Archive for September, 2016

Examiner Resurrection: Touring Utah Canyon Country On Motorcycle

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

This is another resurrection, dating from June 2009.

motorcyclists at Red Canyon in Utah

Riders taking a break at Red Canyon.

“Spectacular” is the word to describe the canyon country of southern Utah, and the best of it is completely accessible on a motorcycle. And no, I’m not talking dual sport. I mean Harley/Honda luxotourers.

Get here via whatever route suits you, we’re just going to cover Utah 12 and Utah 63, which goes down into Bryce Canyon National Park.

Heading east from the junction with U.S. 89, Utah 12 very quickly enters Red Canyon. Here you get just an inkling of what you’ll find at Bryce Canyon, but Red Canyon is incredibly beautiful all on its own.

Continue east until you reach the turn-off for Utah 63, which heads south a few miles before entering the national park. There are a couple motels just north of the park and they have restaurants that are open until 10 p.m. If you’re the camping sort, there are campgrounds inside the park, and back at Red Canyon as well.

The entrance fee for the park is $12 for motorcycles, unless you’re a grey-hair and have your Golden Age Pass.

We found the best thing to do was to run all the way to the end of the road without stopping and then make all your stops on the way back north. The reason is, all the view areas are on the east side and this lets you avoid pulling in and out across oncoming traffic. Of course, the entire road through the park is well-maintained asphalt.

Taking this approach, your first stop will be Rainbow Point. The view, on a clear day, is more than 100 miles. You’re at a towering height and it’s like the whole world is laid out at your feet.

Working your way back to the north, there are small, unnamed view areas and bigger, named view areas. Not surprisingly, the views are more spectacular at the named spots. That’s not to say the smaller spots are not worth stopping at.

The further north you get the most the view becomes one of towering, multi-colored hoodoos, as they’re called. These are the pinnacles that stand tall as the areas around them erode away. Not a true canyon, Bryce Canyon has been formed primarily by water seeping into cracks in the rock, freezing, and forcing the crack wider and wider, while the chips that break off get washed away.

Finally, back near the north end of the park, is the ring of view areas named Sunset, Sunrise, Inspiration, and Bryce Points. This is the best spot to get off the bikes and actually hike down into the canyon. The shortest loop, six-tenths of a mile, is Navajo Trail Loop. For a bit longer hike, take the Queen’s Garden trail from Sunset Point over to Sunrise Point, about 1.6 miles. There’s a lot of down and then a lot of up, so be sure to wear decent walking shoes and carry water. Don’t be surprised if it rains a bit while you’re walking, but usually the coolness and wet is welcome.

Then you’re on your way again. Panguitch, about 7 miles north of Utah 12 on U.S. 89 is a nice place to stop for the night, with numerous attractive motels, a grocery store, gas stations, and restaurants.

Enjoy the ride, but enjoy the stops, too.

Biker Quote for Today

I love to ride. I hate to arrive.

Examiner Resurrection: A Terrific Motorcycle Sidetrip In Southwestern Utah

Monday, September 26th, 2016

For eight years I was a writer for–the National Motorcycle Examiner, if you will–and in that time I published somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 articles. That relationship ended about a year ago, so it was only a few days ago that I learned Examiner had shut down in July 2016, taking down all the many thousands (millions?) of articles done by many, many writers.

While a lot of my articles were timely and republishing them now would be useless, in my own opinion at least, some of the work I did was very good, remains relevant, and deserves to be resurrected. I had already been republishing some of the very earliest stuff because advances in technology had rendered some early work technologically incompatible, and it had been dropped. Now that list of potential resurrections has grown enormously.

A terrific motorcycle sidetrip in southwestern Utah

OK, you’re riding from California or Las Vegas, trying to make good time and cover a lot of ground, on your way somewhere east. You’re staying mostly on the interstate, but passing through southern Utah you hate passing all this beautiful terrain, and you need a quick fix of twisty roads. Do I have a treat for you!

13 percent grade ahead

  Fun riding just ahead!

Cedar City is where you want to get off the superslab. Get onto Utah 14 and head east and you soon find yourself climbing through gorgeous canyons and winding and twisting to your heart’s content. Enjoy.

After about 18 miles or so you’ll want to catch Utah 148 going north. If you liked what you’ve seen so far, you’re in for an even better treat. This road winds through Cedar Breaks National Monument and the numerous view areas are all worth stopping for. The panaromic vistas range from deep, red canyons to mountain views that, on a clear day, extend over 100 miles.

You’ll come to the Brian Head summit, a bit over 10,000 feet in elevation, and see Brian Head itself just to the east. Later in the summer you might even want to ride the 3 miles of good gravel road to the summit, but in late May/early June when we’re visiting the road still has deep snow on it.

Over the hump, you come down into the ski resort town of Brian Head, where a sign warning of 13 percent grades gives you a hint of what is ahead. Down the hill you go, again winding and twisting, until you come out to the little town of Parowan, where you rejoin the interstate.

You’ve just enjoyed a 42 mile diversion from I-15 and only added half that distance to your trip. Oh yeah, you can take this route going the other direction, too.

This is the type of thing riding motorcycles is all about, isn’t it?

Biker Quote for Today

Give the world and its baggage the middle finger, then get on your bike and ride.

Legislative Priorities For Colorado Motorcyclists

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016
motorcycles queued up to begin a group ride.

Getting ready to ride.

ABATE of Colorado is a motorcycle rights organization, and one of the strongest voices on motorcycle-related issues that we have down at the state capitol.

Of course a lot of what ABATE deals with at the capitol is dictated by what bills are introduced each session. Nevertheless, it is useful to also set priorities as to which issues we want to push to have addressed. Stump is our legislative liaison down there and he has asked the group what we think the priorities should be for the next session, which will start in January. He offered six and would like to hear how we would rank them, plus I’m sure if someone offered another one that made everyone say, “Well, of course!”, then that would be welcome, too.

So I figured, why not throw this out there for anyone I can reach to offer their thoughts, too. I’m going to list the six, with a bit of explanation, and would love it if you would leave a comment with your thoughts. Thanks.

Lane-splitting: Although it has been allowed there for years, California just became the first state to officially make lane-splitting legal. This allows you to go up the middle between cars when traffic is either stopped or going extremely slow. I don’t really need to explain this further, do I?

The MOST program: The Motorcycle Operator Safety Training program was originally set up as a way to encourage riders, or especially prospective riders, to take training courses so they can become better, more competent, and presumably safer motorcyclist. The idea is that we all pay a couple bucks extra when we renew our plates and licenses each year and that money goes to reduce the cost for the trainee.

The Colorado Department of Transportation, which administers MOST, may argue differently among riders it is generally considered that MOST has strayed far from its mission and needs to either be revamped or eliminated. This is especially pertinent this year because it is up for sunset review. Is the riding community going to support keeping the program alive or will we push our elected representatives to kill it?

Autocycles: These are this proliferating group of three-wheeled vehicles that, because legislation does not keep up with society, are now classified as motorcycles. This classification creates a number of problems. When crashes occur, even though the factors involved may be completely unique to the three-wheelers, they get counted in motorcycling statistics. Plus, to ride one you might need a motorcycle rider designation on your driver’s license, which hardly seems appropriate if you’re riding one of those little Polaris Slingshot things.

There is movement all across the country to create a new classification of vehicle, the autocycle. Certainly this is something we should support here, but how much of a legislative priority is it considering that so far none of our legislators seems to be pushing it on their own.

Red light bill: Not all traffic signals that require triggering by vehicles to make the light turn are capable of detecting motorcycles. You can sit there for a long time waiting for it to turn. At some point you really ought to be able to go through the red without fear of being ticketed.

Right-of-way enhanced penalties: I posted on Monday about this Michigan legislator who was killed on his motorcycle when a car turned in front of him. He had the right-of-way and that driver violated his right-of-way. We all know this happens to us way too often, and it is often due to inattention or distraction. Should those people face extra harsh penalties for their negligence that led to a rider being killed? As it is, reports are all too common about these drivers getting fined $50 or some other such minor slap on the wrist.

Motorcycle-only checkpoints: Some states like to set up checkpoints where all they do is pull over motorcyclists to see if they have a valid motorcycle operator’s license and perhaps to do equipment safety checks on the bikes. They only pull over bikers. And they don’t always take motorcyclists’ special needs for stable footing and such when they select the places they’re going to do this. There is pressure to have these profiling events banned; some states have already done so.

That’s the list. What are your priorities?

Biker Quote for Today

It’s not a phase, it’s my life. It’s not a hobby, it’s my passion. It’s not for everyone, it is for me.

Bias And Jumping To Conclusions

Monday, September 19th, 2016

I was at my ABATE District 10 meeting on Sunday and the topic arose of the Michigan legislator who sponsored the repeal of that state’s helmet law and who just this past week was killed riding his motorcycle. The discussion was about how the media played up the fact that he sponsored that bill and then died on his bike–as if the two were in any way related.

Pete Pettalia

Pete Pettalia

Pete Pettalia was wearing a helmet. Let’s get clear on that right up front. There is no irony here.

So my curiosity was piqued and I came home and googled the incident to see how it was reported. I don’t know, maybe the writers/editors have gone back and revised earlier reports but every report I read either said he was wearing a helmet or that, at the time of writing, details of that sort had not yet been released by the police.

Whatever the media response, it all missed the real issue while sometimes going after what was not the issue. That is, helmets were not the issue; the issue was once again someone in a car or truck turning in front of someone on a motorcycle. A right-of-way violation. And as Pettalia’s death shows, wearing a helmet frequently will not save your life. His helmet was irrelevant; the violation of his right-of-way meant everything. That’s the issue.

Nevertheless, the internet trolls got busy right away, who cares about facts?

A Michigan-focused website called MLive ran a piece about the crash and fatality at a point that was probably too early for the facts about the helmet to have been released.

That didn’t stop the trolls:
flint style coney: he was exercising his personal right to operate his motorcycle unsafely. he advocated for people to do the same, and many died as a result. these deaths are tragic losses.

To which MlxPlant replied: @flint style coney Let’s see…he was wearing a helmet. The other vehicle pulled out in front of him. Who bears the brunt of this fault?


And from manthor: @Frog City Council @MackFloating Police report he WAS. Can you not read?

So md22mdrx suggested: It’s not the helmet, it’s the motorcycle. Motorcycles are deathtraps. Don’t ever let a friend or family member get on one. If you don’t wear a helmet on top of it? The idiocy of people knows no bounds. Darwin Award.

To which MlxPlant replied: @md22mdrx The lack of compassion of people knows no bounds. The driver failed to yield to the right of way and you blame the motorcycle. You are no better than someone who blames the victim for a rape.

Kind of getting to like MlxPlant, aren’t we?

People like these are the reason we needs motorcyclist rights organizations such as ABATE and the Motorcycle Riders Foundation.

Biker Quote for Today

I am a biker, not your next roadkill. Get off the phone and open your eyes.

Shooting Guanella Pass With The GoPro

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

I’ve mentioned a few times that I got this new GoPro camera for a Christmas gift and my long-term goal is to provide video of the various passes and canyons featured on this website. So it seemed the perfect thing to do to provide that right from the start when I put up this new page on Guanella Pass.

Guanella Pass

In the past I would have had to stop to get this photo. Now I can just look at the scene I want and it gets photographed.

The issue is, I’m still learning how to use this thing. I’m trying to meet two specific objectives.

  • I want the video in time-lapse because I don’t figure many people are going to be interested in watching a 45-minute video of someone riding over some pass.
  • I want to be able to extract individual images to use as still photos.

So far, I’ve done a few test runs, crossing Cherry Creek Dam and riding up and down Lookout Mountain. And I used the camera to film a ride through Glenwood Canyon this summer. But I’m still figuring out what works best.

Not sure what settings I’ve used previously, I reread the user manual for about the 15th time and decided I should use the multi-shot mode, set to time-lapse, with a frame rate of two frames per second. I’m going to jump ahead here. Suppose I took 40 minutes to go over Guanella Pass in one direction and another 40 minutes going the other way. Do the math at two frames per second and what I ended up with was about 9,600 individual photographs. Yow! Do you have any idea how hard it is to find one particular photo out of 9,600?

And then I ran into an issue. When importing the images from the camera to the computer it stalled at one point saying there was a problem. And there was. There were several groups of images that could not be opened, imported, or even deleted. Something went wrong.

Of course, this made this a learning opportunity. I recalled that my GoPro Hero4 Black can do time-lapse videos automatically, but older models could not, so I reasoned that the GoPro Studio software must be able to turn those images into a video. All I had to do was figure out how. Which I did, and because the sequence where I came up to the pass itself and started back down was all OK I did create a video of just that part of the ride. That’s probably all anybody’s interested in anyway.

But then I also learned that the Hero4 Black has a new setting just for this, called time-lapse video. That’s the setting I should have used.

Whatever. So I did have plenty of still images to choose from and that one above is an example. It looks fine in this size but would not look good enlarged much more. I don’t even know what resolution setting I was using; I need to figure that out and use the highest possible resolution.

So bottom line, I’m learning via trial and error but this is another thing I hope joining the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Riders Club may do for. Hopefully, someone in the club has more experience than I do with GoPro cameras and can help teach me. That’s my hope, anyway. We’ll see.

Biker Quote for Today

Ride ’em or weep.

Adding Guanella Pass To The Website

Monday, September 12th, 2016
motorcycles on Guanella Pass

Were you riding on Guanella Pass last week? Is this you? This was shot with the GoPro sitting on top of my helmet.

When I first built the Passes & Canyons website I had all I could do to just ride, photograph, and write about all the paved roads over passes and through canyons in Colorado. Anything unpaved was just left out, at least for the time being. Then after awhile I did add the Dirt Roads and Side Trips page, with a few dirt roads.

One of the roads on that page was Guanella Pass. While the road on the Clear Creek County side coming up from Georgetown was paved, heading down to Grant on the other side, in Park County, was not. So it didn’t get a full page of its own.

But guess what! Guanella Pass has now been paved all the way. And it’s a really nice ride, not that far from the city. If you haven’t been over it you owe it to yourself to do so. Probably the best direction is from Grant to Georgetown because that way you come down the steep descent into Georgetown and it’s a good view.

So now I need to add Guanella Pass to the website as its own full-blown page. And the first step in doing that would be to ride the route, shoot photos, and gather information. That’s what I did last week. In fact, I didn’t just ride it, I rode it twice, from Grant to Georgetown and then back to Grant. I was shooting the ride the whole way with my GoPro camera and a road looks different going one way than it does going the other way.

Now, of course, I need to build the page. And it will really be a matter of building two pages, because there are four campgrounds along this road and I’ll also do a “Campgrounds along the Guanella Pass Road” page with information about those campgrounds. And then there’s the whole ripple effect of all the other pages that will need revisions to include these new pieces.

So, it was a beautiful day and I loved getting up in the hills and having a good ride. I was interested to see how the fall color was going but there really wasn’t much to see. I saw some stands of aspen that were still green, but the ones I saw that were turning were very pale. I didn’t see any at all that were the brilliant yellow that makes this time of year so beautiful.

I know the weather has an impact on how brilliant the colors are and maybe this year we’re just not going to have all that much color. That will be a disappointment if that’s the case. And I know the Georgetown side of Guanella Pass can be spectacular. I guess we’ll see.

I’ll let you know when the new Guanella Pass page is up on the website.

Biker Quote for Today

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery. Ride and live today.

Join The Club

Thursday, September 8th, 2016

I did. I joined the club.

Specifically, I joined the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Riders Club (RMMRC). My hope and expectation is that it will help me meet some new people and make some new friends to go riding with. Sure I go out for a week each year with the guys in the OFMC but beyond that we maybe get out for breakfast three times a year. Most of the rest of the time when I ride I’m riding alone.

RMMRC logo

The RMMRC logo.

And riding alone is not bad. In fact, I like it a lot. But I especially would like to meet some folks who want to ride off the pavement. I don’t want to be off on some trail up in the hills and need assistance in a place where no one might come along for a week or two. Yes, I’ve thought about getting a SPOT tracker, and that remains an option, but it would be nice to simply have other people to ride with so you can help each other out if need be.

So on Thursday night last week I went over to Piccolo’s restaurant–conveniently, very close to home–to see what the RMMRC was all about.

Turns out they’re about a lot. It’s a highly organized group. Every year they plan out a number of group rides far enough in advance that they print up a ride book, and we’re not talking just four or five rides. Here’s part of the list for this year:
April 2 — Season Warm-up and Orientation Ride
April 16 — Kick Up Some Prairie Dust!
May 10 – May 24 — Southern West Coast Tour
June 4 — Dual Sport Day Ride
June 6 – June 13 –Grand Canyon Tour
July 12 – July 20 — BMW MOA Rally, Hamburg, NY
August 4 – August 12 — Flaming Glacier Run

OK, you get it. And there’s a lot more. The point is, these are not just day rides. There are some big ones in there. I like that kind of stuff.

In addition, Roy, the safety director, told me that for those (mostly retired) who have the availability, they will often take short-notice week-day rides out for breakfast or lunch somewhere. And then of course, once you make some friends, you can always just call up a couple guys and round up some folks to do your own, non-club-sponsored rides.

Really, that’s probably more what I’m interested in. I believe in riding safely, and riding with the OFMC that is something that’s pretty hit or miss, but neither am I fond of severe regimentation. I believe in riding in staggered formation but the rules of some riding groups is more than I am comfortable with. I want some happy medium. So I’ll go on some club-sponsored rides, and if I don’t find the regimentation to be beyond my tolerance I’ll do more. But I may not do more; that’s where meeting new riding companions and doing your own rides comes in. I’ll just play it by ear.

So stay tuned. I suspect you’re going to be reading a lot more about this group in the months ahead.

More website-related stuff
One of the first things after the RMMRC meeting began was an introduction by first-time attendees. That meant me, plus another couple who were also there for the first time. After giving my name and listing the bikes I own I added that I run this website and that frankly, I was going to be a little disappointed if there was no one there who was familiar with my site.

I wasn’t disappointed. In particular, there was one couple who each told me individually that when they first got into riding, they looked for information on places to go and discovered my site. And they used it a lot. “You’re something of a celebrity for us,” Sarah told me. That is so totally gratifying. That’s the whole reason I built the site, because I wanted to share all this with others.

Which takes me back to that website in the UK that I mentioned previously. With these guys, if I want to sell my bike, they’ll buy it. Except, of course, you have to be in the UK. But I was curious so I tried going to their site. I wanted to at least see what they’re all about.

Well, turns out you can’t get far on the site unless you’re in the UK. I don’t know how the technology works but if you’re not there, all you get past the home page is a notice saying, “Could not Connect to Valuations Service.” Oh well. But if you’re in the UK and have a bike you want to sell . . .

Biker Quote for Today

Old bikers never die, our leathers just get tighter.

Convenience In Motorcycling

Monday, September 5th, 2016
V-Strom On Gravel

It's soon going to be time to head for the hills for some color.

Judy was gone all last week which meant her car was not in the garage. That allowed me to park my V-Strom right next to my car, rather than perpendicular to both our cars at the head of the garage. That in turn made it so much easier to get the bike out and ride it.

Guess what: I rode it a lot more than I otherwise would have.

Normally, to get it out I need to move one of the cars out and then to get it back in I have to muscle it backward into position, with all the typical jockeying that that entails, although I’ve gotten pretty good at it so there’s usually not a lot of jockeying. The point is that while I might opt to hop on the bike to make a quick run to the grocery store, it’s just not worth it when getting it out and in is such a hassle. When there was no hassle I did use it for those sorts of quick trips. It was so nice!

Getting either of my other bikes out is equally as involved. They are stored next to the garage in a workshop/storage area. I have to go in there from the garage and open the door, then roll a bike out, then go back in and pull the door shut and lock it, then exit through the garage. And if I want to ride the bike that is in front, that means I have to roll the back bike out, roll the front bike out, then roll the back bike back in. Again, it’s just not worth it for a quick run to the store.

This is one reason I’ve thought for a long time that I’d like to have a scooter. I figure with a scooter I could figure out some place and manner for parking it that would make it a lot more quickly and easily accessible, so I could take it on these quick runs.

Now, though, I see that the real answer is just to get Judy to agree to park her car on the driveway all the time. And really not even all the time; she could park in the garage when it’s snowy because I don’t ride when there is snow on the streets. I’m sure she’ll be happy to do that for me, don’t you think?

Right, me neither. Oh well, it was nice for a few days.

And Other Doings
Having this website and this blog mean that I get a lot of email from a lot of different people about a lot of different things. One thing I’m always getting is proposals from people who want a link from my site to theirs. Some of them really make me scratch my head. A recent one was from a guy with a site where they say they will buy your motorcycle from you. “We buy any bike,” they say. Now, that could be something of real interest to many of you except for one thing: these guys are in the UK. It’s true, of course, that some of my readers are just about anywhere you can name. The traffic to the site comes from all over the world. But the majority of traffic is from the U.S. Doesn’t matter. I get a lot of these sorts of requests from the UK. Go figure.

Biker Quote for Today

Riding motorcycles is like taking drugs . . . bikes should come with a warning label that reads “Warning: Riding a motorcycle is addictive. It will change your life forever.”

Two Dirt Riding Skills I Got But Don’t Get

Thursday, September 1st, 2016
Dirt Bike On A Hill

A day out on the V-Strom with Ron Coleman.

It’s a simple truth that you can do things even if you don’t understand what it is you’re doing or why. At the end of my dirt-biking lesson there were two such things I was left wondering about. Not that Mike and Kathy didn’t do their best to explain them, the idea just continued to see at odds with my thinking.

One had to do with riding a bike across a slope, traversing. You’re going one continuous direction with the slope angling down from one side to the other. Mike showed me to shift your weight to the downhill side with the idea that that allows your tires to get a better grip on the slope.

Here’s what I don’t get. If you want your tires to have as much good contact with the ground as possible it seems as though you would want to lean the bike enough so that, if the slope were completely level, your bike would be perfectly upright. That would mean putting your weight on the uphill side and leaning the bike to the downhill side. On the other hand, it seems as though putting weight on the downhill side would lean the bike at a very sharp angle to the sloped surface, putting you on the sides of the tires. Almost like if you really leaned a long way and the slope was steep, you would just lay the bike down on the side of the hill.

But no, the idea is to put your weight on the downhill side. If anyone thinks they can clarify this for me please, be my guest.

The second thing that didn’t really click was lifting the front tire to get up onto the beams. Mike insisted that I didn’t need to yank upward on the bike, that a good blip of the throttle would be all that was needed to elevate it. He even showed me, and I practiced, throwing my weight forward to compress the suspension and then blip the throttle as it came up to get really good lift. And he did some wheelies and demonstrated it all to me and made it look simple.

I couldn’t do it. Bouncing the suspension before blipping the throttle, no matter how many times I tried it, I never once got the tire off the ground. I couldn’t wheelie to save my life. And when it came to going over the beams I did blip the throttle but I also pulled back on the bars. I had no trouble getting over or onto the beams, but it wasn’t happening the way Mike said it should. Now, I was in second when I was doing this, and maybe if I had been in first I would have gotten more torque and more lift, I don’t know. One way or another, I was able to do what needed to be done, i.e., I got over the beams. But once again, if anyone thinks they can explain to me what else was going on I would appreciate anything you have to offer.

Biker Quote for Today

The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment on a motorcycle.