Jun 29, 2013

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Look closely at this photo and tell me what is wrong with this picture (and where Waldo is hiding)?
dual-sport-motorcycle
It’s a concept bike, for sure, but exactly the kind of thing one of the so-called American bike manufacturers ought to be building. Unfortunately, as usual, they’ve left it to privateers to do actual engineering work and engineer Jim Carducci gets all of the credit for the Carducci Dual Sport SC3 Adventure. Carducci’s company claims to be “Founded by myself, a mechanical systems design engineer and senior engineering director in the semiconductor industry, with over 32 years of design engineering experience, and my wife with an electrical engineering control systems, SW and operations background, we create and provide innovative and technical solutions. Our designs are patent pending.
“With our professional experience coupled with my 40 years of motorcycling experience and passion for riding, racing, customizing, building, and traveling via motorcycle, have led us to develop dual sport motorcycles. And, we are making them available to you.” Based on this brilliant piece of engineering, design work, and visual excellence, I see no reason to doubt those claims. Of course, it’s still a plodding hippo, but at least it has a purpose. Like the rest of the liter+ “adventure” bikes, it is heavy (475 pounds dry), tall (35.5” seat height), and most likely has limited range (no fuel capacity stated on the company website, but if there are performance mods made to the engine, mileage will suffer). I could whine and moan about what it isn’t for another page, but what it is has to be one of the only cool looking HDs on the road. It will look great on Leno’s garage floor, all polished up and dry as a bone inside to prevent wood floor stains.

Jun 28, 2013

Vintage Bike Show 2013

The vintage bike show was a decent way to spend a couple of hours before my daughter’s family fed me for Father’s Day. The only serious temptation was a 1980’s Yamaha IT200 in trashcan condition. It wasn’t a serious temptation, though. I rode to the show on my WR250X and that pretty much ruins me for older motorcycles. I don’t even like carburetors, let alone the vehicles fueled by that obsolete technology. So, it was fun looking at old stuff (not in the mirror), but the bank account is reasonably safe.

grudgegeezer's 2013 Vintage Bike Show album on Photobucket

Jun 27, 2013

Here It Comes, Smartass

Think auto-piloted vehicles are in the science fiction future? Think again bozo-boy. Your days of “being in control” are numbered.

Think motorcycles are going to be in the traffic mix when these vehicles are on the freeway?

The final statement in this article was, “And if it all goes wrong, Audi Pre Sense will step in to save your bacon. At the sign of potential hazards, you'll see a visual and audible warning. But responding to info from the ESP sensors, like hard braking or skidding, the windows and sun roof will close, while electric motors tighten your seatbelt ready for impact.

There's even a thermal imaging camera with a 24-degree scanning angle, giving your car night sight in the far infrared region (FIR). That's 300 meters in total darkness, and unlike our feeble eyes, it's not affected by the glare of oncoming headlights. In fact, sitting in this autonomous automobile we're beginning to feel like the weakest link.”

Humans have been the weak link in traffic since the freeway system was designed. If we’re not being fuckin’ morons, we’re just not trying.

Jun 26, 2013

Go East, Old Man

All Rights Reserved © 2008 Thomas W. Day

Last year, when I got back from my excursion to Alaska, a friend got the bike bug. Scott bought a 1992 850 TDM and began to regularly ride to work. About the same time, my brother sent me a collection of pictures from Thousand Islands, NY. The islands were decorated with a collection of dream houses; many were small, all were surrounded and isolated by water, and some were outright castles. The pictures appealed to a part of me that wants to visit Europe but assumes I'll never have the time or money. Scott knew about the Thousand Islands and that area. We started talking about doing a trip together, east. The more we talked, the more eastward the trip progressed. Finally, decided to ride to Nova Scotia, possibly ferrying to Newfoundland. Our wives planned to fly to Halifax to take in a little of the most remote part of the trip.

Once I get a trip direction sorted out, I'm mono-tracked about going. Other people program in some flexibility in their lives, accounting for work, family, health, and other responsibilities and realities. Not me. If I say, "I"m going ," you can assume I'm going. I spent the first 35 years of my working life giving up vacations for the demands of work. For whatever life I have left, work takes a backseat to my vacations. Money is time. Time is finite and the last twenty-five years of incompetent government have proven that money is infinite. Spend finite resources carefully and let the infinite stuff take care of itself. 

Once I had a destination picked out, I set out to plan my route, Canadian side going east, US side coming home. Garmin's Mapsource software and I picked the roads, almost all two-lanes through places I've never been and where I hoped camping sites would be plentiful. I made a best-guess as to when I might be able to reach Halifax, cleared the dates with my wife, made her plane reservations, found a remote motel/resort where we'd spend some time together, and started putting my traveling gear together. August rolled around and I was ready to hit the road.

nova_scotia_1 Right. In fact, I struggled for a month to find a pair of sprockets for my V-Strom. Nobody had them in stock. While waiting for sprockets, I tore down the back end of the bike, replacing bearings and such, replaced all the bike's fluids. Before that, I'd installed new tires and taken the easy way to replace the fork fluid; which turned out to be the non-functional way. The forks were almost seized. I don't have the equipment to securely pull both the front and back end of the bike, so I needed to get the back tire on the bike so that I could redo the forks. I got all that finished one day before the trip date. Three near-panic days of going over the maintenance list, packing clothing and gear, and triple checking it all. I'm tired, but ready to go.

While my stuff was in process, Scott's fell apart. His bike turned out to be the victim of a retarded past owner and the final straw was discovering the countershaft sprocket had been welded to the shaft and Scott would be stuck for five more weeks before all the parts to repair that idiocy would show up. He decided to trail along to Kingston, New York, in his Toyota. His wife bailed out, entirely. We'd made alternative plans from the start of trip planning, so . . . no problem, I'll do most of the trip on my own.

nova_scotia_2 August 1, Scott arrives at my house and we're headed to Thunder Bay. About twenty miles out of town and I realize something is very wrong. Most likely, food poisoning. My stomach is boiling and I am freezing. I have had chronic pain in my neck for a month and I'm ignoring it. If it's serious, there is nothing I can do about it. If it's a pulled muscle, I can live with it. However, combined with the symptoms of ptomaine, I can barely turn my head to see what's around me. Whatever doesn't kill me . . .

nova_scotia_3 We whip through Duluth via the interstate and take the scenic route on 61 to Thunder Bay. A few miles from the boarder and it starts to rain and I stopped to get into my Darian pants. Hardly slowing for the boarder crossing, we get into Canada in good time. It starts to rain harder. Then, it hails. There is no place to stop and I can't see more than 50 feet and it feels like being sandblasted by golf balls. Now, I'm freezing, cramping, and my neck, knees, shoulders, butt are killing me. I'm beginning to wonder if I have a flu. I stop on the edge of Thunder Bay to add layers.

Once we're clear of Thunder Bay, the temperature dropped but the rain stopped in another sixty miles. My body was working poorly, but my 'stich gear kept  me dry. My boots, however, leak. I forgot to pack the Nicwax. Now, I have something to hunt for at every stop until Halifax. Doesn't anybody go outside in Canada? I gave up trying to push myself around the lake a little before dusk, about halfway across Lake Superior, just before the scenery gets really cool. Because I was shivering like I'd been naked in sub-zero temps, I begged off on camping and we settled for a decent cabin with a hot shower. I stepped into the shower before the water temperature settled down and boiled myself until the shivering stops. Scott bought a couple of beers from the campground store, I drank one and fell asleep to the sound of Scott talking about the rain and the trip. I woke up about 3AM to crawl under the covers and go back to sleep.

nova_scotia_5 The next morning, I felt great. Cramps were mostly gone, chills vanished, and my neck pain was back to its normal dull throb. We got on the road fairly early, covered a hundred miles before stopping for breakfast in Wawa, Ontario. I looked, for the first time, for a boot treatment and bought more bug spray. Five days later, I would discover that some scumbag at either the restaurant or the drug store snagged my credit card data and started racking up $100 charges on my account. We'd passed a little of the coolest parts of the north shore, but the best was yet to come.

We kept going, through the boarder town of Sault Ste Marie to Manitoulin Island. The "plan" was to get to South Baymouth and the ferry before it sailed at 5:30PM, in case we could jump the boat earlier than Scott's 10:30PM reservation. Turns out, a bike can get on pretty much any time, but Scott's cage was stuck to the late boat. We discussed my going ahead to find a campground or motel, but neither of our cell phones worked on Manitoulin, so that plan had a fatal flaw if we were going to find each other on the other side. We decided to gamble on the late crossing. Bad plan. Everything was either full or out of business from Tobermory to Owen Sound; only 70 miles but in pitch black with a little fog and the constant watch for deer and other night time hazards, stopping at ever "vacant" sign to discover the proprietor was a lazy bastard who hadn't bothered to add "no" to his sign. Finally, on a tip from a clerk at a full-up Travelodge, we straggled into a city campsite at 3AM for two hours of sleep.

nova_scotia_6Back on the road for Toronto and Kingston, New York. Scott has friends to meet in Toronto, I want to get to the islands to play tourist. Another friend of Scott's has cabins on Black Lake, NY, . All the way down, from Tobermory, I experienced the east coast trait that had put me off from the beginning of the trip; massive overpopulation. This part of Ontario is as scenic as Kansas, with one-hundred-and-ten-times as many towns and people. The map is speckled with towns and so is reality. The only upside is that the going is so slow that I get almost 60mpg out of the V-Strom.

Scott and I are going to meet a his friends' resort on the 4th. I get through the boarder check, cross the St. Lawrence, follow my GPS to the Indianhead Point Resort. Knowing Scott is, apparently, a ticket to the easy life on the East Coast. We end up talking politics, business, tree-hugging, and music way into the night. The next day, I rode into Alexandria Bay and took a cattle boat tour of the islands. I took a lot of pictures, found a dream house, ate sea food on the beach, learned a little American history, and went back to the resort tired and with a satisfied tourist Jones. Scott was there, we all hung out another late night, and went to bed a few hours before I planned to hit the road again.

nova_scotia_8 nova_scotia_7 In the morning, I'm off for Montreal, Quebec City, and as far as I can get east into Quebec. I made Montreal about 11AM, toured the city, saw some sights, freaked out at the crazy French Canadian drivers, and decided to keep going so that I could help celebrate Quebec City's 400th birthday. I got there in time to find a parking place and dash for a spot to watch a really cool parade. This place knows how to throw a birthday party. Great music, awesome costumes, an elbow-to-elbow crowd, and gorgeous, incomprehensible French-speaking women lining the streets. The food on the tables of the outdoor bistros looked amazing, especially the bread. I went looking for an ATM and a place to sleep for the night. First, I discovered banks and downtown Quebec City don't go together. Second, I learned that every room within 100 miles had been booked for months. Third, at an ATM 25 miles out of the city I learned my bank card had been locked down. I called the bank, learned that their card fraud folks had decided that someone was playing with my credit card number. They reopened the card for the night and I pulled out a bunch of cash and killed the bank card the next day.

nova_scotia_9 Once I had cash in hand, I started riding east, watching for a campsite. I found an abandoned city campsite in one of the many dinky towns along the Fleuve St. Laurent and rode around the barrier to find a campsite. The "services" were all locked down, but I only needed a pair of trees for the hammock. The next morning, I was on the road by 5AM and headed for my day's first targets, a pay phone and the L'Epopée de la Moto in St-Jean-Port-Joli. This is a weird motorcyclists' gem in a really out of the way place. The museum collects, mostly, European motorcycles from all periods and all sorts; road bikes, racing bikes, and dirt bikes. I needed the pay phone so that I could talk to my bank and the VISA characters. The conversation with my bank was quick and efficient. Panama is an interesting place for VISA to have moved their help desk. Interesting, but not useful. I wasted an hour lining up a Western Union cash pickup that never arrived and a replacement card that would arrive a day too late.

nova_scotia_10 A couple of hours ogling historic bikes, mostly from my own riding era, and I'm on the road toward Riviere du Loup and Edmundston. At this point, I have decisions to make and I made them on the road. I need to get to a place called Dufferin Bay by early on the 8th, two days from now. My original route planned to hook into Maine at the top of the state, at Madawaska, and travel down US 1 to Houlton, where I'd cross back to Canada. The way US boarder crossings have been going for me, that seemed like a major time burner. I think Homeland Security has employed every unemployable ex-high school bully to man the checkpoints. So, I decided to stay in Canada on Highway 2. At Grand Falls, I had another decision to make, cross New Brunswick on 108 to Maraichi where I could ride south along the Northumberland Strait to Nova Scotia or stay on the fast track, Highway 2. I took the low road and stuck with the fast traffic. By the time I got to Fredericton, I was trashed. I stumbled into a worn out motel full of old gearheads who blasted Iron Maiden and AC/DC way into the night. It was a waste of money and I would have slept better on the side of the road.

Friday, I have to find the Halifax Airport, our resort, convince the resort folks that I will (eventually) have a working credit card, dump off all of my gear, get back to the airport, pickup my wife, and get the two of us back to the resort. The airport Garmin had picked for me turned out to be the Canadian Forces Base, which was a pain in the ass to find, harder to get to, and almost landed me in jail for the effort. The Halifax International Airport turned out to be about 20 miles north, but I found it. The resort was 95 miles east along the southern coast of Nova Scotia. I found it, the folks at the Marquis of Dufferin Seaside Inn were insanely trusting and left the financial problem for the next day. I dumped my gear, headed back to the airport with a couple of hours to spare. When I made it back to Halifax, I decided to find some extra rain protection for my wife, since it was raining and her gear was only waterproof from the waist down. I blew an hour looking for rain gear and failed. I gave up, headed for the airport, found it, found a parking place, walked leisurely to the baggage area, glanced at a schedule board and saw that her plane had arrived. Guess what? Nova Scotia is one time slot east of Eastern Standard Time.

nova_scotia_11 She tells me her horror story from the customs clowns at Toronto. We load up her tiny luggage and hit the road, in the dark, for our 95 mile ride to the resort. It starts raining as we enter Halifax, rains harder as we head into the pitch black of 107, begins to pour as we turn onto 7, and only gets worse for the next 60 miles. There is no place to stop, turning around would be no better than going on, especially without a backup reservation. My brave wife tells me, "keep going" every time I ask if she wants to stop, rest, or strangle me. The story of that ride is a whole article on its own. We arrive alive.

nova_scotia_12 The next three days we barely use the bike at all. Everything we need is walking distance from the resort. We take a couple of short trips to nearby tourist attractions, but this part of the trip is about getting to know one small spot in Nova Scotia. Monday, we head for our hotel in Halifax, the one that provides a shuttle service from the hotel to the airport on Monday morning. Halifax is hosting a Buskers Street Festival and that is a blast. We saw a guy set his mouth on fire, walk on a ladder of sharp swords, and lie down on a bed of nails while a 200 pound guy stood on his chest. Bloody stuff, but entertaining.

We say goodbye early in the morning and she is off for the airport. Prowling Halifax by GPS, I find a place that sells Nicwax stuff and I'm off for Cape Breton. At this point, the first 2400 miles of this trip are logged and I have 3600 left to ride. The Cabot Trail is in my sights.

Jun 24, 2013

#8 Reverse Psychology

http://www.amazon.com/Geezer-with-A-Grudge/dp/B007RPQJ24
All Rights Reserved © 2000 Thomas W. Day

I'm thinking that the EPA and the Federal Transportation Department are all taking the wrong approach on motorcycles. With reasonable consideration of the purpose of vehicles, the environment, and decent manners, these agencies have attempted to encourage motorcycle manufacturers to build (and motorcyclists to own) vehicles that meet these objectives. The problem is that Americans (and rest-of-world American wannabes) don't want reasonableness. To many of us, our motorcycles are not transportation but some kind of "lifestyle" icon. A nation of "born to be mild" types are buying and fiddling with motorcycles to demonstrate their individuality.

What if the government gave up on trying to manage all this stuff and just let the manufacturers ship us the absolute minimum vehicle, for us to redesign at will? Of course, at least one manufacturer is already doing this and making a bundle at it, so they might flex their powerful legislative muscle and prevent the competition from doing the same. Still, since the popular trend seems to be toward downsizing government. Imagine the whole thing getting downsized until diddly stuff like motorcycles are completely out of the federal and state viewfinders. It could happen.

This fantasy occurred to me as I took yet another step toward returning my new-used bike to stock. I know this is the exact opposite maneuver from typical, but, so far, it's been pretty successful for me.

I bought an almost new Suzuki SV650 from a kid in Michigan. The kid, like all self-respecting boy motorcyclists, had accumulated about 10 minutes of motorcycling expertise before he decided that Suzuki just hadn't built the kind of motorcycle that someone of his talent and experience deserved. So, he took some of Daddy's money and started re-engineering the SV. He had a shop install an expensive and noisy (the most critical characteristic) exhaust system. They applied a Dremel tool to the air filter, to allow "better breathing." The shop boys fiddled with the carb jetting, mashing the throttle cable between the carb housing and the frame in the process. He installed sticky race tires. He added some racer-boy cosmetic accessories. After the fine-tuning and thread-stripping was complete, he dumped the bike in his driveway and decided that motorcycling was too expensive and dangerous. He put the bike up for sale and I bought it for an extremely reasonable early-March price.

I admit, without guilt, that I have a serious bias against noisy pipes. In this one aspect, I probably have more in common with non-bikers than most bikers. I see absolutely nothing wrong with a cop firing a warning shot to the head, when said cop pulls over a biker, a jacked-up SUV owner, or a semi-driver for noise emissions from a non-stock, non-EPA, non-DOT approved exhaust system. Even more non-biker-like, I don't believe that 99.9xx% of the riders I see on the street have any capacity to manage the unlikely 1-4% horsepower/torque gains they might, on a miraculous perfect tuning day with the moon and stars just right, achieve with a "competition use only" exhaust system. I think most folks with loud pipes are just being antagonistic toward their neighbors and anyone they might muster up the nerve to pass on the highway.

In fact, I doubt that any modification made by a non-racer (or an unsuccessful racer) has a practical purpose. Having bought a few of these cobbled-up mis-engineering attempts over the years, I suspect that "buyer's hysteria" is responsible for the sale of more motorcycle junk than performance. So, what I'm suggesting to the Feds and State regulatory folks is that they might try a little reverse psychology. Allow all of the bike manufacturers to make completely obnoxious and massively polluting bikes and, in that way, challenge motorcyclists to improve their bikes in the direction that they're trying to lead us through current regulation.

After a brief burst of irresponsibility, bikers would start tuning to improve mileage and emissions. We'd would be pawing through exhaust system catalogs, comparing the systems' noise output, and trying to quiet their bikes down so that neighbors would quit keying the bikers' cars and teepeeing their houses, while they were out riding. Motorcyclist hobbyists would be involved in real engineering, rather than de-engineering. Imagine that.

One of the early manufacturing engineering gurus found that assembly folks noticed an improvement in their working conditions when he modified the plant's lighting system. Their output improved accordingly. Later, Mr. Guru change the same lights back to stock and the assemblers thought that was better, too. Again, their efficiency improved. Humans aren't very good at making fine distinctions based on memory. We're even worse about being objective regarding the results of our investments. We spend our money, put in a few hours fiddling with our bikes, and we're convinced (regardless of any real evidence) that we've improved our bikes. The results of most of our modifications are grossly subjective, for those of us who don't race. For most of us who do race, pouring money into the bike isn't any where near as productive as spending time on the track.

In my situation, I've started with a bike that's had a fair collection of hop-up attempts made and I'm working backwards toward the stock bike. When the original owner had the bike, I read his posts to the SV owner's mail list, bragging about how each pile of money and weekend of fiddling with the bike had done something wonderful to the bike's performance. I've been spending my money and time to get back to stock. Regardless of the type of investment, I'm seeing the same kind of improvement that original owner reported, except that I'm removing the stuff he put on the bike to get those improvements.

I think this experiment is meaningful (it's one I've run a few times with the same results). I'm just not sure what the meaning is. I'll bet the accessory manufacturers would just as soon you didn't think about it too much.

October/November 2000

Jun 22, 2013

Total Control, High Performance Street Riding Techniques, by Lee Parks

total_control

All Rights Reserved © 2001 Thomas W. Day

Originally published in Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly #72 Winter/2004

Off season or on season, I read one or two books about motorcycles or motorcycling every month. They're more interesting than television and I almost always learn something that I can apply to my riding or bike maintenance. The Twist of the Wrist series, for example, are books that I've read and re-read a half-dozen times and I still get something new out of the books every time. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is another book I re-read fairly regularly, especially when I find myself getting mentally lazy and start considering taking my bike to a shop for repairs.

Unexpectedly, Zen and Total Control have a lot in common. Parks manages to make it almost 1/3 of the way into the book before liberal references to various eastern and western philosophies begin to slip into the text. By the time he's out of mechanics and into chapters on "Fear," "Concentration," and "Right Attitude," he's quoting everyone from Zen masters to L. Ron ("I'm not dead yet") Hubbard to Bob (my motorcycling hero) Hannah. Sections on "how do you create a positive road relationship?" may push your credibility buttons a bit too hard, especially in the 22nd Century's "might makes right" atmosphere. So, there may be a chapter or three that rubs you the wrong way.

However, the techniques and practical advice is incredibly detailed and totally useful. With chapters describing every motorcycling activity from suspension setup to riding with a passenger to stocking your garage/workshop with tools and equipment, Parks has done a good job of covering nearly every aspect of motorcycling.

In many ways, this book is a compliment to the Twist of the Wrist series. Where Code uses drawings, diagrams, and theoretical explanations for motorcycle actions and functions, Parks uses pictures, diagrams, and step-by-step descriptions. For instance, in the chapter on cornering, Parks uses 19 pictures in 9 pages to illustrate the right (and wrong) way to make a high performance turn. It's an effective approach and the breakdown of the sequence of events in a turn will provide riders with enough information to practice the technique.

Attempting to detail the details included in this book would result in a 150 page edition of the MMM. Since Parks does a fine job of managing his own descriptions, I'd recommend you read the book and decide what fits your style and what doesn't. At best, this is a great handbook for those wanting to learn a lot more about performance motorcycling. At worst, it's a great winter motorcycle book.

Jun 20, 2013

Ready to Haul Bikes


Thanks to my friends at TC_Dualsport, it looks like I'm ready to do the Sturgis Rally thing; haul the bike 500 miles so that I can cruise around a small, overcrowded town and look . . . cool? Since I took this shot, I've added some stuff: tie-downs for the screen tent, bicycle mounts on each side of the motorcycle, new wiring for the lights, and it's all ready to haul WR ass.

First test, this week at Itaska.

Jun 19, 2013

Miles and Miles to Travel (1994)

[Long before there was a GWAG, I wrote all sorts of articles on spec for a variety of magazines and industry rags. This was an 1994 article I wrote for Rider Magazine.  I had it sold to the magazine, before I ever bought a trip map, I thought.  After it was all whipped together, I discovered my editor was gone and the magazine wasn't accepting any more trip articles. Bummer. Still, I made the trip, got paid an advance, and had an adventure.]

Introduction

tdmtrip5Three years ago I met the bike of my dreams. I figure that a few years before then, some Yamaha engineers got together in some muddy stream and said, "We need to do something for Tom Day. We have built a bike for almost everyone in America, but we haven’t done anything for Tom since the mid-1970’s. We took dirt bikes away from him when we jacked the seat heights to six feet. We even built the Virago for Elvis and he’s been dead for 20 years! Let’s make a Thomas William Day bike, OK?" They did, but they screwed it up and called it the TDM, instead of the TWD. Jingoish, I guess.

I can live with that. It took me two years to break down and buy a TDM and by then dealers were practically giving them away; especially the really cool¾ and red¾ 1992 version. I’m sorry I wasted those first two years. I’m getting old and losing two years of fun wouldn’t have been worth the $3,000 I saved. I lost that much on my IRA’s in the stock market during those years.

This year’s vacation could have been a lazy plane ride to Seattle and a week hanging out with friends, but I own a TDM! I planned a trip that would prove to the world what a terrific bike Yamaha had made for me. I would do a 1,600 mile freeway blitz to Seattle and a meandering return trip that would take me over freeway, two lane asphalt, dirt roads and dirt trails. I hoped to travel every kind of road surface in the U.S. of A. I was convinced that the TDM was a cross country dirt bike disguised as a mid-life crisis crotch rocket.

I added a few personal touches that I wanted to test on a long trip. Because of a hand freezing problem a few months earlier, I attached Acerbis’ Rally Hand Guards to my bars. Clearview Shields (Golden, CO) built me a prototype of the TDM shield he is planning to market. Kerker pipes came with the bike when I bought it and I left them on, since they saved me about 30 pounds over the stock pipes. They added 30dB SPL to the road noise level. I hoped that ear plugs would neutralize that disadvantage. After 15 years of dirt biking, I couldn’t bring myself to do anything to add weight to the bike; even something that would save my hearing and keep my enemies list low. The bike also came with a Corbin seat. Because I hoped they would add to the bike’s handling, durability, and mileage, I put Michelin A89X and M89X radial’s on the bike. A Chase Harper tank bag and saddle bags and a Tour Master tail bag did the luggage duties. Unlike big-deal magazine editors, I had to buy most of this stuff, so I made sure it fit the tour and the bike. The added weight and wind resistance from the luggage altered the bike’s handling, but I brought enough stuff to change residence. In fact, I ended up with too much mild weather clothing and too little roasting weather stuff.

8/10/94 Wednesday

Broke the corporate rules and only wore the top half of the dress code uniform. I came in my riding jeans and only had to dump the tie, dress shirt, dress shoes, and bad attitude to hit the road. Before I was released, I listened to every conversation, even ones that didn’t include me, for the phrase, "I guess you don’t need to hang around here anymore." I got the word at 3:00AM and was out the door 5 minutes later. My bags were packed, the bike was gassed and prepped, and I strapped on my helmet as I drove away from Hell; I mean work.

tdmtrip6Since today was our 10th anniversary, my wife and I met in Boulder for lunch. The traffic was miserable between Denver and Boulder. Bumper-to-bumper, 5mph, smog sniffing hell. My bike that can fly and I’m crawling. Almost two hours later, I arrive at the restaurant an hour late. My wife only got here 20 minutes earlier, so I’m not in trouble with a capital "T." We ate, talked, and said good-bye; anniversaries don’t get any better.

Finally, I’m off. Sort of. I hoped to travel northwest to Montana by two lane U.S. Highway 285. Bad decision. More bumper-to-bumper slow motion. Colorado’s Front Range is as bad as southern California. People with bad hair and bad driving skills everywhere. Another hour wasted and no miles tdmtrip9traveled. I give up just before Longmont and head for I25, which was also packed, but moving at a reasonable speed. About 10 miles from the Wyoming border, the crowd began to disperse. By Cheyenne I was on open, empty road.

I gas up at Cheyenne and continued northwest on I25. Cheyenne is the beginning of a wonderful relationship with Montana. Good road. Fast traffic. No cops. Great scenery. People are passing me and I’m doing 95! So I go faster. Every other vehicle is a bike. Most of them are going east to Sturgis. I spent the afternoon waving so often my sleeve wore out. Some of the non-Harley riders were traveling faster than greased Ninjas.

Past Cheyenne, still on I25, I can see for miles. Soft rolling hills that are only fenced near the freeway. Sheep and cattle graze together. Cars and bikes smoke up the road without a black-&-white in sight. I get a miserable 37mpg for this stretch, but I make good time. Thirty miles from Cheyenne the terrain turns spectacular. Nothing seems close, though. You can hang on to the throttle and still have all the time you need to enjoy the view. Huge piles of rock have heaved themselves on top of each other, to get a look at the Harley’s and the rest of us. Every Western movie I’ve ever seen must have been filmed here. I keep an eye out for smoke signals and stage bandits.

About seventy miles east of Casper I pass a "Converse County" sign and 1/2 mile later a "Game Crossing" sign. I had Nike’s in my bag and wondered if they would let me play anyway?

A few miles north of Cheyenne, the plains swell into rocky ledges that Festus and Mester Dillun would get sniped at by Native Americans (Whoa! I can be PC.) The weather is perfect, I have a full tank, and the scenery is terrific. You can smoke it here and still have time to enjoy the view. Everything is bigger and further than I’m used to, even by Colorado standards. I traveled 325 miles in my first half day of this trip and I’m beat. The TDM has been comfortable and nothing hurts, but a half work day plus the miles has done me in.

Douglas, the home of the Wyoming state fair, is a great place with motels, hot showers, a McDonalds, and good old high school boys smoking cigarettes and sitting on pickup truck hoods. And soul music blasting out of every radio I heard ("Just Gimme Some Kind of Sign, Girl"). You probably think the Kerker’s took out my hearing and I was having an aural flashback, but I swear I heard political commercials too. I would never imagine a county treasurer ad. Nope, it was soul music, even for breakfast at the local’s downtown restaurant. Can’t beat that.

8/11/94 Thursday

Douglas doesn’t have a grocery store that stays open late or opens before the banks. I had breakfast, hoping I could find one before I let go of my motel room, but no luck. Just one small tube of hair shampoo, that’s all I wanted. But do you think I could buy one?

Driving across this beautiful, nearly unscarred plain, you could almost forget what a disaster humans have been to this world. The Dave Johnston Power Plant, just east of Glenrock, WY, will keep you within reality. This monster spews enough steam and smoke that you can see it for 10 miles. I though I was coming onto Long Beach, CA. I stopped to write this and a hawk screeched its way past me. Even old Dave couldn’t completely spoil this spot of Wyoming.

tdmtrip7At Casper, I had to decide whether to stick with my planned route or get off of the freeway. I decided for chaos. I aimed at Yellowstone by way of US Highway 2026. After blasting along with no traffic in sight for more than 100 miles, I hit the reserve tank 22 miles from Shoshoni. Nothing but desert for 22 miles and I paid $1.29 for 4.3 gallons of the most precious fluid I’ve ever bought.

If you’re planning your urban wild life vacation, have I got the place for you. Montana has 10 people to part with and Morton has 5. Kick up your heels in Wyoming! I can’t believe AAA puts these places on the map. Dubois, on the other hand, has 985 and most of them are rich, judging by the huge log mansions, BMW’s, and Toyota 4-wheelers.

Wyoming must have half of the state employed at tearing up the highways. I sat in line waiting for them to change the guy leaning on the shovel for a total of 45 minutes in a 200 mile section of highway. Maybe that’s where all the rich folks in Dubois come from; the highway department. Our tax dollars attempting to be a work.

tdmtrip11The Acerbis Rally Handguards and Clearshield custom wind screen paid for themselves between Yellowstone and Bozeman. I drove through a heavy mist which progressed to a driving rain and climaxed with bullet-sized hail. I changed gloves on the move, attempting to stay out of a pack of semis following me. When I lifted my hands out of the protective cover of the handguards, my hands were pelted blue and soaked in seconds. I made the change in the Clearshield’s air pocket and was able to ignore the storm till it played out a few miles south of Bozeman. My gloves were only a little damp at the edge of the gauntlets. The windshield kept my chest and below out of the rain and I was as comfortable as possible through the storm. When I stopped at a filling station, I joined a pack of riders (mostly Harleys) who had been hiding out for the past hour. They thought I was crazy to go back out into the storm, but I was comfortable and wanted to find a motel before they filled up.

Bozeman was a disappointment. In honor of Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance), I really wanted to stay there. I suppose, equally in honor of him, Bozeman didn’t want me. Every hotel was full, except for a casino/motel that had a $200 bridal suite available. I didn’t feel that desperate. Just before giving up and finding a tree to curl up under, I found a motel at Whitehall, 60 miles west of Bozeman. I found two motels, actually, both were hidden a few miles south of I90 on state highway 2. I spent $18 and slept like a baby.

8/12/94 Friday

The next morning I cruised though the Idaho pan handle's canyons and enjoyed the perfect, cool biking weather. I stopped at one of the "Sturgis Coffee Shops" for a free (minus donations) breakfast and got the straight stuff on the local scenic roads. I sped up when I passed a sign bragging about the Rock Falls’ "Bull Testicle Festival" ("Have a ball!"). You never know when there might be a shortage and the locals are hunting for substitutes.

In Missoula, Montana, I met a guy on a full dress BMW K1100. He gave me some road condition advise and told me about a Flathead girlfriend who had the "perfect place to hold a martini, while she was giving him a blow job." He was visiting Misoula to see her again. Once again, I had to face the deprivation of my own life. I have never known any Flatheads and I’m never going to be rich. This guy said he always buys bikes in pairs so he can guarantee himself someone to ride with. He started riding on a pair of Kawasaki Big Horn 350’s and has progressed to a pair of BMW K1100’s. I own a pair of socks, but I don’t share them.

At this point, I want to mention one of the high points of this trip. Since I left Colorado, I have seen one highway patrol car in nine hundred miles. That guy passed me and the pack I was trailing like we were parked; and we were doing 90mph! What a country! Who needs the Autobahn? We have 650+ miles of I25 in Wyoming..

For the first 800 miles of the trip, I had picked up the habit of dashing between filling stations for the first 120-140 miles at whatever speed seemed appropriate and, after I hit reserve, I mellowed out to 60-70mph; praying for a filling station. This was a dumb tactic from Casper to Yellowstone, since that cut my range to a margin that made praying a constant responsibility. But, mostly, it was the most fun way to travel. My worst mileage was 35.6mpg and my best was 44.6mpg. The worst mileage came between tdmtrip10Coeur d'Alene and Moses Lake, Idaho, a section of flat, hot, desert where the traffic was flat out, non-stop. The best was driving down the peninsula between Hoquaim, Washington and Portland, Oregon. The scenery was so incredible there that I stopped to take pictures and wallow in the ocean every few miles, but I still smoked the territory between clear cut forest sections. Mild mannered driving and chest-on-the-tank blasting got nearly the same results, so I let nature have its way with my right hand.

Between Coeur d'Alene and the Cascades, I didn’t stop for picture taking. You wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference between that area and lots of Kansas. I liked Coeur d'Alene, but west of the lake to about ten miles of Spokane is one long, traffic congested city. It reminded me too much of L.A. and that made my head hurt. Then the desert, which also reminded me of L.A. I gotta go. I cooked in the 100+ degree desert. I stopped at every rest stop and watered myself down. I stood in the sprinkler system of one of those places and I swear I heard bacon sizzling before the water finally lowered my body temperature. The air wavered all around me and the asphalt was soft as putty. Good thing there are no corners in that 240 mile oven.

I stopped at the Rainbow Motel in Ellensburg, Washington. Nice good motel and an experienced bike owner whom to to BS; he’s been on trips across Canada and gave me some good ideas for next year’s trip. I ate some greasy fast food before I fell asleep.

8/13/94 Saturday

Again, I woke up later than I wanted and hit the road hungry. I’m starting to get into the habit of putting in a few miles before breakfast. It feels good to ride right out of bed and it feels even better to work up an appetite before breakfast. I stopped at North Bend, Washington, just before heading up the Cascades. I wandered around, taking in North Bend Days and listened to a killer country guitar picker for a while. Then, I hit the road with both barrels firing (You can say that when you ride a twin.).

tdmtrip4The 125 mile trip from North Bend to Seattle is pretty amazing. I swear, there is a spot where the freeway has desert on one side and 75 foot firs and forest on the other. The mountains leap out of nowhere and this part of the freeway is a royal blast on a bike.

Just before I passed over a bridge and started heading up the east side of the Cascades for the last section of desert mountains, I had my one and only "incident" of the trip. I’d stopped at a "scenic viewpoint" to admire a man-made reservoir and had just enjoyed the fact that, at near sea level, my TDM could do wheelies in three gears exiting the parking lot. A few hundred feet from the exit a large dog or coyote ran onto the highway and stopped right in my path. Grabbing more than my usual two fingers full of TDM brakes, I decelerated from fast to stopped in well under a zillionth of a second. The mutt looked at me, barked, and picked another lane to scratch his ass. I crossed the bridge a little more slowly than the rest of the traffic while I shook out the dampness in my jeans.

I rolled into Bellevue, Washington about noon and parked myself on a friend’s couch for a few hours. That night, we took in a pier-side concert, War and Tower of Power, and a lot of Seattle’s downtown sights, by car. I still loved my TDM, but I was beat. I think the desert did it. For two more days, I goofed off, played basketball, and enjoyed being away from the road. I visited the Microsoft "campus" and was depressed at the "information highway" working conditions. Very prison-like. In retrospect, it’s difficult to remember which parts in my memories came from Microsoft’s offices and which parts were from the "Underground Seattle" tour. By Tuesday I was ready to roll again.

8/16/94 Tuesday

After saying goodbye and tending to a little business, I headed out of Seattle a little after noon. I planned to take the scenic route down the peninsula, after getting there by the Kingston Ferry. Bikes, as they should, get priority on the ferry. Pass the line of cars and head for the front parking slots. It’s about time someone recognized our superiority. I could ride these boats for the rest of my life. What a great boat ride and I get to take my bike! The day was clear and cloudy, at the same time. I could see Canada and the U.S. clearly.

It’s good to be on the road again. I have no idea where I’m going or when I will get there, now. The directed part of the trip is over now and I’m on my own with only the wind and handlebars to follow. I guess I’m expected back in five more days, but I can’t think about that. I can only follow my front wheel.

This is my first chance to see a rain forest. I could go to Canada, by ferry, or to Oregon, by road. Those are my choices, because I won’t backtrack. I’m through with freeways for a while. The tallest mountains are shrouded in clouds and rain. I can’t see detail, only hazy forms. It looks like I’m going to get wet. I should have patched the hole in my rainsuit’s crotch.

I found some other bikers to talk to about Washington’s highway 101 and the places I should watch for. Mostly, I played tourist and enjoyed the boat ride. As the boat lined up for docking, I walked back to my bike and stuffed my gear into the bags. Since there were no pedestrians on the boat, bikes went out first. I stopped at the first station in Kingston to fill up and walked across the street to an auto parts store to buy a can of tire seal. I’d been meaning to buy that stuff for 1,6000 miles and I don’t know why I was inspired to do it then.

It’s amazing how fast you can learn to resent the "amenities" of culture. Things like fume catchers on gas pumps, pre-paying for gas at self-service stations, cops on every corner start to eat at you till you are ready to go somewhere isolated. Kingston had that affect on me. I checked the bike over and headed for the western Washington beaches.

Fifteen miles later, I was stuck at the Port Gamble toll bridge waiting for the "men leaning on shovels" to let me pass. There was some noise about construction in the area, but all I saw was two people with stop/slow signs and some parked trucks with shovel-leaners nearby. Twenty minutes later, we were moving again. I made it about ten miles past the bridge before I noticed an instability in the rear end of my bike. I stopped and found the rear tire was low. I rotated the wheel on the kickstand and found a leak, but no sign of a nail or anything in the hole. I pumped the tire up and took off, slowly, for a phone.

tdmtrip3I made it into Port Ludlow and called AAA for help. After an hour of debating with Washington’s AAA and Colorado’s AAA phone reps, I learned that Washington isn’t in the United States. They have "a different series of policies" for motorcycle coverage and I would have to pay for the tow and Colorado would reimburse me. (I’m still waiting for the reimbursement.) A really well equipped and professional driver carefully picked up the TDM and drove me to Port Townsend, where I paid $85 for a motel room on the beach. I could have picked a lot worse places to be stuck. Nice town, great view, great restaurants.

8/17/94 Wednesday

I got to Port Townsend after the local Honda dealer had closed, but I was there before they opened in the morning. I could tell you that Port Townsend Honda & Marine was one of the high points of the trip and, if I hadn’t been forced to visit them, it could almost be true. They were professional, cool, and fun to talk to. Tom Noyes, star mechanic, let me use the opportunity to look at my bike from the bottom side to best use. I tightened bolts, checked for leaks, and fiddled around while he struggled to fix the collapsed Michelin. And struggle he did. Michelin radials are not built to fix. The inside surface is so convoluted that he had to grind at the inside of the tire for a long while. He still wasn’t happy with the smoothness of the surface and the patch didn’t seem to be sticking well. We added suspenders to the belt and put in a tube. My kickstand bolt had tossed its nut and worked its way almost off of the bike. He ground out a custom locknut and re-threaded the bolt. I bought another can of air and tire goop and hit the road about lunch time.

I expected the trip down Highway 101 to be beautiful, unusual, and inspiring. I’ve stared at pictures of the rain forest in National Geographic's for years and was expecting the experience to be something I’d remember for the rest of my life. Sometimes it was that kind of experience, sometimes it was really depressing. So much of the forest has been clear cut that it hurt to look at the ruins. I enjoyed the remains of the forest and the beaches, but my memory of that portion of the trip is damaged by the thousands of acres of stripped clean mountains and beaches piled high with the discarded carcasses of huge fir trees. Those images pushed me to rush through a section of my trip that I had hoped would be special.

On the other hand, the stretch of 101 to Hoquiam along the bay is incredible stuff. I passed house boats, skiers, a huge Hitachi barge, and rotting historic structures, while I swept along the edge of the ocean on a great twisting road. I didn’t stop much, but it was hard to keep my eyes on the road for the great view on both sides of the road. Since there was almost no traffic, that wasn’t a major disadvantage.

I didn’t slow down as I passed Portland and kept running until I exhausted myself. By then, I was on the east side of the Cascades and I spent the night in Hood River, Oregon. Considering that I hadn’t started until after noon, a 500 mile day meant pretty hard traveling. At least my patched rear tire held up solidly. The other advantage to staying on the move was that I missed out on the long lines of people waiting for whatever the men-leaning-on-shovels make people wait for. There was nearly 100 miles of cobbled-up highway between the eastern edge of Portland and Hood River and, since I passed through that at night, I didn’t have to park in the heat with the other tourists. I don’t feel that I missed anything valuable in Portland.

8/18/94

The next 150 miles toward Boise, still on I84, were fun but hot. From Hood River to Boardman, the freeway parallels the Columbia River and I hopped from one side to the other—I84 to US Highway 14—whenever the whim struck me. I wasn’t in a hurry and both roads were fun to travel and free of men-leaning-on-shovels.

I took a side road, county highway 142, away from the river at Lyle, Oregon. The road was nothing special and the temperature shot up fast away from the river. Thinking that I could navigate my way back to highway 14, cross-country, I headed south on the first dirt road that looked like it had been traveled in the last decade. It whittled down from a wide two lane to a narrow single in a few miles. In another five miles, the single lane turned into a pair of worn ruts. The TDM’s suspension handled the ruts and holes, but the bike’s weight was convincing me that it was no dirt bike. The Michelins were even further from off-road usable. They allowed the bike to slip in every possible direction and got no bite at all on the sand. So I went faster to compensate. I figured that if I was going to crash, I might as well crash solidly. When my arms and legs were burning and barely after I’d switched to reserve, the road changed back to a decent single lane. The trail-to-farm road route repeated itself until I was back on highway 14. I have no idea what that road was used for, it went nowhere other than the route I took. I watched my back to see if Rod Sterling was announcing "The Twilight Zone" the whole way. Weird.

I made it to Boardman, Oregon and headed southeast, away from the river. Thirty miles of hot, flat plains and I’m back in high desert. This is beautiful country. I checked out the Oregon Trail tourist spots and had a great time looking on all directions until a little south of Baker City. It gets hot and Kansas-like quick here and I wicked it up to get where I was going as fast as possible. I made it to the Idaho boarder about noon. Gotta love an early start, but I’m seriously hungry.

Idaho was burning. The whole state was either cooking something or on fire itself. Just before the border city of Ontario, I began to smell French fries. By the time I could see the city, my helmet was filled with drool. There is a huge Ore-Ida potato chip factory in Ontario and the whole valley smells like a monstrous McDonalds. By the time I was free of the actual source of that odor, my helmet lining was saturated with potato grease and I lived with hunger for another fifty miles. Which carried me into the next burnt and burning territory where fields on both sides of the freeway were flaming and billowing smoke. That cured the hunger pains, in a few miles my eyes were burning and my tongue felt like I’d been eating lit cigarettes. At Boise, I was downwind of of the Sawtooth and Boise National Forest fires. Sometimes the smoke cloud was as thick as fog. The smoke cloud was as thick as fog from slightly east of Boise and that cloud stayed with me, in some form, to the Utah border.

I made it to Boise mid-afternoon. I was out of the burning fields and into the burning forests. Boise was cloudy with smoke from the national forest fires. The heat was especially oppressive, combined with the smell of burning trees.

I stayed with an old friend that night and we planned on an early morning and a trip to Sun Valley for the next day. To prepare ourselves for that, we stayed out sampling Boise’s nightlife until way-too-late-o’clock.

8/19/94

Dave and I left early and the sun was shrouded by smoke for most of the trip. I followed his car for a few miles and got bored. When we left the freeway, I left him. Highway 20 out of Mountain Home is a fun ride over some good road and great scenery. I waited at the highway 75 intersection for Dave to catch up and we meandered into town together.

Sun Valley, the place that drove Hemmingway to suicide. Now I can say I’ve been there and understood that. The rich and slippery come here to shop. The wannabes come here to shop, too. In their spandex uniforms, the women who wannabe "trophy wives" parade up and down the sidewalks, hustling their stuff. I was constantly reminded of the joke about the priest asking the babe if she would do it for a million dollars, then a penny, as he tried to determine her price; having already determined her morals.

tdmtrip1No, I didn’t like Sun Valley. This is not a fun place to ride a motorcycle. There are cops on every corner and they are collecting "road taxes" like the roads are about to go out of style. My bet is that if Hemmingway had lived only a few miles south, in Ketchum where the working class lives, he’d have lived to a natural death. Ketchum has a much better class of people, fewer cops, and serves better breakfast.

8/20/94

I started the day off with breakfast in Hailey, said goodbye to Dave, and cut across a county road east on state highway 20 toward Craters of the Moon National Park. If it hadn’t been for Dave’s suggestion, I wouldn’t have gone this route. A few miles east on 20, I stalled at another group of men-leaning-on-shovels! There is no escape from these people It doesn’t matter how remote the road is, they are there; holding up traffic, leaning on shovels, and smoking cigarettes. Where do they find all the shovels? I’m pretty sure that, if you could disappear all the shovels belonging to public works departments, there wouldn’t be an employee left standing. Or they’d actually be forced to do some work to keep from falling.

Craters of the Moon is about the weirdest excuse for a national park in the park system. What it sounds like is what it is. Black, volcanic rock piled everywhere. As you approach the park, the desert begins to be more regularly dotted with this stuff until you are finally completely surrounded by heaps of stuff that looks like it was dumped here by the Intergalactic Department of Sanitation. No kidding! I did the look around the park, looked into the oven-hot caves, burned my arm on one of the handrails, and headed for the air-conditioned, clean-bathroomed Visitor’s Center. I came, I saw, I TDM’d my way eastward.

I linked up with I15 at Blackfoot, Idaho and turned south, toward Utah. More shovel-leaners. I tried to fool them by cutting off on Highway 30 at McCammon, but they were waiting. Twenty minutes later, I’m blasting past cars and semis on almost totally open road. Another nice highway, as long as the shovel-lovers stay away.

I popped out on I80, from US 30, and rode it fifty miles east to the Flaming Gorge, Utah, exit, state highway 530S. The first 30 miles into the park are nothing special. You can see the bare edge of the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, on the distant west horizon, but the terrain around the highway is flat, dry desert with high and hot winds. 530S travels over a plateau past the Flaming Gorge Reservoir and the winds are steady and strong. The sky looked like rain, but the air didn’t feel like it.

I quickly got bored enough to haul out my detailed map and make a shot at some dirt roading. The "detailed map" was far from detailed enough. The road I picked, turned into a barely rutted trail, which vanished altogether on a slab of rock. I took a chance and went straight across the rock and, 1/2 mile later, I was on a trail again. But was it the same trail I started with? The map didn’t seem to follow the same pattern as the road. I was still going west when I was sure I should have turned south and east, heading back toward the highway. I flipped the map around a while. I drank some water. I took a nap. I decided to keep following the ruts and fifteen miles later I found paved road. The experience with the Michelin’s made me nervous while I was away from traffic. I decided to curtail those experiments until another trip with different tires and more tools.

About 40 miles south of I25, 530S turns southeast and the view improves immediately. The next 90 miles is littered with switch-backs through cliffs and the reservoir constantly in the background. Highway 44 and 191 are some of the most incredible stretches of the Rockies. This is a combination of nearly forested terrain and desert. The sky is cloudy and the temperature is perfect for riding. I blast and stop, blast and stop, all the way into the forested area south of the park, where I hit...more men and shovels. Another twenty minute wait. But this time a really cute girl was hanging onto the stop sign, so it wasn’t a total waste. I’m finally in a forest that isn’t burning. I hope my Kerkers’ spark arrestor is working. I don’t want to be responsible for torching the last tree in the west.

Because I want the last day of my trip to be easy, I decided to blast out the miles between this edge of Utah and western Colorado. Once I turned east at Vernal, Utah, this wasn’t a hard decision to stick with. I’m not much of a desert fan and this is desert. It stayed hot until about 7:00PM and then it was really warm. I had a full moon and no cloud cover, so the land was well lit even after dark. I drove all the way to Craig, Colorado, before stopping. I think Craig has a lively nightlife. I heard sirens off and on all night. It didn’t mean anything to me though. I had traveled 680 miles, all desert. Parts of my body may never move the right way again. I can’t feel my butt, even with the Corbin’s protection.

8/21/94 Sunday

I stuck with my drive-a-while-before-breakfast routine. I drove the 90 miles to Steamboat and arrived in time for sidewalk sales and what looked like a motorcycle festival. I saw bikes I had only seen before in magazines, European magazines. Brand new Motoguzies, BMWs, Ducati's, Paris-to-Dakar replica Hondas and Yamahas, Buells, Triumphs, and zillions of Harleys and Harley-clones. It was a lot like my buddy from the westward portion of the trip had been cloned, there was a pair of everything! I was out of film and my picture taking motivation was drained, so you’ll have to take my word for it. But I’m really looking forward to Steamboat’s "Motorcycle Weekend" now.

Looking at the map, it’s pretty obvious that I didn’t need to make up as much time as I thought I did. That happens every vacation. At least one day out of every trip, I get a burr in my butt and go "mileage berserk." Drop the hammer and ignore every worthwhile sight in my way, because I "have to make up for lost time." Some of those times are lost forever now. I have smoked past moments that could have been precious for all of my life. All I have to show for those times are miles traveled. I did that a little less this trip than usual. Maybe I’m learning.

The rest of the ride back to Denver was nice and uneventful. I stopped at Winterpark and rode the ski lift up and the Alpine Slide down. I bought this vacation’s last tank of gas and relaxed for the final two-lane miles before I hit interstate. That was a good decision, because I70 was bumper-to-bumper, crawl-and-stall traffic almost all the way to Denver. The road was littered with highway patrol, steaming engines, and angry cagers. I cut off at the Red Rocks Park exit and took side roads to avoid the traffic for most of the way back home. Back to work on Monday and daydreams of 3,700 miles on a TDM will have to keep me sane till next year...

Jun 18, 2013

#7 If You Live Long Enough

All Rights Reserved © 2000 Thomas W. Day

One of the "features" of riding motorcycles for 35 years is getting to see a lot of people pass in and out of motorcycling. Quite a few of the folks I rode with and competed against, when I was young enough to think I might grow up to be fast, haven't been on a bike since they suffered some sort of motorcycling catastrophe: the first major broken bone(s), the high price of keeping up with racing technology, a scary and expensive get-off in heavy traffic, or (most commonly) marriage. It still amazes me to see people hang up their handlebars forever.

In the last decade, I've been almost as amazed to know a half dozen 40+ men and women who, swimming against the tide of anti-two-wheeling popular sentiment, purchase and learn to ride their first motorcycle. I will probably end up with an epitaph that includes the words "MSF," "buy a good helmet," and "learn to use the front brake," if some of those folks get to write it. I think it takes a lot of guts to start something as difficult as riding a motorcycle, when it's so obviously hazardous to aging fragile bones and organs.

I've hung out with guys, like myself, who have been in and out of motorcycle ownership their whole lives and will always think of themselves as "a biker," regardless of what's in the garage at the moment. I met one of the first of that group almost thirty years ago. He was a 70-something machinist who spun wonderful tales of riding, cross-country, across north western Texas on his 1920's Indian "sportbike," before there were paved roads (or any roads) in that part of the Great American Desert.

The good stuff about riding a motorcycle, especially competitively, at some point in your life is that you will always have bench-racing bragging rights over bikers who've never experienced a first turn traffic jam. Bench racing is the spice of life when life ain't so spicy anymore. But even if you've never raced, nothing on four wheels (short of a GP or Indy racer or rail-job dragster) even gets near the kick we get from punching a bike's throttle out of a well done curve. Motorcycling is about chasing some sort of adventure, anytime you pick traveling by two wheels over four (or more).

The bad stuff is that, if you ride and pay attention to bikes long enough, the adventure can turn deadly. Stay on the road for half a century and you're likely to see a biker maimed or killed. In my life, I've seen too-many-to-count off-road accidents, a couple dozen road rash events, and three motorcycling deaths; one in rural Nebraska and two in Los Angeles. Ironically, I was sitting at a picnic bench when I saw the first fatal event and trapped in a cage for the other two. Of these awful moments, two were, without question, the biker's fault. The third, was such a pitiful excuse for an accident that, 25 years later, I'm still not sure who ought to get the blame.

The Nebraska death happened when a stereotypical little old lady in a Buick rolled through a stop sign in front of a kid on a small 1970's street bike. Any experienced rider, seeing the tiny bluehair peering over the dashboard, would have suspected she might forget to stop. I think the kid made that guess, himself, before sliding into the side of her sedan. He hit the car, just behind the driver's side door, at well under 10mph and slid over the top of the car without doing any damage to the car, his bike, or himself. He almost managed to hang on to the roof of the car, before coming off the passenger side of the car. But he didn't. When he rolled off and hit the pavement, his skull split against the curb. He was dead before the cops arrived and long before the ambulance. I read, the next day, that he was 17. Obviously, no helmet, and as little protection as a Minnesotan's Mad Bomber's cap might have saved his life.

My second dead biker was a guy who was looking down and back, trying to get his feet into the California-idiot riding position (on the passenger pegs), in heavy Newport Boulevard traffic. The traffic stopped and he didn't. He went headfirst into the rear window of the car ahead of the car he slammed into. Also, no helmet and it might not have mattered. I think he was actually accelerating, before his bike came to an instant stop and he finished his trip by air.

My last dead guy on a bike was ripping down the median lane, doing at least 70mph in a 30mph stripmall zone. He slammed into the back of a stopped van without even blipping his brakes (assuming his brake light worked). He was wearing a helmet, boots, leather jacket, and gloves and most of that stuff came off on impact. The helmet, which may have been stolen because the buckle had been cut off, flew over the van and landed in a parking lot about 100 yards away. The boots were found under the van and one of the gloves landed on the hood of a car parked across the street in the opposite traffic lane.

When the light changed, I ended up getting stuck right next to the guy and what was left of his bike, so I put on my flashers and got out to help. The woman passenger in the van had jumped out to see if there was anything she could do to help, but she was only able to flap her arms, either trying to attract real assistance or in an attempt at flight. I saw the guy's skull was drooping to the shape of the road and blood was leaking out of his ears, eyes, nose, and mouth. He wasn't breathing. The arm flapper wanted me to do CPR or something she'd seen on TV rescues, but I thought I'd do more damage by moving him. We had a pair of motorcycle cops on the scene before I had a chance to finishing explaining to her that "I've been hunting since I was a kid and I've seen dead before. This guy is dead." I know that was insensitively said, but I wanted her to stop shrieking at me and she went right back to the passenger seat when I said that.

The cops didn't do anything more than look at the shape of the guy's skull before deciding they could spend their time more productively by securing the accident scene. It took almost an hour before I could give them my statement and go home. The first officers on the scene really seemed to want to blame some aspect of the accident on the van's driver. They were still haranguing him when I escaped. I could see that he was stopped, waiting to turn, from two blocks away. I can't imagine what he could have done to avoid getting rear-ended by the bike. Still, I could see why the accident made the bike-cops tense. It bothered me, too.

I've had my bikes called "murdercycles," "donor cycles," and other fun things for all the years I've ridden. I admit that I, still and occasionally, have mild hooligan urges and have been known to "play" racer on isolated stretches of two lane. If you do some pretty simple calculations, it's easy to see how just a couple of seconds of badly thought-out vehicle management could result in a disaster. What I saw at these accident scenes has stuck with me for all of the miles I've ridden since. Maybe my 350,000+ uninjured miles of riding owes something to the example provided by these three events. Otherwise, my witnessing their deaths was pointless.

Keep riding and ride safe.

August/September 2000

Jun 17, 2013

For A Brief Moment, the AMA Is Conscious

The AMA managed to puke out the following press release today, barely in time for Ride to Work Day on the 17th. Instead of their gangbanger “causes,” it would be nice to she the so-called “motorcyclists’ organization” get involved this kind of thing as a primary resource, instead of just a “hey this is a good idea” too bunch of followers. I would even join if they quit fucking around battling helmet laws and reasonable standards for exhaust noise.

American Motorcyclist Association salutes riders who commute on Ride to Work Day, June 17

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The American Motorcyclist Association is encouraging all motorcyclists to demonstrate the practical benefits of commuting on a motorcycle on Monday, June 17, in celebration of Motorcycle and Scooter Ride to Work Day.

"Motorcyclists know that motorcycles are fun to ride as well as an economical way to transport yourself from one point to another, and Ride to Work Day is a great way for us to demonstrate that to other road users en masse," said AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman. "AMA members ride responsibly and, with the summer riding season upon us, it's a good time to exercise safe riding practices and to urge that other motorists be aware of motorcyclists on our roads and highways."

Started in 1992, Ride to Work Day is now an international event, with participation in cities around the world and recognition by the federal government and local governments in the United States. For millions of workers, motorcycles and scooters are an economical, efficient and socially responsible form of mobility that save energy, protect the environment and provide a broad range of other public benefits.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Transportation Department, more than 80 million cars and light trucks are used for daily commuting on American roads, and about 200,000 motorcycles and scooters are a regular part of this mix. On Ride to Work Day, the practical side of riding becomes more visible as a large number of America's motorcycles are ridden to work. An estimated 1 million riders will become two- and three-wheeled commuters to help demonstrate that riding is a pragmatic and beneficial form of personal transportation.

Andy Goldfine, a key organizer of the annual Ride to Work Day, said: "Motorcycles and scooters consume less resources per mile than automobiles, and take up less space in parking areas and on roads. Riders seek employer and community support for this efficient form of transportation, and more government and public awareness about riding's many benefits."

For more information about Motorcycle and Scooter Ride to Work Day, visit www.ridetowork.org.

Jun 14, 2013

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Meets the Triumph Rocket III


And there is a Harley ad that is unintentionally funnier, unconsciously dumber, and depressingly repetitive and mindless. Nothing like 100 dressed-alike posers pretending to be independent thinkers to remind us that we’re always #1 in being dumbasses.

Sometimes I think Hardly's marketing department is trying to make it easy for comedians. For example, compare the end of the Hardly ad to a more substantial piece of art:

The last time I found two videos so perfectly linked was when I watched Led Zepplin's "The Song Remains the Same" right after "Spinal Tap." Honestly, sometimes I think "The Company" is setting me up. Sometimes, I feel like the fat kid picking on the kid in a wheelchair on a junior high playground. They just make it too fuckin' easy.

Motorcycle Review: Adventure Touring's Founding Father BMW R1200GS

http://www.amazon.com/Geezer-with-A-Grudge/dp/B007RPQJ24
All Rights Reserved © 2012 Thomas W. Day

[The review published in MMM in the March issue of 2013 was about 1200 words shorter than this review. Since I always start with everything I wanted to say and carve it down to the appropriate size, I usually keep the unedited version and do a "short" edition. This is the long one.]

BMW was the first manufacturer to take the whole "adventure touring" genre seriously, in 1980 with the R80G/S model. Since then, BMW has been hammering this market with a collection of excellent on/off-road motorcycles ready for an adventure when the right owner comes along. In its odd way, the BMW GS bikes carry a special kind of prestige among motorcyclists and the bike-curious. Famous people like Neal Pert, Harrison Ford, Orlando Bloom, and Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman have put the R1200GS in front of millions of television viewers and readers. The rest of us dream about hitting the right lottery numbers so we can be like Ewan and Charley. Two-and-a-half days on an R1200GS and I was almost ready to blow a couple of bucks on my own Power Ball delusion.

I have no idea where this building was. I
stumbled on it while wandering around the
Minnesota River Valley.
After being pleasantly surprised that I could swing a leg over our test bike, my next surprise was discovering that the boxer doesn't kick off instantly. You have to stick with the starter button long enough for all that mass to get swinging. When it first fires up, the motor tosses off an odd vibration and takes a few moments to settle into a comfortable low engine speed rumble. At low engine RPM's, the motor shakes the whole chassis in old fashioned twin style. The exhaust isn't loud, but it's not 2012 politically correct. It's noisy enough that you can blip the throttle to wake up a dozing cager at a stop light. Honestly, I liked the sound enough that popping the motor slightly just off-idle while I'm wasting time at a light was mildly entertaining. Cruising down the super-slab puts the motor at about 4krpm at 70mph. There is a lot of horsepower and torque left from that point to the bike's 8.5k redline. The EFI throttle mapping is aggressive and when you whack the throttle in gears 1-4, be ready to loft the front wheel. At BMW's estimated 42mpg, the 5-gallon tank could deliver a 200-mile range and while the EFI calculator claimed that I'd been getting 42-48mpg, my fuel receipts indicated that I got 32, 34, and 38mpg over almost 400 miles. Shifting is predictable, precise, and no unusual movement is required. Maybe to make the faithful feel comfortable with this radical modern concept, all of that great feel is accompanied with the historical Euro-primitive "clunk" sound on each shift, up or down. The rest of the power transmission is typically BMW.

The R1200GS handling is legendary for a reason. The bike instills confidence, on and off-pavement. The universal design of the GS is slightly slanted toward all sorts of civilized riding situations, the twistier the better. Still, the bike works better than 516 pounds should be expected to work off-road. The weight feels low and in most situations I barely noticed that it is a big bike. The BMW is a little scary in deep sand, but that's probably more me and $18k motorcycles than an actual deficiency. On the MSF course, the GS was maneuverable enough to handle all of the tight cornering exercises inside of the lines designed for our 250cc trainers.

The riding position with the low seat might be too constricted for taller riders, but BMW has several options with the stock seat that can lift the seated position another two inches. I was on the bike, almost non-stop for 200 miles, twice, and comfort was never an issue. In rough riding situations, standing on the pegs requires a little more rearward stance than I consider ideal, because of the big engine cases. It's not uncomfortable and it works, but it's a little restrictive. The skinny footpegs do not work for me. The little rubber insert is easily removed and should be tossed as far from the bike as possible at earliest convenience. Wider serrated pegs would be the first aftermarket piece I'd put on the GS. The bike's handling is predictable and only seems out of its element when you're not pushing it hard enough. Big semi divots in a dirt road are best taken hard and fast, while the usual Minnesota freeway engineering flaws are rougher than expected. The single-sided swingarm is, as always, maintenance-friendly, beautifully executed, and downright cool. The tubeless wheels and wire hubs are solidly trick.

With or without ABS, the GS has an integrated braking system that applies both brakes with front brake application. The rear brake is plenty powerful on its own. The BMW's ABS system is more aimed at on-road conditions. In loose gravel or sand, the rear brake pulsates and the front is too grabby for a balls-to-the-wall panic stop that relies on ABS for control. In fact, I'd be inclined to turn off ABS on a long off-road trip. On pavement, the BMW's brakes are firm, powerful, and predictable.

[What's under the BMW's seat.]

Turn the seat lock toward the back of the bike and the passenger seat comes off, revealing extra storage rack space. Turn the key toward the front and the rider's seat can be removed without messing with the passenger seat and you can get at the battery, the "rider's manual" storage, the tool kit, and a helmet security loop. All of the electrical systems, except the auxiliary LED headlight circuit, are electronically fused, so resetting one of those systems after a fault only requires switching the ignition off and on. The rest of basic maintenance is pretty well considered, too. Removing the right side cover exposes the air filter and servicing that unit is as simple as it should be. Servicing the brakes, wheels and tires, suspension, and the usual electrical culprits (lights) has been designed to be simple and fairly tool-free. Early in the test, I discovered the oil level was a little low. Topping off the oil pointed out a little gripe I have with BMW's maintenance procedure. The oil fill is on the top of the right side cylinder and the inspection window is under the left size cylinder.

[All the available information from the "multifunction display; from the BMW rider's manual.]

The "multifunction display" looks pretty unused, in its normal state. Typically, fuel status, water temperature, the gear indicator, turn signals, an ABS status light, the odometer or one of the two tripmeter options, and one of the on-board computer functions are all that is displayed. However, if all hell breaks loose on the bike, the data display could be pretty well jammed with fault information. The fault displays include warnings for tire pressure faults, a "needs service" indicator, battery charge fault, emergency engine operation mode, low oil pressure, low oil level, headlight failure, and a collection of alpha/numeric codes for troubleshooting purposes. The display is, in fact, a full-service troubleshooting tool with a collection of really cool hidden capabilities that service techs rely on in repairing electronics-heavy modern motorcycles.

[The whole rider's information package.]

From a rider's perspective, the whole console is functional and user-friendly. The analog tach and speedometer are easily interpreted, especially in the dark, and where you'd expect them to be. The speedo is large and the main item in the instrument cluster, just like it should be (140mph/230kph max). The tach is at the top with an 8.5krpm redline. Just below the tach is the very bright LED display and below that is the previously-discussed multifunction display. The instrument cluster is fortified by a serious looking crash bar and completely shielded by the windscreen.

[Just a little of the stuff you can do with your right thumb.]

The bike has a collection of switches near the left grip for the usual turn-signal, horn, and lights operation, plus switches to cycle the computer display function (INFO), a switch for disabling ABS and the Automatic Stability Control (ASC) functions, and a switch for controlling the Electronic Suspension Adjustment (ESA) options. The INFO switch cycles the computer functions through a clock, two trip odometers, ambient temperature, average speed, fuel consumption, estimated remaining range, and oil level. Our bike did not have either of the ASC or ESA options.

Our test bike did come with about $1,600 of optional features, including a lowering setup, heated grips, hand guards, an on-board computer, and the super-sexy cross-spoke wheel package. Other options include electronic suspension adjustment (ESA), automatic stability (traction) control (ASC), and an anti-theft system. Going for every BMW GS option adds about $3,600 to the $16,150 base price.

Because the R1200GS has been around for a while, Touratech, ADVDesigns, and lots of aftermarket suppliers have dozens of farkles and useful accessories for the R1200GS. You could almost double-down on your $16,500 base model investment from their catalogs. Our test bike came with a tall ZTechnik windscreen and that company's mirror extenders and an accessory shelf for power connectors and your GPS or radar detector. With the mirrors extended an extra 3", they provide a completely unobstructed view of where you have been. The very-adjustable windshield mount allows for considerable alteration of the shield's angle and height. I'm not usually convinced that I like tall shields and the ZTechnik was no exception. I suspect I'd like the stock shield and mirror positions better than that rig.

I'm not a fan of motorcycles with character, but the BMW's character is "competence." Lots of little things are done well. From a kickstand that never offers a moment of insecurity, even when you're putting it down in soft dirt, off-camber, when you're tired and distracted to a motor that just does what it's supposed to do. It's a stupid little thing, but one I appreciated every time I parked the bike. Even the BMW's key is beefed-up. Instead of having the key notches on the outside of the key, BMW has put the notches on the inside of the key slot, making the key stronger and the lock a lot harder to pick. If you add the anti-theft option to the bike, picking the lock won't help a thief ride away on your bike. The Electronic Immobilizer System (EWS) handshakes with your smart key to determine if you're using an authorized key. If you aren't, the bike stays immobilized. The ignition is disabled until it is deactivated by a remote control if or a special code is entered by way of switching the key off and on. Damn, that's tricky!

The auto-cancelling turn signals were a nice surprise. I haven't had that convenient feature since my '83 Yamaha Vision and I've missed it. The heated grips were completely new experience. Sev turned them on just before I rode away from his house and by the time I made it home, I was plotting heated grip installation on my V-Strom.

Monday night, I put the big BMW back on the freeway for the last time. Traffic was heavy and a little competitive. The big bike effortlessly puts me where I want to be, when I want to be there. In that environment, a gear indicator is useful. The GS pulls hard at any RPM above 1,000, so it's hard to feel the shift points surrounded by noisier vehicles. From my home to Leo's South, I have 27 miles of urban traffic to collect my last thoughts about this motorcycle. Owning a R1200GS is out of my socio-economic class, but I can almost imagine putting in a couple of evil years to change sides in the Class Wars, just to own a big GS. I am going to miss this motorcycle. It looks so good sitting next to my WR250X in the garage.

Thanks to the folks at Leo's South, Wayne and Randy Bedeaux, for making this terrific motorcycle available for review. This was an especially generous loan, since it was one of their personal bikes. If it were mine, I wouldn't let this babe out of my sight.

Originally published in Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly, March 2013.

Model
R 1200 GS $16,150 MSRP
Engine
 
Type
Air/oil-cooled flat twin ('Boxer') 4-stroke engine, two camshafts and four radially aligned valves per cylinder, central balancer shaft
Bore x stroke
101 mm x 73 mm
Capacity
1,170 cc
Rated output
110 hp (81 kW) at 7,750 rpm
Max. torque
89 ft-lb (120 Nm) at 6,000 rpm
Compression ratio
12.0 : 1
Mixture control / engine management
Electronic intake pipe injection / BMS-K+ digital engine management with overrun fuel cut-off, twin spark ignition
Emission control
Closed-loop 3-way catalytic converter, emission standard EU-3
Performance / fuel consumption
 
Maximum speed
Over 125 mph (200 km/h)
Fuel consumption per 100 km at constant 90 km/h
55 mpg, at a constant 55 mph
Fuel consumption per 100 km at constant 120 km/h
 
Fuel type
Unleaded super and premium.
Electrical system
 
Alternator
three-phase alternator 720 W
Battery
12 V / 14 Ah, maintenance-free
Power transmission
 
Clutch
Single dry plate clutch, hydraulically operated
Gearbox
Constant mesh 6-speed gearbox with helical gear teeth
Drive
Shaft drive
 
Chassis / brakes
 
Frame
Two-section frame consisting of front and rear sections, load- bearing engine-gearbox unit
Front wheel location / suspension
BMW Motorrad Telelever; stanchion diameter 41 mm, central spring strut, spring preload with 5-position mechanical adjustment
Rear wheel location / suspension
Cast aluminum single-sided swing arm with BMW Motorrad Paralever; WAD strut (travel-related damping), spring pre-load hydraulically adjustable (continuously variable) at handwheel, rebound damping adjustable
Suspension travel front / rear
7.5/7.9 inches (190 mm/200 mm)
Wheelbase
59.3 inches (1,507 mm)
Castor
4 inches (101 mm)
Steering head angle
64.3°
Wheels
Cast aluminum wheels
Rim, front
2.50 x 19"
Rim, rear
4.00 x 17"
Tyres, front
110/80 R 19
Tyres, rear
150/70 R 17
Brake, front
Dual disc brake, floating brake discs, diameter 305 mm, 4-piston fixed calipers
Brake, rear
Single disc brake, diameter 265 mm, double-piston floating caliper
ABS
BMW Motorrad Integral ABS (part-integral), can be switched off
Dimensions / weights
 
Length
87 inches (2,210 mm)
Width (incl. mirrors)
36 inches (915 mm)
Height (excl. mirrors)
57 inches (1,450 mm)
Seat height, unladen weight
33.5/34.3 inches (850/870 mm) low seat: 32.3 inches
(820 mm), lowered suspension: 31.1 inches (790 mm)
Inner leg curve, unladen weight
 
Unladen weight, road ready, fully fuelled 1)
516 lbs (229 kg)
Dry weight 2)
461 lbs (209 kg)
Permitted total weight
970 lbs (440 kg)