Feb 25, 2013

Motorcycle Miles Traveled

One of my least favorite aspects of motorcycle safety statistics is the wildly optimistic "miles traveled" numbers that seem to be spouted by everyone from the dreaded AMA to the MSF to NTSA. I do not believe the average mileage traveled by motorcyclists is anywhere near 10,000 miles per year. But how do we get real numbers?

It struck me this morning that we have a ready source of data, CraigsList and eBay. So, I started paging through CraigsList ads this afternoon, copying down the bike year and miles advertised, tossed them into a spreadsheet, and did some calculations.

Observation and experiences are powerful tools. I realize that what appears to be isn't always what is, but I also realize that people making political claims are often motivated to tell less than the truth about . . . anything. One of my least favorite statistics is the "miles traveled" numbers that are used for motorcycle safety data. I simply do not believe that there are nearly as many motorcycles on the road as the industry, safety organizations, and, even, the government claims.

The Kelly Blue Book, for example, posts the following statement, "Obviously mileage will vary from year to year and model to model. A simple guide could be to consider the type of bike you are looking at: If the bike is a sportbike 600 c.c. to 999 c.c., and since these bikes are traditionally weekend only bikes, you can expect to see lower miles, about 3,000 miles per year. Tourers or Sport Tourers usually see a lot of miles, but these are generally freeway miles, between 5,000 to 6,000 miles per year." Those are silly numbers, based on fantasy. NHTA is considerably more conservative with an estimate of 1,943 miles per year for the average motorcycle. I'm not sure I buy that, either.

When people sell their motorcycles, they are pretty much forced to provide credible mileage numbers, so places like CraigsList, eBay, and local newspapers are pretty useful resources. In about a half-hour on two different days, I collected data on 60 motorcycles. So far, my data indicates the average mileage is about 1,425/year with a standard deviation of 863 miles. So far, there are some radically low-mileage outliers. The most annual mileage I've seen is 4,700/year over a 12 year lifetime. My own mileage tops that, but I'm trying to ignore anecdotal data and only collect "for sale" data to keep the information consistent and believable.

I created my own data gathering tool, a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet, that allowed me to enter data that I found in various locations and make some statistical assumptions from that information. Because I'm lazy, old, half-blind, and don't feel some kind of compulsion to do all of this on my own, I' originally posted the spreadsheet on my website for others to play with. A much smarter guy, William Wahby, transferred my Excel sheet to a Google Docs format:(Geezer with a Grudge: Average Mileage) where any of us can add data. If you want to add some bikes from your region, you'll see we've included the following data entry fields for you to work with:

State Date Sampled Make/Model or Description Year Miles

These are all data entry fields. The rest of the data fields -- Miles/Year, Miles Driven, and the statistical analysis fields -- calculate mileage automatically when you enter data into the Year and Miles fields. Please just enter the traditional two-letter State designation into that field. The date format is automatic: DD/MM/YYYY. I'll take pretty much anything for Make/Model. 

This is the kind of data collection that you'd think/hope NHTSA and the states would be collecting and using for analysis proposes. From what I've been told, they don't bother.  To the right is a charty of what our data looks like, so far. Pretty disgusting, don't you think? One thing this absolutely points out is that the overwhelming majority of riders don't need a bike bigger than 150-250cc. Any damn bike will hold up for less than 2,000 miles a year and how fast do you need to go if you're only going to be on the bike for less than twenty hours a year?

Feb 20, 2013

The Crap Just Keeps Comin'

This damn argument just gets dumber. The only motorcycle magazine I read from cover-to-cover (sometimes) is Motorcycle Consumer News. The editor, Dave Searle, usually pisses me off and his pro-hooligan attitude is not much different than the rest of the motorcycle press, which defeats the best purposes of MCN. This month's issue started well and turned to crap by the letters to the editor. Bad timing on someone's part. My subscription is about to run out and I still have 2-3 back issues I haven't been able to stomach. Now, I might just read the damn thing at the library on the rare occasion I need to know what Mark Barnes or Ken Condon have to say. I was so pissed off, I sent this letter to MCN's editor:
From:     T.W. Day [mailto:twday60@comcast.net]
Sent:    Monday, February 18, 2013 9:32 PM
To:    'editor@mcnews.com'
Subject:    Misuse of Statistics

I was pleased to see Dave's "Open Road" this month. It's unusual for a motorcycle magazine to advocate any sort of safety gear and, when they do, it's usually as unscientific and "freedom" biased as crap from the NRA. It didn't take long for that pleasure to turn sour, though. In a grossly incompetent and statistically misleading response to a readers letter on the NTSB's universal helmet law recommendations, the editor wrote, "the number of motorcycle fatalities in the US has been on a sharp decline over the past few years despite the fact that the number of miles ridden has increased. The decline in fatalities is not because more states have instituted mandatory helmet laws--they haven't."

The argument that motorcycle miles ridden has increased in recent years is doubtful. Until recently, the garage candy crowd has been purged from the road as their rides were repossessed along with their eviction notices. From 2008 to 2011, the only good news about motorcycling has been that fewer of us are on the road and fewer of us are dying because of that. Last year, there was a slight upsurge in motorcycle sales and the early and mild spring put riders back on the road and deaths jumped accordingly. If you look at the states' statistics (http://www.ghsa.org/html/publications/pdf/spotlights/spotlight_motorcycles11.3.pdf
http://www.ghsa.org/html/publications/pdf/spotlights/spotlight_motorcycles11.3.pdf), you'll see a consistent rise in motorcycle deaths from 1997 to 2008 as states repealed helmet laws and riders took "advantage" of that and splattered themselves all over the nation's roadways.

The future of motorcycling is at risk due to autonomous vehicle development and our out-of-line mortality and morbidity contribution to highway safety and our barely-noticeable contribution to useful traffic. If we insist on pretending that we're getting safer and riding more when all evidence contradicts that, we're shooting ourselves in the foot and will deserve our place along with buggy whips, go carts, and horses in the history of discarded transportation options. The AMA and the motorcycle press are absolutely useless when it comes to promoting practical motorcycling. You should do better than that.

Thomas Day
Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly Magazine

Feb 18, 2013

Still Thinkin' About It

The TC_DualSport group is one of the few motorcycle discussion boards that I follow. Mostly, that's because I really like  these folks and recommend that every Minnesotan who rides a bike that can semi-qualify as "dual sport" be a part of this wonderful collection of rare spirits. Because I'm not a motorcycling homer, I usually find myself pretty much ostracized for voicing heretical opinions like the ones I have submitted below. Since I'm not much of a fan of crowds, organizations, clubs, or even family units, it doesn't bother me much to be slighted by people, but I don't hang around hoping for change either. So, it's saying something that I've been a lurker on TC-DualSport since 2005. Everybody else has either asked me to leave, moderated me into disappearing, or pissed me off so that I left on my own.

So when one of my favorite people on the list, Allon, asked me what I think we need to do to get lane-splitting and filtering legalized in Minnesota, I took his question seriously. As a reality check, please understand I don't expect any of this to happen, but once or twice in my 64 years I've been pleasantly surprised by human behavior and I'm willing to imagine the impossible even if I still believe it's impossible. So, this was my response:

--- In TC_Dualsport@yahoogroups.com, "allonm55344" wrote:
> So Tom, how do we change things here in Minnesota? There was a rumor that things were about to  change in favor of lane splitting in Tx a few years back. I wonder what ever happened with that.
> BTW, when I took my  advanced riding class in Israel, they taught it based on the curriculum from the California (I believe MSF) motorcycle safety course. They  specifically teach you to  position your motorcycle in between lanes when stopped in a traffic light. They also encourage lane splitting only when the traffic is at a standstill or very slow moving.
> Allon 

I'm probably misusing the term when I say "Americans," but Americans appear to be unable to focus on long term results. Maybe it's the 4-year political cycle, but to make this happen here we're going to have to take a consistent long view and one that will be opposed by the US manufacturers.

I think the Texas attempt got squashed in committee, again. I'd imagine that Dayton would oppose any attempt at a similar law here, unless we did a massive education campaign. The money and time that's been wasted on "Start Seeing Motorcycles" should be redirected toward a unified political and informational (propaganda?) campaign to inform drivers of the advantages of letting 1% of traffic move in congested areas. We (all motorcyclists) should stop being highway irritants and hoodlums and accept helmet law legislation, improved licensing requirements, and absolute compliance with federal and state noise laws so that we aren't automatically seen as a pack of gangsters and an overpriced, undervalue highway risk. Like Oregon, we need to start moving motorcycle fatalities toward zero. That will cost bike sales because many of the people currently on motorcycles should be relegated to closed course kiddy parks. To cost them even more, dealers who sell street legal motorcycles to unlicensed buyers should be prosecuted with the same kind of force that falls on liquor stores who sell to minors (and that offense should be ramped up too). When motorcyclists become good citizens and make a productive contribution to traffic, we'll get the benefits of public approval.

Right now, we're mostly a bunch of useless assholes who stage traffic-blocking, noise-making pirate parades all summer long, who crash by ourselves on country roads and whine about "right-of-way violations," and children who dress in gym clothes and pretend straight sections of the freeway are a race track. You have to do some good before you get something good.

My California "history" is anecdotal from a CHP I knew there in the 80s. He said that California did not have a law prohibiting two vehicles (or more) from occupying a single lane. Motorcyclists took advantage of that and, because they have been a significant (at least noticable) portion of California traffic, that law was not introduced. Now, lane-sharing is sort of formally acknowledged and California has always been a little proud of being different (more progressive and adventurous) than the rest of the stodgy US it's a semi-accepted practice and habit. Unfortunately, California squids are no smarter than ROUS squids and they are doing everything they can to piss off the general public and lose that privilege.

Thomas Day
Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly Magazine
All of the above is my honest opinion; biased and one-sided as it is. Motorcyclists need a representative organization more desperately today than any time in history and the AMA, ABATE, or any of the other gangbangers' "biker clubs" are not going to be it. The closest thing we have to a possibility of a motorcyclists' organization is Ride to Work and that organization appears to be only a little bit organized. Humans rarely see the need to get active until we're approaching a cliff and, usually, we need to be flying off of the edge before we actually get serious (think of the USA in 1932). I don't see anything like this happening with US motorcyclists, but if it does count me in. I'll even "join."

Feb 16, 2013

More of the Same

A short burst of comments on one of the off-road groups I belong to fired up the geezerly aspect (90% or greater) of my personality. One of the guys cited ex-Minnesotan Pat Hahn as a source for why Minnesotans wouldn't take to lane-splitting well.

Pat is a good guy, a friend, a serious motorcyclist, and a published motorcycle author. However, his opinion on lane-splitting is mostly inexperienced and anecdotal. Now that he's a west coast guy (Oregon), his opinion has shifted a bit from when he was a Midwesterner and had only experienced lane-splitting from the perspective of the young hooligan who did it, illegally, when he was pissed off or in a hurry. One of the cool things about writing is that you can become an official "expert" purely by research. You don't have to actually know anything. Even cooler, once you write about something and get it published the lazy assholes in the Mainstream Media will repeatedly ask your uninformed opinion about this subject that you know so little about. As long as the rest of us know that media "experts" are nothing more than people in a bar with barely-informed opinions (like the rest of us), their opinions can't do much harm. When we imagine that the lazy assholes who print and broadcast the crap that passes for information in our braindead society are actually bothering to identify and interview real "experts," we're all doomed.

So, when one of the guys cited Pat as a source and justification for his fear of lane-splitting, I posted a pissed-off response. The more I think about it, the more pissed off I am.

I think Pat's attitude has changed now that he's actually had an opportunity to use lane-splitting in northern California. I did more than 100k miles, lane-splitting constantly, in my decade in southern California. I totally disagree that it is a "dangerous" practice, unless we're just applying "dangerous" to any aspect of being a motorcyclist on-road. You can do anything stupidly and many motorcyclists belong in public buses because they don't have the skills or brainpower to safely transport themselves across a padded room.

California has done motorcycles a serious disservice by eliminating/minimizing
exhaust noise regulation. Loud pipes and lane splitting do not coexist peacefully. Pick one, act like a hooligan or become part of the transportation system.

Midwesterners are specially poor and aggressive drivers, something I realized
  when my wife and I spent the beginning of January in Oregon and northern California. I had almost given up on American drivers knowing how to merge in traffic, manage reasonable spacing, or cope with moving vehicles. As congested and overcrowded as the San Francisco area is, traffic moves fast there. Incapable idiots are not tolerated and will be pulled over and ticketed by the CHP for trying to merge at something under the prevailing speed.

If we tossed out the useless and irritating "Start Seeing Motorcycles" campaign
and put the same energy into informing drivers that lane-sharing is legal, Minnesotans would figure it out as fast as anyone. A motorcycling campaign to wise up drivers to motorcycle advantages and one that also attempted to civilize motorcyclists might save motorcycles from obsolescence: helmet requirements,
massively tougher training and licensing requirements, relentless exhaust noise and emissions enforcement (for all vehicles), legalized lane splitting and filtering, and state-legislated motorcycle/scooter parking advantages.

Otherwise, autonomous vehicles and computerized traffic will make motorcycles as obsolete as buggy whips. And those things are coming a lot faster than you think.

--- In TC_Dualsport@yahoogroups.com, Needs Information wrote:

> I drive the metro area as much as 750 miles per week, from 5AM to 6PM mostly. Commuters can be a very nasty bunch. Some are sneaks that use the shoulders to gain advantage and some are self proclaimed traffic moderators that will block others from not doing as they do. MnDOT has a campaign, not so well promoted, to do the Zipper Merge. The 'moderators' get very very aggressive against this policy despite its official promotion by MnDOT and state law enforcement. It may take a generation to get the moderators off the road, if ever. Their bad attitudes get passed on to their children pretty much.
> What has this to do with lane sharing? These same moderators would rather see you crash than be gotten ahead of, and many will do whatever they can to prevent your passing illegally (or even legally if you could ever get the legislators to change the laws) . . .

One reply (abbreviated) noted:

> We're a pretty conservative bunch here, lower case C,
. . . "Minnesotans would figure it out as fast as anyone. " I have grave doubts about that my friend, emphasis on the grave. Just too much anger on the roads. "Midwesterners are specially poor and aggressive drivers" No legislation will change this I'm afraid.
. . .
> Not to throw water on your fire, but I don't expect to see much change going on with lane usage legislation, or cage driver attitudes.
My response is:

No fire to dowse, there. I have no doubt that the whole of the US is too lower-case-conservative (as in timid-to-downright-cowardly) to make any useful changes in any activity. We are a decaying empire that hasn't yet smelled the rot. Thomas Jefferson was the first president to suggest the metric system and we still can't manage that obvious change. National lane-sharing is not likely, but a national ban on motorcycles on public roads is almost a certainty as autonomous cages take over the major roadways (on its way to your town soon). Change or die is the rule of nature and we've probably picked "die."

I think you overrate the "genius" of California drivers, they have girlyman moderator/regulators there, too. I put solid steel wraparound bumpers on my old Toyota pickup to move them out of my merge lane when I lived in CA in the 80's. The 1% are particularly arrogant about holding their space on California roads; Mercedes, Volvos, Suburbans, and the $100k sports car crowd. Those people never go away, but you can make their lives and position precarious enough that they begin to suck it up and keep their stupid ideas to themselves.

Still, most people are reasonable and allow space and even make space for sharing and filtering. You can't eliminate an activity because someone will object to it. Ok, you can, but that's a conservative way to design and maintain a system and it will fail from an inability to evolve.

The cool thing about splitting is it is voluntary. You can wait in traffic if you don't have the skill for it it, think it is dangerous, or don't have an appropriate vehicle. There were times when I thought splitting wasn't the best choice and I stayed where I was. Mostly, I split anytime traffic was moving under the speed limit. Seriously, I suspect I split for at least 100k miles of my 300k motorcycle miles in CA, though. I rarely ever stayed in my lane on PCH between Huntington Beach and Long Beach.

AMA Press Release: "Washington, D.C.: Self-driving cars would be allowed to operate on Washington, D.C., roads under the Autonomous Vehicle Act of 2012 (B-931), introduced by Councilwoman Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3). The bill would authorize autonomous vehicles, which are self-driving cars, to operate on the roads in the district, establish a system for taxing users of autonomous vehicles based on vehicle miles traveled -- 1.875 cents per mile -- require the district Department of Motor Vehicles to create an autonomous vehicle designation for registration, titling and operation permit purposes, and establish safe operating protocols for such vehicles"

Feb 10, 2013

I'm Just A Spam Magnet

Every few days, I check my "waiting approval" comments folder to see what kind of brilliant commentary you guys have left for me. Mostly, it's a fun diversion, but emptying the spam folder is something else again. It's amazing the kind of crap people are trying to sell through the comments of a blog. I guess it's some sort of compliment that goofballs selling everything from Viagra and Russian penis enhancements (Russia must be one seriously insecure place for guys.) to women's knock-off purses think my readers are a likely market. On one hand, the traffic is slightly encouraging. On the other (the realistic one) hand, it's obvious that these characters just troll blogs and websites automatically and they could care less who the audience is as long as there is one.

Does anyone ever click on one of those links, maybe just to test their virus filters? All it takes is a single Cyrillic or Chinese character to scare me away from a link. Between the viruses and the identity thieves, it's hard to imagine who actually falls for this shit.

"5yZtk UGG Bailey Button Triplet Boots Black 1873 - BOOTSSale UkUGG 1875 Sheepskin Cuff Boots Brown - BOOTS Sale UkUGG Bailey Button Triplet Boots Red 1873 - BOOTSSale UkUGG Sunburst Tall Boots Chocolate 5325 - BOOTS Sale UkUGG 5803 Bailey Button Boots Black - BOOTS Sale Uk vKou Cheap UGG Fashion Limited Styles Handbag-Chestnut - BOOTS . . . " 'Cause nothin' says you're clinically lame like a pair of UGG boots.


"To believe with certainty,we must begin with doubting. http://www.christian[deleted weirdness].com/ . . . " I wouldn't want to actually advertise one of these freaks.


"Ηurrah! Αfteг all І got a web sіte from where I be capablе оf really take valuable informatіon regarding my study anԁ κnowledge. Stoρ by my site; eyebrow tint Here is my web blog . . . " Do people still say "Hurrah?"

Feb 8, 2013

Now This Is Funny

The headline, "Commuters' wasted time in traffic costs $121B" flashed across my Comcast "news feed" today.The opening paragraphs of the article read, "The nation's commuters are adapting to increasing traffic congestion by building delays into their schedules, but at a cost of $121 billion in wasted time and fuel, according to an annual study of national driving patterns released Tuesday.

"The new report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found that Americans wasted an average of $818 each sitting in traffic in 2011. That also meant more carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere.

"The worst commute in the country? Washington. Commuters in the nation's capital needed almost three hours for a trip that should take 30 minutes without traffic, according to the report. That compares to the least congested city — Pensacola, Fla. — where commuters needed only nine extra minutes.

"On average, Americans allowed for an hour of driving time for a trip that would take 20 minutes without traffic. The total nationwide added up to 5.5 billion additional hours that Americans spent in their cars during 2011. . . "

 That's a big surprise? Seriously? Where do these birdbrains live where they suddenly realize that Americans spend a good bit of their lives sitting in stalled traffic? This was old news in 1975.

We, of course, have a solution: motorcycles and lane-splitting. Move 10% of the daily commuters on to motorcycles and let them split lanes and keep moving and the bulk of the congestion problem goes away.

Of course, the problem is sort of fixed by the crashed economy. The worst year, so far, for congestion was 2005. Maybe the economy will just stay tanked and we'll all go back to walking from overpass to sewer tunnel. The brilliant researchers who pointed out this barely-known information said this all means the nation should think about "implementing transportation improvements to reduce congestion."

Dudes, we're here to help. Just let us.

Last year, traffic paralyzed Americans fired off 2.9 billion gallons of gasoline stuck in traffic. That's an improvement from 2005's 3.2 billion wasted gallons. More efficient, more mobile motorcycles could solve a lot of this problem, but I don't see it happening anytime soon.

The Scary Good Old Days

Biker clubs then:
Crater Camp from Elrod Racing on Vimeo.
Back when biker "clubs" did riding stuff. (Looks like fun, until someone gets hurt.)

Biker clubs now:
Doing gangster and political stuff.

Feb 3, 2013

March: All the News that Didn't Fit

Last One
The winds of change have caught me, again. This time, they are blowing in the same direction I'm traveling. MMM has a new editor, is taking a new direction, and will look a lot different in the future. I discovered, a little late, that I'm not doing the All the News that Fits column, beginning the first issue of this year. I am not sad, upset, or sorry. It's a hard column to write and it might be obvious from the tone I take to the news that I'm tired of doing it. Most motorcycle "news" is pretty much corporate drivel and about as believable as White House press reports (no matter who is in the White House). So, when Harley, BMW, Ducati, Honda, or whoever dumps some of their gruel into the press hopper, I grind it up a little before redistributing it. What Americans appear to want is "happy talk" and I rarely believe happy talk coming from anyone. Especially me.

With the deadline pressure off, I might find that looking at the news and reporting it from my pissed off perspective is fun. We'll see. Whatever happens, it will be happening here from now on. Thanks for watching!

KTM Buys Husky
After a brief (6 years) and confusing off-road adventure, BMW decided to return to paved civilization and put Husqvarna Motorcycles S.R.L up for sale. The buyer is, semi-surprisingly, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer's investment company, Pierer Industrie AG. If you're old enough to remember the vintage-yearss enduro and motorcross battles between Penton (KTM's original US importer) and Husqvarna, this is a confusing turn of events for both brands. Relatively speaking, Husky had a pretty good year in 2012, producing 10,751 motorcycles, up 15.8%. Obviously, that wasn't good enough for the 100,000-unit-sales BMW mothership.
Presumably, the new conglomerate will be something like "KTM/Husaberg/Husqvarna." Pierer and his company successfully took KTM from bankruptcy court to the all-purpose off-road-to-roadracer juggernaut that it is today. Fans of the Swedish-turned-Italian brand (production moved to Varese, Italy during the period when Cagiva owned Husky), can only hope this is a good move for the historic off-road motorcycle company and not an opportunity for KTM to eliminate EU competition in that market.
Minnesota Motorcycle Road Guard Certificate
The state is in the final stages of officially recognizing one of the least-loved motorcycle behaviors; pirate parades. The newly semi-deputized Motorcycle Road Guards will have the authority to hold up productive traffic so that miles of slow moving parade participants can crawl through cities and towns emitting volumes of noise and air pollution and solidifying general public opinion into a unified "I hate motorcycles" atmosphere for every solitary motorcyclist who happens to follow the parade route for weeks afterwards. Way to go Minnesota legislature!
Commuting Wastes Time & Money, Who Knew?
In an amazing demonstration of how long it takes for a few dozen PhD's to screw in a light bulb, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) published the results of their annual Urban Mobility Report (UMR) to the amazement of the barely-conscious major media. It turns out (wait for it) that Americans blew an average of $818 each sitting in traffic in 2011. And that was a "good year," due to the traffic reduction effects of the 2nd Great Depression. On average, Americans allow an hour for what ought to be a 20 minute commute for a grand total of $121B in wasted time and energy costs.
Bill Eisele, a TTI researcher and report co-author noted, “As bad as traffic jams are, it’s even more frustrating that you can’t depend on traffic jams being consistent from day-to-day. This unreliable travel is costly for commuters and truck drivers moving goods.” A secondary cost of slow-moving traffic is the estimated 380 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) per auto commuter contributed to the atmosphere (for a grand total of 56 billion pounds annually).
If US motorcyclists weren't wasting political energy and clout on divisive issues like opposing helmet laws and jacking-up right-of-way violation penalties, we could offer a solution to congestion in a substantial number of urban areas with lane-sharing and lane-splitting. A 2012 Belgian consultancy Transport & Mobility Leuven study found that 10% percent of cars were replaced by motorcycles commuting time for all vehicles decreased by 40% and total emissions were reduced by 6%. That study claimed that a 25% shift from cars to motorcycles would eliminate congestion. It has been estimated that with lane-sharing and filtering introduced into the formula, if only 1% of freeway traffic swapped their cages for motorcycles and scooters, traffic congestion would be significantly reduced.
CHP Defines and Recommends Lane Splitting
After years of rumor and inuendo, The California Highway Patrol has published a lane-splitting guide and initiated a public awareness campaign to educate riders and drivers about the long-accepted, commute-time-busting practice (http://www.chp.ca.gov/programs/lanesplitguide.html.). If nothing else positive comes from this information, the clinically and chronically uninformed will
Here They Come (and There We Go?)
The Autonomous Vehicle Act of 2012 (B-931), introduced by Councilwoman Mary M. Cheh, would allow self-driving cars to allowed to operate on Washington, D.C., roads The bill provides for vehicle designation for registration, titling and operation permit purposes, and establish safe operating protocols for such vehicles. Autonomous vehicles are the hot issue all over the EU and Japan and are expected to begin to displace piloted cars and trucks in the next decade or two. Obviously, motorcycles are incompatible with computer-controlled traffic systems.
Legislative Foolishness Around the Nation
Florida State Rep. Ritch Workman wants to eliminate the state's motorcycle handlebar height restriction ("no higher than the top of the shoulders of the person operating the motorcycle while properly seated upon the motorcycle"). Ohio's State Senator John Kasich sponsored a bill that changed the maximum height of motorcycle handlebars from 15 inches above the operator’s seat to no higher than the operator's shoulder height. Kasich's bill also created a “cab-enclosed motorcycle” classification for two- or three-wheeled vehicles having an occupant compartment top that is either permanent or removable.
Kentucky State Rep. Kelly Flood wants to label motorcyclists "vulnerable users of a public roadway" to add "enhanced penalties" for anyone convicted of, or pleading guilty to, a collision resulting in serious injury or death to a vulnerable roadway user. (I wonder if there will be a Special Olympics for "vulnerable roadway users?" Are old motorcyclists "venerable vulnerable roadway users?") Rhode Island, Missouri, and New York all have proposed legislation that would enhance penalties for motor vehicle violations at intersections and right-of-way violations that result in serious bodily injury or death.
Maine State Rep. Paulette Beaudoin is trying to require helmets for "all motorcycle operators and passengers" in that state. State senators in Nebraska (Dave Bloomfield) and New York (Michael Nozzolio) are trying to repeal those states' helmet laws. The Virginia legislature sidelined it's attempted repeal of the state's helmet law after opposition from the Virginia State Police, local chiefs of police, fire chiefs, volunteer rescue squads,
New York Senator William J. Larkin is attempting to outlaw wheelies, stoppies, and any airborne motorcycle activity.
New York Assembly Member Thomas J. Abinanti wants to prohibit any passenger vehicle (including motorcycles) from "idling its engine more than three consecutive minutes under certain conditions when the vehicle is stopped."
As always, MMM applauds these fine states and officials for having resolved all of their states' critical economic, environmental, and criminal problems, resulting in lots of spare time to spend on these inconsequential motorcycle transportation issues.
Crazy People Scoff at Common Sense
Refugees from MMM dominated the Watertown, SD, 2013 Groundhog Road Enduro in mid-January. Off-roading promoter and all-around-tough-guy Lee Bruns and the rest of the STFU M/C hosted this frosty inaugural event. Either the reputations of the Minnesota contingent frightened off the locals or common sense kept them near their fireplaces and far away from their motorcycles, because "no locals" turned out to suffer the event. Lee's description of the weather was "Ice, wind, snow. No fun. " Bruce Mike, MMM's editor won. Rick Ashton took second. Former Sev Pearman took third. Only 1-point separated 1st and 2nd! The riders were polled at halftime and they unanimously decided to call it a day.
Total miles driven to/from event: 425
Total motorcycle miles ridden: 27
Satisfaction derived from staying home and warm: Priceless
Be Like Steve
In case you're a slave to fashion, but adverse to actually getting dirty or riding a real motorcycle the folks at Barbour have produced exactly what you need: a MacGrain Waxed Jacket that is a replica of the 1964 ISDT team jacket Steve McQueen wore for that event. The key feature of this reissue is the "mud-splattered design made of rubber compounded mud, made to match the mud marks on Steve's original jacket." (Personally, I'd rather have a replica of the jacket Bruce Mike wore at the 2013 Groundhog Road Enduro, with an ice-coated design made to match the frozen slabs of ice on his event-winning gear.)
A 250CC Triumph?
Triumph is building a new manufacturing site in facility in Narasapur, India, near the city of Bangalore where the company expects to be producing 250,000 bikes per year by 2015 and double that number when production is fully operational and the company's Asian marketing and distribution are up to speed. The new facility's first products will be twin-cylinder 250cc motorcycles.
Making Enemies and Spreading the Love
Sportbike gangbangers, Hector Martinez and Paige Hernandez, and at least 100 of their biker buddies put on a demonstration of arrogance and vandalism in late January when the wild bunch shut down L.A.'s I10 freeway traffic for about ten minutes. As rush hour traffic backed up for miles, Martinez proposed to Hernandez and the the pair's punk friends stunted, smoked up the California air with colorful burnouts, and generally made nuisances of themselves. While some of us imagine the wonderful future for motorcycles as a practical vehicle, these zombies do their damnedest to make sure that 99.999% of the population hate motorcycles and motorcyclists. Good job, douchebags.
Sidesaddle That Bike
The Indonesian town of Lhokseumawe has banned female passengers from straddling motor bikes, as passengers or riders. “We want to save women from things that will cause them to violate Shariah law. We wish to honor women with this ban, because they are delicate creatures,” said Lhokseumawe mayor Suaidi Yahya.
The loony mayor said an aspect of the law is to discourage women from wearing pants. “It will be easier for women to avoid straddling motorcycles if all of them wear skirts.” Sounds like a plan to convince all of the smart people in Lhokseumawe to move somewhere else. A lot of the Midwest and most of the South tried that tactic and the braindrain those places suffered as a result created the Teatards.
Making Up for Lost Time by Losing Time
The "good years" of slightly lowered Minnesota motorcycle death rates are over, which might be a sign that we're experiencing some economic recovery or just a side-effect of last year's mild winter and early spring. Whatever the cause, in 2012 Minnesota cycle fatalities were up 26%, for a total of 53 motorcyclist deaths; compared to 2011'S 42 deaths. The state has a record-high 230,000 registered two-wheelers and approx. 400,000 licensed operators (7.5% of the population).
NTSA Motorcycle Recalls
Triumph 2011-2012 Daytona 675, Street Triple, and 2012 Thunderbird and Thunderbird Storm motorcycles : Wheel bearings of poor quality could fail unexpectedly, increasing the risk of a motorcycle crash. Triumph will notify owners, and dealers will replace the affected bearings free of charge.
Continental Tire ContiMotion motorcycle tires, size 180/60R16 M/C 74H: Sold as replacement equipment for Honda GoldWing 1800 motorcycles, some of these tires may experience uneven wear, groove cracking, and belt lift. This could result in a loss of inflation pressure. Continental Tire will notify owners and reimburse customers for the affected tires.
Triumph 2013 Trophy motorcycles: These motorcycles were produced with a label bearing incorrect tire data, which could cause users to install incorrect replacement tires, increasing the risk of personal injury. None of the affected motorcycles have been sold to consumers and they will be repaired prior to sale.

Feb 1, 2013

Cars and Winter: Can't live without them, gotta move somewhere where I can.

Last Friday night, just as I arrived at my freeway exit, the serpentine belt on my old Escort broke. It sounded like a bunch of ice breaking loose from the car's front end. After I came to a stop at the light, I discovered that the little car could barely turn without the assistance of the power steering pump. It was barely zero Fahrenheit that night, so I put off messing with the belt until Sunday when we were supposed to "enjoy" a blizzard but the temperatures would be closer to freezing. That's what passes for moderate weather in Minnesota in January.

I have to admit that I'm less than patient with cage repairs. I used to love working on my VW Beetles and Toyota Hilux pickup, but I have always hated cars in general and complicated cars in particular. I just don't live where cars live long enough to become vintage, if you drive them year-around. This place isn't called "The Rust Belt" as a joke. It's not funny at all, in fact. Getting the new $30 belt strung looked almost possible, from the start. The new belt is frozen into a tight, unyielding shape that has nothing in common with the Hawking-string-theory mess required to circumscribe the Ford's five pulleys. About an hour into the job and I discovered getting the belt wrapped around the pulleys requires the disassembly of about 1/2 of the right side of the engine compartment, elevating the car to be able to get to the underside of the crank pulley, and fingers twice as long and flexible and hands half as thick as mine. So, now I have power steering oil spilled under the car, engine bits spread out over half of the garage, and I'm no closer to getting the goddamned belt on the car than I was four hours ago. It's cold, the belt won't flex, my fingers are frost-burned from touching frozen metal, and nothing wants to go where it belongs.

While I worked on the POS car, about 6" of snow was collecting on the driveway. The temperature is dropping and I gave up for a day or two. I'm not sure if this job will require patience, more equipment than I own, or just the usual abundance of luck. The damn belt is twisted in the folded-up shape that Gates packages it and it refuses to take the shape required to stay on the pulleys long enough to set the tensioner.

Which brings me to the realization I received this week having done the cost-per-mile calculations for the bikes and car, quickly followed by the misery of working on a semi-modern car. "We gotta get outta this place." For the last 16 years, I've either enjoyed or pretty much tolerated the long cold of the frozen north. Last year was pretty much the end of that. Suffering in the constant cold while I rehabilitated my replaced hip was miserable. Twelve months later, I spent Thanksgiving in the hospital waiting to find out how badly a heart attack has botched up my old ticker. Again, recovering in the cold is a dismal affair. When my wife and explored the Oregon coast this January, I began to think "This ain't the hot setup."

You could bicycle year-around and still take an occasional trip to the mountains for a real winter if the urge struck (I can't imagine that, but it's possible.) I could can the who car-ownership crap and ride a bike or motorcycle for every transportation need I'll ever have. I do that here for 8 months out of the year, but Minnesota mass transit is pitiful and those four months are an overpriced waste of resources. Portland, for example, has a functioning urban rail system and an extensive bus line. The Cities are just now realizing that they and their 'burbs comprise a substantial city and are playing catch-up to the spare standards of the 1970s. I'm not going to live long enough to see a functioning winter transportation system here.

1966 VW for sale outside of Portland.
1974 Hilux motor in all its complexity.
I could go back to an emissions-spewing VW Beetle or an old Japanese pickup, if I didn't have to worry about it rusting out from under me. You can buy a pretty good used Beetle for reasonable money in Portland and they still have floorboards. If I have to own a car, might as well own one that is mostly a 4-wheel motorcycle. The pickup is a likely option, too. It could carry a motorcycle, if necessary, wood for the woodstove, and whatever other crap I have to haul for the 3-4 times a year I need to haul something my bike can't carry. I had a 1974 Toyota Hilux for 8 of the 10 years I lived in California and only sold it because I knew it would dissolve in the Minnesota salt and I couldn't bear to watch that happen after 300,000 miles of faithful service. A kid who read my water meter bought the pickup and planned to drive it to the vintage car show at the fair grounds, once a year, and store it in his dad's barn the rest of the time. It's tough to beat that little motor for simplicity, outside of an air-cooled VW.

Most guys would have a serious problem pulling off something like this because of their wives. Not me. My wife has hated winter for as long as we've been married, or longer. When I took my first Minnesota job, she was convinced that I was moving us her to force her to divorce me. She is a west coast lady and would sell everything we don't need, pack up what's left, and be ready to hit the road before I finished saying, "Ok, I give. Let's move to Portland." You can see she's a serious tree hugger and she likes to hug serious trees.

It's also possible that this, too, will pass. Every winter for the last five or six, I've burned out on the concept long before the misery was over. When my grandson quit playing in the snow with me, I sorta quit playing in the snow, too. We are part of a wonderful collection of Minnesota communities that I can't imagine replacing anywhere else in the country. By April, I will have forgotten winter altogether and be happily riding the bike to work every day, blissfully unaware that winter is just around the corner. Again. But I won't have to think about my car problems until sometime in late November and that's almost as good as not owning a car.