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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About Steve

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