Jul 11, 2018

The Market Had Its Say?

Bicycles vs Motorcycles (3)This week, I made the once-every-couple-of-months Twin Cities tour with my wife. Mostly, she had chores and errands to do, but when she stopped at Har Mar Mall to buy art supplies, I snuck out to peruse Barnes and Noble. I got stopped at the magazine rack looking at electric bicycle magazines and articles. After a bit of that, I decided to see what is left of the motorcycle glossy press.

It took a while to find either motorcycle or car magazines. The “Transportation” rack is as far from the entrance and traffic as possible and appears to be barely maintained. Several of the magazines were May and June issues. That was true for the car rags, also. On top of that neglect, a good number of motorcycle “magazines” were actually retrospective “special issues” that could have been sitting on the shelf for months; or years. Along the same lines, a Rolling Stone “special issue” was about Mick Jagger, if that gives you a clue as to the currency of that magazine format.

Bicycles vs Motorcycles (4)On the other hand, the bicycle section was featured under “Sports” and there were a lot of magazines and articles about electric bicycles in both magazines dedicated to electric bikes and the more mainstream mostly-manual powered bike magazines. The big thing here was that there are a lot of bicycle magazines and there is a lot of interest in electric bicycles; for transportation and sport. A couple of the magazines were almost as fun to read as the old Dirt Bike magazine; when it was edited by Super Hunky Rick Sieman. None of the last twenty years of dirt bike magazines have even come close to that high bar. As I suspected, the traditional motorcycle guys are putting a foot into this water, too. Electric Bike Action magazine had a big feature about Yamaha’s new electric bicycle series. To be sure, in true bicycle and bicyclist fashion, there was a lot of incredibly stupid stuff inside those magazines.

Bicycles vs Motorcycles (2)A line that particularly struck me as hilarious in the Electric Bike Action Yamaha article was, “At first we wondered if they were going to sell the bikes at their powersports dealerships. They only plan to incorporate those e-bikes into powersports dealers that already have a bike shop component, and those are few and far between. There’s a big difference between knowing how to work on a motorcycle and and knowing how to work on an electric bike.” That is true, kiddies. Anyone who can work on a fuel-injected, electronic ignition, fly-by-wire throttle-controlled, ABS’d, and state-of-the-art motorcycle will find electric bicycles to be too simple to be interesting. The customer base will lower that bar even further.

Times are changin’ and they are changin’ a lot faster than many expect. Powersports dealers are beginning to scramble for new revenue sources. It’s no stretch to imagine that a dealer who sells a few motorcycles, a few more ATVs, even more boats, and a buttload of golf carts will find a lot of reasons to become one of those “powersports dealers that already have a bike shop component.” A few bicycles on the showroom will cost a lot less than a few motorcycles that can’t be moved at any price. If that’s what it takes to get in on the electric bicycle boom, I suspect it won’t slow many dealers down.

Jul 9, 2018

Never Do That Again?

IMG_20180626_201217_646When my V-Strom rolled away on its new owner’s trailer and headed north to its new home, one of the first things I thought was “I’ll never do that again.” By “that,” I mean invest that much time and money in a motorcycle. Considering the years and miles, I didn’t have all that much money invested in the V-Strom: 12 years and not more than $5,000 not counting fuel. Still, I put a lot of time, thought, and even hope and love into that motorcycle.

Over the years with Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly and the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center my V-Strom had been a test bed for all sorts of products; from air horns to auto-chain lube devices to excessive electrical experiments (everything short of a 120VAC inverter). I long-term tested an Elka shock that listed for about what I sold the motorcycle for. I even longer-term-tested the very first Sargent seat designed for the then-new V-Strom 650. I put hours of customizing (for touring, not for looks) into this motorcycle over the first decade I owned, especially the first 5 years. While I thought all of my modifications were to make the bike suit me, when the current owner sat on it and took it for a ride, he seemed to think it was perfect for him.

Fifty years ago, my brother brought his Harley Sprint 250 to my place, to hide it from our parents (mostly our father). It was there, what was I supposed to do? I started riding it . . . everywhere. I crashed a lot and things broke. I started taking unnecessary things off of the bike; like headlights, turn signals, the speedo, fenders, and I learned how to weld and braze so I could repair the frame pieces I snapped off of that bike. In a few years, I had my own two-stroke bikes and I really got into “customizing” my off-road race bikes: blue printing the engines, Preston Petty fenders, intake and exhaust mods, carburetor modifications, frame and suspension upgrades, and that went on for years. Every dirt bike and every street bike I’ve ever owned has become “mine.”

August 2006 V-Strom trip (3)I bought my Suzuki V-Strom in 2006, when I was 58 years old. I bought that bike with an Alaska adventure in mind. Practically the day I rode my V-Strom home I started to get it ready for a 13,000 mile trip and seriously long mileage days. Since that first long trip in 2007, my V-Strom has taken me across the country a few times and across Canada once. We’ve driven at least two thousand miles of North Dakota dirt roads, across sections of Montana and Wyoming that I suspect few locals even know exist, and we explored some of the “minimum maintenance” roads I once rode on my 1973 Rickman back when I lived in rural Nebraska. So many qualities of that motorcycle were tweaked for my comfort and preferences that it seemed almost biological. I literally spent months working on that motorcycle, either modifying it or getting it ready for a long trip to somewhere I’d dreamed of traveling. I spent months on that motorcycle riding to places and seeing things nobody else as ever seen the same way. It was truly my “adventure bike” in every sense of the words. 

In 2009, I bought my Yamaha WR250X and the six modifications I’ve made to that bike are a seat cover, a larger fuel tank, a home-made tail rack mount for extra fuel storage, serrated pegs, a bolt-on windscreen, and heated vest wiring. The original owner did a bunch of stupid stuff to the bike and I returned all of that to bone stock. When I sold the V-Strom, I’d planned on buying a Sargent seat for the WR but so far I haven’t been motivated to do that. It still might happen, but it’s more likely won’t.

One thing I know for sure is that I will never put as much effort, thought, and hope into another motorcycle as I did the V-Strom. No motorcycle I will ever own will be as much my own as that bike was. I’ve made a couple of guitars in the last two years and they got that kind of effort. The house we' bought in Red Wing was a serious fixer-upper and it has become pretty personal looking. The time in my life when I will be making plans to cover a bit of the earth on a motorcycle that needs to be molded to fit my needs is over. I’m not mourning those days, even a little. I, literally, had a great ride and I’m grateful for the good fortune that put me, the Suzuki V-Strom, and the opportunity to take advantage of that freedom in the same place and time.

Jul 6, 2018

VBR4 2018

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Media Release: For immediate publication

Date: 06/11/18

Subject: Aerostich Very Boring Rally 4

clip_image002  2018 Very Boring Rally 4

You are cordially invited to help us celebrate 35 years of Aerostich at the VBR4, from Friday August 17th thru August 19th! All activities take place in and around our Duluth, Minnesota World Headquarters factory and facility: There will be great food, interesting presentations, loudish music, a collectable T-shirt and rally pin, factory tours and a souvenir booklet…Plus lots of in-store-only discounts, FREE SWAG and a chance to win dozens of great prizes!

The cost of the weekend event is $35 per person and pre-registration is available online at www.veryboringrally.com. Shelter and lodging options and connections are here.

Join the usual assortment of cycle bums, malcontents, hipsters (?), curmudgeons and road grimed astronauts for good-times, both planned and impromptu. Activities are scheduled all 3-Days of the event, including prizes and awards for motorcycle poetry readings, the oldest/youngest/farthest distance riders and much more. Even an award for the sorriest bike ridden to the party, and one for the most worn-out Aerostich suit. Top door prize is a $3000 Aerostich gear collection!

In addition to the VBR4, nearby pleasures include the world's biggest white sand freshwater swimming beach (six miles long), eight micro-breweries (including a great one just a block down the street. There are also plenty of great roads and interesting places to explore. Dry, sunny, warm weather guaranteed* (video).

For more information about the Very Boring Rally 4, and for advanced ticket sales, please visit www.veryboringrally.com or call 800-222-1994.

Thank you & good riding!

Web: www.veryboringrally.com

Media contact: Kyle Allen kallen@aerostich.com Lynn Wisneski <lwisneski@aerostich.com>

NOTE TO EDITORS: This text and artwork is also downloadable at: www.aerostich.com/pressroom/press.html

*We're from Minnesota, so we guarantee your definition of dry, sunny and warm is different than ours...

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© 2018 Aero Design, Inc

Jul 3, 2018

Memories on My Luggage

Turned out, the big thing I missed about my 12 year partner in travel, my 2004 DL650 V-Strom, was getting to see those place-marker stickers on the luggage and right side cover. The guy who bought the bike, Paul Purdes, generously took excellent pictures of the cases and stickers which my wife will make into a collage that I can hang on my office wall. In the meantime, I put his pictures and some of my favorite memories of that motorcycle into a video that I can enjoy right now. Hopefully, you find something entertaining in it also.

Jul 1, 2018

I Ride Too Good

All Rights Reserved © 2017 Thomas W. Day
On the way back home through South Dakota on a smoking July afternoon a few years ago, I decided to count the number of times someone said, "It's awful hot to be wearing all that gear" or something equally clever and observant. By the time I made it home, it happened seven times.
My favorite incident was in Platte, South Dakota at a bar where I ate my last meal of the day, after finding a motel and shedding my bike luggage. As I'd come into town, I spotted a huge (tall and wide) woman on a big cruiser wobbling away from the curb into traffic, looking as uncomfortable and incompetent as anyone I've ever seen on a motorcycle. She had both feet on the ground, paddling along into moving traffic, hoping the universe was looking out for her. She was barely able to turn her head far enough to see her own hands on her ape-hangers, let alone the on-coming traffic. That same woman was sitting at one of the outside tables with six other women as I left the bar after dinner.
One of her friends remarked, "That's a lot of gear to be wearing on a hot day."
I repeated the response I have memorized for this silly statement, "It's not nearly enough when you're sliding down the road on your ass."
Another woman said, "He got you there."
The big cruiser rider said, "I ride too good for that to happen to me."
The Dunning-Kruger Effect explains how "persons of low ability suffer from illusory superiority when they mistakenly assess their cognitive ability as greater than it is." This lady was a classic example of that human delusion and she had no idea how ridiculous her statement would sound to anyone who had seen her ride. I have to feel a little sorry for her, though. The motorcycle she rode was way more machine than she could ever handle. She was so overweight that any sane society would classify her as "handicapped" and so unskilled that same culture would refuse to issue her a license for anything more powerful than a 25cc moped. The Harley marketing machine had convinced her that she was a badass biker, but bad was all she could manage. If all she does with her motorcycle is wobble from her house to the bar in that tiny village, she might survive to tell stories about her "biker phase" when she's in the old folks home. If she ever puts that thing on an open road, the chances are good that she'll make a contribution to the single-vehicle crash and fatality statistics.
In my last basic motorcycle course of the 2017 season, we had one exceptionally marginal student, who was taking the class for the second time in a last gasp attempt at a license. As usual, that student was the most confident of the group. In a discussion about evaluating traffic hazards and escape routes, I described how easy it is to overestimate your skills and capabilities and how quickly a traffic situation can catastrophically point out your errors and limitations.
Our marginal student said, "That will never be me. I know what I'm doing."
I replied, "In my experience, all of the really good riders I've ever known are more aware of their shortcomings than confident in their skills."
She said, "Now you're just making things up."
"The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." Yep, I made that up, too. 

The real benefit to taking additional and regular training is discovering how much distance there is between what you think you know and what you actually know. That goes for anything, not just motorcycle training. Humans are notoriously lousy self-evaluators, as individuals and as groups. One of the most hilarious anti-government delusions is the fantasy of "self-regulation." Literally, I can't think of a single area of human activity where any industry, organization, or community has done a decent job of self-regulation. Anytime humans are left to their own isolated devices they inbreed and become stupid and corrupt. It doesn't even take expert outside observers to provide useful advice; people mangle their intended purpose so completely and destructively that almost anyone with eyesight can provide useful corrective feedback. The South Dakota cruiser rider was a terrific example of that.
One of the things I will miss when I retire from teaching the state's motorcycle safety classes is the corrective feedback from the students and the coaches I worked with. In particular, the classes that used to be called "Experienced Rider" often exposed me to motorcyclists with far different experiences from my own. During the discussions I picked up all sorts of ideas about how other riders manage traffic, maintain their motorcycles, and plan cross country trips. Having to demonstrate the exercises for competent riders always added a little pressure to the otherwise simple activities and gave me a solid benchmark for knowing when it would be time for me to hang up my Aerostich for good.
At the other end of that spectrum, beginning and so-called "experienced" riders often discovered that their motorcycle talents were dramatically less impressive than they'd convinced themselves. Sadly, not everyone who miserably fails to cope with the course exercises is honest enough to realize how low a bar they failed to step over. Riders who drive straight through the offset weave exercises tell themselves their bike is the problem, ignoring the fact that other riders on similar or less maneuverable motorcycles are handling the course without difficulty. Riders who never learn to use and trust their front brake pretend that they'll avoid having to make an emergency stop by sticking to country roads and riding in a pack. One of the huge shortcomings of not having a tiered license system is that completely incompetent riders can end up on equally hard-to-ride motorcycles and won't discover why that is a problem until seconds before becoming a statistic.
One fairly reliable indicator of riding competence is the amount of gear a rider decides is enough. AGAT riders are consistently more competent than the shorts and flipflops or bandanna and pirate outfit crowd. It appears that the more you know about riding a motorcycle, the more aware you are of the risk. The opposite of the Dunning-Kruger Effect is something every good scientist, engineer, and technician knows, "The more you know, the more you know you don't know." So, if you are confident that your skills are good enough to allow you to ride helmetless and without decent gear, the odds are good that you are likely to be fatally wrong.