Two Mountains” ride. Go up to the top of Mount Evans and then back down and south to Pikes Peak, then up to the top there. Two peaks in one day. I think it sounds like fun.

My thinking also includes trying to sell an article about it to some magazine, though I’m not sure who just yet. I sold an article about just Mount Evans to Kawasaki’s Accelerate magazine three years ago so I don’t think they’ll be interested. And Rider magazine had a piece by someone else just recently about riding up Pikes Peak, so I don’t think there will be interest there either. But I have some other publications in mind that I want to explore.

So here’s the deal. If you’re interested in joining me, send me an email at that address in the upper right corner. Let me know what day(s) of the week work for you and whether that would be this week, next week, whatever. My preference would be to go on a weekday because there will be fewer people but I understand that some people have day jobs. When I see who, if anyone, expresses an interest, I’ll try to get something solid.

And by the way, if anyone has solid information about the Mount Evans road being open, please let me know. This article says the opening of the road has been delayed this year but it was supposed to finally open in late July. Well, it’s mid August now so I assume it’s open but haven’t been able to find anything definitive. Thanks.

Biker Quote for Today

A mother is neither cocky, nor proud, because she knows the school principal may call at any minute to report that her child had just driven a motorcycle through the gymnasium.

Danger On The Road Ahead

Thursday, August 13th, 2015
cows on road

This is nothing like the herd we ran into on the OFMC trip a few years ago.

I’m going to share a secret: When I don’t have any thoughts on something to write about I fall back on a few tried and true topics. This is one of those times. It’s time for the latest in strange things bikers have hit, courtesy of the Adventure Riders forum.

We all know there are hazards on the road out there. Here are some that other folks have actually encountered.

  • Wile E. Coyote. Riding an HP2 I had just bought in Denton Texas. Just outside Midland Texas on I-20. There was a ton of traffic and it was gusty as hell. :eek1 I tucked in behind an 18 wheeler and then a dickweed got right on my ass. I got closer to the semi but the wind buffeting was making it rough at 65-70 mph we were running. I eased over into the center of the lane where it was much smoother and started to back off the semi. Just as I did the semi trailer seemed to do a slight swerve and it caught my attention. Just then a coyote came rolling down the dead center of the lane like a rolling pin. The truck rolled him and all I had the time to do was grab a breath and relax. I felt a slight thump as I rolled right over him mid-section. I heard the ass behind me lock them up but didn’t look to see what happened. I was just ecstatic that I didn’t go down and was alive. I laughed till I was crying. Strange days in West Texas!
  • Around 3am, while driving in left lane of an interstate and in a very dark rural area, a male jumped up from tall grass in the center median. He was shirtless, in jeans and had very long hair. He ran into my lane while swinging a sock over his head, with a heavy object inside. He missed me and I missed him by inches, swerving sharply right to avoid him- scared the hell out of me as I tried to maintain control with left and right sliding.
  • Went to pick up my wife’s then new CM400A, and we stopped for dinner. parked next to the car, and took off my helmet. Bike was still idling. Put my helmet ont he mirror, and it started going forward. I was dumstruck on what to do other than hobble along with it and finally cut the engine, after i hopped the curb and hit the door.
  • Years ago on a long ride up to the Yukon in very heavy rain I’m sure I was passed by a forty ton goldfish. I found somewhere to sleep soon after that.
  • Just recently had the contents of the rear axle on a semi spat at me, almost took me out for keeps.
  • I came around a tight dirt corner and had just enough time to see him before I ran him over. Stretched out six foot long bull snake, but they look like rattlers from a dirt bike. He arched a horseshoe like in a cartoon. Scared the crap outa me.
  • My face…….. After learning why rebound valving is important and slowwwwwwwwwwly sliding over front fender as 1984 CR125 plodded merrily along in 5th gear.
  • It was a flying armadillo. While riding through LA (lower Arkansas) one night late, the Ford Explorer in front of me swerved towards the shoulder. Well, an armadillo LAUNCHED from his R rear wheel straight towards me. I was riding up pretty high on a 1100GS. It came directly over the windscreen and I was just able to duck or it would have easily taken me off the bike. I was pushing on to Texarkana but after that I stopped at the next motel.
  • Me… About 1/2 mile in to the start of a desert race along with about 400 others. I killed my bike on the start and was near the back of the pack, wound out on my 1989 CR500 trying to make up for lost time (I had the hole-shot the year before). Too late I saw a big rock and nailed it straight on. Flew over the bars and bounced – several times. Ended up sitting upright facing forward. A split second later the lights went out. My bike hit me square in the back. I woke up looking at the sky wondering when the feeling would come back. Luckily only a concussion.

You know the deal: be careful out there. You never know what might be around that next curve.

Biker Quote for Today

If you think riding gets the adrenalin pumping, try getting a wasp in your helmet.

Demise Of The National Motorcycle Examiner

Monday, August 10th, 2015
National Motorcycle Examiner

No more National Motorcycle Examiner.

OK, Examiner finally did it. After eight years, first as the Denver Motorcycle Examiner and then as the National Motorcycle Examiner, I have written about riding motorcycles for Examiner.com but that association has ended. They’ve ticked me off for the last time.

Just so you’ll know, Examiner.com is a crowd-sourced website for news and features and whatever else you might want to write on just about any topic. Headquartered in Denver, in the very beginning they went looking for writers and they found me. I don’t even remember any more but I was approximately the 179th writer, or “Examiner,” they signed up. There have since been tens of thousands of Examiners that have come and gone, and “gone” applies to the vast majority of that number.

It was slow in the beginning, and the pay was chickenfeed, but things grew and the money started getting to be pretty darn good. Good enough that when I left a regular job at First Data Corporation I told Judy I was not going to look for another one, I was going to be the National Motorcycle Examiner full-time.

After awhile they started “adjusting” the pay scheme. Frequently. And every time they made an adjustment it meant exactly one thing: the writers were going to make less money. But I stuck with it. I developed other freelance markets and they became my primary income so the Examiner income was just supplemental to that, and every dollar was welcome.

Then they really made me angry. They wanted to improve the quality of the writing on their site, and I’ll be the first to say it needed improving. Far too many of the Examiners were people who had no clue about spelling, grammar, punctuation, or how to craft a sentence to make sense. So they set up reviewers to look at your work and grade you on how good you did. The problem was, the people they hired were not exactly English majors; they were just whatever low-paid people they could bring on who they gave a list of so-called grammatical rules to judge by. Many of the people who needed to improve resented getting low grades and they left. I would consider that a good thing. But they also used their rules to grade my writing and they were totally off base.

It is said that a beginner needs to learn the rules of whatever trade they’re engaging in. A master knows the rules but then deliberately breaks them for a very specific purpose. That’s what makes them a master. Pardon my immodesty but I consider myself a master. I have earned my living as a writer for more 40 years and I’ve done very nicely, thank you. To have some kid tell me my work was unacceptable because I violated some of these so-called rules was too much for me. I cut back to the absolute minimum they require for you to continue to get paid for the page-views your stuff gets. Like about once a month, versus the three times a week I had been putting up.

That little bout of quality control soon faded but now, more than two years later, they have brought it back with a vengeance, and this time your piece gets reviewed before it gets published. And sometimes even after. Having been around so long, the technology they used when the site was new has changed and my early stuff is in technology that is not compatible with what is currently used. So they recently unpublished the first six months or so of my stuff. I have been selectively going through and republishing articles that have continued relevance, and labeling them as such.

Imagine my surprise to find that one of these “redo” pieces I recently put up again has been unpublished. And while the note on why left matters totally unclear, it appears part of the reason was that “it had already been unpublished” so what scam are you trying to pull putting something back up that has been deemed unfit?

Last straw. There is no National Motorcycle Examiner any more. I’m through with those fools. But for those of you who are interested, I did put up one final “Only a biker knows” piece with one more batch of 20 biker quotes. They have all come from this blog but the one immediately below will never join the others on Examiner.

Meanwhile, I just checked and they have not allowed that last 20 quotes to be published because:

Newsworthy
This article is not newsworthy. (Duh! I never claimed it was.)
Note from the reviewer:
This article is too fragmented. Please refrain from using more than 3 one-sentence paragraphs whenever possible. (OK, it’s a bulleted list. What do you expect?)

Can you see why I’m through with Examiner?

Biker Quote for Today

Merely rolling a bike out in anticipation of a ride feels liberating. — Clement Salvadori

Morgan 3 Wheeler Is Oddest Encounter On OFMC Trip

Thursday, August 6th, 2015
A Morgan 3 Wheeler

A Morgan 3 Wheeler.

There’s a lot of talk these days about what really is or is not a motorcycle. Most of this talk centers around the proliferation of three-wheeled “bikes” that many riders would argue are not motorcycles at all. In addition to the conversions, where someone has taken an actual two-wheeled motorcycle and added a third wheel, these primarily include the Can-Am Spyder and the very new Polaris Slingshot.

Of course the big issue is really in what safety organizations classify as motorcycles because the data they collect are used to establish various legal requirements and if three-wheeler stats influence overall motorcycle stats that does a disservice to everyone. They really need a new vehicle classification and that seems to be in the works, though how soon we’ll see something like that in use is anyone’s guess.

With that too-long lead-in, I want to mention a three-wheeler that I don’t think anyone would call a motorcycle (though I could be wrong about that, state classifications being what they are). This is the Morgan 3 Wheeler.

If you’re like me, you’ve never even heard of this vehicle. But at the place we stayed two nights in Gunnison on this last OFMC trip there were three guys also staying there, one on a Harley, one on one of the new Honda Valkyries, and one in (key word: in) a Morgan 3 Wheeler. They were using Gunnison as their base and taking day rides. And man, was that Morgan an interesting hybrid.

For starters, that is a motorcycle engine sitting right up front. It’s a 1989cc S&S v-twin. Beyond that, though, it looks like an old style Indy race car from the 1930s, except it only has one wheel in the rear. It’s very light and has a lot of power and is supposed to be a lot of fun to drive. But it is emphatically not a motorcycle.

Speaking of the Slingshot, by the way, we saw a couple of those on this trip as well. Because you sit in them, very much like a dune buggy, I would have a hard time considering them motorcycles either. But we did note that, because it’s just body, chassis, and engine, there is no storage space, so those folks had their bags bungeed on the back just like we do on motorcycles.

I welcome this proliferation of new designs. Now it’s up to the regulators to move into the current century and figure out a legitimate way to classify them.

Biker Quote for Today

Nothing like trikes and even less like three-wheeled automobiles, sidecars accentuate the balance and ineffable grace of a single-tracker in approximately the manner and degree that crutches improve the performance of steeplechasers. — Jack Lewis

A Lot Of Attention For The New Indian

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

Anyone who travels on their motorcycle knows you inevitably end up meeting and talking with a lot of people, primarily about motorcycles. This last OFMC trip was no different with the exception that an awful lot of that talk focused on just one bike: the new Indian Roadmaster that Dennis was riding.

Dennis and his Indian Roadmaster

  Dennis and his Indian Roadmaster.

Some people–like me–buy a motorcycle and hang onto it. If you buy a new one you’re adding to the stable, not replacing bikes. Others–like Dennis–get new bikes every year or two and never have more than one bike at a time. A couple years ago Dennis got a new Harley and I figured this was a bike he would keep for longer than most. Wrong.

Awhile back we all got an email with a photo attached: Dennis with his new Indian.

Dennis had recently received a small inheritance and he decided to go whole hog and get this bike. What sold him on it was the seat height. He’s pretty short so it has been amusing to see him on his tip-toes on his old Gold Wing and the last two Harleys he has had. The seat height on the Indian is only 26 inches. How totally amazing to see him straddling the bike with his feet planted flat on the ground, and even a little bend in his knees. Yes, he’s very happy with it.

This trip was the first time any of us got to see this new bike. And everywhere we went, this was the bike people were asking us about. It was almost comical. Inevitably, someone would be surveying the bunch of bikes, commenting on how nice they all looked, and then they would focus in on one particular bike. The same one every time.

“How does that Indian ride?” would be the question, or something like that.

“Hey Dennis, someone’s asking about your bike,” became a common call.

And Dennis was always more than pleased to tell them all about it.

He does figure that this is the bike he will hold onto for a long time. Indians are too expensive for him to just be buying a new one every couple years. And where else will he find a big cruiser like this with a seat that low?

I really think Harley and the others are missing the boat. If Indian can make a bike with a 26-inch seat height, why can’t others? There are plenty of other short guys out there, and a world full of women even shorter. Maybe this will finally get some wheels turning in some corporate minds.

Biker Quote for Today

Owning a motorcycle is not a matter of life or death. It’s much more important than that.