Jan 29, 2018

Bein' Lucky

I have no idea how I managed to attract readers and friends to this blog, but I am always grateful. In response to a fairly moronic "Facebook conversation" about loud pickup exhaust noise on a Nissan Frontier page, I did a search on this blog for "http://geezerwithagrudge.blogspot.com/search?q=loud+exhaust" and what I discovered was 15 years of brilliant comments from people who have happened on to this blog. 

You folks are clever, funny, insightful, and just blow me away on a regular basis.

Jan 21, 2018

Another Tipping Point

“According to the Department of Energy, there are now over 500,000 EVs driven in the U.S.” Xcel Energy is even noticing the speed of EV adoption, “State of the Electric Vehicle 2017: Adoption keeps accelerating.” Used EV’s are littered all over Craig’s List, many for less than $6k with insanely low miles. If I didn’t have a small garage already double-parked with two motorcycles and a bunch of motorcycle equipment, I’d be seriously looking at a used Nissan Leaf. The new Leaf 2.0 has a 150 mile range, more than enough for any typical day trip I’m likely to take. The ads for most of the older EVs are more like 70-90 miles at highway speeds, which isn’t much of a problem as long as we still have the pickup for long hauls and pulling the camper.

electric-cars-ukI think we’ve hit the official deadend for suck-bang-blow. From here out, I expect to see EV’s capabilities increase exponentially and IC sales sag. Even dinky little Red Wing Minnesota has a downtown refueling station. EVs are particularly suited for autonomous operation, especially because it will be so easy to include electrical auto-fueling over the safety hazards of gas or diesel. The pressure is on for motorcycles to either get on the bus or get out of the way.

Jan 16, 2018

Barbarians at the Gate

home-full-width-1-imagePaul Young sent me this link, "Will this electric bicycle disrupt the motorcycle industry?" from Revzilla. The Suru is made in Canada (Nova Scotia) and costs about $3k. The critical specs are listed in the website’s photo at right. The tires and wheels are more motorcycle than bicycle hardware, as is the suspension. Unlike a lot of electric bicycles, the bicycle part is single-speed and basic. The article quotes Suru designer, Michael Uhlarik, for a lot of its assumptions and the author, Clayton Christensen, is a Harvard prof and self-proclaimed manufacturing and techology historian. Some of their “manufacturing history” is not particularly well informed. Still their premise has been the same as my own for a while.

radroverI’m not convinced the Suru is the right direction, but I’m no fortune teller. My grandson’s RadRover is more in line with both the features and price point I think will attract people to electric two-wheelers. Everything about Wolf’s bike is similar to the Suru, except it is $1,500 cheaper and more versitile as a bicycle: “Intelligent 5 Level Pedal Assist with 12 Magnet Cadence Sensor” and a 7-speed derailier opposed to single-speed peddling, key-removable battery pack, full-coverage fenders, and less weight. My grandson has had his RadRover for about three months and is using it to commute 7-miles, one-way, throughout the Minneapolis winter. So far, he’s more than happy with his bike.

The article’s constant reference is to the 1966 Honda Cub which the author claims was “the last real disruption in the moto industry.” I’d say there have been quite a few disruptions in the last two decades, but often when you are trying to prove a point it’s easy to put the blinders on. Regardless, the electric bicycle and scooter movement is about to kick into high gear with everyone from botique dealerships to Walmart and Target offering products and services. BMW, Honda, Yamaha, and a collection of new comers are all making a variety of products available. Amazon has a showroom floor full of electric bikes and scooters with 36V models as cheap as $400. I think the tipping point has been passed.

Jan 13, 2018

Bicycle Insanity

Wait till the end to see how many times he had to do each stunt to get them right.

Jan 10, 2018

Ironic, Ain't It?

"There’s a new special license plate promoting motorcycle safety available starting today! ABATE of Minnesota designed and sponsored the new motorcycle awareness license plate. The plates cost $10 and there is an annual $10 contribution that will go toward motorcycle safety education and training programs.

Plates are available for purchase at deputy registrar offices: http://ow.ly/D0KB30huk1R"

That bastion of anti-helmet, anti-government, anti-anything that might make motorcycling safer and more responsible, ABATE, convinced the dimwitted Minnesota legislature to create a "Start Seeing Motorcycles" (and Unicorns) special license plate and the character on the plate could not look less like an ABATE member.

Jan 8, 2018

Start Seeing Unicorns

All Rights Reserved © 2014 Thomas W. Day

Start-Seeing-UnicornsWe're turning over a new leaf in our family. I hate driving four-wheel vehicles and after a fairly miserable several months stuck as the sole driver of our winter excursion in an RV, I am giving up driving our family car as much as possible. My wife, on the other hand, gets car sick when she isn't driving, can't read a map, program a GPS, or provide useful directions as a passenger and claims to actually like driving. After 46 years of being the family primary driver, we're swapping roles. She is a perfectly fine driver with good skills, reasonably good vision, and decent judgment. I hate driving and am prone to zoning out after a few minutes behind the wheel.

So, we're on the way to visit our daughter's family in Dinkytown on a warm April evening. My designated driver is about to turn left on Hennepin Avenue across two opposite direction lanes after a barrage of vehicles finally created a slot. She's focused on the cars coming toward us, about 100 yards away. I saw a motorcyclist in the far lane and provided a slightly-over-the-top warning (not quite a shout) before she turned into his path. She stopped safely and the completely undressed kid on the black motorcycle, wearing black clothing (without a stitch of protective gear), and who'd cleverly disabled his daytime headlight shook his finger at us as some kind of warning. As usual, he hadn't made even the slightest effort to remove himself from any aspect of the near-crash: no braking, no evasive maneuver, no horn honking, headlight flashing, or even a shout. Just a limp finger-wagging. Loud pipes wouldn't have done him any good, since they're only good for warning people behind the motorcycle that a noisy asshole is in front of them. 

This is where the "Start Seeing Unicorns" comes in. Delusional motorcyclists and safety bureaucrats imagine that if enough propaganda and severe enough penalties are applied, motorcycles will magically become visible to drivers who have real threats to worry about. Not only do most motorcyclists dress to be invisible, but at 0.001-0.01% of total traffic on any given perfect-for-motorcycling day, we're about as common a sight as unicorns. Nobody but little girls who watch too much television looks for unicorns because they are a statistical unlikelihood. The same logic applies to motorcyclists, with only a minimally greater chance of a sighting. Asking other road-users to watch for us when we are rarely present and don't make the slightest effort to be seen or rescue ourselves is an exercise in hubris. Your mother may have told you that you are the center of the universe, but no one else on the road has heard of you and, worse, probably won't notice you until you are bouncing off of their vehicle or sliding down the highway on your bloody ass. 

Earlier that day, I met a guy who bragged that he'd crashed 18 times before he quit riding a few years ago. His last crash was into a house, after an uncontrolled wheelie and jumping a curb and tearing through a garden. He crashed into a house. He admitted that "all of my accidents were my fault, except one." Speeding, lousy cornering technique, poor judgment, and an irrational belief in his indestructibility all were to blame for all but one crash. The one that he claimed wasn't his fault was because a woman "pulled out in front of me." Based on his other experiences and my own later the same day, I suspect that blaming the one crash on someone else misses the point of that one experience. Like the rider who narrowly escaped becoming a hood ornament on our car, this ex-rider clearly needed some decent skills, a dose of common sense, and protective gear.

In fact, too many people supposedly involved in motorcycle safety issues argue the nutty fallacy that motorcyclists are pitiful victims. For example, a University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research study found, "that 60 percent of the time motorists in other vehicles are at fault when they collide with motorcycles." I'd love to see where that data came from, in detail. Since 34-50% of fatal motorcycle crashes are single vehicle events, it's pretty obvious that we can't even deal with the freakin' road, let alone traffic. What kind of fool would believe that a group of people who are totally responsible for killing themselves half of the time are innocent victims during the other half, when traffic is involved? Seriously? We can't ride well enough to keep from flinging ourselves into the trees on a solitary road but we suddenly become more competent in heavy traffic? I'm not buying that for a second. And my experience on motorcycles for nearly three-quarters-of-a-million miles totally contradicts that wishful thinking. Every one of the motorcycle fatalities I've seen were either completely the motorcyclists' fault or would have prevented with the tiniest bit of riding skill and reasonable protective gear.

Instead of wishing and hoping that drivers will start watching out for us and compensate for our invisibility and mediocre skills, I think giving up on that dream and getting on with learning how to ride competently would be a good start toward reducing motorcycle crashes. If a rider is serious about staying jelly side up, becoming as visible as possible, and  getting real about the slim chance that anyone will be looking out for us while they are worried about giant trucks, distracted bozos in oversized pickups and SUVs, and their own distractions is absolutely necessary. The whacked idea that people in cages are going to save us from ourselves is delusional, arrogant, and foolish. In 2013, motorcyclists accounted for 15% of national highway deaths. There is no justification on this planet for that massively disproportionate contribution the the estimated $228 BILLION in "societal cost of crashes." At some point, the country is going to decide to either make motorcyclists prove their competence before obtaining a license, wear reasonable protective gear, or get the hell off of the public's roads.

I'm not saying motorcyclists need to be paranoid and tell themselves "they're all out to get me." We aren't that important or interesting. They don't even know we are on the road because we are not a serious threat. You could drive most mid-sized 4-wheel drive pickups over the whole Minnesota contingent of biker gangsters' toys and still make it to the store for bread, milk, and cookies and back home before you worried about scraping the biker gunk off of your bumper. Not being a threat is much worse than being a potential enemy. You can sort of guess what someone who's out to get you might do next. If your opponent doesn't even recognize your existence, there are an infinite number of awful things they might do completely unaware of you and your motorcycle. If that doesn't make you want to gear up and put your riding skills and motorcycle in order, you do not belong on a motorcycle.

Jan 6, 2018

Re-Evaluating Myself

A couple of weeks ago, I began to have moments of double-vision. That was about mid-week. Later that week, on a Friday night, I was driving in the Cities in light late evening traffic and, suddenly, I was guessing as to which one of 3 exit lanes was the real one. Since then, I've learned a lot about various degenerative vision diseases and disabilities and I've begun to prepare myself not only for the end of my life on two wheels but driving altogether.

I'll be 70 this coming summer and I've been riding motorcycles since I was 14 or 15. A LONG time. If this is the end of that I won't be heartbroken, disappointed, but not heartbroken. The only bucket list item left for me would be the South American Pacific Highway and I'd pretty much taken that notch off of the prospective gun a couple of years ago. I'm too old, beat up, and tired to do 3,500 miles of hostile territory on a motorcycle, car, or most other transportation media.

I won't know until sometime in the next week or so how serious this is, but really serious is in my family genetics: myasthenia gravis blinded my father when he was about 66. Double-vision is a typical early symptom of that nerve and muscle breakdown. I have been half-blind for all of my life: when I was a kid, my left eye was 200:20 and it has steadily grown worse. My right eye was 20:20 until I was about 50 and he began the usual march into farsightedness then. Those muscles and nerves have been working overtime to coordinate my two dissimilar eyes for a long time. If they quit on me, it won't be out of laziness. You can only ask so much from your body for so long.

Luckily, so far my near-field vision is mostly fine. I can read, although for fewer consistent hours than in the past. An example of what my far-field vision is like was pretty neatly demonstrated when my wife was driving last night. At a stop sign, I saw six lights, one set that appeared to be about 6' from the street and another set about 12' higher. Of course, there were only 3 lights at the intersection, but you couldn't tell that inside my head. The "fix" for now is to wear a patch on one eye; which eye depends on what I'm doing.

Life sucks, then you die. Every significant aging-related (in my case) ailment I've suffered in the last five years has resulted in my learning that I have friends and acquaintances who have had the same or worse problems at a far younger age. Honestly, I have no serious complaints. I'm pretty close to my expected lifespan, for my income bracket. I've been doing the same stuff for the last 50-something years and not that many American men can say that.