Archive for July, 2017

Examiner Resurrection: Learning Dirt-Biking Techniques

Monday, July 31st, 2017

Dirt Riding Training

This Examiner Resurrection is dated in that I have since acquired a dual-sport bike and have a lot more dirt riding under my belt. Still, the points it makes are timeless and it was not a bad thing even for me to reread the material.

Learning Dirt-Biking Techniques

Riding motorcycles in the dirt is not the same as riding on the street. That may not come as a surprise to a lot of people but until you try riding in the dirt you may not realize how different it is.

I had the opportunity yesterday to receive some dual-sport dirt-riding training. I’m doing some coverage of the Adventure for the Cures ride that kicked off today and Sue Slate, the organizer, invited me to participate in the training session. Let me backtrack: The “Dirty Dozen” riders participating in this breast/ovarian cancer research fundraising event are all experienced street riders who have not ridden on dirt before. Thus the training.

Of course I accepted the invitation. So at 6:30 a.m. I was headed up the hill to Keystone in order to be there for an 8 a.m. “working breakfast.” You might be amazed how cold it is on an August day at 7 a.m. at 10,000 feet. My fingers were ice cubes.

The training took place, as so much motorcycle rider training does, in a parking lot, although this one, of course, was unpaved. The trainers were Andrea Beach and Bonnie Warch, of Coach2Ride, a south California riding school specializing on dual-sport riding.

Having only recently taken a refresher Beginning Rider Course (BRC) from T3RG Motorcycle Schools, where they told us to grab the brake lever with all four fingers–a practice I was working on adopting–I was surprised to be told that in dirt biking you want to always cover the lever with two fingers in order to quicken your response time. OK, so now I unlearn.

Andrea also told us you don’t counter-steer on the dirt; you turn by putting your weight on the opposite peg from the direction you want to go. You also shift your weight. That is, if you want to steer left, you lean the bike to the left but counter the lean by moving your weight to the right. This initiates the turn while keeping the bike’s center of gravity stable.

The fact is, this is the technique they taught us in the BRC for tight turns at slow speeds. That’s something else I had been practicing since I took the class so this was good reinforcement.

Another difference is that when you go dirt-biking you tend to stand up on the pegs a lot. Not exactly a recommended practice on the road. First off, standing up serves the same purpose it does on the street where you momentarily stand up to cushion a hard bump. Cruisers, with their pegs way out front, aren’t suitable for this, which is why I always prefer a bike with the pegs underneath me. And on the dirt you’re always dealing with bumps so the need to be able to stand on the pegs is obvious.

Secondly, you get better control of the bike when you stand on the pegs because it shifts the center of gravity down. Dirt bikes tend to be very tall because of the suspension, and this counteracts that situation, which is good.

So after a couple hours of training we took off up a fire road to put it all into practice. This was only the second time I’ve ever ridden dirt but I remember the first time being a lot of fun. This was a lot of fun, although way too short.

We rode up, making a point to steer around some potholes and obstacles for the steering practice, and deliberately hitting others for the practice that afforded. By the time we got back down I was really getting into standing and steering with my weight. It had taken awhile but I had found the comfortable–read “less tiring”–standing position and had developed an understanding for the direction to grip the tank with your knees. Some things you can hear about forever but not really understand until you have a chance to do it.

Will I do more dirt riding? Man, I’d love to, although not having a dirt bike or trailer is a bit of an issue in that regard. Or any place to store them. We’ll have to see what I can figure out.

Biker Quote for Today

When you’re on a motorcycle you’re never lost if there is still gas in the tank–you’re just finding new roads!

My Year Of Aborted Motorcycle Trips?

Thursday, July 27th, 2017
motorcycle on Berthoud Pass

Dennis, Bill, and I stopped while coming down the west side of Berthoud Pass.

The OFMC left Friday on our annual 8-day ride. I was home Sunday afternoon. Very, very sick. Yuck!

So as I write this, the other guys are still out there on the trip. But being sick is so much better at home than in some motel somewhere. This is the second bike trip I’ve taken off on so far this year that has not gone as planned. I hope it’s the last for a long time.

There were only six of us this year, down from nine or more for a number of years. Dennis and Bill and I met at Bill’s Friday morning and rode up to Central City for lunch and a little slot machine play. For once, Bill was the loser while Dennis and I both won. Then we rode on over Berthoud Pass to Kremmling, our first night’s stop. Friggs and Brett came along later and John rode in from Montrose. Plus, we had two OFMC riders who were not coming along this year who drove up just for that first night. Johnathon has sold his bike and no longer rides at all. Randy said last year that if we continued going the last week of July, when it is so blazing hot, he would not be coming any more. I thought we had all agreed to move it to a cooler week but when John sent out the itinerary back in February, there we were looking at July 21-28.

So we had a thoroughly lousy dinner in Kremmling and I had a horribly lousy night. I had been kind of sick for a couple days but hoped the worst was past and I would get better. Nope. In the morning we rode on to Leadville and while it was a nice ride, I had had so little sleep that it was hard staying awake. That’s not a good thing when you’re driving or riding a motorcycle. At least our dinner was better than the night before but I was in bed by 7, only to suffer through another terrible, terrible night of very little sleep but a whole lot of sick.

In the morning we were headed on to Gunnison but as we geared up I told the guys I would go with them as far as Buena Vista but from there I was headed home. So that’s what happened, and there I was home again after just two days. And I got a much better night’s sleep Sunday night but still woke up Monday morning feeling like crap. At least I’m at home.

Biker Quote for Today

I’d rather ride with 5 brothers than 50 members who don’t even know my name.

Motorcycle Perks At Red Rocks

Monday, July 24th, 2017

We went to Red Rocks to see Amos Lee performing with the Colorado Symphony Orchestra and though we went in my car it made me wonder about the perks that motorcyclists used to get there. The answer is yes. Are you aware of these?

motorcycle parking at Red Rocks Park.

Plenty of parking, few takers at Red Rocks.

In the past, motorcycles were sent for parking to the very top circle of the amphitheater, which is pretty dang nice. The thing I hate most about going to concerts at Red Rocks is parking and then hiking up and up and up to get first into the seating area and then more up to get to where you actually get to sit. Parking right at the top and walking down to your seat is nice. I’ve done this, though not any time recently. Heck, I haven’t been to a show at Red Rocks any time recently until the other night.

Now, as it turns out, they no longer send bikes to the very top, but do send them to the larger lot just below, which is where that photo above was shot. There were 12 motorcycle parking spaces and at this show there were only two bikes. Unless you get there very, very early, the line for admission goes down the stairs to this lot so it’s not like you’ll do any extra stairs starting from here.

The other advantage of course is getting out quickly. Huge numbers of people who hiked and climbed all the way to their seats are now, at the end of the show, faced with hiking all the way back to their cars, and then waiting in long lines to file out slowly.

With your bike just up at the top you can get to it quickly and get going in a hurry before most people are even near their cars. Plus, although lane splitting is not legal in Colorado, on a motorcycle you can easily slip past the creeping line of cars and get out in a hurry.

In fact, it has been a long time since I’ve been to a show at Red Rocks so I don’t know if this is still the case, but years ago, when you were leaving via the east entrance, they would direct people to use both lanes, thereby speeding things up by 100 percent. At 93 they would not allow right turns toward Morrison and so both lanes would flow left toward I-70. I don’t know if they still do this.

We parked this time in the upper south lot and I was surprised how quickly we got out of the lot. Then I saw all the traffic was in one lane so I jumped into the other lane figuring to make as much progress as I could before coming up behind other cars in that lane. There were none. We went all the way out to Bear Creek Road without a stop and the only other people in the lane were a car or two who jumped in behind us.

Coming out to the road I merged into traffic in full sight of the cops directing traffic and all they did was continue directing traffic. If I had been on a bike the whole move would have been even easier and quicker. I’ve never gotten out of Red Rocks that fast before–and that was in a car.

So this has nothing to do with motorcycles but it was amusing and I want to pass it along. We learned after we parked that they run a free shuttle up to the top, for anybody who wants to ride it. You get on by the Trading Post. So we only had to walk down to our seats.

Well, we were on the stairs I mentioned before, waiting in line, and people were going up and down the stairs all the time. One older woman in a black dress went up the stairs past us and I just happened to turn my head that direction as she was about 10 steps above us. Believe me, I wasn’t trying to look up her dress but my eye was caught immediately by a glimpse of something gray and shiny. I looked more closely and saw she had something attached to her thigh with duct tape.

At first I thought it must be a catheter bag or colostomy bag but then thought, no, if it was a medical device there would be some medically approved attachment device. No, this was presumably a flask or bottle of liquor she was smuggling in, duct-taped to her thigh. I got a laugh out of that.

Biker Quote for Today

15 grand and 15 miles doesn’t make you a biker.

New Take On An Old Issue

Thursday, July 20th, 2017
Honda 50 Cub

This was the big, bad “motorcycle” I was dying for at age 15.

I’ve talked numerous times about how, when I was 14 I announced that I would save my money and on turning 15 buy a motorcycle. And that day came and I had the money and only then did my mother say, “No you won’t, you’ll never own a motorcycle as long as you live in my house.” I was crushed, and not a little bit angry. Why had she waited a year to say that?

We were visiting Mom last week and she was talking about something her parents did when she was 13 that she considered extremely unfair and which she still resents. I didn’t say anything but was thinking about that Honda 50 Cub I had had in mind. One thing led to another and I was asked if my parents had done anything that still bugs me.

“I really did want that motorcycle at 15,” I replied.

That sunk in a moment and then Mom said something she has never said before. In past discussions she has always come back to saying she was sorry I felt that way but she stands by her decision. She just didn’t think I had any business with a motorcycle at that age.

This time she said she had spoken about it with my brothers and they had assured her that yes, I had made my desire and intentions known, and yes, I really, really wanted it. You see, after all these years she doesn’t even remember any of this; she only knows about it because I have stated that this was the case.

But in speaking with my brothers it seems that maybe they gave her some information she never had before, and certainly never bothered to obtain way, way back then. The “motorcycle” I wanted, and had saved my money for, was a little 50cc bike that was essentially a scooter. Not some big, hulking 350cc bike or anything like that. A little tiddler. That’s what a 15-year-old could legally ride in Nebraska back then.

And then she said it: “For the life of me I can’t imagine why I wouldn’t let you get a moped.” OK, she’s not a motorcycle person, and neither are my brothers, so they are not clear on the distinction between a moped and a scooter. But there it was. Is it really true that all those years ago she actually might have let me get the Honda 50 if she had understood what it was I really wanted? Can you say “I wish I could turn back the clock”?

Can’t be done. But I can’t help but think about all the what-ifs . . .

Biker Quote for Today

Diagnosis: knees in the breeze disease.

Doing The Dragon — By Accident

Monday, July 17th, 2017
Viewpoint on the Tail of the Dragon.

I had my camera on the wrong setting, so this photo is not as good as it might have been, but this is a scenic overlook along the Tail of the Dragon. That blur is a bike racing by, in case you couldn’t tell.

Judy and I were in Clemson, South Carolina, last week visiting my mother and planned to drive to Knoxville, Tennessee, via the Cherohala Skyway to fly home. Plans changed so we didn’t have time for the skyway, so we looked at a map and found a route that was pretty direct but also identified as scenic, US 129. A no-brainer.

I was aware of a good many motorcycles going the other way as we headed along north on this road, but there was a point where I started having a very strong suspicion. This was when we pulled into a small community with a whole lot–I mean a lot–of motorcycle stuff as well as a large, metal dragon. Judy asked Google and sure enough, we had inadvertently found ourselves in Deal’s Gap, on the Tail of the Dragon.

So OK, we were in a car, not on a bike, but there we were nonetheless. Now we would get to see what this fabled road is like.

And it wasn’t very much like what I had imagined. Through everything I’ve seen and read I had the impression that the Tail of the Dragon largely ran down a river valley with the road following the twists and turns of the stream. Frankly, my mental image of it was not anything I was terribly interested in. I can find plenty of twisty roads out here in Colorado. That wasn’t it at all.

In fact, the Dragon has plenty of ups and downs as well as all the curves. It’s not unlike a lot of twisty Colorado mountain roads, although you don’t get the kind of views you do here. First off, it’s not so high and the hills are not so high. Secondly, the tall deciduous trees block your view a lot.

Not that we didn’t enjoy the road. Our rental car was a subcompact that had energy and was quite agile. And living here I am totally comfortable driving roads with a lot of curves. We whipped along and it was fun.

Now, part of the enjoyment may have been due to the fact that this was a week-day and there was not that much traffic, and most of what there was was going the other direction. From what I hear, the Dragon is super busy on week-ends and that would have been less than wonderful.

One clue that really tells you you’re on the Dragon is all the photographers staked out along the road shooting pictures of everyone who goes by, with big banners telling you the website to go to order your photos.

We stopped at the overlook in the photo above and spoke there with a couple Canadian brothers who had ridden the road one direction, turned back to ride it the other way, and were now going back again to continue on their journey. They thought it was a pretty fun ride.

And now having driven it, I will say I would enjoy riding it. I never had any interest before but now I do. It’s a nicer road than I had pictured. It would be fun on a bike.

Biker Quote for Today

You’re only one bike ride away from a good mood.

A Woman Riding Her Own

Thursday, July 13th, 2017
motorcycle trailer

The bike and everything she owns in a Jeep and a trailer.

Women who ride motorcycles really do seem to be a breed of their own. Guys who ride are just guys who ride–nothing all that special about us. But for women it’s different.

I’ve know plenty of women who do ride and the latest one I’ve met was Carolyn, who stayed with us a couple days via the Motorcycle Travel Network. She arrived in a Jeep pulling a trailer with her 950cc Star cruiser and everything else in the world that she owns. Seriously.

The thing is, though, she just got that Jeep and trailer about a week before she came here. For a little more than a year before that she had been on the road just on the bike. About 27,000 miles of travel.

motorcycle helmet with fall in back

Why bother with long hair when you can just attach it to the back of your helmet.

I can’t give you her whole bio because she didn’t really volunteer a whole lot and we didn’t want to snoop. Plus, if she had gone into detail I’m not sure she would want me telling the world about it all here. But she basically decided sometime more than a year ago to kiss everything good-bye and go hit the road. She gave away almost everything and put the few things she kept in storage. And took off.

Of course she has had some interesting experiences. There was that Air BnB guy who, after letting her in the place she was renting from him, backed into her bike, knocking it over, and left in a hurry. Carolyn is not big, and the bike kind of is big, so she was fortunate that a fellow down the street saw it all and helped her get the bike back upright. He also signed a sworn statement about the mishap but even with that she had to fight with the insurance company for six months before she got reimbursed for her expenses.

Other than him, the great bulk of people she has encountered have been super nice. She was a little lonely being all by herself at Christmas time but that was the worst of it.

Now that she has the trailer and the Jeep it is proving to be a challenge of its own. She’s kind of wishing she was back on just the bike. She hadn’t figured out the tie-downs for the bike in the trailer and I wasn’t much help because I don’t have a lot of that kind of experience. But the morning she left here she went out without asking for assistance, got it all to work somehow, and was on her way. She’s got a lot of spunk.

Biker Quote for Today

My Prince Charming won’t be galloping up on a white stallion. He will be cruising up on a Harley!

A Ride With A Motorcycle Travel Network Guest

Monday, July 10th, 2017
Map of our route.

Our route.

It strikes me as odd realizing this but I’m pretty sure that with all the various Motorcycle Travel Network guests we have hosted, I had never before gone riding with any of them. Until this past weekend.

Carolyn called about mid-week to ask if we were able to host her for two or three days beginning either Friday or Saturday. She was in Spearfish, SD, at the time and headed our way to go on to Colorado Springs for a Women on Wheels event there. And she also asked if it would be possible for us to go for a ride with her, showing her some of our favorite places to ride. OK, it’s a plan!

She got in on Saturday later in the day and on Sunday, with Judy not joining us, we headed out, her on her 950cc Star cruiser and me on my Concours. We went out Hampden/US 285 to C-470 and north. I wavered all this time as to whether we should go up Clear Creek Canyon or something else. I figured she would enjoy Clear Creek but I wondered how busy it was. This was, after all, the Fourth of July weekend.

So we got to US 6, Clear Creek Canyon, and made the turn. We had gone about 100 yards and came to a stop and it was clear that traffic ahead of us was not even moving. We quickly did a U-turn and headed back, turned north again, and took the Golden Gate Canyon road up to the Peak to Peak Highway. I was afraid it might be busy, too, but it was fine.

Originally my plan was to go to Estes Park for lunch before heading back but thinking about the holiday I decided instead to turn east down the South St. Vrain to Lyons. While that’s a very scenic canyon, there was very little traffic. All the traffic, we could see when we reached Lyons, was going up to Estes via the North St. Vrain. And coming down it, too. Terrible, terrible traffic.

So from Lyons we headed south on US 36 to Boulder, crossed through Boulder on Broadway, and continued south and back to Golden. Then I got the idea to go up Lookout Mountain. Carolyn is sort of from Ohio, sort of from South Carolina, and the tight turns on the Lookout Mountain road were a bit challenging for her but, with the exception of the first one, she managed to stay on her side of the line.

We enjoyed the view from up at Buffalo Bill’s grave and then continued on that road over to I-70/US 40. No reason to get on I-70 with US 40 right there so we rode it down to where the road down to Morrison crosses under the interstate and took that road to Morrison. Then east to pick up C-470, US 285/Hampden, and home. Total 171 miles and a really nice ride up in the cool on a very hot day.

Biker Quote for Today

Forget glass slippers, this princess wears motorcycle boots.

Refreshing And Enhancing Skills In The Experienced Rider Course

Thursday, July 6th, 2017

Bob (left) and Will, the other students in my ERC.

I took the Experienced Rider Course (ERC) once before. In fact, it was the first rider training course I ever took. Since then I’ve also taken the Beginning Rider Course twice, a dirtbike riding course, and I did the Rider Coach Training course, although I never worked as a Rider Coach. Here’s a tip: it never hurts to take a riding course–you always learn something new and improve existing skills.

The primary focus of this ERC I did on Friday was tight maneuvering. That wasn’t all, of course. The overall point is to learn to be a better rider everywhere. But if you can handle a big bike in tight quarters, handling that same bike in the wide open spaces is just that much easier. And sometimes that extra bit of control can make all the difference.

So I’ll get right to it. The number one thing I got out of this course was understanding what it takes to make a big bike make a really tight turn. Maybe you’ve seen these riders doing circles on big baggers that you couldn’t even dream of doing on a little 250. How the heck do they do that?

Don’t think I’m going to claim that I can do that now. But I am a little closer.

Bob, the instructor, talked about counter-weighting. If you need to lean the bike way over you also need to move your body the other direction to balance that out. Counter-weighting. To do this you put your weight on the outside peg and lean way back.

But the thing that got me was his instruction to keep your inside arm straight. Think about that. You’re turning left, you’ve got that left grip tucked in close to your body, and yet you need to keep your arm straight. If that’s not going to keep your weight off to the other side nothing will.

Fact is, I wasn’t sure it was even possible. I mean, OK, let’s say you’re riding a sport bike with little clip-ons. That seems doable. But my CB750 has a steer-horn handlebar that is 31 inches from tip to tip, and sitting upright in the saddle with the wheel turned as far as it can go the grip is about five inches from my stomach. I’m supposed to keep that arm straight?!

Guess what? It can be done. I couldn’t go it right off, but we went around again and again and I kept pushing myself and after awhile it happened. I’ve never made tighter turns with that bike in my life. I admit that the thought of putting weight on my outside peg never crossed my mind, though I suspect that happened naturally.

Most of the rest of the course was a refresh. We practiced techniques I know but maybe was a little rusty with. But then, I’ve taken this course before, as well as others. If you haven’t ever taken a riding course there’s probably a ton of stuff you’ve never learned. I don’t care if you’ve been riding 40 years I bet you’d learn something new. And you’ll be a better rider.

Is there any reason in the world that that would not be a good thing?

Biker Quote for Today

I hate being sexy but I’m a biker, so I can’t help it.

A Homecoming Of Sorts For The Experienced Rider Course

Monday, July 3rd, 2017
motorcycle training course

Bob sets up cones on the course for the next exercise.

I’ve always been a big proponent of rider training and that led to an offer for me to take another course at no charge. The assumed quid pro quo was that I would then write about it. Well, of course I would, I write about just about everything in my life that involves motorcycles.

So on Friday I went up to Thornton to BLACK B.A.G. for the ERC, or perhaps it is now considered the BRC2. I’m not totally clear on this but I believe the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s old Experienced Rider Course has been totally revised and what had been the ERC is now considered the Beginning Rider Course 2. Doesn’t matter.

There were three in my class: me, Bob, and Will. Bob rode dirt bikes as a kid but hadn’t ridden anything after about age 25 until in November he bought a Kawasaki KLR 650. He took the BRC then and was back now for the ERC/BRC2. Will is a National Guardsman who needed rider training certification in order to be allowed to ride his V-Max on base.

The instructor is also Bob. And Bob is a good instructor. He inserts enough humor to keep things fun and he has developed effective techniques for eliciting participation from the students. Participation requires attention and thinking, and those enhance learning.

Knowing I was going to be doing tight maneuvers and, who knows, might even drop the bike at some point, it was easy for me to decide which bike to take. Both the Concours and V-Strom are tall bikes with big gas tanks up high. I rode my CB750 because it is lower and has a much lower center of gravity.

What I didn’t think about until I got there was that this was sort of a homecoming. I lived up on the north side of town, in unincorporated Adams County,for 17 years before moving to southeast Denver 21 years ago. When I bought my first motorcycle ever, my 1980 Honda CB750 Custom, this was where I lived. I learned to ride on that bike and when it came time to get my motorcycle accreditation on my drivers license I went to the Motor Vehicle office in this very shopping center where BLACK B.A.G. now operates. I took, and passed (on my second try), the riding skills test on this very motorcycle that I was there on for training on Friday. This is where it all started.

There’s no question I’m a much better rider now that way back then. A lot of that is simply experience, but there’s a good bit of it that is due to all the rider training courses I’ve taken over the years. We talked, for instance, about making U-turns on narrow roads. My buddies in the OFMC universally do Y-turns, jockeying back and forth, while I slip the clutch, ride the rear brake, and easily ride the U-turn at walking speed. I learned that in these classes.

So what did I get out of this latest one? I’ll get into that in my next post.

Biker Quote for Today

Some take drugs, some drink bottles. I solve my problems by twisting throttles.