Archive for August, 2017

Thoughts From A Ride

Thursday, August 31st, 2017
Motorcyclist with helmet

Helmet protection is seriously reduced when you don’t connect the strap–but you knew that.

I never go for a ride without encountering something that sticks in my memory, at least for a while. Some are more memorable than others.

I was headed to my ABATE District 10 meeting on Sunday and the first thing that hit me was that, oh my gosh, I forgot to attach the strap on my helmet. I had just gotten onto I-225 so it wasn’t like I could just do the strap at a stop light or something. Helmets don’t really work very well if they’re not attached so I figured I’d better take things pretty cautiously. And in the meantime I was strategizing about grabbing for my head in case something bad happened.

Of course nothing did, nothing ever does (knock wood), but you bet it had my attention.

Then as I proceeded up I-225 I was in the center lane and two guys on bikes came up on my left. One was on a sportbike of some kind and the other was on a Harley Sportster. Just ahead of us there were cars in both lanes. We were going 70. What did these guys do? They just blasted right up between the two cars and shot on out of sight. OK, I’ve done some lane-splitting, even on rare occasions in Colorado, but never when traffic was going 70. I don’t think I want to go for a ride with those guys.

Then in the stretch between 6th Avenue and Colfax, where I get off when going to ABATE, I encountered–as I always do–what I consider a true hazard on the road. For most of that stretch there is a gap in the pavement about two inches wide separating the lane of continuing traffic with the lane of exiting traffic. Two inches is a big gap!

I always very deliberately cross it at as sharp an angle as I can and it’s never an issue because I do this. But what would happen to a bike if the rider wasn’t paying attention–or maybe it’s dark at night–and you let your front tire drop into this groove? It would have to be scary at the very least and could very easily be a lot worse than scary.

I really don’t understand how CDOT can allow this sort of thing. The fact that it is unsafe goes without saying. But they do, and this is not the only place I’ve seen this sort of thing. A two-inch gap in the pavement when traffic is going across it at a right angle is one thing. Running parallel with traffic is something else entirely. Just be forewarned if you’re riding this stretch of road.

Biker Quote for Today

“Sometimes this place is like watching a truck left turn in front of someone you’re riding with.” — JonnyLotto

Scooter Or Moped: South Carolina Is Confused

Monday, August 28th, 2017

My mother is not well so I’ve been spending a lot of time in South Carolina where she lives. On my most recent visit I noticed that there were quite a lot of scooters zipping around. She lives in Clemson, which is a college town, so it made sense that the college kids would be using scooters. I know parking on campus is always an issue, but not for a scooter.

scooter with "moped" plate

No, I’m sorry, this is not a moped, no matter what South Carolina says.

Then I noticed a billboard with a (I presume) public service announcement telling people to “Be Aware of Mopeds: They’re Everywhere.” And the text was accompanied by an image of a scooter. OK, do you people not know the difference?

Just on the off chance that anyone reading this does not know the difference, I’ll explain.

The word “moped” merges two concepts: motor and peddle. A moped is essentially a power-assisted bicycle that you can get around on just by peddling if you choose. To be a moped it MUST have peddles. Anything without peddles and powered entirely by the motor is a scooter.

But then I noticed something even more interesting. As you see in this photo, all these scooters running around Clemson had this tag on the back that read “South Carolina Moped.” This official sort-of license plate proclaims to everyone that this vehicle is something it in fact is not. South Carolina is very confused.

I think I do get it, however. These “mopeds” are of the 49cc variety that do not require “M” designation on your driver’s license and do not require actual license plates. There are scooters that do have more power than 49cc. These do require proper licensing. By simply playing the Alice in Wonderland game of making a word mean exactly what they want it to mean, South Carolina has sidestepped any stickiness in identifying the scooters that do not have legal requirements.

Plus, I’d be willing to bet that the legislators who proposed whatever law this is based on are clueless about the difference between mopeds and scooters anyway. It still strikes me as pretty idiotic.

Biker Quote for Today

Motorcycle + full gas tank + no red lights = happiness

Staying Awake On The Motorcycle

Thursday, August 24th, 2017
motorcyclist with passenger

OK, she better not fall asleep because if she does she’s falling off.

When I first started riding I found after awhile that unlike driving a car, there was no way I could conceivably get drowsy and be in danger of falling asleep. There was so much demanding my attention, my focus was constantly being called to steering, to braking, to potential traffic issues, and to so much else. No way would I have to slap my face or shake my head vigorously to keep my eyes open, as I sometimes do in a car.

That was then. This is a long time later. Although I still maintain constant alertness, these things have become much more second nature now and are not so demanding on my focus. Do I sometimes find myself wanting to close my eyes and sleep while riding? Oh yeah.

Of course, sleeping on a bike in motion is not such a strange concept. I know various guys whose lady friends have fallen asleep while on the back of the bike. Usually their heads fall forward and their helmets crack together and she wakes up. Sometimes the rider seat is a lounge chair with back and arms and they just safely drift off. Once Johnathon had to catch Felicia as she started to fall off the side. These things happen.

So what do I do when I start struggling to keep my eyes open? It’s easy if I’m riding alone–I pull over and take a break. And if I’m riding with just one or two other people I’ll probably do the same, telling them I just need to stop for a few minutes.

It’s a more complex situation when you’re with a larger group. Any time a big group stops you just know it is going to be a more lengthy stop because there is inevitably at least one person who is constitutionally incapable of getting going again without going through an extended rigamarole. Friggs is that guy with us. Everything has to be adjusted and made just right and he takes his time. The rest of us hardly start getting ready until he’s putting his helmet on.

So making the decision to stop the group just because only I am drowsy is a hard call to make at times. Especially if I know there is a stop planned not that far ahead, I just do my best to keep going, and wish the miles would pass more quickly. And then yes, I shift my body position, shake my head vigorously to try to rattle my brains, and do anything else that seems like it might work to keep me going until the drowsiness passes.

But sometimes you just have to stop. I tend to ride at the back of the group so pulling out in front to indicate a stop is generally a problematic proposition. So I just pull off and trust the guy in front of me to notice and pull off, too, starting a chain reaction. But with the guys I ride with this is not guaranteed. So sometimes I just take my break and catch up to them as I’m able. I’m OK with that. The only thing is, I wish these guys were more observant because maybe I’m back behind them with a flat tire. That happened once and they never did come back for me.

I don’t care, though. If you can’t keep your eyes open you should not be on the road. I have no desire to crash, and I’ll take whatever results from a safe decision over being totally foolish.

Biker Quote for Today

You’re a biker wannabe if all your leathers match.

Examiner Resurrection: Bikers And Their Love Affair With Chrome

Monday, August 21st, 2017

A love affair with chrome.

Screamin' Eagle with lots of chrome

Chrome on a Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle

What else can you call it? There is not another material that is used as much by bikers to make their bikes their own. And particularly if you are of the Harley-Davidson persuasion, there are chrome parts to be had for pretty much every bit of your bike.

The ultimate has to have been the bike I saw quite some years ago up in Lyons, CO. This custom Harley didn’t have one square inch that I could see that was not done in chrome. I’m sorry I didn’t have a camera with me.

Just to see how far this can go, I stopped in to a Harley dealer and made a partial list of the chrome parts they were hoping you’d like to buy. Fortunately, they all had names on their packages; otherwise I wouldn’t even know what to call some of these things.

  • Switch caps
  • Fuel cap and gauge trim ring
  • Headlamp trim ring
  • Tail light visor
  • Speaker trim
  • Fuel tank mounting hardware
  • Cylinder cover
  • Air baffle cover
  • Voltage regulator cover
  • Radio trim bezel
  • Instrument gauge bezel
  • Fork slide covers
  • Windshield trim
  • Air cleaner insert kit

You get the picture. I quit taking names at that point.

Biker Quote for Today

I don’t always sit and listen to my Harley, but when I do, so does the neighborhood.

Examiner Resurrection: Basket Case Motorcycle To World Record Holder–Not A Problem

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Gas tank of James Comet

Working at Bonneville Speedway last year was a real kick for James Moore, of Manningtree, Essex, UK, but he was only able to watch, not participate. This year was going to be different.

Before heading for the States again this year James looked around for a motorcycle to take to Bonneville. He found it in pieces, a 1952 James Comet. It was a basket case. No problem.

James and his James CometHe sand-blasted the frame and then nickel-plated it. A friend spray-painted the tank. He found copies of the original decals and put them on. Then he shipped it in pieces to Bonneville, where he was again hired as staff. In his off time he put it all together.

When the time came for time-trials the Comet was ready, sort of. James entered it in the 100cc Vintage Modified Gasoline class and went out and set a world record. His speed: 35.926 miles per hour, give or take a few thousandths. And he never could get the bike into second gear.

OK, 36 mph is not exactly scorching, although the bike’s top speed at sea level is supposed to be 40 mph. But this was in first gear. James says he would put it in second and it would pop out so he just jammed it back in first and ran the mile. James plans to run the bike in November he’ll run it at the raceway at El Mirage dry lake bed, and, with second gear working, hopes to break that early record.

Following the time trials, James had his Comet on display at Saturday’s Concours d’Elegance at the Bonneville Vintage GP and Concours, at Miller Motorsports Park.

Obviously, the 100cc Vintage Modified Gasoline class is not a high-powered–or high-speed–racing class, or the most hotly contested. But when was the last time you took a basket-case motorcycle and turned it into a world-record holder?

Biker Quote for Today

Why bikes are better than women: Your motorcycle doesn’t get upset when you forget its birthday.

Examiner Resurrection: Alpine Loop Scenic Byway: Another Sweet Utah Motorcycle Road

Monday, August 14th, 2017

Alpine Loop Scenic Byway

I go out of my way for terrific motorcycle roads and coming home from Tooele, UT, last week was no exception. I wanted to revisit American Fork Canyon and the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway, which provide a great alternative route to Heber City and U.S. 40, which was my road back to Denver.

I’ve been this way before more than once. The OFMC discovered this road years ago thanks to a tip from a local and we ride it whenever we can. If you’re out in the Salt Lake City area you should make a point of riding it, too.

Fortunately, in the farflung reaches of the Salt Lake City metro area, the American Fork Canyon is easy to find, provided you know it exists. From I-15, exit east onto Utah 92 just south of Point of the Mountain and follow this road arrow straight to the cleft in the rock that is the mouth of the canyon. Then kiss the city good-bye, there’s none of that ahead.

You’ll quickly reach an entrance station for Timpanogos Cave National Monument but if you’re only passing through there is no fee. Should you pay the $6 fee and visit the monument? I have to admit we never have, but here’s what the official website says about the place.

Timpanogos Cave National Monument sits high in the Wasatch Mountains. The cave system consists of three spectacularly decorated caverns. Helictites and anthodites are just a few of the many dazzling formations to be found in the many chambers. As visitors climb to the cave entrance, on a hike gaining over 1,000 ft in elevation, they are offered incredible views of American Fork Canyon.

Make your way through the canyon, which is pretty spectacular in its own right, and then bear right to head on up the Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. This is a winding, twisting, amazingly narrow strip of asphalt that loops up to Alpine Summit and then on down past Sundance Ski Resort. It hits U.S. 189 running through Provo Canyon and a left will take you up to Heber City and U.S. 40, or a right takes you down into Provo.

Biker Quote for Today

God makes the lightning, bikers make the thunder.

Ride Your Own Ride (And Other Advice)

Thursday, August 10th, 2017
motorcycles and riders

Riding with friends doesn’t mean riding just like your friends.

Motorcycle riding, like so much else in life, is a matter of learning by doing. The following are a dozen lessons learned through more than 25 years and 100,000 miles on two wheels.

1. Get yourself some friends
If you’re not carrying a passenger, riding is a solitary activity at its core. You can be with other people but when you’re running down the road you’re all alone on that bike. That makes it all the more enjoyable to have friends with you when you stop. “Wow, did you see that bald eagle on top of that tree?” “Did that jerk come as close to running you off the road as it looked like from my view?” “Which direction do you think we ought to head now?”

Plus, if you go down it’s awfully nice to have friends to come to the rescue. Riding buddies are a good thing.

2. Signal your intentions
Cagers (people in cars) are generally the biggest threat to bikers but sometimes your buddies can be a threat, too. Does that pull-out on the left have a great view? Fine, pull off, but don’t assume the guys following you know why you’re slowing down. Signal your intent. For all you know, the guy behind you is impatient with your slow speed and is just about to pull around you to pick up the pace. If you make a left just as he twists the throttle your trip could come to an unpleasant end. Don’t let that happen.

3. Ride your own ride
Next to brain-dead cagers, the majority of motorcycle accidents are of the single-vehicle variety. That frequently means the rider pushed beyond their ability. This is the kind of thing that can happen when you’re riding with others and the leader is setting an aggressive pace. You may not be comfortable taking these tight turns at this speed but you want to keep up.

Bad idea. You can always catch up later. Don’t put yourself at risk when safety is at stake. Ride your own ride.

4. Don’t hesitate to go it alone
As enjoyable as it is to ride with friends, sometimes they’ve all got other plans. If you take off on your own you may find the freedom to stop when you want, go where you want, and do whatever your heart desires to be downright addictive. Of course it doesn’t hurt to have a cell phone with you in case you have trouble, but don’t pass up a great riding day just because you can’t find someone to join you.

5. Make like a Boy Scout and always “be prepared”
Sure, the sun is shining and it’s warm now, but don’t let that persuade you that you don’t need rain gear or warm clothes. It’s guaranteed to be very unpleasant if you find yourself out miles from anywhere and the skies open up. Particularly if you have saddle bags, there’s really no excuse for not carrying the gear you might need at all times.

6. Know your bike
Modern motorcycles are extremely reliable but user error can thwart the best technological design. Here’s a real-life example. Most bikes have petcocks that switch between the regular fuel supply and the reserve. On most bikes, the three positions for that lever are “Open,” “Shut,” and “Reserve.”

On some Kawasakis, however, the positions are “Open,” Reserve,” and “Prime.” Perhaps you don’t pay attention to this difference, and, after filling up, switch from Reserve to Open–you think. But in fact you have switched from Reserve to Prime. The next time you start up the bike it barely runs. Why? Because with that petcock in the Prime position it has been dribbling fuel into the cylinders continually, and that fuel has been seeping past your rings into the oil pan. Bikes don’t run well with their oil pans full of gasoline. (Hint: I did this twice before I figured it out.)

Get thoroughly acquainted with your motorcycle and everyone will be much happier.

7. Get schooled
Numerous studies show that the majority of motorcyclists who get killed on the road have not taken any sort of rider training. What more do you need to know?

8. Assume you’re invisible
The most common phrase spoken by a cager who just hit a motorcyclist is “I didn’t see him.” It doesn’t matter why this is, it matters that you take it to heart. If you pretend to yourself that you are invisible, and ride as if that were true, you’ll make decisions that will usually negate that driver’s inattention.

9. Take your time
Sometimes the best part of the trip is the unplanned, unscheduled stop or sidetrip. If you’re in too big a hurry to stop and enjoy the trip you might as well go by car.

10. Lean into adventure
This goes hand in hand with taking your time. The best motorcycle roads are the ones less traveled by cars, trucks, RVs, and the like. Don’t look for the shortest distance between two points, those roads are straight. Find the roads that curve.

11. Be opportunistic
“If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Numerous parts of the country claim this line, and it’s something to take in consideration. If you want to go for a ride today and it’s gorgeous right now, go right now. You just don’t know what the sky will look like two hours from now.

12. Pick it up!
Amazing as it may seem, even petite women can pick up huge, heavy motorcycles laying on the ground. It’s all a matter of technique. Use the wrong technique and at best you will fail, and if it gets worse you may get a hernia. Learn how to pick up your machine and you won’t end up looking like a fool – or worse, in the hospital.

Biker Quote for Today

Why motorcycles are better than men: Motorcycles don’t insult you if you are a bad rider.

It Can Be Good To Be High And Dry

Monday, August 7th, 2017
motorcycle in rain

As they say, if you don’t ride in the rain, you don’t ride.

John and Bill and I were pretty naïve in the early days of the OFMC. We would strap bags, tents, and sleeping bags on our bikes with bungee cords and just head out. It took a few “learning experiences” for us to recognize that rain suits are among the most important motorcycle accessories you can carry.

It was just the second year of our annual summer week-long trip, and we were headed for Denver from Santa Fe on our way home. It was July, we were in northern New Mexico and then southern Colorado, so it was a hot day. We were wearing jeans and T-shirts. A little south of Alamosa, coming up U.S. 285, we ran into a cloudburst. Now, we live in Colorado, we’re used to this kind of thing, and we knew that if we just kept riding we would quickly get out the rain. We also figured that we would dry off once we got back into the sunshine. So we kept riding.

We did indeed get out of the rain and dry off as anticipated, and it wasn’t long after that that we reached Alamosa. Pulling up to the stop sign at the main intersection in town we all readily agreed that we would really like to find a coffee shop and get something hot to drink.

Grabbing a table in the place we found we ordered coffee and soon found ourselves shaking with a chill. We poured the coffee down, had them bring another pot, drank it and called for more and more and more until we had drunk about 10 pots. As the shaking continued uncontrollably we eventually realized we were suffering from hypothermia. Yes, the sunshine and the wind had wicked away the wetness, but along with it our body heat had been stolen as well.

Now, hypothermia is always dangerous, and can even be fatal, but it’s especially dangerous on a motorcycle. As your blood retreats to your body core it can leave your brain dulled, which can lead to errors in judgment, which can be extremely dangerous when you’re on two wheels at speed. We agreed that we each needed to carry a rain suit.

Of course, the thing about motorcycling is that nothing is cheap. Good, motorcycle-specific rain suits cost around $150, we discovered. So on the next year’s trip I showed up with an everyday rain suit a roommate had left behind, John had an inexpensive suit he probably paid $25 for, and Bill had picked up something really cheap at Target, for perhaps $8. And it wasn’t long before we needed to use them.

The sky was very threatening as we come down Red Mountain Pass into Silverton, and we pushed on toward Durango with every expectation that we’d be stopping to suit up. Sure enough, about 15 miles out of Durango it started raining and out came the gear. That was when we discovered why motorcycle rain suits cost what they do.

My everyday suit did the best. The big, open sleeves caught the wind and my forearms got wet but other than that I was OK. John’s suit kept him dry until water ran down the front and collected on the seat in his crotch. Then the water soaked through the seams, getting him very wet in that one spot.

Bill’s super-cheapo was an amazing thing to see. He was in the lead and as we rode along John and I started noticing bits of plastic flying by us. Then we realized these shreds were the same color as Bill’s suit, and sure enough, when we got to Durango and pulled over, his rain suit was half gone. Flapping in the breeze, it had simply disintegrated.

So we’ve learned our lesson. Every one of us has a good motorcycle rain suit with sleeves and collars that seal to keep out the wet, that don’t leak at the seams, and keep us dry. In fact, topped off with a good helmet and rain-proof gloves to keep your hands warm and dry, riding in the rain is not an unpleasant thing to do. At times we’ve been hit by the waves thrown up by passing cars and trucks and just shrugged them off.

We may not be super fast learners but we’re not idiots, either.

Biker Quote for Today

You’re a biker wannabe if you only ride on weekends, when you can.

What Happens When Motorcycles Are Not Included In Planning

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017
motorcycle with DIA in the background

Riding your motorcycle to DIA was not something the planners ever even considered.

I took Judy to the airport early on Tuesday and as I drove home I thought about one of my first visits to Denver International Airport when it was just new.

I actually had been out there even before it was completed. One day I led John and Bill on our bikes riding out on the then under construction Pena Boulevard, going past areas where it was posted to stay out, this being a Sunday with no one to stop us. It was the first any of us had had the chance to see what was taking shape way out there northeast of the city.

But then the airport opened so we decided one day to ride out there again and see this new creation now functioning. If you were around back then you may recall that initially they set things up a bit differently than they are today. That’s because this bright idea about controlling traffic turned out to be a really bad idea and they quickly revamped things.

That is to say, it was set up so that all road traffic to DIA had to stop at a row of toll booths about a mile from the terminal. You were issued tickets and as you exited you handed over your ticket and paid for any time you were there beyond half an hour. Everybody did this, every time. What a waste of time. Now you drive in and drop off or pick up your passenger(s) and there’s no stopping. You only pay something if you park. Who had that dumb idea in the first place?

But it was worse if you were on a motorcycle. Apparently they figured that no one on a motorcycle would ever drop someone off or pick someone up. So when you pulled up to the toll booths there were signs saying “No Motorcycles.” I’m not sure we noticed those signs this day but either way, we pulled up to the toll booth and I don’t remember if we got one ticket for all of us or one apiece or what. Whatever, we drove on in, made the loop past the terminal, and then headed out.

That’s when we really hit trouble.

At the exit toll booth they didn’t know what to do with us. The equipment was not set up to deal with motorcycles, so either the weight or the mass of one bike was not enough to alert the machines that someone was there seeking to exit. Plus, the system was set up so when you picked up your ticket on entry a photo was made of your license plate and the person at the exit booth confirmed that this was the same vehicle.

So when one bike wasn’t enough, they had us pull all three bikes up to increase the mass. That worked but then they had to confirm that this “one vehicle”–really three–was the same “one vehicle” that had come through the entry gate. What a total mess! What a fiasco!

Needless to say, this whole procedure did not last very long. Somebody with authority realized how idiotic it was and the toll booths were eliminated.

And you have to wonder, what might have been different if they had included motorcyclists in the planning process. Surely there would have been extreme protest over the “no motorcycles” part of the plan. And maybe that would have triggered some other thinking about the necessity of inconveniencing every single person coming out there. Isn’t it amazing how generally smart people can have such stupid ideas?

Biker Quote for Today

She told me to whisper something sexy in her ear, so I said, “I ride a Harley.”