Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Electric Motorcycle Parking Only

Here's a sign of the times. An IKEA store in Tampines, Singapore, has a special parking lot just for electric motorcycles, and comes with a recharging station...

Source: http://twitpic.com/vtf8r

Here in the USA, we're lucky just to find a special parking area for motorcycles, and more often than not, motorcycle parking is not necessarily more convenient.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

American Throttle - The Board Game

What do bikers do in the winter when there's too much snow and ice on the roads?

Why, they play board games!

And from whence comes American Throttle, the board game.

You ride, you drink, you gamble, and go on a poker run, just like real bikers! It's actually a trivia game, but there's more to it.

Watch the video...

And if you purchase the board game, you get a free biker t-shirt. I mean, how can a biker resist a t-shirt?

Visit American Throttle online...

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Illegal To Sell Motorcycles on Sunday

Good news everyone! The State of Indiana is seeking to make it legal to sell motorcycles on Sunday...


Because it's now illegal to do so.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

What Kenneth Aragon Teaches Us

kenneth aragon lapdArticles like this one published in the Los Angeles Times are always interesting to me because they illustrate the goings-on behind walls.

In this case, Kenneth Aragon, a Los Angeles Police Department motorcycle officer crashed his bike after drinking too much earlier this month, and died.

On paydays, LAPD officers gather at the police department's training facility at Elysian Park. The training facility apparently has a bar where they serve alcohol. Officers celebrate payday by hanging out late into the night. This is where Aragon was.

So today the LAPD announced they had performed an investigation to determine how much alcohol Aragon consumed, and figured that he had consumed well enough to put him well over the legal limit. According to another article, the LAPD will force the academy bartenders to undergo retraining.

But if you read the first article I linked to above, police officers getting drunk on payday is a tradition. The article went on to say that during the 1970s and 1980s, they partied so hard as to bring girls into the academy for sex. These police officers drink and drive all the time, breaking the very same laws that we get busted for.

But to save face, the LAPD is going to make this guy into a scape goat. Aragon will be branded a bad apple to make us believe that the LAPD doesn't tolerate this kind of behavior.

And we all know that's bullshit.

Drinking and driving is something that we all do, police included. We all know it's dangerous, but we still do it. Just like how everybody breaks the speed limit. Just like how everybody uses a cell phone while driving. We all preach the gospel, but we never follow it.

If police officers and legislators are going to break these same laws, why do we even have these laws?

Isn't it just a game we play? We try to do the things we love to do, but we have to hide it from everyone lest we be caught and publicly humiliated. How stupid is that?

I don't know Kenneth Aragon personally, but I believe he was a good man, yet he was human like all of us. We shouldn't criminalize this guy, or make him out to be a bad apple. He was just like the 99% of us who are good people, but prone to make mistakes. Should we punish his legacy for that?

What I write won't change anything, but police should stick to going after violent criminals, and leave the 99% of us alone. I won't say anything about cops drinking and driving if they don't say anything about me doing it as well.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Choosing Which Motorcycle to Ride

Today my Yamaha Road Star got it's first taste of being trailered. I had called North County Yamaha to come by and pick it up for me.

It seems as if something wrong is with the starter motor. The battery is fine, the lights go on, the fuel pump goes on. Just an electrical "pop" when I hit the start button, and all goes dead. I'm not sure what caused this happen, it worked fine the last time I rode it, which was a long time ago!

I just don't ride the Road Star much anymore.

Yesterday I had tried to push-start it, but no go. I had pushed it up an incline at the end of my block, which was a lot of work. I only got about 80% of the way up there before running out of energy. I had to zig-zag it up there. I turned it around, put in neutral and coasted down. Then I kicked it into 2nd gear, but all it did was make the rear wheel skid. It just wouldn't turn over.

So I called up North County Yamaha, the only metric shop within 50 miles that I trust enough to work on it. They're charging me $50.00 to trailer it to their shop, which is not that bad considering they're about 40 miles from my house.

trailering a motorcycle
I know several people who own two or more motorcycles, and it's interesting to hear how they choose which motorcycle to ride.

In most cases, it's a logical decision. If they're going on a long ride, they take the one that offers the most comfort and the most storage. If their going on an afternoon ride through the twisties, they take the lighter, more nimble bike.

But other times I've heard people say that they're riding this bike because "it gets ignored", or because, "my wife likes the backseat on this one better". Sometimes it's a matter of fitting in. If they're riding with cruiser riders, they take the cruiser. If they're riding with sport bikes, they'll take what fits in best with that group.

But in my case, it's whatever my heart says. When I walk into the garage, I check my heart to see what I truly feel like riding, either the Yamaha Road Star, or the Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic. For the past year it's always said, "the Ultra". It doesn't matter if I'm spending the day on the twisties, I still take that 900-pound beast.

I think it's because I like all the buttons, dials, electronics, and compartments. That's the geeky side of me. Even though the Road Star is still the more fun bike of the two, it's still my penchance for bells and whistles that wins me over.

The other thing is that I've wanted to master riding the Ultra Classic with it being so heavy and tall. I'm more confident riding the Road Star because it's lighter, has a lower seat height, and I can get my feet flat on the ground. But I can only get half my feet on the ground with the Ultra, and it's bulkiness makes me feel less confident riding it. Thus, I've opted to ride it more often hoping to master it.

But all that has done is made me appreciate the Ultra for what it has to offer. Though, it's still a money-pit, costing me a lot in repairs and maintenance. Actually, if I didn't ride it so much, perhaps it wouldn't cost me so much.

So, I need to get the Road Star fixed so that I can sell it off. The money will help me buy a different bike, hopefully one that I'll actually ride more often. Maybe if I can find a smaller, lighter bike that I'll ride a lot, I'll save money not having to repair the Ultra so often.

But I don't know. My heart still says I'll end up riding the Ultra most of the time. Which is why I've talked about replacing it with a sport tourer.

Bottom line is that I still can't seem to make a decision on this.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Sons of Anarchy Harley-Davidson

Sons of Anarchy is today, what Orange County Choppers was yesterday. Where at one time every retailer was selling hats, shirts, hoodies, mousepads, baby bibs, and bikini underwear with "OCC" on it, they're now selling the same stuff with "SOA" on it.

Do people actually have the gonads to wear that stuff in public?

So at the International Motorcycle Show in Long Beach, CA last weekend, the most-busiest place at the Harley-Davidson exhibit was where they had the blacked-out Dyna, with the quarter fairing and drag bars...

Sons of Anarchy Harley-Davidson
Notice behind the bike is a television set playing an episode of Sons of Anarchy. What's hard to see are the display boards explaining all the customization that went into these bikes, just in case you want to build your own.

You had to stand in line to sit on this bike.

I don't know if Harley plans to issue a new Sons of Anarchy edition motorcycle. Maybe they can give it a model number "FXRSOA". But it seems like they'll sell a lot of them.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Kawasaki Concours versus Honda ST versus Yamaha FJR

My wife and I spent some time this afternoon at Temecula Motorsports sitting on various sport touring bikes, the Kawasaki Concours, Honda ST and the Yamaha FJR.

I wanted her to sit on the backseats of these bikes and tell me which she felt was most comfortable.

The winner for her was the Honda ST.

Kawasaki Concours Honda ST1300 Yamaha FJR1300

The footpegs on the ST were lowest, which is important for her because the tighter she has to keep her knees bent, the more painful over the course of riding.

The passenger seat on the ST was also the most cushy between the three, with the Concours coming in second.

The position of the saddlebags on the ST were also best for her because they were lower. This made it easier for her to get on and off the bike. The FJR came in second, while the bags on the Concours were most in the way.

I've read in reviews that the passenger hand rails are the most hardest to reach on the ST. But that didn't seem to be an issue for her.

For me, the ST was easiest to hold steady while she climbed aboard because it has the lowest seat height, allowing me to get more of my feet on the ground.

While never having ridden any of these bikes, I had gravitated towards the Yamaha FJR mostly because I liked the looks of it. But I remembered the nagging my wife gave me while sitting on the back of my Yamaha Road Star, about how the seat was uncomfortable, the high position of the floorboards making her knees hurt. Nothing ruins a day of riding more than an angry woman banging on the top of your helmet.

So it seems I'm now gravitating towards the Honda ST.

I just got some major work done on my Electra Glide Ultra Classic, replacing the entire cam assembly: cam shaft, cam chain, tensioner shoes and arms. They say the tensioner shoes should be replaced around 25,000 miles, but I still had the stockers at 76,000 miles. Well, actually the stockers had all but disintegrated, with the cam chain sliding across the tensioner arms, and the tensioner arms grounded down.

I also replaced a cracked header pipe, replaced a leaky stator plug, and had a leaky seal fixed by the rear shift arm. It cost me a lot of money.

However, it now runs great, and sounds great. Just like a brand new bike. I never realize how bad my bike was running until I got all the shit fixed.

And with 76,000+ miles on it, I really don't know how much longer I'll own it. It'd be nice to put 100,000 miles on it, but then again, that Electra Glide demands a lot of my money in repairs. It's a hog in more ways than just one. I've only had the bike for 3 1/2 years, but I've put a lot of miles on it.

My friend Brian has an Electra Glide Ultra Classic, the same year as mine, 2005. He's going through the same ordeal, which he wrote about on his blog.

The more miles I put on that Electra Glide, the more I'm going to have spend on repairs. It seems every 15,000 miles that seal at the rear shift arm leaks, and it's another several hundred dollars to get it fixed.

All bikes have parts that wear out, but it seems that Harleys have more stuff going wrong with them than other motorcycle brands. It's a gamble, do I keep the bike and hope that oil leaks are all that I have to worry about, or will everything start falling apart the closer I get to 100,000 miles?

So now that this Electra Glide is humming like a song, maybe it's time to sell it, and replace with a different touring bike.

So at lunch today, I explained that to my wife. At first her concern was that whatever touring I bike I bought to replace the Electra Glide needed to have a comfortable seat and leg position. Hence why I took her to Temecula Motorsports today to sit on some different sport tourers.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Women Riders in Black Motorcycle Clubs

Here's a very interesting read from a black woman who claims to be a member in a co-ed black motorcycle club, entitled "First-Wave Feminist Struggles in Black Motorcycle Clubs".

Here's a quote from the article...
The female motorcycle club member is as non-existent in the black motorcycle community as the black motorcycle club is non-existent in the motorcycle world. It is a phantom existence: there but unseen. Voided.
Check it out...


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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Passing of Dr. Harry Hurt

If you've spent a lot of time following the motorcycle safety discussions and debates, you've no doubt read about Dr. Harry Hurt.

Hurt passed away last weekend, as reported by Cruiser Magazine today. He wrote the infamous "Hurt Report", which studied motorcycle accidents and what caused them. The report was a groundbreaking report because no other such study had ever been conducted, it debunked some popular myths, and reinforced beliefs that riders already knew.

Cruiser Magazine went on to say some really interesting things about Dr. Hurt and his report, which I recommend you read.

If there's ever been a common theme in what I've tried to say about motorcycle safety it's that it's each rider's own responsibility.

That is, it's a double-edged sword. Certainly there plenty of cagers who don't take the time to look over their shoulder before making a lane change, and it would be their fault for hitting you. But you also knew that such cagers exist on the road, and yet you still chose to ride a motorcycle.

As long as you had the freedom to buy a pickup truck over a motorcycle, you had a chance to give yourself more protection.

But it would also be short-sided of me to end it on that note. Everyone on the road has the right to use those roads with some expectation of safety, motorcyclists included. But today, it seems that we live in a "me generation", where we tend to blame others for everything and expect some kind of compensation. We seemed to have forgotten that Fate still exists.

My mom still worries about me riding a motorcycle, and still says that I'm going to get killed on it. So I always tell her that I could get killed driving a car just as well. And if you said the same thing yourself, then you agree with me that each rider takes a chance when they ride their motorcycle.

If you really want to be safe, don't ride a motorcycle. Period.

But if you choose to do so, then you've accepted whatever hand Fate deals you. In that case, make sure you have fun.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mandatory Smog Testing for Motorcycles

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality recently asked Federal authorities to drop motorcycles from emissions testing, claiming that testing motorcycles is too much trouble for what little cleaner air they get out of it.

Contrast that to earlier this summer, when a California legislator introduced a bill to require smog testing on motorcycles, claiming that too many motorcycle owners were modifying their exhaust systems.

How could one state try to drop smog testing for motorcycles, while a neighboring state try to implement it?

It's about the perception of motorcycles.

In Arizona, motorcycles are accepted as a part of their culture. In California, they're seen as a status symbol. The $20K Harley is more of a rich guy's toy than it is a culture or a form of transportation. And way too many legislators in California are taking aim at people who can afford this kind of freedom.

One green blogger even went so far as to take pleasure with the thought of wealthy motorcycle owners being forced to make their bikes more politically correct...
We're not convinced the Hell's Angels will take to the new laws. But we suspect upper-income California professionals who've carefully cultivated a faux outlaw image after buying a "midlife crisis bike" will grumble, and then in the end, comply.

Which suggests his support for motorcycle smog testing has more to do with his disdain for people who express their freedom so freely, than it is about cleaner air.

Yet Arizona found that even when they forced motorcycle owners to bring their bikes up to spec with the exhaust standards, it still had no positive effect on air quality.

Both California and Arizona are states with a higher concentration of motorcycles, but with contrasting views. Arizona still seems to govern with common sense, while California continues to burden itself with ideology.

The funny is that in the end, that California legislator was forced to rewrite her bill, after Governor Schwarzenegger announced he would not sign such a bill, noting himself as a Harley rider.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

Riding Toll Roads on a Motorcycle

While the east coast has grown up with toll roads (turnpikes) for a long time, they're a recent phenomenon here in SoCal. It's only been about 15 years now that we've had them.

As such, I still make the mistake of riding my motorcycle onto a toll road.

It happens when I'm looking for a freeway on-ramp, and find one only to realize that I'm getting on to a toll road. I'm sure there was a sign back there that warned me it was a toll road, but I don't seem to pay attention.

The first thought is to do a u-turn and get out of it, but you can't do a u-turn because freeway on-ramps are all single-direction. So the next thought is that I could just ride through the toll booth without paying, and have the camera photograph my license plate and send me a violation notice.

Most of the on-ramps are completely self-serve. There's nobody there collecting tolls. You have to have exact change to toss into the basket, or bills to feed the machine.

Yesterday, I found myself doing such a thing on the 125 toll road in San Diego. I was fortunate to have three one-dollar bills. It cost me $3.00 to travel a distance of about 3 miles. Toll roads in SoCal are pretty expensive, and as such very few people use them.

It's always a hassel to stop my bike, put it in neutral, set the kickstand, take off my gloves, reach into my pocket and find money. I feed the machine, and instantly the light turns green for me to go. Except I have to put the rest of my money back into my pocket, put my gloves back on, stand up the bike, put it in gear and go.

I wish motorcycles were exempt from toll roads. And in fact, one toll road in Orange County (the 91 toll road), is in fact free for motorcycles, when you pass through the "3+ Lane" but with some exceptions.

Interestingly, as I rode further down the 125 toll road, I see this giant electronic sign that said, "Didn't Pay the Toll? Call XXX-XXX-XXXX"

And obviously you only get 5 seconds to memorize the phone number before passing by, and when you're on a motorcycle you can't exactly write it down. And why do they have such a sign anyways? I thought it was illegal in California to call on a cell phone while driving?

The ideal way to ride the toll roads is to get a transponder, a little device you mount to your car's windshield, or motorcycle. Then you can pass through the toll booth without stopping. And I actually have one, but not on my motorcycle.

Perhaps if they made all toll roads free for motorcycles, then motorcycles wouldn't have to split lanes through public freeways. Maybe it would encourage more people to ride motorcycles to work, decrease traffic overall, and even reduce gasoline consumption just a little.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

How to Deal With a Harley Basher

Went out riding today with another riding club based in San Diego. These guys ride mostly sport bikes, but there's a cruiser or two that show up now and then, and today I was one of them with my Electra Glide.

They're a cool group of guys and gals who appreciate twisties and carving up canyons. And they seem to run things quite like our club, mostly shoot from the hip, everyone ride at their own speed, and don't really care where they're going, as long as they're riding all the good roads.

A few days ago, when I noticed this ride posted on their website, I signed in and said that I would be joining in. I also noticed one other guy on the site talking trash on Harley riders, though he worded things in such way that it sounded like he was being humorous.

But this club is far from being Harley-bashers. I've ridden with them many times before and never found them to be that way. In fact, some of their guys have come up to ride with us, knowing they'd be riding with a bunch of Harleys. I think it was just this one guy, who is not even a member of their club, who was doing the trash-talking.

So I left home around 8:30am, determined to get to their staging area by about 9:30am. It was very chilly when I left; it had just rained the day before. But once on the road, it really wasn't all that bad.

When I got to the staging point I met them all, said my hello's, and introduced myself to the guys I hadn't met before.

The guy who was talking trash on Harley riders was there, and I shook his hand. But while waiting for the ride to get underway, this guy continued to laugh and joke about Harley riders. He'd make these loud grumbling noises trying to emulate the sound of a Twin-Cam, suggesting that Harley riders are all about loud pipes and little else. Then he'd belt out a loud laugh, though no one else was laughing. It was mainly because my Harley and I were standing right there in plain view of him and everyone else.

I kept thinking to myself that this guy's a goon.

The guy leading the group defended Harley riders and cruiser riders by saying that he still owns a cruiser, and that he spent many years riding with Harley riders. And I could sense he was stepping up to say something out of politeness to me.

And then midway during the ride we were stopped at a gas station. A group of about 20 Harleys passed by while we were standing by our bikes. That same guy pointed them out and made the same loud grumbling noise, but this time raising his hands up in the air like he was holding on to some 18" apes, and making this monkey-looking face, and then belted out a big laugh. But no else laughed.

"What an idiot" I said to myself.

From here we got into the more twisty part of the route, and so I was determined to hang with them all the way through, just to show them that just because someone rides a Harley doesn't mean that they're only about noise and image.

And it was my lucky day because the leader decided to open up the throttle and ride a lot faster than they normally ride. Today, they had a smaller group and he knew all the riders could handle these speeds. What's more I think he also knew that this other guy who was bashing Harleys was getting on my nerves, and perhaps he led the group at a fast pace just to offer me the opportunity to show him that I could hold my own with them.

And so I stuck with them all the way. I was in the middle of the group, keeping my bike right up nose-to-tail with them. I was probably riding at the upper limits of what I'd feel comfortable with, and in a few places could feel the front end of my Electra Glide starting to wobble. I was even leaning off the bike a little bit in the curves, something I'm trying to learn to do.

At the end of the ride, we were all seated in an outdoor food court, eating lunch and talking about the ride. The ride leader mentioned to me, "Steve, I don't think you need to buy that (Yamaha) FZ6, I think you ride that Harley pretty well through the curves". And he said it with that Harley-basher sitting next to him listening on.

I smiled and tried to say something humble and replied, "Thanks, but that Ultra Classic is still a 900 pound beast and it would be nice to get something designed for the twisties."

And Mr. Harley-basher was rather quiet.

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Christmas Toy Run Made Simple

This is the time of the year for Christmas toy runs, and last Saturday I managed to get some riders together to do one.

Except I didn't want to ride in the actual "run". Instead, I just wanted to ride to the dropoff point, just donate the toys, and eat lunch. Afterwards, we'd continue our ride elsewhere.

The toy run in particular is the Toys for Tots run sponsored by the San Diego County Goldwing Riders. They start the run in Oceanside, CA, and do a 30 mile ride to Pauma Casino in Pauma Valley, CA.

Last year I did the official run, and I've ridden in several others as well. Because they have hundreds, or thousands of bikes, the run travels at a very slow pace, usually 10mph on average, and you always get that stop-n-go "accordion effect". I grew frustrated with it over the years.

So this year, I got together some members of our riding club, as well as some riders from my motorcycle meetup group, and we set out on our course, through the valleys and hillsides of Southern California, finally arriving at Pauma Casino about a hour before the official run got there.

When we arrived, I was surprised to see about 100 bikes already there. These were all from other riding clubs and motorcycle clubs. They had figured out the same thing I did, and probably had been doing so for the past several years. They still brought lots of toys, but did it without all the attention.

In fact, the event was serving lunch to these riders for $6.00 a head, instead of the $10.00 a head you have to pay if you do the official run.

It made sense to me. Why subject ourselves to a slow 10mph ride, surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of riders, when we can just ride to the dropoff point on our own, on our own time, donate toys, and avoid all the fanfare?

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Harley Still Seems to Think it's Brand is Golden

alpinestars st-1 glovesIt's hard to find a good pair cold weather riding gloves I've discovered. Well actually, there are a lot of good ones out there, but finding a pair that I really like is another matter.

Yesterday, I visited three different metric dealers, a Harley dealer, and two different motorcycle accessories stores. I ultimately settled on a pair of Alpinestars Drystar ST-1 Gloves (pictured here).

I found them at Cycle Gear, listed at $39.99.

Actually, I already have a pair of cold weather riding gloves which I bought a year ago from the local Harley dealer. And I really liked the look and feel, they're soft leather, and fairly plain looking (which is unlike Harley gear). And they were reasonably priced, at $39.99. But I made the mistake of buying them too large, and as a result it's rather clumsy working the controls on my motorcycle.

So back into the process of finding cold weather gloves I went.

The metric motorcycle dealers mostly carried "sport bike gloves", the stuff with all the armored knuckles, the bling and multiple colors. They also carried winter riding gloves, but they were all extremely thick, and quite long, coming half-way up my arms.

In addition, those metric dealers all carry the same line of cheapo gloves. The leather on this stuff is stiff, and almost feeling like plastic. As it turned out, half of their inventory is this cheapo stuff.

I went back to the Harley dealer, Biggs H-D in San Marcos, to see if they have the same gloves, but in a smaller size. They did not.

But they did have something similar, and something that I also liked. But nothing in my size. And it turns out they wanted $75.00 for them! These were very similar to the Harley gloves I bought last winter, but for whatever reason they tacked an extra $35.00 to the price tag.

A girl there asked if she could search nearby dealers to see if they had one in my size. I said "ok", and she said she found a pair in San Diego, which was another hour's drive further away from my home. I said "forget it, I'm not driving all the way down there just to pay $75.00 for a pair of gloves that are already overpriced!". She said, "Yeah, I know."

Then she offered to have the San Diego dealer ship them up to her store, and then I could pick them up. But I would have to pay for them now. "Nah", I said. It was that $75.00 price tag that made me sick.

And that brings me to a thought. This dealership, Biggs H-D, is the dealership where I bought my Electra Glide a few years ago. Back then, they were hoppin'. They had so many bikes on the showroom floor, and so many clothes and accessories, you could kill a couple hours going through it all. But yesterday, they had only 1/4th the inventory they used to have.

Harley is still trying to capitalize on its brand, at a time when people aren't willing to pay a premium for the brand.

I looked at their leather jackets. Some of them go for $500.00 or more. And on top of that, all of their jackets have that "Harley-Davidson" logo in extra large letters on the back. "Why the Hell would I pay $500.00 for a giant Harley logo on my back?" I kept thinking. "If they want me to advertise for them, they should give me the jacket for free."

That's why I'm really liking Cycle Gear these days. They sell good stuff, at good prices. And as a result, Cycle Gear stores always have customers in them. The Biggs H-D dealership I went to yesterday, had no customers except for me (at least not when I was there).

I think the recession put us into a new era of thinking. We're looking past the brand and evaluating the value we get from our money. Meanwhile Harley-Davidson still seems to think it's brand is golden. Yet, I'm no longer buying stuff because it has a Harley logo on it, rather I'm buying stuff because I need it, and because it fits just right, and because it's priced cheap.

And I think Harley may be getting the message. I just read this article about the Motor Company installing an upgraded version of its customer relations management software at most of its dealers. It's supposed to help them collect more information about each customer, and leverage it to increase sales.

And that's a start, though they still need to design bikes that last, instead of bikes that beg for upgrades.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Motorcycle Camping in Death Valley

Over this last weekend our riding club did an overnight camping trip to Death Valley. We stayed at Furnace Creek Campground.

You can see my photos posted here:

(this link opens up a new window)

Death Valley is always thought of as being hot, and if you're not from around Southern California, you might think it's a good place to visit to get away from the cold. But as it turns out, Death Valley gets cold this time of the year, though I'm sure it's still warmer compared to North Dakota. But then, when you've spent much of your life in SoCal, well, it's cold.

Artist's Drive, Death Valley, CA

I've mentioned before on this blog that I've been dieting and slowly losing weight. Thus far, I've lost 70 pounds over 18 months. But for this camping trip, I decided to splurge and let loose. I had an omelette, potatoes, biscuit and gravy, pork loin, louisiana hot links, bacon, beef jerky, cookies, trail mix, grapes, beer, wine, whiskey. And that was just Saturday. I won't bore you with Sunday's consumption.

But yet this morning, when I weighed myself, I gained no weight, nor lost any. I weighed just as much as I did when I left Saturday morning.

"How could that be?" I wondered.

I didn't really exercise at all during the trip, not nearly enough to burn that many calories.

I'm chalking it up to the "magic of motorcycle riding".

I've written before on how riding motorcycles somehow seems to burn more calories than you'd expect. You might think it's a sedentary activity of just sitting down. But the fact is that after a long ride, I feel very tired, not just mentally, but physically also.

I mean, when riding a motorcycle there's a lot of muscular activity taking place, more so when going through the twisties. As I'm navigating through these curves, my right foot is always hovering just above the foot brake, ready to depress when needed. And if you think about it, the whole time your foot is like this, you're actually tensing up a muscle in your shin.

In fact, your whole body is on alert, ready to react immediately, whether for a hard lean, an immediate stop, or shifting the weight of your body. It'd be worth an experiment to ride through the twisties and then be conscious of what muscles are tensed up.

I remember watching the documentary, "On Any Sunday" and it was said that motocross is the second-most physically demanding sport, second only to soccer. But of course, that's motocross, with all of its crashes and beatings. But I have to think that there's still something about a street motorcycle moving at 50mph through a series of twisties that makes you use up almost every muscle in your body. Yet at the end of the day you might think all you did was sit on your butt.

But let's not forget about sleeping. Did you know that a man weighing between 150-175 pounds will burn about 500-600 calories, just sleeping for eight hours? You'll burn more depending on how much work you've exerted during the day. While you sleep, it's restoring energy to your muscles, growing new cells, and repairing tissues. I think a full day of motorcycling sets up a full night of calorie-burning sleep.

View Death Valley Ride, Nov 14-15, 2009 in a larger map

Well, the campout was a lot of fun.

You know, the deserts of California are known for their miles and miles of straight roads, but we managed to stray off the beaten path and get on some of the lesser-traveled roads, and enjoy some good riding. Add to that the comraderie, the sharing, the helping out, and it's the kind of weekend a guy would ask for.

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Monday, November 9, 2009

Biker Fashion Without the Motorcycle

Susan Carpenter, who writes about motorcycle stuff for the Los Angeles Times, mentions in her latest article that fashion designers are using the motorcycle for inspiration...
"Designers have been revving up their collections this season with studded handbags, strappy boots, leather jackets and other items of "biker chic" -- fashionable, motorcyclist-derived clothing that allows women to look tough without actually throwing a leg over."

She goes on to try out some of these fashion pieces, and then hops on a Harley to see if they offer any kind of functionality for riders.

I'm curious to know what bikers these fashion designers saw when they designed these clothes, because the woman in the photo (in the above linked article) doesn't resemble any of the women riders in my neck of the woods.

It's also amusing to note that this is their image of the American biker.

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Riding Someone Else's Motorcycle

Today I got a chance to ride my buddy's Goldwing. He has a 2009 model year. I only took it around the neighborhood where he lives. But I was really impressed with how well it handled, and how so well balanced it rode.

I could do tight turns more easily than I could on my Electra Glide Ultra Classic.

I'm so accustomed to riding my Ultra, that riding a Goldwing feels so much different. In fact, anytime I've ridden someone else's motorcycle, it's always so different.

Even it's the same motorcycle, it still feels different. Another friend of mine has an Ultra Classic also, and in fact he same the same 2005 model year that I have, and neither of our bikes have been lowered. We even have the same stock seat. Yet, his still feels so different. He's ridden my Ultra, and he agrees that mine feels very different from his. Yet, we can't seem to figure out why the two have a different feel.

There's a gal in our riding club with a Yamaha Roadliner. The stock handlebars on that bike are quite wide, almost like beach bars. Watching her ride up ahead of me, I can't help but wonder how uncomfortable she looks. My friend Brian jumped on it once for a short ride, and noted how uncomfortable the bars felt to him as well. It seems as if she'd only change the bars, get something a little more narrow, and with a little bit higher rise, I think she could manuever that bike so much more easily.

And that brings me to a point that some riders are able to handle slow speed turns, and twisties so much better than other riders, and part of that is due to the bike. The bike itself can make a huge difference in how well you handle the road. But yet, you may never know that until you get on someone else's bike and ride it.

Only then do you realize how much of an impact the bike itself makes on your ability to master riding skills.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Rides Stimulate More Rides

I took a ride Sunday with one of the newest members of our riding club, Jack. Actually, he and I rode last Thursday, as well as Saturday.

And after the ride, well into the evening, each of us rested in our homes and chatted together on our cell phones.

"Do you realize we just did 330 miles of riding today?" he asks.

"Was it 330 miles?" I answered.

"330 fricken miles!" he says.

Jack went on to say how this whole week has been awesome, starting with a short little ride on Thursday, a ride up to Joshua Tree National Monument on Saturday, and a ride out to the Salton Sea on Sunday. I could hear the satisfaction in his voice.

"I mean what more could I ask for?" he goes on. "We rode some roads I had never ridden before, and been to places I had never been, and rode a ton of miles!"

He also expressed enthusiasm when he asked, "Hey, did you see that Joe posted an overnight camping trip on the forum for later this month?"

"I saw that!" I said.

"I am going", he said emphatically. "I think it's cool that he's putting this together, and I want to support him on it".

"That's because he had such a great time on the last overnighter we did", I responded.

"Well, rides stimulate more rides", Jack said.

And that's a good point. When people have fun on rides, they want more rides. Except what we try to do in this riding club is encourage everyone to make something happen. Instead of having a club leader, we empowered each person to take matters into their own hands, and make something happen with this group of riding junkies.

And I'll give credit to Jack, he made the Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday rides happen. He called people up, posted on our forum, and rallied the folks together.

And now today, a Monday, Jack is trying to get me out riding this afternoon. Neither Jack or I are retired, we're just fortunate to have jobs that give us this kind of freedom. And while I do have plenty of things to do with my work, I can't help but reward that kind of enthusiasm for riding.

"Yeah", I told him. "I'll meet you at the Shell Station at 10:00am".

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Riding the Roads Less Traveled

Where do you want to ride?

I dunno, where do you want to go?

I dunno.

Our riding club is rather unconventional in that it doesn't have a leader. We have some founding members who make sure the club is moving in the right direction, but as far as taking care of the day-to-day, week-to-week duties of planning rides, meetings, events, it's up to anybody to step up and make something happen.

So Thursday I met up with a fellow member (see yesterday's post about running out of gas) to head out on a weekday ride. We only knew that we're going to meet up at 9:30am at our usual place.

I love these kinds of rides because there's no predetermined route or destination. We have no idea where we're going to go, how long we're going to be out, or how much money we'll end up spending.

He suggested to ride out towards Palm Springs only because it's warmer out there. But I wasn't thrilled about riding out that way, particularly because we're already talking about riding out that way this weekend.

Another idea was Palomar Mountain Rd, but while Palomar is a twisty and challenging road to ride, it seems we're always talking about Palomar.

And that got me thinking about some roads we hardly ever ride on. They're not necessarily the most twisty roads out there, but they still offer some fun turns. I'm not one who has to ride the most twisty roads out there 100% of the time. With so many great roads to choose from in Southern California, and as often as we ride, it's ironic we choose the same roads so often.

Lake Wolhford Rd, Harmony Grove Rd, Elfin Forest Rd, West Lilac Rd, Olive Hill Rd, Alvarado Rd. These are all roads in the northern part of San Diego County that offer nice scenery, a few twisties, and lots of sweepers, but we just don't ride them that often.

I think it's because some of them are rather short in length and don't necessarily connect you to interesting places.

We also explored some roads we never rode before. And the reason why we never rode them before is because they don't go anywhere. They dead end. We found a scenic little road called Jesmond Dene Rd, just north of Escondido, that takes you to N Broadway. N Broadway sounds like something in the middle of downtown, but it's not. It's actually a narrow two-lane road that meanders for a few miles through a valley surrounded by mountains, with several sweeping curves. And then it dead ends.

Too bad.

Even the place we chose to eat lunch at was a mystery. When we headed into a town, and it seemed like we were ready to get some grub, I spotted a place I had never seen before. Neither of us had ever been there in fact. It just looked like a good place.

That whole "running away" feeling that motorcycle riding can give you seems amplified when you don't have a plan on where to ride. And if you can throw in some roads you never rode on, or hardly ever ride, that feeling is amplified yet again. And then throw in a cafe you've never eaten at, and it's like being a thousand miles from home.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Besting the Motorcycle Demons

Had a lucky moment this morning at the gas station.

As I left home, I knew I needed to put gas in the tank really soon. As I approached the main road, the engine already started sputtering. "Come on!" I said, imploring the bike to just get me a half-mile further to make the gas station.

The night before, I left home with "161" reading on my odometer, on my way to the tavern to hang out with some friends. It's about 15 miles from my house to the tavern. So that's 30 miles round trip. I knew I usually get about 200 miles on a full tank of gas. So I knew I didn't have to stop at a gas station that evening.

But after leaving the tavern, I went to a friend's house which is just another 3 miles further away. So that technically made the whole trip 36 miles. "No problem" I thought. That'll still leave me with about 4 miles left in the tank for tomorrow, and the gas station is just 2 miles from my house.

So when I returned home last night, I chose not to stop at the gas station, and instead planned to do so the next morning.

So back to where I left off. I turned down the main road towards the gas station, the bike would find some gas and go, and then it would sputter again. I got to about 1/4 mile from the station and the bike was sputtering more than it was going. Finally, the engine stopped, and I pulled in my clutch lever to keep the momentum going.

I tried pushing the starter button to get the engine started again, but it just wouldn't start. It'd find a few drops of gas and sound like it was going to start, but it just wouldn't start. I finally lost all momentum and came to a stop on the road. I hit the starter button again, and found just enough fuel to get it running.

I was able to build up enough momentum that by the time the engine petered out again, I was able to coast into the gas station, and came to a stop right at the pump.

"Yes!" I smiled. The odometer read 199.something. I managed to calculate my mileage accurately to within one mile, and justified myself not getting gas the night before.

I reached into my pocket to retrieve the key to unlock the gas cap on my Electra Glide, only to discover that I left the key at home!

"God Damn It!" I thought.

And it's not like I could jump on the bike and ride home to get it either!

Thoughts raced through my mind on what to do. First, I was going to call up the friend whom I was going to meet that morning, and tell him I'd be late. Or better yet, just have him meet me at the gas station instead.

I thought about calling my wife, but I knew she wasn't home. She was out grocery shopping. But then I remembered that she keeps a spare key on her key ring. I called her up, but she didn't answer.

I wondered, "What the Hell, did she leave her cell phone at home, or did she leave it in the car?"

I decided to call her again.

This time she answered.

I asked her where she was. She said she was having breakfast at IHOP. "Cool!" I said. Because IHOP is right next door to the gas station where I was. I told her my predicament, and she walks outside the restaurant and waved her hand at me. Then walks over and hands me the key.


I originally thought I had defeated the motorcycle demons when I coasted into the gas station. But then it seemed they had gotten the best of me when they made me forget to bring my key. However it turned out I one-upped them, and sent them home with their tails between their legs!

I filled up, and sped off to meet up with my buddy. And on the way, I kept thinking I'm going to remove that lock from the gas cap. This wasn't the first time I found myself at a gas station without the key.

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Saturday, October 24, 2009

Patience in Buying a Motorcycle

All this year I've been blogging and talking about wanting to buy another motorcycle, and yet still haven't done so.

I have my eye on a Yamaha FZ6, or some other similarly equipped and styled standard that I can throw around in the twisties.

Another guy in our riding club wants something sportier as well, and he's had his eye on the Triumph Speed Triple.

So we've been talking together about it a lot, just like little boys talking about getting a Wii versus an Xbox, and then standing in a Wal-Mart and spending all afternoon playing the demo models.

But its always about money.

For me, I'm in a better financial position now. My wife and I managed to get some debts paid off, and I managed to improve my business income this year. So I'm feeling the urge even more.

However, I look on the horizon and see things coming up that I need to prepare for. Next March is our 20th wedding anniversary, and we've been talking about going to Hawaii. And with my business income being improved, income taxes are going to be increased, and I know Obama is going to hit me pretty hard.

We also have a home equity loan we took out several years ago to make some improvements on our property. I would really like to get that paid off, now that we're better position to do so.

So in reality, it's looking like a new motorcycle is a still distant dream.

And the funny thing about the future is that you never know what's around the corner. I think that it won't be until next June that I'll be able to buy that FZ6, but I know that something unforseen will come up to set me back even further.

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Apathetic Motorcycle Riders

What does it take to get motorcycle riders to come out for a bike night?

That's the question one guy asked today.

Mike runs a motorcycle meetup group of his own, similar to the one I run, and both of our meetup groups are focused in the same town.

So last week he posted a "bike night" at a local biker hangout. This hangout started doing bike nights a few months ago. I went to the first one after hearing about how good the tri-tip was, and how passionate the owner was in trying to start a new bike night tradition.

When I went there, there were only about 20-30 bikers who showed up, which is actually a paltry number compared to the several hundred that show up certain other places around Southern California.

Well, in the week since Mike posted a meetup for this bike night, only about 7 people responded that they'd show up. And Mike, being the kind of guy he is, sent out an e-mail to everyone subscribed to his meetup group, expressing some frustration that so few people responded...

Where the hell is everyone else! Most members are not even interested enough to RSVP NO!

...that was just a sampling of what Mike wrote.

And that's a good point. It's understood that people have other things to do. But then again, if you care enough to join a group of riders, club or no club, you should still participate enough to say, "No, I can't make it". Not saying anything is apathetic.

If you're in a club, or if you're part of a group of riders, how often do you take the time to say, "No, I can't make it", or "I can't commit right now, but I'll let you know at the end of the week"?

When someone in your club or group organizes a ride or an event, and you can't make it, do you just ignore it and not say anything?

And if you don't care enough to at least issue a response, why did you even bother to join?

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Love Ride Died With The RUBs

The Love RideThe 26th Annual Love Ride was cancelled.

The Love Ride was probably the biggest biker event Southern California had to offer. It was an event that had always been full of hype, glamor, and organized mayhem.

It was cancelled due to lack of interest.

That's the official reason.

But the way I see it, it was a victim of itself.

I had attended the 21st Love Ride because I was told it was something I had to see to believe, and that it was the coolest biker event around. Of course, you can't always believe everything you hear. As it turned out, I was disappointed. Or rather, it was exactly as I had anticipated, a lot of hours spent waiting to get going, all freeway riding, everyone riding gangbusters, long lines to get food, and long lines to use a porta-pottie.

That was the first and last time I ever made that mistake.

As the history goes, The Love Ride started out with one Glendale Harley-Davidson wanting to organize a charity event to donate money to kids in need. It was small and simple, and it felt good and felt real. But Glendale is right next to Hollywood, and Hollywood is never satisfied with the same-old-same-old year after year. It has to get bigger, glamorous, and continually reinvent itself. It brought in movie stars and headlining acts. And as the years went by, the ticket prices went higher and higher.

There would be 20,000 motorcycles lined up in front of Glendale Harley-Davidson, waiting to get going on the ride. And when the ride started, it would still take another hour before those towards the back would get going. And the ride? Well, it was just about 20 miles up Interstate 5. That was it. That was the whole ride, all freeway.

Obviously, no motorcycle rider with a lick of sense would spend $80.00 a ticket just to wait several hours in front a Harley dealer, then ride 20 miles of freeway, and then sit and stand the rest of the day waiting in line for food.

But the RUBs would. The "rich urban bikers", who interestingly enough are not necessarily rich, and not necessarily urban, just those who bought a motorcycle to experience the lifestyle, thinking somehow that if they participated in The Love Ride, they would become a little bit more of a genuine article.

Those were the people The Love Ride thrived on.

But the money benefited charities.

Yes, that was the reason to participate. That's another thing. We live in a time now where charitable organizations have employees on the dole, and anywhere from 90 to 95% of the money you donate goes to paying employees and overhead. I don't want to donate money anymore. I want to donate goods. I'd rather do a charity run that delivers canned food to a food bank, toys to a children's hospital, or blankets to a homeless shelter.

Why couldn't The Love Ride have done that?

But as it is now, the RUBs aren't shelling out money anymore. Many of them sold their Harleys, or had them repossessed. Maybe, we just don't have RUBs anymore, I don't know. The bikers who are still carrying the torch are the ones who truly live to ride, and if you truly live to ride, you are not paying $80.00 to sit and stand around all day.

The Love Ride killed itself. It was an event that lived with the RUBs, and died with the RUBs. Without them it buckled under its own weight. It would be better for The Love Ride to go back to its roots and get real again, but it's just not the nature of Hollywood to do that.

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hanging With the Guys

Last night I took my Electra Glide up to my buddy Brian's house to put a new tire on the back. He has a tire changer.

It's not a hydraulic, nor motorized changer, but largely a platform with tools to make tire removal and mounting a lot easier. You still have to apply some elbow grease, and it's a lot easier if you have a second set of hands too.

This was probably the third time I had taken my bike up to his place to put a new tire on, and this time everything went so smoothly. Contrast that to the previous times when we had to learn how to use the tire changer, and when we made the mistake of leaving the brake disc on the wheel and ended up warping it.

What also made it fun is that this time we had a couple of other buddies with us as well, and the four of us took turns unbolting parts, removing the wheel, getting the old tire off, putting the new tire on, balancing the tire, and putting it all back together.

And Brian had lots of his homebrewed beer available. So we were hanging out in the garage, with beers in hand, taking turns wrenching on the bike, and having a good time.

We even got to do some evening riding too. What happened is that a torx socket we were using to remove the brake disc snapped and broke. It was a Craftsman brand tool, and fortunately the time was 8:00pm, giving us just one hour before Sears closed up for the night. So we hopped on our bikes (Brian has two bikes so I rode his other one) and off to Sears we went. The guy at the tools department gave us a free replacement, and we were in and out of there in five minutes.

And it was a perfect night for a ride too. Temps were still in the 70's at that time, and very little traffic to deal with.

Had I have taken the bike into a shop to get a new tire put on, this whole night would not have happened. Yeah, I saved money doing it this way, but honestly the thought really never occurred to me that whole night.

And I'm a city boy who grew up appreciating convenience; it would have been an involuntary neuromuscular reaction to drop the bike off at a shop, even though I had done this at Brian's a couple times before.

Of course it's easier when you have a friend with a tire changer. But the first time Brian and I tried to pull the tire off the rim, he didn't have one. We tried using pry bars, tire irons, a vice, a mallet, even jumping up and down on the tire, and couldn't break the bead. We ended up taking the wheel to a Cycle Gear store where they have a tire changer. But still, it was a couple of us guys off on an adventure, trying to change a tire.

But this night it all went well. Breaking that torx socket actually made the night more fun. Well, after we got done, we set up chairs in the back patio and drank down some more beers, ate some munchies, and enjoyed the rest of the evening.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Maria Shriver Cell Phone Debate

So while Maria Shriver is getting laughed at for breaking California's law against using cell phones while driving, at least all she has to do is issue a public apology...
California first lady Maria Shriver says she's sorry for breaking a state law that requires drivers to use hands-free devices while talking on cell phones.

What this only shows is that banning cell phone use while driving is a bad law. People use their cell phones because the world is becoming increasingly mobile, and at the same time, the people are expected to be reachable 24 hours a day. Cell phones helped shape this world, just as the automobile did.

The irony I've seen is that most of my motorcycle riding friends have shown their support for this law, even going so far as to curse out a cager they see using their cell phone. Yet, all of my biker friends have used their cell phones while driving a car.

I tend to believe that all motorcycle riders, including myself, have used their cell phones while driving a car. If our cell phone rings while driving a car we answer it anyways because we know we're capable enough to use a cell phone and still drive safey. That's why we do it.

It's like speed limits. We all drive over the speed limit because we know we can handle it.

The reason why motorcyclists have supported laws against cell phone use while driving is because they hate cagers. That's all it is.

But every motorcyclist I know is a cager also.

I wonder if the state and federal DOTs can actually claim that car accidents have decreased since these laws went into effect?

I doubt it.

It's time to get rid of the cell phone law.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Bike Night Meet & Greet

bike nightLast Wednesday evening I organized a "bike night" through my motorcycle meetup group. The meetup group is an Internet-based calendar where I post rides to the public and invite them to ride with our riding club and get to know the kind of riding we like to do. The ultimate goal is to find that one rider out of twenty who fits in with the characteristics of our club.

The "bike night" is more like a meet & greet, to encourage people to join us at a local bar, hang out, get to know us, and feel good about riding along with us on an upcoming ride.

I do these about once a month, and there's always an interesting mix of newcomers that show up.

So last night, Stacey shows up on his Yamaha Raider. He does most of his riding commuting to San Diego Navy Base, about a 150 mile commute roundtrip. I'm not sure he really has much time for joy riding.

Daniel, a retiree from Seattle, showed up with his Sportster. He just moved here, seemed very friendly. He's been staying with his daughter who had already lived here. He said his daughter finally got tired of him staying indoors all day long, and told him to go out and find friends. That's how he found us.

Tony says he finally "ditched the bitch" and bought himself a brand new Softail Custom. He says he wished he had waited and studied all of Harley's bikes first, because now he realized he should have gotten the Street Glide. He seemed bummed out about it now. He left our bike night early and headed over to another bar where they have cuter bartenders.

Diane seemed quite shy, she rode in on some kind of Kawasaki, small displacement cruiser. She says she's tired of riding by herself. She didn't say a whole lot.

Lou is fairly new to our group, though he's already ridden with us a couple of times. Lately, he's been bringing his ukelele on rides. When we stop some place to eat, he pulls it out and sings songs for us. He serenaded us at the bike night too.

Michelle has ridden with us once so far. She has a job detailing bikes around town. She's mostly here to promote her business, and wanted me to promote it on my meetup group website. She gave me a link from her business website, so I returned the favor. She's been very professional and discreet about it.

Mike's been riding with us quite a bit though he's not a part of our club. He seems to enjoy hanging around. He has a great attitude, appreciates our kind of riding, fits in really well with our group. He spent some time talking about prostatitis, and how awful it is, the symptoms, the recovery. I'm not sure where he was going with that.

Jack and his wife Melanie have ridden with us several times as well and seem to enjoy riding with us through the meetup group, though they have no desire to join our riding club. He's a very skilled rider, and very independent minded. They ride on a Goldwing, and she has her own saddlebag on one side, and he has the other. Kinda like his and hers bathroom sinks.

The rest of the folks there were members of our riding club, though not all of our members showed up. Even if none of the meetup group people had shown up, this is still a way for our club members to forge friendships.

Here's some photos...

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Proper Motorcycle Seating Posture

I continue to struggle with poor seating posture on my Electra Glide.

I tend to slouch in my seat, and during longer rides that makes my upper back sore.

I also notice my butt aching, primarily my tail bone. I mentioned this before, a little more than a year ago. Back then I had lost 35 pounds. Since then I've lost another 20 pounds. I'm constantly shifting around on that seat.

It's mostly just bad posture. As I ride around now, I try to remind myself to sit up straight. It seems to take the pressure off the tail bone, and makes my back feel better.

The problem is that the way the Electra Glide is designed, and I imagine the stock seat as well. It just invites me to slouch. My Yamaha Road Star is different. The way everything is laid out, the handlebars, the floorboards, the seating, it tends to keep me more straight up.

So, I'm about to head out for another day of riding now. Hope everyone has a good weekend.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

9-11, Where Were You?

When the terrorist attacks took place on Sept 11, 2001, I was in a business meeting in Austin, TX, having flown there with seven other fellow employees the day before, to meet with a potential customer.

We rented a Dodge Caravan to shuttle us to and from the hotel.

Somewhere during a break in the meeting, someone walked into the conference room and told us all that a jet liner had crashed into the World Trade Center. We were stunned. "Holy Shit" I kept thinking.

Later on in the afternoon, during another break, someone walked into the conference room, and said a second jet liner crashed into the other World Trade Center tower. At that point, we didn't know what to think. The first crash we thought was a tragedy. The second crash, now that can't be a coincidence.

About an hour or so later, someone else broke into our meeting, and announced that jet liners were crashing all over the country, and officials put the entire country on alert. We were so stunned, we couldn't focus on the meeting anymore, and just mulled about trying to learn as much as we could.

We were in a high rise building in Austin, with a full view of the city from, I don't know, 30 floors up or more. All we could think about was a plane crashing into the building we were in.

So we all left the building.

Those of us from our company decided to walk to this bar a block away and watch the news.

Our plane was supposed to fly us back home only hours away, but of course all the flights are grounded now. And, we had to return that minivan.

So we decided to hold on to the minivan figuring once we turn it in, we'd never be able to rent another one with all the flights grounded.

Several of us voted to drive that thing back to Southern California. Others voted to stay in Austin and wait for the airports to open up. But we had families worried about us, and we wanted to get back to them. I mean, we thought these plane crashes was a precursor of more to come.

Other locals overheard us debating, and warned that the Interstate between Austin and El Paso is a such a lonely stretch, with very few towns in between, that gangs would be taking control of the roads and pillaging everything that came their way. We'd be sure to lose our lives. This had the women scared.

Other locals said that gas stations were spiking the price of gas up to $5.00 a gallon (it was around a dollar-something back then).

"Look, we don't know how long flights are going to be grounded, could be for weeks, or months. And we've already checked out of our rooms. I honestly doubt with the flights being grounded, that the freeways are going to be taken over by gangs. There's going to be so many more people using the freeways now, that no way can gangs stand up to us", I tried to reason with them.

All the guys agreed.

We voted, and the guys won.

So we left Austin around 7 or 8ish. That little minivan was crammed.

We went all the way through Texas and encountered nothing. We expected the freeways to be packed solid. Instead, they were somewhat light. I guess everyone was too stunned to go out. We heard on the radio stories of gasoline being spiked in other states, but so far we encountered no spiked prices.

At every gas fill up, or potty break, we switched out drivers.

By the time we hit New Mexico, it was morning the next day, the sun was up, and the heat was starting to build. We turned on the air conditioner and discovered it didn't work. So we rolled the windows down.

We got into Arizona, and stopped in Benson at a cafe to eat breakfast. We told the waitress our story, and she mentioned other business travelers doing the same thing, traveling along the same Interstate, trying to get home.

Further into Arizona, with the windows all rolled down, the heat was getting intense. One gal got sick from it. We had pull over several times to let her barf.

By mid-afternoon, we made it into California. The California desert was the hottest temperature yet, reaching over 100 degrees, no air conditioner, and eight of us crammed into a minivan. We had bought a cooler earlier, filled it with ice and drinks to help cool off.

The whole thing was like an iron butt ride. We were talking about all kinds of stuff, and learning things about each other that we would had never known if not for the circumstances. I don't know why, but "Gilligan's Island" kept coming into my mind.

Every once in awhile I'll reconnect with an old co-worker from those days, usually via Facebook, and we'll say "remember that time when we drove all the way back from Austin?"

So today, we're all remembering again.

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hidden Springs Cafe Burns Down

Hidden Springs Cafe, a stop along Angeles Forest Highway, which connects the cities of Los Angeles and Palmdale, is gone, according to the Los Angeles Times...
Hidden Springs Cafe, a haven to bikers, a coffee stop for commuters and a home to owner Jim Lewis and his family, has been consumed by the wildfire raging through the Angeles National Forest, authorities confirmed Tuesday.

I always liked stopping there while riding through the Angeles National Forest. I'm not sure it was the "haven to bikers" that the Times called it, though certainly a lot of motorcycles stopped there. Otherwise, Newcomb's Ranch, another 20 miles up the Angeles Crest is where the biker haven is. But if you wanted to get away from the squids, the wannabes, and the goons, Hidden Springs Cafe offered such a respite.

The cafe had a lot of charm that you wouldn't find elsewhere. Hanging from its roof were hummingbird feeders, and the hummingbirds were always there in numbers. In fact, I used to call the place "Hummingbird Cafe". The place was adorned with antiques.

There was also a skinny cat that greeted visitors, perhaps living off of what scraps people would throw at it.

I think the reason why more bikers didn't stop there was because it didn't have enough room. While it did have a big parking lot, it hardly had the seating to host a bunch of thirsty bikers. But it had a lot of peace and quiet. You could sit on the front porch, reflect on life, and watch the motorcycles go by. For that, it was a great place to rest.

But I guess it's all gone now, reduced to cinders by the "Station Fire".

Here are a few photos I had in my collection...

hidden springs cafe

hidden springs cafe

hidden springs cafe

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Run to the Coast, Sep 5, 2009

Here's a slide show from a ride we did last weekend to the coast...

Stops along the way:

  • Pizza Port, San Clemente, CA
  • Backstreet Brewing, Ladera Ranch, CA
  • Hells Kitchen, El Cariso, CA
  • Trevi Lanes, Lake Elsinore, CA

After that cooker of a ride to Kernville the week before, we needed a ride along the coast where it was cooler.

Afterwards, some of us headed off to the bowling alley.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Taking Photos of Twisties

The hardest thing about photographing the road on twisties, is holding the camera with one hand, and the holding the handlebar with the other.

20mph curves
On our overnight rides, I like to photograph roads as I ride them, mostly because those roads are so far enough away from home that I don't get a chance to ride them that often.

Looking through all those old photos, it makes me want to go back there and ride them again.

Some time ago, I finally got smart and decided to attach a chain to the camera, and hang it around my neck. That way if I need to grab the handlebars, I can drop the camera. Before that, I used to reach into my pocket, pull the camera out, take the photo, and put it back into my pocket.

One time I did that, I found myself needing holding the handlebars with both hands really quickly, and ended up stuffing the corner of my camera into my mouth.

Everyone seems to want to see photos of the ride, so it makes me feel good knowing that I have the camera, because I love taking photos. But I have to wonder if there's an opposite side to that, where people get annoyed by it. You can only take so many photos until it becomes too much.

Like so many people today, I have a Facebook account. And I got into the habit of taking a photo, and uploading it to Facebook. But I wasn't going overboard with it. I'd have a friend snap a photo of me using my cell phone, and then upload it to Facebook, just as a way to keep a photo journal of my rides.

A girlfriend of one of my riding buddies noticed that some of these photos showed her boyfriend in the background, or maybe we'd be seated at the bar having a good time. So, she requested to become a Facebook friend of mine.

Then one day, I uploaded a photo of him and me chugging down some monster-sized margaritas at a mexican restaurant, in the outdoor patio, with bowls of chips and salsa in front. It was such an idyllic moment, I had to add it to my photo journal.

He later told me he got busted. His girlfriend didn't know he had been out riding with his buddies, drinking down margaritas, and I guess she got jealous, peeved, or something. So, I'm much more careful about what photos I take, and what I upload.

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Biker Dogs MC

Biker Dogs MCAn actual three-piece patch motorcycle club for bikers who take their dogs with them on rides...


They call themselves "4%ers", 1% for each paw.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Riding With A Chase Vehicle

In last weekend's ride up to Kernville, we had a chase vehicle follow us.

Every once in awhile, when we do these overnight rides, we'll have a chase vehicle there. It's not normally planned that way, but just seems to happen depending on who wants to come along, and what the circumstances are.

In this case, one guy took his daughter with him on the bike, and the wife wanted to go too. So, she took the jeep.

chase vehicle
Depending on how you look at it, chase vehicles can be an advantage or disadvantage. It's good in that it can haul other people's stuff, and frees up space on the bikes. The bike is no longer top-heavy, and let's us carve up the canyons with more ease. In this particular case, the wife packed a cooler full of beer on ice. And when we stopped somewhere up on a mountain range, we pulled over for a butt break, and sucked down some cold ones. It added a nice touch to the whole ride, one that we would not have been able to enjoy otherwise.

But there can be some downsides to it. You can't lane split for one thing, otherwise you lose the chase vehicle, though that advantage only applies in California. Or, if only one person is in the chase vehicle, we can't use the carpool lane.

Interestingly, this woman had a CB radio in the jeep. My Ultra Classic has a CB radio, and we had a guy on Gold Wing with a CB as well, and the three of us could converse throughout the trip.

On one hand, there's something special about having only you, the bike, and whatever you can fit on it. It limits you to the bare essentials, narrows your focus down to just you and the road, and challenges your ability to master the bungee cord.

But it's still so nice to have a car there to carry all the weight for you, and then some, including the laptop, the tool box, the cooler full of beer, the Jack & Cokes, the illegal fireworks, the college girls, the sex toys...

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Angeles National Forest Fire

I snapped this photo over my shoulder while riding down the Pearblossom Highway just outside of Palmdale, CA, last Sunday...

motorcycles angeles national forest fire
We were actually on our way home from an weekend overnighter to Kernville.

We stopped on the side of the road, under the full smoke screen, for a butt break, and actually found the temperature cool. Palmdale is normally triple-digit temperatures at this time, but the smoke blotted out the sun and seemingly made the air 10-15 degrees cooler.

There was also a nice breeze, which I think was caused by the fire sucking the oxygen out of the air. The fire was still several miles away from us.

As we continued on, and escaped the smoke screen, the temperature rose back up to triple digits again.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Biker Snobs

nine mile canyon road, californiaI found the following quote from a local motorcycle rider, posted on a motorcycle forum...
"I love the fact that you said in this group you don't have to prove anything to anyone, just relax, enjoy yourself and have a good time. Too many groups i have tried to ride with are so INTO THE HARLEY THING and the riding FAST THING, that is you arn't IN THE SWING thier rythm, then they kind of look down thier nose to you. And i have always driven something other than a Harley, all my life and ridden all kinds of motorcyles, dirt, race, and cruisers since i was 10 years old, love them all!"
The underline is mine.

I certainly have met folks that seem to look down their nose at you, but not many. It's mostly a case of something getting lost in the translation.

I tell people that we all have an internal speed, and that the speed at which we like to ride matches that internal speed. I've tried to ride slower, but it actually feels uncomfortable. And I've tried to ride faster, and that too feels uncomfortable.

I've never looked down on anyone for whatever speed they like to ride, but yet I find it frustrating to hear that someone thinks I'm a snob, just because I refuse to slow down for them.

And then to suggest that people who ride fast, or ride a Harley, are trying to prove something.

There's no reason why I should ride faster for someone, or slower for someone. And I don't expect anyone to do so for me.

And isn't it ironic that bikers always use words like "freedom" and "independence" when describing their love for riding, but yet seemingly get angry when other riders won't slow down to their speed?

Who is exactly the snob here? The rider who does whatever he feels like doing, or the rider who wants other riders to slow down for them?

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Just Itching to Ride Away

Reading my buddy's updates on his coast-to-coast motorcycle ride has made me wish I doing the same.

A couple nights ago I laid in bed looking up at the ceiling feeling as if I needed to jump on my Electra Glide and ride away.

I had conceived this plan to ride north up to Seattle, taking about two weeks round trip. I had wanted to take the coast up, all the way to the Olympic National Forest in Washington's peninsula, and then take the ferry across Puget Sound, and spend a few days at my Dad's house, for a BBQ and some beers.

I had done that route before, though not all the way into Olympic National Forest, instead stopping at Aberdeen, WA, and headed inland to Seattle. Along the way I spotted cool looking diners and bars that I would have loved to stop at, but already had a full belly. But this time around I'd hit those up.

I wasn't sure what route I'd take back home, but I'd definitely look for some roads I hadn't ridden before.

In fact, I even decided that I would set up a new blog just to document all the eateries I'd stop at. I call it something like "Ride to Eat", or some other related title.

But alas, I'd realized I just can't spend the money travelling like that.

And then just yesterday I realized I had a voice mail from another friend of mine who took off last week for a few days ride up the California Coast and back. He had invited me along, but I failed to respond. In back of my mind, I kept telling myself that my wife and I still had some debts we just have to get under control.

Just jumping on the bike and riding for several days, eating at whatever diner or dive looks cool, and sleeping in whatever town I end up at, always has this romanticism to it. It's why I have a touring bike.

But then the money keeps me tethered to my home.

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Friday, August 7, 2009

Coast to Coast Motorcycle Trip

At some point in every biker's life he or she has to do a coast-to-coast motorcycle trip. Unfortunately, my moment has not yet come.

But my friend Brian is currently underway.

He's on Day 4 of a ride that takes him from Southern California to Bangor, Maine, and back again.

Before he left, he wanted some way to document his travel online. He has an iPhone, so I showed him how he could maintain a blog with just his iPhone.

I set up a blog for him at: http://ridingtales.blogspot.com/

I configured the blog so that he could compose his blog entries as an e-mail and then send the e-mail directly to his blog, where it's automatically posted. He can also take photos on his iPhone, and e-mail them to this blog.

You'll notice a lot of misspellings because after all, he poking out letters on a little iPhone.

So as I write this article, he's somewhere between New Mexico and Kansas, probably slurping down a beer and a can of soup, and reading a book most likely.

He's not staying in a room, he doesn't believe in rooms. He's sleeping in his sleeping bag under the stars, either at a campground, or by the side of the road. I'm sure he brought a tent, but Brian just doesn't use tents unless it's raining, or if there's a bear pissing on him.

Brian likes to write about his motorcycle adventures, so even when he comes back from his trip, he'll more than likely keep writing.

Makes me wonder, if Evel Knieval had an iPhone, what would he have tweeted while rocketing over the Snake River Canyon?

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Federal Helmet Law May Soon Come?

If the Obama Administration is successful at imposing a socialized healthcare system in the United States, it seems inevitable a federalized helmet law will soon follow.

Up until now, the driving force behind getting states to impose helmet laws is the argument that head injuries are putting too much burden on state-funded health care programs.

So it seems logical that if private healthcare plans are marginalized to make room for a national healthcare plan, then expect to see a federal mandatory helmet law.

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

I Was Feeling Pretty Good

"I was feeling pretty good" is a phrase I've been hearing lately amongst folks I've ridden with the past few weeks, and I heard it again today.

And it's usually a phrase I hear after that person crashes.

Except today, no one crashed.

Today I was feeling good. There were five of us taking a joy ride down the back roads of San Diego County, on our way to Callahan's Pub. The weather has been unusually mild the past week, making temperatures ideal for t-shirt riding. Warm, not too hot, not too cold.

That perhaps lead to me feeling pretty good.

So I cranked the throttle a little bit along Couser Canyon Rd, a really tight twisty road in northern San Diego County. Actually, I wasn't going all that fast, not enough to drag my boards. But still fast enough to where I could get into a zone, and still have attention to spare for the cooler air, and the smell of the outdoors.

Here and there, the road takes us up and down hills and blind curves. I get to a to the crest of a hill, and I think, "Hmmm, should I slow down because I can't see the road on the other side of the crest? Or, should I just roll the dice, and stay on the throttle, and see what the road gives me on the other side?"

I opted to stay on the throttle. I wasn't really sure if on the other side of the crest the road was going to turn, because this road is a very twisty road; there's just turns everywhere. I get up over the crest, and sure enough there was a turn to the right. But it was an easy turn. I rolled the dice and got lucky.

But that's just part of "feeling good". You just keep pushing it, because you feel just a little invincible and you want to keep that good feeling going. It's a way of expressing the idea of, "Fuck it", which itself is just one aspect in the overall pursuit of motorcycle enjoyment.

A friend of mine recently expressed that very same scenario, of approaching the crest of a hill, not knowing what the road is going to do on the other side, but keeping on the throttle and reacting afterwards. When he described it to me, I understood the feeling he was trying to convey.

Yesterday, the very same friend described to me how he almost wrecked his motorcycle earlier this week. He actually was in the process of crashing, his rear tire had lost traction and the bike was sliding out of control. He struck the center median, which is just a strip of raised concrete, and that actually righted the motorcycle to where he regained control.

But what he said to me was, "I don't know, I should have already learned my lesson from the last crash, but I was just feeling good".

And then last weekend, we had a gal in our group lose control of her bike and crashed. She normally rides at a safe moderate pace. But that day, she jumped out from the back of the pack, and sped up to the front, on a narrow two-lane road, and proceeded to take the twisties at a somewhat fast pace.

We were quite amazed. We had no idea she had this ability bottled up inside her. But she finally came to a curve she couldn't handle at that speed. Instead of just leaning the bike hard, she opted to hit her rear brake hard. She locked up her rear wheel, and spun out of control. She came out ok, a few scrapes was about it. But she said to us, "I don't know guys, I was just feeling really good".

On the way back home today, we headed up Rice Canyon Rd, another narrow and twisty road. And I was still feeling pretty good, and I pushed the bike at speeds of 50mph along curves rated for 25-30mph. But I've ridden that road so many times, and I know it pretty well. Knowing that road so well allows me to ride it that fast.

At the end of the ride, seated around the table drinking beers, one of the guys says, "Steve, you must have been feeling pretty good today".

Sometimes you ride a motorcycle because it makes you feel good. Other times you start out feeling good, and the motorcycle just exacerbates it.

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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...)