Archive for October, 2016

MOST Will Not Die

Monday, October 31st, 2016

The Colorado Motorcycle Operator Safety Training program, or MOST, is up for renewal in the legislature this next session and despite the desires of much of the motorcycling community, it will probably be continued. That was the word at ABATE recently.

The issue now, said ABATE State Coordinator Bruce Downs, will be to figure out how to live with it as best we can.

selfie with Senator Todd

This first selfie I have ever shot shows the group at the Piper Inn, with the arrow pointing out Sen. Nancy Todd.

How times have changed! Just a few years ago ABATE was battling in the legislature to keep MOST alive. Back then the program was doing what it had done for years, providing substantial funds to motorcycle rider training programs to keep training affordable for as many riders as possible. One arm of ABATE of Colorado does rider training, so it was a comfortable arrangement.

Now, however, the amount paid to lessen the cost has been radically reduced and the program is spending its money–money paid in by motorcyclists as add-ons to our license renewals–is being spent in large measure for oversight of the program. Let’s see . . . MOST is no longer helping make training affordable but is spending the money to keep itself functioning. For what reason? I mean, if not for rider training, for what reason? So ABATE would now like MOST to die.

But as Bruce says, that does not appear likely to happen, at least not this time around. So the issue becomes figuring out how to get that money going back to training. This is where State Senator Nancy Todd comes in. For a number of years, Sen. Lois Tochtrop was one of the strongest motorcycling proponents in the state legislature. She was term-limited and is now gone from the Senate. Nancy Todd has stepped into the void. ABATE arranged a meet and greet with Todd and others interested in motorcycling issues about a week ago at the Piper Inn, which is a popular biker bar in southeast Denver.

Sen. Todd was the one who held the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) feet to the fire over this recently resolved issue of motorcycles being required to have transponders in order to freely use HOV lanes. And according to Bruce, she agrees that there appears to be some conflict of interest in the idea that the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) is serving as both one of several competing rider training curriculum providers AND as the overseer of motorcycle rider training programs in Colorado in general. And of course, as ABATE points out, the funds paying MSF for its role as overseer are coming out of MOST funds far in excess of what the legislation seems to allow.

Sen. Todd said she intends to set up a meeting soon with CDOT and MOST to ask them to justify these issues.

And the beat goes on.

Biker Quote for Today

You’re not leaving work early, you’re just stretching your legs . . . all the way to your bike.

Examiner Resurrection: The Best Motorcycle Road In Utah That No One Knows

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

I’m here to blow the cover off the best motorcycle road you’ve never heard of. Somebody’s probably going to hate me for this.

Kolob Road coming out of Virgin, Utah

Kolob Road coming out of Virgin, Utah.

This is such a minor road that, as you can see, the mapping software doesn’t even show it when I zoom back enough to get it all in. Trust me it’s there.

And where is there? This is Kolob Road, going north out of Virgin, Utah. It runs up into Zion National Park but there is no sign of any kind telling you that. The only reason we found it was that my wife did some research before we headed for Utah last month, and she discovered it.

What a discovery! I would rank this hands down as the highlight of our entire trip. You can take a look at the pictures in the slide show below to get an idea of what I mean. (Note: Sorry, the Examiner slide show is lost to the world.)

This little strip of two-lane, red(!) asphalt climbs and winds high into the park and the views are incredible. At one point you want desperately to look at the view but the road is narrow and steep and you don’t dare. Find a place to park and walk back down if you want to see it.

I’ve been through Zion quite a few times and I have got to rank this as the best part of the entire park. And almost nobody knows about it! There’s even a campground up at the top and they don’t charge a fee to use it. Probably too much trouble to go all that way to collect the fees.

By the way, it’s not a motorcycle-accessible road to the campground, so don’t try that unless you’re really into that stuff.

So it’s 20 miles up and 20 back and altogether 40 miles of some of the best riding in all of Utah. The pictures don’t do it justice; you’ve got to see it for yourself. But don’t tell the locals I told you.

(Note: If it seems I’ve been putting up numerous Examiner Resurrection pieces about Utah recently it’s true. I’m taking these more or less chronologically and back in 2009, when they were all written, we had just been on an extended trip to Utah.)

Biker Quote for Today

Sometimes you need a really crooked road to get your head straight.

More On Motorcycles In HOV Lanes

Monday, October 24th, 2016
motorcycle three-wheelers

As far as HOV lanes are concerned, these are motorcycles.

I got a note the other day from William, at Iron Buffalo Motorcycle Training.

Hello Ken

Just something you might ad to your post as no one thought of it until after the fact…
There are a growing number of 3-wheel riders out there that seem to get ignored.

Straight from CDOT:
“Here is the official definition of what is a motorcycle, including a 3-wheeler:

(55) “Motorcycle” means a motor vehicle that uses handlebars or any other device connected to the front wheel to steer and that is designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground; except that the term does not include a farm tractor, autocycle, low-speed electric vehicle, or low-power scooter.”

So in case anyone was unsure, yes, three-wheelers do count as motorcycles in using HOV lanes without needing a transponder. Although I’m curious. It mentions “autocycles” as not being considered motorcycles. Autocycles is the term that is more and more in use around the country to describe all these various three-wheelers that are not out and out motorcycles, i.e., two-wheels one behind the other.

Counting three-wheelers as motorcycles skews crash statistics because these things just handle differently, have different problems, and crash differently, at least in some instances. So what happens in the future if Colorado decides to rewrite its legislation to create an autocycle category that would include trikes? I do suspect, however, that bikes with sidecars will always continue to be considered motorcycles, even though they do have three wheels.

So this latest success at getting procedures changed so motorcycles don’t get ticketed/fined for using HOV lanes without transponders was very much a topic of discussion at Sunday’s ABATE District 10 meeting. It turns out the fix to the computer system was not as simple as you might think it would have been.

According to Bruce Downs, the system now has the ability to distinguish motorcycles by the size of their front tires. For the first 90 days they’re doing a side-by-side comparison with the computer making the ID and a person making the ID. The idea is to be sure the computer is identifying bikes successfully. If it’s working sufficiently well it will go completely by computer after the 90 days.

And there is back-up. Before any dunning statements are mailed, a human views each one, and if a motorcycle has slipped past, that person will remove them.

Beyond that, there is always the possibility of a screw-up. Nothing and nobody is perfect. Carol Downs told of someone they know who received a letter demanding payment and it turned out when she protested that the license plate number had been read incorrectly and the vehicle in question was a car belonging to someone else entirely. So the bottom line is, you’re free to use any HOV lane on your bike and if you get a bill, don’t just pay it, protest it. It will be dismissed.

Biker Quote for Today

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know when to just go riding.

My Close-Up Experience of Roy’s Mystery Ride

Thursday, October 20th, 2016
aerial view of area south of Elbert, CO

All you need in order to understand how nice this route was is all the green.

I gave an overview of Roy’s Mystery Ride last week but that report was necessarily short on details. It’s often the details that make something really interesting so that’s what you’re going to get here.

Heading out from Performance Cycle this route immediately put me on roads in the Tech Center (I use that term loosely, I guess) that I had never been on. That’s a plus right from the start. Winding around a bit I turned onto Jordan Road headed south. Next I needed to turn left onto Pine Lane.

The hardest part about this ride was having such detailed directions and needing to stop and consult them frequently. Mileage was very precise but I didn’t zero out my tripmeter before starting so I made it a little harder on myself than I could have. I kept looking for Pine Lane, even pulled over at one intersection to consult the directions again, and kept going south. Too far south, I was convinced. And then I reached Hess Road where Jordan ended and I turned around and headed back north. It turned out Pine Lane was where I stopped to consult the directions, and I apparently didn’t see the street sign when I stopped. OK, back on track.

Pine Lane took me east into the hilly area beyond Parker Road and there were numerous interesting sights to locate: a giraffe, a pair of pink pigs, a psychedelic cow, and much more. These were all things we were to watch for. The point of this ride was to be observant while riding your motorcycle.

It was funny to see how easy it was to identify other participants on this ride. I’d be consulting the directions and someone would go past on a bike. A couple miles later I’d pass that same rider and he would be looking at a very familiar piece of paper.

The route led down through Elizabeth, on roads I had mostly been on before, and then on south from there to Elbert. I think I may have only been to Elbert once before, but I saw then that there is some very intriguing landscape around there. My memory was confirmed and now I want to go back there again and do some real exploring.

Heading south out of Elbert I was looking to go east on Sweet Road. The main road seemed to sweep to the right (west) at one point, and that was Sweet Road, but that didn’t seem right so I stopped to consult the sheet. While I was there two other bikes blew on past, with one yelling to me “This is west!” And they kept going. I looked to the south and there was a road heading east about another 100 yards down that way. I went to check and it was Sweet Road. I was on track; they weren’t.

More zig-zagging around carried me further and further to the southeast. Finally Falcon Highway carried me west again and then the route cut through a neighborhood in the eastern suburbs of Colorado Springs where they seem to have a penchant for interesting lawn ornaments. I can’t imagine what it took to design this route.

A stop at a shopping center was built in, so I got a mocha at Starbucks and waited for other riders to show up. A few did, circling the parking lot, but nobody stopped, except a couple who needed gas. So I pushed on. Now the roads were carrying me back east, away from town, and once again into the Black Forest area. McLaughlin Road, Eastonville Road, Meridian Road, Hodgen Road: all of them could be called highways. And if they were called highways I would have known they existed, but they’re not so I didn’t. Now I do.

Then once again it was time to cut through a neighborhood. I’m sure the folks living there wondered why all these bikers were going by this day. That road wound around and eventually came out to CO 83 and then it was just a straight shot back to the Denver area and the finish point.

The whole thing was such a nice ride on a gorgeous autumn day that I told Judy I would take her on a repeat if she has time in the next few days. And next time I won’t have to stop so often to consult the sheet.

Biker Quote for Today

True happiness is when you think of your bike and an automatic smile is on your face.

No Transponders For Motorcycles In Colorado

Monday, October 17th, 2016
By law, motorcycles are free to use HOV lanes at no charge.

By law, motorcycles are free to use HOV lanes at no charge.

This email I got a few days ago says it all:

Some good news. ABATE worked hard to get this issue resolved. Not that we should have had to, after all CDOT and E470 broke federal Law when they originally started to charge on these highways. But without ABATE being on guard it would have been allowed.

Effective this weekend (October 15, 2016) motorcycles will no longer be charged tolls — with or without a transponder — for using Hwy 36 and the I-25 central and north corridor HOV/HOT lanes.

Humans will be reviewing the system for 90 days to ensure the system is recognizing motorcycles. If you (or anyone you know) gets a Notice of Violation while traveling on these roads via motorcycle beginning October 15th, please notify Bruce immediately so that he can let the E470 authority know of any glitches and get the fee removed.

Just to recap, federal law states that motorcycles use HOV lanes for free at all times. When Colorado set up the new HOV/HOT lane system the set it up so that motorcycles could use the HOV for free but you would still need to get a transponder. And any motorcycle using the lane without a transponder would be sent a bill. So not free, contrary to federal law.

This is why I’m a member of ABATE. Sure, the group has done a few things in recent years that I wasn’t very happy about. I even considered dropping my membership. But a change in leadership has put the group pretty much back on a steady keel now so I continue to belong. This HOV matter is a perfect example of why we need a motorcycle rights organization operating in this state.

Biker Quote for Today

On a motorcycle, happiness isn’t just around the corner, happiness IS the corner.

Really Nice New Location for BMW of Denver

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

BMW of Denver must be doing very well. It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that they moved into a new building on Havana not far from me and now they have already moved again into a much bigger, even nicer building.

I had the opportunity to see the new digs on Saturday when that was the ultimate destination for the RMMRC’s Roy’s Mystery Ride. It’s down in the Tech Center area at 10350 E. Easter, just half a block off Havana down there.

First off, the setting itself is much nicer than the old one on Havana. Looking away from the parking lot in one spot what you see is grass and trees and water (see photo). It’s almost like being out in the country while in the city.

And the design of the building is pretty cool. You walk in and overhead there are motorcycles on display on glass balconies. Again, see the photo.

Rather than tell any more, I’ll just show:

The new BMW of Denver

The new BMW of Denver.

BMW of Denver main showroom

The main showroom, not completely set up yet.

Glass balconies

The entryway with one of two glass balconies.

view from BMW of Denver parking lot

One view from the parking lot.

Biker Quote for Today

I believe the machine I sit on can tell the world exactly where I stand.

Roy’s Mystery Ride

Monday, October 10th, 2016

OK, now this is my idea of a group ride.

On Saturday I went on “Roy’s Mystery Ride,” apparently a traditional thing for the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Riders Club (RMMRC), my first with the group. There were a number of things I liked very much about this ride.

directions for the ride

The directions show turns and points of interest to watch for.

First off, each rider was sent off individually, spaced a minute apart or more, so there was never a pack. I don’t like riding in a pack. The OFMC rides in a pack and I’ve never been thrilled with that since we grew to more than three or four guys.

The way it worked, each rider was given a sheet of directions (see photo). You follow the directions step by step until you reach the end. The focus of this ride was observation, so you weren’t just looking for the next turn, you were also looking for some odd stuff along the way.

Effectively, what this meant for a single rider was that you had to stop and consult the directions frequently. I was able to retain two or three–at most four–items ahead and then I had to stop again and look at the sheet. This resulted in a lot of leap-frogging as one rider would pass another who was stopped to look at the sheet, and even a small congregation at one particular spot where you needed to park and look off in the distance for the particular point of interest. So we were sort of a group but also very separate.

The ride itself was really fun. We went down so many roads I had never been on, through some beautiful country, and I loved it. Basically, we did a lot of miles through the Black Forest area each of I-25 between Denver and Colorado Springs. This is mostly up on the Palmer Divide and I had no idea there was that much forest east of I-25. I want to look at a satellite photo of this area to really get an appreciation of how extensive it is. It’s like being in the mountains but you’re not in the mountains.

Think about it this way: We’ve all been down I-25 between Denver and Colorado Springs. And we’ve all been down CO 83 between them, too. Now go another set of roads to the east. They exist and they are sweet. Who knew?

The ride started at the pretty new Performance Cycle location ultimately ended up at the new BMW of Denver location. BMW of Denver just opened in their new location on Oct. 1 and they were having a blow-out intro on Saturday: food, band, showing the place off.

Once everyone had arrived and had time to get a bite to eat, Roy called us all together to hand out the door prizes. As it turned out, there were more prizes than there were participants. That meant everyone got something, and all the prizes were of greater value than the $10 registration fee we had each paid to participate. What’s not to like about something like that?

So far I’m definitely liking being a member of this group.

Biker Quote for Today

It’s ride o’clock somewhere.

Ride Planning

Thursday, October 6th, 2016
motorcycles on the road

Some trips really do require planning. Others you just get on the bike and go.

At my second meeting tonight of the the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Riders Club (RMMRC) the discussion was about ride planning and the rides the group has planned for next year. This is a group that does some serious rides but sometimes they get even more serious.

Specifically, the word is that Roy, the group’s safety coordinator, has a professional background in tour planning and he is organizing a 35-day ride to Nova Scotia. Ooooh my goodness! I could do that. Of course there are all kinds of considerations.

Several of the folks were very clear that, hey, they’re not retired, and there is no way they can take that kind of time. Nevertheless, Sean and Sara plan to go; he’ll trailer the bike to Ontario so as to make good time and she’ll fly out and meet him, and then fly home. And other people have similar ideas to take part in at least some of that ride.

Someone else mentioned how a trip like that could be very costly. By the time you figure motels, food, and gas–not to mention any other incidental expenses–this will not be inexpensive. I mean, motels alone, if you figure sharing a room and each paying $50 per night, would be $1,750. Costs will vary depending on how high your standards are for accommodations. Mine are fairly low; I would prefer to do something like that and spend most nights camping. Then you might get down to around $600-$700 for accommodations, figuring at least a few nights in motels.

So we’ll see. The idea of doing something like that is very tempting but this sort of thing may be the true test for me as to what sort of involvement I’m going to have with this group. Spending 35 days with a possibly sizeable group in a fairly structured situation may not be what I’m up for. Now, if I could get several of these guys together to do a less formal four person ride or something like that, that would really get my attention. Especially if they like to camp, too.

But I’m not ruling anything out just yet. I’ll play it all by ear.

So because ride planning was the topic of discussion, Sara went over a slide presentation about the elements to consider if you are interested in planning a ride for the group. Or for any group. The RMMRC has a page on their website with some good info on ride planning. The presentation she used can be found there. Considerations such as, is this a day trip or a multi-day trip? Is the destination what’s important or is the ride itself the most important? (Heck, it’s always the ride, isn’t it?)

And of course, food. Noting that for her, food is always one of the very most important parts of the ride, she said she’s planning a food-day ride for next year. I’ll be interested to learn more about that one.

In the meantime, I’ll be joining the group on a ride for the first time on Saturday. More about that after it happens.

Biker Quote for Today

And then God said “Let there be beautiful, passionate, irresistable, crazy women who take no crap.” So he created biker chicks.

Riding In The Boonies

Monday, October 3rd, 2016
Motorcycle at Gates of Lodore

One of the Beemers.

Judy and I just got back from a 10-day road trip (nope, by car) and we spent a lot of time in the boonies. The car has the serious dirt to confirm it.

And you know what? A lot of these way-out-there spots we were in we saw people on motorcycles.

For instance, we were up at the Gates of Lodore, which is in Dinosaur National Monument, up at the far northeast corner of the monument almost to Wyoming. The road to get there is not paved.

That didn’t discourage four guys from Colorado Springs who came rolling into the campground our second day there.

Leading the way was a guy on a KLR 650. Judy made note as he went by that he must be really tall because his knees were sticking way out to the side. The other three were on various Beemers, one of them so loaded you might have thought the guy was going around the world. They were a couple adventure-type bikes and what I took to be a GS 850.

So of course I had to go over and talk with them.

Judy was right. The guy on the KLR must have been 6-foot-4 at least and sitting on the bike with his feet on the ground he looked like I would look sitting on a scooter.

He told me that in the beginning they all had KLRs but one by one the other guys went to Beemers. He stuck with the KLR because it was light and he had no problem going lots of places where the other guys didn’t want to go. So he’ll sometimes take off and meet up with them again later, much as I like to do when I ride with the OFMC on my V-Strom and they don’t want to take their Harleys (and Indian) off pavement.

These guys had left Colorado Springs two days before and had spent one night at one guy’s condo in Frisco. The second night two of them got a motel in Meeker while the other two camped at Maybell. I’m guessing the heavily loaded guy was one of the campers.

The group was headed to the Flaming Gorge and I had not realized there were roads going through on up to Dutch John. Sort of. The road out of Maybell, CO 318, is paved to the state line and then Browns Park Road is gravel. You have to follow that all the way up into Wyoming to WY 373 coming down from Rock Springs along the east side of Flaming Gorge. Then go south to Dutch John on what becomes U.S. 191 once it gets into Utah. Probably about 30 miles on gravel.

And then they’d head home after a couple days at the gorge. Life is good when you and your buddies have motorcycles.

Biker Quote for Today

Never let your free spirit get trapped in a cage.