Archive for the ‘Examiner Resurrection’ Category

Examiner Resurrection: Sidecar Racing: High-Speed Ballet

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017
sidecar racers prep

Wade Boyd and Christine Blunck gear up to race their #6 Formula 2 sidecar.

Money and horsepower do not produce winners in sidecar racing. It takes teamwork, and a good team can make a poor machine very, very fast.

So say the folks who ought to know, the sidecar racers I spoke with (and rode with!) at last weekend’s Bonneville Vintage GP and Concours.

Wade Boyd and Christine Blunck are the points leaders for both driver and passenger as this racing season nears its end, and they were the ones I chanced to strike up conversation with as I sought to learn more about this sport. I also spoke with Rick Murray, the outgoing president of the Sidecar Racers Association-West.

Wade got into sidecar racing unexpectedly when he showed up at the Isle of Man TT one year expecting to race in three events. Finding that he had been shut out of two events, “I told my girlfriend to find me a sidecar.” He had never ridden a sidecar before but she found a driver in need of a passenger and he agreed to take Wade.

“I had a dynamite time, and then for four years it was like I had my thumb out. I’d go without having anything set and I’d find someone who needed a rider. Then I got to drive . . .”

Christine’s first involvement with racing was as an umbrella girl at various races, but she had a friend who ran a motorcycle shop, and who said of sidecar racing, “We could do that.”

That’s often how it happens, says Rick. “Quite often you have two friends or relatives who want to race together. We have many husband/wife, father/son, sister/sister teams. We have a fairly high percentage of women in the sport.”

Wade concurs, saying “Where else do you get to take a buddy for a ride?”

Wade is a steel fabricator by trade and he built his own rig for the most part, although “Mr. Bill” Becker of Becker Motor Works helped him out putting the motor in and with some of the other big stuff. Mr. Bill is known by all U.S. sidecar racers because he helps nearly all of them keep their rigs running.

That sort of helpfulness is characteristic of sidecar racing. “We’re competitive but friendly,” says Wade. “We want you out there and I want to pass you fair and square.”

It’s all about teamwork
The key to running a fast race is the teamwork. Each team pre-rides the track and then maps out their strategy for each turn on the course. On most turns the passenger will hang their weight out to enable fast turns without the third wheel rising off the pavement, or floating. That loss of traction cuts speed. However, in some instances, “letting the chair float” allows the rig to cut the corner sharper in order to get up speed in a hurry for the straightaway.

The passenger needs to know his or her position on each turn and the driver needs to be aware of the passenger’s location. On occasion the driver will look back but usually, “I feel her, the ESP is strong,” says Wade.

The passenger also needs to make their moves smoothly and gracefully. Harsh, forceful moves from one position to another will negatively affect the handling of the rig. Wade calls this coordinated, smooth movement “high-speed ballet.”

Despite the seemingly dangerous risks the passengers take, leaning far out of the rig just inches above the ground, sidecar racing in the U.S. is actually very safe. By comparison, Wade says, at the Isle of Man TT “they put a bale of hay in front of a telephone pole. After doing the TT, this (the track at Miller Motorsports Park) is easy. We rarely touch, but if you do touch you’re probably going to spin out, and if you spin out the passenger can get launched.”

According to Rick, the last sidecar racing fatality in the U.S. occurred in the 1980s, and there have been only three fatalities since the 1960s.

Passengers do sometimes get “spit off.” Christine’s most memorable such occasion came in Ramsey, on the Isle of Man when her driver clipped a curb in an S-curve. “It spit me off and I flipped through the air and landed upright on my feet in some gentleman’s front yard. I said ‘Hi’ and introduced myself.” She adds that there are times when the passenger wishes he or she was a monkey, and had that tail as a fifth hand to hang on with.

Sidecar racing is an inexpensive way to race, Rick notes, because you split the cost two ways. Plus, using wide, slick tires, as modern sidecars do, the costs are low because a set of tires will last one to two years. And most racers run stock engines so reliability is very high.

Still, there aren’t that many sidecar racers in the U.S., and they’d love to see that change. That’s one reason Rick and others love to offer “taxi rides” to spectators when they can. These taxi rides let non-racers suit up and take two laps around the track with an experienced driver at the controls.

“I tell people you’ll love it or hate it,” says Rick. “I’ve never seen anybody go half way. They’re either ‘Get me off’ or ‘Where can I buy one?'”

And if you do love it, says Rick, “You can spend $4,000 to $5,000 and have something to have fun with.”

Biker Quote for Today

Sometimes your knight in shining armor turns out to be a biker in dirty leathers.

Examiner Resurrection: Playing Monkey On A Racing Sidecar

Thursday, September 28th, 2017

This experience was a real highlight, so I’m happy to run this as an Examiner Resurrection.

motorcycle sidecar rig and two riders

Rick Murray at the controls and me in the passenger spot.

“Grab this grip with your left hand and never let go.”

I figured that first bit of instruction was the most important of all. Especially when ignoring it could result in my hitting the pavement at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour.

I was going for a ride on a racing sidecar.

If you watch sidecar racers scream around the curves, often with the passenger hanging much of their body out of the car and inches from the ground, your first impulse is to say “Those guys are crazy.” Well, crazy or not, I wanted a piece of it and I was going to get it.

I went to the Bonneville Vintage GP and Concours last week with antique motorcycles on my mind but was quickly caught up in the excitement surrounding the sidecars that were also there racing, both vintage and Formula 1 and Formula 2. And as luck would have it, the sidecar guys love to take other folks on what they call “taxi rides” for a couple laps of the track. Where do I sign up?

So Rick Murray, with Team RGM, who would be taking me for a ride in his rig, was explaining to me what I should, and most importantly, should not do. As you move around from left to right to center, the right hand moves from grip to grip. But the left hand never moves from its grip. A lot of the rest I was told was forgotten as soon as we got out on the track but I did remember this.

Then Christine Blunck, with Subculture Racing, walked me through the entire track, showing me how to roll on my legs from left to center, where to brace my feet as I moved right, and what move to make on each turn in the track. She noted that sidecar passengers at times wish they were monkeys so they would have that tail, that fifth hand, to grab on with.

Wearing my own helmet and gloves and a borrowed leather suit, I was mounted and we were ready to roll out on the track. There would be one other taxi rider on the sidecar ahead of us. Let’s go.

Around the track we looped, through turns with evocative names such as “Gotcha,” “Mabey Y’ll Makit,” “Agony,” and “Ecstasy.” If I remembered anything Christine had told me about each turn it became moot as I quickly lost track of where we even were on the course. Initial thoughts of shifting left to right and back to left were dashed at the realization that, oh yeah, sometimes you have two lefts in a row, or two rights in a row. Guess I’d better pay attention to the track.

But even then it got confusing. I’d be figuring that I needed to be going right and I’d look ahead and the guy in the car in front of us was going left. Who was correct and who was confused? I know I was confused even if I was correct.

Of course, in all honesty, it didn’t matter if I screwed up. We were not going at full race speeds and Rick told me he could run the whole course at that speed with no problem regardless of what I did. And afterward I asked him if I screwed up and he just said, sort of noncommitally, that “You did fine.”

So we did the first lap and were well into the second when I heard the engine rev and felt us picking up speed. I knew Rick was opening it up to give me a taste of real race speeds and I hung on tight to enjoy the sensation. I have no doubt that my own personal land speed record was set at that moment.

Then we swept again through the clubhouse turn and into the pit lane and off the track to a stop. I stood up and realized I was breathing hard, not to mention feeling like I’d just had a work out. And I’m sure I was smiling. Here’s your leathers back, and thank you for the pin that reads, “I rode a racing sidecar.” Thank you, thank you, thank you. When can I do this again?

Biker Quote for Today

I have no interest in living a balanced life. I want a life of adventure.

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.

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!

Examiner Resurrection: Touring Yellowstone On Motorcycle

Thursday, June 29th, 2017
Bikers in Yellowstone

Five members of the OFMC at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park.

This seems like a good time of year to resurrect this particular Examiner piece. I guess you can now disregard the bit about traffic being down due to the recession.

Are tourist traffic jams lessened in Yellowstone this year due to the recession?

The answer is yes. If you’re thinking about riding about coming to Yellowstone but are put off by stories of huge traffic jams, this seems to be a good year to come.

Note: I just read a report that Yellowstone is reporting record visitation for the year. My assessment is purely anecdotal. I’ve been there before and it just was not as crowded this time as previously.

On the other, your economic stimulus dollars are hard at work in the national parks this summer and that translates into construction delays that at times can make the tourist delays pale in comparison.

The OFMC has never “done” Yellowstone before. We’ve gone through it but it was mostly a matter of avoiding all the tourist areas and getting across to the other side. This year we actually did Yellowstone. That is to say, we stopped at places like Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs, just like ordinary tourists.

We also made some stops that the average tourist may not know about, but which are especially nice on motorcycles. In this case, thanks go to one of our group who had done the park on his bike with his wife last year. He had scouted out the really cool spots and led us to them.

Our route

Yellowstone RouteWe entered Yellowstone from Grand Teton National Park, coming up US 191, which runs north-south through that park from Moran Junction. We actually hit our first major construction delay on the last 8 miles of that road. No simple resurfacing going on here; they were excavating down to roadbase and putting in new base, essentially completely rebuilding the road. It was 8 miles of gravel and dust and stop and go.

Entering Yellowstone, we immediately saw signs telling us that we would encounter construction over the next 10 miles. However, we first hit brand new asphalt and then ran into extremely fresh chip seal. But that was the worst of it in Yellowstone. And coming in we ran right along the rim of a deep gorge. Very beautiful.

We continued on up US 191 and reached Old Faithful, where we pulled off to see the geyser. This stretch of road is essentially four-lane divided highway, complete with a freeway-like interchange to facilitate the masses of traffic. The road was mostly empty as we entered, due to the fact that they geyser was just set to blow. We were still parking as hordes of people came out to their vehicles.

Lesson one: Don’t even try to leave Old Faithful for at least half an hour after it blows. The traffic is worse than most city-type rush hours. Just go get something to eat or drink and take your time.

After the geyser blew again we continued north on US 191, stopping at various hot pools and such. Then, as we approached the connection with US 89, which continues north while US 191 heads west, we made a diversion. Johnathon had found what appears to be a stretch of the old highway, which runs for two miles alongside another gorge. Firehole Falls is the main attraction along here, but there is also a really nice spot with cascades and swimming in the river. A very popular place. (This spot is marked in turquoise on the map.)

We jogged west on US 191 to West Yellowstone for the night, then took it back in in the morning and continued north on US 89. This took us up to Mammoth Hot Springs, which is pretty much what the name says. (Also marked in turquoise on the map.) We stopped and walked around this place but Johnathon had also discovered that there is a road called the Upper Terrace Loop. This one-way strip of asphalt circles all the way around the hot springs, winding its way through the woods. A very nice motorcycle road.

From Mammoth Hot Springs we took Grand Loop Road east to Roosevelt, and from there Northeast Entrance Road to, of all things, the Northeast Entrance. Along the way we saw a bear or two, many buffalo, and various other wildlife. We also encountered that standard for Yellowstone, the tourist traffic jam that occurs whenever anyone spots a wild animal.

Lesson two: Best to take it easy along this road because you never know when you’ll come swinging around a blind curve only to find a mass of cars stopped dead in the road to look at some critter.

We then hit our final construction delay within sight of the park entrance. Ended up sitting there for about 20 minutes before we could finally leave and continue on to our next adventure, the Beartooth highway.

Biker Quote for Today

She asked me to tell her those three words every woman wants to hear, so I said “Let’s go riding.”

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.