May 18, 2016

Precious Children?

mallory-torres-kid-bike-fbRider’s Digest ran a little piece based on a picture and some kickback from people seeing this example of child abuse on a Texas freeway (“Precious Children Revisited”). I’ve made it pretty clear how I feel about kids on motorcycles in the past—with “I Hate Racing” and “Parental Responsibility”—and I don’t feel any different today. Obviously, some folks think their right to permanently scar their children, physically and emotionally, overrides the concerns of the “nanny state,” whatever that is.

There are more things that I don’t understand than things I do, by a really big number. Putting children at risk is one of them. I don’t get the payback. I’m not in any way arguing that kids should be kept in padded rooms, prevented from playing outdoors, experimenting with their capabilities, playing sports, or even fooling around with the opposite sex. However, this picture of a small child with her heels inches from a sticky sportbike’s tires, clinging for dear life is none of that. Your mileage may vary.

May 14, 2016

Down the Drain, the Oily Drain

Back in 2009, I put in about 3,000 miles between the Twin Cities and my North Dakota ghost town tour. Having spent a couple of days in the state on the way to Alaska in 2007 and a few more on the way back and falling in love with the place, it is really painful to see how badly the state has fared with its oil wealth. Lee Klapprodt worked hard, back in 2009, to convince me that the state would do the kind of job protecting its natural resources from oil and coal that no other state or country had ever managed. I was dubious then and am really sad to see that I was right. Nobody in the history of humanity has ever forced miners to behave ethically and now that miners are wrapped in corporate protections they are even more corrupt, ruthless, and vicious.

When my wife and I took our 2013 “goodbye to our Rialta” trip to ND, Bismarck was the western limit of our visit. I’d read horror stories about the fracking and associated pollution surrounding Teddy Roosevelt National Park and didn’t have the heart to witness that desecration. I’m not sure I’d be willing to go that far today. Anyone visiting North Dakota could see that it is a fragile place with limited water resources, a large number of subsistence rural communities, and an environment that was terribly damaged by farming and would be even more easily destroyed by Big Oil.

One of the worst things about getting old is the number of places to which I can never return. I can’t go home again. I can’t swim in Southern California’s Pacific Ocean. I can never expect to see uncorrupted plains, Badlands, and wild rivers without oil scum in North Dakota.

May 13, 2016

Three A Day?

On the back page of this month's Cycle World I learned that Allstate and a few other insurance companies have joined forces with something called the "Rider Protection Project" to let us know that motorcycling is dangerous. Their "shock notice" is that "three riders die at intersections every day." My first reaction was a little surprise that there are that many riders on the road every day. I know, "shame on me."

Allstate is putting a little money into "Watch for Motorcycles" signs at particularly hazardous intersections. They've also created a Facebook page called the "Rider Risk Map" where riders can submit a vote for particularly dangerous intersections.

I honestly do not know what to think about this project.
Three motorcyclists die at intersections every day.
- See more at:
Three motorcyclists die at intersections every day.
- See more at:
Three motorcyclists die at intersections every day.
- See more at:

Apr 24, 2016

Old Stuff, But Good

I'm a big Keith Code fan, regardless of the Scientology BS. This is an old one, but worth getting through. Twist of the Wrist was one of the most useful things I read about street riding. After 30 years off-pavement, I had a lot of bad habits to overcome and Code's theory helped with that . . . a lot. I have always wished that the MSF program was closer to the detail of the Superbike Course than the minimal training it is.

Apr 4, 2016

#125: I Hate Racing

geezerAll Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

That title got your attention, didn't it? Let me be more specific: I hate (as in “can't watch”) a specific sort of motorcycle racing. I love motorcycle racing, except when kids are doing it. When a stadium motocross is broken up (too often literally) with a bunch of 8-year-olds plodding around a motocross track, smashing into each other and the track obstacles, I have to be somewhere else. I can't watch. Likewise, I can't watch movie torture scenes, horror movies of any sort, much of anything by Disney or Lucasfilm, and romantic or sex scenes that last longer than a handshake. I'm a lightweight, I admit it.

This isn't a new thing for me. I have never liked any of the big three of what we call "organized sports" for little kids: Pop Warner football, Little League baseball, or youth hockey. Motorcycle racing for little kids combines everything that is dangerous and useless in all of those sports into one injury-plagued, little-league-Dad-hyped, emergency-room-filling sport. I did not encourage my kids to ride motorcycles or play any organized sports, although I have always been a sports fan. Neither of my daughters or my grandson have been inspired to ride a motorcycle (although my oldest daughter is seriously considering a scooter this summer), but they have all been involved in a variety of sports: skateboarding, cross-country and marathon running, triathlons, baseball, and archery. If they'd have expressed an interesting in motorcycle racing, I'd have recommended they get serious about bicycling and, once they were good enough on self-powered two-wheels, we'd talk about a motorcycle. So far, bicycles have been more than enough two-wheeling for all of my kids and I'm fine with that. Motorcycling is not for everyone. Motorcycle racing is for hardly anyone.

Kids find enough ways to bang themselves up without having some nutball parent urging them to do dumber, more dangerous stuff to fill in the spaces in Dad's sadly unfulfilled life. No body needs to see good-'ole-dad raging at some pimpled-up teenage kid who was foolish enough to play referee at one of those half-pint gladiator events. The only life-lesson to take away from most little kid sporting events is that most people should not be allowed to reproduce; that goes double for the infamous little league dads. They shouldn't even be allowed to watch other people reproduce.

When kids like Peter Lenz (13), Jake Wilson (5), and ,even, Darrel Davis (16) and Oscar McIntyre (17) are pushing the limits of sanity, I'm not into watching it. I'm not trying to say they shouldn't be allowed to race and risk their lives. I'm just saying I don't want to watch. I don't like seeing anyone get hurt on a race track, but I'm just not up for seeing kids hurt . . . period. I don't watch races for the crashes, I watch racing for the passes, for the battles in the corners, and for the strategy. I don't want to see anything more exciting than a low-side that results in a racer sliding harmlessly into the gravel runoff and, at most, harmlessly bumps into the air fence.

About ten years back, when I was producing a cable show called "Motorcycling Minnesota," I took my grandson to the Dome to watch a Supercross. Ricky Carmichael was on top of his game and the cast of characters who pushed him to AMA Hall of Fame status were on hand. The first heats were terrific and we were enjoying our great press booth seats and the free food and booze when the half-time "entertainment" turned out to be a couple dozen kids pretty close to my grandson's age riding tiny minibikes around part of the pro course. The whoops amounted to large hillclimbs for some of those kids and the course was excessively difficult for the majority of the kids. They high-centered at the top of the whoops and fell over, they nose-dived into the troughs and fell over, they crashed into each other and a couple of kids crawled off of the course in obvious pain and likely injuries. Dads were incensed and a couple of kids got yelled at for crying after crashing. After thirty years of loving motocross, I lost my taste for the sport. Neither I or my grandson have thought twice about going back for another Supercross event since.

Kids don't need to start early to be great at most sports. There are exceptions, like gymnastics and . . . I can't think of any others, but for every "I got into ____when I was four and went on to be world champion" story there are 10,000 "by the time I was nine I hated ____ and hung up my helmet/shoes/skates/bat/hat for the last time" sad tales. For every Valentino Rossi (his failed racer dad started him on karts and motorcycles when he was 8 and put him on a motorcycle racetrack at 11) there are a half-dozen Bob "Hurricane" Hannah's who said, "My father was against racing. He did not mind me riding, but at the same time he didn’t want me getting hurt. So I never raced until I was 18 years old and living on my own."

For more than a year, the AMA peppered me with press releases about how we motorcyclists needed to campaign Congress to overturn the 2009 ban on lead in kids' toys, which included the batteries and other components in motorcycles made for kids. I even took a little editorial heat about consistently finding "more important" things to report in All the News. Sorry, I can't give a damn about manufacturers having difficulty selling crippling "toys" to kids. I think they deserve all the political expense, legal liability, and moral suffering they experience for those products. Eventually, crazy heads won the day and kids were back on their "donor machines," but at least I didn't make a contribution.

In 1988, in an article titled "Controversies about intensive training in young athletes" a pair of British doctors argued, “Young athletes are not just smaller athletes, and they should not become sacrificial lambs to a coach’s or parent’s ego.” To put a fine point on that statement, "young athletes" are our children and should be allowed to be kids without the pressure of imagining themselves to be the future of a sport or their parents' retirement plan. Even more important, if you expect me to pay big money to attend a sporting event, do not torture me with a gladiator kids event at half-time. I'll take a gymnastic display of cheerleaders over gutted and busted-up kids anytime.

Mar 23, 2016

Reading Issues

The editor of Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly got confused last month and pulled an article from the blog (instead of the cloud folder I created for him) and published Being Customer Hostile in the March issue of MMM. For starters, this was a pretty old essay (2007), written after the disappointing turnout for the last World Round in Duluth. The month after MMM's editor pulled this one from the blog to use in my monthly "Geezer with A Grudge" column, Victor Wanchena (MMM's publisher" wrote this in his own magazine:

Letter From A Reader
Dear MMM, 

 I read Thomas Day's Geezer with a Grudge column "Being Customer Hostile" last month and was surprised by his lack of understanding of the sport of Observed Trials. For someone as "experienced" as Thomas his whining about having to walk to a section, read a map, or needing to have a basic understanding of the competition he was watching was both funny (in a sad way) and another example of his apparently faltering mind. 

In previous columns Thomas has bemoaned the laziness of the American rider, but now the one time he's asked to walk as a spectator he is outraged. He thinks the rules and set up of the events is designed to make it intentionally difficult for spectators but offers no evidence of that other than his poor understanding of the sport. And then he decends into one complaing after another for some undecipherable reason. His sweeping generazations about the sport, the riders, and the spectators only reveals his ignorance. 

 I ask the question, why is Thomas really mad at Trials. Is he intimidated by a sport he isn't competing in? Is he looking to pick a fight with the most obscure group of riders he can find so he can act tough, but doesn't get buried in hate male? Or is he just trolling becauses he knows the publisher of MMM is a long time trials rider" 

Victor Wanchena 
Concerned Reader

So, I wrote back:


 There must be something about the work you do that makes you read between the lines and misinterpret. Bruce snagged that one from my blog , which is where all of my slag stuff (and previously published stuff) goes. I'd written that bit about trials not long after the last world round in Duluth and I was really disappointed, again, at the lousy turnout and general level of confusion spectators experienced. I hadn't looked at that one since I wrote it and scheduled it, about 5 years in advance, for the blog. I have no idea why Bruce went to the blog for material. I have a slush pile of stuff specifically written in MMM on the Dropbox folder. It's nothing new, of course. In the US, observed trials can't draw flies and some of that is due to the fact that promoters, participants, and other so-called "interested parties" don't seem to give much attention to spectators, especially non-off road savy spectators.

Here's what I wrote about my experience, "I walked by more than a few frustrated spectators on the Saturday event who were patiently waiting for riders who wouldn’t come for another 24 hours. When I mentioned them to one of the checkers, he muttered something about 'fuckin’ rubes' and went back to examining his navel until the first batch of riders arrived. When I walked my dog back to the stranded spectators and told them the real section was just a couple hundred yards down the trail, they decided it would be more productive to head back to the Aerostich rally and watch a few of the presentations in the air conditioned chalet. To be honest, I had some of the same inclinations after waiting for an hour and a half for the expert and pro riders to get to sections 4 & 5. I’ve been putting up with the rock and roll star character of observed trials for 40 years and the prim donna attitude toward spectators still gets to me. (Just like waiting until 9:15 for an 8:00 show to start will remind me of why I rarely spend much money to watch a rock show in my impatient old age.)"

If that reads to you like "the one time he's asked to walk as a spectator he is outraged," I'm not going to expect you to get me at all when I'm really outraged. I was walking and riding sections when you still assumed "trials" were what put people in jail. Hell, you might have still been in diapers in 1974, when I bought my first official trials bike. At that particular event, I was lugging 40 pounds of HiDef video camera and audio recording gear with me. That won't happen again. Any day now, walking will become something I don't much because with a fake hip and another going away, a bum foot, one heart attack in the bag and lousy genetics putting more in my future, and my 70th birthday on the horizon, don't expect big miles out of me ever again. I quit backpacking, permanently, three years ago and we'll see if tent camping is still something I do this year. I don't write between the lines, so anything you think is implied in my words is self-generated. Personally, I'd have been more outraged at the attitude of the civil-servant-attituded checker who didn't give a shit that spectators couldn't figure out how to see anything but the B-team. I don't know if you paid any attention to that last world round, but it was a big money loser for the organization.

Some of the inspiration for that essay came from a video taped interview I did with Martin Belair a couple of years after Honda had withdrawn his Honda Montesa trials distributorship. I learned more about the US trials disorganization in that interview than I wanted to know. Not long after that, he left trials, supposedly, for good and asked if I'd take down the MMM interview from both my blog and MMM's site (I didn't) and that I not air his portion of the trials Motorcycling Minnesota program I was editing (I decided to can the project). In case you're still confused, I had no problem reading the map, figuring out the rules (that the observers too often ignore), or sorting out the schedule but I couldn't figure out from your "sweeping generalizations" about my essay what the hell you were talkiing about. I can not figure out why you would pretend to be a "Concerned Reader" and not actually read the magazine you own. Could it be a "faltering mind" issue?

I went to every US and World event in Duluth and when I lived in California and Colorado I saw another couple of world rounds and several US rounds. Back in the 70's I had the world's worst trials bike, a Suzuki RL250, and I was an active member of the MWTA for several years. I love the sport, but the difference between a US event and a rest-of-the-world event is night and day. Being pissed off at spectators who can't figure out the maze of weirdness that is characteristic of our events probably won't fix much of that.

Thomas Day
Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly Magazine
The Rider's Digest Magazine

Could be my last MMM article, but at my age I'm experiencing a whole lot of "lasts" this year. Every year, I think a little more about what sort of convertible I'll buy when the motorcycles are gone and I have extra garage space. Weirdly, between the MMM and Rider's Digest backlog and the dozens of weird things I've still got in the queue, I'll be posting stuff on this blog until late 2017 if I kick the bucket tomorrow.

Victor has done a weird disconnected rant about one of my articles he's picked for publication before, so maybe we've about run our course for this Geezer thing in MMM. It's been a good run, since my first article What Are We Riding For? in October of 1999. The last time he threatened to tear up my yard with his blimpmobile KTM for some damn misreading of my column. It's getting a little weird and life is weird enough without searching for it.

Likewise, this might be my last year teaching MSF classes, after last year's fascia plantar fiasco that cost me about 3/4 of my planned teaching season. The foot is better, but it's not back anywhere near good and I have no expectations that it will be ever again. My patience with the whole teaching thing is waning and pain isn't helping things. This year, I've booked 4 classes instead of my usual 16-20. We'll see if I can get through that few.

One one of the above-50F weekend days this month, I went to the Red Wing MSF range and ran through the exercises a few times. I was ok, not great but competent. The practice gave me some time to think about what would make me quit riding. Or, more to the point, a decent, reasonably safe, measure with which I can use to decide it's tine to quit. The day I flub one of the exercises in the Basic Rider Course is the day I give it up. The BRC and the state's motorcycle exam are so far from the benchmark of rider competence that those tests and exercises should be used as an absolute dead minimum cutoff for riding. If I struggle with those minimal skill requirements, I'm not competent to ride on the streets. Your mileage may vary, but mine won't.

The MMM version of the article is here, Maybe Victor's just fishing for comments?

Mar 9, 2016

The Good Old Days

New Picture

This fine piece of history appeared on MN’s Craig’s List today. I have to admit I have a soft spot in my head/heart for these old Yamaha Monoshock two-strokes. Where that hardens is illustrated by this almost-like-new motorcycle. It needed a “fresh top end” with only 2300 miles on the odometer. Those look like vintage tires, too.

Feb 25, 2016

Harbor Freight Low Profile Motorcycle Dolly

All Rights Reserved © 2015 Thomas W. Day

bike_dollyThis is my exit and the garage is 8' wide, so turning around in the garage is not possible.

Imagine that you own a near-500-pound motorcycle, that you are old and worn down and out, that the exit from your garage is uphill and covered in large gravel, and that your bike garage is barely 8' wide. You can't practically ride the bike in to the garage and turn it around on the smooth garage floor. You can't back the bike out, up the hill and through the river rock, backwards without pushing the limits of your old legs and bad heart. What would you do? In my case, there is no imagination required. The picture at left is exactly what I see every morning when I roll my bike out of the garage into a fairly high traffic county road. When we first moved to Red Wing, the bikes had to go into this garage and I practically killed myself moving the V-Strom back out in the spring so that I could get on with the garage overhaul.

bike_dolly2The Bike Dolly from the sidestand side. The V-Strom is almost long enough to force the ramps down, which would prevent the dolly from moving freely.

The solution was a bike dolly, but an early search of the options produced a collection of $250-and-up devices obviously designed for a lot more mass-movement than I needed for my 650 V-Strom. While I was working on the garage, I kept looking until the Harbor Freight "HaulMaster 1250 Lb Capacity Low Profile Motorcycle Dolly" showed up on one of the email sale flyers at $89 plus $7 shipping. I ordered it and promptly received an email telling me my early-May order had been backordered for an expected late August delivery. What the hell? I let the order ride and went back to work on the garage. Over the next couple of months, I stopped in at a couple of Harbor Freight stores and learned that none of the Cities or outlier stores had a bike dolly on the floor as a demo. When one showed up, someone always bought it before the store could get it unboxed. In early July, I discovered my backorder had self-cancelled. So, I called Harbor Freight and asked what I needed to do to get the damn thing back on order? The nice lady resubmitted my order and told me the dolly was on sale that week for $69 delivered. A nice surprise. I gave her my credit card info and less than a week later a large and very heavy box was waiting for me on the back deck when I got home from a Saturday motorcycle class.

bike_dolly3The Bike Dolly needed one modification, which this picture sort of demonstrates: the traction pad at the bottom of the ramp "foot."

It should come as no surprise that the dolly comes unassembled. The instructions are reasonably clear and the assembly is insanely simple, so in about fifteen minutes I was rolling the dolly down the driveway toward my new garage floor.  I've used it fairly often for about 6 months now and, mostly, I'm really satisfied with my purchase.

bike_dolly4The casters are probably sufficient for my 475 pound V-Strom, but I'd question their ability to wheel the rated 1250 pounds. They are dual-wheel, stamped sheetmetal frame ball-bearing casters, but they're prone to hanging up on small obstacles and I expect one or more of the casters to fail in the first year of use. The galvanized ramps tend to slide, so I put a strip of adhesive-backed hard foam rubber on each to keep them in place when I'm loading the bike. Unloading is no problem. The bike dolly is close to short on my 61 inch wheelbase V-Strom and the ramp would be stuck in the partially-down position if the bike were an three or four inches longer. Something to consider.

Piddling gripes aside, for about $75 delivered, this is one hell of a deal. All of the competition is $100 to $400 more expensive and they all do the same job the same way. If I were giving stars with my reviews, I'd give this tool 4 out of five (the casters are the lost point). 

NOTE: And right now it’s back on sale for $75.

Feb 10, 2016

Why Can't We All Just Get Along?

Motorcyclist Online just posted this rant, " Your Bike Sucks! (Or, How NOT To Enjoy Motorcycling)No tolerance for people who dislike the variety of motorcycling." There is some grist to chew on here. Motorcycling is not just a group activity and many motorcyclists are purely on two wheels for functional reasons. Some of us simply think motorcycles are excellent transportation. I can easily see why someone who bought a bike to get from point A to point B without spending a lot of money or taking up a whole traffic lane would be damn tired of all the gauntlets other motorcyclists seem to think we're supposed to put up with. I can see getting tired of reading about motorcycles that are of not interest ("articles" that are barely more than advertisements). All of that in mind, it's not a stretch to get to being “sick of taking s—t from the Harley crowd because we prefer to ride something that is going to bring us back home at the end of the ride" and cancelling a subscription and killing the online feed.
It's no stretch for me to imagine Motorcyclist's editor being an asshole about losing a subscriber and not having the grace or common sense to avoid losing a few more with his response. About a decade ago, I wrote my last article for Motorcyclist and haven't picked up a copy copy since the editor at the time fired off a similar jackass response to someone who was sick of the magazine's insistence that every test bike needed a noisier pipe and some pointless engine fiddling before it was fit to ride.
On the other hand, the fact that motorcyclists are in no way a coherent group is why here in Minnesota there are hundreds of miles of trails paralleling state and county roads open to ATVs and snowmobiles, but closed to motorcycles: licensed or not. We are exactly like Will Rogers' political affiliation, "I belong to no organized political party, I'm a Democrat." We have industry groups fighting against our best interests like the AMA and MIC and rider groups doing even more damage like ABATE, but intelligent, supportive, practical motorcycle rider organizations are non-existent. It's a mystery that I won't live long enough to solve.

Jan 25, 2016

#123 Unnecessary Evil?

All Rights Reserved © 2012 Thomas W. Day

In a recent long, sometimes emotional, occasionally irrational discussion about the superiority/inferiority of belts, drive shafts, and chains, the comments from a few of the MMM regulars illustrated how much we humans dislike maintenance. It's messy, it takes time away from riding and other more exciting activities, and it is boring. At my age, maintenance is also painful. Getting down on my garage floor to inspect low-lying components like the chain, oil-drain and filter, wheels and tires, and practically everything below the height of the seat is a gamble. After every service interval, there is a good chance that I'll be squalling, "Help! I'm a turtle and I can't get up!"

I teach a class called "Studio Maintenance I." In the class introduction, I introduce the concept of maintenance to people who have often never touched a tool and describe how that practice effects a recording engineer's performance and economic success. That discussion breaks studio owners' maintenance attitudes into three basic categories:
  • Maintenance is something I only do when things break and I can’t get out of calling a tech.
  • Maintenance is something I do to prevent equipment from failing at critical moments.
  • Maintenance is what I do to add value to my studio’s sound quality and reputation.
I think you can apply those statements to motorcycle maintenance with a little modification.
Maybe it's because my life was permanently altered when I read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Maybe it's because I worked as maintenance tech, manufacturing and design engineer, manufacturing manager, and tech services manager for more than half of my life. Maybe it's because I have a mental disability that prevents me from walking by broken stuff without feeling a compulsion to fix it (Unless it's plumbing. I hate plumbing.). Whatever the reason, I can't help but think something vital is missing in a culture (or cultures) that does not feel the need to do basic maintenance. 

One of the key consumer features of all modern products is the disposability of those products. Most electronic devices are completely impractical to repair under all conditions. Car dealer service techs regularly yank an in-warranty motor and replace it with a whole assembly rather than fool with complicated diagnostics and repairs. Years ago, I discovered that motorcycle manufacturers dump their inventory of critical spares as soon as those parts cost more to store than they make from sales. When I reviewed the Honda 2011 Honda VT1300CT Custom Interstate last fall, I was astounded to see that Honda had entirely scrapped the idea of a tool kit because they considered the entire motorcycle to be "not user serviceable." Because of the market that bike was intended to "serve," their other assumption was that those users would be too incompetent and lazy to perform the most basic maintenance.

That's a pretty strong statement Honda and others are making about us. If they are right, we're not far from losing our right to claim we are a "tool using" species. No Wilbur, tapping "whr r u" on your smart phone does not mean you are either a tool user or smart. There is a pretty good chance that Honda's bet will backfire on them, too. One of the activities that has formed and inspired the best young engineers and budding scientists is learning how to maintain machines or all sorts. If motorcycles become maintenance-free, in a few years the fools who mismanage the world's manufacturing companies may find there is no one who can actually build them. If we were to wait for an MBA to build something useful, we could be stationary for centuries. In fact, just before we all starve to death, it's possible that the world might discover that scientists and engineers are the primary "job creators" worldwide.

Knowing enough about our machines to recover from the average minor breakdown is an absolute necessity for anyone hoping to make use of an "adventure touring" bike. You aren't going to suddenly develop those skills after your bike tosses off bits of your "maintenance free" drive belt after the rear tire spits a small rock into a pulley. In fact, if you aren't already in the habit of doing fairly major maintenance, you won't have the necessary tools available to repair the simplest problems on the road. One nasty side-effect of doing your own maintenance is accumulating a collection of tools. Unlike the sometimes-small odds that you'll experience headaches, birth defects, insomnia, anxiety, and/or tremors with prescription medications, you will contract tools if you do maintenance. Owning tools isn't evidence that you are a tool user, but not owning them proves you aren't one. 

I can't disagree that cleaning and lubing a chain is sometimes an unrewarding task. Checking and adjusting modern bucket-and-shim valve lifters is about as exciting as homework. Balancing injectors or carbs is mundane and uninspiring. For some of us, just cleaning a bike is painful. Carefully looking over every fastener from the footpegs to the wheels to everything holding the motor together and to the frame is the kind of work many of you would assign to the step-child you want to leave home first.

You can argue that you can't have a major mechanical problem because you never ride more than fifty miles from home. There is some truth to that. You pick your poison and you live or die with the results. Lucky for me, most days fiddling on a bike in the garage by myself is the best part of the day. Rolling out of the tent early in the morning and going through my maintenance routine is part of how I figure out how the rest of the day is going to go. When I stop for food or fuel, I go through a similar checklist while the bike is warm and the tires are hot. At night, before I settle down for the evening I have a different schedule of things to check. When all of those processes are working right, I ride almost fearlessly. I feel closer to my motorcycle and more like we're in this together. When something screws with some or all of my routine maintenance, I am clinging to the bars worrying about what is likely to fall off or blow up until I stop and do the work.

Your mileage may vary. Apparently, it likely does.

Jan 19, 2016

Toxic Shock Cure

Thirty years ago, I was a smart-assed, upper-management young man with an attitude and with no clue who I was or who I’d become. Purely by chance, “opportunity,” and bad luck, I’d ended up in a job with a few more than 100 employees, a two million dollar department budget, four bosses, and absolutely no interest in being in that position. It’s not like I had designs on the CEO or CFO’s jobs. I didn’t even want my own job. I was working 50-70 hours a week, desperately hanging on to my pipedream of getting a bachelor’s degree of some sort before I left California, the sole support of my 3-dependent family, running two garage music-services businesses of my own, and heading down the path of severe burnout at light speed.

One of my employees complained that all I and my manufacturing engineer ever did was bitch, but he was a 9-to-5 guy who arrived at work 3-4 hours after we’d begun our day and left when we were taking our first break of the day. When his day finally came and he took over Manufacturing from me, the first thing he did was begin to move all manufacturing processes to China where he could visit/vacation occasionally and pretend to be in charge while real manufacturing people did the nasty, day-to-day job of making products. Don’t get me started on bullshit Trump-lies about how Americans just won’t do manufacturing jobs or that equally idiotic anti-union crap. The problem is, and always has been, that American mismanagement is incompetent, lazy, and always takes the easiest way out of actual management. Me included.

Actually, I didn’t hate managing manufacturing, but I despised having to manage the people above me. Selling them on every idea or process improvement always meant convincing them that it was their idea. Something that took more time than it was worth and provided me with absolutely no value. And so, after five years of fighting this battle, I was done. Burned out. Ready to abandon ship and get the hell out of Dodge (or, in this case, our Huntington Beach, CA apartment and my job in Costa Mesa). I had interviews lined up, a fairly good job offer in the can, and was about ready to jump ship when the four upper management guys called me in and gave me an ultimatum: quit, get fired, or take a minimum of 10 days vacation before they and I decided what to do long term. They even gave me $3,000 to vacation with, if I left that week.

They even offered their own time-shares in Hawaii and Arizona, but I knew what I needed was some kind of “roughing it experience.” I spent the money on a 14-day Outward Bound mountaineering course in Yosemite National Park. I’d wanted to take on that park since I moved to California but work didn’t allow the time and my family of three poor-traveling women (especially my wife) made the whole “family vacation” concept impossible. Without asking permission from anyone, I was gone that Friday morning and by noon I was loaded up with a 60-p0und pack, my own camping gear and that of some of the smaller course members, and more than a fair share of the group’s food supply. Contrary to some of Outward Bound’s marketing literature, participants are not required to carry their own weight and gear. OB’s system is more along the lines of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

So, me and one other reasonably fit guy carried about 150% of what we needed so that some other campers, women, wouldn’t have to carry their full gear load. Naturally, he and I commiserated and ended up hiking together a good bit ahead of the group. One of the many rules the OB guides had laid on us was “do no share water, you’ll get sick.” So, we immediately passed our canteens back and forth in revolt for the overload we were shouldering. The next morning, I had one hell of a cold. Obviously, the OB guide had damn little sympathy. However, he did offer a “cure.” In case he ended up getting a cold on one of his courses, he packed a whole bulb of garlic. He recommended eating a whole, raw clove, twice a day. He broke one off for me and I hiked on for a while, gathering the courage to chew the damn thing into garlicky, bitter pulp and swallow it. The cold continued to get worse and, eventually, I couldn’t breath and was falling behind the group. So, I bit the garlic bullet and almost gagged. At the time, I wasn’t much of a spicy food fan, so this was serious desperation. Two days out of a 14 day trip and if something didn’t work I’d be straggling back on my own and I’d have wasted almost $2,500. I don’t remember much about the next few hours, but the fact that I continued on for the rest of the course is evidence that the garlic cure worked.

Travel forward to this week. I was sick for a week over the holiday break and two weeks later, it all came back last night. By 2AM this morning, I was so congested I could barely breathe through my mouth. My nose was totally non-functional. I gave up trying to sleep and wandered the house looking for a non-decongestant cure (can’t take ‘em). Finally, I bit the garlicky bullet and chomped down on a big old clove. Damn, it was as nasty as I remember. Heartburn and bad breath smoking away, I went back to bed. A few minutes later, I began to salivate so intensely I thought I was going to vomit and my stomach burned like I’d swallowed a pitcher of Tijuana water. Out of bed again and prowling the vicinity of our bathroom, I was almost drowning in my own spit and close to doubled up with stomach pain. It felt like the descriptions I’ve heard of drug overdoses. Then, suddenly, those symptoms went away and . . . I COULD BREATHE. I went back to sleep and got at least six more hours before I drug myself out of bed.

My breath probably smells like the back end of an Italian cook, but I’ve downed two more cloves today and this damn cold appears to be dissipating. This spring, I’m taking a trip or five on the 250. Garlic cloves are going with me.

Jan 15, 2016

#122 Suddenly, He Gets It

All Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

Since I started this column, I've asked a variety of questions about old guys and old bikes and bike collections. I wasn't being a hardass about this. I really didn't get it. I didn't understand why old guys who barely ride anywhere need a garage full of mostly useless motorcycles, either in primo shape or a hoarder's trash pile. I did not understand the fascination for stuff that was state of the art when I was state of the art. It all just evaded me. Until this week. Now, I get it.

My wife and I are imagining ourselves retired, footloose and on the road for a few years or more. We bought a motorhome and started looking at what it would take for us to be able to pull this off as effortlessly as possible. The poor choice is to keep the house (not quite paid off, yet) and treat the motorhome like an extended vacation. That option is expensive, complicated, and makes the whole "on the road" idea pretty much a part-time property management job (for me). My wife seems to be inclined toward this choice and I am dead set against it. We we still have a house full of crap in October, I might hand her the keys and say, "Have a great trip and don't forget to write." The second option is to sell off all of our crap, sell the house, store the little bit of stuff we "can't live without," bank the cash, and go on the road unencumbered. You can probably tell that this is clearly my choice.

This clear winner of a second choice has some drawbacks. We have to unload a lifetime of stuff and we need to do it in the next three or four months. The motorcycling aspect of this downsizing task is not a big deal. I have two bikes and I'll only be taking the WR250X on the road. I can store or sell the V-Strom without much agony. I'll probably sell it. Where I have too much in common with the guys I didn't get is in my music gear. I have a couple dozen microphones that I've lovingly collected, cared for, and used for the last ten to forty years. I have a guitar collection that has to go. I have a whole recording studio nicely stocked with gear I've carefully picked and setup that will have no place in our new mobile life. It all has to go. All of it.

Two things became apparent, right after I sold off the most valuable, hardest to find, easiest to sell microphones. One: when I let go of this stuff I'm telling myself this part of my life is over. All those years of wanting to make a perfect record, looking forward to firing up the gear to working on fine-tuning that perfect record, are in my past. Once this stuff goes, I will not have the time, motivation, or energy to recollect it. Two: I have more emotional attachment to this stuff than I realized. When I boxed up a couple of the first microphones I sold, I held them in my hands and remembered setting them up in front of a variety of musicians whose work I love and who I was sure my recording techniques would make popular with people who have still never heard them. It's a mess of emotions that I can barely contemplate, let alone explain. I don't love the microphones, but I loved what I could do with them. I have $14,000 more cash in the bank, but they are gone and I won't luck into a set of tools like that again in two lifetimes. 

Our situation is a little more drastic than most. We're eliminating a large household worth of stuff and memories in exchange for the hope that a whole new world will open up to us. Make no mistake, though, this is not an easy trade-off. We're comfortable with our stuff in its place, surrounding us with memories and opportunities. We're not doing squat with the stuff, for the most part, but we could be. Once it's gone, we can't turn that clock back.

I'm boxing up a dozen favorite microphones for sale this weekend. Next week, I'm calling a friend who wholesales "collector" guitars and I'm going to hand over at least four guitars that have been in my "family" for more than 30 years. I don't play enough to justify owning even one guitar, but I could if I really wanted to. Once they're gone, I'll never own anything like them again. Damn, this sucks. All of a sudden, I have a whole lot in common with collectors and hoarders and I'd always thought we were completely different animals.

Jan 13, 2016

The How, Why, Where, and What I Ride Survey

All Rights Reserved © 2016 Thomas W. Day
Way back in 2011, I stuck a survey up on Survey Monkey and asked my readers to take part in the silliness. I should be the last guy on the planet to administer a survey because I tend to disbelieve everything claimed in every survey in the history of humans. Still, I got a fair number of responses (more than my free Survey Monkey account would let me access, in fact) and I made an attempt at compiling the information. About half-way through the project, I was distracted by something bright and shiny (my Yamaha WR250X) and the whole project fell through the cracks. You, my brilliant friends and readers, are atypical as hell and I suspect nothing gleaned from this survey would have squat to do with the attitudes of the average motorcyclist.
I always end up with a stupidly large “dead pool” is article ideas that will never see the light of day anywhere; blog or MMM column. Regardless, here is what I ended up with, statistics-wise:
In the dead of a past winter (2011), I was suffering cabin fever and my bike was practically encased in ice. Outside temperatures were in the negative numbers and the usual distractions failed me. The only break in the winter national television monotony came in mid-January when Ryan Villopoto beat James Stewart at the first ever Dodger Stadium Supercross. No fun like that for us here in Minnesota this year, thanks to the Metrodome's dome failure. So, I came up with a brilliant plan to piss off as many people as possible with a motorcycle survey called "The How, Why, Where, and What I Ride Survey." Ten questions, all designed to elicit as much animosity as possible. I promoted the thing on Cycle World and MMM's Facebook sites, on the MN-Sportbike and MN-Dualpurpose maillist, and got about  500 responses over the last 20 months.

for daily transportation (weather and season permitting)
for recreation.
for social events (group rides, poker runs, charity runs, etc.).
off-road racing.
road racing.
Ok, I can absolutely believe this set of numbers. In retrospect, I should have made this a "pick one" question because I think the answers overstate the number of us who use motorcycles for daily transportation. The 90% recreational figure is absolutely believeable, though.
adventure touring bike
a sport bike
a dirt bike
a dual-purpose bike
a cruiser
a sport touring bike
a standard
a touring bike
Good enough. I'm a little surprised at the two 0% categories, though.
an adventure touring bike
a sport bike
a dirt bike
a dual-purpose bike
a cruiser
a touring bike
Seems consistent with #2.
a 250cc or smaller sportbike
a 250cc or smaller standard
a 250cc or smaller cruiser
a 250cc or smaller dirt bike
a 250cc or smaller dual-purpose
a 251cc-750cc sportbike
a 251cc-750cc standard
a 251cc-750cc cruiser
a 251cc-750cc dirt bike
a 251cc-750cc dual-purpose (adventure touring)
a 251cc-750cc tourer
a 751cc-1200cc sportbike
a 751cc-1200cc standard
a 751cc-1200cc cruiser
a 751cc-1200cc dirt bike
a 751cc-1200cc dual-purpose (adventure touring)
a 751cc-1200cc tourer
a 1201cc-and-up sportbike
a 1201cc-and-up standard
a 1201cc-and-up cruiser
a 1201cc-and-up dirt bike
a 1201cc and up dual-purpose (adventure touring)
a 1201cc-and-up tourer
Again, this seems consistent.
a shorty helmet
a 3/4 helmet
a full-face helmet
an off-road 3/4 helmet
an off-road full-face helmet
off-road armor (vest or full-body)
armored riding jacket
armored riding pants
armored motorcycle boots
motorcycle gloves
weather-proof riding gear
eye protection (other than a helmet's face shield)
heated vest, gloves, and/or suit layer
Wow! Who would have guess that 99% of any group of riders would own a full-face helmet?
a shorty helmet
a 3/4 helmet
a full-face helmet
armored riding jacket
armored riding pants
armored motorcycle boots
motorcycle gloves
weather-proof riding gear
eye protection (other than a helmet's face shield)
heated vest, gloves, and/or suit layer
none of the above
Ok, this was my first piece of evidence that my self-selecting group of riders was not typical. We all know that 94% of us do not always wear a full-face helmet.
when the temperature is below 0F
when the temperature is below 32F
when the temperature is below 50F
when the temperature is above 80F
when the temperature is above 90F
when the temperature is above 100F
when it is raining
when there is a possibility of ice on the road
after consuming enough alcohol to suggest that I might be under the influence
A surprising amount of honesty here; especially in the alcohol consumption question.
This is pretty honest appearing, too.
0-500 miles
501-2,000 miles
2,001-5,000 miles
5,001-10,000 miles
10,001-20,000 miles
20,001 or more miles
Contrast this with the Craig's List sales data and we know either my group is self-deluding, non-typical, or lying.
At least 14% of the group knows itself well.