Archive for September, 2015

Guanella Pass Now Completely Paved

Monday, September 28th, 2015
parking jam on top of Guanella Pass

Saturday afternoon on a gorgeous fall day is very crowded on top of Guanella Pass.

I reported a little over a year ago that Guanella Pass was finally being paved all the way from Georgetown to Grant, and that it would take a year or more before it was completed. Now I’m back to report that the work, if not totally completed, is largely done and the road is asphalt the entire distance. If you’ve never ridden Guanella then you should now because you have no reason not to.

Especially at this time of year. It is absolutely gorgeous up there.

Judy and I did exactly that on Saturday. I had checked for reports on the construction work and found conflicting information. One report seemed to say that the intent was to leave the last two miles to Grant unpaved. Why? Is that really the case? I decided to take the V-Strom just in case.

Our intent was to go out I-70 to Georgetown and get off there to catch the Guanella Pass Road at Georgetown. What we did not count on was a huge traffic jam on I-70. We were coming back into town on Tuesday and saw westbound I-70 backed up for a long, long way but we figured it was an accident of something. Apparently not. Although there is road work in progress along the way to Idaho Springs, this was Saturday and there was no work going on at the time and there were no lane closures. Nevertheless, getting from Evergreen Parkway to Idaho Springs took about an hour. We would have done much better to have gone over Squaw Pass and down to Idaho Springs that way.

autumn vegetationOK, so we finally got to Georgetown. Heading up the pass we knew the road was good because that portion was repaved a couple years ago. We thought there might be a lot of traffic because of people out viewing the aspens but that wasn’t the case, maybe because the trees were mostly past their prime. Closer to the top, however, the autumn colors of the other vegetation was stunning. Here’s an example (although the photo really doesn’t do it justice).

Right at the top it was a total zoo. There are several hiking trailheads at the top and on such a glorious fall day, and a weekend day, the hikers were out in force.

We didn’t stay on top for long, though. What we wanted to see was down the other side. And down we went. And down and down and down. The road is paved, it has a lot of serious landscaping with curb in some places, stonework where they made cuts on the sides of the road, and new fencing along the equestrian area you pass by.

Importantly, the last two miles have not been left gravel; it is paved all the way to Grant. So you know what this means: I’m going to need to create a page for Guanella Pass on the website, rather than just have the brief mention in the Dirt Roads and Side Trips page. That will probably have to wait until next spring so I’ll have time to get up there and shoot a lot of photos and develop all the other information that goes on those pages.

But Guanella is now rideable, even if you hate gravel. Until the snow comes. It closes in the winter. Head on up sooner, rather than later.

Biker Quote for Today

The twisties, not the superslabs, separate the riders from the squids.

Why Are They Called ‘Motorcycle’ Crashes?

Thursday, September 24th, 2015
Crashed motorcycle

Why do they get referred to only as "motorcycle" crashes?

Raise your hand if you–like me–are really tired of reading headlines about “motorcycle” crashes that are in fact car/motorcycle crashes that were caused by the driver of the car.

I have Google Alerts set up to bring me articles with the words “motorcycle” and “biker” and every day there are stories about crashes that involve motorcycles, many of them involving serious injury or death. Far, far too often the headline presents the story as if the only vehicle involved was the bike, and that is bound to lead the casual reader to assume that motorcycles are more dangerous than they are. “How come there are so many motorcycle crashes? Those things should be called murdercycles.”

Take today for instance. In just one Google Alert email for “motorcycle” there were these headlines:

As it turns out, in three of those instances it does appear to have been a motorcycle crash, with the rider at fault. In one case the cause of the accident was as yet unclear when the story was published.

In the other two, however, the first and third in that list, the crashes involved cars and in both cases the drivers were at fault, having made left turns in front of the bikers. You really don’t get any sense of that at all from the headline, do you?

So I’ve decided to try to do something about raising consciousness. In both of these cases I sent the following email to the writers:

Hi. Just want to ask/raise the point: Why does your headline refer to a “motorcycle crash” when it was in fact a car/motorcycle crash and it was the car driver who was at fault? This is totally common and gives the misleading impression that motorcycles are dangerous, when in fact the danger is with the car driver. The number one cause of injuries to motorcyclists is cars turning left in front of the bikes.

I did this just a short while ago and have not received any replies but if I do get something I’ll come back and add in what they have to say. I intend to do this routinely from now on. Maybe you might consider doing the same when you see this. We need to do what we can to get it through people’s heads that far too often it is the driver, not the biker, who is reckless and causes harm. Sure this may be akin to sweeping sand off the beach but we need to at least try to make a tiny dent. Just my opinion.

Biker Quote for Today

Death rides. Ride faster.

Distinguished Gentlemen Ride Against Prostate Cancer

Monday, September 21st, 2015
Distinguished Gentlemen's Ride

The Distinguished Gentlemen's Ride will be held this weekend.

There is a lot of awareness and there are a lot of rides to raise money to combat breast cancer, and it’s only appropriate that all men as well as women support these efforts. Nevertheless, for us guys it is seldom as personal as it is for pretty much all women. This weekend there is an event that kind of flops that, raising money for prostate cancer research. Every guy can take this one very personally, and of course the women who love us should take as strongly to it as we do to breast cancer research.

The Distinguished Gentlemen’s Ride is a worldwide event to be held on Sunday, September 27. Locally, it will start out at Sloan’s Lake (26th and Tennyson, by the tennis courts) at 10 a.m. The goal is to raise $3 million. As it says on the website, “On Sunday September 27th 2015, more than 24,196 smartly-dressed gentlefolk in 404 cities from 79 countries will straddle the saddles of their café racers, bobbers, scramblers and other marvellous custom motorcycles to raise awareness and help fund the cure for prostate cancer.”

Rather than rephrase what has already been written, I’ll just copy in a bit more information.

The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride was founded in 2012 in Sydney Australia, inspired by a photo of Mad Men’s Don Draper astride a classic bike and wearing his finest suit. It was decided a themed ride would be a great way to combat the often-negative stereotype of men on motorcycles, whilst connecting niche motorcycle communities together. That first ride brought together over 2,500 riders across 64 cities. The success of the event encouraged the founder to consider how it could be used to support a worthy cause. And the rest, as they say, is eloquently attired history.

The Distinguished Gentleman’s Ride is a celebration of the art of being dapper and the style of classic custom motorcycles. What does that mean, you ask?

Think: Monocles, jaunty trimmed moustaches, silk vests, crisp shirts and tailored suits.

Ride: Café Racers, Bobbers, Classics, Flat Trackers, Scramblers and quirky, undefinable two-wheeled machines.

Do: Bring your finest manners, neatest beards and a sense of fun and adventure.

Pay: Nothing to ride (entry is free); but please consider helping our charities by getting your friends and family to sponsor your involvement.

Our focus is on gentlemen who have been dealt a tough hand in life. In particular, we raise funds for research into prostate cancer as part of our mission to support men’s health.

With your support, DGR is aiming to raise $3 Million USD this year to assist in finding a cure for a disease that kills 1300 men a day worldwide.

How are the funds distributed?

DGR has partnered with a number of international prostate cancer foundations in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

We work closely with each of these not-for-profit foundations to ensure monies raised in each region are directed towards that region’s prostate cancer research projects.

Some guiding principles sit behind all donations from DGR to the prostate cancer foundations and the researchers that are the ultimate beneficiaries.

So there you go. Might be something you’ll want to be part of. For more info, please check the website.

Biker Quote for Today

“Whenever my mood turns foul and I find myself wandering beyond control, I pull out my motorbike and hurl it top speed down these unfit roads for hour after hour.” – T.E. Lawrence

Additional Update On ExpressToll

Thursday, September 17th, 2015
ExpressToll bill

The bill I got from ExpressToll.

Guess what I got in the mail yesterday: That ExpressToll bill in the photo above. The very thing I’ve been talking about here recently.

Funny thing is, though, as far as I knew I had not used any lanes that I should be charged for. So I called the number on the bill and asked WTF? Now it all comes even clearer.

You know that HOV lane going from downtown up north along I-25 and then onto the Boulder Turnpike? The one that you’ve used for many years if you had two or more people in your car or if you were on your motorcycle? It’s not free anymore.

Well, it is free, but only if you have a transponder. Otherwise you get billed through the mail, just as I did.

I don’t know if they have been putting information out about these changes but they sure need to. Maybe there are ads on TV; I wouldn’t know because I don’t watch TV. But I haven’t seen anything in the newspaper, and I haven’t received any information in the mail. Or maybe I did get something in the mail but reading it left me totally unclear on the whole thing–I’m not certain.

Actually, I think sending you the bill is intended to be their primary method of educating the public. When I called, the very helpful woman explained that they are authorized to waive the fee the first time–which she did–and she then explained it all to me in detail.

In the car you get the transponder, which is an electronic device (I guess), that you attach to your windshield at, around, or maybe to your rear view mirror. You have to manually set it to either toll or HOV. Then if it is set to toll and you use any of the HOV lanes or express lanes you get charged. That charge comes off the initial $35 fee you pay when you get the transponder, which is payment in advance. Once you’ve used up the $35 your credit card is automatically billed for the new payment in advance. You also actually pay $15 for the transponder, which is a non-refundable charge. You’re buying it.

If you have two or more in your car, you set the transponder to HOV and use the lanes and that’s that. No charge. Let’s be clear here: if you’re on a toll road, such as E-470, you still pay the tolls. But if you’re in an HOV lane there is no charge.

For motorcycles, the thing is still called a transponder but it’s a different object. It adheres to the top of your headlight. Will I have to buy one for each of my three bikes, I asked? No, for motorcycles they give you the transponder for no charge. And you could not get just one and switch it to the bike you’re on today because each is registered to a specific vehicle, and we absolutely know they have cameras to capture your license number. But if they’re free that doesn’t matter.

Bottom line, however, is that you MUST open an account, give them your credit card number to draw payments from, and attach the transponder to your vehicle. Otherwise you will be charged for using the HOV lane even if you’re on a motorcycle. Of course, this is one of the issues ABATE is trying to work out. Federal law says motorcycles can use HOV lanes at no charge. Does this violate that law? And what about out-of-state riders who use the HOV lane with no idea that they are supposed to have a transponder? Sure, they’ll get their fee waived the first time but what if you come to Colorado for a week and use the HOV lanes numerous times? Maybe there will be some update on this at my ABATE District 10 meeting this Sunday but I won’t be there to hear about it. I’ll have to follow up later.

Biker Quote for Today

Riding my motorcycle around L.A. is like my own video game. But unlike many folks at the wheel, I am occupied with getting where I’m going and keeping myself safe. Most people are applying makeup, texting, and checking out the beauty in the next car. — Hugh Laurie

Motorcycle Moments On A Car Trip

Monday, September 14th, 2015
Full Throttle Before The Fire

The Full Throttle before the fire.

Judy and I just got back from an eight-day trip up to North Dakota, to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and while we were in the car, there were some moments when motorcycles were very much in focus.

The really big one was the day we passed through Sturgis. We didn’t have any other reason to go to Sturgis, it was just on our route as we came from the Badlands. To reach SD 79 to go north we drove out past the Full Throttle. Stunner!!! The entire place was black, charred ash, with some smoke still rising. Uniformed fire investigators were poking around in the ruins. There was absolutely nothing left.

Apparently the fire took just the night before. We were without cellphone coverage and without internet nearly all of this trip. We had no inkling this had happened. We just stumbled upon it. Oh my goodness!

OK, there was nothing else dramatic like that on this trip so the rest is a total change of pace.

So we got to THRO (the National Park Service abbreviation for THeodore ROosevelt National Park) and oh man is this a good park for motorcyclists. And yes, we saw a bunch of them there. The park is in two units, a north unit and a south unit, about 50 miles apart.

The south unit has a loop road about 36 miles long that winds up and down through the North Dakota Badlands where Teddy Roosevelt went to get over his grief at losing his wife and his mother in one day. Unlike the South Dakota Badlands, which are stark and barren with sharp peaks, the North Dakota Badlands are older, more worn down, and have a much shaggier look to them due to the vegetation they have, which those to south lack. So the color of the hills mixes with the color of the vegetation to present a totally different sort of beauty.

The loop road has numerous overlooks and also winds down and through the hills. There are lots of places you want to stop and take a better look. Do.

The north unit has just one road, for a 17-mile out, 17-mile back ride. It also has viewpoints but these are of a much broader perspective, with the horizon more than 100 miles away. This is the kind of stuff motorcyclists love. You just can’t appreciate it nearly as much when you’re in a car.

Back south, to the Black Hills, to Devils Tower (DETO) and Mount Rushmore (MORU) it was not a surprise to see so very many bikes on the roads. It’s nothing like at the rally but apparently a lot of bikers have discovered what we discovered about five years ago, which is that the Black Hills is a much nicer place to ride in September than during the rally. It’s quiet. It’s uncrowded. Prices are a fraction of what they are during the rally.

Plus, there were a lot fewer tourists than when the kids are out of school so at times there may have been as many bikes on the road as cars. Now, during the rally there are 100 or more bikes for every car but where else can you go on a normal day and see as many bikes as cars? And the weather is so much more pleasant.

So, we weren’t riding on this trip but you better believe I was thinking about it. Looking at these big RVs with car towed behind thinking how much nicer it would be to have a bike on behind. And how much better than that it would be to be on the bike, not towing it. This time it was my turn to be envious.

Biker Quote for Today

Race the rain, ride the wind, chase the sunset . . . only a biker understands.

Thoughts While Riding

Thursday, September 10th, 2015
Looking toward the plains.

A stop on the way up to Mount Evans.

You have a lot of time to think when you’re riding, particularly if you don’t have a communicator and someone to talk to. On this ride Alan and Dan and I took up Mount Evans last week they were linked via radio but I was alone in my helmet. But there was a lot going on in there.

Alan, of course, is now riding a Gold Wing with a sidecar. He had an encounter with a deer and the Harley died. Now with the sidecar he and his wife go out together a whole lot more than they used to. He’s sold. I included a Biker Quote for Today awhile back that read, “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” and Alan emailed me to say something along the lines of “All true, but they’re still a heck of a lot of fun.”

This was the first time I had seen the new rig and yes it looks fancy and cushy. As we took off it made sense that he take the lead because going up the canyon to Evergreen–not to mention up the mountains–he was not going to be able to blast around corners the way those of us on two wheels could. So he set the pace.

Winding up along Bear Creek I got a little lazy. I knew that any turn Alan could take at whatever speed, I could certainly take at the same speed. So I hardly paid any attention to what speed I was going. And my expectations were met.

Up on the road over Squaw Pass I was thinking more about the wet road. And the increasing cold. I was thinking how I just might need to break down and get a riding suit like those that Dan and Alan were both wearing. My rain gear was very close at hand but stopping to put it on is always a pain, and if you don’t put it on you can get wet. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an all-weather suit that you just routinely wear when you ride and then the wet is no longer an issue. I could definitely live without the mad scramble to pull that suit on as the rain pelts you. Not to mention the awkwardness of removing it when it’s no longer needed.

We turned up CO 5 to go up the mountain and the ranger at the entrance told us it was snowing on top. Now I had plenty to think about. How bad is the snow on top? The sign board said the temperature up there was 34 degrees, so that’s not freezing, but what if there was ice on the road nonetheless? How good an idea is this? Alan at least had three wheels; he would be fine. And my bike, the V-Strom, is pretty light so I felt confident I could manage with it. But Dan was on his big Harley. This was exactly why I didn’t ride the Concours.

Up the hill we went and soon Dan, who was in the rear, was dropping behind at the switchbacks. With the light, agile V-Strom I was using trail-braking to just walk around the tight turns at about 5 miles an hour. I don’t know what cornering technique Dan was using but at the very least, that Harley can’t have as tight a turning radius as my Suzuki. And we were constantly encountering cars going down right as we were negotiating these switchbacks.

Then another thing I had noticed previously started popping into my head repeatedly. From the rear, Alan’s sidecar looks a lot like the back end of a PT Cruiser, in miniature. I can’t count the number of times I looked at him and thought there was a car on the road ahead of him a ways, only to realize it was the sidecar. You would think my brain would have gotten over that misperception after awhile but for this entire ride it happened again and again.

Of course, on the ride up my mind eventually turned to the pool of water collecting at my crotch and soaking into my jeans, and wishing I had had the common sense to put my rain pants on when I put the jacket on.

So we got to the top and didn’t stay long and then headed back down. I had intended to get out my camera and shoot some pictures on the way down but my hands were numb and there was little to see anyway because of the cloud we were in. So I left the camera in the bag. But the weather shifted dramatically while we were up there and as we headed down it had cleared off and also gotten warmer. My hands were no longer numb. And it was gorgeous. I wanted so much to be getting pictures of this spectacular scene with the road, the bikes, the clouds–everything. But it was not to be. And my thoughts turned, as they often have, to getting a GoPro camera and using it to capture all the incredible rides where I have so often in the past had this same regret.

Being alone in your head so much while riding, as all riders know, makes it all the more fun then to stop for lunch or whatever and talk with the guys about the ride and everything else. Which we did in Idaho Springs.

Some people don’t do well by themselves. I guess when they only have themselves for company they find that they aren’t very good company. I wonder if folks like that don’t ride motorcycles much. Me, I never get bored. If nothing else I’m putting thoughts into words and phrases and hoping I can remember them when I sit down to write. Maybe I could rig something up with a voice-activated microphone and record my thoughts as I ride, rather than trusting to memory. There’s got to be an app for that.

Biker Quote for Today

Dear motorcycle: Thank you for make me feel alive. P.S., is is the weekend yet?

Update On ExpressToll And Examiner

Monday, September 7th, 2015
The OFMC on Trail Ridge Road

The OFMC on Trail Ridge Road.

I wrote about the issues motorcyclists face with the new express lanes being built around town and there were a few things I was unclear on. This piqued Alan’s interest so he dug further and sent me more info. Here’s what he learned.

Well you sparked my interest in this subject, so I called ExpressToll this morning and confirmed/found out the following:

If you have a transponder on your bike:
1. You will be charged toll fees on E-470
2. You will NOT be charged toll fees on I-25 and US 36 express lanes.

If you do NOT have a transponder on your bike:
1. You will be charged the higher toll fee for not having a transponder on E-470
2. You will be charged the toll fee on I-25 and US 36 even though you are a motorcycle. The bill will be mailed to your address through a DMV check of the license.

There are no special rules or “grace” provisions for out of state bikes that do not have a transponder.

This addresses what I said about out-of-state bikers who may pass through and think they can use the HOV lanes at no charge. Wrong. But that just doesn’t seem to jibe with federal law. We’ll see.

I also mentioned that I had called it quits with, that they had finally just pushed me too far and I told them I would never again do any work for them. Well, a few days later, under the subject line “Termination of Examiner Status,” I got this little note from them:

Thank you for your participation as an Examiner on We regret to inform you that we are terminating your status as an Examiner, effective immediately. Your account has been deactivated. We appreciate the time, effort and consideration you put into this work, but we feel that your content is not the right fit for at this time.

Gosh, it’s a little late to be firing someone who has already quit. So I sent them this last note and never want anything to do with them again.

I kissed you guys good-bye already. Good riddance. You ought to try to learn how to run a real company.

Working for Examiner as their National Motorcycle Examiner was a really good gig for awhile but I’ve never worked for anyone so inept and so prone to do exactly the wrong thing. I’m so pleased to uncomplicate my life just a bit more.

Biker Quote for Today

Murphy’s Motorcycle Laws: 7. You will never suffer a punctured tire on the road until you leave the repair kit at home.

Two Peak Ride Falls One Short

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015
Our first taste of snow this season, on top of Mount Evans.

Forecast for Denver: high 80s. Weather on Mount Evans: snow.

“There’s road damage at mile marker 8 and it’s snowing on top.”

That’s what the ranger at the gate to CO 5 up Mount Evans told us and she was only a little wrong. There may be a little road damage between mile posts 8 and 9 but it’s at 9 where the road gets truly bad. She was right about the snow, though.

Dan and Alan and I set out this morning intending to go up Mount Evans and then up Pikes Peak. I’m the instigator here; I just want to do it and I also have a publication in mind I’d like to sell an article to. Alan and I had been putting this ride off for a couple weeks because with all the haze in the air from the forest fires west of us I presumed we would get up on the mountains and not be able to see anything. Kind of misses the point.

Two days ago I said let’s do it and when we got up this morning guess what? Major overcast. Oh well, let’s do it anyway. The weather might make the story more interesting.

So I got to Alan’s and found that Dan was joining us, so good deal. Let’s go.

We headed out Hampden/US 285 and then ran up Bear Creek to Evergreen, Evergreen Parkway to CO 103 over Squaw Pass, and just before Echo Lake there is the turn-off for CO 5. Before we got there we had already stopped and I had put on my warmer clothes and rain jacket and turned on my electric vest. It was more water hanging in the air than rain because we were up in the clouds but it was definitely getting wet. And colder. I had not put on my rain pants and that proved to be a mistake.

We took it very slow going up the mountain, especially on the switchbacks, where we seemed in almost every instance to meet cars coming down around the switchback at the exact same time. The clouds were low but we could still see around us. The drops started getting bigger on my visor.

Slowly, slowly, slowly we continued up the mountain as the temperature dropped and I berated myself for not thinking to wear my heated gloves. Then I also berated myself for not putting my rain pants on, because as you probably all know, the water was running down my jacket and off my gas tank and collecting in that convenient little catch basin right at my crotch. And soaking in.

As we neared the top my hands were going numb and we rode into the cloud sitting on top of the mountain. Which is to say it got very foggy. And finally we rounded the last bend and pulled into the parking lot at the top and sure enough, it was snowing.

We didn’t stay at the top for long. Just long enough for me to use the restroom, pull on my rain pants, and shoot a few pictures. We agreed that Pikes Peak didn’t sound like such a good idea, especially since Dan’s GPS unit was showing similar weather on the other mountain.

In just that short time, however, the weather changed significantly. Heading back down the fog was gone from the top of the mountain, you could actually see pretty far, and there, to the south of us, was Pikes Peak. Maybe . . .

But no, we got back down to CO 103 and turned left, to go to Idaho Springs for lunch. And after lunch it was back on home.

It was actually a great day to ride, and it was beautiful going up the mountain despite the cold and wet. Even more beautiful coming back down. But this two peaks in one day thing is going to have to wait. Dang! I’m going to have to go ride my motorcycle again some other day. Life is so hard.

Biker Quote for Today

The most important thing is to have a good relationship with the bike… you have to understand what she wants. I think of a motorcycle as a woman, and I know that sounds silly, but it’s true. — Valentino Rossi