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...

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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.


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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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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...)