Archive for January, 2017

Examiner Resurrection: Gear You’ve Gotta Have On The Road

Monday, January 30th, 2017

Summer will be here before you know it and it will be time to do some two-wheeled traveling. What follows is a piece I did for Examiner while out on a long OFMC trip.

Gear You’ve Gotta Have On The Road

Riding 2,000 miles over the course of eight or nine days is not like riding your motorcycle to the local watering hole. We’ve been on the road for five days now and there are four things I am especially glad I’ve got with me or on the bike.

Ear plugs
Most bikers are familiar with the overall feeling of well-being that comes over you when you ride. That’s one of the things that gets you hooked on riding. What a surprise then to add serenity to that good feeling. That’s what happens when you put in ear plugs.

Never mind that ear plugs help you preserve your hearing, although they do. And it’s not as if they block out all noise and you’re riding deaf. You hear all the same things you do normally, but the sounds are muffled. It’s peaceful. It’s serene. If you’ve never ridden with ear plugs you owe it to yourself to try it. You’ll be amazed.
And they don’t need to be form-fitted or anything. Just pick up a pack or six or eight at the local drug store, squeeze them into little cylinders, slip them in your ears, and let them expand back out to fill in the space. And just ride serenely on.

Highway pegs

motorcycle with highway pegs.

Highway pegs go a long way for comfort. (Yes, filthy bike.)

You don’t want just any highway pegs, in any position. This is something I’ve learned from my two bikes. On the Honda I’ve always had highway pegs and they’ve been nice to shift my legs to a different position, but they’ve never really been comfortable enough for me to ride like that for very far.

On my Concours, on the other hand, I only got highway pegs in the last couple years, once Murph finally figured out how to make it work without having to cut through the plastic bodywork. And what a difference. These things are so comfortable I can hang my feet out there, even both at the same time, and just cruise. I’ve seen my buddies do that but that was never me. Now it is.

You’ve got to be able to move your legs around on a long ride. A variety of pegs enables that. If the ones you have don’t do a good enough job it’s time to go shopping. All highway pegs are not alike.

Throttle lock

motorcycle throttle lock

Flip the lever down to lock the throttle in position.

Some guys have cruise control on their bikes; for the rest of us there are throttle locks.

The difference, in case you don’t know, is that cruise control allows you to maintain a particular speed, just as in a car. A throttle lock just keeps the throttle set at a particular level and you slow down going up hills and speed up coming down them. It’s not perfect but it’s far better than gripping that grip hour after hour after hour on a long trip.

Ideally, when the lock is secured it will still have enough play that you can reach over and move it one way or the other to compensate for hills. Otherwise you might find yourself slowing down to 40 mph on the uphill and speeding up to 80 going down. That’s definitely not ideal.

But even if you have to tweak the setting every minute or two, how much better is that than constantly holding on to that grip? Let’s see, 2 seconds of adjustment with 58 seconds of relaxed hand and wrist. Compared to 60 seconds of gripping. Yeah, give me a throttle lock.

Tank bag

motorcycle tank bag

A tank bag with a map display is incredibly convenient.

A tank bag with a map display on top, of course. Trying to fuss with a map while stopped on a motorcycle, especially with the wind blowing, is hopeless. The tank bag is a very convenient holder for things you want quick access to, and the map display is the ultimate in simple. Stop. Look down. Determine your route. Go.

Being the only one in the OFMC to have a tank bag, my bike often becomes the gathering point when we’re about to take off. Guys gather around my bike, we examine the map, and they head back to their bikes. And I pretty much always know where we are and where we’re going.

These four things go a long way toward making me a happy camper when I’m out on the road eating up the miles. But don’t take my word for it, try them yourself and see. I’m sure glad I did.

Biker Quote for Today

Matching all your gear to your bike? You’re not a biker, you sir are a Power Ranger.

Not Our Beef–Don’t Penalize Us

Thursday, January 26th, 2017
The clever artwork the AMA came up with for this effort.

The clever artwork the AMA came up with for this effort.

Where’s the beef? And what’s the beef? Oh, the beef’s right here; the second answer is a bit more involved.

It seems the Office of United States Trade Representative is proposing to retaliate against European countries that bar American beef raised using hormones by levying a 100% tariff on small EU motorcycles coming to the U.S.

Now, you can argue whether using hormones is good or bad but for motorcyclists that’s not the issue. The issue–or beef–is why should we be the ones to feel the impact of something that has nothing to do with us? I mean, if the U.S. feels retaliation is appropriate, why not single out imports of olive oil or some other food product? Something that is at least in a way related. That would also serve to spread the impact around through a broader portion of the population, rather than focusing it sharply on just our small group.

Additionally, I have to wonder just how much impact this is expected to have. The new tariff would only be imposed on bikes between 51cc and 500cc. The manufacturers impacted would be Aprilia, Beta, BMW, Ducati, Fantic, Gas Gas, Husqvarna, KTM, Montesa, Piaggio, Scorpa, Sherco, TM, and Vespa. You know someone like Vespa would be hit pretty hard but think about the Vespa dealers in the U.S.–they’d be hit pretty hard, too. This is something done to benefit Americans? But on the other hand, how many bikes do all of these companies sell here? Can you name a single model in that size range?

As the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) sums it up, “Should product availability be hindered through unjustified trade sanctions on European-produced motorcycles, dealerships may close, leaving countless Americans without jobs. The negative effects of the proposed trade sanctions will not only harm the motorcycle sales industry, but will spread through the aftermarket equipment sector, recreation equipment sales, the sports entertainment industry and further down the line.”

This all got started before Trump became president so you have to wonder what attitude his administration will take. They might see this as harmful to Americans but they might also decide to double down, maybe increasing the size range to 1000cc or removing the size range entirely.

Anyway, the AMA is urging riders to oppose this proposal before the January 30 end of the comment period. And to that end they have set up a petition page to make it easy for you to do so.

I just sent my remarks. Now it’s your turn.

Biker Quote for Today

Therapy is expensive, wind is cheap.

Last Last Brass?

Monday, January 23rd, 2017
They used to pack them in to the Last Brass Monkey Run, like here in 2008.

They used to pack them in to the Last Brass Monkey Run, like here in 2008.

I mentioned in my post following the Last Brass Monkey Run that attendance is down considerably since the first time I attended the event. Well yes. In fact, it is down so much that the Grizzly Rose told ABATE that it would no longer be the site for the event. Not, that is, unless ABATE pays all costs: salaries, maintenance–whatever.

Was this the last Last Brass Monkey Run?

Not if the folks who do the work to make it happen have anything to say about it, although the 2017 Last Brass Monkey Run may indeed be the last.

The 2016 event was the 29th time it has been held. “There has to be a 30th!!” was the emphatic attitude at the ABATE District 10 meeting on Sunday. And if indeed the next one does turn out to be the last one, let’s go out with a big bang!

The Last Brass Monkey Run–a December 31 run starting at all points of the compass and every road leading to the Grizzly Rose–has for years been ABATE of Colorado’s biggest fundraiser. But just as the number of people at my District 10 meetings has dropped from 25 to 30 each month to the current 6 to 8, the crowd at the Grizzly Rose in recent years has been a shadow of what it had been.

Surely part of the blame for this rests with the organization itself. Bad blood that I still have no understanding of caused a mass defection of people from District 10 and some really bad financial decisions, made without consulting the membership, nearly led to ABATE’s demise only two years ago. There must be other reasons but I don’t know what they are.

I really like the idea behind the event. It’s the last day of the year and the last ride of the year. Sure sometimes you can’t ride–ice and snow are an impediment. But many years you can and hey, let’s show some guts and get out and ride on this cold day. It’s our last chance this year.

But now we may be looking at the last of the Last Brass. And there’s not even a guarantee there will be another. But I suspect there will be. At least one more.

Biker Quote for Today

I just want to go riding and ignore all my adult problems.

Help Sought For Elephant Ride Documentary

Thursday, January 19th, 2017
motorcycles in the snow

The morning of the ride in 2010, my first time there.

It hadn’t crossed my mind but it must be getting near time for this year’s Elephant Ride. That’s if they’re having one. I’m not sure on that. A lot has changed, not the least the fact that Guanella Pass has been paved.

OK, I’ll back up for those of you who are not familiar with this event.

Long ago, in a distant galaxy–or something like that–a bunch of guys were out riding on a February day and decided to go over Guanella Pass from Grant to Georgetown–who cares about the snow?! They succeeded and a tradition was born.

So my point here–what that headline is about–is that I got an email the other day from Shannon Wilson who tells me he is hoping to do a documentary about the event. But he’s hoping to find some help. Here’s the email.

I’m an E-Rider from the ’90s and a friend of Greg Frazier and the other founders.

You probably know from you experience and looking around online that there is a quantity of material on past rides. There actually is a lot more that isn’t yet online, unless it has been archived in the magazines for which I wrote and photo’ed several stories. I think that a few other participants also have pics. I had enough material that I gave a second scrapbook to Steve Grady of STS Powersports in Conifer.

Last year I wrote to Greg, who winters in Thailand, to say I’ d help if he wanted to turn the stuff into a doc. He said he doesn’t make films anymore, but he liked the idea. He was planning his next foreign ride and couldn’t do anything more about it. I contacted Jim Wear, the owner of the Rocky Mtn MC Museum in the Springs, but he’s given me the impression that he doesn’t get the regional historical importance of the E-Ride, and so far, that inquiry hasn’t gone anywhere.

My other ideas for at least archiving the original items are the Summit County Historical Society, Anamosa MC Museum, and the AMA. At some point, on or before my expiration, the material will have to go somewhere, but be that as it may, I’m hoping to meet someone who is interested and capable of helping to film and narrate the material. It’s a great, entertaining, at times hilarious story that is absolutely the descendant of the zany stuff that mc people of the past used to do in the pursuit of fun. It would be a Colorado cultural tragedy to lose the story in boxes on a shelf or unnoticed archives.

If you can help with finding someone–this person would be given everything I have, contacts, etc., plus could use the other online stuff, and this person could be a good amateur or perhaps pro videographer looking at an easy and fun project. There is a possibility that Greg might narrate it, which would be ideal.

I’m hoping to scan most of my stuff this year into my laptop before I leave on an mc trip for the summer. I hope you’re planning a fun-filled summer of your own, and can give this request some thought.

Thanks,
Shannon Wilson

If you have the skills and are interested, Shannon can be reached at this address that I’m not spelling out directly because I don’t want some spammer scraping it off this blog: shanana plus wilson (all one word) and then the @ symbol and yahoo.com.

Also, if anyone has any idea if the ride is on for this year I’d sure appreciate you letting me know. Thanks.

Riding In The Cold With A Balaclava

Monday, January 16th, 2017
Wearing a balaclava

I’m only scowling because I was focused on trying to get the Kawi in the picture over my shoulder and that’s how I look when I’m focused on something.

It must be several years ago that my wife gave me a balaclava to wear when riding in cold weather. Trouble is, I stuffed it in one of the pockets in the Concours fairing and have forgotten about it every time since then that I might have worn it. Until very recently.

OK, so first, what is a balaclava? Well, you can see it in the photo there, it’s a tight-fitting hood made of very thin but warm material. The best may be made of silk, but other materials are fine. Of course, it has to be thin in order to fit under your helmet.

I was heading out to the Last Brass Monkey Run on December 31 and it was very cold, so I decided to try the balaclava. I put it on in the house before zipping up my jacket. That meant the bottom of it was securely layered under the jacket collar. The result was that not only did it keep my face warm, it also stopped the breeze from blowing down through the collar and chilling my neck, in front and in back.

The fit was snug. As I slid the helmet on I was at first not even sure it would go on, but it did and was not uncomfortably tight.

Out on the bike the extra warmth was very noticeable. My chin, my throat, and my nose could tell the difference. And it surprised me that I also noticed on the back of my neck. I hadn’t thought about that. It was good.

Then when I was heading home I learned some more. I walked out of the Grizzly Rose and geared up at the bike. What I didn’t think about was making an effort to make sure the bottom of the balaclava was securely tucked into the jacket. In fact it was out a bit in the rear.

I noticed that right away when I started riding. I felt the breeze going down the back of my jacket. OK. Be sure to tuck the thing in.

So all in all, it was good. I definitely recommend it. The one thing that surprised me about this particular balaclava was that it was not as snug as I expected. I’m not sure if these are supposed to be one size fits all or if there are sizes, but a smaller one would have done me well. Being somewhat loose it shifted a bit as I put my helmet on and didn’t stay up over my mouth and nose the way I expected.

But you can bet I’ll be wearing it again the next time I’m out riding on a really cold day.

Biker Quote for today

Biker hair don’t care.

My Lowest Mileage Year Ever?

Thursday, January 12th, 2017
motorcycles at the Grand Tetons

Get out there and ride that thing!

Did I do a lot of riding in 2016? No. In fact, I think I may have set a personal record for the fewest miles driven/ridden for my entire life.

I always make note of my mileage at the end of each year and this one is really strange. My total mileage on my three bikes AND my car is only 6,268 miles. Holy smokes!

Most of that was on motorcycles. I rode the Honda 901 miles, which is actually the only increase. I rode it 531 miles in 2015.

I rode the Suzuki just 7 miles miles than the Honda: 908. And I put the most on the Kawasaki: 1,952. I only put 2,507 miles on my car, so that’s 3,761 on the bikes.

What the heck kind of a year is it if you only put a little over six grand on your vehicles? Did I just live at home?

Actually, no. In fact I did a lot of traveling. It’s just that most of it was either in my wife’s car or by airplane. We drove to Big Bend way down in Texas. We flew to Spain. We flew to Georgia. We drove to Montana. I did the summer ride with the OFMC. Only that last one put any miles on my vehicles.

Of course the other factor is that I’m working this job for the National Park Service. Again. The difference is that this time I’m working at home, so no commuter miles. That’s a huge factor.

The year 2017 is going to be different. I’m pulling the plug on this National Park Service job at the end of January. And this time I’m done for good; no more call-backs. And I’m going to do a lot of riding. I have ambitious plans for updating the website and a lot of that will involve revisiting a lot of these roads. And I’m going to be doing some rides with the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Riders Club. Plus, I intend to take off by myself at least a few times.

Now, if I only put another 2,500 miles on my car I don’t care. In fact, I like that. But if I don’t get at least 10,000 miles on the bikes this year I’m going to be very disappointed. Check in a year from now to see the score.

Biker Quote for Today

The lure of the open road never goes out of style.

Not In Kansas Any More

Monday, January 9th, 2017
delivery scooters

OK, replace that Burger King logo with some pot store logo and this is what you may see in San Francisco.

Toto, we’re not in Kansas any more. And no, and this is not the 1970s either. You know, Richard Nixon’s war on drugs and the more than $1 trillion spent on it without success in the intervening years.

Well, here’s a posting on Craigslist that I happened to see the other day.

Cannabis Delivery Seeking Motorcycle Couriers (City of SF)

Do you enjoy medical cannabis? Do you love riding motorcycles? Are you interested in joining a cutting-edge team in the blossoming medical cannabis industry? If so, this might be the perfect job for you.

Of course there’s talk of a possible federal crack-down on states allowing legal marijuana use, such as Colorado, especially with incoming Vice President Mike Pence reportedly being strenuously opposed to legalization. That could throw a kink into someone’s plans to make a living on their bike in this fashion.

Is that likely, though? Curious, I was speaking the other day to a young woman who works at a marijuana store here in Denver and asked her if those in the industry were concerned about the incoming administration. She said they have no concern at all because at this point the industry brings so much in tax dollars into public coffers that it simply would not be tolerated. Of course, that was what the proponents of legalization argued all along: make marijuana a cash positive part of the economy–legalize and tax it heavily.

I don’t think we have marijuana delivery service here, however, either two-wheel or four-wheel. But I guess motorcycle delivery in San Francisco makes sense just like lane-splitting makes so much sense in California.

No Toto, we’re definitely not in Kansas any more.

Biker Quote for Today

You can have more fun on a gallon of gas than a barrel of booze.

A Mild January 1 Means ‘Go Ride’

Thursday, January 5th, 2017
motorcycle in winter

Snow doesn’t matter if it’s not on the road.

When the projected high for January 1 is 50 degrees that means one thing to me: ride three motorcycles.

It’s an unbroken rule with me that I ride each of my bikes at least once every calendar month. And at this time of year, considering you never know what weather will follow, I often take all three out in quick succession on one day. I mean, they need to be ridden. Whereas I had just ridden the Kawi the day before and it started just fine, the Suzuki hesitated a tiny bit for the first time since I’ve owned it and the Honda battery was so weak I wasn’t sure it would start at all. If I hadn’t put it on the trickle charge an hour earlier I’m sure it would not have.

So anyway, riding them all three one after the other ensures that I’ve got it done. I hope I’ll be doing a bunch more riding during the month but if the weather turns and stays really ugly, at least I got out that one time.

Weather turning, that is, to what we have right now. Very cold with snow falling.

So I got out, and I didn’t even do the full bundle-up that I did on December 31. I didn’t wear the chaps and I skipped the balaclava. Didn’t need them.

Fact is, we’ve had a pretty mild winter so far, despite a few days like today. I rode across the top of the Cherry Creek Reservoir dam and by golly, there is still open water in the reservoir. I can’t ever remember that happening before this late in the season.

There were a couple other interesting things I saw on the southwest side of the dam. A soccer game was in progress on a field so green it had to be summer. Or had to be AstroTurf. That’s got to be new. And I noticed a lot of small groups of people wandering around in a semi open field and wondered what they were up to till I noticed the dogs. It has been made into a dog park. That’s got to be new, too.

Anyway, I went riding. I wasn’t the only one. I didn’t go to the New Year’s Day brunch in Castle Rock with the RMMRC because I wasn’t ready to head out that early. But I’m betting that between the three groups there were a lot of bikes in Castle Rock. As it was, I saw a good number of other guys out as well.

At this time of year you’ve got to do it when you can.

Biker Quote for Today

We ride not to escape life but for life to not escape us.

New Year’s Eve A Nice Day To Ride

Monday, January 2nd, 2017
Harley with Christmas bow

This Harley out front of the Grizzly Rose was decked out in its own Christmas bow.

Our thermometer out back read 37 degrees when I took off on Saturday for the Last Brass Monkey Run so it was a no-brainer about how warmly to dress. I wore all the winter gear.

Still, I had the heated gloves set on the second highest setting and that was too much; I went two blocks and stopped and turned them down a notch.

It was definitely Michelin Man time for me–I was so covered in warm clothing that I felt like if I had gone down I would have just bounced. But I was warm, truly warm. I could have gone for a long ride. Sweet.

I got to the Grizzly Rose and as I expected, there were plenty of bikes. Not like last year where it was cold and icy and there probably weren’t more than 25 bikes altogether. People rode this year.

Still, the place was not crowded. The first year I went to the Last Brass Monkey Run the place–and the parking lot–was packed. From what I understand, ABATE membership has declined significantly since that time. That’s too bad. ABATE is the chief lobbying group for motorcyclist issues at the state capital. But apparently most people don’t thing that concerns them very much. They might think differently if there was no one down there standing up for our interests.

So I went in and walked around and as is pretty much always the case, the only people I knew were all working the event. Taking tickets, running the poker walk games, handing out the door prizes–all that. If I were a better ABATE member I would have been working, too, but agreeing to be the District 10 legislative liaison this year is the first time I’ve ever gotten really involved. Mostly I just go to meetings and then do my bit to get the word out about what’s going on that riders should pay attention to. I consider that a valuable contribution but it’s not like working the events the way all the rest of the folks do.

I got my chance, though. I found Stump manning a table for the poker walk and stopped to talk awhile. He had two bags with marked ping-pong balls in them. Players would draw from each bag and if you got, say, a ball marked diamond and a ball marked 8 then you had drawn an 8 of diamonds. Stump would then note that down on your sheet as one of the cards in your poker hand.

At one point Stump walked away to do something and I found myself there playing dealer. And because he never came back, I stayed there as dealer till the poker walk ended. So I did help out a little.

After that I took off. By then it was a lot warmer out and I had a thoroughly pleasant ride home. Not at all bad for December 31.

Biker Quote for Today

98% of all Harleys ever sold are still on the road. The other 2% made it home.