Friday, December 12, 2008

Cheap Sunglasses and the Recession

Cheap Sunglasses So how is the market for sunglasses like American automakers asking for a bailout?

Well, yesterday on my way out to meet some riding buddies, I stopped at a Walgreen's drug store to look for a pair of cheap sunglasses. No more than $20.00 was all I was willing to pay.

I found a pair, $19.99, that look similar to the glasses I've had before, and have polarized lenses, and they fit snug.

Just a few days earlier I had lost my pair of Panoptx sunglasses. I really liked the Panoptx for the styling, the polarized lenses, and the solid feel. Those cost me $150.00. I had them for about 2 years.

Previous to that, I had a pair of Wiley-X glasses. That lasted me less than a year. They broke at the hinge, where the frame meets the ear piece. That was also about $150.00.

And then previous to that, I had a pair of no-name brand glasses I bought at Target for $10.00. That pair also lasted me about 2 years. I ended up losing those too.

So I'm thinking that sunglasses, if you wear them frequently enough, will last you about 2 years, despite how much money you paid for them. Either they break, or you lose them, or you get tired of them and want something else.

The cheapo glasses I bought yesterday are not "riding glasses". They don't have the foam liner around the frames. That's ok, because on my Electra Glide Ultra Classic, the windshield and fairing does a pretty good job at keeping the wind off of my face. I only need the glasses to shade my eyes, and I like the clarity of polarized lenses.

But I've also been to rallies and runs and found sunglass vendors selling riding glasses for $20.00 as well.

I haven't found any kind of functional advantage of the Panoptx or Wiley-X brands, unless you need removable lenses. If you go to their websites, they'll tell you all day long why their glasses are in fact functionally better than the competition. But in reality, or at least my reality anyways, they still provide the same results as the $10.00 pairs, and last about as long.

I'm wondering, are we experiencing a "sunglasses bubble", similar to the housing bubble that created the mess we're in now? How much higher will people spend on their designer sunglasses, and how much longer will it be until they realize they're not getting that much more value for their dollar? If sunglasses are supposed to shade your eyes, and reduce glare, then what is their real value?

I don't think the sunglasses market will ever ruin our nation's economy, but on the other hand, we have companies like Panoptx and Wiley-X who seem to have invested themselves into America's thirst for "image is everything". Do they have a backup plan when riders shift over to the $10.00 cheapo glasses? And why can't Panoptx and Wiley-X make a pair of $10.00 cheapos? It seems like the Chinese companies have dominated the cheap sunglasses market. The US companies are stuck with the designer market.

I doubt that Panoptx and Wiley-X will ever lobby Congress for a bailout should they find their market dry up into dust. If you can afford to spend $100+ on a pair, then count your blessings. I for one am questioning the value of everything I buy these days.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Biker Or Not Psychology

Last Monday evening I took a ride to Carlsbad, a seaside town in northern San Diego County, to hang out with some guys from another riding club in that area. We sat around the firepit at this place called Cafe Elysa, and chatted the night away.

This club held their first annual poker run a few months ago, and I asked them how it went. They said the turn out wasn't as large as they had originally expected. They had counted on about 200 people, and instead about 50 participated.

They got the 200 figure after counting all the people who had committed to attending through a popular biker social site called Biker Or Not. They had publicized their poker run on that site, and attracted some 200 people RSVPing as "yes". But in the end, they only got 50 total people, and those all came from within their club plus their associated friends.

Well because this club counted on all 200 showing up, they advised this restaurant, which was providing the meals for the poker run, to expect 200-250 people. When they found out only 50 showed up, the restaurant got really pissed about it. The club had to fork over the money it earned from the poker run to pay for the extra food that the restaurant bought.

So while Biker Or Not still has a large user base of which to promote your events to, you can't rely on its users to actually show up when they say they will.

I'm not necessarily sure why that is.

I tend to believe that some people have been able to promote their event through Biker Or Not, and get a good turnout. I imagine it has more to do with how popular the event organizer is, as opposed to the event itself.

Biker Or Not is a singles site, not necessarily a social networking site, unless you want to think of dating as "social networking". At least, that's what 80% of its users use it for. It stands to reason that single bikers have different priorities than married bikers.

When it comes to taking joy rides through the countryside, it seems like the folks who put on the most miles, are the ones not looking for a date. If you're trying to find dedicated riders for your riding club, maybe that's your target demographic.

Though, I tend to think it's still good idea to advertise your poker run on Biker Ot Not; you just shouldn't use it to figure out how many meals to prepare.

But not to diss the people on Biker Or Not, I think if I was to find myself single, I'd probably spend more time there also. It just seems that there's a significant contrast in motorcycling habits between single bikers and married bikers.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Biker Friendly Cities

temecula motorcycle policeIf I learned anything in this past week, it's that there really isn't any such thing as a "biker friendly city".

Even when a city's Chief of Police claims to be a biker, who has aftermarket exhaust on his motorcycle, and even sings the praises of "loud pipes save lives", it doesn't mean it will trickle down to the cops on the streets.

A couple days ago I posted an article about the situation in Temecula, CA, specifically in the "Old Town" area, on my biker news blog...

http://www.bikernewsonline.com/2008/10/temecula-police-will-go-easy-on-bikers.htm

Apparently, merchants there claim to all be "biker friendly", but whatever the case may be, somehow things got out of hand over the past year, and cops were going on a feeding frenzy busting motorcyclists so frequently, that the city had begun building a reputation across the Southern California biker community that it didn't want them around.

Perhaps more correctly, there was little oversight, or maybe, little concern on behalf of the Chief of Police. I actually spoke with the guy over the phone, who assured me (after I told him that I publish a biker news blog with about 30,000 readers per month) that he gave new instructions to his officers to leave motorcyclists alone. Or that is, "use more discretion" before pulling them over.

What started out as an attempt simply to ticket those few bikers who were accelerating too hard from a stop, or revving their engines, or purposely "blipping" their throttles to set off car alarms, got out of control with officers "ganging up" to corral whole groups of bikers, pull them all over at once, and then find something to cite each. The cited bikers were actually told by these officers, that they were not welcome in Temecula.

The Chief of Police said to me that he looks at the tickets cited on a regular basis, and one time saw that there were 60 motorcycles cited over a period of three consecutive weekends, for violations of non-DOT helmet, and aftermarket exhaust. Those were two violations that he specifically didn't want riders being cited for. He actually admitted that his officers did not adhere to his orders.

But if that's the case, he could have done something right away to stop the carnage. Apparently, he didn't. It wasn't until two local businesses witnessed cops executing one of those "fishing net" style biker busts, that got them angry enough to put a stop to it. They contacted the Chief of Police, the City Council, and the City Manager and pressed their case with them. Eventualy the Chief of Police paid a visit to them both, and assured them that starting now things will change for the better.

So when I called the Chief of Police, just to verify what those two business owners told me, he in fact sounded very genuine and believable. But I still can't imagine why he didn't step in to correct the situation before hand, and instead wait for local businesses to complain. He told me, "I'm a motorcycle rider, I own a Harley. I have aftermarket exhaust too, and I believe that loud pipes save lives", he told me. "I don't want to scare away bikers from Temecula, I want to make them feel welcome. I just want to go after the ones showing themselves off as being obnoxious".

So being that I frequent those two businesses a lot, and wanted to help them succeed in putting a stop to the ticketing madness, I told the Chief of Police that I'd publish something on Biker News Online to help repair the city's damaged reputation. I'm counting on that Chief of Police to follow through on his word that he'll keep his officers under control.

The bottom line is that there really isn't any such thing as a "biker friendly city". Just because a town attracts a lot of motorcyclists, is not any kind of sign that the city goes out of its way to embrace them.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Motorcycling In These Hard Times

I'm not sure what exactly is going to happen with Motorcycling as this economy continues to worsen. On one end, people are spending less money on luxuries, but on the other end, motorcycles and scooters are still very inexpensive to operate.

So maybe while people won't be buying up new motorcycles, or new chrome, they'll still find riding a motorcycle very economical.

One of my good friends and I were chatting last night at Happy Hour and commented how the bar was so sparse with customers. "At this time, there would be a line to get into this place", he said. But instead, there were plenty of seats and tables open.

That seems to be on par with a lot of establishments around here. I've noticed that The Hideout, Hells Kitchen, and Cook's Corner, all well known biker bars around here, have low turn outs lately.

I don't know if it's that people are not riding their motorcycles, or if people are only riding them when necessary, like commuting to work, or running errands.

As for my friend, he's trying to supplement his income with another job. He hasn't found one, but is looking. There are just no jobs around here. He knows that I publish websites and blogs for a living, and asked me to help him launch one. I agreed, but he said he'd like to write about his travels by motorcycle, the roads he rides, the bars and restaurants he goes to. I thought to myself, "Hmmm, there's hundreds of those blogs out there already".

But I suppose there's room for another one.

Both he and I have managed to pare our lifestyles down, making them more simple. For myself, I work, and then I ride. I've dumped the other hobbies and committments that took up more of my money. My friend has grandkids however. He has to buy them birthday gifts, and take them out to places. Of course, being a grandpa will take precedence over riding a motorcycle, so it might be that this economy will have him riding less. And if he gets himself another job, he'll have even less time to ride.

As a side note, I finally posted a new article on my motorcycle blogging site. I have to admit that I've found myself rather uninspired to keep it up to date. But I am feeling the pinch of this economy, and maybe, just maybe, there's more bikers out there thinking of starting a blog.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Clubs of Structure and Chaos

Yesterday evening, I took a ride with a gal who's been hanging out with our riding club lately. She bought her motorcycle only last January, and it was her first motorcycle ever. Since she's been riding with us a lot, I figure she's found it comfortable and likes the people.

She tells me that years ago she used to be the "property" of a local 1%er club member, and recounted her relationship with him and his buddies. There was a lot of structure in that organization, and he had responsibilities to take care of. That often contradicted with their relationship.

Today, she just wants to enjoy the freedom of riding, riding her own bike, and being free to live her own life, instead of being tied down to responsibilities and expectations.

So we were hanging out at Paradise Corners, a place moderately popular with bikers up in the Santa Rosa mountains, east of Hemet, CA. She was telling me about a womens-only club that she had considered joining. She had signed up for their activities calendar, to receive notices of their events, but never really signed up to become a member of the club. She received a note from one of their members, advising that she needs to visit their national website, become a member there, and then also apply for membership with the local chapter.

However, she was reluctant to do so because she saw the "structure" that this organization was built around. She also noticed the requirements to attend monthly meetings, and the rules of conduct, and the expectations towards maintaining one's membership in good standing. She related all this to her past experiences, even though it was a stretch to associate the two together. After she had hesitated to sign up for sometime, the club removed her subscription to the activities calendar, and that was the end of that.

All clubs have some kind of structure, even if its an absence of structure, it's still a structure at least in the sense that members have an understanding of how things work. Some people need structure in their lives, and you may not think about it, but that's a very big reason why people join clubs.

Clubs provide the framework people need to find order out of chaos. Within that framework, they can settle into a niche and gain a sense of stability. They now know how they relate to others, who has more authority than who, and what they should be doing. They can see limits and boundaries that define right and wrong.

That framework gives its members something to climb on, and eventually gain stature among their peers. They can climb the "corporate ladder" of their club and make achievements that give them a sense of pride.

The first riding club I was in had a lot of structure, while the next club after that had much less, and then the club I'm in today has even less. Perhaps that's a natural progression, but then again, I know people who seemingly have gone the opposite direction, from less structure to more.

So I explained all that to this gal who responded that she likes our way of being less structured. She feels more comfortable associating with a club that'll never impose expectations, consequences, or membership fees. To other people, they'll the see our absence of structure as a reason for saying it's not a club. But that's just a difference of opinion on what a club means each person.

I'm not exactly sure why there's people like us who don't want "structure", and why there's people who do. I look at everyone in our club and I see people who already have structure in their lives, whether they have a large family, a job at a large corporation, or service in the military. Perhaps they see the club as simply a chaotic "getaway" from the rules of order that they currently deal with.

It could be that people who hold positions of power in their jobs need to join a club that makes them subordinate as their own kind of getaway.

I suppose our club is looking for folks who already lead a structured, orderly life, and needs to hang out with a club that let's everything hang loose and let's you run at your own speed. Maybe another club is looking for people who have no structure or purpose in their lives, and needs a place to fit into.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Motorcycle Safety Film from 1973

A motorcycle safety film from 1973, starring Peter Fonda and Evel Knieval...


Online Videos by Veoh.com

Shows that a lot of things don't change. Some good statistics presented in here too.

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Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What Makes a Good Biker Nickname

I was monitoring the forum of a riding club I used to belong to. Every now and then, I hang out with them on a ride.

But I noticed it seems everytime they get a new member, the first topic of discussion is what that person's nickname will be. First, let me explain that this club doesn't have membership criteria, except the usual "must have motorcycle license", "must be an adult". Otherwise, they accept anyone and everyone, and make them full members right off the street.

In that sense, it's not like new members have demonstrated any habits, or characteristics, or history, that would help create a good nickname.

To me, a good biker nickname is one that everyone uses, as well as the story of how you got that nickname. You can never get a good nickname if it's rushed.

There are some guys in my circle of friends who are always called by their nickname. It's so much so, that it feels awkward to call them by the real name. And then there are guys (like me), who are rarely called by their nicknames. There's just no rhyme or reason why one nickname sticks and the other doesn't.

But here are some observations of mine...

1. Only give out your nickname - If you want your nickname to stick, then always introduce yourself with your nickname. Don't give out your real name. People who just now met you will have no choice but to call you that, and refer to you with that name when talking to others. That's probably the best way to make a nickname a stick.

2. Two or more people with the same name - If there are two or more people named Mike in your group of friends, it creates a scenario where one or both Mikes get called by their nickname.

3. No more than two syllables - Nicknames seem to stick better when they're short. Two syllables or less is good.

4. Popular names - If you have a popular real name (ie: Mike, Dave, Scott, Tom, John), you have a better chance of having your nickname stick. People with less common real names tend to be always called by that name.

So how does one come up with a good biker nickname?

I've tried to figure this out, and I can't come up with any formula. It seems just about anything can stick, if the situation calls for it.

I remember reading through the newspaper one day, and saw an obituary for a biker who's name was "Picnic Table". You wonder what the story was behind that. I thought that was a cool name.

But don't rush to come up with a nickname. Let time go by, and somewhere along the way, the moment will arrive. Sometimes it's the story of how you got your nickname that makes it such a good name.

Once that moment arrives, and you have a good nickname, then only give out that nickname to everyone you meet. It'll stick that way.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Velva-Ride Motor Mount is Way Cool

velva ride motor mountA few weeks ago, I had a new front motor mount installed on my Electra Glide Ultra Classic. It was the typical problem that plagued the original mount, the rubber cracked and broke.

But the new motor mount is not without its problems. In 2006, Harley introduced a new motor mount for use with all touring bikes. It uses a new design, and a harder rubber. They simply don't make the old mount anymore. The harder rubber makes the bike shake a lot.

The shop I had taken my bike to, is an indie shop, one that I had been taking it to for quite some time, and one popular with most riders in my local area. They said this was the first time they installed Harley's new motor mount. They warned me to expect a lot of vibration.

They said the harder rubber transfers more vibration to the frame, but that Harley themselves advised the vibration would soften up after 500-800 miles. The shop told me to give the 500-800 miles, and if it didn't ease up, to bring it back in.

The vibration was a real bitch. It was ok in idle. But as soon as I put it in gear, the think shook like a mobile home with a freight train running past the front yard. It shook so much, the upper and lower fairing was making rattling noises I hadn't heard. It shook so much the numbers on my speedometer were too blurry to see. It shook so much the CD player on the stereo kept skipping.

I felt certain that the shop must have installed it incorrectly, considering they said it was the first time they installed Harley's new motor mount. I did some researching on various Harley forums, and found that many people had the same complaints, and expressed a lot of frustration because they could come up with no solutions.

If this is the new motor mount, is that to say that all new Harley touring bikes shake this bad?

Some people said they had installed the motor mount upside down by accident, because the new design looks rather different from the old design. By turning it right side up, the vibrations went away. I perhaps jumped to conclusions, thinking the shop had made the same mistake. But I waited until after I got over 800 miles on the new mount before taking back in.

So I took it back in, and mentioned that many people reported the same excessive vibration after installing it upside down. The guy at the shop said he had actually installed it both ways, just to see which was better. I guess he thought of everything. He had actually consulted with Harley-Davidson to get some suggestions on smoothing out the vibrations, but couldn't get anything.

I asked if all new Harley touring bikes are now shaking as bad as mine. He said that no, because Harley introduced a redesigned frame in 2007, and again with 2009. I had felt humbled after hearing him.

He mentioned an aftermarket mount made by a company called Velva-Ride. It's shaped similarly to the old style mount, but made withe urethane instead of rubber. But it was more costly. I said to go ahead and get it, and put her on there. A few days later, I had my bike back.

And man, it was so much better! I think it's even smoother than with the old mount.

As it turned out, the shop didn't even charge me for the Velva Ride mount, they apologized for putting me through the ordeal with all the shaking, and I guess now they've found a solution to the new motor mount.

My Ultra Classic Electra Glide is a 2005 model. If you have a Harley touring bike, model year up to 2006, you're going to find the old motor mount will eventually break. Then, you'll have to get the new motor mount, which will shake your bike like the shits. Just get yourself the Velva Ride motor mount. You don't need the Velva Ride stabilizers, just the mount.

Link...

http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=t&ie=UTF-8&rls=DKUS,DKUS:2006-44,DKUS:en&q=velva+ride+motor+mount

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Monday, September 1, 2008

Lose Weight Riding Motorcycles

big oaks lodge boquet canyon roadI posted before about my weight loss, and experiencing a sore butt while taking long rides.

Yesterday, I came to a conclusion. Riding motorcycles is hard work.

I weighed in that morning at 189 pounds, and by this morning I weighed in at 185. I lost four pounds riding my motorcycle yesterday.

It was a long ride, about 250 miles in all, with about 100 of that going through twisties. The rest was taking freeway to get to the twisties, and to get home.

Midway into the ride, we stopped at Big Oaks Lodge, a biker hangout along Boquet Canyon Rd. I had a cheeseburger and a hefeweizen (wheat beer). Later on, we rode to Tom's Farms and I had a Diet Coke. That night, I took a run to Jack in the Box for a sirloin cheeseburger, and washed it down with a Jack Daniels & Coke (regular Coke).

I don't know the total caloric intake on that, I'm guessing around 4,000 calories.

It's said that the average American needs to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound.

And considering I did no exercise yesterday, no great amount of walking either, I should have gained a pound or two. But instead I lost four pounds.

I rode my Road Star yesterday. I don't ride with a windshield or any kind of wind protection on that bike. And with about 150 miles of freeway on that route, the wind was pushing me back for quite a ways. Maybe having to hold on tight burns calories.

And considering there was about 100 miles of twisties, I spent a lot of time focusing on the road, looking for debris on the road, watching the recommended curve speed signs, downshifting, upshifting, positioning my bike for the turns, etc. Basically, I had to do a lot of thinking. Maybe using your brain actually burns calories, and maybe that's why so few people use theirs.

I also led a group of 18 bikes, with 21 people. It was a group larger than what I'm accustomed to leading. So I always looking for my tailgunner to make sure we had everyone. I was always looking in the mirror to see if everyone made it through the green light. At all the gas stops I had to keep track of time and make sure we weren't wasting it. Perhaps leading a group is something that also burns calories.

What I do know is that by the time I got home, I was tired.

So I figure I burned quite a few calories riding my motorcycle. I just don't know where those calories went to.

Perhaps I should write a book, "The Motorcycle Diet". I could appear on Oprah Winfrey, and tell her to get her fat butt on a bike.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Can Foreclosures Kill Riding Clubs?

Over the weekend, I learned that a local riding club around here is in jeopardy of closing up. I don't have first hand knowledge on why they're falling apart, but it was explained that many of their "core" members have moved away in the past year.

It sounds like other members of the club have failed to make good on their commitment as patch holders and keep the club moving forward. Now, the two remaining founders are thinking of shutting it down and joining a motorcycle club.

Funny, where have I heard that before?

It's perhaps a non-issue if a riding club has chapters all over the USA where someone can transfer to a different chapter, but this particular club was a small, localized club.

It's really tough to find people that can step up within a club and take on a leadership role. Most people don't want to take lead in anything. Taking lead is not necessarily becoming a President or First Officer. It just means organizing an event, leading a ride, putting together a care package for a Marine, or just calling up a bunch of guys to go have a beer. Most people just wait for someone else to do something.

So when the active members of a club are forced to leave the club, it's rare to find anyone that can step up to save the club.

The root of the problem is that riding clubs require very little commitment. Even within those riding clubs that implement a prospect-based membership process, all the members still understand that there is very little hanging over their heads to keep them active.

Those of us who act as leaders in a club, riding club or motorcycle club, don't want to become babysitters. We want members to take their membership seriously. The question I ask is if they didn't plan on being an active member, then there's no need to become a member. Just come out and ride with us whenever the mood strikes you. The back patch is only for people who can make the club proud.

In the riding club I'm in now, I've been telling all of our prospects and hang arounds that the difference between joining the club versus hanging around is that members all make a commitment to make the club beneficial to everyone. If you can contribute to the overall fun and well-being, then you're welcome to wear the patch.

But in reality, people can promise to be an active member, and then be active for a short while, and slowly fade into the background. The best thing a riding club can do is foster close-friendships between its members. The friendships and good times make people want to get together, and make it a tough decision to move away.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Riding Means Different Things to Different People

Most riders I talk to will tell me that they like to ride a lot, and they often complain about others not wanting to ride more often.

But it's often just a difference of opinion on what "riding a lot" means to you.

On our riding club forum, we had this guy from another club introduce himself and offer an invitation to ride with them on an upcoming ride. They wanted to ride to The Hideout, and then to the Oasis, a couple of biker bars in north San Diego County. This ride looked to be about 80 miles round trip.

This guy talked about how he was so frustrated that so many people don't ride their bikes that often, and how he just loves to ride "a lot". Then he went on to describe some of the riding that he and his club guys do.

Since I've never ridden with them, I can't really know for sure how often they ride, or how far they ride, or if they do more freeways than twisties.

But the sense I got was that they love to ride to destinations, as opposed to riding for the sake of riding. The examples they gave were either riding to specific bars, or travelling to specific rallies. For all I know, they took the freeways there, and for all I know, they only ride 100 miles each time.

I met another guy awhile back, who hooked with me through my Meetup group. I had planned a ride along Big Pines Hwy, and then over to Boquet Canyon Rd, and then to Little Tujunga Canyon Rd. These are three very scenic, and very twisty roads, with a total mileage of about 300 miles. It also included a stop for lunch at the Rock Inn, a popular biker hangout.

Anyways, he showed up on his Big Dog factory custom, with this ridiculously long rake, and ridiculously fat rear tire. I knew for sure he wasn't going to handle the twisties. I reminded him there was going to be a ton of tight twisties on this road, but he said it was no problem because he rides the twisties all the time.

So off we went, and as soon as we hit the twisties, he kept drifting further behind. I slowed it down, but he was still drifting back.

After that ride, he hasn't returned to ride with me.

I thought that he would be riding with me some more, because he kept boasting about how he rides his Big Dog so much, and that he can't seem to find anyone who wants to ride often as he does. And since he said he rides the twisties "all the time", I figured we'd be riding together again.

Obviously, his idea of riding is way different than mine. I think his idea of twisties are roads where you can still ride 50mph and not drag your pegs, and I think his idea of riding is more like 100 miles round trip, with a few stops in between.

Differnt strokes for different folks.

So when I hear someone talking about how they love to ride a lot, I take it with a grain of salt, and wait to see exactly what they're talking about. There's riding just for the love of riding, and then there's riding for the destination.

Maybe it would be more correct for someone to say, "I love riding to the bar a lot".

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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Vietnamese - The Hardcore Bikers

We've all seen photos like these, where some guy in Vietnam has several people riding on the back of a 125cc motorcycle. And then we laugh at how ridiculous it is.

People in Vietnam ride their motorcycles in situations that many of us wouldn't even dare. Most of us are not willing to ride in the rain, let alone down flooded streets, and not even do so with several passengers on the back. But they've developed the skills to do it.

I believe this is actually a photo of a motorcycle taxi. So, the taxi driver is doing this because it's his job. But given the rainy conditions, you'd think he'd wear a jacket, right? You gotta admire the Vietnamese for their toughness and skills as motorcycle riders.

If you're a mom, would you put yourself and your kids on the back of a motorcycle, driven by someone you don't know, in the rain, down a flooded street, while holding on to your umbrella and shopping bag? In the United States, we call it stupid, but in Vietnam that's their way of life.

And there's something hardcore about that, which those of us in the United States are too soft to understand.

Many bikers in the USA talk about living the motorcycle lifestyle, but only a tiny few truly do. Even though we ride our motorcycles as often as we can, we're still fair-weather riders to a lesser or greater degree. We choose to hold on to our cars because sometimes it gets too wet or too cold outside. Sometimes we elect to set our groceries on the back seat of our car, instead of bungee-cording them to our motorcycle. Just how hardcore are we?

You could argue that if Vietnam had a large middle class, that most of them would drive cars also. True. But my point is that too many bikers in the USA talk about living the lifestyle, just because they have a Harley, a patch on their back, and a novelty helmet, when in fact they're ill-prepared to deal with life on a motorcycle.

I am of course comparing two different philosophies. In the USA, we tend to think of the motorcycle lifestyle as a social life, whereas in Vietnam it's a domestic life. It's apples and oranges.

Still, when you hear someone boasting about the "motorcycle lifestyle", keep in mind that all they're talking about is a social life, and reflects nothing of their riding abilities. Ask yourself if that person is prepared to rely on their motorcycle in the same way that people do in other countries, and figure out how that person compares with the motorcycle riders of the world.

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Changing a Motorcycle Tire - For the First Time

The popular idea is that doing your own wrench work is cheaper than if you hired someone else to do it for you.

I found that to be true in the long run, though not necessarily in the immediate.

Last Monday, I attempted to take the rear wheel off of my Electra Glide, so that I could take it into Cycle Gear, and have them mount a new tire on it.

Cycle Gear charges $25 per tire, for removing the old tire, mounting a new one, balancing, and disposing of the old tire. But you have to bring the wheel to them; they won't remove it from your bike. So since I'm getting low on funds these days, I can't afford to take the bike into a shop and have everything done for me.

My friend Brian, who also has an Electra Glide, gave me some pointers on removing the rear wheel, and then I sought about to get 'er done.

1st Trip to the Hardware Store

I didn't have a wrench that would fit the axle bolt and nut, so I went to the hardware store to get a 12 inch Crescent Wrench.

I got back home, put the bike on my motorcycle jack, lifted it up, and began removing the slipon exhaust pipes, because I found that they got in the way of removing the axle. The clip that holds the tail pipe to the head pipe was really stubborn. I had a wrench and socket that would fit it, but it was too small to provide enough leverage.

2nd Trip to the Hardware Store

So I went back to the hardware store to get a socket of the same size, but with a larger drive (a 1/2" drive). I have a 1/2" socket handle at home.

I got back home and tried to fit this 1/2 drive socket to my 1/2 drive handle, only to discover that the handle is actually a 3/8 drive handle. "God Damnit" I said to myself.

3rd Trip to the Hardware Store

So I went back to the hardware store to get an adapter that would fit a 1/2 socket to a 3/8 drive handle.

Good, now I'm back at home removing the slipon exhaust pipes.

However, I soon learned that the slipon exhaust on the other side of my bike has a clip with a slightly larger nut, and a metric one at that, 14mm.

"You gotta be fucking kidding me", I said out loud. Then I remembered, several months ago the stock clip wore out on that side, and I had a shop install a newer, and better clip.

4th Trip to the Hardware Store

So I went back to the hardware store to get a 14mm socket with a 3/8 inch drive.

I get back home, and was able to get the other slipon exhaust off.

So now I started on that axle nut. I took out the 12" Crescent wrench, opened it all the way wide to fit on the axle nut. I gave it a good pull, but it wouldn't budge. I tugged on it, and laid down on my back, put both hands on it, and tugged it as hard as I could. It just wouldn't budge.

5th Trip to the Hardware Store

So I went back to the hardware store and bought a longer, 15" Crescent wrench, to get me more torque.

I put it on there, and grabbed the handle at the end and gave it good tug. It wouldn't budge.

I walked across the street to my neighbor's house, to ask the guy there if he could get it off. He's a body builder. If he couldn't do it, I don't know who can. Except, his wife said he was sleeping, because he works nights. Ok, so I waited until later in the day, when he should be up and about. I go back there, knocked on the door, and his wife said that I just missed him, he had taken the kids to soccer practice, and that he'd have to go work right after he came back.

So I waited until the next day to resume working on the bike.

The next day I gave that 15" Crescent wrench another try, just in case I might have woken up that morning with extra strength. But no, it turned out I didn't have any more muscle than I had the previous day.

6th Trip to the Hardware Store

So I went back to the hardware store and bought a 1 7/16 inch socket, with a 3/4" drive, to fit around the axle nut. I also picked up 3/4" breaker bar to fit the socket. This bar is about 3ft long I'd guess. I didn't really know to get a 1 7/16 socket, rather what I did was buy a set of huge sockets and figured one of them was big enough to fit.

I brought that back home and put the socket over the axle nut, fit the breaker bar to it, and gave it a good tug.

I heard a "pop" sound, and the nut moved. I gave it another tug, and it moved some more. I pulled the socket off, and put the 12" Crescent wrench on it, and was able to get that axle off.

Getting the wheel off can be a little tricky if you've never done it before. You have to lower the jack, raise the jack, lower the jack, raise it back, just to give you some clearance and slack to get the belt off and the brake caliper off.

I checked the brake pads, and they didn't look too bad. They were about half-way worn, so I figured I'd leave them alone for now.

I took the wheel to Cycle Gear, and bought a new tire, and they mounted it on, and balanced it.

I brought the wheel home, and to my surprise, everything went back on so easily, that I got worried; I probably forgot something. But after riding it around, it seemed just fine. Removing and reinstalling the wheel on an Electra Glide is probably easier than it is on my Yamaha Road Star. When I did the same on the Road Star, I had my friend Brian help me out.

But this time on the Harley, I managed to get it done on my own. And without a service manual too.

It's actually pretty easy, as long as you have the tools, and you have the determination to get it done.

All in all, I paid $125.00 for the tire, and $25.00 to mount it. I probably paid $150.00 in tools, but at least now I have the tools. So, $300 to get a new tire on the bike? That's probably no cheaper than it is to have a shop do it for you. But the next time I need a tire, I won't have to pay that much.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Motorcycles and Weight Loss

Got back last night from an overnight ride up north.

My butt kept getting sore from riding. Seems like after the first 100 miles, it would start aching.

Since the beginning of this year, I've lost 35 pounds by sticking to a low-carb, low-fat diet, mostly eating a lot of beef jerky for about four days a week, and the other three days eating my normal diet.

I guess I lost a lot of it off my ass, cause I can't seem to ride for as long as I used to. My tailbone keeps making itself known.

It's mostly my Electra Glide, and the stock seat. My Road Star on the other hand, has an aftermarket seat from "Ultimate Seats", and hasn't given me problems.

I notice now that Ultimate Seats now makes them for Harleys.

While they might be great for me, I don't know how my wife would like their passenger seat. She didn't like the one they made for the Road Star. But for whatever reason, she loves the stock seat on the Electra Glide. So do I want to spend $480.00 for a seat that I might like, but my wife may not like? I guess I could swap out the seats whenever she wants to go for a ride.

But I just don't have the $480.00 to spend these days.

I may end up riding the Road Star more often.

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Monday, June 30, 2008

The After-Crash Jitters

Yamaha FZ6Went riding last Saturday with some folks, including a guy on a sport bike.

This guy had the "after-crash jitters". He's actually a cruiser rider, who crashed his Honda VTX a few months ago. He did so by leaning really hard into a curve, and apparently scraped it hard enough to where he lost traction and low-sided.

That was enough to convince him that he needed a motorcycle with more "scrape angle". So he bought a Yamaha FZ6, which isn't really a typical sportbike, it's more like an all-purpose bike. Not a dual-sport, but something that strikes a middle-ground between a cruiser, sportbike, and tourer.

So I figured "Cool, this guy REALLY want to hit some twisties hard".

But just the opposite. He's now a very cautious, and careful rider.

The ride was to Newcomb's Ranch, a popular hangout along the Angeles Crest Highway, a famed road here in Southern California, that connects the Los Angeles basin with the ski slopes near Wrightwood. It's 55 miles of some of the best riding in the Southland, hundreds of 25-40mph sweepers, no tight hairpin turns. You can hit these curves really hard if you know the road well enough.

Though right now, there's a road closure about halfway up the road. Still, the road is open through Newcomb's Ranch, and it's still an excellent ride if you really like to ride.

This guy on the FZ6 decided to pick up the rear of our group. He did ok on the freeway, but when we jumped on Angeles Crest, he just faded away from sight. I slowed it down to about 40mph, which is well within the comfort range for the average cruiser rider. But I still lost him.

I pulled over to the side, and waited. Some cars eventually passed by, and then several minutes later, he finally showed up.

So I continued on with the group. I pulled over a couple more times along the way, until we finally got to Newcomb's Ranch.

He explained that he had become a "changed" rider. But not so much that he had become an advocate of safe riding, just that he had totally lost his confidence. That crash gave him a really bad case of jitters.

He was shorter than I am, and had difficulty putting his feet on the ground. I stand at 5'8", I'd guess he's about 5'6". The seat height on the FZ6 is 31.3 inches. Compare that to his VTX which was 26.5. He could only get his toes on the ground. I'm not sure that FZ6 was such a smart idea.

I told him, "You sure got a great bike for riding the twisties!".

He said, "But I don't like the twisties. I prefer to stay on the freeway."

I tend to think the freeway is more dangerous.

The guy is a really nice guy. I felt kinda sorry for him. I've had the jitters getting back on a motorcycle after a crash, but those jitters go away after a couple of days. His jitters have been around for way too long, and has had a great impact on where he rides to, and having friends to ride with.

So I told him it's actually a really good idea to tackle a road like Angeles Crest Highway, and to hook up with a group. No better way to confront a demon than to face it head on.

And while I enjoyed hanging out at Newcomb's Ranch with him, his riding is so slow at this point that it becomes detrimental to a group of riders of having to pull over and wait every 10 miles or so. It would be ok if he knew the route well enough to get there on his own. But he doesn't know the roads well enough around here.

He needs to spend more time confronting that demon. I hope that at least having ridden with me last Saturday, along Angeles Crest, some of those jitters went away.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Cruisers versus Sportbikes

1948 Harley Davidson PanheadThe decision to buy a cruiser instead of a sportbike was largely due to a decision by my next-door neighbor. But that decision also has its roots further back into my youth.

What caused you to buy a cruiser or a sportbike, versus the other?

When I was 10 years old, my step-father and I drove his Chevy van from San Diego to Colorado, to pick up his old Harley-Davidson. It was a 1948 Panhead that he rode in his college days of the 1960s. He said he built it himself from junkyard parts he found all over the states of Colorado and New Mexico.

We brought it home and he began the long process of dismantling it, and cleaning it, and replacing some parts. He dismantled it down to every bolt, bracket, and piece that could be separated. I'm still amazed that he could put it all back together without having labeled the parts, or taped the bolts together. He had several coffee cans of bolts, nuts, and washers all thrown loosely together. He knew his bike that well, even after all those years.

I remember the day he reassembled it, mostly with the same parts, but with new paint, a new seat and taillight. He eventually changed out the exhaust, and made a new jockey-shift handle.

The photo above is his rebuilt, and repainted 1948, finished just around the time I graduated high school.

It was that time watching him piece it back together that I developed an interest in classic American motorcycles.

That interest was further cemented when my parents bought me the 1979 Kawasaki KZ400 in 1984. It wasn't anything close to being "classic American", but it was still mine, and I finally had wheels of my own. I wanted to be like my step-father, and learn everything I could about it, take it all apart, and put it back together like he did.

But in those days, riding a motorcycle wasn't a lifestyle for me, nor was it recreation. It was transportation, a way to meet new people, and help me get ahead in life.

Fast forward to 2004. By then I hadn't ridden a motorcycle since 1989. My next door neighbor showed me a Harley-Davidson brochure, and pointed out the Dyna Wide Glide. He said he was going to buy it.

I took at look at the brochure, and then I spotted the Road King with its classic American styling and thought about my step-father's 1948 Panhead. I thought, "yeah, that's what I want". If my neighbor was going to buy a motorcycle, then I'll buy one too, and rekindle those college days when my best friend and I would ride bikes together.

But that's when I saw the Yamaha Road Star, and saw a motorcycle that basically competed against the Road King, offering a lower price, a more powerful engine, and still tons of aftermarket support.

In my college days, and even today, I love riding the motorcycle hard into the canyons and over the mountains. I'm always pushing myself a little bit more each time. I could have easily bought a sportbike if the circumstances of my youth were such. Maybe if my step-father raced motorcycles when he was young, I might have followed suit. Maybe if my neighbor wanted to buy a sportbike, I might have gone that direction too.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Smell of Ocean Air

A friend and I took an evening ride today to Carlsbad, to grab some chow at the Harbor Fish Cafe, one of my favorite eats.

We came off of La Costa Ave and right on to Pacific Coast Highway, heading north.

I really love this area because you're hit with this smell of salty ocean air, and the cool breeze blowing at your left side.

Being this was around 6:30pm at the time, for the next several miles, the sea air was combined with the smell of barbeques and campfires.

I wondered where were the smells of roasted marshmallows?

There was a point where I could smell weenies roasting.

Smelling the air is something you don't get in a car.

I took the photo above while I was riding, but too bad because the photo is really awful, and doesn't do justice at how beautiful the scene was. The setting sun was able to find enough cracks in the cloud layer to send some rays down on the water's surface.

My friend riding with me was the same guy that crashed his bike a month ago (I wrote about him here). He didn't have his windshield on because he broke it in the crash. But now he likes riding without it much better.

He said, "This is what I really love about riding without a windshield, cruising up the coast at a moderate pace, the cool wind in my face, smelling the ocean air".

Yeah, me too.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Kawasaki KZ400 My First Bike

I found a website dedicated to my first motorcycle, the Kawasaki KZ400...

http://www.kz400.com

Here's a photo I found from that website...

Kawasaki KZ400
My bike looked exactly like this one, same paint, same pin striping, same everything.

And no, I don't have it anymore. And yes, I wish I still had it.

These days, I've developed a greater appreciation for motorcycles old and new. But back then, in the mid-80s, it was mostly my means of transporation, and not so much something I loved.

My best friend back then had a KZ450, and he and I spent many a moment riding together to the pool hall, to the beach, to college, and just anywhere else we wanted to go. Riding motorcycles together as part of our daily lives brought us closer together as friends. It was that bonding that led me to finding a club to ride with when I got back to riding again.

I remember in my college days taking girls out on dates. Some of them took an interest in me just because of the bike. And we're not even talking Harley here, or cruiser, or even custom. We're talking a lightweight standard metric.

My KZ400 came to me as a third-hand bike, a 1979 model year. The previous owner crashed in a pretty serious accident that left him with an amputated leg. The gas tank was dented on both sides. Otherwise, that was the only damage to the bike. He had in storage for a couple of years.

It was in 1984 that my parents bought it for me as my high-school graduation gift. My step-father had a pretty good knowledge of engines and a good grasp of mechanics. He showed me how to take the engine apart, clean it all up, and put it back together. It wasn't until the following year that it was running, and I had learned how to ride it.

In those days I was in the habit of pulling the carburetor off, adjusting the needle, and even taking the whole carburetor apart, cleaning the parts, and putting it all back together. I would pull the head off and adjust the slack in the cam-shaft chain. I'd replace the drive chain and adjust the slack. I bought and installed new starter motors, rewired the cables, changed the fluid in the forks, and did everything myself.

These days, I've become a chicken-shit when it comes to doing my own wrenching. I'll do the oil and filter changes, and only recently started doing the tire changes and brake pad changes. I'm not sure what it is with me these days.

I remember one time, pulling the carburetor off, taking it all apart, readjusting it, and then putting it back on. The starter motor wasn't working at the time, so I had to use the kick-starter. I must have kicked it for a good 30 minutes, before it finally started. The only reason why I kicked it for that long was because I was confident it would eventually start.

But today, I don't have a clue anymore. I don't know if something is screwed up or not. It just goes to show how much I've lost touch with my mechanical ability.

My friend Brian does all his own work on his Harleys. So I'm trying to make an effort to do the same. I know I can do it, I just don't feel like doing it, and I've just lost confidence in my ability.

Something in back of mind tells me that if I had my old KZ400 back, I'd be tinkering with it, and reconnect with that old me again.

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Motorcycles and Courthouse Parking

I had to report to jury duty today.

Interestingly, they wanted me to report in the afternoon rather than the morning.

So I got to the courthouse in downtown Riverside, and rode my motorcycle into the parking structure. I wasn't exactly sure how I was supposed to fix my parking pass to my windshield, since I ride without one on my Road Star. But I assumed the parking attendant would tell me where I could "stick it".

As it turned out, the courthouse parking structure lets motorcycles park for free, no parking pass required.

But the motorcycle parking section was crammed full of motorcycles. I had to park in a striped zone, which is presumably off-limits for parking. I walked over to the parking attendant and asked if it was ok, and he said it fine.

So I walked into the jury room, checked in, and took my seat to begin the long process of waiting.

Meanwhile, a woman spoke over the loudspeaker, "If you live in Temecula, Murrieta or Menifee, you should instead have your jury duty reassigned to the Southwest Courthouse". That angered me, because I live in Menifee. I wondered why in the Hell did they have me report here, if they obviously had my address?

Then the woman continued on over the loudspeaker, "Unless you have a motorcycle".

WTF? How in the Hell did they know I have a motorcycle?

As it turned out, they didn't know. They were just too lame to check my address and print the correct Courthouse on my jury summons.

And as it turned out, she was just joking about the motorcycle.

But considering the parking structure was jammed with cars, and the price of gas here in SoCal is already at $4.50 a gallon, making sure that people report to their closest courthouse has become a big concern for them.

I still don't understand why their computer system can't automatically figure out the closest courthouse I should have reported to, considering they have my address.

And as it turned out, they dismissed me from service because I'm self-employed.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Write Your Own Rally Cry

I was reading through all the rally cries posted on Harley's "Screw it, let's ride" website...

http://www.harley-davidson.com/.... id=hdredirect&urlvar=screwit

Here's one of my favorites, from Efnar, from California...
Over the last .5 years in the saddle, I've seen triceratops statues, but every time this country has come out stronger than before. Because ancient swamps put distance between me and the emptiness in my soul. Freedom and wind outlast hard times. And the rumble of the Earth drowns out all the screams of the burning peasents. If .5 years have proved one thing, it's that road rash is avoidable. So screw it, let's ride.
This sounds so stupid because of the way Harley set up the website. Instead of writing in your own words, you fill in the blanks.

Is writing all that difficult for bikers?

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Back from Santa Maria Ride

The Deer Lodge, Ojai, CAGot back home yesterday from my ride up to Santa Maria and back.

It was just Brian and I that went on the ride.

Here's a map of the route...

http://www.motorcyclephilosophy.org/ 2008/05/santa-maria-overnight-ride.html

I posted my photos here...

http://picasaweb.google.com/cleardigital/ SantaMariaRideMay312008

Here are the highlights...

  • Big Pines Highway - Wrightwood to Valyermo (maplink) - Another killer motorcycle ride of SoCal - Mountain scenery, alpine forests, lakes, switchbacks, sweepers, what else can I say?


  • Soledad Canyon Rd - Palmdale to Canyon Country (maplink) - I've never ridden this road before. It's a nice road, well suited for novice riders yearning to find a challenge. Nothing tight, just wide sweepers and some good scenery.


  • Vince's Coffee Shop, Santa Paula, CA (maplink) - tiny little cafe offering mostly Mexican fare. Had a taco and Sprite. You sit outside on the main drag, and watch the motorcycles ride by. Makes for a nice afternoon break.


  • Highway 150 - Santa Paula to Carpinteria (maplink) - Mostly an easy road to ride with some really tight, hairpin curves just before you get into Ojai. There's some really great scenery along Lake Casitas, where the road features some fast sweepers.

  • Highway 192 - Carpinteria to Santa Barbara (maplink) - This road shows you where all the money ends up in Southern California, with views of the most luxurious mansions in Santa Barbara, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands.


  • Highway 154 - Santa Barbara to Solvang (maplink) - Not very twisty, but some decents. The main attract here is the Cold Springs Tavern, and views of Lake Cachuma.


  • Solvang, CA (maplink) - A tourist town built on a Dutch theme. Stopped here for some coffee and jalapeno cheese bread.


  • Cool Hand Luke's, Santa Maria, CA (website link) - A western-style restaurant and bar. Drank a few beers and had steak dinners. Then watched Kimbo Slice in his UFC fight to see if he'd win. As suspected, he won, considering the UFC is banking so much money on this guy.


  • Highway 166 - Santa Maria to New Cuyama (maplink) - This road's biggest claim to fame was that it took the life of Hollywood legend James Dean. Otherwise, it's a pretty easy road to ride, all wide sweepers, with some great views of canyons and mountain peaks.


  • New Cuyama, CA (maplink) - Neat little town, barely any people there, except for a gas station and a coffee shop. Always lots of motorcycles parked at the coffee shop, seems to be a great place to stop between Bakersfield and Santa Maria.


  • Cerro Noroeste Rd - Highway 166 to Pine Mountain Club (maplink) - Rated as one of my all time favorite roads of Southern California. Very twisty, mostly wide to tight sweepers, only a few switchbacks. It's a dangerous road considering there are no signs advising the speed of each curve. Awesome views of the valley. Lots of motorcycles riding this road.


  • The Screaming Squirrel Restaurant & Mad Bailey's Pub, Pine Mountain Club, CA (maplink) - I suppose what the Screamin' Chikin is to Devore, the Screaming Squirrel is to Pine Mountain Club, except with not as many bikers (probably because you have to endure some twisties to get there). The food is here is pretty good, just the standard American fare. It's really upstairs where you want to hang out, the English style pub, with some really cold beer.


  • Lockwood Valley Rd - Lake of the Woods to Highway 33 - (maplink) - Mostly a leisurely ride, but there is a stretch running through some mountains and canyons that gets really twisty, some 10-15mph curves, and a few places where water runs over the road. Otherwise, the kind of road where you want to slow it down to 55mph and enjoy the landscape.


  • Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway - Lockwood Valley Rd to Ojai (maplink) - Otherwise known as Highway 33, this stretch is arguably the top motorcycle ride in Southern California, if not, definitely in the top three. There is a 17 mile descent from the top of Pollard Point down into Wheeler Gorge, that is absolutely wicked, just an endless series of tight sweepers that'll have you leaning left and right more times than John McCain on a campaign speech.


  • The Deer Lodge, Ojai, CA (maplink) - The best way to end one a ride along the Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway is a stop for beer at The Deer Lodge. Brian and I had a couple of bottles of his home brewed beer (he brought along his own concoction), and we hung out and listened to some pretty good live blues. The smell of BBQ'd pig wafting through the air added the final touch to this biker experience.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Santa Maria Overnight Ride

Tomorrow my buddy Brian and I are doing an overnight to Santa Maria and back, to enjoy some of the roads up and down that way.

We're coming from the Riverside area, which is about 60 miles east of Los Angeles. We'll take the freeway until we get past Los Angeles, and from there get on the back roads.

The good riding basically starts in Santa Paula. Then follow the route you see below, towards Santa Barbara, stop in at Cold Springs Tavern, and then up to Santa Maria.


View Larger Map


The next day head east on Highway 166 (this is where James Dean was killed), and out east to a tiny mountain road called, "Cerro Noroeste", which is what I think is one of the best riding in Southern California.

Take a stop in Pine Mountain Club for a break, and then continue down Lockwood Valley Rd, to Highway 33, another great road for riding.

Take another break at The Deer Lodge, and wind our back down into Santa Paula.

I've done this ride a couple of times before.

If you like to ride the mountains and canyons, give this route a serious look.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

When Gas Hits $10.00 a Gallon

ride to live, live to rideSo will you still go out for joy rides on your motorcycle when gas hits $10.00 per gallon?

Right now, at $4.00-$4.20 a gallon, here in Southern California, it's costing me about $15.00 to $20.00 to fill up my Electra Glide, depending on how empty it is. If it goes to $10.00 a gallon, I may be spending $50.00 to fill up.

I just don't think I can go joy riding spending $50.00 at every 180-200 miles, and doing that 5-10 times per month. I could certainly run errands on my bike, since that would be cheaper than driving. I could certainly take my wife out to dinner on the bike, since that too would be cheaper than driving.

But spending that much money for no other reason than to combust fuel in a fun and exciting way, begins to be ridiculous.

I suppose playing golf is more expensive.

I suppose gambling at the casino is more expensive.

But then again, people who do that stuff have money to burn.

I was talking about this with some guys in our riding club, and we reasoned that we'd just go on shorter rides, or spend more time at the destinations. We joked that we could always start a Vespa club, and hang out at coffee shops.

I'm seriously thinking of buying a scooter for the wife, at least.

I've looked at them, and the thing that strikes me right now, is that none of the scooters are designed to carry a lot of stuff. You've got a compartment underneath the seat, not much room for anything else.

If gas does indeed hit $10.00 a gallon, the scooter that can carry the most stuff, is the one that people will buy.

And if gasoline does hit $10.00 a gallon, I'm going to buy stock in the company that makes bungee cords.

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Riding A Motorcycle Too Fast Into A Corner

Here's an interesting question...
what to do when going into a curve to fast on a motorcycle
I found this in my website statistics. Someone searched Google for these words, and apparently, it lead them to this blog.

Lean it hard.

I'm assuming that you're already into the curve, and you realize you're going too fast for what you're accustomed to handling.

In this case, you might crash in one of two ways, by going out of your lane and into the side, or opposing lane, or, you can lean the bike over too hard and create a "pivot point", causing you to lose traction with the rear tire. There's actually a third way to crash, which I'll discuss below.

But if you think about those two, you'll realize that the latter, leaning the bike hard, is the least likely to cause a crash. The former, which is not turning enough and going out of your lane, is more likely to cause a crash. Therefore, take your chances by leaning the bike as hard as you can, and hope the rear tire won't lose traction.

By leaning the bike hard, you're going to hear your bike scrape the road. All bikes can scrape the road without losing tire traction. However scraping too hard will eventually create a "pivot point", which is when the rear tire lose traction with the road. But still, every bike has a range of lean angle where you can safely scrape the road without creating a pivot point.

You should ALWAYS prepare yourself to hear the scraping sound so that you won't be startled by it. Too often someone will hear the scrape and become so startled by it, that they straighten up the bike and ride into the path of oncoming traffic, or the side of the road.

If you're going to lean the bike hard, you may feel your feet being squeezed up against the engine, due to the ground pushing the pegs or floorboards upwards. In that case move your feet off of them, or else you'll end up creating a pivot point too early.

Using the rear brake is something you can use, if you use it lightly. If you're going really hot into a curve, I wouldn't use it at all. Your chances are still better by just leaning it hard.

Downshifting can also slow you down, but it's very dangerous in the middle of a lean. When you downshift, your bike will lunge forward, causing the weight to come off of the rear tire, and thereby losing traction with the road.

Downshifting, and using the rear brakes are things you can do if you can do them before you enter the curve. Most people usually are already into the lean by the time they realize they've bitten off more than they can chew.

The third way to crash when riding too hot into a curve, is when the bike wobbles out of control. All motorcycles have a point at which they wobble when riding hard into a turn. Harleys tend to wobble at slower speeds than most motorcycles. So, if you lean a bike hard into a turn, it could wobble uncontrollably, and throw you off like a bucking bronco.

But, you're still better off taking your chances with a hard lean, prepare yourself to hear the scrape, don't let that scrape startle you, and hope the tire holds.

Even if you do go down, you're better off going down in a hard lean (low side), than by going down any other way.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Cold Weather Motorcycle Riding

borrego springs highway s22 motorcycleAfter last weekend, with 100+ degree temperatures, this Memorial Day weekend was cold, and raining in some areas.

Three of us went riding last Thursday, and got rained on. It wasn't raining when I left home, and as long as it's not raining at my house, I'm good to go. But as we left the staging area, rain started to fall. So we high-tailed it to an irish pub in Fallbrook for chow, and then it really started pouring. We waited it out for awhile, and just when it stopped falling, we took off.

And no sooner than we took off, it started raining again.

Saturday, a few of us went riding. We headed out to Borrego Springs, a tiny town in the Colorado Desert area of Southern California. The main attraction is a road called, "S22", otherwise called, "Montezuma Valley Rd", which winds its way down a mountain into the desert floor. It's very twisty, but mostly with sweeping curves, and it snakes its way down like a sidewinder. It's an absolute joy to ride (if you're into that kind of motorcycle geekdom).


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Here's some photos of that ride...

http://picasaweb.google.com/cleardigital/BorregoSpringsRideMay242008

We liked it enough that after having lunch in Borrego Springs, we headed back up the S22, and then we rode it back down again.

While Borrego Springs was warm and sunny, it was cold and soupy out towards the coast. We had to ride back that way, but stopped at the Stone Brewery for some free beer. Can't beat that.

And then today, Memorial Day, there was another three of us that took a ride to Carlsbad, for some eats at the Harbor Fish Cafe, a cool little outdoor cafe by the beach. I tried to get some other people to ride, but nothing doing. One guy in our riding club said he couldn't go because he was having a BBQ at his place (I guess he must be having trouble calling me, because I didn't know about the BBQ until I called him this morning).

Again, it was cold and crapping when we left this morning, but we got out to the coast, it was warm and sunny. There were plenty of near-naked chicks laying out on the beach.

The moral of the story is that when it's supposed to rain, and when it looks like it's going to rain, there's a 2 out of 3 chance that it won't. You just get on your bike and find some nice weather.

Technical Note: I moved this blog to Blogger's server. I had previously had it on my server, and had Blogger upload the files and images via FTP. But these days, it seems Blogger's support for "FTP blogs" is sorely lacking, and was having trouble getting new articles and comments posted in a timely manner.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wind Chill Motorcycle Myth

Wind Chill Motorcycle MythThis past weekend, Southern California had its first taste of triple-digit temperatures, reaching 101 degrees in Temecula on Sunday, and 110 degrees in the Coachella Valley.

There's this myth that when it gets really hot outside, it's good to get on a motorcycle and let the wind cool you down. Wrong.

Wind chill only works when the air temperature is about 73 degrees F or less, and that's based on riding a motorcycle at 60mph, and based on the newer wind chill formula. Once you hit 74 degrees F, at the same speed, the wind no longer feels cool.

Using the same formula, and the same 60mph scenario, a 100 degree air temperature results in a "wind warming" of 111 degrees.

As your body moves through the air it comes in contact with more air molecules, and when those air molecules are warm, they heat up your body as you hit more and more of them in lesser time, resulting in a dehydrated body.

Riding in triple digit temps is actually stupid.

But my brain has never had much effect on my heart's desire.

Days like these are when a windshield becomes your best riding partner. Drink a bottle of water at each stop, and keep a bottle of water in your saddlebag.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tired of Poker Runs


"I'm tired of poker runs". That sentiment seemed to play out as a theme this last weekend.

If you've read this blog for awhile, you'll know that I pretty much stopped going to them, along with bike shows, rallies, benefit rides, and such. You've seen one, you've seen them all. For me, paying $25-$50 to ride some roads that I've already paid for with my tax dollars, doesn't thrill me. However, there's still one children's charity event that I'll keep going to, which I'll tell you about someday.

Well on Saturday, some friends and I rode to Swallows Inn, a popular biker hangout in San Juan Capistrano for their annual chili-cook off. It's a sanctioned chili-cook off, and if you're like me, you love chili. There, I ran into a guy who's a VP in another riding club. I asked him why he wasn't at the poker run over at Biggs Harley-Davidson. He said that he didn't like poker runs anymore. He said they're all the same. He'd rather get some of his friends together, and just ride some roads, or find someplace new to go to. I didn't realize that he had been thinking like me.

Then on Sunday, I rode down to Lake Sutherland, just outside of Ramona, CA, to join another club on their annual picnic. I ran into a guy there whom I had ridden with a couple of times before. In addition to this club, he's a member of another one as well, but hasn't ridden with them in a long time. I asked why. He said that all they do are poker runs and benefit rides, and don't really go riding for the sake of riding.

He further explained himself with an anecdote, describing a moment of bliss, where he was riding his cruiser east along Highway 76, just before you get to the first Palomar Mtn turnoff, where the series of 30mph sweepers are. He caught up to some sportbike riders, who were riding a moderate rate of speed up to this point, and crept up behind them. Approaching the first curve, he leaned the bike all the way to one side and dragged his floorboard across the full radius of the curve.

He said he could see the sportbike riders jolt and look behind them in a "WTF?" response, as their concentration was broken from some blood-curdling screech that resembled something of a winged-dinosaur swooping down to snatch up some squid.

He chuckled as he finished his story, and I smiled and nodded my head because I understood what he was trying to tell me.

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Why People Ride Motorcycles

scooter crash accidentTo answer the question of why people ride motorcycles, you really have to ask why you shouldn't ride one.

Dale writes today about a subject that I tried to address before...
There's a old biker saying, to the effect that, "If you ever throw a leg over your bike, and you aren't just a little bit afraid, it's time to hang it up." That's good advice, really, because if you are riding on the street, and don't still feel the incentive to ride as if you were invisible to everyone else on the street, you'll get overconfident, and bad things will inevitably happen.

But, the opposite is also true. When you throw a leg over, and your first thought is, "I hope I get out of this alive," then you should probably stop riding, too.
I tend to agree with the last sentence.

In other words, if you're very concerned for your safety, then you shouldn't ride a motorcycle. It's inherently dangerous, and despite how skilled or cautious a rider you are, most such crashes are the fault of drivers who didn't see you.

If you can accept that, then you can free up your conscience, think more clearly, and enjoy the ride.

Perhaps you thought about buying a small motorcycle, or scooter, to save money on fuel, or because you have this altruism to reduce your carbon foot print. Well, you had better fully register this thought before skipping gleefully to your nearest scooter dealer to jump on the bandwagon.

You may end up reducing your carbon footprint to zero.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Dead Man's Curves

Road sign found along Highway 49 in California, just west of Sattley...

Dead Man's Curves


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The photo found on my "About Me" page was taken along the same road.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Motorcycle Group Riding Differences

Motorcycle Group Riding DifferencesLast Sunday I couldn't find anyone who wanted to ride as it was Mother's Day, and I guess they were all busy. So, I rode south and hooked up with another riding club.

This club was relatively new. They're actually a sportbike club. But this particular chapter has an even mix of sportbikes and cruisers. I met some of them when they came up to ride with us months ago.

I hadn't tagged along with another club in a long time. I got to witness the whole group riding experience from the viewpoint of a hang-around, and see how they did everything differently from the way our club does things.

First, they spend a lot of time at the staging area, about an hour. Our club usually spends between 15 to 30 minutes.

This club was actually quite loose, similar to our club. They all seemingly knew each other well, and knew their place in the group.

Along the ride, the road captain, who was the VP of the club, often pointed at road signs to remind riders of road conditions. That's something our club rarely does.

They rode quite a bit slower than our club usually rides. I don't know if the speed they rode at is the same speed they usually ride at, or if it was just the guy who was leading them. I don't know if that guy always leads their rides or not.

They also seem to make more stops than our clubs does. The destination, which was Idyllwild, CA, was only 100 miles away. Yet they took a gas stop at only 42 miles into the ride, and then a butt break at another 35 miles after that. I couldn't figure out why they needed to make that first gas stop. Our club would probably have done the second stop however.

Because this club is a mixture of sportbikes and cruisers, the members all have varied riding styles. The sportbikes wanted to take a slightly a different route that involved more twisties, so that they could rip up some pavement and ride at a fast pace. The cruisers, however, wanted to take a more relaxed ride. Both routes would end up at the same destination. When we reached the point in the ride where the sportbikes wanted to take the alternate route, I decided to try my luck with them, but stayed in the back.

Splitting the group into two, and then having each group take different routes, is something our club hasn't done. For the most part, we all want to ride the twistiest roads, and we all seem to enjoy riding the same speeds, so we never seem to come to that. However, on any one of our group rides, someone will want to break away and crank the throttle. Blowing out the cobwebs and tearing up some asphalt is part of the enjoyment of motorcycling.

They didn't seem to pass any slower cars. When they encountered a slow-moving car in front of them, they just dropped their speed and waited it out. It's not like they had an awful lot of bikes, I'd say about 10 bikes. There were some stretches of straight road where they could have done it. But for all I know, these guys might pass up cars everytime with a smaller group.

As far as hand signals are concerned, I didn't see much aside for the usual turn signals. It's not like our club uses a lot of hand signals either. I tend to think that their club members have become quite accustomed to riding with each other, that they can anticipate what's about to happen. The same is true with ours.

Interestingly, everyone in their club wore full face helmets, even the cruiser riders. In our club most of us wear DOT half-helmets, or novelty helmets. In fact, after the second stop, once the temperature warmed up, I took off my sweater and rode with just my t-shirt. The folks in their club kept their jackets on. I certainly don't knock this at all. It's a contrast in riding philosophies.

In fact, a while back I read their club charter, which outlines all their rules and practices. Like any club, safety is an important issue, and they make safety a big part of their charter. So I think it all stems from that.

It's probably good to hook up with other clubs, and witness how they execute a group ride, just to show you things you didn't think about, or perhaps shed light on things you may be doing wrong. It's like what the Road Captain said about there being no book on group riding.

Oh, going back to where I said I rode with the sportbikes on the alternate route. Towards the end of the day, a couple of those riders gave me thumbs up for actually keeping pace with them. I was on my Ultra Classic, and I wanted to prove something to those rice burners. One of them said, "Man, you were really throwing that bagger around! I kept looking in my mirror and you were on my tail the whole way". While they were riding hot through the twisties, it wasn't like they were riding like professional racers or anything. They're just regular guys, with average skill, but with the benefit of bikes designed for speed and maneuverability. I just wanted them to know that they can't predispose a Harley rider.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Learning to Ride the Hard Way

motorcycle accident sceneA popular saying among motorcycle riders is, "ride within in your abilities". Meaning, don't push yourself beyond what you're comfortable with.

That statement became a point of discussion yesterday.

Five of us were sitting down eating hamburgers at Nessie's in Bonsall, CA, after a ride around the back country. One of the guys had crashed his bike during the same ride.

I had said that you can't look at it as having damaged your bike, or having injured yourself. But rather, look at it as gaining knowledge. Besides, he needed to come up with an explanation for his wife, who he felt certain was going to give him an "I told you so". And what better explanation than to say, "Well Honey, I'm a better rider now"?

We were on a stretch of road here in SoCal known as "Mesa Grande", in northern San Diego County, and popular with motorcycler riders. The first few miles of this road is straight, with almost no traffic, encouraging people to crank the throttle. Then it takes a hard turn to the left in a 20mph switchback. Many riders have gone down here, with yesterday being the latest.

The bike got the worst of it, but it turned out to be rideable. He suffered only some scrapes and bruises. And despite the CHP, the Sheriff, and the ambulance, we pulled the bike out of the ditch, and he continued on with the ride.

One of the coincidences, is that another guy riding with us made the same statement I made on this blog last month, "There are riders who have crashed, and there are riders who will crash."

The guy who crashed responded back with, "I always wondered what it would feel like, going down." Well, he knows what it feels like to go down easy into a ditch, around 35mph, even though it was still a painful experience. Hopefully he won't experience a more worse accident.

But let's get back to the conversation at Nessie's.

He said "While I should definitely ride within my ability, how am I supposed to improve if I don't try pushing myself?"

This guy had been riding for about a year. I had ridden with him several times, mostly in the past couple of months, but I've known him for about a year. He's witnessed how most of us in our riding club ride, and used us to measure his skill level.

He's always been a cautious rider, riding slower than most people I normally ride with. I can't fault any of that. But I was in the same place he had been in, riding slowly and cautiously, until I started riding with a group. I noticed most of the riders possessed quite a bit more skill than I. I would push myself beyond the comfort level because I wanted to improve.

To answer his question, he certainly should push himself. Part of the benefit of group riding is to improve your riding skills. He simply went into the switchback faster than he was accustomed to handling, and scraped his floorboard. Hearing the sound of the scrape jarred his conscience and caused him to straighten up, and into the path of the ditch. He just needs to spend more time scraping his floorboard and getting used to the sound.

You could also argue that Mesa Grande is not the place to scrape your floorboards if you're not used to the sound. Maybe. But then again, I'd argue that roads in and of themselves are not dangerous; it's how hard or soft you ride that makes it dangerous. I think pushing himself on Mesa Grande is fine, he just pushed himself too hard than what he was prepared to handle.

One thing that some of us in our riding club have said, is that we want to spend time doing practices. That's something we didn't do in the other clubs we've been in. Brian and I actually spent some time doing this about a couple of months ago, riding up and down Wilson Valley about three times in each direction, each time practicing how we approached the curves, and each time discussing what we could do to improve.

I'm going to start doing more of those practices in this club.

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About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)