Archive for May, 2017

You Find The Nicest Places On A Honda

Monday, May 29th, 2017
Carhenge

Carhenge the first time we saw it. It doesn’t look like this today.

Motorcycle touring is not like traveling in a car. A car is like a magic carpet: you just sit there and after a while you’re somewhere else. Riding a bike takes much more concentration and physical involvement. Consequently, for many of us, 200-300 miles is often a full day’s ride.

Motorcycle touring is more about discovering great places than it is about burning miles. Sure, there are the Iron Butt guys who go out and ride 1,000 miles in a day, but that’s not what I’d call touring. The beauty of the relaxed, easy-going riding approach is that you stop a lot, and sometimes those stops are the best part of the trip.

Case in point: My riding buddies and I were cruising down from the Black Hills, through western Nebraska near Alliance, and saw a place to pull off. (We’re really big on places to pull off – after an hour or so on the bike your legs are getting stiff, your butt is getting numb, and what could be better than to bask in the sun somewhere out in the middle of nowhere?) Looking around, we noticed there were trails heading into the trees, and somewhere off in there was something odd sticking up. We decided to go investigate, and then, our jaws dropped. “Oh my god, what is this?” we asked.

This was Carhenge. Imagine if you will, a farmer with a playful bent gathering a bunch of dead cars, planting them in the ground, stacking them up, and then painting them gray, to imitate Stonehenge, the Druid relic in England. And not just in haphazard fashion – the positioning of this oddball piece of art was carefully measured out to make Carhenge as true to the original as possible.

And we stumbled right into it. If we’d been in a car we would have just blasted on past.

Jerome, Arizona, was another of those serendipitous finds. Sure, today Jerome has been “discovered” and reborn with galleries, restaurants, and all the other things that come when a town becomes trendy. But we found it first.

A number of years ago, having spent the night in Sedona, Arizona, a trendy town that had already been discovered, we were heading to Las Vegas. Anyone whose intent was to get to Vegas would have taken the road to Flagstaff and flown west on I-40. That was not our intent; we were on motorcycles.

Instead, we headed west on 89A toward Clarkdale because the map showed some mountains and some twisty roads going over to Prescott. For a biker, twisty roads equals heaven. But we never dreamed we would find ourselves winding through switchbacks up the sheer face of a mountain, to find ourselves in a town built vertically on that face. This was Jerome, an old, nearly-abandoned, mining town.

Jerome has one main street that comes up the face of the hill, switches back and climbs higher, then switches back and climbs higher still. Some buildings have their front door on the same street as their back door, just at a different elevation. And of course the views are spectacular. We fell in love with this place. Apparently a lot of other people did too.

It’s not necessary, however, to stumble onto some unexpected gem to have a great stop on the bike trip. Just this summer my friends and I were heading toward Kamas, Utah, about to go over a pass, and there were black clouds up ahead. Prudence convinced us we’d better stop and put on rain gear. (Even though putting on rain gear is a pain and we try to avoid it unless it’s really necessary.)

In this case, as most of the guys were pulling on their rain pants, one guy suggested that if we just took a break there for a while the rain would pass and we could ride on without the gear. There was no shade where we were, and the sun was beating down, but just about then a cloud came over and the idea of waiting became very appealing.

Off came the rain gear, out came the cold beers, and for 45 minutes we sat and relaxed and reveled in the soul-fulfilling sweetness of just hanging out in some beautiful middle of nowhere. And then we rode on under clear skies. Beautiful indeed.

Biker Quote for Today

You don’t have to be a cowboy to ride off into the sunset.

CDOT Not Abandoning MOST Program In Transition

Thursday, May 25th, 2017
CDOT's MOST webdsite

Part of CDOT’s MOST website.

The Colorado Legislature officially moved the Motorcycle Operators Safety Training (MOST) program from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) to the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) during this recent legislative session but that doesn’t mean CDOT is casting it aside during the transition. In fact, it seems like they may even have kicked things up a bit.

MOST is a program intended to promote rider training, with the idea that a rider who receives real training in operating the bike will be a safer rider than one who just learns by doing. I know this to be the case because I learned by doing and years later took some training courses. Guess what: I learned a bunch of stuff. I became a better and a safer rider.

May is commonly declared Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month and so with that theme in mind I was recently contacted by Megan Tobias, a public relations rep working with CDOT to promote the safety effort. She was asking if I could do something in this space to help promote training efforts. And in fact, she offered that if I wished, they could set me up to take a course on their dime. “Even if you’re a skilled motorist, we have an array of more advanced classes that can help fine tune your skills. Locations and class levels can all be found here: https://www.codot.gov/safety/live-to-ride/get-training.html/.”

This is a new level of promotion that I haven’t seen before. And I suspect I’m not the only one Megan has contacted to try to get this information out to the public. I say good on CDOT.

So initially I declined Megan’s offer but thinking about it now I may take her up on it. For one thing, I know that the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, whose curriculum the MOST instructors follow, has revamped its programs, so if I take the Experienced Rider Course a second time it is presumably going to be different from the first time. Plus, I don’t care how good or experienced you are, there’s always more you can learn. You’ll read about it here if I do.

Biker Quote for Today

Never twist the throttle with your ego.

Fighting The Wind Blast From Oncoming Trucks

Monday, May 22nd, 2017
Car passing motorcycle

The wind blast from this guy isn’t going to do much; it’s very different with trucks.

During this last ride Judy and I did I made some interesting observations I want to pass along.

It was kind of windy as we set out but not bad. The road we were on was not too busy, either, until we reached Limon and turned southeast down US 287. This is a major highway and that translates into “lots of trucks.”

Anyone who has ridden a motorcycle for long knows how powerful the wind blast can be on you as trucks go by in the opposite direction. Accordingly, I braced myself every time one came along but after awhile I started noticing that not all truck wind blasts were the same. Judy noticed it, too.

Sometimes a truck would go by and the blast would like to blow you off the road. Other times they just seemed to slip by and you hardly felt it. Once I got my mind focused on the question it didn’t take long to recognize the answer.

Very simply, the more aerodynamic the truck, the less the wind blast. It’s pretty dang intuitive, if you think about it.

You know those fairings that many trucks now have, the ones on top of the cab that deflect the wind from hitting the flat surface of the trailer? Those things help semis get better gas mileage because they reduce the wind resistance. No surprise there. But the real issue is that the more smoothly the truck can just slice through the wind, the less turbulence is created. And the less turbulence created, the less wind blast felt by vehicles going the other direction.

Now surprisingly, this is not as predictable as you might think. I found that almost universally, the big trucking companies all have their trucks faired and stream-lined and they kick up very little wind. The you-rent guys apparently don’t care so much about gas mileage since you are buying the gas, not them, and they generally are not faired.

And then it matters what the truck is hauling. If it is an enclosed unit, the wind is minimized. Very open and/or oddly shaped loads kick up more wind. So a truck hauling a bulldozer on its bed can be expected to rattle you a bit as it goes by.

So I got pretty good at knowing when to brace myself and when it was not likely to matter. But every now and then, I would be expecting one thing and get the other. I can’t explain that. All I can say is that this business about aerodynamics is a good rule of thumb but there are exceptions.

Biker Quote for Today

Tunnel? Allow me to play the song of my people.

My Scariest Ride Ever

Thursday, May 18th, 2017
motorcycle in the snow

This is why we stayed three days in Lakin, Kansas.

After stopping in Coolidge, Kansas, the first night out on our proposed ride to Barber Motorsports Museum we awoke in the morning to snow and high winds, as I discussed a few days ago. After wavering all morning I finally decided it looked like we could continue safely so we geared up and left.

I started to regret that decision almost immediately. Although the road was only wet, and the snow had stopped at least for now, the wind was hellacious. We were headed due east and it was blasting down from due north, doing all it could to push us off the road. No matter. I’ve ridden in these conditions a number of times and while it’s no fun, I know I can do it. It was also cold, and while we both had our electric vests on, I had not brought my heated gloves because I had not expected this kind of cold.

Inevitably, when vehicles passed us going the other way they blocked the wind and our lean into the wind ran us toward the oncoming lane. I knew this and made ready to compensate each time. Fortunately there was not much traffic.

We made it the first 15 miles to Syracuse where we stopped for gas, as planned. So far we were a bit chilled but our vests were doing their jobs and my hands were not particularly cold. I had intended to see about getting some of those chemical heat packs at the gas stop but managed to forget. We pushed on.

The next town was Lakin, 27 miles further. Conditions were exactly the same: powerful wind, wet but clear road, and cold. By the time we were maybe a bit more than half-way there my hands were getting cold. I definitely planned to stop in Lakin for heat packs.

We were going 65 but the miles crawled by as my hands got colder and colder. And then the road surface changed. What had been wet was now becoming ice. And there was no way to skirt around the ice patches; this was ice across the entire lane. I had to go right over it.

I immediately slowed down to about 40. My entire focus now centered on keeping the bike as stable as possible so as not to go into a slide–not easy to do when you’re leaning into a powerful wind. Almost impossible when oncoming traffic momentarily blocks the wind and you swerve sharply to the left. And when it’s a truck, just when you’ve gotten stabilized again, it’s past and the wind blasts you and you swerve again.

Plus, now that we were going slower, people were passing us. And unlike oncoming traffic, which blasts by in a second or two, passing vehicles take a lot longer to get by. And then the truck passed us.

We were leaned into the wind, which he blocked, which made us swerve toward him. As he crept by in what seemed like slow motion we moved further and further to the left, toward him, as I worked desperately to angle more to the right. It may have been the physics of it all or it may be that I was target-fixated on him, but we just crept closer and closer–scary close–until finally he got past and wham! The wind hit us again, sending us toward the shoulder. All of this on ice, mind you.

It would have been one thing if it had just been me. But Judy was with me, and I have said many times that when she is riding with me I am carrying the most precious cargo in the world, and I will do absolutely everything in my power to deliver that cargo safely. But here I was in a situation where what happened might well be out of my control. I’ve never in my life been so scared on a motorcycle.

But apparently I wasn’t scared out of my wits; apparently I kept my wits about me. At the point the road got bad we were five miles or so from Lakin. I held on, fought with everything I could muster, and just prayed for Lakin to come into sight, and that there would be a motel there when we got there. We finally reached town and I spotted a motel and I didn’t even care that I had to plow through about eight inches of snow to get into their parking lot. I rode up to the office, parked the bike, and it didn’t move from that spot for three days. Safety!

In retrospect I do see one option I could have turned to, and if anything bad had happened I surely would be kicking myself for not thinking of this. When conditions turned horrid I could have just pulled off the road and parked the bike. We had cell phones and could have called 911 and asked for emergency services to be sent out to whisk us to warmth and safety, regardless of whether that included hauling the bike or meant leaving it there.

That thought never crossed my mind at the time; I was too focused on just keeping the bike upright. But if I ever find myself–us–in that situation again, I’m going to have to seriously consider it. But I suspect that if there is the possibility of getting into that situation again I’ll cut it short at the earlier phase, and not get on the road in the first place.

My whole body is quivering now from reliving this story in such detail.

Biker Quote for Today

I don’t always try to act cool when I ride, but when I do, I miss second gear.

The Barber Trip That Wasn’t

Monday, May 15th, 2017
Motorcycle in snow

This is what we woke up to our first morning on the road.

Judy and I headed out on this Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Riders Club (RMMRC) “Pilgrimage to Barber” but we never got there. Mother Nature intervened.

The group was planning to leave on Saturday but Judy and I didn’t want to do the 450-mile day entailed in going all the way to McPherson, Kansas. We decided to leave on Friday and make that stretch a two-day trip. I found what appeared to be a delightful BnB in Coolidge, Kansas, and made a reservation.

Meanwhile, weather reports were saying a big winter storm was blowing in. The rest of the group decided to leave on Friday, too, and book a second night at Eureka Springs, Arkansas, so as to get the rest of the trip (and motel reservations!) back on track. We figured fine, we’d meet up with them in Eureka Springs instead of McPherson. We figured we’d be fine, because we would stay ahead of the storm.

Wrong.

We rode to Coolidge that first day and the BnB was everything I hoped it would be. If you’re ever out there and need to stop for the night I strongly recommend the Trail City Bed & Breakfast. It’s clean and very attractive, exceedingly well maintained, comfortable, and Lori is a great cook. Plus, it’s dirt cheap.

In the morning we got up to what you see in that photo above. OK, let’s think about this.

First off, you’ll notice that the pavement is only wet. It was windy for sure but the roads appeared clear, and after vacillating all morning I finally said let’s go for it. The weather radar was telling us if we could get east of Garden City we would be out of the snow. Into rain probably, but not snow. And Garden City was only 69 miles away.

We didn’t get that far. We were happy to make it 42 miles to Lakin where we pulled in to the first motel we saw. The wind was blowing like a banshee and the roads were not as clear as they had been in Coolidge. I’ll tell you about that 42 miles in my next post.

We stayed in Lakin three days. We had no choice. We were snowed in and the following day the highway was officially closed.

In the morning we were clearly snowbound. There were eight inches on the ground, it was still coming down hard, and the wind was still blowing like a banshee. Also, the power was out, so there was no heat in the motel. The road was closed because the powerlines had fallen down all along the highway.

Long story short, it was two more days before we could leave. We got east of Garden City and we both immediately noticed that the temperature went up 10 degrees. And there was no snow anywhere to be seen. So if we only could have gotten past there . . .

Initially we figured we would catch up with the group even later, and eventually later stretched to after they had visited the Barber Motorsports Museum–the object of this pilgrimage–and were headed back. But after three days in Lakin we decided to just go on to Wichita and visit a cousin of mine who I hadn’t seen in 60 years. And after that we went down to Oklahoma City and visited a nephew of mine and met his wife for the first time.

Then we spent three days getting back to Denver, playing tourist, stopping at several national park units, and seeing new country. It was a good three days.

Nearing home, we ran into a downpour between Elizabeth and Franktown, suited up, immediately rode out of the rain, started to cook in the rain gear, but then got closer to town and saw dark clouds. Sure enough, the last five miles home was in another downpour. And that was our 10-day trip.

Biker Quote for Today

What if I told you you need to actually ride a motorcycle to be a biker?

Examiner Resurrection: Sportbikers And ABATE: ABATE Actions That May Sway Sportbikers

Thursday, May 11th, 2017

motorcyclist gearing up

Can ABATE achieve significant gains in reaching out to sportbikers? From what I’ve seen, it remains a daunting task. TwoColorShoe (SBN) cautioned me about painting too rosy a picture.

I can tell that you’re going to try to spin the article towards a positive light in the end; speaking about how even though some may not agree with ABATE’s confusing position on helmet use sportbikers/cruisers/etc. can still all get along and support a group that is really just trying to fight for our rights. I do not think it’s a very realistic position. — TwoColorShoe (SBN)

Rather than try to forsee the future, I will list the changes or actions that these sportbikers say that ABATE would have to make if they are to succeed. “SBN” identifies the speaker as coming from The Sportbike Network, and “CSC” identifies them as coming from the Colorado Sportbike Club. (I was informed this group prefers CSC to the CSBC that I was using previously.)

Without a real change in policy through ABATE, by being much more safety conscious and by trying to appeal to the younger sport bike crowd, only then will people start to recognize the organization’s real worth. Right now, it doesn’t seem like there is much appeal. If ABATE doesn’t change, then the ever growing idea of safety consciousness through the motorcycling world will only keep more people away. They need to really change some stuff, and if they don’t, there’s a good chance they’ll just die out and another pro-motorcycling organization will take their place. — TwoColorShoe (SBN)

ABATE is better than nothing, but…

  • They need to align the membership on their stance regarding helmet use.
  • They need to align the membership on how to interact with other riders.
  • Increase exposure to what they do, other than fight helmet laws.

Getting sportbike riders to buy into ABATE’s agenda means welcoming sportbike riders and possibly changing the agenda to include the beliefs of sportbike riders. Right now that just isn’t happening. — bimmerx2 (SBN)

If they want to garner support from the sportbike community, they need to broaden their advocacy to include other issues like punitive insurance rates for sportbikes, and police profiling of sportbike riders. — TFOGGuys (CSC)

ABATE needs a PR makeover. Sponsoring an MRA rider is one step. So will support for local sportbike events. The only things I’ve seen are ABATE patches on leather jackets and their name attached to poker runs and cruiser events. That could be part of the perception problem. — asp 125 (CSC)

That’s my one minor quibble with ABATE. While they push AGATT in class, they often don’t “walk the walk” and personally set a good example to the new riders who should be coaxed and reminded every second they’re around experienced riders to wear gear. — Wintermute (CSC)

I took, what I seem to remember was, an ABATE class last year and the instruction itself benefitted me greatly. What helped just the fact that I had a chance to practice pretty much any type of maneuvers on a closed course while someone watched with a critical eye. That said, I am very interested in seeing a more sportbike oriented version of the class that features more advanced & real world-type situations. I felt the class was more cruiser oriented, but even more disappointingly, it was merely a reproduction of the original class I took to achieve my endorsement, with the exception of my being allowed to use my own bike. — MetaLord 9 (CSC)

When you look at the “majority” of Sportbike riders (not just on this forum) most of them are younger (18-30) and not interested in being active participants in the legislative process. Take a look at the “majority” of cruiser riders, they are mostly above 30+. — Zuhalter Vati (CSC)

All the more reason for ABATE to get involved. If rider apathy means anti-sportbike laws get passed unopposed, the presence of an organization to give some voice might be a good thing. — asp 125 in response to Zuhalter Vati (CSC)

Show me that you are lobbying to allow lane splitting in all fifty states, or in FL for that matter. I’ll cut you guys a check today. — Jim Moore (SBN)

I like that ABATE does charity work and have participated in one of their charity rides for a friend’s father. He was killed during a poker run by an ambulance that ran a red light. We went from bar to bar on the charity ride. Not really my crowd. As previously expressed, if they started actively advocating for lane splitting, then I may be interested in membership but I don’t see enough from them right now. — cbartz (SBN)

I’ll refer back to my previous post – ABATE itself is nothing but a name, the organization is made up of real live breathing human beings. It is how those human beings act that defines the true beliefs of the group. So, the policies of ABATE are meaningless unless the people who make up the group actually believe in and support those policies. The fact that ABATE has such a well defined reputation as helmet haters (not helmet law haters) means they have a lot of members who are not aligned with the stated goals. Let’s face it, those are pictures of helmets being roasted, not a book of helmet laws. — bimmerx2 (SBN)

Where do things go from here? The ABATEs are not one organization, but a collection of separate organizations. Some may be willing to make the efforts that will be needed to draw in sportbikers as members. Others may conclude that the division on helmets is too wide to bridge, not to mention a position they have no intention of changing. Who knows, perhaps an especially egregious assault on motorcyclist rights will force the two groups together despite their differences. Politics often makes for strange bedfellows.

I will remain an interested observer and will report back with updates as this dynamic evolves. The one thing I am confident of is that only time and hard work will significantly alter this status quo.

Update: After I published this series, Terry Howard, at that time the ABATE of Colorado state coordinator, initiated a conversation with members of one of the Colorado sportbike organizations whose members had expressed conciliatory views and the two groups started working cooperatively for the benefit of all motorcyclists in Colorado. Sadly, some ABATE members were not happy about this new direction. Since Terry’s departure the two groups have gone their separate ways.

Biker Quote for Today

Some call it a tunnel; bikers call it a concert hall.

Examiner Resurrection: Sportbikers And ABATE: Is There Common Ground?

Monday, May 8th, 2017

motorcyclist gearing upIn Part One and Part Two of this series of articles we looked at sportbiker attitudes toward ABATE and the reasons behind the attitudes. Here we consider whether the common ground any two groups of motorcyclists would seem to share is enough to get past the rancor.

OldSchlPunk (SBN) referred me to another thread on the Sportbike Network forum where Kevin Snyder, ABATE of Pennsylvania’s state coordinator, posted inquiries to the group in the same way I did. His interest, like mine, was in understanding sportbiker attitudes. Here’s what he told the forum:

My original questions were prompted by a report I got from the Florida Senate Transportation Committee hearing on their SB-802. The bill was passed unanimously out of committee. I believe it has to go through two more committees before reaching the floor.

The basics of this bill are dramatically increased penalties for certain moving violations such as exceeding the speed limit by 50 mph, failing to keep both wheels on the pavement, etc. First offense is $1000, second is $2500 and loss of license for one year, third becomes a felony with 10 year loss of license and forfeiture of the vehicle.

Three things troubled me about this bill.

First, the bill is squarely aimed at a segment of the motorcycling community (sportbike riders).

Second, this is the first time I have seen vehicle forfeiture prescribed as a penalty for a moving violation.

The third, which prompted my initial post, was that (from the report I got) the sportbike community was under-represented at the hearing. Florida ABATE was there and two other motorcyclists who testified.

Here in PA, we (A.B.A.T.E. of PA) have been pretty successful in the state capital. Thirty years of hard work has paid off, and not much happens related to motorcycles in the legislature without us having a chance to influence the outcome. But (as stated in the initial post) one of our weaknesses has been our inability to engage other segments of the motorcycling community.

It’s not that we’re competing with other groups. While we work closely with the AMA and the MRF (Motorcycle Riders Foundation) on national issues, there is no one else in Harrisburg advocating the rights of motorcyclists. We’re it.

Incidentally, the anti-ABATE remarks on Kevin’s thread were also quite harsh:

To even get me remotely involved with a group like ABATE, you’d probably have to stop encouraging riders to be complete idiots. You’re going to have a VERY VERY hard time getting ANY Support from the sportbike community, where generally safety is a top priority as well as the ability to live through a crash. I can’t believe for one second that ABATE is in anyway confused as to why Sportbike Enthusiasts want nothing to do with people who make excuses for suicidal behavior. — Nefarious SV (SBN)

Join a group that wants to STOP NOISE ORDINANCES? ARE YOU KIDDING? HARLEY DAVIDSONS and all those blatting cruisers ARE THE MOST ANNOYING PIECES OF CRAP EVER. DRAG PIPES AND ALL THAT. I HATE HEARING THEM – they have ruined many peaceful towns. I PUT A SLIP ON ON MY BIKE AND IT WAS TOO LOUD. I TOOK IT OFF CUZ IM NOT A COMPLETE TOOL. UNFORTUNATELY TOO MANY OF THESE 45 YR OLD MENOPAUSE MEN ARENT USING THEIR BRAIN. the world exists outside of your motorcycle, so you have to acknowledge that. Unfortunately many people cant see that, especially HD riders. Oh, btw, Helmets save lives, not loud pipes. — DaleCaliente (SBN)

Kevin’s argument about ABATE being the only group working for biker rights on the state level tied in precisely with the primary question I sought to answer. As I put it to the SBN forum, if it is a good thing to have an organization working on behalf of motorcyclists in the legislatures, and if it is acknowledged that ABATE works on behalf of other issues besides fighting helmet laws.

Is it at all possible for sportbikers to find any common ground with ABATE, even if you despise some of their policies? Isn’t it better to support them in areas where you agree and fight them in areas where you don’t? Rather than attacking the group across the board? If sportbikers had a lobbying organization of their own that worked on legislative matters I can see it would be different, but to my knowledge there is no such organization. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Is ABATE at least better than nothing?

For PAFizzer (SBN), the answer is no:

Well I think your whole thing sums that right up. We don’t have one because for some reason we don’t feel the need to bunch together and roast helmets. Basically you fill a need when it’s needed, and we don’t have any spots to fill in the legislative department. Therefore, it’s not needed.

SlowGoose (SBN), while agreeing that motorcyclists need a lobbying arm, also responded negatively.

Their asinine emphasis on overturning helmet laws makes them an organization that I will never be comfortable with speaking on my behalf. Any organization that purports to promote safe-motorcycling yet holds helmet roasting parties is one that doesn’t know its ass from a hole in the ground.

To sum it up, I really don’t feel like ABATE does me any good. I don’t fight them because they are not an organization that speaks for me, about me, or in any way, that I’m aware of, has made my life better as a motorcyclist in any way. The AMA is enough for now. I am glad that ABATE and its notions have no real hold in my particular motorcycle culture.

bimmerx2 (SBN) was a bit more conciliatory.

I don’t have enough first-hand knowledge of how effective ABATE is at influencing policy but at least it’s something. Common ground yes. Support? Not in my book… While I support some of the things they do I don’t think an organization can have it both ways – in this case being for safety but against things that are proven to enable safety. I can support specific actions but I can’t sanction the organization as a whole just because we have ‘some’ ideas in common.

Biker Quote for Today

The first motorcycle race began when the second motorcycle was built.

Examiner Resurrection: Sportbikers And ABATE: Helmet Issue Is Primary Dividing Point

Saturday, May 6th, 2017

Harley riders wearing helmets

Summing up from Part One of this report, the helmet issue appears to be the primary point of contention between ABATE groups and sportbikers, with some also feeling that ABATE simply doesn’t concern itself with issues of concern to the sportbike community. Pursuing that point, I posed new questions to the national Sportbike Network (SBN) forum. (I’ll touch back in with the Colorado Sport Bike Club (CSBC) later.

For starters, I asked if someone could point me to anything that supports their claim that ABATE is anti-helmet. “Is it really ABATE itself, or are you perhaps speaking of some particular ABATE members?” I asked.

TwoColorShoe (SBN) pointed me to a flyer posted by the South Suburban Chapter of ABATE of Illinois for its upcoming “Helmet Roast.” Yes indeed, that poster shows helmets on weenie sticks being roasted over a fire. Curious, I emailed several officers of the chapter to see what they could tell me about the event. I received a response from Dennis Byron, who is the Activities Co-coordinator for the chapter. Dennis sent something written by another member, David Lynch, which he said is not an official response, just his own. David wrote:

As far as the Helmet Roast goes, this was an idea conceived for a chapter event to raise funds for the chapter and to celebrate the defeat of a mandatory helmet law that came out of nowhere over twenty years ago. The helmets roasting in the fire of the current flyer are an homage to tradition, where the original design was a tongue and cheek image of a biker roasting a helmet on a spit over a campfire.

Two others on the forum mentioned ABATE members who expressed outright anti-helmet opinions, and bimmerx2 (SBN) had this to say:

I don’t think one can separate the ‘organization’ from the people who make up that organization. ABATE itself is nothing more than a name for the group of people. If the majority of those people have an opinion then by definition the organization has that same opinion.

While I’m sure ABATE’s official stance is anti-helmet LAW the membership simply does not behave that way – they are anti-HELMET. Wear full gear to a Harley dealership on a weekend and there is VERY good chance that you be asked if you think you’re an astronaut, if you’re planning to crash, etc. There is virtually no chance that someone will ask if you support helmet LAWS. I have first hand experience with that and so do a lot of riders I know.

I also did a search on my own, visiting the websites of about 40 ABATEs across the country. I found that opposition to helmet laws is universal, but my admittedly limited search found very little that could be characterized as being anti-helmet. ABATE of Virginia did have one page where it stated that, in crashes, helmets “can also snap necks and cause basal skull fracture. NASCAR now requires helmet restraining devices to prevent those usually fatal, helmet-caused injuries.”

Because the American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) also opposes helmet laws I asked why the sportbikers’ attitudes were different toward the AMA than toward ABATE, if indeed they are.

The AMA is fine. I haven’t ever seen any info on AMA organizers not encouraging the use of helmets. — TwoColorShoe (SBN)

I have to say I do not agree with the AMA either. If ABATE was serious about helmets then they would actively promote them, you do not see them doing so. I think the AMA does. — modette (SBN)

Leaving the subject of helmets, I asked about loud pipes and stunting: “Many people believe the idea that ‘loud pipes save lives’ is total BS. This seems to be a sportbiker criticism of the Harley crowd. The Harley crowd, on the other hand, takes a dig at the sportbike crowd saying that stunting and doing wheelies down the highway or through the middle of town is giving all bikers a bad name.” Could they please comment? I also asked about motorcycle fatalities among unlicensed–and presumably untrained–riders. “Most eyes turn to the sportbike community when this figure is mentioned,” I noted.

I doubt many people on this site will defend the squids….they get treated harsher than anyone! Those people being the unlicensed, uninsured, no gear, stunting on public roads guys. — SamIAm 1021 (SBN)

Around these parts you will get ragged on for posting vids/pics of any of these behaviours. They do make us all look bad (Both groups, and both sets of behaviour). So is one side right and one wrong? Well let’s just say that both sides hate squids and one side supports loud pipes. — bimmerx2 (SBN)

You think the finger is pointed at sport riders because you are not one. I think both sides have their people that think they don’t need a license. Sporties because they are chicken of failing, and cruiser guys because they have been riding for 20 years this way and F you they aren’t changing for some bureaucrat. I don’t believe that anyone other than the deceased riders can speak to their lack of skills when they died. — qubert (SBN)

These are all stereotypes though, and most informed sport bike/cruiser/standard/touring riders don’t do these things. There have been a number of studies that go in depth about motorcycle fatalities, licensing, bike type, etc. I’m sure that sport bike riders have less proper licensing than others, but I also know that sport bikes are marketed towards a younger age group. This isn’t about sport bike riders not getting proper licensing, it’s about young riders not getting proper licensing. — TwoColorShoe (SBN)

Despite the mostly negative arguments made against ABATE on the SBN forum, there were a few that were more positive.

ABATE has a poor reputation among sportbikers, mostly because it’s mostly Harley guys who don’t much welcome sportbikes. I have worked with ABATE people on some campaigns, and I think it’s generally a good organization.

I think there are some barriers. ABATE is mostly known for opposing helmet laws, which I think is just fine.

However, many of those in ABATE cannot separate the issue of helmet laws from the issue of helmets. They spout a lot of simply false “information” against helmets, which tends to drive away anyone who holds the true and rational view that helmets do indeed increase your safety.

Likewise (as you’ll see in this thread) many sportbikers ALSO cannot separate the issue of helmet laws from the issue of helmets. They believe that because helmets are a good idea, that it must follow that helmet laws are a good idea. — PhilB (SBN)

My experiences with ABATE have been that they tend to work well with legislators at the local level, on local issues. Leaving aside for a moment the ubiquitous helmet law debate, I’ve seen ABATE do very good things on behalf of motorcyclists in Maryland. — Scratch33 (SBN)

In Part Three we’ll consider whether there might be common ground between the two groups.

Biker Quote for Today

The brave don’t live forever . . . the cautious don’t live at all.

Examiner Resurrection: Sportbikers And ABATE: Can The Twain Meet?

Thursday, May 4th, 2017

This is the first in four of a series I did for Examiner.com about eight years ago. It was one of the most well-read and discussed things I ever did for Examiner.com. It also produced concrete results, which I’ll go into later. Rather than follow my standard Monday and Thursday publishing schedule I’ll be putting these four up in quick succession.

Sportbikers And ABATE: Can The Twain Meet?

motorcyclists on the roadYou would think that if you’re running a bikers’ rights organization you would draw support and participation from motorcyclists of all sorts: cruisers, sportbikers, off-road riders, what have you.

Yet ABATE (A Brotherhood Active Towards Education) organizations across the country seldom find any support from sportbikers, which many find frustrating. It’s a particularly difficult challenge when you consider two of the primary apparent reasons:

  • A large percentage of sportbikers are young and have no interest in political activism.
  • A great many sportbikers despise ABATE.

Before continuing I need to make two points. First, the information I will be presenting is not scientific research, it is strictly anecdotal. Second, although I will often refer to “sportbikers” as a group, they are not a monolithic group, and differences of opinion do exist. When I discuss prevailing attitudes within the group, do be aware that these attitudes are not universally held.

In lengthy discussions I’ve had recently with sportbikers on a couple internet forums, several issues have come very clear.

  • Sportbikers see ABATE as an organization focused primarily on opposing helmet laws and supporting loud pipes.

ABATE is wetawded. — g34343greg (SBN)

  • Sportbikers strongly support the use of helmets and the majority favor helmet laws mandating their use.

I’m not for choice. I’m for keeping riders alive whether they like it or not. Socialist? I think it’s common sense to do whatever it takes to protect your brain in a high risk activity…for those that don’t find that to be common sense, that’s for whom these laws are enacted. — GreenZED (SBN)

  • Many sportbikers question the claims of the ABATEs that they are anti-helmet law, believing instead that they are in fact anti-helmet.

Although ABATE is a useful group sometimes, their stance on helmet laws is far too ignorant for me to take them seriously. They are really an anti-helmet organization, not a pro-choice one. — TwoColorShoe (SBN)

  • Sportbikers do not believe that “loud pipes save lives” but do believe that loud pipes create a bad image of all bikers in the public mind.

Some pipes are so damn loud it’s ridiculous, especially when they’re rocketing down the road at 9 grand and 120 mph, or down my street goin 50mph in 1st gear at 5am. Thanks a lot, idiot. That brings a bad image to our sport. Sportbikes and cruisers alike should keep it down some, before the government forces it on us. — lasermax (SBN)

  • The ABATE crowd is seen as mostly grey-haired cruiser/Harley types who the largely young sportbikers feel look down on them and with whom they feel little fellowship.

I joined ABATE years ago because a friend was a member. I went to one meeting and wasn’t really welcomed around all the hardley crowd so I left. You might want to ask one of them what makes them so much better than the sportbike crowd. Besides I’m not about supporting drinking and riding without a helmet. — heathun (SBN)

motorcycle racersThe conversation I initiated was an outgrowth of an article I wrote awhile back about ABATE of Colorado’s racing sponsorship of Jon Kuo as an attempt at outreach to the sportbike crowd. State Coordinator Terry Howard explained to me at that time that the organization is trying to overcome the very sorts of stereotypes I’ve described above. She told me that other ABATEs have tried at times to bridge the gap but none had been particularly successful. (Full disclosure: I recently joined ABATE of Colorado, ride two Japanese bikes, frequently wear a helmet, and have never felt unwelcome at any ABATE event.)

Seeking to understand the reasons for this, I joined two internet forums, the Colorado Sport Bike Club (CSBC) and The Sportbike Network (SBN) whose members are scattered all over the country. I posted the same initial question on each forum and invited the members to tell me what they thought. I will include “SBN” or “CSBC” after each comment to indicate which forum it came from.

Responses were many and varied, with the two forums going in surprisingly different directions. The local group seemed fairly amenable to ABATE’s overtures:

Glad to see they are adapting. It would be interesting to get more detail about the specific changes that they made for the sportbikes and how the exercises differ from the regular class. When I took the initial class it was still not set up for sportbikes. Taking another non-Abate class that was sportbike specific made a huge difference. — InlineSIX24 (CSBC)

I am glad that ABATE is trying to promote classes geared towards sportbike folks and would say we all need continuing ed from time to time and if we can get it from a class that is geared for us, then that’s just bonus. — chad23 (CSBC)

I didn’t see ABATE as being geared towards a certain type of motorcycle. The info that they present in their courses seems to be geared towards bikes in general and not one specific bike. Like previously mentioned, I think that more advocacy on ABATE’s part for issues related primarily to sport bikes might be a good idea, but honestly I think ABATE is good for all riders, regardless of what kind of bike they choose to ride. — chanke4252 (CSBC)

Hostility toward ABATE was very high on the national forum, however:

I would hardly call an ABATE member a “Motorcyclist,” I just call them a rider. They ride to look cool, they ride to belong. Whereas I believe a “Motorcyclist” is someone that would be happy on anything, they love riding because they are riding…they could care less if they are on a moped, a HD, a ZX10r, or a 30-year-old antique. — modette (SBN)

It’s by the grace of god that ABATE hasn’t invaded the sportbike crowd. — SamIAm 1021 (SBN)

lol I like that ABATE offers rider training. I would laugh in someone’s face if someone who thinks wearing a helmet is dangerous offered to teach me something. — g34343greg (SBN)

I can only speculate on the reasons for this difference in attitudes. It may be that in states where helmets are mandatory the ABATEs are more focused on helmet laws, reinforcing the perceptions held by the sportbikers. Meanwhile, in states such as Colorado where helmets are not required, the organizational focus is on other, broader issues and the groups may be more commonly seen as they see themselves, as bikers’ rights organizations.

Second, the Coloradoans may know Jon Kuo personally, and in sponsoring him ABATE of Colorado may at least be succeeding in getting some people to reconsider their perceptions of the organization.

Biker Quote for Today

The perfect man is a poet on a motorcycle.

Examiner Resurrection: When Do You Put On The Rain Gear?

Monday, May 1st, 2017

motorcycle on top of Bald Mountain Pass.

I don’t know about other parts of the country, but in Colorado, Utah, and Idaho–where we are now–rain is a passing phenomenon. Wait 10 minutes and it will be gone. That makes it a tricky thing to decide whether you need to stop and put on rain gear when you’re out on a motorcycle ride.

Stop and gear up too eagerly and you will often find that you didn’t need to bother. Wait too long and you’ll be drenched before you get your gear on.

You tend to develop an approach that you find serves you well much of the time. For instance, I look at the traffic going the other direction. Are the cars dripping wet, with windshield wipers going? Suit up now. Are they dry? No problem.

What does the sky look like in direction you’re headed, and which way are the clouds moving? On Saturday, heading from Vernal to Duchesne, in Utah, I would have bet money we were in for it. Might as well just stop now and be done with it. But cars–and bikers–coming the other direction were dry so we pressed on. We ended up reaching Duchesne perfectly dry. And I’ve already described the situation we ran into as we continued west out of Duchesne.

Yesterday was one of those days when you just don’t want to stop but you know that if you continue you’ll be pushing your luck. It was the end of the day and we were nearing Soda Springs, ID, where we needed to stop and make a call. There was rain all around us but a pathway seemed to magically appear in front of us looking like we just might make it. I was lagging behind so when I came over a rise to see brake lights on I knew it was time.

It wasn’t that I could see the line of demarcation where the pavement was wet and where it was dry, although I could. It wasn’t that I could see that line moving in my direction, although I could. It was the hail that smacked me in the face before the first raindrop hit that convinced me it was time to suit up. And the line of wet hit me long before I had my rubber pants on; then, before I was finished pulling on the rubber mittens I could see the sky clearing ahead.

We mounted up and rode on into town, about 1 mile, and stopped and took it all off again.

That’s rain in this part of the country.

Biker Quote for Today

Some call it adventure; I call it my way of life.