Friday, July 24, 2015

Getting 100,000 Miles Out of a Motorcycle

100000 miles on the odometer
My odometer, seconds after the 100,000 mile turnover
The feeling was more like a revelation than anything else. When Blackbird, my faithful Honda ST1300, finally logged its 100,000th mile this afternoon, I realized where it happened, and when it happened, and thought to myself, "Oh, OK."

I mean, after my Alaska trip in 2010, I felt convinced that this bike was a keeper. That's the point when I wondered how long it would take until I got to see the odomoter tick from "99999" to "100000", and where it would happen. It wasn't until just a few weeks ago, that I finally had a good idea.

So, there it happened today, along County Road S-22 in San Diego County, otherwise known as "Montezuma Valley Rd", just east of Ranchita, CA, inside Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

But best part about it is that Blackbird did this without any help. That is, she's never needed repairs. Nothing busted, no faulty parts, and nothing worn out. All it has ever needed was the usual fluids, brake pads, and tires. It's not like my 2005 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic, that needed constant repairs and patch work to keep it going. I mean, I suppose any motorcycle could go 100,000 miles if you keep replacing busted parts.

So, kudos to the engineers at Honda for designing a rock solid bike.

Yeah, that Harley was a comfortable bike with lots of bells and whistles. But that's about all I can really say about it. About every 8,000 to 10,000 miles, it would require some kind of major repair. A few times the inner primary seal wore out and needed replacing, which is a tedious job to do. I had a head pipe crack on me. I had the rear brake line wear a hole. I had an engine mount crack and disintegrate. The ball joint on the shift rod connector wore out. And of course, I had the cam chain tensioners disintegrate.

It's as if Harley designs bikes with the intention of failing so that you'll take it to a dealer for repair. That way, you'll notice the newer motorcycles in the showroom that were resdesigned to solve the problems your bike is plagued with.

"Yup, Harley fixed that issue last year", the salesman says to you. "Your bike was the last model year that had that problem."

honda st1300
County Road S-22, just inside Anza Borrego Desert State Park
It's no wonder why the Motor Company sells more bikes to existing owners than to any other group.

It was around 75,000 miles when the cam chain tensioners finally disintegrated on my Electra Glide. I was faced with either replacing them, or spending a lot of extra cash for gear-driven cams. It would take another 50,000 to 75,000 miles for gear-driven cams to pay for themselves, and everyone encouraged me to do it. But I said, "No".

This is where the love-hate relationship with Harley stops.

I went the cheaper route by getting new cam chain tensioners, and then I sold the bike. I used that money to buy a used 2006 Honda ST1300 that had 7,000 miles on it. 93,000 miles later, here I am writing about it.

Complaining about Harleys isn't the reason for writing all this however. My point is that I wouldn't appreciate getting 100,000 miles out of a motorcycle that needed no repair work if I had never had the Harley.

But it's not to say that Blackbird will put on another 100,000 miles. She could fall apart tomorrow for all I know. But at this point, I feel satisfied knowing I got my money's worth.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Conflict Between Love and Comfort

Sash and the Indian Scout along Palomar Mountain Road
Roads in and of themselves are not dangerous. They're simply layers of pavement that remain still. It's the riders themselves that lose control. Yet, motorcyclists often describe one road as being more dangerous than another, and often speak of roads reputed to be so dangerous that some riders refuse to ride them.

When I lead Sash to Palomar Mountain Road last winter, I felt compelled to pull off to the side to give her some tips about what she would encounter. I didn't want her to underestimate the switchbacks and decreasing radius curves and end up dead. Many riders have crashed and died along that road.

"Be careful" I said to her, thinking that somehow, she'd ride more carefully.

But in thinking it through, I felt a conflict. I love Sash for her tenacity, detemination, and guts, yet here I was asking her to be a little more intellectual so as to address my fear. The truth is, it's not fair to a rider that they tone down their enthusiasm to suit someone else's concerns, even if the sentiment was out of genuine care. When someone else asks me to "ride safe", I usually don't give it much thought, nor take any offense. But after having logged hundreds of thousands of miles myself, I like to think that I can make my own decisions on staying safe.

At the root of all this, is a conflict between love and comfort.

We all have things we love, but we also want to feel comfortable. Can we love something and set it free, but at the same time control it when we're worried?

We see it all the time in other facets of life...

  • You love your new boyfriend because he's so creative, spontaneous, and free thinking, but you want him to put on a shirt and tie when taking him to meet your parents.
  • We love sports figures who battle to the death, break records, and pump their fists in victory, but we want them to be humble and civil in public.
  • You love having your buddies over for a night of poker, beer, and jokes, but you want them to keep it quiet because your wife is sleeping upstairs.

In fact, it was Sash who decided a couple years earlier that we ought to wish someone to "ride fun" instead of "ride safe" because it seems to be a more neutral valediction.

But that doesn't always relieve the conflict between love and comfort.

The more you love someone, the more you worry, and the more comfort you seek. Setting someone free is not that easy, yet it's the letting go that mysteriously makes them come back.

These days, I've become more conscious about bidding farewell to a fellow rider. I catch myself wanting to say, "ride safe", but instead say something like "catch you later".

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Show Low, AZ to Scottsdale

US-60 descending into the Salt River Canyon
Rain had been predicted all Saturday long when I left Show Low, AZ for Scottsdale. I hadn't brought any rain gear with me, aside from the leather jacket and full face helmet I normally wear. So, I was prepared for a soaking.

"It's just water", I often explain to myself.

I did, however, bring my cold weather, waterproof gloves, because they don't take up much space in the trunk. Yet, I opted not to wear them because rain was not actually falling the moment I left. I'm one of those "in the moment" guys, as opposed to those, "you never know" guys, and would just rather wait to see how accurate the forecast was.

As US-60 made the slow descent from the White Mountain Range into the Salt River Canyon, grayish thunderheads loomed across the horizon like giant puffs of billowy cotton soaked with the warm waters of the Gulf of California. The highway wasn't making any attempt to steer me away from them either. It looked as if this ride was going to be as wet as the weatherman said it would.

If there was any consolation, the road was wide open. The scores of minivans and RVs I had expected along this route just wasn't to be found.

Yet somehow, I had passed under numerous clouds that looked to ready to unleash their loads, and nothing came down. So far, the rain had waited.



As the highway began the twists and turns that snaked its way down the rock canyon walls to the river bottom, sunshine had actually come out. The air was starting to warm up to the normal 100+ degrees F that Arizona typically sees this time of the year. I felt rewarded for having stuck to my guns about gearing up for the "now" instead of for the "might be". And just when I thought I was going to be stuck behind a line of slow moving cages, the highway offered a passing lane that let me twist the throttle and get in some good leans.

Another 10 miles down the way, I was treated to some beautiful views of blue sky interspersed with bright white stratocumulus clouds hovering over streaks of bluish-gray mountain ranges. Where were the other Saturday afternoon riders? I suppose they were frightened off by the overly-cautious weather forecast.

After I finished a rather uncharacteristic lunch of all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet in the town of Globe, I opted to prolong my journey into the Salt River Valley with a side route to Roosevelt Lake via AZ-188. According to Google Maps, AZ-188 would then intersect me with AZ-88, a road that would take me to Scottsdale but more twisty and challenging.

Yet when I got to the 88, I found a sign warning me that it was all dirt. So, I stopped at an overlook that offered gorgeous views of Lake Roosevelt, and spoke to a couple of Harley riders, who confirmed that the 88 was indeed all dirt, and very soft in places. No worry, I ended up taking the 188 instead to AZ-87, and then into Scottsdale.

As it turns out, I got only a light bit of rain taking the AZ-87 south, not even enough to pull over and put on my waterproof gloves for. Sometimes when it threatens to rain, that's all it amounts to.

View more photos from this ride here.

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About Steve

San Diego, CA-based motorcycle rider who likes long road trips, old rustic bars, craft beer, and tough women. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, writing about the mysteries of life. (Read more...)