Apr 12, 2021

“They Love Us!” turns into “Why Don’t They Like Us?”

If you are any kind of observer of the hilarious “human condition,” watching self-delusions dissolve into disappointment is particularly entertaining. The little tourist town where I live is a biker destination, mostly because the roads are straight and wide, traffic is moderate and generally at the local speed limits, there are lots of bars in Wisconsin and Minnesota small towns, and local cops on both sides of the state lines are terrified of bikers. It is a fact that pretty much the whole “economy” in these places are biker bars and filling stations. We get pirate parades from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Wisconsin, Iowa, and we’re on the parade path from all points east to the Sturgis gangbang. From May to September, the roar of poorly-tuned, oversized, and underpowered twins with straight-pipes completely obliterate the sound of Amtrak and freight trains that regularly pass through our village. It’s a “feature” our town’s tourist literature never mentions, but become immediately obvious to anyone foolish enough to visit Red Wing on a summer weekend. (During the Corona shutdown, the entire summer was filled with that pointless noise every day of the week, since Harley owners are, apparently, unlikely to be employed in essential occupations.)

On an eBike forum a while back, one of the odder characters who frequents that group was bragging about his Harley and how he’d “customized” it as insanely as he had mangled his eBike (installing at least $2,500 worth of “upgrades” on a $1,500 Rad Power eBike). Being a sucker for troll-bait, I foolishly replied with a comment on how much his neighbors must hate him (because of the Harley, not the eBike). Like the usual character of this sort who we all know and suffer, he came back with “No, they love me and everyone always comments on how great my Harley sounds.”

I know a lot of motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists. I have never heard any of them even mention exhaust noise when they are admiring a vehicle of any sort. I have, however, heard almost all of them curse a noisy vehicle when it interrupts their lives. Maybe that’s what the loud pipes folks call “love?” If so, that explains their typical bachelor in a swamp of beer cans lifestyle.

Late last fall, I was on my usual ebike run for groceries when I got passed on the uphill section of my ride by a couple of goobers on illegally loud hippobikes wobbling down a straight section of county road. I could hear them coming a mile away, so I had a hand over my left ear when they passed. I got a one-finger salute from the biker broad when she passed me. I suppose she imagined I would be upset at not being her friend.

This pair usually runs with a pack of four or five other noise makers. They blubber and roar through our neighborhood several times every warm day and you can hear them for miles in all directions. The local cops are terrified of bikers, but they are especially blind to gangs of bikers. So, as a neighborhood and town we’re pretty much torn about on-coming nice weather. At least when it’s raining or snowing, we don’t have to listen to goobers on Harleys.

When I got to the stoplight at Highway 61, they were waiting for the signal to change and yelling at each other about some menial bullshit when the old fat guy started to lose control of his bike and fell over, knocking the broad and her bike into a tangled heap of black leather, crappy mechanical engineering, and fat people. Of course, neither one of them knew how to shut off their bike, so there was some flesh tangled in the spinning rear wheels and lots of squalling and shouting before the blubbering (human and mechanical) stopped. I watched the Laugh-In tricycle action and did my best not to laugh out loud.

The goobers were in the left hand lane when they tipped over, so traffic had two lanes in which to pass up the mess and until the light changed three cars made a right turn without doing much more than gawking at the bikers. Two pickups pulled up to wait for the light to change to either make a left turn from the center lane or go straight. Nobody made any effort to help the bikers untangle themselves. I was on the sidewalk where the pedestrian crossing button lives, so the trucks provided me with a nice bit of insulation from the biker pile. The light changed and three of us went on our way while the bikers struggled to untangle and pick up their oversized hardware and do whatever those folks do when they aren’t falling down or occupying bar stools.

I did my grocery run and came back the same route, about 15 minutes later. The bikers were on their feet by then, but the bikes were still down and tangled up. Now, I’m on the opposite side of the road and there is no traffic coming my direction, so the light is going to run against me for a lot longer than it does when there is car traffic triggering the intersection controller. I thought it might be entertaining to see how a fat old Santa Claus biker and a bar bimbo pick up their 900 pound hippobikes, so I waited a while before I pressed the pedestrian call button. I was right.

Santa Gangbanger’s full dresser hippobike was on top of the pile and he clearly had never picked up his motorcycle, let alone from on top of another equally oversized, overweight pile of junk. The two of them were high side of his bike tugging helplessly at the handlebars or trying to drag the bike by the front or rear wheel and I really regretted not carrying something with which I could film the action. At least a half-dozen cars and pickups and a couple of delivery trucks rolled past them, but nobody stopped to help and the goobers did pretty much everything but step in front of traffic trying to enlist some assistance. Biker bimbo discovered, for the nteenth time in her life, that outside of biker bars she wasn’t attractive enough to draw flies let alone human assistance. Santa Gangbanger probably wondered why his biker glare didn’t intimidate anyone into helping. Finally, the two managed to drag Santa’s bike off of the bimbo’s ride, leaving paint and chrome and plastic on the road. The two of them together finally righted both bikes.

When the light changed, we all crossed 61 and went on our merry ways. Me with a cool story to tell anyone I know (since most everyone in Red Wing hates motorcycles) and them with a sob story of how nasty people are to old, fat, noisy, incompetent bikers. “I thought they loved us.” Whenever this dichotomy rears its head in small towns, the bikers threaten not to spend their money in our bars and we mostly wouldn’t mind seeing the damn bars go broke and the bikers gone. If it were possible to get small town cops to do their jobs, this problem wouldn’t exist.

Feb 15, 2021

Harley’s Last Ditch Effort to Make A Motorcycle

Harley Davidson is really putting on a marketing push for the “Adventure Pan America 2021” (although it was originally called the “Pan America 2020,” Thanks Donny). Harley’s marketeers have been talking about this bike as long as they talked about the Livewire before it actually “arrived.” And, like their electric bike, Pan America sightings are a lot like flying saucer reports. Some folks in the media have been allowed to see and even ride the prototypes over the last year, but they haven’t come up with any interesting specifications for the mythical ADV Harley: like weight, ground clearance, suspension travel, or even fuel capacity. All reports on the bike indicate it has a low seat height: which means it also has a low ground clearance, which hardly means the Pan American is a serious off-pavement vehicle.

Concept-wise, the new bike is nearly all non-USA-all-the-time with Brembo (Italy) front brakes styled specifically for HD, Harley branded tires by Michelin (France), Showa (Hitachi, Japan) forks, lots of Japanese and Chinese EFI, ABS, and EIS electronics, and a new liquid-cooled 1250cc “Revolution Max” engine that actually produces 21st Century power (143bhp and 90lb-ft of torque). Pointing out the many made-somewhere-not-America parts isn’t news to anyone these days. Pretty much, the only things most US companies are able to make are 1950’s technology bits, like bike frames and, hopefully, the gas tanks.

There isn’t much about this “news” that changes my mind about HD or it’s products, except that picture in their ad. At first, I thought, “Damn, HD finally hooked up with Aerostich to sell some good motorcycle gear?” A little research and I learned that is not the case. Aerostich is American-made in Minnesota, a few miles down the road from HD and Milwaukee, WI. Harley’s marketing folks decided to keep up the foreign sourcing of their crap by going to made-in-Pakistan and Holland-owned brand, RevIt. So, what little respect I had for HD’s made-in-the-USA self-delusion went out the door forever.


If you don’t see the similarities between HD’s promotional photo and my 2006 Aerostich Darien jacket and pants (at right), you’re just not trying. Everything about the HD ADV riding gear is ripped straight from the Aerostich drawing board. Everything, except the high quality materials, the real-rider design details, and the American-made quality that Aerostich has always provided.

The picture of me and my Darien suit has some context that might explain my frustration with HD and their lazy, cheap-ass marketing goobers. Moments before that picture was taken, I was sailing down the Canadian Yukon’s infamous Dempster Highway—bucking a 50-70mph side-wind, skating across a recently poured gravel road—when that wind got a grip on my luggage and flipped the bike backwards, dumping me in the gravel at 50+-mph. One second, I was “havin’ fun” (as my wife would say) and, the next, I was on my back sliding toward the edge of the highway and a permafrost swamp. Lucky for me, I was wearing real Aerostich gear (and several layers of insulation and clothing, since it was barely above freezing that day). The Darien’s well-placed TF6 armor and “Mil-spec 500 Denier Cordura®” kept my skin in place and most of my bones intact. (I broke a small bone in my right hand and re-cracked some ribs.) My Shoei helmet was trashed, with a small hole ground into the back of the helmet by that vicious, pointy Dempster gravel.

I still have that suit, probably a dozen or more cleanings later. I have a second Darien Hi-Viz jacket that I bought about ten years ago. I admit that I’m an Aerostich homer. I have owned and advocated for Aerostich gear and the Darien or Roadcrafter riding suits since the mid-1980s when I moved to Southern California and began a couple decades of spending almost all of my commuting and travel time on a motorcycle. Since my first Roadcrafter, I’ve seen dozens of Aerostich imitators and, through experiments by friends and acquaintances, watched people try to save a few up-front-bucks on made-in-China or Pakistan or where ever riding jackets and pants result in disappointment and/or injury. Some things just can’t be made well and cheaply.

Somehow, Harley and the motorcycle press are calling the Pan America a “middleweight bike.” I have to ask, in what world is a 1250cc hippobike “middleweight?” I guess, in this world. [Which means, I’m no longer obese. Yea Me! I might even be lightweight in this brave new, screwball world.] The Pan American’s weight and marginal off-pavement capabilities aside, Harley is taking a hard road in trying to catch up with and attract a motorcycle community that the Company has alienated with both its products and its gangbanger marketing tactics for decades. My guess would be “too little, too late,” but in copying and under-cutting the design of an actual American company that is near-and-dear to many of ADV and long distance motorcyclists with slightly cheaper made-in-Pakistan gear, Harley is making a statement (intended or not) that it is still either their way or no way and it won’t be hard to simply ignore the Pan America and the Company for a lot of people who have been in this market since the 80s or before. Harley is just another US company that can’t make a good decision even when it is staring them in the face from their own backyard.

Feb 3, 2021

Was It Worth It?

All Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

[As the copyright notice above indicates, I wrote this one in 2013 when I first began to consider the fact that the end of my motorcycling life was approaching. I had just retired from my teaching gig at a music college and my wife and I were planning a retirement vacation trip that might have resulted in our selling off everything except what would have fit into a small camper and going on the road until we could no longer do that. That did not pan out well at all. ;-) I intended for this to be the last entry to my Geezer with A Grudge blog and the odds are good if you're reading this one, I'm dead or incapacitated by age, injury, or both. At the least, I will have sold off my last motorcycle and ended that part of my life. So, this is it. Thanks for reading my thoughts and stories and I wish you all have at least as much fun and luck as I did on two wheels.]

Recently, I spent a fine summer afternoon hanging out with a couple of young friends. One of them is an occasional motorcyclist and the other is not. During a bit of that discussion, we touched on crashes and near-crashes and the odds that getting into serious trouble on a motorcycle are pretty high. Nick, the non-rider, asked, "So, is it worth it? If you are that likely to crash and get hurt, why do it?"

Risk-taking has a bad rap these days, and some of that is for good reason. Bankers, investment brokers, real estate speculators, and the rest of the Vegas gamblers who play with the public's money as if it were a child's toy are a waste of air. They reminded us that hanging out on the edge of sanity is something less than sane. We didn't learn that lesson well enough to accurately apply discipline where it is needed, but we did become more conservative/timid/terrified-of-the-future. That move has been a highlight of failed empires since humans started writing down the steps taken before the barbarians stormed the walls and we all went back to banging the rocks together to make music.

Combine our general decline in courage and intelligence with a brand new phenomena my wife likes to call "old parents" and we're raising a generation of kids who think buying an Android-based smartphone instead of a safe-but-expensive iPhone is risk-taking. These fearful near-geriatric "helicopter parents" are responsible for the collection of pseudo-psychological maladies used to excuse bad manners, poor work ethic, and an education system too terrified to fail even the worst slackers or, even, outright idiots. These low-flying hovering parents think a skinned knee is cause for both medical intervention and systemic overhaul of every playground, school activity, and television program within the 1/4-block territor their child is allowed to free-range. It's also true that the average age of the American parent is increasing and there are some biological reasons why that might not be good news, especially for over-35 men and women. The Genetic Literacy Library summarizes this problem, "As more children are born to older parents, increasing numbers of babies are at higher risk for a range of health problems, many with a genetic basis and possibly resulting from epigenetic changes—functional changes that are generated in the DNA as a product of longevity and environmental interactions." So, we're a nation of declining health and growing conservatism. In other words, we're afraid of everything other than sending other peoples' kids to war. Ideally, other people we don't know. Shades of China, Greece, Rome, Denmark, Spain, England, and every other Empire Gone Bad.

The first part of taking physical risk is physical activity and even the fattest of us knows that physical activity is crucial to good health. The advantages of taking on physical risk is less well known. Freud, that famous couch-potato, sex-deviant, thought that any sort of adventure was evidence of an "innate human death drive." His years of smoking cigars eventually led to cancer of the mouth followed by a successful plea to his own kid for assisted suicide, so his death-drive-drivel was probably just self-diagnosis. More rational psychological studies have found that nature has built in significant biological rewards for risk taking. Endorphins and adrenaline crank out chemicals that give athletes and daredevils a "high" similar to sexual activity. Our hearts speed up and become more efficient, our minds focus, our respiratory system kicks into high gear, and the bio-chemical response to peak moments of excitement can't be matched any other way. Afterwards, we relax and more fully appreciate our everyday life.

Of course, some people get nothing but terror out of almost any kind of risk and they have no way to empathize with any of this. To them, taking physical risks is just crazy and inconceivable. Couple that with all of the characteristics of old parents and it's easy to understand how we "progress' to a conservative state deluded into believing that creating an economically inequitable, unsustainable, always-on-the-edge-of-disaster economy is a rational substitute for actually showing some courage occasionally. This produces stress and stress does not provide the same positive effects as physical risk. They might feel similar to those unused to a physical life, but they aren't.

In the film, Moto 4: The Movie, desert racer Kurt Caselli says, " Do one thing every day that scares you, live your life on the edge. It makes you feel good . . . and alive" Watch him race across the desert, full of life, riding and living on the edge, doing what most of his generation thinks they are doing when they play video games and you will immediately know why we do this crazy thing. In the same movie, WORCS champ Taylor Robert said, "For me, it's my escape to life." For some humans, there is no other way to get this far sideways and getting sideways is absolutely necessary.

My least favorite thing about getting old is the growing fear of getting injured and not being able to recover. It makes me appreciate how the rest of the world spent their whole lives in terror of getting hurt, afraid of taking real chances, worrying about every little thing so they do no big things their entire lives. Life kills us all. Sooner or later, you will be nothing but a memory, if you're lucky. Would you rather be John Glenn, the Marine combat aviator and test pilot who was the first American to orbit the planet or John Glenn, the man who slipped on a bathroom rug and might have spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair or worse from that incident? I know from experience that some pretty boring activities (like working on my house or yard) can result in some awful injuries. So, "I'd rather be shot out of a cannon than squeezed out of a tube." With all of that in mind and a lifetime of injuries from bicycling, contact sports, household chores, motorcycle racing and adventure touring, I can easily say, it was absolutely worth it and still is. Thanks for asking. 

Jan 15, 2021

This Is Who They Are

Mostly, I keep my political opinions on another location and, yep, I am a “libtard” as are all of the intelligent people I have ever known in my life. If there were ever going to be a moment where my mission, "Warning: If you're looking for a pleasant conversation about motorcycling from a frozen-north Minnesota Nice perspective, good luck with your search. As Bobby Dylan once said, 'it ain't me, babe,'" might skip a beat, “Keep moving buddy. “Nothing to see here.” Today, like all of this damn month, I’m pissed off.

Capitol Police Chief Sund resigns just hours after he DEFENDED his  department's response to DC riots | Daily Mail OnlineWe all know who “both sides” of this crowd are, don’t we? Motorcyclists have been grouped with “bikers” for at least 70 years, to our huge disadvantage and outright physical hazard. The helmet-less, muffler-free, skill-less biker crowd have made noise on the streets and in our legislatures to the total disadvantage of the actual 1-10% of motorcycle owners who use their vehicle as a goddamn vehicle. Every noisy-ass biker blubbering down a freeway, on a country road, or through neighborhoods is pissing off every cager and homeowner they pass and making enemies for the few of us who believe a motorcycle is a transportation vehicle with the same rights and responsibilities (that is the most unpopular word in the wingnut world) as every other vehicle on the road.

These rioting “protestors” are same people who think being asked to wear a mask to protect themselves and their community from a life-threatening virus pretend that being required to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle on public roads or paying a health/life insurance premium for the privilege of risking their lives pointlessly is a “freedumb” issue. We know these people. Like the maskless fruitcakes, these butt-ugly jackasses think the rest of us want and need to see their scroungy (male or female) ponytails, weird-assed inbred faces (quoting Larry McMurtry, “One could have laid a rule from forehead to chin without touching either his [or her] lips or his nose.”),  faux-ZZ Top beards (apologies to Frank), and hear their mistuned, unmaintained junk-twin hippobikes for miles around. The rioters were the same arrogant, entitled, lazy-ass incompetents that motorcycle has been plagued with since a pack of misfit WWII “vets” decided to bring home the hell they supposedly opposed in Germany and the Pacific. Based on the number of German helmets, swastika tattoos, and white supremist paraphernalia you see decorating bikers and their rides, it’s pretty obvious that if they fought at all, they were on the wrong side.

Black Lives Matter Activist Sues Baton Rouge Police Over Mass ArrestsLikewise we, unfortunately, know the cops who coddle and cringe from the biker gangsters, their illegal exhaust systems, and their traffic-snarling pirate parades. Those DC cops who were so courageous, when it came to piling on a 120 pound female BLM protestor or charging an unarmed kid with military weapons at a Occupy Wall Street protest, will just watch as a pack of bikers waddle through town making more noise than a Boeing 737 on take-off or attack the United States Capitol Building in an effort to overthrow an election. Worse, they’ll not only ignore the peace-disturbing noise-makers, they’ll direct traffic to accommodate the gangbangers or fascist, racist rioters. In the case of 1/6/2021 (we will remember this date like 9/11/2001), off-duty cops participated in rioting and attacking the police who defended the Capitol Building. Some even had the gall to claim “we’re doing this for you” while they attacked the police defending the Capitol.

There is also the fact that, usually, the biker gangbangers are white and look exactly like the goobers who overran the DC capitol police. Occasionally, the bikers will be Hispanic or black and, oddly, they will get pretty much the same treatment as their inbred white “brethren.” Huh? Imagine that. So, even when the police are not on the same side as the lawbreakers, they are terrified of them and, probably, their fellow collaborating officers. In the meantime, the taxpaying public is screwed coming and going.

As Hudson, Wisconsin residents discovered and I noted in “Running from the Outlaws,” when the biker gangbangers show up, the cops vanish. Like many of the DC rioters, the bikers usually have long criminal records which, for no good reason, never seems to prevent them from possessing firearms, threatening the peace and quiet of cities large and small, and appears to make them immune to the laws of the country. Why is that? Two reasons, the cops are terrified of anyone who might fight back in numbers even close to the force the cops might bring and the cops and the bikers/rioters are on the same side of most political arguments.

Bikers & Cops

Two of Trump’s big support groups were (and are) bikers and cops. In a rational world, you’d think that would be totally impossible relationship. We don’t live in that world and I am fast becoming convinced we aren’t an animal capable of rational thought.

I became painfully aware of this odd cohabitation when I taught an “Experienced Rider Course” somewhere in the 2006 time-period. The “students” were 13 Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputies and I was under the delusion that this might be one of the rare ERC classes that wouldn’t be deafening. Usually, ERC groups were biker “clubs” trying to skate through training to obtain insurance discounts for their gang members. Turns out, that’s the deal for training cops, too. Like the Iron Brotherhood gangbangers I wrote about back in 2013, these badged goobers were all-but-one on geeked-up Hardlys with illegal exhausts and more chrome crap than a 1960’s American car. The one exception was a very competent deputy on a Goldwing. The class was deafening, full of attempts to get on to the range without a helmet (against the state and MSF rules), and there were lots of the usual attempts to skip over or ride through the mildly complicated exercises. Maybe 2 of the 13 cops in the class were competent riders, with the Goldwing rider being more skilled by octaves above the other cops. I learned something in that class too, “Don’t expect cops to enforce laws on other biker gangbangers.”

Human history might be no more on the side of the MAGA goons than it will be on the Trump Republicans or the police who have The Long, Painful History of Police Brutality in the U.S. | At the  Smithsonian | Smithsonian Magazinefermented and inspired the white supremist and domestic terrorists that the biker culture best represents or the historically racist and anti-labor police actions of the recent past. Or not. If Hitler and Nazi Germany had won WWII, history would be on their side and we’d all be hearing and telling stories of how brilliant 1940’s Germany was in exterminating non-white people the world over. History is a story told by the winners and we have no idea who the winners will be, yet. Eventually, of course, it won’t matter. We’ll flip the world’s environment into a climate that won’t support human life or the planet will get clobbered by another asteroid extinction level event and none of this will matter. Humans will be gone and whatever life that comes next might not even know we ever existed.

Right now, honestly, that is a kind of comfort. I am so disgusted with my country, with 74 million American citizens who not only voted for fascism twice in 4 years but who so rabidly worship their “great and fearless leader” that they would rather see the nation’s fragile attempt at democracy fail than see their cult leader waddle off into the disgraced sunset (likely to see jail time and his seventh and final bankruptcy).

Jan 4, 2021

“Anybody Can Ride One”

My wife is a morning television addict. We live in a rural area with no over-the-air television available and I’m too cheap for cable, so she watches the late night talk shows in the morning. The irritating noises coming from our living room inspired a hunt for the best noise-cancelling, Bluetooth, in-ear monitors so that I could avoid the morning squawking noise of Seth Myers and Jimmy Kimmel’s dry sarcasm that makes the awful seem even worse. Sometimes she is so inspired by what she sees that she is compelled to “share” it with me. This morning that interruption was inspired by a Kimmel interview with David Letterman. Apparently, Letterman bought Regis Philbin a Vespa scooter under the assumption that “everybody knows how to ride a motor scooter.” Like so many folks on Harleys every summer weekend around the nation, it turns out that assumption is idiotic. Of course, Philbin crashed after traveling a few feet on the scooter. "He could have been killed. He actually could have been killed. The last night before he retires he comes over, and I kill him," Letterman said with a laugh. "... Nobody checked him out on it, because the assumption was, A, anybody can ride a scooter. And B, certainly Regis will ride a scooter."

Back when I was still teaching the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety classes, in 2011, I wrote a Geezer rant I titled “#101 It's Not A #&^%#@ Wheelchair.” I summed up my irritation in that essay with, “My generation seems to have created a lot of people who think the laws of physics can be influenced by money, the legal system, and by a heartfelt ‘I wanna.’ Velocity and acceleration (up or down) are ruthless. Gravity is insensitive to your brittle bones and inflexible joints. You don't get special consideration on the highway simply because traffic is moving ‘too fast’ or you can't muster up the courage to make the bike stop or turn (or keep up with the flow of traffic). Other highway users expect you to ‘drive it or park it.’ Being handicapped on a motorcycle is often fatal.” Almost always, in fact. I don’t know where “anybody can ride a scooter” comes from. Sure, they have small flat wheels that almost balance themselves, but that doesn’t help at all with turning, stopping, or being aware of traffic and hazards and figuring out what to do about those hazards in an emergency.

While my wife was taking a break from her morning television routine, she was reminded of my father and his “scooter experience,” which actually was an electric wheelchair. He’d been house-bound for several years by the symptoms of progressive myasthenia gravis, failing eyesight, and CHF. My step-sister thought it would be good for him to get out of the house and she, Medicare, and the VA bought him an electric wheelchair. For a couple of days, he was like a kid with a brand new motorcycle. He rode that thing around his neighborhood, to the local grocery store, and had a great time. My step-sister, on the other hand, almost had heart failure watching him blindly (literally) barrel through busy intersections and head-on into traffic without a clue that people were dodging him and freaking out at the sight of an overweight old man in an electric wheelchair in the middle of the road. Eventually, some technical issue came up with the wheelchair and he went back to watching his big screen television and 14-hours-a-day of Fox News propaganda. It could have been as simple as the battery being run down, my father was that technically inept, and nobody showed him how to use the charger. When he died, a couple of years later, the wheelchair looked brand new. He proved that it isn’t true that “anybody can ride a wheelchair.”

In the late 1970s, we were living in a small Nebraska town and a friend, the drummer in a band I’d been in, decided he wanted to buy a motorcycle so he could ride with his friends. I was a dirt-only motorcyclist at the time and had been for 15 years, but I helped him find a good buy on a barely-used Honda CX500 Deluxe, gave him a little instruction about how to ride the bike, convinced him to buy a helmet, a decent leather jacket, some boots, and gloves. And off he went. The friends he wanted to ride with were an assortment of cruiser wannabe-biker types with a couple of actual hardcore bikers—prison tats and criminal records and all. None of the be’s and wannabes wore any actual motorcycle gear and they quickly convinced him to dump the helmet, boots, gloves, but he could keep the jacket for cool days. They also “helped” him install ape-hangers and disable the front brake, partly because the stock brake line wasn’t long enough. Not even a whole month into this experience, he flew off of the road in a mild turn, plowed through a barbed-wire fence, and tumbled almost 100’ before he ended up in a tangled heap in a corn field.

His head injury left him with a speech impediment for the rest of his life and other neurological damage that left him pretty much a very young stroke victim. His legs were broken so badly that there was talk about amputating one or both, but they ended up reassembling him with pins and rods so that he could hobble around on his own. Of course, he was no longer a musician. You have to be able to flex everything in your legs and feet to operate a high hat and kick drum and the rest of his coordination and strength wasn’t up to handling the sticks. So, he’s mostly just been a barfly for the last 40 years, luckily he had a significant inheritance to cover his expenses and to provide him with shelter. Like Regis and my father, my friend (and several of his friends over the next few years) proved that it isn’t true that “anybody can ride a motorcycle.”

The industry, of course, has a vested interest in convincing as many people as possible that they belong on an expensive motorcycle that will enhance their lifestyle and self-image. Unfortunately, the so-called “motorcycle safety” industry is usually directly connected to the manufacturers (MIC/MSF, for example) and their vested interests are all about “putting butts on seats” with minimal interference from actual safety concerns. Thanks to them and their efforts, goofballs like David Letterman are deluded into believing the hype and imagining "that anybody can ride a scooter."

Dec 31, 2020

From Diapers to Trikes and Back Again

I live in an old fart’s town in southeastern Minnesota. If you visit one of our remaining mid-Covid plague restaurants on a weekday you’d assume the average age here must be close to 100. On summer weekends, the old fart Minnesota biker crowd might bring that median down to 75 or 80, but it’s pretty much the same people wearing leather and gangster patches. Sans motors, we have some fairly popular bicycle trails and, likewise, the typical person on our bike trails is only slightly younger than the biker crowd. There are few things more scary looking that a trio of old spandex-clad bicyclists attempting to draft each other without clue how to stop, steer, or maneuver around the occasional trail obstacle. The worst of that bunch are on three-wheeled recumbents. Not only do they take up 2/3 of the trail, but they are usually riding those speedy wheelchairs because they are incompetent, demented, or both.

Earlier this summer, I was coming back from a bicycle ride downtown when I rolled up behind a bearded old fart on a Hardly three-wheeler trying to pull away from a stop sign on an uphill grade. Not much of an uphill grade, mind you, but it was more of a challenge than this oldster could manage. While I waited for him to move his hippotrike out of the intersection, it struck me that this was a perfect example of life: we start out in diapers, progress to tricycles, wander around a while, and end up on trikes and back in Depends.

imageWith that in mind, the ads from Polaris, Can-Am, HD, Kymco, and the rest of the three-wheeled power wheelchairs are pretty funny. Like Coke and McDonald’s and Budweiser, the manufacturers want their customers/suckers to imagine ourselves to be young, hip, and fast while the real customer base is about a half-step away from being Medicare-provided Hoveround candidates or electrically powered adjustable hospital beds. [Before I committed to using Hoveround as a baseline, I check that company’s website and found no pictures of young, vital, active people fitted to electric wheelchairs. I have to suspect Hoveround is missing an obvious marketing ploy; selling lifestyle over reality is an American marketing tradition.

imageDepends for Men (or women), on the other hand, isn’t missing any part of that bet. Like Viagra or Cialis, the people pictured in the adult diaper ads appear to be barely old enough to be worrying about boxers or briefs. If you are as young as this guy and you’re worried about crapping or pissing your pants, you shouldn’t be grinning like an idiot. You should be seriously rethinking your life’s choices and/or cursing your flawed genetics. Also, you might be a good candidate for AA or a friendly intervention.

The rush to dump cars and concentrate SUVs has been all about auto manufacturers looking for a way around EPA emissions regulations. Likewise, the Polaris Slingshot and Can-Am’s Spyder are a lame attempt to make a car without the nasty safety, noise, and emissions regulations that encumber actual vehicle manufacturers. If you’ve driven (not ridden) either of these goofy hippotrikes, you know how incredibly lame they are. The upside is that, like those low-slung, noisy cars from The Marching Morons future, they really feel like they are clipping right along when they are barely keeping up with traffic on a rural road. Go-carts have the same effect as does not looking where you are going on a regular motorcycle. When you are sitting right next to the pavement (or looking down at it), a fast walking pace seems like rocketing at near-death speeds. Cruisers provide the same false sense of power and speed, but not nearly so dramatically as when your butt is actually a few inches from the pavement on a trike. They are a long ways from safe, though. I’ve had both of these vehicles tailgating me on our rural county road and they are absolutely invisible in a Nissan Frontier pickup’s rearview mirror. Worse, the drivers appear to have the same entitled opinion of their position in society as the pirate bikers. The only “effort” they seem to be able to make to contribute to their own safety is to illegally mangle their vehicles’ exhaust noise. Hate to break it to you, kiddies, but I can’t hear you inside my pickup with the air conditioning or heater going and the stereo at a comfortable volume. Sound doesn’t work the way you think it works.

Harley Davidson Trike High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - AlamySo it goes that we begin life pooping and pissing in our pants and we end that way. We move from four-wheel baby strollers and being tucked and strapped into car seats (although not when I was a baby). We stop fouling our diapers and progress to our first Radio Flyer tricycle to a bicycle with training wheels to an actual bicycle. After what feels like a few years, we start leaking again. Around the same time, some of us get the urge to abandon the demands of balancing on two wheels and we buy a $30,000 tricycle. That is a huge red flag, because not long after that comes the four-wheel old fart stroller/Hooveround and being strapped into a wheelchair waiting for a nurse to move us to the crapper and back to bed. I recommend not rushing that chain of events. Stay away from the trike as long as possible.

Dec 20, 2020

1,000,000 Hits!

Thanks you for reading my blog for the last decade. It seemed like this benchmark might not ever arrive. The Geezer with A Grudge blog jumped to 500,000 hits pretty quickly, it seemed from my vantage point, and sort of crawled the rest of the the way to one million. That mark on the Google Blogger site arrived in late November and I wasn’t even paying attention.

There must be a thousand articles on the web with titles something like “Blogging is Dead.” For sure, at least from where I live, attracting readers to a blog is a lot harder without a print magazine (like Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly) to help draw traffic. I don’t get near the hate mail I was used to when the magazine was out there drawing fire. I’ve been a columnist for Fast Lane Biker mag for about a year and that venture has pretty much been a bust. Neither of the location where you can find my Geezer columns—GeezerwithAGrudge.com, Geezer on Wordpress, or Geezer on Blogger—have seen any sort of hit increase from my association with Fast Lane Biker. Probably no surprise. Fast Lane is pretty much a hard-core cruiser magazine and I’m still trying to figure out what I’m contributing to that readership.

The 1,000,000 hits were all on Blogger. The Wordpress site is still slowly approaching 100,000 hits, but I get almost no Russians and Chinese spammers and a lot higher percentage of Brits and Canadians on Wordpress. That is a plus on several levels. Unless something miraculous happens with my eyesight and the associated myasthenia gravis symptoms, I’m probably not going to be a motorcyclist again. However, I have 55 years of motorcycling experiences that has barely been tapped in this blog and I’m collecting a lot of insights into many things that affect motorcyclists and bicyclists by putting 3,000 miles on my eBike this past 2 years. I’m not done yet. Thanks for being here.

Nov 30, 2020

Where Could I Go on That?

My wife is worried about me, post-motorcycle ownership. We’ve been together for 53 years and out of 52 those first years I was sans-motorcycle for about five years total. We were young, poor as the servants of church mice, and generally vehicle-less altogether for most of those five years. She still, occasionally, calls me her “motorcycle man.” But I’m not anymore and, likely, won’t ever be again.

On a May weekend this spring, one that was finally seasonably nice, our southeastern Minnesota small town was cursed by the pirates out in their full ear-shattering, trajectory-unstable gory glory (7 motorcycle deaths for the weekend). Even before the coronavirus lock-down began, more motorcyclists had died in 2020 on Minnesota roads than last year, which had the most motorcycle deaths in 24 years. The difference between this year and last is that motorcyclists—responsible riders who do the AGAT thing, can ride competently, and give a damn about their neighbors and communities—are staying off of the roads to avoid becoming a unnecessary load on the already stressed local healthcare systems.

That leaves the highways clear for the bikers and other posers who have none of those socially responsible qualities and couldn’t pass a comprehensive motorcycle license test on a tricycle. Those idiots are falling down and getting run over, riding off of remedial curves over cliffs and into ditches and trees, and even failing to manage competent stops and rolling through stop lights and signs into intersections where they get squashed like bugs. After doing pretty much everything wrong and ending up in a hospital and a wheelchair, the typical biker response is to start whining about “right of way” law enforcement.

Obviously, any complication created by other road users will entangle these idiots, Consistently, the worst drivers/riders/whatever are the goobers on trikes of any sort. The overwhelmingly worst of the trike bunch are on three-wheeled Harleys and the next worst are on three-wheeled Goldwings conversions. The Polaris Slingshot and Can-Am Spyder big spenders are slightly down from that first bunch in overall incompetence and, sometimes, even wear helmets and other gear, but those trike pilots are still are just hopped-up wheelchair trawlers and they generally ride accordingly. There was a perfectly good reason why three-wheeled ATVs were banned in 1988.

When I sold my Yamaha WR250X this spring, the kid who bought the bike commented on a parade of noise-makers going by our house as he loaded up the WR. “My neighbor has one of those Harley trike-things. She had a stroke a couple of years ago and it seems like a good fit for her. She’s pretty brain-damaged.”

“From the mouths of babes,” this 17-year-old pretty much summed up my attitude about three-wheelers and their riders. So, when my wife asked me, “Have you ever thought of one of those things?” My answer was, “Not while I’m still able to think for myself.” After that, who cares?

The reason, of many, for my distain for 3/4 of a cage is “Where could I go on that?” Seriously, what can you do on a three-wheeler that you can’t do on every compact car ever made? Worse, the Slingshot gets 18mpg and the Spyder is in the 30s territory.

Contemplating the current state of decline in both motorcycling and the United States in general, for a brief moment, I thought about Cyril Kornblulth’s The Marching Morons novelette for the zillion-th time since reading that story sometime in the late 50’s:

“The motor started like lighting a blowtorch as big as a silo. Wallowing around in the cushions, Barlow saw through a rear-view mirror a tremendous exhaust filled with brilliant white sparkles.

"Do you like it?" yelled the psychist.

"It's terrific!" Barlow yelled back. "It's—" He was shut up as the car pulled out from the bay into the road with a great voo-ooo-ooom! A gale roared past Barlow's head, though the windows seemed to be closed; the impression of speed was terrific. He located the speedometer on the dashboard and saw it climb past 90, 100, 150, 200.

. . . Watching them, Barlow began to wonder if he knew what a kilometer was, exactly. They seemed to be traveling so slowly, if you ignored the roaring air past your ears and didn't let the speedy lines of the dreamboats fool you. He would have sworn they were really crawling along at twenty-five, with occasional spurts up to thirty. How much was a kilometer, anyway?

We’ve arrived, long before schedule, to Cyril’s predicted future. At least he did ‘t predict flying cars as compensation for being surrounded by the Marching Morons.

Nov 2, 2020

How Do You Know I “Can’t Ride?”

One of the local gangbangers was justifying his noise maker on the grounds of “safety,” and I recommended, as always, that he invest some time in learning how to ride competently. His response was, “How do you know I can’t ride?” A quick look at his social media page had turned up a picture of him on his goober-mobile and it was pretty much what you see in the drawing to the right. So, how do I know he can’t ride?

  1. In this drawing, the “rider”1 is wearing a jacket, boots, and jeans. No helmet, of course. While that isn’t even close to decent protective gear, the real gooberboy’s picture showed him in a wifebeater, lowtop tennis shoes, and a scraggly pony tail. I know he can’t ride because if he could he’d know how fast shit can go bad and how much blood, skin, and mobility he is going to lose when he hits the asphalt.
  2. The bike the dude in the conversation rides is just as disabled as the mechanical junk depicted in this picture. Everything from the feet-forward rolling-gynecologists'-chair riding position to the extended forks to the low ground clearance screams “this is a crash waiting to happen.” Obviously, the rider and the bike are overweight and under-equipped to cope with any emergency. Actions like stopping quickly, swerving to avoid an obstacle, getting up on the pegs to add stability and reduce suspension-load (as if this thing has a suspension), or even turning sharply without running out of ground clearance because of the exhaust parts or hard-mounted foot pegs are all out of this “rider’s” reach because the “design” of the motorcycle is non-functional. I’m not an emergency nurse, but I’d join them in calling this a “murdercycle.” It’s a stage prop, at best, but a completely disabled and incompetent vehicle to the point that it might as well be a trike. You know that “closed course use only” stamp that’s on your illegal exhaust pipe? This vehicle should have “for garage candy use only” written on the tank.
  3. What other clues did I have that led me to assume the character in this story can’t ride? My favorite reason of all, we got into this conversation from one of those “I had to lay’er down” stories. If you know much about me, you know I have no respect for that claim. I don’t care if it is made by some newbie or a motorcycle cop, if you fall down in your attempt to stop, you screwed up. You panicked, screamed, and fell over and tried to sell that as an intentional evasion tactic. Likewise, this goober couldn’t intentionally lay down a motorcycle with help in his garage. Just like the fruitcake in the drawing, he never uses his front brake for ordinary stops, but rides with a finger or three resting on the brake lever and when an emergency happened, he grabbed it and discovered that he had no idea how that brake works. In my character’s situation, that extended fork collapsed with the stress (Surprise!) and his already limited ground clearance vanished and he was instantly metal-on-metal. Then he “laid ‘er down.” Right.
  4. Finally, this ain’t my first rodeo. In my 18 years of teaching MSF courses for the state of Minnesota I taught about 40 of the old ERC (Experienced Rider Course) and a dozen of the renamed version of the same course, the IRC (Intermediate Rider Course). I have suffered the abuse of loud Harley exhausts and spectacular rider incompetence and seen these characters ride straight through obstacle ranges because “my bike can’t do stuff like that” or stop about 20’ beyond the minimum exercise distance because “I’m afraid of the front brake.” There are exceptions, for sure, and they are exceptional. One of the Minnesota Expert Rider instructors is a Minneapolis motorcycle cop and he does amazing things on his huge Harley. Of course, his bike is pretty much bone stock (which makes it the most unusual of all Harley’s on the road). It isn’t loud, it has a functional suspension, and he is a spectacular rider. Otherwise, 99.999% of the time, I can safely assume if you are on a Harley, especially a chopper, you are not a competent rider because you are not riding a competent motorcycle. You might think the stereotype is unfair, but so is life. I love it when someone proves me wrong, but you will be going against the grain when you try.

1 I keep putting “rider” in quotes because I don’t consider these characters in any way in charge of the direction of travel or speed their motorcycle takes. A more accurate description of these characters would be “handlebar streamers.” They are just dangling from the handlebars waiting for a crash to happen after which they’ll whine about how their “right of way” was violated or someone didn’t property sweep the street for debris or some other excuse that no actual motorcyclist would ever claim. When they crash, and they crash a lot, it’s never their fault and someone else is always supposed to get the blame and responsibility.


Oct 30, 2020

What Really Signals the End?

 

Selling your last and only motorcycle is pretty traumatic. From experience, I can say that it doesn’t feel final. You can always buy another motorcycle. And I could, even if nothing I ever own will never be as tricked-out and personalized as my last two bikes. I owned my 2004 V-Strom 650 and 2008 Yamaha WR250X longer than any other motorcycles in my life. I put more miles on a few other bikes, but those two were as close to being “friends” as inanimate objects can be for me; even more so than my guitars or my favorite microphones. Still, if I found myself recovering from this MG thing and felt confident in my ability to go places and return reasonably safely and reliability, I could find a satisfactory motorcycle, saddle up, and ride off into the sunset. It could happen, but it likely won’t.

If you’ve followed the train of my thoughts over the years, you know I’m not fond of being owned by stuff. I own a lot of motorcycle stuff, not even close to the least are my two Aerostich Darien suits. Sandwiched between the two Dariens is a non-descript black armored nylon jacket that my wife liked a lot and a Cortech DSX jacket with the now-extinct Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly logo embroidered on the back. I’ve had the grey Darien suit and the Cortech jacket since 2006, the black nylon jacket for at least 30 years, and the HiViz Darien AD1 prototype and off-the-shelf Darien AD1 pants since 2011. I have put more than 100,000 miles on the pair of Dariens, crashed in sharp gravel and survived in the grey suit, had my lack of attention to traffic rescued by the HiViz suit (more than once), and had hundreds of wonderful conversations started in coffee shops and motorcycle events by the embroidery on the Cortech jacket. (Don’t minimize that last one. I am, by nature, a loner and an introverted  wallflower. Possessing a conversation starter is no small thing for me.) 

Behind those jackets are the last of 3 full coverage helmets in their storage bags. That small group is left over from a pile of on and off-road helmets I gave away when we left Little Canada in 2015. On the bottom of that shelf is a large plastic storage box that houses spare gloves, cold weather gear, storage bags, tank bags, camping gear, and stwo sets of MC boots: my Gaerne Goretex road boots, and a pair of barely-used Icon Patrol Boots.

On the other pole, is the Giant Loop saddle bags for the WR, a couple of Camelback water storage packs, an Aerostich courier bag, and a couple other shoulder bags. In the garage is a toolbox full of special motorcycle tools, an Aerostich wheel balancer, a bead breaker, and a box full of farkles, parts, and stuff I never got around to putting on my bikes before I sold them.

This kind of gear will be hard to get rid of because, as I always told my motorcycle safety students, “Buy the best gear you can afford and buy a motorcycle with whatever money is left.” I did that. So, if I sell or give away my gear, going back to motorcycling will be at least a $2,000 entry fee; before I even look for a motorcycle. At my age, fixed income, and overall motivation level, that resembles an insurmountable obstacle.

Back in the 70s, my riding gear was pretty basic: a 3/4 helmet, lineman’s boots, very lightly armored coveralls, Justin roper gloves, and a set of hockey shoulder pads I wore under my nylon jersey and canvas jacket (in cool weather). In the mid-70s, I blew it out and bought a pair of $100 Malcom Smith ISDT boots and within a month, I’d high-sided and crashed practicing for the weekend motocross and, when the bike landed on my heel as I slid face-first toward a pile of busted-up concrete, I ended up with all of the toes on my left foot broken and had to have that boot cut off. I did not spend big money on gear again until I moved to California in 1983 and, thanks to a wet, cold spring I mail-ordered a brand new Aerostich Roadcrafter and ventured into a life in real motorcycle gear; mostly. I admit, during those early years I occasionally went for comfort and just a simple leather jacket and jeans instead of the ‘Stich, but I have been very lucky for most of my life. By the time I left Colorado in 1995, I was a committed AGAT guy and there have been more than a few times when that habit saved my skin, skull, bones, and life.

I have discovered a different kind of emotional attachment to the riding gear than I had for my actual motorcycles. Obviously, I was closer to the gear, pun intended. I never slept on the bike, but there were more than a few sub-freezing nights that I slept in my Darien suits and a few where the Darien backpad and my gloves provided a picnic table sleeping mattress. Through my gear, I got to meet and become friends with Andy Goldfine, Aerostich’s owner and chief designer, and the crew of that great American company. Over the years, I’ve spent at least $3,000 with Aerostich, attended 3 of their Very Boring Rallies, and used RiderWearHouse as an excuse for an afternoon or weekend ride to Duluth too many times to remember. I bought the Gaerne Goretex boots from Ryan Young, in person, at one of the US Trials Championship rounds at Spirt Mountain in Duluth. At least three of the coolest camping trips I ever enjoyed was done on my Yamaha WR250X with the gear stored in my Giant Loop Coyote Saddlebag. I took my grandson for a 3,300 mile motorcycle trip to, through, and back through the Rocky Mountains—and home again—wearing my Darien. I wore that same suit to Alaska and back, for 13,000 miles in 26 days, in 2007. Again, in 2009 I wore that gray Darien across Canada from Sault Ste. Marie to Quebec City to Halifax where I picked up my wife wearing that black nylon jacket, her luggage, and we slogged 100 miles through the worst rainstorm I’ve ever experienced.

Damn, I have some attachments to this stuff, but someone else will get use out of it and my kids won’t have the slightest idea how to find it a home. I’m gonna have to do it.

Geezer Column October: What Really Signals the End?

Aug 3, 2020

Where Is This All Going?

If there is an upside to the apparent end of my motorcycle life, it might be that I sold the two motorcycles while there was still a market for them. I sold my “big bike,” my 2004 Suzuki V-Strom last spring for pretty much Blue Book list with almost 100,000 miles on the odometer. My Yamaha WR250X went this April for a decent price after two weeks on Craig’s List. I suspect the arrival of the economic stimulus checks had something to do with that sale, although the buyer was a 17-year-old kid from Wisconsin driving a newer pickup than I will ever own.

Rural Minnesota’s coronavirus lock-down isn’t overwhelmingly restrictive and my wife and I have taken a couple of leisurely drives along Wisconsin 35, south toward Lacrosse. With an immune deficiency disease, I’m the posterboy for this disease’s “most likely to suffocate” award. So, we don’t stop where anybody else is standing around, we don’t shop, stop for restaurant food, or spend much money. We’re just breaking the plague quarantine routine for an hour or so. The last time we made that trip, I counted 17 motorcycles for sale parked in yards and driveways in a 40 mile drive. It is a glutted market. The overwhelming majority of bikes for sale are cruisers and the dominate brand on that used market is Harley. 

Harley’s current economic situation, only slightly worse than before the Trump Recession due to a decade of declining sales, is reflective of that change in the seas. Motorcyclists and, especially, bikers are getting older, from a 1985 median age of 27 to a 2003 average of 41 and somewhere between 51 and 60-something (depending on whose stats you trust) by 2020. In the US, motorcycles are just expensive recreational vehicles to 99.9% of riders; most of whom are too incompetent and timid to commute or ride in city traffic. One aspect of those statistics is grossly and incorrectly skewed by the fact that practically every US driver who ever took a motorcycle license test automatically renews that endorsement for a few bucks every 4 to 6 years; because they can without any evidence of riding competence. So, actual rider age is probably lower than those numbers but actual motorcyclists’ numbers are also far smaller than the estimated 10 million households (who are mostly storing a motorcycle under a tarp in the back of a shed). Like that motorcycle endorsement, many bike owners reflexively pay the tabs every year for a motorcycle that rarely travels further than it takes to move it out of the way of the lawnmower or snowblower. 

What does it mean for motorcycling? Hell if I know, but I know a lot of people in the industry are beginning to hedge their two-wheeled bets into other recreational areas.

The owner of Aerostich, Andy Goldfine, has talked a lot over the years about the value of motorcycling to society and he and his company sponsor events that try to illustrate motorcycles utility; like Ride to Work Day. In his blog, Andy talks a lot about the motorcycle market from the perspective of someone whose primary business is selling gear to the tiny percentage of motorcyclists (not bikers) who ride every day and depend on their motorcycle for transportation. That group appears to be shrinking and Aerostich is looking around for their next market. It’s possible it might be serious eBike riders (the fastest growing segment of the US two-wheeled industry).

Our position in the world is reflected by motorcycle data, too. Lance Oliver, in his blog The Ride So Far, reflected on this in his essay, “The U.S. market is increasingly unimportant in the motorcycle world": “Here in the United States, we have a way of making ourselves sound bigger than we are. We call ourselves ‘the Americans’ even though we’re a small part of the Americas and we hold a World Series without inviting other countries to participate. In the motorcycle world, however, it’s impossible to mistake the fact that the U.S. market is becoming smaller and less important with every passing year.” The 2007 Bush Great Recession really illustrated that when a 90% reduction in Honda’s US motorcycle sales resulted in less than a 3% decrease in their world motorcycle sales. The world is growing and the American Century ended at the millennium. Maybe that was the real Y2K bug?

In this country, motorcycling is a lame excuse for “lifestyle goobers” and barely a recreational vehicle. I think that sucks. The old fat guys on Harleys, and their unemployable offspring, have sucked the life out of motorcycling as transportation. Their 500 miles/year posing flat out turns off anyone who might otherwise think a motorcycle is “cool.” Their pirate parades generate more hatred toward motorcyclists than all of the Hells Angel movies ever produced. Their insistence on white privileges without responsibility makes every motorist on the highway want to “unintentionally” wander into a motorcycle’s path just to watch the likely Laugh-In tricycle action. When a pack of biker gangbangers gets squashed on the highway, most people think, “good riddance.”

As cars become safer, quieter, more fuel efficient, tolerating incompetent and arrogant bikers becomes less sustainable. What do we do to try and mitigate that? We slap louder pipes on our lawnmower-motor “hawgs,” collect in even bigger gang demonstrations, campaign for special treatment and even more roadway privileges, and make greater “contributions” to highway crashes and mortality while fighting rational licensing, helmet, and traffic safety laws. Any fool could see where this is all heading, but we’re special fools and we’re going to drive this chopper right over the cliff.

Jul 21, 2020

The High Cost of Overconfidence and Timidity Combined

This kind of “adventure” is sort of asking for trouble (not saying I never did anything this dumb, but I was on a LOT smaller bike when I did), but if you’re going to do it, do it fast.

Jul 17, 2020

PT Hot Tip

On Sunday, I got a really nasty reminder that I’m old. (I know, that’s what mirrors are for.) My wife and I were going for an early morning bike ride and while I was waiting for her to get ready, I attempted to swing my leg over the bike and ended up lying in the middle of one lane of our county road. In a matter of a fraction of a second, I went from feeling pretty good for a 72-year-old man to feeling like someone had driven nails into my left knee. Just before the lights went out, I felt something pop in or near my left knee and the leg totally gave out; toppling me onto my back, bouncing my safely helmeted head off of the asphalt, and leaving me squirming on the road in pain. 

Getting back up without the use of my left leg was difficult. Once I was able to stand, I discovered I could flex my knee without much pain and my general leg strength seemed good. Being a guy, since I had started the day off expecting to go for a bike ride I went for a bike ride. Mostly, I did fine, but every time I stopped getting off and on the bike was painful. By the time I gave up and came back home, my left leg would barely support me and climbing the basement stairs was really painful. 

My wife had a knee replacement last fall and we still have the cold therapy machine the Mayo Clinic sent home with her. I used up a 15 pound bag of ice on the knee for the rest of Sunday. And I did lots of leg lifts with both legs, but especially the left one while I was trapped in a chair with the icing machine. 

The next day, Monday, I boiled my leg in the bathtub, first thing, and hobbled around doing what I could after loosening it up with some flexes, stretches, and leg lifts. Monday was a rough day. Any sort of side-load on the left leg brought shouting-level pain. My wife has struggled with knee pain for years and I was moving almost at her pace for the first time since I had a hip replaced in late 2011. My empathy for her problems and pain has always been moderated by her complete resistance to any serious physical therapy (PT). This injury gave me some direct and personal perspective on the pain she’s experienced, though. 

It wasn’t hard for me to imagine, though, that if this level of pain and disability lasted I might end up being a non-stop whiner. After a day of limping around and getting the occasional shock when I planted my left foot slightly off of dead flat, I was seriously thinking about a peg leg. It would take a lot for me to get used to going up and down stairs slowly and one-step-at-a-time. I mean, carefully lift the right foot to a step while using the handrail for at least 50% of my weight, then lifting the left foot to the same step, pause for pain recovery, and repeat. Between spurts of activity on Monday, I was in a chair, usually re-reading Jim Bouton’s Ball Four for the n-teenth time. Every moment I was in a chair, I was doing leg lifts. By the end of Monday, my leg was feeling much stronger, I had less pain, and it was obvious that my damage was in either a tendon or a muscle; not the actual knee or cartilage in that hinge. That is, by the way, usually the case with knee pain in the beginning. Let the muscle deterioration go one long enough, then you’ll start chewing through meniscus and causing destructive inflammation.  In retrospect, I think I strained or ruptured the lateral collateral ligament. 

Tuesday, I got out of bed, tentatively tested the knee while I sat on the edge of the bed, got up and on with my day, almost normally. By Tuesday morning, I would estimate that I had held my left leg in the air, unsupported by anything but the muscles necessary for that position, for at least 3 hours. For most of the day, I pretty much went through my normal tasks and activities normally. Any time there was a bit more than 10-15o of outside side load (think bow-legged) I’d get a minor twinge reminder that I was still injured. Otherwise, I was most of the way back to normal. To the point that I hiked up our backyard hill to fill the bird feeders and do some construction work on the outside of the house; ladder work, even.

Wednesday, as I write this, I would say I am about 80% back-to-normal. Remember, that is a 72-year-old “normal,” so I’m unlikely to ever be a physical specimen anyone sentient would aspire to. Especially me. At noon today, I have racked up 8 hours of leg lifts since Sunday afternoon. As a matter of fact, my left leg is lifted as I write this and has been almost constantly since I began. 

And that is the “hot tip” I promised in the title of this essay; leg lifts for knee injuries.
 
35 years ago, I was bicycling to work 5-10 miles one-way almost every day in California. After a couple years of that, my knees hurt badly enough that I quit wearing long pants. The weight of the pants on my kneecaps was so painful that I could barely stand it. Like all good Californians, I went looking for an instant fix: surgery. Somewhere in that same period, I crashed my bicycle racing downhill and busted my left collarbone. I went through an extensive period of getting lousy advice from doctors and orthopedic surgeons before I finally lucked into a young sports medicine doctor. My collarbone had been fractured and unstable for almost a month by then and he convinced me that surgery, at this point, would be likely to fail. He prescribed a support brace that was actually strong enough that I wouldn’t be able to shrug is loose. He also gave me a PT routine that involved grinding the edges of the fracture to reopen the injury at the bone to restart the natural healing process. Within a month, the collarbone had fused, although fairly misaligned, and I was back on a bicycle and enjoying my screwed up knees again. I went to that same doctor about my knee pain. 

His advice was, since I spent a lot of my work days in meetings, anytime I’m seated “stick that leg out and hold it there as long as you can.” The idea was that bicycling is mostly an posterior (backside) muscle/tendon activity which strengthens those connective tissue structures until they overwhelm the functions of the anterior (front) muscles. That allows the patella, for example, to wander across the area it has traditionally been positioned, grinding up the ligaments and meniscus. The backside of the patella is grooved from years of wear and blood flow and those grooves align with similar wear on the connective tissue and meniscus. Allowing new position and movement of the patella uses those grooves as a sort of file. [I realize this is a really pitiful explanation of what really goes on. However, it is pretty close to the dumbed-down explanation my doctor provided and how his recommendation might correct my knee pain. 

He also said, if that didn’t work, we could always “try surgery.” 

So, 35 years ago I started sticking my leg out as straight and high as I could get it anytime I was at my desk, in a meeting, at a restaurant, or sitting down for any other reason. 35 years ago, that exercise absolutely fixed my knee pain. Even more incredibly, when I overstressed my knee this past week, a few hours of leg lifts helped me get back to my life in three freakin’ days. Now you know. 

I’ve given this advice to a half-dozen friends with knee pain in the last 30-some years and not a one of them has ever had to resort to knee surgery. On the other hand, I suspect my wife hasn’t done an hour of leg lifts in the last 30 years and she still has knee pain, had a knee replacement last fall that she still describes as “horrible,” and moves with lots of pain and general difficulty. Your choice, I guess. 

Jul 13, 2020

Mufflers Are for Pussies?

A few weeks ago, I wondered why it was so hard for Minnesota city and state cops to figure out how to enforce Minnesota’s vehicle noise laws. Minnesota State Statute 169.69 states: "Every motor vehicle shall at all times be equipped with a muffler in good working order which blends the exhaust noise into the overall vehicle noise and is in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise, and no person shall use a muffler cutout, bypass or similar device upon a motor vehicle on a street or highway. The exhaust system shall not emit or produce a sharp popping or crackling sound. Every motor vehicle shall at all times be equipped with such parts and equipment so arranged and kept in such state of repair as to prevent carbon monoxide gas from entering the interior of the vehicle. No person shall have for sale, sell or offer for sale or use on any motor vehicle any muffler that fails to comply with the specifications as required by the commissioner of public safety." This, of course, is a fairly stupid law that was clearly written to satisfy some federal minimum for noise pollution and clearly does nothing to protect residents from semi-grown children who just can’t get enough attention in any positive way. Minnesota is not alone in the “gutless noise laws intended to do nothing” category. Based on this map, I’d say there are 9 states with enforceable laws (which doesn’t mean they enforce them) and the rest are pretty much lawless by design in this regard. 

I made the mistake wondering this on a local “Ask the Chief” city webpage and got a totally bullshit answer from the Chief, “Yes, the State of Minnesota law covers muffler vehicle noise." But he made it clear that it was the job of local residents to, literally, identify and detain lawbreakers and, then, to prove the vehicle violated the law. So, no, there is no actual Minnesota vehicle noise law and please don’t ask again. 

A side-effect of asking this question was that that a bunch of local bikers got downright hysterical about the thought that someone might think their noise-making was illegal and should be fixed. One of those geniuses said, “mufflers are for pussies” as his justification for needing more attention than spoiled 13-year-old girls. 

Someone else replied, “I thought that’s what Harley’s were for?” And things went downhill from there. It is true that actual motorcyclists scoff at the macho posing of the boys and girls on Harleys. It’s hard to pull off macho when you can’t exit a stop sign competently. 

I do, however, think the second guy was right on the mark. Harley and the cruiser genre only have one defining “feature” to brag about: low seat height. In every other area important to actual motorcyclists, cruisers are deficient or defective. They are, to put it politically-incorrectly, “girls’ bikes.” Not women, but girls. Real women don’t ride Harleys and they don’t mess with handicapped motorcycles. 

The rapidly vanishing American motorcycle market seems to be clueless about where American buyers are today. And bikers are doing their best to drive away any likely new riders with IQs into the mid-double-digits and the kind of behavior that puts the lie to “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” This is from the crowd whose purpose appears to be making as much noise as possible while looking like a sad collection of down-and-out Shriners who either lost their uniforms or couldn’t afford the Knights of Templar suit and the fez. No one with a spec of self-respect would want to join that gang and, apparently, hardly anyone does. 

Way back in 2011, when US motorcycle sales were still not recovering from the Great Recession anywhere near as fast as the rest of the economy, the AMA’s Rob Dingman and the M.I.C. spokesman Peter TerHorst said, “The three biggest problems facing motorcycling today is noise, noise and noise.” That was the last gasp of reality from the AMA. The gangster crowd, who probably don’t amount to a tiny fraction of the AMA membership, scared the AMA “leadership” into abandoning this issue and losing even more members over the next decade. Since disclosures about the organization’s bleeding money in the early part of the last decade, the AMA has been really aggressive about courting members and really reticent about telling members how the “organization” is doing. In this case, I think it’s safe to say that “no news is bad news” and I doubt that I know a single AMA member among the hundreds of motorcyclists I know. Of course, none of my friends ride so badly they need noisemakers to let the world know an incompetent is in the area.

Jul 6, 2020

Socially Responsible Motorcycling? When?

About one third of Minnesotans had been obeying the state’s social distancing rules by the time the rules started going away. Even fewer bother with masks, especially outside of the Twin Cities, and that two-thirds who aren’t taking any more precautions than they did back in January. Of course, they  are constantly whining that the “the rules aren’t working.” Rules, of course, only work when people obey them. Which brings us to motorcyclists.

Thanks to some slimy legislation promoted by Minnesota ABATE in 1982, the minimal contribution Minnesota motorcyclists make to the state’s highway funds comes through gas taxes. Fees collected for motorcycle endorsements pay for motorcycle safety training exclusively, which is mostly wasted money. Minnesota uses the MSF program which has steadfastly refused to subject its training program’s outcome to any sort of evaluation. In fact, MSF instructors are cautioned not to tell “students’ that there is any relationship to the MSF’s training and becoming a safer motorcyclist. Based on my own 18-year experience as an MSF instructor, I believe the training we provided was as close to the absolute minimum possible to hand-hold the least capable riders through the endorsement test. In other words, we put a lot of butts on seats, which is what the MIC/MSF are all about. So, our every-4-year endorsement money pays for a barely-used bureaucracy and the few hundred miles a year the typical Minnesota motorcyclist rides generates a few bucks in gas taxes to pay for the roads we ride’ and crash on, to great taxpayer expense. In 2018,  the estimated economic cost to Minnesota for motorcycle crashes was $1,875,540,500. The numbers aren’t in for 2019’s even higher number of crashes and fatalities, but they will be soon. As of early June, we’re on our way to setting a new state motorcycle fatality record in 2020.

Back in 2013, I compiled a database of miles traveled by collecting odometer readings from Craig’s List ads across the country. One of my readers transferred that to Google Docs format and readers/riders from across the country entered data. Eventually some asshole decided to crash the spreadsheet/database, but by then I had learned that the typical motorcycle gets ridden about 1,400 miles a year with a strong modal average at about 750 miles. Most people who call themselves “bicyclists” beat those road miles by a long ways well into their 70s.

So now that, as a society and thanks to the novel coronavirus, we’re asked to reduce our exposure to each other and to try and reduce the load and risk on our healthcare system what are motorcyclists doing? The usual, anything but something useful. I should rephrase that statement, motorcyclists are doing what they usually, being careful, going AGAT, and maintaining a small social and environmental footprint.

Bikers are the problem. Bikers are out in force, riding in their underwear, protected by magical napkins on their bald heads, making as much noise as possible, and spewing fuel and mayhem where ever they go. Bikers, on the other hand, are proudly members of the two-thirds of Minnesotans who could give a flying damn about anyone else. Their biker “rights” so grossly overwhelm any responsibility they might accept for their actions that they are beginning to attract attention from the public and, sooner or later, legislators.

As of early June, 2020, 29 people have died on motorcycles on Minnesota roads and highways; the majority are single vehicle crashes and the overwhelming majority are the pirate biker crowd. We’re on track to beat or equal the previous 1985 high for the state’s motorcycle deaths. I guess we’re “lucky” that attention has been diverted from our fatalities to Covid-19’s devastation. Bikers aren’t happy with losing that focus, though. In my small town, we have had multiple biker gatherings that are practically begging to be viral hotspots and, when they are, I’m sure we’ll hear all sorts of whining about “government tracking” when the bikers get the blame for spreading Covid-19. In our area, restaurants have been allowed to reopen with outdoor seating and decent spacing, but our local biker bar is flaunting all of that and their customers are dragging tables together and making a show of pretending to be tough boys and girls. From what I’ve seen (and experienced with asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia) I suspect that tough façade will collapse about the time they can’t breathe. Drowning in your own fluids is the ultimate waterboarding.

Imagine the attitude of overworked and stressed healthcare workers working without adequate PPE, staff, and other resources when some dill-hole in a pirate outfit is wheeled into an emergency room suffering injuries from recreating on a motorcycle. Do you really think people who label bikes “donorcycles,” “murdercycles,” and a collection of other even more graphic derogatory names are going to be happy to risk their lives on people who are too lazy and arrogant to even bother with a helmet? Do you think they should be required to care more than you do? Good luck with that. If your argument is “they knew what they were signing up for,” get ready to hear “right back at you big, bad bikerboy.” At the least, they are going to take special joy in scraping the rocks and asphalt from your road-rashed ass.



This video is of a New York biker gangster funeral procession back in early April. On their website, these characters claim they were “social distancing and being responsible.” You judge.