Archive for the ‘Biker Issues’ Category

More Possible Tweaks For Rider Training

Thursday, January 18th, 2018
People at the meeting.

Others in attendance.

As I noted on Monday, Bruce Downs, ABATE of Colorado’s state coordinator, had a series of suggestions for fine-tuning the Motorcycle Operator Safety Training (MOST) program. The fact is, Bruce had printed out the program rules and flagged every spot in the document where he had changes to offer.

One of the bigger issues Bruce raised was one that ABATE has raised for quite some time now. The legislation the MOST program is based on seems to state clearly that of the funds raised through licensing fees, no more than 15 percent can be used for administration. But ever since an outside contractor has been brought in to administer the program, those costs have eaten up about 65 to 70 percent of the funding, he said. Can we come up with a compromise that falls somewhere in the middle.

While other suggestions at this meeting were met with discussion and an openness on all sides to work something out, this item got completely shot down. Glenn Davis, representing the Colorado Department of Transportation, replied that this issue was studied and a state attorney issued an opinion that the use of the funds in this manner is acceptable.

What my wife, an attorney, tells me about this is that basically this is saying, you can sue us if you like, and maybe you’ll win, but unless you do that we are going to keep doing what we’re doing. End of discussion.

And it did end that discussion.

Another significant issue Bruce brought up was the limitation of the MOST program to beginner rider training. In the past, MOST funds could be used to defray the costs of other rider training courses beyond the Beginning Rider Course (BRC). His initial proposal was simply to add a definition of Advanced Rider Course (ARC) into the rules.

Bruce’s point, however, which was echoed by several in the room, was that a large percentage of riders being killed are not the newbies, but experienced riders with years under their belts.

“If we don’t do advanced rider training are we shortchanging riders who are paying in for the program?” he asked.

While no action was called for or expected at this time, the idea was that the stakeholders involved with MOST ought to be considering this issue in the days ahead.

The rest of Bruce’s issues were small ones affecting primarily the training vendors, and often specifically ABATE. These included definitions of mobile training operations, clarifying what background check findings should render possible Rider Coaches unqualified, and making travel expense reimbursements conform to the reality of costs.

A second stakeholder engagement meeting will be held in the same location (15055 S. Golden Road, Building 100) on Friday, January 26, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Biker Quote for Today

Who needs a time machine when one twist of my wrist will leave you in the past!

Rider Training Tweaks Proposed By Training Vendors

Monday, January 15th, 2018
CSP MOST meeting

The CSP’s first stakeholder engagement meeting.

The Colorado State Patrol (CSP) held its first stakeholder engagement meeting Friday, with about 20 people present, as it takes over control of the Colorado Motorcycle Operator Safety Training program (MOST) from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). Essentially the meeting presented an opportunity for the organizations that provide rider training to propose tweaks to the program to help bring regulatory concepts into line with on-the-ground reality.

The first–and most extensive–discussion was on allowing larger bikes to be used in the Beginning Rider Course (BRC). Current limitations say no more than 350cc but it was argued that the limit should be raised to 500cc. The gist of the argument was that if most riders are going to actually get out on the road on larger bikes, why shouldn’t they be trained on the bikes they’re actually going to ride? It was agreed that the training vendors need to continue to have smaller training bikes on hand for those trainees who need them, but for those capable of handling larger bikes, why not make that an option?

As I understand it, there is also the consideration that the Harley-Davidson training programs all use larger bikes and thus are currently excluded from participation with MOST due to the 350cc limitation.

Also raised was the requirement that Rider Coaches be 21 years of age. The point made was that while there may not be a lot of 18-year-olds who you would want to trust as a Rider Coach, in the few cases where you would, why not allow it? This is especially important because there is currently a shortage of Rider Coaches in the Colorado and opening it up a little more could help. It was also suggested that the requirement that a Rider Coach training in Colorado must hold a Colorado driver’s license be amended.

This opened up the issue that some of the specifics vendors deal with are written in law while others are only regulatory in nature. CSP personnel at the meeting made it clear they want to get a solid year under their belts running MOST before they start talking about proposing legislative changes. The consensus at the meeting was that that was reasonable but that these sorts of issues ought to be presented as a package when the time comes.

Another suggestion was to try to have the law rewritten so as to reference the curriculum in use. That way, it would not be necessary to change the law every time the curriculum changes. Apparently, however, there are some limitations on citing outside sources “by reference” because there is the possibility that those sources might call for something contrary to state law. There do appear to be workarounds in this regard, though.

That brings us to the point in the meeting where Bruce Downs, state coordinator for ABATE of Colorado, took the floor to present a series of tweaks and revisions that his organization (of which I am a member) would like to see made. I’ll go over all that in my next post.

Biker Quote for Today

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

Examiner Resurrection: How Green Is Your Motorcycle?

Thursday, January 11th, 2018

This is an interesting Examiner Resurrection because on checking I see that while I mentioned on this blog that I was doing a piece about this topic, I never fully dug into the topic here. I just posted links to the piece on Examiner. It’s all still totally relevant so I’m pleased to put the info up here now.

motorcycle exhaust

How Green Is Your Motorcycle?

How many times have you been out on your motorcycle and seen some behemoth, like a Hummer, cruising along with one person inside, and reflected smugly on how much better you were treating Mother Earth than that person?

Well here’s a news flash: You may not be as green as you think you are.

What’s that? It doesn’t take anywhere near as much iron and steel and plastic to make a motorcycle as it does a car, and we get a lot better gas mileage, too, unless that car is a Prius or something of that sort. How can we not be greener?

The fact is, there’s more to this issue than you might assume. This first article on the subject is an introduction to the general discussion and I’ll be digging deeper in later pieces.

Different Pollutants
Arguments have been made in some quarters that motorcycles in fact are worse polluters than cars. This contention is based primarily on differences in tailpipe emissions. Cars are equipped with catalytic converters, while most motorcycles are not. The result is that motorcycles emit more hydrocarbons, the stuff that causes smog, because their fuel is not burned as completely.

Here’s what the World Carfree Network has to say about it.

What is left out of this flawed reasoning is the fact that these engines are less developed, so that less fuel consumption cannot be translated directly into less pollution. . . . So, motorcycles do pollute more on some pollutants (like unburned hydrocarbons) and probably less on some others. The more that can be said is that they pollute in a different manner, but certainly not that they pollute less. . . . Despite the widespread view that motorcycle use is (at least) less noxious than car use, the truth is that they may be even more disastrous than cars.

By the way, just to be clear on where biases lie, the World Carfree Network describes itself saying, “World Carfree Network brings together organisations and individuals dedicated to promoting alternatives to car dependence and automobile-based planning at the international level and working to reduce the human impact on the natural environment while improving the quality of life for all.”

Less Of Everything Else
The opposing argument is based primarily on what appears to be the no-brainer aspects of the equation: Less materials to build motorcycles, less fuel to run them, less space to park them, less damage to the roads due their lighter weight, and on and on. Plus, in regard to pollutants, because motorcycles in general use less gasoline than cars, they do emit less carbon dioxide, the chief culprit alleged to be responsible for global warming, or climate change.

Ty Van Hooydonk addressed this question last fall at the Motorcycle Industry Council Symposium, in a presentation titled “Ride Green? Why Not? The Environmental Case for Motorcycles.” Recapping his presentation in an email to me, Ty spoke about comparing cars and motorcycles, saying:

How much energy does it take to produce each one? How much in the way of materials? How much of the materials are recyclable? How much is toxic in some way? Then let’s get to shipping the product to the dealership. How much energy (and this can relate to space on board a ship or inside a truck) does it require to get the vehicle to market? Then let’s get to actual use by the owner. With an equal number of miles driven/ridden, what’s the fuel economy? What are the total emissions? Out the tail-pipe and otherwise? How much in the way of oil and other chemicals are going in and out of each vehicle? Engine oil generally should be changed at same mileage intervals for both cars and bikes, so quantity may matter more here.

Ty also notes that, “In California, a big state for motorcycling, and in many other places around the world, motorcycles are allowed to lane-share and filter through clogged car traffic. That means that instead of sitting there idling away, burning fuel and polluting the air without getting anywhere, a motorcycle is almost always getting its rider somewhere, and sooner, too.”

Again, let’s lay the biases out clearly. Ty is the Communications Director with the Motorcycle Industry Council. These are the people whose businesses and livelihoods are based on the manufacture and sale of motorcycles and accessories.

Who Is Right?
So which is it? Are motorcycles greener than cars or are they not? The short answer is that no one can really say for sure, at least not with the incomplete understanding we currently have of the way all these factors inter-relate. In later articles I’ll dig deeper into some of these arguments and look at some tools that have been developed to try to answer some of these questions.

But nothing short of a full-blown scientific/statistical investigation by some disinterested third party is likely to provide a concrete yes or no answer to the basic question. And that investigation does not appear to be on anyone’s priority list at this time.

Biker Quote for Today

The two best feelings in the world are sex and riding a motorcycle.

MOST Program Enters A New Era

Monday, January 8th, 2018
motorcycle skills demonstration

Rider training is a good thing. You don’t think these guys got this good just on their own, do you?

As of January 1 the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) is now owner of the Motorcycle Operator Safety Training program (MOST). Now we’ll see if anything changes, and if so, what, and how.

Since its inception MOST had been managed by the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT). That seemed to work well for many years but not so much as time went on. As MOST came up for extension the decision was made to let CSP take over.

As a first move to figure out what needs doing, CSP has announced two Stakeholder Engagement Meetings, to be held this month.

The first is Friday, January 12, from 9 a.m. to noon at 15055 S. Golden Road, Building 100, which the the CSP facility at Camp George West.

The second meeting is set for two weeks later, Friday, January 26, from 9 a.m. to noon at the same place.

From the flyer announcing the meetings:

The Colorado State Patrol (CSP) will be hosting engagement meetings open to the public to obtain comments on the MOST Program Rules. Feel free to attend either meeting, it is your chance to talk with CSP staff about the MOST Program and offer feedback, recommendations, and comments. We look forward to seeing you there. Please see below for event details.

If you want to look over those rules, they are available as yet on the CDOT website:

I think I know where I’m going to be at 9 a.m. this coming Friday.

Biker Quote for Today

Behind every crazy biker is an even crazier old lady who is enjoying the ride.

Counting The Miles For 2017

Thursday, January 4th, 2018
motorcycles on Cochetopa Pass.

Bikes cruising up Cochetopa Pass.

Under the circumstances, I’m surprised I rode and drove more miles in 2017 than in 2016. I think that’s only because 2016 was my lowest mileage year on record. I covered only 6,268 miles in 2016 but made it 8,047 in 2017. And of that 5,043 was on my three bikes. The car got just 3,004.

For the bikes, I rode the Honda 713 miles, the Kawi 2,742, and the Suzuki 1,588. The only thing that surprises me there is the Honda. I made it a point–I thought–to ride that bike as much as possible but I still tallied fewer miles on it than the year before: 713 vs. 901.

I really expected to put a lot more miles on them all in the year. But Judy and I took off on a ride to Alabama where we got snowbound for three days in western Kansas, and that trip got substantially revised. Then I left with the OFMC on our annual trip but after the second night I cut that trip short and rode home because I was sick as I’ve been in years. And then, with my Mom ailing and us taking four separate trips to South Carolina to be with her, that used up a lot of time I had planned on spending in the saddle. As I say, I’m surprised I managed to pass 2016. What was my excuse in 2016?

OK, well fine. What am I going to do in 2018 to get those numbers back up higher?

Of course there will be the OFMC trip. And I promised Mark Tuttle, editor-in-chief at Rider magazine, a piece about riding the Bighorn Mountains. That was a casualty of my Mom’s illness last year but it’s back on the front burner this year.

And once again I’m planning a long ride with the Rocky Mountain Motorcycle Rider’s Club, this one to the Pacific Northwest. That should add a good many miles, not to mention be a heck of a trip. And I’m betting this one won’t get snowed out the way the Alabama trip did.

In the meantime, it’s only January 4 and I’ve already been out on two of my bikes this year. That leaves the Suzuki and I’m looking to be out on it tomorrow. I mean, hey! It’s January in Colorado. It’s time to ride!

Biker Quote for Today

Tailgating a car is illegal. Tailgating a motorcycle is premeditated murder.

I Hate When I Do That

Thursday, December 14th, 2017
motorcycles after forest fire

Not related to the article, just a riding photo for illustration.

Have you ever discovered to your annoyance, just after putting your gloves on, that you have left the key to your motorcycle in your pants pocket, and now have to remove a glove to fish them out?

Or perhaps the better question is, have any of us never done this? Or, when was the last time you did this? Of course, it’s even worse when that pocket is inside some outer garment such as a one-piece riding suit.

I hate when I do that. But we all do it, so I started wondering about other universal annoyances like this I might think of.

How about this: You go to push your sidestand down and you hook your pants leg on the little prong that sticks out to facilitate using the stand. Then you have a very tense moment trying to get free and get your leg down before you fall over. I presume that only happens on those bikes where the sidestand has that prong, but at least one of my bikes does and I have had exactly this experience. And I know others have, too, with some instances where they did fall over.

Or how about this: You’re going for a ride and the weather is nice. Sure it would be no problem to throw your raingear in the bag but look at that sun and blue sky! No need. Wrong. An hour later the sky opens up and you’re looking for anything to get under to keep from getting wetter than you already are.

Alternatively, there are the times in cooler seasons when you take off certain that you are dressed warmly enough. Only later do you realize it would have been a much better idea to have worn the electric vest, or the heated gloves, the long underwear, the chaps–whatever it is you have that would be really welcome right about now, but which sit uselessly at home.

Have you ever run out of gas? That can always be traced back to some point where you passed a station but figured, nah, I’ve still got plenty in the tank. Unless it’s a matter of getting somewhere and thinking, dang, I thought for sure this place would have a gas station.

Then there are the times when you’re traveling and you could get a place for the night here, but it’s a little early yet, and there’s another town up the road a bit so let’s go on to there. And you get there and there are no motels in this town, or they are all full. And the next town where you might find accommodations is more than just a little ways ahead. Granted this doesn’t happen as much in these days of smart phones where you can actually check and see if the next town has a motel and if there are rooms available. It used to happen a lot more in the old days. I know it has happened to me.

Have you ever parked your bike in what seemed like an iffy spot, where the slope of the ground makes it seem precarious? You maneuver around to get so you feel it “should” be OK and you check it one last time before you walk off, but when you come back it’s on its side on the ground. Or maybe you are not that far away in the first place when you hear the sickening crash as it falls over. Yeah, I can think of at least three times when I’ve had this experience. I’m not stupid but sometimes you have to park and there’s just not a really good place to do so.

And then Judy had one thing to offer: She hates it when she sets her glasses down while putting her helmet on only to discover some miles later that she never put them back on. In the case in point, she had set them down on one of the sidebags on the Concours and they fell off as we pulled out of the driveway. We were relieved to find them undamaged because they were her only pair. Now she has a spare pair.

What can you add to this list? What “I hate it when I do that” moments can you recount? I’d love to hear about them.

Biker Quote for Today

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

Temporary Interruption

Thursday, December 14th, 2017

Update: Mom died on December 22. I’m back. The Passes & Canyons Blog resumes on Monday, January 1. (If it seemed odd that there was a post after I put this one up it’s because I forgot I had one already queued up.)

I have been publishing this blog for more than 10 years on a regular schedule without interruption, but that changes as of right now.

I am currently in South Carolina at my mother’s place and she is very ill. I simply can’t handle this task until things resolve themselves here.

I will be back.

Letting It Rip On Track Day

Thursday, November 9th, 2017
Do yourself a favor and do a track day.

Do yourself a favor and do a track day.

Have you ever wished you could get out on your motorcycle and just let her rip? No worry about speeding tickets. No worry about hitting that pocket of gravel as you carve that turn. No worry about that idiot cager who’s just about to pull out in front of you at the intersection.

That’s why God invented race tracks.

The really cool thing is that race tracks are not just for the pros. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of days when race tracks sit idle and you’d better believe the people running them welcome additional users. The perfect scenario is for your riding club to hire the track for a day, bring in a couple riding instructors to give pointers and offer critique, and then each of you pay your share of the cost to go ride the track for a day. Alternatively, sometimes the tracks themselves set it up and provide the instructors. Then all you have to do is sign up and pay.

The Concours Owners Group that I have intermittently belonged to organized a track day at one point and I jumped at the chance. The day was set up in segments, alternating classroom instruction and parking lot practice with track time. They divided us up into three groups based on skill level. I knew I wasn’t in the top tier but I sure didn’t want to think of myself as bottom tier, so I went for the middle. My thinking seemed to predominate, so there were more than could be accommodated in the middle, but I was not one of the ones forced to join the lower group.

My group started in the classroom, and in many ways it was very much like the Experienced Rider Course (ERC) sanctioned by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, just omitting the portions on looking out for other traffic. They talked about braking before entering the turn, late apexing, where you go deep into the turn before initiating a sharp turn, and other such techniques.

Then we moved out into the parking lot. We practiced swerving, turning our heads to look as far into the curve as possible, standing the bike up before braking, and modulating braking to achieve maximum stopping power without skidding. Then it was time for the track. Hot dang!

As each group took to the track, the instructors also mounted up and rode with us. Singling out each rider individually, at times they would ride behind and observe your technique, and at other times they might pull ahead and motion for you to follow them as they demonstrated what you should do.

It turned out you really couldn’t blast your way down the track at warp speed because the straightaway was not long enough to reach that speed before you needed to start backing off. And no, there were no worries of gravel in the curves but there was one spot coming into a curve where an asphalt patch was much softer than the area around it and, of course, target fixation lead me to hit that spot consistently. One of those times my rear wheel would have slid out from under me in a low-side get-off but I planted my left foot well enough to recover and stay up.

I also found that my riding ego was a bit puffed up. While I had not wanted to be relegated to the low-skill group, I was the slowest rider in the middle group. Everyone else kept passing me, and I never passed anyone. Time for a little humility.

After lunch we repeated the circuit, with the added input of the instructors’ critique of our earlier riding. We each now had a better understanding of our strengths and weaknesses, and what we needed to work on. But the track day is only a beginning. Techniques do not become skills unless you continue to practice them. I have, and I believe I’m a better rider because of it, but nothing beats a refresher course once in a while.

Biker Quote for Today

This is a motorcycle rock. Throw the rock into the air. If it hits the ground, go ride.

Link for Today

Heading to Australia? Check out Procycles.

Riders Who Don’t Ride Any More

Monday, November 6th, 2017

We don’t stop riding because we get old, we get old because we stop riding.

I’ve heard that line for years but now I’m starting to question it. People I know are no longer riding and while age is not the reason in and of itself, the more specific reasons are directly related to age.

John with his bikeJohn is the perfect example. John had a Cushman scooter when he was a kid but then went years without a bike. Later, when he bought a 750cc Virago he opened the door for a lot. First he took me riding on behind and then before long I bought my own bike, my CB750 Custom. Then Bill got a Shadow and the OFMC was born.

That was a long time ago. Well, John has hung up his spurs. More specifically, he sold the Harley. He’s done riding.

John’s decision is based on health. He has started suffering from esophageal cramps, which basically render him almost comatose. He got hit by one while riding on this year’s OFMC trip. Scary situation. On top of that, he is suffering macular degeneration, which is causing him to lose the vision in the center of his eyes. He sees around the edges but when he looks directly at something it disappears.

This is very sad, and the OFMC will not be the same. This might be John’s motto: When I was younger I was afraid I’d die riding. Now that I’m old and falling apart, I’m afraid I won’t.

Dan with Iron Butt medallionThen there’s Dan. With Dan it was more direct–he suffered a stroke. More than a year later he’s still struggling to perform everyday functions; riding a motorcycle is out of the question, and the bike was sold long ago.

Mind you, this is a guy who used to routinely ride more than 30,000 miles every year. Dan had a decal on his bike that showed a map of the 48 states with the label, “My riding area.” He meant it. But now he doesn’t ride. So very sad, and so unfair. He had seemed to be in great health until one day he wasn’t.

This might have been Dan’s motto: Young riders pick a destination and go. Old riders pick a direction and go.

I know a bunch of other guys who used to ride but don’t any more but for them it was a decision; in some cases the dad decision, as in “I have a child and he needs a father–I’m giving up the bike.” Maybe in later years they will be back.

What this has meant for the OFMC is that this year there were only 6 riders on the trip. Not long ago we had had 10-11.

So don’t take it for granted. Get out there and ride every chance you get. And I’m going to take seriously the motto Roy told us he has subscribed to all his life. Roy just turned 86 but he’s as spry and active as someone 40 years younger. Here’s his take on life: Does as much as you can for as long as you can.

Yeah, what he said.

Biker Quote for Today

Hop on your steel horse and go find your soul in the wind.

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.