Archive for January, 2016

Possible Legislative Action On Motorcycle Transponders

Thursday, January 28th, 2016
Motorcycles On I-25

Motorcycles are allowed in HOV lanes--why should we need a transponder?

Let’s rejoin the discussion of motorcycles needing transponders to use HOV lanes without paying a fee.

I heard at Sunday’s ABATE D-10 meeting that state Sen. Kevin Lundberg, from the broad Fort Collins area, is planning to introduce a bill that, while not directed specifically at motorcycles, would nevertheless address the issue. Apparently Lundberg’s broader concern is the idea of requiring anyone–in cars or motorcycles or whatever–to have a transponder to use HOV lanes. Let’s just go back, Lundberg is saying, to last year when all you needed to drive in an HOV lane was two people in your car. Of course, that system also including allowing any motorcycle to use the HOV lane with no other requirement. While as written the legislation apparently does not say anything about motorcycles, Lundberg has indicated that he would seek an amendment that does specifically include motorcycles. That’s why ABATE has Stump working as a (non-paid!) lobbyist down at the Capitol, to get that kind of motorcycle consideration included in these bills.

It makes total sense to me. The old system was working; why did it need to be fixed? The way it has been revised there is no way for an out-of-state rider passing through to know that they need a transponder–all they would know is that motorcycles are allowed in HOV lanes so let’s do it. Boom: you get a bill in the mail when you get home.

Also, why should anyone, in a car or on a bike, have to pay for the transponder (bikes excluded on this one) and sign up with their credit card and an initial $35 deposit taken (bikes not excluded here) just to–once again–use the HOV lanes that used to be wide open? You’re adding cost, bureaucracy, time spent, and all the rest. I mean, go ahead and require transponders for anyone interested in taking the toll lanes. We all have the choice to use those or not. But don’t inflict all this on people whose only interest is in using the HOV lanes that they are entitled to use per the laws that created them.

So this is another piece of legislation, along with the lane-splitting proposal I mentioned earlier, that I’ll be watching and keeping you informed on. Bruce Downs, ABATE’s state coordinator, made the point at the meeting that when this bill comes up in committee we’re going to want to blanket that hearing room in black leather.

“It has an effect. It really does,” he said.

Could be an interesting legislative session.

Biker Quote for Today

“The Bikers Code” — All men and women are created equal. Then some take a step up and become bikers.

Colorado Lane Splitting Bill In The Works

Monday, January 25th, 2016
lane-splitting motorcycle in Paris

Filtering, or lane-splitting, in Paris, where it goes on constantly.

I was down at the Capitol building today and met Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt (R), from the Colorado Springs area, who is introducing a bill to allow lane-splitting by motorcyclists in Colorado. So far he has one Democratic co-sponsor in the House (Steve Lebsock) and a Republican co-sponsor in the Senate (John Cooke).

It is entitled, “A bill for an act concerning an exception to the prohibition against driving a motorcycle between rows of motor vehicles in the same lane.” Here is the bill summary.

Currently the driver of a motorcycle is prohibited from driving between rows of motor vehicles. The bill allows motorcycles to drive between rows of motor vehicles when traffic is moving at less than five miles per hour if:

  • The motor vehicles that the motorcycle is driving between are traveling in the same direction as and slower than the motorcycle;
  • The motorcycle is driven no faster than 15 miles per hour; and
  • The motorcycle does not exceed by 10 miles per hour the speed of traffic the motorcycle is passing.

Rep. Klingenschmitt is taking an interesting tack in promoting this bill. He has put together information pointing out that in the California bill explicitly allowing lane-splitting the Democrats voted 90 percent in favor of it and 67 percent of the Republicans voted for it.

“So it’s really a Democrat bill,” he said. So Democrats in Colorado ought to support him on this. Will they? That’s a very good question. We’ll see. But if you favor lane-splitting you really ought to let your elected representatives know that.

The materials Klingenschmitt was passing around made the point that lane-splitting is supported by the American Motorcyclist Association and the Motorcycle Industry Council. Locally it also has the support of the Powersports Dealers Association of Colorado and the Colorado Confederation of Clubs. ABATE has not yet voiced its support but I know that group will also be backing this piece of legislation.

I realize that there are some motorcyclists who oppose lane-splitting because they consider it too dangerous. Nevermind that it is practiced safely in California and in much of the rest of the world. I would simply ask those who do oppose it to keep in mind that they are not required to do it; let’s just not oppose it for those who do wish to do it. I know I’ll only do it if I am convinced I can do so safely. Nobody values my skin more than I do.

The legislative session is just getting started. There could be some interesting things going on down there this year. I’ll be paying attention and will let you know what’s happening.

Biker Quote for Today

If and whenever you begin risking your life by assuming a driver will do the right thing, you should quit riding motorcycles. — Nick Ienatsch

Finally A Clear Exit Path–Barely

Thursday, January 21st, 2016
A path through the ice just wide enough for a motorcycle tire.

I gouged this passageway out of the ice about an hour earlier.

The snow that was predicted but didn’t come over the weekend made all the difference in our street getting clear. On Monday we got a dusting but it was gone by afternoon. Finally on Wednesday, thanks to a little gouging with my heel, a lane just wide enough for my tires was open and I could ride out of the neighborhood without using the sidewalk for the first time in weeks. So I did.

Having no set route in mind I did what I often do, riding across the top of the Cherry Creek Dam heading southeast out of town. I got down to Parker and decided to go east on Main Street. Probably the last time I had gone east out of Parker on Main Street was about 35 years ago. I don’t know what the population was then but a quick search shows me it was 5,450 in 1990. Today that figure sits at about 50,000. So yeah, there have been a lot of changes.

I proceeded east past streets whose names I didn’t recognize–which is to say they are not major north-south streets–until I came to a T intersection at Delbert Road. I had never heard of Delbert Road. I figured I’d go north.

I was definitely out on the very eastern edge of the metro area here, with primarily 2.5-acre “ranchettes” and their McMansions.

Delbert Road effectively ends when it hits County Line Road, although it does go a little beyond. I stayed on it and to my left I could see the newest neighborhoods under construction. And after about a block Delbert turned to mud so I turned around. I was on the Honda so I would not have objected if it was just dirt, but mud was a different matter, especially since the tires on that bike are ready to be replaced and there is very little tread left.

Heading west now on County Line Road, I found that it does not even go through right here, hitting a T intersection at Powhaton Road. So I turned north on Powhaton and very soon it started looking familiar. When I reached the very end of Smoky Hill Road I knew why it looked familiar; I had been here coming the other direction once before.

So that gave me a very direct shot back into town along Smoky Hill. I headed home. The mileage on this ride was around 40, which was fine on a January day. I wore my electric vest and had it turned on and I even bumped my heated gloves up from the lowest setting to two notches higher. I would have been cold without them. I’ve also been wearing my fleece-lined chaps lately. They’re much warmer than my leather ones.

So the forecast for this weekend looks great. Anyone who isn’t out on their bike on Saturday just isn’t even trying.

Biker Quote for Today

Race the rain. Ride the wind. Chase the sunset. Only a biker understands.

Trail Braking Or Dragging The Brake?

Monday, January 18th, 2016
Bikes On A Curve

When trail braking, keep a little pressure on the front brake.

I’ve written a number of times about trail braking but the last time I did I got a note from Dan with some surprising information. Dan said he was familiar with trail braking but his definition of it was totally different than mine. He sent along a link to an article by Nick Ienatsch that explained what trail braking is and how it works.

I did some quick Googling to see what showed up on a search and sure enough, the bulk of what I found fit Dan’s idea of trail braking. The best I could find about the technique I called by that name was “dragging the rear brake.”

Obviously I found this very interesting. What I have called “trail braking,” the practice of revving the engine while slipping the clutch and applying some rear brake, was brought to my attention by an instructor in a Beginning Rider Course, and that is what he called it. So that is what I have called it ever since.

What Nick Ienatsch describes is something quite different. You can read his article via that link above but basically the idea, as I understand it, is for when you go into a curve at highway speed. You always want to shed excess speed while still mostly upright, before you initiate your lean, but in trail braking you don’t fully release the front brake. You maintain slight pressure so that if the curve turns tighter than expected you can squeeze a little tighter to shed some more speed. If you have no brake pressure applied and then add a bunch you can get yourself in trouble. If you already are applying some pressure and just increase that a little, then things are likely to go more smoothly.

That’s a really interesting concept for me in more ways than one. When I first learned to ride I was told, and for years everything I read said, do not apply the front brake in a curve–you’ll high-side. And truth be told, I violated that dictum many times because from time to time I found myself in turns that were tighter than anticipated and what else was I supposed to do? Run off the road? I’ve always been extremely careful and cautious in doing so, and I’ve never had any problem.

It’s only in the last few years that I did finally read something saying that braking in the curve is a viable option, as long as executed properly, and that felt like a vindication. And now that I understand the concept I’m eager to experiment and master this technique.

So I guess I won’t call dragging the rear brake “trail braking” any more. But you can bet I’ll continue using the technique for making slow speed U-turns easy. And maybe some day the guys I ride with will finally ask me how it is that I can make these turns so much more easily than they can, and maybe then those old dogs will finally learn a new trick.

Biker Quote for Today

The only people who wear helmets are pansies, nerds, and anyone who wants to live when the idiot next to you doesn’t check his blind spot when changing lanes.

Butler Rides Appalachia

Thursday, January 14th, 2016
good motorcycle routes in southern Appalachia

Where you have mountains you have good motorcycle roads--it's just a fact.

The folks at Butler Maps are based in Colorado and so it’s no surprise that most of their map-making endeavors have focused on the western US. They are, however, occasionally tempted to stray. After all, not all the best motorcycle roads are out here. Most, perhaps, but not all.

Thus we have the map entitled “The Great Rides of Southern Appalachia.”

(By the way, just so it’s clear, Butler does not pay me to promote their maps. They do pay me to carry an ad on my Great Motorcycle Roads to Ride in Colorado page, and they do give me free maps. But I write about them in favorable terms because my wife and I both really love these maps. We never travel without them.)

The area covered by this map is pretty much the mountainous area where Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia come together. This is a part of the Smoky Mountain and particularly the Blue Ridge Mountains. It’s no shock then that the largest section of yellow-highlighted road (Butler’s best rating) is the Blue Ridge Parkway. But no one needs to tell you that’s a good road to ride, do they?

Nor should anyone need to tell you about the Tail of the Dragon, which is in this area, and you really ought to know about the Cherohala Skyway, which is just a little south of the Dragon. But what else do you know about the area? That’s where this map comes in.

So do you know about the Devil’s Triangle? This is a loop ride a bit northwest of Knoxville that looks pretty nice.

How about the Six-Gap in northeast Georgia? And then there’s the Moonshiner 28. Here’s what Butler has to say about that one:

Highway 28 stretches across the southwest corner of the state (North Carolina) and has a few different riding experiences depending on where you catch it. The stretch between Highlands and Franklin is arguably one of the most dramatic roads in North Carolina with towering waterfalls and perilous cliffs. Part of the road actually ducks behind a waterfall. From Franklin north, the road is slightly less dramatic in terms of views, but almost as much fun from a pure riding standpoint.

And then in the area where Tennessee and North Carolina connect it’s totally mountains and there is a great deal of yellow on the map. This area is near Asheville and we know there is a reason they hold that big motorcycle rally in Asheville each year. Well, these roads are the reason.

Then of course, Butler always now lists good dirt roads for those inclined in that direction. It’s all there with a ton of other information.

I guess next time I go visit my mother in Clemson, South Carolina, I’m going to need to get out of the house more.

Biker Quote for Today

Just because we aren’t riding doesn’t mean we aren’t friends.

First January Exploration

Monday, January 11th, 2016

I got out for three quick rides on Tuesday last week just to run the bikes a bit but on Wednesday the weather was very nice so I went out again on the Honda for a real ride. With no destination or route in mind–as usual–I headed west on Belleview to University and turned south. By this point I was thinking I would follow University as it curves to the east and becomes Lincoln Avenue, turning off at the road heading down to Daniels Park. I hadn’t been to Daniels Park in many years and it just seemed like it was due.

motorcycle at Daniels Park overlook

The Honda wasn't built for dirt and mud but it does OK on them.

Now, just to date myself, I’ve been in Denver long enough to remember back when once you got south of County Line Road on University (C-470 didn’t exist back then) the road turned to gravel and there was nothing out there but grazing land. It’s all part of Highlands Ranch now, and it’s a city.

So Highlands Ranch had plenty of signs telling you this park is this way, that park is that way, and I figured they would have a sign pointing the way to Daniels Park but either they didn’t or I missed it. Back in the day it was easy: you just cruised along until you came to the solitary road going south, with a sign for the park. But I didn’t know what that road had become–it was probably something like County Road whatever back then–so I had no idea where to turn.

No problem. I continued on to where I hit I-25 and took it south to the Castle Pines exit and went west. I knew that ran into Daniels Park and I figured I would then take the road north and find out where it comes out along the road I had just been on. I was also sure it was all paved by now. I thought it was the last time I was out there.

So I got to the main parking lot and was very interested to see that the pavement stopped there. Fortunately, although I was not on the V-Strom, I was on the Honda and the Honda is OK on gravel. It doesn’t necessarily love gravel the way the V-Strom does, but it definitely doesn’t hate gravel the way the Concours does. You know, it’s an old CB750, a UJM, and those were do-anything bikes. I knew it would be OK.

It turned out the road was actually quite good. They’ve obviously put plenty of mag chloride on it so there was only the occasional patch of loose gravel.

So the road headed north as I knew it would, until it hit a T intersection marked Grig’s Road. To the right the road was paved and headed toward some houses. To the left it was gravel and open land, so I went left.

At some point this did turn into Daniels Park Road–I guess it has both names along here–and it was headed north again. But before long all the new roads totally obscured whatever the old road used to be. I ended up connecting with McArthur Ranch Road at another T intersection and this time I went right. That took me to Quebec, which I took north and eventually got to University.

Looking at the map I see that if I had jogged west a short run on McArthur Ranch Road I would have hit Wildcat Reserve Parkway and that looks like it would have taken me up to where the old Daniels Park Road must have turned off. But it’s all different now. There are houses and malls and churches and schools as far as you can see. It’s all just city. And even the roads that used to be don’t exist any more.

So it was a fun exploration, and a great day to be out on the bike. And then the next day it was cold and snowy. I want more days like that one.

Biker Quote for Today

Travelling in a car is like watching a film. Riding a motorcycle is like starring in it.

First Rides of 2016

Thursday, January 7th, 2016
Motorcycle with snow behind it.

Sure there's still snow on the ground but that's no reason not to ride.

OK, I was wrong about our street being clear enough to ride on Tuesday. So I went down the sidewalk again. I’ve got motorcycles that need to be ridden, you know.

I took the Kawi out first, then the Honda, then the Suzuki. There’s more snow predicted for Thursday night and you never know when you’re going to get trapped at home again, and bikes need to run. So I ran them.

It was a warm day but I bundled up and put on my electric gear. The Kawi has good wind protection so I never turned the vest on and while the heated gloves were only set on the lowest setting, I considered turning them off.

The Honda has a lot less protection, just a windshield. Now I was wishing the gloves were set warmer.

Finally, the Suzuki was just about right, enough protection and enough electric warmth.

I also had all the other gear on. While I agree with ATGATT for the most part, the fact is I rarely wear my chaps. But I had them on on Tuesday, along with helmet, gloves, jacket, and boots. ATG. At this time of year you never know when you’re going to hit a bit of ice or gravel or something that is going to put you down. And that was almost exactly what happened.

I was coming north on University Boulevard past DU and was amazed how much new construction is going on along that stretch. It seems every old building for several blocks on the east side of University, south of Evans, has been removed and new multi-story buildings are going up. So there is a good bit of mud on the street from the construction vehicles. No problem, though.

Then I went to turn east on Evans and ran across what I took to be just a wet spot on the street. Wrong. It was a thin layer of mud and my back end swung way, way out to the side. I’m sure the guy behind me was wondering if this guy on this bike was going to fall right in front of him. I was wondering, too.

But the tire caught dry pavement and found traction and then, as I knew it was going to do, it stood up straight and shook the way a bike will do when you high-side. But I was going slowly and did not give it any throttle so I was able to ride it out. That definitely gets your attention, though.

By the time I got back from the third ride more of the street was clear and I only needed the sidewalk for a short distance, but even on Wednesday when I went out again the sidewalk was necessarily part of my route. We’ll see what happens with snow on Thursday.

Biker Quote for Today

Motorcycles are like girls: It’s always better to have two.

A Good Bump In Miles Ridden In 2015

Monday, January 4th, 2016
motorcycles on a Utah highway

The OFMC in Utah.

The miles I covered on my bikes in 2015 totaled more than a 50 percent increase over 2014. That’s a really good thing. And the miles I put on the bikes far surpassed what I put on my car, too, which is another good thing. The only somewhat negative thing about last year is that I still didn’t come close to my best years on the bikes, where in some cases I just simply rode a lot more than I did in 2015, even though 2015 is an increase.

Every year at this time I check and record my mileage and see how the year went. This year’s numbers:

I only put 4,957 miles on my car, which is part of why the bike miles totaled more. That’s down from 7,558 in 2014. On the V-Strom I covered 3,849 miles, which is up from 2,596. For the CB750 it’s actually down, 531 in 2015 vs. 712 in 2014. I wouldn’t have thought that was the case but the numbers don’t lie. And for the Concours it’s 2,121 in 2015 vs. 1,037 in 2014. Total for the bikes: 6,501.

Just to put that in perspective, in 2012 I rode the Concours alone more than that: 6,785 miles. And in 2011 I rode the Concours alone 10,004 miles. Then add miles for the other bikes. But at least I’m back on an upward trend. And I expect those numbers to really surge in 2016. I mean, I have a lot more time to ride now. How could they not increase?

Right now, of course, the weather is the issue, blocking me from my first ride of the year. But the weather is in my favor now. Saturday was warm and sunny. Sunday was warm and sunny. Monday is warm and sunny. I went out on Saturday and inspected the streets around our house and concluded that by Tuesday the snow and ice would be melted sufficiently so I should be able to get out of the neighborhood. I’m really counting on it because the forecast is for more snow starting on Thursday. Let’s get this year started!

Biker Quote for Today

The engine charges the bike’s battery, and the ride recharges my own batteries. — Clement Salvadori