Archive for December, 2015

Last Brass Monkey Run Shows Who’s Tough

Thursday, December 31st, 2015
Last Brass Monkey Run 2015

A handful of the 30-40 bikes that showed up at the Grizzly Rose.

Yeah, it’s cold out there today (Thursday) but that’s not going to stop you from riding, is it? Today was the Last Brass Monkey Run, the ABATE event that closes out each year.

There were indeed people who rode their bikes, as you can see in that photo. And actually there were quite a few more than those guys, that was just the most interesting photo I got so that’s the one I used. Altogether I’d guess there were about 30-40 bikes that showed up.

Was mine one of them? No. Our streets are still covered in ice and snow and there was no way I could get out.

“You’re not going to try to ride your bike, are you?”

No, too much ice on the street.

“Well, you wouldn’t ride even if you could would you? It’s too cold out there!”

Yes, I would ride. That’s why I have heated gear.

But until they make heated tires that melt the snow and ice I have to bow to the whims of winter.

So most of the folks at the Grizzly Rose got there in their cars, including me. And presumably because of the cold there was not that large a crowd. I estimated about 150 in the building at the point when I left. Lots of parking available. The last time I went was a warmer day and I rode, as did many hundreds of others. The parking lot was jammed with bikes. Not today.

And while I knew a few folks there, ABATE members, they were all working the event so I got a bowl of chili and a hot dog and sat down by myself to eat. About then a guy with some pretty interesting facial hair came over and asked me if I’d like to be a judge in the chili contest. Sure, why not? He told me after I ate to go around the corner and do so. So I did but when I got there they told me they had already had 10 judges and 10 was all they needed, so OK, no big deal.

I hung around a bit longer but had other things to do, so I left. Other folks were leaving, too, I could see. Maybe next year the weather will be more cooperative.

Biker Quote for Today

Life is not about waiting for the storms to pass, it’s about learning how to ride in the rain.

A Weighty Motorcycle Topic

Monday, December 28th, 2015
Dirt Bike Training

Balance and shifting of weight are important at slow speeds.

I’ve had my V-Strom for a couple years now and while I’ve been off the pavement a number of times with it I really want to do so a lot more. Now, in previous years I have gone on some good rides in the dirt with Ron Coleman but we didn’t get out this year.

What we did do, though, was spend a little time in a nearby empty lot working on slow speed maneuvers. Ron has a lot more off-road experience than me and he figured he’d help me with my skills.

It turned out, however, that I actually am more advanced than he expected. He wanted to teach me about trail-braking and he started off by demonstrating. Now you try it, he said. So I did, going in tight circles and figure 8s and while I wasn’t as good as he was he immediately saw that I was no novice.

So, not to make assumptions, but you do know what trail-braking is, don’t you? If not you really ought to learn. It’s just a matter of revving the engine while pressing lightly on the rear brake as you make slow-speed maneuvers. Revving the engine bumps up the gyroscope effect of the engine, creating stability, while using the brake keeps you going slow. Done right you can move at walking pace and just walk around in circles or–more usefully–make a U-turn in a tight area.

But Ron was making his turns tighter than I was and that’s where he was able to teach me something. It was counter-balancing. Making those tight turns he didn’t just rev and trail-brake, he leaned way off the seat to the side away from the turn. The more you can lean the bike the tighter you can turn, but you don’t want to lean the bike so far it falls down. If you lean way off in the other direction your center of gravity remains stable and you don’t go down.

I’m accustomed to leaning in the turns at speed, but this is different. When racers go around curves you’ve seen them leaning way off into the curve, scraping knees and elbows. Same principle in the opposite direction. At speed like that the idea is to shift your weight off so the bike can stay more upright and not low-side on you. At walking speed you lean the bike, not your body, into the curve and shift your body the other direction to counter the weight of the bike.

So I tried it and sure enough, I could make those turns even tighter. I wasn’t really good at it and was a bit unsure, so I definitely need to practice. And I will. And I’ll become a better rider. Thanks Ron.

Biker Quote for Today

Straights are for fast bikes, turns are for fast riders.

Utah BDR A To-Die-For Ride

Thursday, December 24th, 2015

I’ve said more than once that in my opinion Utah is the most beautiful state in the US. You can see a lot of it from the pavement but imagine what more you could see if you got off the pavement!

Utah Backcountry Discovery Route

Part of the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route.

That’s where the Utah Backcountry Discovery Route (BDR) comes in. The folks at Butler Maps, along with the folks at Touratech and others, have been doing a series of these exercises, charting–and then riding to make sure it works–routes across entire states mostly off the pavement. For Utah that route runs north-south but with all the twists and turns to conform with topography it must be double the miles vs. as the crow flies.

At the south end the route starts where US 163 comes into the state a little southwest of Mexican Hat. A bit north of Mexican Hat the route leaves the highway, heading up along something called Valley of the Gods Road. Now, that sounds promising.

The next prominent area I see on the map is a stretch through the Manti-La Sals. These are a cluster of mountains that I’ve looked at and admired for years. But I’ve never gotten into them. All the paved roads go around them.

This would be a good time to mention that this map more than others has warnings that you will want to pay attention to. In more than one place it says “Roads may be impassable when wet.” Boy, is that an understatement. I remember talking to Bill Eakins when they were developing this route and he told me of going out on a sidetrip at one point and getting caught in rain. While only a few miles from camp, it took hours to get back due to the mud that just cakes the tires.

We had a similar experience with cars quite a few years ago. We were headed to the north end of Canyonlands and drove all night to get there, reaching the road to Island in the Sky just before dawn. We drove in over from ground but as the sun came up it started to thaw. The mud got worse and worse till we finally decided we had better turn around. But by then, everything we had already been through had gotten much, much worse. We got out and pushed three cars for miles, taking most of the day, getting ourselves and the cars caked in red mud. Jerry told us years later that every time he washed that car for as long as he owned it there would always be red dirt on the driveway afterward.

The other warnings are where orange highlighted routes branch off from the normal yellow. These are marked, “Alternate Route, Experts Only.” Yeah, we’re separating the men from the boys here.

Further north, in the area west of Duchesne, the route runs up through the Wasatch Range, an area I’m familiar with. But you can bet you’ll be seeing parts of those mountains you’ll never see from the road. And they’re pretty beautiful from the road.

At the north end, the route comes out at Bear Lake, at Garden City. When you get here, even if you aren’t following the Utah BDR, you’ve got to stop and have a raspberry milkshake. It’s the specialty of the town. Good way to cap off your ride.

Biker Quote for Today

On a bike, no one ever asks, “Are we there yet?”

Egress Blocked

Monday, December 21st, 2015
Bike In Snow

Good weather is not all you need to be able to ride.

It’s that time of winter again. We’ve had some very nice days, good days to be out riding, but with our neighborhood streets covered in snow and ice I can’t get out. The forecast at this time suggests that before the sun does its job on our streets we’ll be having more snow. That’s exactly why I made a point to get out on all three bikes on about December 3 while it was still nicer weather. Who knows if I’ll get out again this year.

Some people are getting out, though. Obviously they don’t live on an inner neighborhood street. I mean, the main streets are clear if you can get to them.

What really amazed me, though, was a couple days ago I was out in my car and on Hampden I saw a guy on a bike. No big deal, except this was during the first melt after the snowstorm and while there was no snow or ice on Hampden, the entire road was very wet and sloppy. This was the sort of condition where your car gets coated in dark brown grime and if you don’t clean off your headlights, when you go to use them you find they don’t cast much light.

So this guy was out riding in this. Which means he was getting himself covered in all this gunk. Yow!

He was on a sportbike and had a helmet and leather jacket but unlike cars, helmets don’t have wipers to continually be clearing that stuff away so you can see. You’re more hard core than me, fella.

The next day I saw someone out, too, but by then the streets were much dryer. But at that point we were only starting to see a little asphalt show through on our street. It would take two or three more days like that to be clear and we’re apparently not going to get those days.

If there’s any way at all that I can get out, though, I will do so on December 31. That’s the day when ABATE of Colorado is having its annual Last Brass Monkey Run. This is intended to be the last riding event of the year but as you can imagine it is not always amenable to riding. So fine, if you can’t ride you go in your car. And I will. But I’d sure like to ride.

This thing has four starting points and the end is at the Grizzly Rose:
North–Rocky Mountain Saloon, 4329 CO Hwy 66, Longmont
East–Flying J Truck Stop, (I-70 Exit 285), 16751 E 32nd Ave, Aurora
South–Big Train Family Restaurant, 3050 N. Nevada Ave, Colorado Springs
West–In the Zone, 15600 West 44th Ave, Golden

If you’re going to participate the idea is to sign in (and sign your waiver) between 10 and 11 a.m. Or, finish line registration begins at the Rose at 11 a.m. Then they have food, music, and a chili cook-off, among other things. Plus an inside-the-Rose poker walk.

Then there’s usually a ride set for January 1 by a BMW group–the first ride of the year–but I’m not sure if that’s on this time around or not. I went looking for info but found none. Whatever.

So–bottom line: ride it if you can. Maybe I’ll be out there, too.

Biker Quote for Today

All I want for Christmas is you . . . Just kidding. Get me parts for my motorcycle.

Motorcycle Rental That Doesn’t Break The Bank

Thursday, December 17th, 2015
EagleRider World Headquarters, in Los Angeles

The EagleRider World Headquarters, in Los Angeles.

When you can rent a car for a day for as little as $35, why is it that renting a motorcycle will run you into the hundreds? I know that there have been plenty of times when I’ve been away from home and would have liked to rent a bike for a day or three but the cost would have been more than prohibitive. And there have been a couple times I have rented but man was it expensive!

Judging from a link Alan sent me it seems EagleRider may have figured out that if the price wasn’t as high they’d get more business. What they’ve come up with is something called Club EagleRider and if you join, for $29 a month, you get one day’s motorcycle rental for no extra charge per month. If you don’t use it one month that day’s rental accrues, so after seven months you would have seven days no-charge riding.

At $29 per day, times seven, that would be $203 for a seven-day rental. That’s about what I have paid EagleRider in the past for a one-day rental. Holy smokes!

Now, be aware that there are other expenses. Taxes and insurance are two, but if you drop the bike you can plan on paying a very hefty deductible for the slightest bit of damage.

Take our experience renting out of Vancouver, British Columbia. One thing EagleRider promotes as part of Club EagleRider is also getting a free rental on your birthday. Well, that’s a long-time policy and we took advantage of it back in 2011. So we had the bike for two days, one being my birthday, but after paying about $200 for one day’s rental, another $100 for taxes (this was Canada, where taxes are higher), and $50 for insurance, we ended up paying a total of $350. Ouch!

Now, the thing with insurance is that the cheapest you can get is about $50, if I remember correctly, and that’s with $2,000 deductible. If you want to pay more you can get it down to only a $1,000 deductible. In other words, if you do the bike any damage at all your expensive rental just got a heck of a lot more expensive, even with the lower deductible.

Now compare that to Club EagleRider. Say you take the bike for three days, no fee because you have three accrued days. Add the insurance: I don’t recall if you pay insurance by the day, but probably. So let’s say $25 a day for a total of $75. Then what about taxes? Again, my memory from four years ago is not crystal clear but I think we did not pay taxes for the day we got the bike free, my birthday. Is that how it would work here? Or would the government consider that paying for club membership is like rental so you pay taxes even though the bike is “free”?

Let’s be pessimistic and say you pay $50 taxes per day in the US. We’re now looking at a three-day rental costing $225. Figure in a year’s membership–$348–and it comes to $573 for a three-day rental. That’s still not cheap but we’re getting there.

Now let’s say you do a seven-day rental, with seven club days accrued.
Fees: 0
Insurance: $175
Taxes: $350
Total: $525 plus $348 = $873

Divide that by seven and it’s just shy of $125 a day. Now you’re starting to speak my language.

And what happens to that cost if you don’t pay that $50 a day for taxes? Three days total: $423, or $141 a day. Seven days total: $523 or $75 a day.

Do you get the picture? Motorcycle rental just got a lot more reasonable.

Now, I’m not going to join up this moment, but as we plan future trips I’m going to be factoring possible motorcycle rental in. And if it works into our plans I will definitely be joining up some months in advance of the trip. Thank you EagleRider for bringing this cost down to something I consider acceptable. But I do want to find out about the taxes; that will make a considerable difference. And I’m still going to be super cautious about putting even the tiniest ding in that bike.

Biker Quote for Today

Life is short. Break the rules, forgive quickly, laugh easily, keep it simple, ride often, ride free, and never regret anything that makes you smile.

You Mean There’s Good Riding In Texas?

Monday, December 14th, 2015
Texas Hill Country

Not one, but three twisted sisters. That sounds good.

From Colorado, taking a motorcycle trip in Texas is not unthinkable. If you head down toward Lamar, to the southeastern corner of the state, Texas is only 40 miles away across the Oklahoma panhandle. From Denver you can actually be in Texas in just a few hours. But then your trip is barely begun.

“Texas is a world all of its own. It takes a lifetime to drive from Eastland to Van Horn.” That’s a line from a Little Feat song. And they should know. Texas is BIG.

So where would you go to ride in Texas? You guessed it: I’ve got another new Butler Maps map, this one for the Texas Hill Country. And where exactly is the Texas Hill Country? Oh, just about 700 miles south of where you would be coming into the state. Down around Austin and San Antonio. And let’s face it, most of that is going to be just burning up miles. Unless you’re Iron Butt-inclined, this needs to be a trip of a full week or more.

And what do you find when you get there? Well, hills for one thing. And that generally means twisty roads running through canyons and valleys. That sounds good, doesn’t it? The biggest attraction as far as I can see is what they call the Three Twisted Sisters. I don’t think that needs explanation. Butler maps out a Three Twisted Sisters route that starts and ends in Kerrville, running 225 miles. A nice day’s ride.

The map also shows three other day ride loops, a 131-mile ride out of Bandera, a 140-mile ride out of New Braunfels, and a 140-mile ride out of Luckenbach.

Perhaps surprisingly for Texas, the map also lists 28 dual sport adventure roads. Texas is known for not having a lot of public land but if you want to get off the pavement there are at least some places you can go. However, be warned. Here’s what Butler has to say about these roads:

They are best suited for advanced riders on bikes such as the BMW R1200GS or KTM 1190. Do not try these roads if your skills or machine are not up to the task.

Something on this map I don’t recall seeing on others are highlight text labeled “Don’t Miss This.” On the Bandera loop, for example, they list things like:

  • The Lone Star Motorcycle Museum near Vanderpool houses a treasure-trove of bikes dating from 1910 to the present.
  • The Apple Store in Medina is a great place to stretch your legs. Be sure to try their signature apple-cinnamon ice cream.

Texas really is a world all of its own. I guesstimate that this map covers maybe one-fifth of the state. In other words, there’s a whole heck of a lot more of it. And I’m sure there is some good riding in other places but I suspect Butler focused on the Hill Country because that’s the best. At least in a concentrated grouping. Considering how huge Texas is I welcome someone pointing me to the really good stuff so I don’t end up burning up thousands of miles on country that is not all that interesting.

One note though: if you’re going to go I suggest you do so in the spring or fall. I’ve heard that, just as riders put their bikes away for the winter up north, riders in Texas put their bikes away for the hottest part of the summer.

So am I going to go riding in Texas? Well, yeah, I’d sure like to. But will it happen? I honestly can’t say. We’re talking serious miles and I’m in the heart of some of the best riding in the world here in Colorado. But I’m definitely going to be considering it.

Biker Quote for Today

But officer, I only have two wheels so I’d have to do 110 mph to break the limit!

AMA Leaning To Right-Wing Partisanship?

Thursday, December 10th, 2015
OFMC at Colorado National Monument

Colorado National Monument was created by a president, not by Congress. Was that a bad thing?

Let me say right up front that I understand why the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) is very friendly with senators and congressmen who predominantly belong to the Republican Party. The simple fact is that they tend to be more supportive of motorcyclist issues than Democrats. Probably the very best from a biker’s perspective is Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, of Wisconsin.

That said, I don’t like the direction the AMA seems to be going. The group’s membership spans the political spectrum but lately they’re sounding just a bit too Republican. I just don’t think that’s appropriate considering the membership.

Specifically, in the December 2015 and January 2016 issues of the group’s magazine, American Motorcyclist, they have said three times that President Obama has been “sidestepping Congress” by creating new national monuments by executive fiat.

What’s the issue? They say Obama is closing public lands to motorized recreation. What is he doing? He’s using the power that Congress gave to the president–all presidents–in 1906 when they passed the Antiquities Act. In the time since it was passed, 16 of the 19 presidents have used the Antiquities Act to unilaterally create national monuments. They’ve used that power 137 times. In some cases, Congress came along later and turned those national monuments into national parks. Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park used to be a monument. Great Sand Dunes National Park used to be a monument. They were created as monuments by presidents “sidestepping Congress” by following the law that Congress passed.

Just to get my biases out in the open here, I am a registered independent voter, who has little affection for the Republicans or Democrats, and I do work at the National Park Service (for a few more days) and the park service is one of the several agencies that administer national monuments.

So there’s no question that I love the national parks–don’t you?–and the monuments and the seashores, and all the rest. I also have some concern with creating any more of these things right now because they add to the National Park Service and other agency responsibilities without adding a penny more budget. You can’t keep doing that forever.

But this business of accusing Obama of “sidestepping Congress”–repeatedly!!–when he’s only doing what so many other presidents have done, just smacks too much of right-wing partisanship for me. The AMA a couple years ago hired former Colorado Rep. Wayne Allard as their legislative liaison and I wondered then if this would lead to a rightward tilt on policy. At the same time, I figured Allard might be more effective than someone else because he would be on good terms with the Republicans who control both houses of Congress. So I withheld judgment. Just wait and watch. Not everyone else did so. There were AMA members who protested right away about Allard’s appointment.

And that’s the point. The membership spans the political spectrum. The AMA has no business playing this partisanship game. And that’s exactly what this is.

And oh, by the way, the president who created the most acreage of new national monuments was George W. Bush, by a lot. Of course Bush’s monuments were largely in the Pacific around islands but do you suppose the scuba divers object to the restrictions these declarations created? And while Ronald Reagan was one of the three presidents who created no new national monuments while in office, he did sign 43 wilderness bills that rendered 10.6 million acres off-limits to motorized recreation. But of course he wasn’t side-stepping Congress. That doesn’t make those 10.6 million acres any less off limits.

And finally, I have to wonder about the interests of AMA members. I would guess the large majority are people who never ride off road anyway, but perhaps love the parks and monuments. Tough luck for the dirt-bike crowd, maybe, but that’s a trade-off the street-riding folks might be very willing to make. And depending on the piece of land, there may not even be dirt-bikers who are affected. I don’t really know.

So I have communicated my displeasure to the AMA. I’ll let you know what, if anything, they have to say to me.

Biker Quote for Today

I like to ride the canyons at night, when there’s a full moon, and you shut the engine off and coast downhill. — Keanu Reeves

New Mexico, The Land Of (Map) Color

Monday, December 7th, 2015
New Mexico 152, that state's "tail of the dragon"

That squiggly yellow line means good motorcycling.

I see there’s one particular part of New Mexico I need to spend more time in. I’m looking right now at another map I recently received from Butler Maps, and this one is for New Mexico. The area is the mountainous section east of Alamogordo that includes Ruidoso. Butler rates motorcycle roads by color–yellow, red, and orange in descending order–and there’s a good bit of yellow here.

Of course I know there’s a big motorcycle rally each year in Ruidoso, and you know they don’t hold those things in places without good motorcycle roads. But I guess I’ve never been there. I say “I guess” because I thought sure the OFMC had been to Ruidoso one time but checking our trip logs I sure can’t find any trip where we did. We generally do our annual ride in July or August and neither of those months are good for going that far south in New Mexico.

We have, however, been all over the northern part of the state, many times, and there is an awful lot of color up there, too. Absolutely no surprise. Northern New Mexico is mountainous and gorgeous.

A surprise for me, however, is how much orange there is on this map. That is, there are a whole lot of roads that perhaps are not spectacular but that Butler says are still pretty darn nice. None of them are interstate however (surprise!) so if you really want to see the good parts of New Mexico you definitely need to get off the slab. Forget about burning up the miles, slow down and see the place.

Not a surprise is that Butler has identified a road I’ve been extolling for years. This is New Mexico 152 running from San Lorenzo over to Hillsboro and down to Caballo. I did a piece for Examiner.com calling it New Mexico’s Tail of the Dragon. Butler calls this the Emory Pass Road and marks it in yellow. Here’s what they have to say about the road.

Named for Lieutenant W. H. Emory, who chronicled the U.S. Army of the West expedition over Emory Pass in 1846, the highway was finally opened for travel in 1938. Highway 152 is without question one of the most breathtaking routes in the state, a little known treasure off the beaten track that is well worth experiencing. As with most roads built during early statehood, this too was engineered to follow natural landmass contours as closely as possible.

That means curvy, you know? “. . . follow natural landmass contours as closely as possible . . .”

One other point of interest: Butler points out more than 100 dual sport adventure roads, so if that’s your style of riding, you want to ride New Mexico. I’m thinking March might be a good time to head that direction.

Biker Quote for Today

I do not know where I’m heading. Let the road decide.

Motorcycling — The Best Therapy

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
Motorcycle Relief Project

The Motorcycle Relief Project website.

I used a Biker Quote for Today here a while ago that bears repeating: You never see a motorcycle parked in front of a psychiatrist’s office.

Apparently someone decided to combine that idea with the needs of our military veterans who come home psychologically damaged by what they endured. It’s called the Motorcycle Relief Project. (I owe a thank-you to Mark Odette for pointing me to this group.)

What is this group about? Here’s their mission statement.

Motorcycle Relief Project (MRP) is a 501c3 tax-exempt nonprofit organization that provides relief to veterans with PTSD and other injuries by taking them on multi-day motorcycle adventure tours. Our mission is to honor and encourage veterans while providing them with opportunities to decompress, get unstuck, and connect with other veterans.

The group offers what they refer to as “Relief Rides.” Here’s the scoop on those.

Relief Rides are 5-day adventure bike tours in the mountains of Colorado and are specifically designed to provide relief to veterans with PTSD and other invisible injuries. Tours include a combination of on-road and moderate off-road riding. Participants get to ride on some of Colorado’s most scenic two-lane roads as well as some amazing jeep trails and forest roads. A valid motorcycle endorsement that you’ve had for at least a year is mandatory, but no previous off-road experience is required. Rides are controlled with a lead rider in front and a sweep rider in back, and all participants are asked to ride with safety as the main priority.

Riders will cross the Continental Divide several times over the five-day ride. Accommodations will be in mountain lodges, where group members will be able to unwind from the day’s adventures and join in group discussions around the campfire or lodge fireplace. Participants will learn simple techniques for relaxing and dealing with trauma that can help them better manage their internal stress and move toward recovery. A support vehicle will carry participants’ luggage as well as food, tools, etc. Participants in Relief Rides are sponsored by generous donors and corporate sponsors who are concerned about the toll that serving in a combat situation takes on many of the men and women of our armed forces.

Volunteers are a big part of this effort so if you or your riding group want to get involved there are plenty of opportunities.

I could go on but you can read their website as well as I can. This sounds like something a lot of people are going to be interested in.

Biker Quote for Today

Seriously, just get on a bike. Anything that runs. Life is better. — Mark Hoyer