Sunday, February 28, 2010

How Your Choice in Motorcycles Changes

Honda ST1300Seven days have come and gone since I bought my Honda ST1300. I put 578 miles on it thus far.

My friend Tom asked me today what I thought about it.

"It feels like me", I said.

I guess what I meant is that I feel like this bike better represents the person I am inside compared to the Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic.

In 2004, I bought the Yamaha Road Star. But actually, I had wanted the Harley-Davidson Road King. At the time, I was enamored with the styling of classic American motorcycles. But there was a frugal side of me that said the Yamaha Road Star has similar stylings, costs much less, and gives you more power. Hence, the Road Star reflected the person I was.

And I spent a good deal of money buying chrome pieces and accessories to cultivate that classic American look.

The Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic, however, never really reflected how I felt inside. It was my wife who really liked it. She loved the feel of the back seat, and liked the lower foot position of the passenger floorboards. She also loved the spacious storage for all her things.

So when she suggested I should buy an Ultra, how could I resist having a second motorcycle? And over time, I grew to love riding it, and for awhile it was the bike I rode all the time.

But when I bought it, I vowed that I would not spend any money buying chrome, or anything cosmetic. I already spent too much money customizing the Road Star. Instead, I would only purchase accessories that had to do with performance or comfort. That vow changed my entire way of thinking.

I now took on this philosophy that "chrome doesn't get you home". That is, you buy a motorcycle to ride, not to show off, or use as a chick-magnet, or enhance your personal appearance.

Moreover, the Ultra is a touring motorcycle, made for taking long rides, overnighters, and road trips. And so I rode that motorcycle, and just rode it everywhere. I put 70,000 miles on it in 3 1/2 years, along with the 45,000 miles I put on the Road Star.

My opinion progressed further to where I preached the concept that motorcycles should be ridden, and so let's take our bikes out and ride all day long. Let's ride through the canyons and over the mountains, and up and down twisties. Let's ride them hard and fast, and push them to their limits. I told people that scratches and dings are badges of honor, and that if your bike is shiny and clean then you've only wasted time.

My philosophy changed from wanting a cool-looking Americanesque cruiser, to wanting to ride roads at a comprehensive level. Therefore I demanded a motorcycle to match.

When I bought the Road Star in 2004, I never thought I'd end up with a sport tourer in 2010. If you own a Harley right now, can you be certain of what bike you'll be purchasing in five years?

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Another Biker Saved from Farmville

Maybe I ought to start my own rehabilitation group and call it, "Bikers Recovering from Farmville".

Another fellow biker in SoCal writes today on his Facebook account...

well farmville friends, i'm done. i've dumped so much real cash into this game and it's about every two weeks now they're coming out with something new that i "gotta have", and i'm droppin' like $20 or $40 religiously every couple of weeks.

I'd cut out if rides early so I could make home in time to harvest, plow, and plant. Sick, I know.

He goes on to say that he's dumping his farm, and regaining his former riding self.

Last month I posted an article entitled, "Farmville Bikers - A New Trend", and wondered if tending crops that don't really exist was having an effect on one's motorcycle riding.

Any other riders wanna make a pledge to dump Farmville?

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just Bought Another Motorcycle

Last December I wrote a post saying that I was going to sell my Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic now that I had it running perfectly.

And last Saturday I got it done.

It was kinda sad seeing the Ultra riding away with someone else. But, it's now just another chapter in my motorcycle life.

I wasted no time and hit up Craigslist looking for a Honda ST1300. I ran a search for "ST1300", and wouldn't you know it nothing I liked came up. What I had seen a month ago were now all gone. There were still a few up in Los Angeles, but too old or too many miles on them.

Then it hit me, I tried adding a space between the ST and the 1300 and searched for "ST 1300". That's when this black 2006 Honda ST1300 popped up, with only 7,000 miles on it, and not all that far away. I called the guy, and made arrangements to look at it. I brought cash with me just in case.

honda st1300
It was beautiful. The owner had bought the trunk separately, which is an actual Honda trunk, but is only sold in Europe. I guess Honda doesn't want too much competition for its Goldwing. He also had two seats, the Corbin pictured above, and the stock seat. Also handlebar risers, which puts me in a more comfortable position.

It was the bike I had wanted, and the color I wanted, with low miles, some good accessories, how could I not want this?

So I ended up riding her home Monday.

This afternoon I spent the day getting stuff done. I had a locksmith make extra keys for me. I called my insurance guy and added the ST to my policy, and took the Harley off. Then I went to the DMV to get it registered.

Big mistake!

I got there early, thinking I was going to beat the crowd. Wrong! Massive line out the door. Cars fighting for parking. People waiting for driving tests. People sitting on the curb outside the building waiting to hear their number called over the loudspeaker. I didn't bother getting off my bike.

I don't have Triple A so I can't go there. But I ended up going to one of those little vehicle registration agencies at a strip mall near my home. I was pleased to see no lines. I walked right up, and they got it done for me, but I had to pay an extra $29.00 for their services.

So I had an opportunity to ride it around today and get a good feel for it. I took the trunk off just to dump some extra weight.

I didn't go on any twisties today, but did spend time doing some u-turns and slow-speed maneuvering. It handles really well. The steering is very light. I practiced shifting through the gears more smoothly, practiced braking, practiced starting from stop.

I also tried sitting up close to the tank versus sitting further back on the seat, just to see what felt better.

Overall, I'm very impressed and a had lot of fun. I wanna do some more riding before I spill out all my thoughts, so look for another blog post...

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Are Poker Runs Getting Shorter?

Looking through a list of upcoming motorcycle events, I noticed a poker run that had already taken place last weekend in Jacksonville, FL, dubbed "Ride For Life", here's a snippet of the description...

...Ride begins at the center on san jose blvd and ends at Adamec Harley on Baymeadows Rd. 49 miles long. registration begins at 8am with kickstands up at 10:30. price is $25.00 for rider and 10.00 for passenger...

Notice it says "49 miles long".

Now, I haven't been on a poker run for probably a couple years now, but the ones I went to always ran about 150 miles, give or take 25. I don't know if poker runs tend to be shorter in Florida, but lately I'm seeing poker runs here in Southern California that also ran about 50 to 75 miles.

Are poker runs getting shorter now?

I remember years ago, poker runs actually gave out cards that you held on to. You collected them at each stop. But at the last stop, we'd all trade cards with each other to produce four-of-a-kinds. Someone would always get four-aces and earn the top prize, the rest of us got smaller prizes, and some of us with full-houses got nothing.

Then poker runs changed to where they stopped handing out cards, and instead used a sheet of paper and stamped your cards on them. That prevented people from trading cards.

But that changed the whole dynamic of poker runs. I noticed riders would assess their hand after the second card, and decide if they had a shot at getting a good hand. If their first two cards prevented anything good, they didn't bother to ride the rest of the route, and headed straight for the final destination.

That was a problem because the stops along a poker run were businesses, like cafes, bars, motorcycle shops, that wanted exposure.

So that caused poker run organizers to find ways to encourage riders to complete the whole route and stop at each stop. One way was to offer a prize for the worst hand. Another way was to let riders pick two cards at the final stop, and let them decide which card to keep. And yet another way was to give out more prizes, and allow smaller hands to win too.

One innovative solution was to have predetermined winners. After the registration, the organizers already knew who would place first, second, third, and so on. At each stop, you presented your registration number. A person looked up your number on a laptop, and could see what your eventual hand would be, and simply gave you one of the cards. Each rider would gradually build a four-of-a-kind, or a full-house, and that encouraged them to stop at each stop. None of the riders realized the winner was predetermined, and each thought they had the winning hand.

But as motorcycling increased in popularity throughout the 2000s, poker run attendance increased as well. That lead to poker runs awarding more prizes so that more people could win, except they gave out cheesy prizes. No one wanted a faux-leather wallet, or an Amsoil doo-rag, so a lot of riders just didn't bother completing a poker run if they didn't think they had a shot at the top prize.

I remember attending the Hooters Poker Run in the San Diego area, where you stopped at five different Hooters restaurants. The idea was for Hooters to sell you food and drink at each stop. So, it was necessary that riders stopped at each Hooters. In years past, they used to give out actual cards that you kept with you. It allowed everyone to cheat, and some people complained about it. So in the next couple of years, Hooters gave out sheets of paper and stamped your cards on them. But that caused riders to drop of the route, avoid going to all the Hooters, and head straight to the final Hooters where the party was. So finally, Hooters went back to handing out real cards again. If riders wanted to cheat, they were forced to stop at each Hooters.

I think ultimately, poker runs have evolved to where the route is now much shorter, just because I think it's the most manageable way of getting riders to complete the whole route. Even if a rider knows they're building a lousy hand, they'll likely make all the stops, knowing the route is pretty short and easy.

But it seems like a lot of participants don't really care about the riding anyways, and only about the camaraderie. And if a poker run is only going to be 50 miles in length, then it seems stupid to even have one.

Why not dump the poker run, and just have riders pick all five cards in one place?

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

When a HOG Chapter Disbands

There have been many Harley dealerships that have closed up for good due to the recession. But I hadn't once given a thought to what becomes of their associated HOG chapter.

That is until after I read Mary Baker's article this morning about the Shreveport, LA HOG chapter disbanding after 25 years of existence...

Heads are still reeling and members are still in disbelief, but the announcement that Shreveport Harley-Davidson will close their doors and consolidate at the Bossier City location means that the Harley Owner's Group (H.O.G.) will disband. (link...)

The Bossier City location that Mary talks about is a nearby Harley dealership with its own HOG chapter.

I suppose it makes sense that if a dealership closes, its associated HOG chapter closes also. But on the other hand, why?

Isn't a riding club about riding together? What does a dealership have to do with it?

I guess Harley-Davidson owns the Harley Owners Group trademark, and so legally these riders cannot keep that chapter going. But a riding club isn't really about the name.

And so you think about that in more detail, and you realize that there really isn't any difference between a riding club and a motorcycle club. If a club is defined by its members, and if members truly care about the club, a club by any other word would still be just as together.

But obviously in the case of HOG chapters, a dealership holds the fate of its club.

I got sense from Mary's article that the Shreveport dealership and the Bossier City dealership were close enough together, that geography wasn't much of a factor in deciding which HOG chapter to join. It was more a question of which chapter a rider felt most comfortable in.

So if the Shreveport, LA HOG Chapter was truly a unique group of riders, that had something special going, then obviously it can still exist as an independent riding club, under another name. A club shouldn't have to die because of a dealership.

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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...)