Jun 7, 2021

The Helmetless and the Maskless

Every morning, my wife and I start our very different routines. I head for the kitchen, assemble a bowl of fruit and cereal, make coffee, and either settle in on our porch to read or at my laptop in the far corner of the house to write. She fires up the television and spends the first couple hours of her day watching the previous evenings’ streamed Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers shows. I usually insert a nice set of Bluetooth noise-cancelling earbuds so I can ignore the noise and, especially, the “news” with which she starts and ends her day.

Today, she had to “share” the news that US House Republicans are refusing to wear masks and vaccination. Of course, I did not need to know that or, at least, hear it. In these days of the American Empire’s dying light the news is relentlessly depressing and uninformative and useless. The nation’s original massive flaws and bonehead founding decisions and “values” are slowly coming home in dozens of directions and there is nothing I can do about it. So, why bother me with it? Stuff I can fix, I’m interested in. But if I’m in the back row of a 747 headed straight down from 30,000 feet at 700mph (or 1,000 ft/sec) after a software failure locks up the plane controls, I’m just in the plane for the ride down and, hopefully, a quick and painless death. Don’t ask me to take the controls or even make suggestions to the pilots in those final 30 seconds.

Mission Impossible 2 Epic Action Scene - YouTubeHowever, hearing that “news” did remind me of a thought that I’ve had for the last couple of decades about motorcycle helmets and the people who refuse to wear them as some sort of strange rebellion against common sense and intelligent decisions. Contrary to the self-image these characters have, I have yet to see a single helmetless motorcyclist who even slightly resembles Tommy Cruise (even the weird looking plastic-surgery-enhanced 60-year-old Tom Cruise) or Ron Perlman. More typically, they look like some fat version of either Marty Feldman, Rosie O’Donnell, Steve Buscemi, Joe Pesci, or Danny Trejo with or without scraggly beards (including the Rosie O’Donnell look-alikes). Nobody needs to or wants to see that, but these goobers all think they are gracing the scenery with their inbred faces and we all have to suffer for their vanity.

There is a logical fallacy called “the Spotlight Effect” that probably explains much of this pain and suffering. The Spotlight Effect is used to describe “the tendency we have to overestimate how much other people notice about us. In other words, we tend to think there is a spotlight on us at all times, highlighting all of our mistakes or flaws, for all the world to see.” Or, in the case of Republican congresscritters or bikers, deeply flawed humans who imagine everyone is looking at them with envy or admiration.

Trust me, we aren’t.

In fact, we are doing the best we can to ignore your existence, but you’re making it really difficult with all the whining, potato-potato noises, and traffic-stopping incompetence. Real motorcyclists know that, at best, motorcycling on public roads exists by the will and tolerance of 99.99. . . % of the population. Motorcycles are nothing more than recreational vehicles as used by the overwhelming majority of motorcyclists and every one of you noisy pirate pretenders.

Roaring from bar to bar, impeding traffic, disturbing the public peace, and getting killed at exorbitant rates and in expensive ways is not a demonstration of a “lifestyle.” It is a statement of insecurity and a desperate need to be noticed. You are simply compensating for having been (rightfully, probably) ignored as children and are mistaking irritation for admiration. Take off your pirate outfit and disguise yourself as a normal human being and mingle with other human beings in any downtown are plagued by bikers and listen to the comments made by those people about the jackasses on motorcycles. You’ll be surprised, disappointed, enlightened, and (on your best day) humbled by how much people hate motorcycles and bikers.

Likewise, if you are paying attention when a Goldwing or other real motorcyclist is in the same traffic situation you’ll notice that nobody hates them or even notices their existence. That is the best situation possible for a recreational vehicle on public roads. Because if we get enough attention for our outsized contribution to noise and air pollution, traffic congestion, and general lawlessness we’ll end up in the same place as horses and horse-drawn buggies, ATVs, go-karts, farm equipment, jet skis, and the rest of the world of adult toys not allowed on public roads.

So, put a helmet over your mess of a face, put the stock pipe back on your bike, and shut the hell up about your bullshit “right of way” and learn how to ride that thing before you lose the privilege . . . for all of us.

And, if you are a Republican chaos and destruction promoter, please expose yourself to as many equally careless and contaminated goobers as possible. Coronaviruses can only do the job evolution designed them to do if at least 70% of the population are dumb enough to set themselves on fire to thin the herd.

May 31, 2021

The Louder the Bike the Worse the Rider

On GeezerwithAGrudge.com, I just revived an old column from my MMM days. “#61 What Loud Pipes Say.” I was on a roll back then and that column rolled up more dumbasses per word than anything I’d written in the previous five years. Hell, I got more hate mail from Hardly goobers from that one column than the whole magazine had received in the previous five years. Our advertising rates went up accordingly.

I no longer live on a curve, so the biker goobers are no longer announcing to my neighborhood the upcoming comedy of their lame attempts at turning a motorcycle competently. Now, they’re just making noise to be making noise because, apparently, their mothers didn’t pay enough attention to them in the first few weeks of their pitiful little lives. A few weeks ago, I wrote about watching a pair of these goobers fumbling a stop, falling over, and putting on a Laurel and Hardy show trying to figure out how to pick up their hippomobiles and fumble off to the nearest bar to whine about “how mean everyone is.” Needless to say, those two fools were on a pair of mindlessly noisy Harleys.

There is, of course, no evidence at all that “loud pipes save lives” and crash statistics point to the exact opposite fact. I don’t suspect the loud pipes are the problem, though. That would be and error of mistaking correlation for causation. It’s not that loud pipes substantially increase the likelihood of crashing, it’s that all of the most incompetent riders rely on loud pipes to make up for their lack of skill, judgement, and basic intelligence. So, it might stand to reason that the louder the bike, the less skill the rider possesses.

Years of long and careful, if cynical, observation has established this theory as a fact, in my mind. In dozens of MSF “Experienced Rider” courses, (ERC) the most incompetent people on the range were consistently mounted on the loudest motorcycles. Male and female, if the bike was loud I could set my watch on the moments the rider would dropout, fail to negotiate a section, fall down, or all three (not necessarily at the same time) during a 4-hour course. They always had the same motley excuses, too. Usually something along the lines of “the course is laid out for small motorcycles” or “nobody ever has to ride this slow and this is unrealistic.” Not that these goobers did any better on the faster exercises or on the sections where every other equally large (but not as loud) motorcyclists did fine.

The funniest example of this syndrome I ever experienced was in a 13 bike ERC full of Hennepin County Sheriff Deputies. I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth repeating that these “law enforcement officers” were about as legal as a pickup load of cocaine with a meth chaser. Except for one very competent Goldwing rider in the group, 12 of 13 cops had no more business on motorcycles than they had performing in a tight rope act. Their “plan” for incompetence compensating was to be illegally noisy and wear lots of “biker face” whenever possible. A bunch of middle-aged fat guys on Harleys wearing law enforcement patches is intimidating in a bar, but in traffic it is just as useless as the loud pipes.

The local bars here are stuffed with the loud pipe crowd and when one of those groups decides they’ve drunk enough and pull out of the parking lots, it looks like pure random motion; or a flock of chickens after someone has tossed a firecracker into the pen. You have never seen worse riding skills or more unpredictable behavior and all they have with which to defend themselves is noise. And it never works.

May 14, 2021

None of Us Are Too Smart

One of my favorite books and podcasts is You Are Not So Smart (YANSS). In episode 1 of the podcast, “The Invisible Gorilla,” at about 9 minutes, Daniel Simmons discusses the “inattentional blindness” issue and directly relates it to why so many cagers do not see motorcyclists.

Especially during these years of Trump-insanity I’ve been distracted and fascinated by how poorly human brains work and how distant we actually are from the “rational animal” we pretend to be. YANSS is a wealth of information about those defective, funky, weird things that mostly reside between our ears. Since safe motorcycling is mostly a skill of the mind, rather than a physical skill of magical and mythical “muscle memory,” figuring out how our minds function or fail to function is a lot more important to those of us one two wheels than it is to cagers or mass transit commuters.

May 10, 2021

Socially Acceptable Ways to Get F****d-Up

Now that I am occasionally back on a motorcycle, I am getting the regular reminders from friends and acquaintances of how dangerous motorcycling is and v Always, these brilliant and insightful comments come from people who either have never ridden a motorcycle or, worse, have had a friend or relative who crashed and died or was maimed for life. I am, of course, totally happy to receive these ill-formed anecdotes of death and destruction and enlightened by their low opinion of my judgement and skills.

If you know me at all, you might know I’ve been struggling with a basement bathroom installation all winter and some of last fall. Plumbing and me are in no way on friendly terms. I’m not that fond of construction carpentry, either. I am, more than anything cheap and picky about how things are done on my property, so I generally turn everything into a DIY project that I will hate before, during, and after the project is completed. It is just who I am. The point of bringing up this piece of recent and on-going history is that I have smashed and nearly sawn or clipped off fingers, bunged-up my knees and shoulders and back, and experienced a collection of minor and near-disastrous injuries during this damn construction project and not one person has commented on how I could maim various parts of my marginally repairable body working on my damn house. Maybe one out of ten of these people will say something about my working on the roof of my house, even. Dying to keep a roof from leaking or to stop a spouse from bitching is socially acceptable and, probably, even expected. But riding a motorcycle is just an unreasonably dangerous risk. .

May 5, 2021

Back from the Dead

In early 2017, I first experienced ocular symptoms of myasthenia gravis and by the end of that summer I felt that not only my motorcycling days were over but my driving days might be too. Double-vision is a show-stopper and not being able to even keep my eyes open reliably put the icing on that cake. Four years later, my Mayo Clinic neurologist has fine-tuned my medications (with prednisone being the real driver in my situation) so that those symptoms are vanishingly insignificant.

Last week, I took the bold and completely irrational step of buying another motorcycle, after pretty much reassuring my wife that I was “done with that.” Today, I took the even bigger step of riding the damn thing. In fact, based on this motorcycle’s history and odometer, I might have ridden it for its first 75 mile, roundtrip, highway speeds trip. I needed to go the the Minnesota License Center in Hastings to change the title and get new tags, so I had a good excuse. I took the “scenic route,” past the Casino and through a moderately hilly and twisty county road between Red Wing and Hastings.

Mostly, I think it is fair to say that whatever skills I once had aren’t spectacularly deteriorated, even after a two-and-a-half year layoff. Red Wing no longer has a MMSC training range, so I detoured through Rosemount to the Dakota Tech School parking lot where the ranges are nicely marked off. I made a few passes through the more difficult exercises, rode all of the BRC endorsement exercises, and left feeling pretty good about myself. I even drug both pegs riding through the 135 degree testing curve. I wasn’t even trying to be fast. So, my dreaded “baseline test” turned out to be no big thing, so far.

I did have to get used to some new stuff, though. First, for the last 37,000 250cc miles, I’ve been on a 6-speed. The TU250X is a five-speed and I constantly kept trying to fine that non-existent last gear. Two, the TU’s wheels are steel and so is the frame and the ground clearance is substantially lower than the WR. That means I don’t have to run stoplights or get off and press the pedestrian crossing button. That was a pleasant surprise, to say the least. Three, for the first time since the 1970s, I can stand flatfooted (both feet) when I stop. Swinging a leg over the TU is easy, off and on. Four, the downside to that low seat height is the lack of suspension travel. Twice I was in the middle of a turn at an intersection and hit a pothole that I wouldn’t have even noticed on the WR and got my bell rung pretty good with the impact. That will take some getting used to. My WR and V-Strom had high-end rear shocks and terrific front suspensions and I have more than a cumulative 100,000 miles under my belt on those two bikes. All of those good things and a couple of mediocre issues added up to a really great ride this morning. Of course, being me I had to screw something up. So, when I rolled into my (slight downhill) driveway leading o the garage, I mindlessly put the bike in neutral, put the sidestand down, and swung my leg off pulling the bike slightly forward and off of the sidestand and ending up sitting on a landscaping log with a TU250X in my lap.

I must have some genetic connection to whatever Native American group it is that always puts a defect into everything they make so not to offend their gods. No damage done, not even a bent lever, and my already pretty beat-down pride barely noticed the latest hit.

Apr 28, 2021

Maybe Not the End?

Early Wednesday morning, I got an email from Andy Goldfine with the subject line, “certain I am a geezer now.” Andy was mostly commenting on how modern motorcycles are “too pointy” and not cosmetically to his tastes. My reply was that not only are the cosmetically weird looking, but they are too tall and wide, too heavy, insanely powerful, incredibly fuel inefficient, too cluttered, and not particularly fun to ride. I whined that now that my eyesight seems to be somewhat stabilized I’ve been looking for a Suzuki TU250X for the last two-and-a-half years without any luck. Even the state’s MSF program can’t get them and used bikes often list for pretty much what a new bike sells for.

Not an hour from writing that response, my Craig’s List search sent me an email notifying me that a 2012 TU250X was available for $2600 “practically brand new with 700 miles on it and not a scratch on it.” Suddenly, it was put up or shut up time. I emailed the seller, got a little more information, loaded up my ramps and tie-downs, collected my gear and $2600 cash, and with an address somewhere west of Rochester I was headed south just after noon. On the way to the buyer’s location, I thought of all the things I did NOT want to suffer again in a used motorcycle: #1 no damn kids, #2 check for the existence of an air filter, #3 no modified or aftermarket exhaust or intake systems, look at the drive sprocket to be sure it hasn’t been mangled or the countershaft retaining nut, and crash damage. I made a mental list during my hour drive and checked it a dozen times. Any one of those items and I planned on thanking the seller for his time and driving back home without a quibble. I’ve dealt with all of that shit before and I don’t have the patience or tolerance to do it ever again.

Our 2-and-4 wheeled menagerie.
You’ve probably heard the used car salesman line “it was driven by a little old lady only on Sundays to and from church?” This motorcycle was owned by a 60-something Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist who (seriously) only used the TU250X to drive from his house down his very long driveway to get his mail. His “real motorcycle” is a very new Goldwing. There are 700 miles on the TU’s odometer: brand new looking everything and not a scratch on it. It even has a heated vest Quiconnect2 12VDC cable already hooked up for my heated vests. The owner generously let me look for all of the fatal flaws on my list and even helped me push the bike up my ramp on to my pickup. The whole transaction probably took 20 minutes from when I drove into his driveway until I rolled back out on to the street.  

My wife is sort of, let’s say, neutral about my new bike. When myasthenia gravis took away my vision three years ago, she was of two minds: #1 at least I won’t have to worry about you when you are one one of your long motorcycle trips and #2 just when you are getting comfortable with retirement you can’t do the things you love anymore. So, now that the vision thing appears to be under control and the bike I’ve been looking for suddenly appeared, #1 is suddenly back in her life again. The Honda CR-V in the picture at left is her new vehicle (new to us, anyway) as of a couple of weeks ago. She has big plans for us to travel and even “camp” in that little SUV and I know she worries that the motorcycle could put a damper on those dreams. I will try not to disappoint her . . . too severely.

A little while back, I wrote “What Really Signals the End?” That essay mostly moaned about the trauma of making the decision to sell my Aerostich and Giant Loop gear. It was premature. I’ve waffled about putting that stuff up for sale since last fall and it is all still hanging in my closet. I did give away some stuff to friends and had plans on giving away a lot more stuff. But the two Darien suits are still there, my HGC and Shoei helmets are still hanging from the rack, and my beloved Gaerne boots are still in the closet. Hell, I didn’t even get around to putting my barely-used ICON Patrol boots up for sale, although I did try fairly hard to give them to someone locally.

So, we’ll see where this all takes me this summer. I’m old, so all of my systems are on the verge of failing and I’ve already experienced a pretty severe system crash. It won’t break my heart if I can’t pass my own baseline test. I haven’t taught an MSF class in two years and the last time I tried to ride my WR250X through the BRC course I couldn’t see the lines or stay inside the box, thanks to double-vision and myasthenia gravis. So, the first thing I’m going to do, once I get the bike insured, is ride over to the local college parking lot and run myself through that series of exercises. If I don’t ace it, this experiment will come to an abrupt end. Stay tuned.


Apr 12, 2021

“They Love Us!” turns into “Why Don’t They Like Us?”

If you are any kind of observer of the hilarious “human condition,” watching self-delusions dissolve into disappointment is particularly entertaining. The little tourist town where I live is a biker destination, mostly because the roads are straight and wide, traffic is moderate and generally at the local speed limits, there are lots of bars in Wisconsin and Minnesota small towns, and local cops on both sides of the state lines are terrified of bikers. It is a fact that pretty much the whole “economy” in these places are biker bars and filling stations. We get pirate parades from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Wisconsin, Iowa, and we’re on the parade path from all points east to the Sturgis gangbang. From May to September, the roar of poorly-tuned, oversized, and underpowered twins with straight-pipes completely obliterate the sound of Amtrak and freight trains that regularly pass through our village. It’s a “feature” our town’s tourist literature never mentions, but become immediately obvious to anyone foolish enough to visit Red Wing on a summer weekend. (During the Corona shutdown, the entire summer was filled with that pointless noise every day of the week, since Harley owners are, apparently, unlikely to be employed in essential occupations.)

On an eBike forum a while back, one of the odder characters who frequents that group was bragging about his Harley and how he’d “customized” it as insanely as he had mangled his eBike (installing at least $2,500 worth of “upgrades” on a $1,500 Rad Power eBike). Being a sucker for troll-bait, I foolishly replied with a comment on how much his neighbors must hate him (because of the Harley, not the eBike). Like the usual character of this sort who we all know and suffer, he came back with “No, they love me and everyone always comments on how great my Harley sounds.”

I know a lot of motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists. I have never heard any of them even mention exhaust noise when they are admiring a vehicle of any sort. I have, however, heard almost all of them curse a noisy vehicle when it interrupts their lives. Maybe that’s what the loud pipes folks call “love?” If so, that explains their typical bachelor in a swamp of beer cans lifestyle.

Late last fall, I was on my usual ebike run for groceries when I got passed on the uphill section of my ride by a couple of goobers on illegally loud hippobikes wobbling down a straight section of county road. I could hear them coming a mile away, so I had a hand over my left ear when they passed. I got a one-finger salute from the biker broad when she passed me. I suppose she imagined I would be upset at not being her friend.

This pair usually runs with a pack of four or five other noise makers. They blubber and roar through our neighborhood several times every warm day and you can hear them for miles in all directions. The local cops are terrified of bikers, but they are especially blind to gangs of bikers. So, as a neighborhood and town we’re pretty much torn about on-coming nice weather. At least when it’s raining or snowing, we don’t have to listen to goobers on Harleys.

When I got to the stoplight at Highway 61, they were waiting for the signal to change and yelling at each other about some menial bullshit when the old fat guy started to lose control of his bike and fell over, knocking the broad and her bike into a tangled heap of black leather, crappy mechanical engineering, and fat people. Of course, neither one of them knew how to shut off their bike, so there was some flesh tangled in the spinning rear wheels and lots of squalling and shouting before the blubbering (human and mechanical) stopped. I watched the Laugh-In tricycle action and did my best not to laugh out loud.

The goobers were in the left hand lane when they tipped over, so traffic had two lanes in which to pass up the mess and until the light changed three cars made a right turn without doing much more than gawking at the bikers. Two pickups pulled up to wait for the light to change to either make a left turn from the center lane or go straight. Nobody made any effort to help the bikers untangle themselves. I was on the sidewalk where the pedestrian crossing button lives, so the trucks provided me with a nice bit of insulation from the biker pile. The light changed and three of us went on our way while the bikers struggled to untangle and pick up their oversized hardware and do whatever those folks do when they aren’t falling down or occupying bar stools.

I did my grocery run and came back the same route, about 15 minutes later. The bikers were on their feet by then, but the bikes were still down and tangled up. Now, I’m on the opposite side of the road and there is no traffic coming my direction, so the light is going to run against me for a lot longer than it does when there is car traffic triggering the intersection controller. I thought it might be entertaining to see how a fat old Santa Claus biker and a bar bimbo pick up their 900 pound hippobikes, so I waited a while before I pressed the pedestrian call button. I was right.

Santa Gangbanger’s full dresser hippobike was on top of the pile and he clearly had never picked up his motorcycle, let alone from on top of another equally oversized, overweight pile of junk. The two of them were high side of his bike tugging helplessly at the handlebars or trying to drag the bike by the front or rear wheel and I really regretted not carrying something with which I could film the action. At least a half-dozen cars and pickups and a couple of delivery trucks rolled past them, but nobody stopped to help and the goobers did pretty much everything but step in front of traffic trying to enlist some assistance. Biker bimbo discovered, for the nteenth time in her life, that outside of biker bars she wasn’t attractive enough to draw flies let alone human assistance. Santa Gangbanger probably wondered why his biker glare didn’t intimidate anyone into helping. Finally, the two managed to drag Santa’s bike off of the bimbo’s ride, leaving paint and chrome and plastic on the road. The two of them together finally righted both bikes.

When the light changed, we all crossed 61 and went on our merry ways. Me with a cool story to tell anyone I know (since most everyone in Red Wing hates motorcycles) and them with a sob story of how nasty people are to old, fat, noisy, incompetent bikers. “I thought they loved us.” Whenever this dichotomy rears its head in small towns, the bikers threaten not to spend their money in our bars and we mostly wouldn’t mind seeing the damn bars go broke and the bikers gone. If it were possible to get small town cops to do their jobs, this problem wouldn’t exist.

Feb 15, 2021

Harley’s Last Ditch Effort to Make A Motorcycle

Harley Davidson is really putting on a marketing push for the “Adventure Pan America 2021” (although it was originally called the “Pan America 2020,” Thanks Donny). Harley’s marketeers have been talking about this bike as long as they talked about the Livewire before it actually “arrived.” And, like their electric bike, Pan America sightings are a lot like flying saucer reports. Some folks in the media have been allowed to see and even ride the prototypes over the last year, but they haven’t come up with any interesting specifications for the mythical ADV Harley: like weight, ground clearance, suspension travel, or even fuel capacity. All reports on the bike indicate it has a low seat height: which means it also has a low ground clearance, which hardly means the Pan American is a serious off-pavement vehicle.

Concept-wise, the new bike is nearly all non-USA-all-the-time with Brembo (Italy) front brakes styled specifically for HD, Harley branded tires by Michelin (France), Showa (Hitachi, Japan) forks, lots of Japanese and Chinese EFI, ABS, and EIS electronics, and a new liquid-cooled 1250cc “Revolution Max” engine that actually produces 21st Century power (143bhp and 90lb-ft of torque). Pointing out the many made-somewhere-not-America parts isn’t news to anyone these days. Pretty much, the only things most US companies are able to make are 1950’s technology bits, like bike frames and, hopefully, the gas tanks.

There isn’t much about this “news” that changes my mind about HD or it’s products, except that picture in their ad. At first, I thought, “Damn, HD finally hooked up with Aerostich to sell some good motorcycle gear?” A little research and I learned that is not the case. Aerostich is American-made in Minnesota, a few miles down the road from HD and Milwaukee, WI. Harley’s marketing folks decided to keep up the foreign sourcing of their crap by going to made-in-Pakistan and Holland-owned brand, RevIt. So, what little respect I had for HD’s made-in-the-USA self-delusion went out the door forever.


If you don’t see the similarities between HD’s promotional photo and my 2006 Aerostich Darien jacket and pants (at right), you’re just not trying. Everything about the HD ADV riding gear is ripped straight from the Aerostich drawing board. Everything, except the high quality materials, the real-rider design details, and the American-made quality that Aerostich has always provided.

The picture of me and my Darien suit has some context that might explain my frustration with HD and their lazy, cheap-ass marketing goobers. Moments before that picture was taken, I was sailing down the Canadian Yukon’s infamous Dempster Highway—bucking a 50-70mph side-wind, skating across a recently poured gravel road—when that wind got a grip on my luggage and flipped the bike backwards, dumping me in the gravel at 50+-mph. One second, I was “havin’ fun” (as my wife would say) and, the next, I was on my back sliding toward the edge of the highway and a permafrost swamp. Lucky for me, I was wearing real Aerostich gear (and several layers of insulation and clothing, since it was barely above freezing that day). The Darien’s well-placed TF6 armor and “Mil-spec 500 Denier Cordura®” kept my skin in place and most of my bones intact. (I broke a small bone in my right hand and re-cracked some ribs.) My Shoei helmet was trashed, with a small hole ground into the back of the helmet by that vicious, pointy Dempster gravel.

I still have that suit, probably a dozen or more cleanings later. I have a second Darien Hi-Viz jacket that I bought about ten years ago. I admit that I’m an Aerostich homer. I have owned and advocated for Aerostich gear and the Darien or Roadcrafter riding suits since the mid-1980s when I moved to Southern California and began a couple decades of spending almost all of my commuting and travel time on a motorcycle. Since my first Roadcrafter, I’ve seen dozens of Aerostich imitators and, through experiments by friends and acquaintances, watched people try to save a few up-front-bucks on made-in-China or Pakistan or where ever riding jackets and pants result in disappointment and/or injury. Some things just can’t be made well and cheaply.

Somehow, Harley and the motorcycle press are calling the Pan America a “middleweight bike.” I have to ask, in what world is a 1250cc hippobike “middleweight?” I guess, in this world. [Which means, I’m no longer obese. Yea Me! I might even be lightweight in this brave new, screwball world.] The Pan American’s weight and marginal off-pavement capabilities aside, Harley is taking a hard road in trying to catch up with and attract a motorcycle community that the Company has alienated with both its products and its gangbanger marketing tactics for decades. My guess would be “too little, too late,” but in copying and under-cutting the design of an actual American company that is near-and-dear to many of ADV and long distance motorcyclists with slightly cheaper made-in-Pakistan gear, Harley is making a statement (intended or not) that it is still either their way or no way and it won’t be hard to simply ignore the Pan America and the Company for a lot of people who have been in this market since the 80s or before. Harley is just another US company that can’t make a good decision even when it is staring them in the face from their own backyard.

Feb 3, 2021

Was It Worth It?

All Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

[As the copyright notice above indicates, I wrote this one in 2013 when I first began to consider the fact that the end of my motorcycling life was approaching. I had just retired from my teaching gig at a music college and my wife and I were planning a retirement vacation trip that might have resulted in our selling off everything except what would have fit into a small camper and going on the road until we could no longer do that. That did not pan out well at all. ;-) I intended for this to be the last entry to my Geezer with A Grudge blog and the odds are good if you're reading this one, I'm dead or incapacitated by age, injury, or both. At the least, I will have sold off my last motorcycle and ended that part of my life. So, this is it. Thanks for reading my thoughts and stories and I wish you all have at least as much fun and luck as I did on two wheels.]

Recently, I spent a fine summer afternoon hanging out with a couple of young friends. One of them is an occasional motorcyclist and the other is not. During a bit of that discussion, we touched on crashes and near-crashes and the odds that getting into serious trouble on a motorcycle are pretty high. Nick, the non-rider, asked, "So, is it worth it? If you are that likely to crash and get hurt, why do it?"

Risk-taking has a bad rap these days, and some of that is for good reason. Bankers, investment brokers, real estate speculators, and the rest of the Vegas gamblers who play with the public's money as if it were a child's toy are a waste of air. They reminded us that hanging out on the edge of sanity is something less than sane. We didn't learn that lesson well enough to accurately apply discipline where it is needed, but we did become more conservative/timid/terrified-of-the-future. That move has been a highlight of failed empires since humans started writing down the steps taken before the barbarians stormed the walls and we all went back to banging the rocks together to make music.

Combine our general decline in courage and intelligence with a brand new phenomena my wife likes to call "old parents" and we're raising a generation of kids who think buying an Android-based smartphone instead of a safe-but-expensive iPhone is risk-taking. These fearful near-geriatric "helicopter parents" are responsible for the collection of pseudo-psychological maladies used to excuse bad manners, poor work ethic, and an education system too terrified to fail even the worst slackers or, even, outright idiots. These low-flying hovering parents think a skinned knee is cause for both medical intervention and systemic overhaul of every playground, school activity, and television program within the 1/4-block territor their child is allowed to free-range. It's also true that the average age of the American parent is increasing and there are some biological reasons why that might not be good news, especially for over-35 men and women. The Genetic Literacy Library summarizes this problem, "As more children are born to older parents, increasing numbers of babies are at higher risk for a range of health problems, many with a genetic basis and possibly resulting from epigenetic changes—functional changes that are generated in the DNA as a product of longevity and environmental interactions." So, we're a nation of declining health and growing conservatism. In other words, we're afraid of everything other than sending other peoples' kids to war. Ideally, other people we don't know. Shades of China, Greece, Rome, Denmark, Spain, England, and every other Empire Gone Bad.

The first part of taking physical risk is physical activity and even the fattest of us knows that physical activity is crucial to good health. The advantages of taking on physical risk is less well known. Freud, that famous couch-potato, sex-deviant, thought that any sort of adventure was evidence of an "innate human death drive." His years of smoking cigars eventually led to cancer of the mouth followed by a successful plea to his own kid for assisted suicide, so his death-drive-drivel was probably just self-diagnosis. More rational psychological studies have found that nature has built in significant biological rewards for risk taking. Endorphins and adrenaline crank out chemicals that give athletes and daredevils a "high" similar to sexual activity. Our hearts speed up and become more efficient, our minds focus, our respiratory system kicks into high gear, and the bio-chemical response to peak moments of excitement can't be matched any other way. Afterwards, we relax and more fully appreciate our everyday life.

Of course, some people get nothing but terror out of almost any kind of risk and they have no way to empathize with any of this. To them, taking physical risks is just crazy and inconceivable. Couple that with all of the characteristics of old parents and it's easy to understand how we "progress' to a conservative state deluded into believing that creating an economically inequitable, unsustainable, always-on-the-edge-of-disaster economy is a rational substitute for actually showing some courage occasionally. This produces stress and stress does not provide the same positive effects as physical risk. They might feel similar to those unused to a physical life, but they aren't.

In the film, Moto 4: The Movie, desert racer Kurt Caselli says, " Do one thing every day that scares you, live your life on the edge. It makes you feel good . . . and alive" Watch him race across the desert, full of life, riding and living on the edge, doing what most of his generation thinks they are doing when they play video games and you will immediately know why we do this crazy thing. In the same movie, WORCS champ Taylor Robert said, "For me, it's my escape to life." For some humans, there is no other way to get this far sideways and getting sideways is absolutely necessary.

My least favorite thing about getting old is the growing fear of getting injured and not being able to recover. It makes me appreciate how the rest of the world spent their whole lives in terror of getting hurt, afraid of taking real chances, worrying about every little thing so they do no big things their entire lives. Life kills us all. Sooner or later, you will be nothing but a memory, if you're lucky. Would you rather be John Glenn, the Marine combat aviator and test pilot who was the first American to orbit the planet or John Glenn, the man who slipped on a bathroom rug and might have spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair or worse from that incident? I know from experience that some pretty boring activities (like working on my house or yard) can result in some awful injuries. So, "I'd rather be shot out of a cannon than squeezed out of a tube." With all of that in mind and a lifetime of injuries from bicycling, contact sports, household chores, motorcycle racing and adventure touring, I can easily say, it was absolutely worth it and still is. Thanks for asking. 

Jan 15, 2021

This Is Who They Are

Mostly, I keep my political opinions on another location and, yep, I am a “libtard” as are all of the intelligent people I have ever known in my life. If there were ever going to be a moment where my mission, "Warning: If you're looking for a pleasant conversation about motorcycling from a frozen-north Minnesota Nice perspective, good luck with your search. As Bobby Dylan once said, 'it ain't me, babe,'" might skip a beat, “Keep moving buddy. “Nothing to see here.” Today, like all of this damn month, I’m pissed off.

Capitol Police Chief Sund resigns just hours after he DEFENDED his  department's response to DC riots | Daily Mail OnlineWe all know who “both sides” of this crowd are, don’t we? Motorcyclists have been grouped with “bikers” for at least 70 years, to our huge disadvantage and outright physical hazard. The helmet-less, muffler-free, skill-less biker crowd have made noise on the streets and in our legislatures to the total disadvantage of the actual 1-10% of motorcycle owners who use their vehicle as a goddamn vehicle. Every noisy-ass biker blubbering down a freeway, on a country road, or through neighborhoods is pissing off every cager and homeowner they pass and making enemies for the few of us who believe a motorcycle is a transportation vehicle with the same rights and responsibilities (that is the most unpopular word in the wingnut world) as every other vehicle on the road.

These rioting “protestors” are same people who think being asked to wear a mask to protect themselves and their community from a life-threatening virus pretend that being required to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle on public roads or paying a health/life insurance premium for the privilege of risking their lives pointlessly is a “freedumb” issue. We know these people. Like the maskless fruitcakes, these butt-ugly jackasses think the rest of us want and need to see their scroungy (male or female) ponytails, weird-assed inbred faces (quoting Larry McMurtry, “One could have laid a rule from forehead to chin without touching either his [or her] lips or his nose.”),  faux-ZZ Top beards (apologies to Frank), and hear their mistuned, unmaintained junk-twin hippobikes for miles around. The rioters were the same arrogant, entitled, lazy-ass incompetents that motorcycle has been plagued with since a pack of misfit WWII “vets” decided to bring home the hell they supposedly opposed in Germany and the Pacific. Based on the number of German helmets, swastika tattoos, and white supremist paraphernalia you see decorating bikers and their rides, it’s pretty obvious that if they fought at all, they were on the wrong side.

Black Lives Matter Activist Sues Baton Rouge Police Over Mass ArrestsLikewise we, unfortunately, know the cops who coddle and cringe from the biker gangsters, their illegal exhaust systems, and their traffic-snarling pirate parades. Those DC cops who were so courageous, when it came to piling on a 120 pound female BLM protestor or charging an unarmed kid with military weapons at a Occupy Wall Street protest, will just watch as a pack of bikers waddle through town making more noise than a Boeing 737 on take-off or attack the United States Capitol Building in an effort to overthrow an election. Worse, they’ll not only ignore the peace-disturbing noise-makers, they’ll direct traffic to accommodate the gangbangers or fascist, racist rioters. In the case of 1/6/2021 (we will remember this date like 9/11/2001), off-duty cops participated in rioting and attacking the police who defended the Capitol Building. Some even had the gall to claim “we’re doing this for you” while they attacked the police defending the Capitol.

There is also the fact that, usually, the biker gangbangers are white and look exactly like the goobers who overran the DC capitol police. Occasionally, the bikers will be Hispanic or black and, oddly, they will get pretty much the same treatment as their inbred white “brethren.” Huh? Imagine that. So, even when the police are not on the same side as the lawbreakers, they are terrified of them and, probably, their fellow collaborating officers. In the meantime, the taxpaying public is screwed coming and going.

As Hudson, Wisconsin residents discovered and I noted in “Running from the Outlaws,” when the biker gangbangers show up, the cops vanish. Like many of the DC rioters, the bikers usually have long criminal records which, for no good reason, never seems to prevent them from possessing firearms, threatening the peace and quiet of cities large and small, and appears to make them immune to the laws of the country. Why is that? Two reasons, the cops are terrified of anyone who might fight back in numbers even close to the force the cops might bring and the cops and the bikers/rioters are on the same side of most political arguments.

Bikers & Cops

Two of Trump’s big support groups were (and are) bikers and cops. In a rational world, you’d think that would be totally impossible relationship. We don’t live in that world and I am fast becoming convinced we aren’t an animal capable of rational thought.

I became painfully aware of this odd cohabitation when I taught an “Experienced Rider Course” somewhere in the 2006 time-period. The “students” were 13 Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputies and I was under the delusion that this might be one of the rare ERC classes that wouldn’t be deafening. Usually, ERC groups were biker “clubs” trying to skate through training to obtain insurance discounts for their gang members. Turns out, that’s the deal for training cops, too. Like the Iron Brotherhood gangbangers I wrote about back in 2013, these badged goobers were all-but-one on geeked-up Hardlys with illegal exhausts and more chrome crap than a 1960’s American car. The one exception was a very competent deputy on a Goldwing. The class was deafening, full of attempts to get on to the range without a helmet (against the state and MSF rules), and there were lots of the usual attempts to skip over or ride through the mildly complicated exercises. Maybe 2 of the 13 cops in the class were competent riders, with the Goldwing rider being more skilled by octaves above the other cops. I learned something in that class too, “Don’t expect cops to enforce laws on other biker gangbangers.”

Human history might be no more on the side of the MAGA goons than it will be on the Trump Republicans or the police who have The Long, Painful History of Police Brutality in the U.S. | At the  Smithsonian | Smithsonian Magazinefermented and inspired the white supremist and domestic terrorists that the biker culture best represents or the historically racist and anti-labor police actions of the recent past. Or not. If Hitler and Nazi Germany had won WWII, history would be on their side and we’d all be hearing and telling stories of how brilliant 1940’s Germany was in exterminating non-white people the world over. History is a story told by the winners and we have no idea who the winners will be, yet. Eventually, of course, it won’t matter. We’ll flip the world’s environment into a climate that won’t support human life or the planet will get clobbered by another asteroid extinction level event and none of this will matter. Humans will be gone and whatever life that comes next might not even know we ever existed.

Right now, honestly, that is a kind of comfort. I am so disgusted with my country, with 74 million American citizens who not only voted for fascism twice in 4 years but who so rabidly worship their “great and fearless leader” that they would rather see the nation’s fragile attempt at democracy fail than see their cult leader waddle off into the disgraced sunset (likely to see jail time and his seventh and final bankruptcy).

Jan 4, 2021

“Anybody Can Ride One”

My wife is a morning television addict. We live in a rural area with no over-the-air television available and I’m too cheap for cable, so she watches the late night talk shows in the morning. The irritating noises coming from our living room inspired a hunt for the best noise-cancelling, Bluetooth, in-ear monitors so that I could avoid the morning squawking noise of Seth Myers and Jimmy Kimmel’s dry sarcasm that makes the awful seem even worse. Sometimes she is so inspired by what she sees that she is compelled to “share” it with me. This morning that interruption was inspired by a Kimmel interview with David Letterman. Apparently, Letterman bought Regis Philbin a Vespa scooter under the assumption that “everybody knows how to ride a motor scooter.” Like so many folks on Harleys every summer weekend around the nation, it turns out that assumption is idiotic. Of course, Philbin crashed after traveling a few feet on the scooter. "He could have been killed. He actually could have been killed. The last night before he retires he comes over, and I kill him," Letterman said with a laugh. "... Nobody checked him out on it, because the assumption was, A, anybody can ride a scooter. And B, certainly Regis will ride a scooter."

Back when I was still teaching the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety classes, in 2011, I wrote a Geezer rant I titled “#101 It's Not A #&^%#@ Wheelchair.” I summed up my irritation in that essay with, “My generation seems to have created a lot of people who think the laws of physics can be influenced by money, the legal system, and by a heartfelt ‘I wanna.’ Velocity and acceleration (up or down) are ruthless. Gravity is insensitive to your brittle bones and inflexible joints. You don't get special consideration on the highway simply because traffic is moving ‘too fast’ or you can't muster up the courage to make the bike stop or turn (or keep up with the flow of traffic). Other highway users expect you to ‘drive it or park it.’ Being handicapped on a motorcycle is often fatal.” Almost always, in fact. I don’t know where “anybody can ride a scooter” comes from. Sure, they have small flat wheels that almost balance themselves, but that doesn’t help at all with turning, stopping, or being aware of traffic and hazards and figuring out what to do about those hazards in an emergency.

While my wife was taking a break from her morning television routine, she was reminded of my father and his “scooter experience,” which actually was an electric wheelchair. He’d been house-bound for several years by the symptoms of progressive myasthenia gravis, failing eyesight, and CHF. My step-sister thought it would be good for him to get out of the house and she, Medicare, and the VA bought him an electric wheelchair. For a couple of days, he was like a kid with a brand new motorcycle. He rode that thing around his neighborhood, to the local grocery store, and had a great time. My step-sister, on the other hand, almost had heart failure watching him blindly (literally) barrel through busy intersections and head-on into traffic without a clue that people were dodging him and freaking out at the sight of an overweight old man in an electric wheelchair in the middle of the road. Eventually, some technical issue came up with the wheelchair and he went back to watching his big screen television and 14-hours-a-day of Fox News propaganda. It could have been as simple as the battery being run down, my father was that technically inept, and nobody showed him how to use the charger. When he died, a couple of years later, the wheelchair looked brand new. He proved that it isn’t true that “anybody can ride a wheelchair.”

In the late 1970s, we were living in a small Nebraska town and a friend, the drummer in a band I’d been in, decided he wanted to buy a motorcycle so he could ride with his friends. I was a dirt-only motorcyclist at the time and had been for 15 years, but I helped him find a good buy on a barely-used Honda CX500 Deluxe, gave him a little instruction about how to ride the bike, convinced him to buy a helmet, a decent leather jacket, some boots, and gloves. And off he went. The friends he wanted to ride with were an assortment of cruiser wannabe-biker types with a couple of actual hardcore bikers—prison tats and criminal records and all. None of the be’s and wannabes wore any actual motorcycle gear and they quickly convinced him to dump the helmet, boots, gloves, but he could keep the jacket for cool days. They also “helped” him install ape-hangers and disable the front brake, partly because the stock brake line wasn’t long enough. Not even a whole month into this experience, he flew off of the road in a mild turn, plowed through a barbed-wire fence, and tumbled almost 100’ before he ended up in a tangled heap in a corn field.

His head injury left him with a speech impediment for the rest of his life and other neurological damage that left him pretty much a very young stroke victim. His legs were broken so badly that there was talk about amputating one or both, but they ended up reassembling him with pins and rods so that he could hobble around on his own. Of course, he was no longer a musician. You have to be able to flex everything in your legs and feet to operate a high hat and kick drum and the rest of his coordination and strength wasn’t up to handling the sticks. So, he’s mostly just been a barfly for the last 40 years, luckily he had a significant inheritance to cover his expenses and to provide him with shelter. Like Regis and my father, my friend (and several of his friends over the next few years) proved that it isn’t true that “anybody can ride a motorcycle.”

The industry, of course, has a vested interest in convincing as many people as possible that they belong on an expensive motorcycle that will enhance their lifestyle and self-image. Unfortunately, the so-called “motorcycle safety” industry is usually directly connected to the manufacturers (MIC/MSF, for example) and their vested interests are all about “putting butts on seats” with minimal interference from actual safety concerns. Thanks to them and their efforts, goofballs like David Letterman are deluded into believing the hype and imagining "that anybody can ride a scooter."

Dec 31, 2020

From Diapers to Trikes and Back Again

I live in an old fart’s town in southeastern Minnesota. If you visit one of our remaining mid-Covid plague restaurants on a weekday you’d assume the average age here must be close to 100. On summer weekends, the old fart Minnesota biker crowd might bring that median down to 75 or 80, but it’s pretty much the same people wearing leather and gangster patches. Sans motors, we have some fairly popular bicycle trails and, likewise, the typical person on our bike trails is only slightly younger than the biker crowd. There are few things more scary looking that a trio of old spandex-clad bicyclists attempting to draft each other without clue how to stop, steer, or maneuver around the occasional trail obstacle. The worst of that bunch are on three-wheeled recumbents. Not only do they take up 2/3 of the trail, but they are usually riding those speedy wheelchairs because they are incompetent, demented, or both.

Earlier this summer, I was coming back from a bicycle ride downtown when I rolled up behind a bearded old fart on a Hardly three-wheeler trying to pull away from a stop sign on an uphill grade. Not much of an uphill grade, mind you, but it was more of a challenge than this oldster could manage. While I waited for him to move his hippotrike out of the intersection, it struck me that this was a perfect example of life: we start out in diapers, progress to tricycles, wander around a while, and end up on trikes and back in Depends.

imageWith that in mind, the ads from Polaris, Can-Am, HD, Kymco, and the rest of the three-wheeled power wheelchairs are pretty funny. Like Coke and McDonald’s and Budweiser, the manufacturers want their customers/suckers to imagine ourselves to be young, hip, and fast while the real customer base is about a half-step away from being Medicare-provided Hoveround candidates or electrically powered adjustable hospital beds. [Before I committed to using Hoveround as a baseline, I check that company’s website and found no pictures of young, vital, active people fitted to electric wheelchairs. I have to suspect Hoveround is missing an obvious marketing ploy; selling lifestyle over reality is an American marketing tradition.

imageDepends for Men (or women), on the other hand, isn’t missing any part of that bet. Like Viagra or Cialis, the people pictured in the adult diaper ads appear to be barely old enough to be worrying about boxers or briefs. If you are as young as this guy and you’re worried about crapping or pissing your pants, you shouldn’t be grinning like an idiot. You should be seriously rethinking your life’s choices and/or cursing your flawed genetics. Also, you might be a good candidate for AA or a friendly intervention.

The rush to dump cars and concentrate SUVs has been all about auto manufacturers looking for a way around EPA emissions regulations. Likewise, the Polaris Slingshot and Can-Am’s Spyder are a lame attempt to make a car without the nasty safety, noise, and emissions regulations that encumber actual vehicle manufacturers. If you’ve driven (not ridden) either of these goofy hippotrikes, you know how incredibly lame they are. The upside is that, like those low-slung, noisy cars from The Marching Morons future, they really feel like they are clipping right along when they are barely keeping up with traffic on a rural road. Go-carts have the same effect as does not looking where you are going on a regular motorcycle. When you are sitting right next to the pavement (or looking down at it), a fast walking pace seems like rocketing at near-death speeds. Cruisers provide the same false sense of power and speed, but not nearly so dramatically as when your butt is actually a few inches from the pavement on a trike. They are a long ways from safe, though. I’ve had both of these vehicles tailgating me on our rural county road and they are absolutely invisible in a Nissan Frontier pickup’s rearview mirror. Worse, the drivers appear to have the same entitled opinion of their position in society as the pirate bikers. The only “effort” they seem to be able to make to contribute to their own safety is to illegally mangle their vehicles’ exhaust noise. Hate to break it to you, kiddies, but I can’t hear you inside my pickup with the air conditioning or heater going and the stereo at a comfortable volume. Sound doesn’t work the way you think it works.

Harley Davidson Trike High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - AlamySo it goes that we begin life pooping and pissing in our pants and we end that way. We move from four-wheel baby strollers and being tucked and strapped into car seats (although not when I was a baby). We stop fouling our diapers and progress to our first Radio Flyer tricycle to a bicycle with training wheels to an actual bicycle. After what feels like a few years, we start leaking again. Around the same time, some of us get the urge to abandon the demands of balancing on two wheels and we buy a $30,000 tricycle. That is a huge red flag, because not long after that comes the four-wheel old fart stroller/Hooveround and being strapped into a wheelchair waiting for a nurse to move us to the crapper and back to bed. I recommend not rushing that chain of events. Stay away from the trike as long as possible.

Dec 20, 2020

1,000,000 Hits!

Thanks you for reading my blog for the last decade. It seemed like this benchmark might not ever arrive. The Geezer with A Grudge blog jumped to 500,000 hits pretty quickly, it seemed from my vantage point, and sort of crawled the rest of the the way to one million. That mark on the Google Blogger site arrived in late November and I wasn’t even paying attention.

There must be a thousand articles on the web with titles something like “Blogging is Dead.” For sure, at least from where I live, attracting readers to a blog is a lot harder without a print magazine (like Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly) to help draw traffic. I don’t get near the hate mail I was used to when the magazine was out there drawing fire. I’ve been a columnist for Fast Lane Biker mag for about a year and that venture has pretty much been a bust. Neither of the location where you can find my Geezer columns—GeezerwithAGrudge.com, Geezer on Wordpress, or Geezer on Blogger—have seen any sort of hit increase from my association with Fast Lane Biker. Probably no surprise. Fast Lane is pretty much a hard-core cruiser magazine and I’m still trying to figure out what I’m contributing to that readership.

The 1,000,000 hits were all on Blogger. The Wordpress site is still slowly approaching 100,000 hits, but I get almost no Russians and Chinese spammers and a lot higher percentage of Brits and Canadians on Wordpress. That is a plus on several levels. Unless something miraculous happens with my eyesight and the associated myasthenia gravis symptoms, I’m probably not going to be a motorcyclist again. However, I have 55 years of motorcycling experiences that has barely been tapped in this blog and I’m collecting a lot of insights into many things that affect motorcyclists and bicyclists by putting 3,000 miles on my eBike this past 2 years. I’m not done yet. Thanks for being here.

Nov 30, 2020

Where Could I Go on That?

My wife is worried about me, post-motorcycle ownership. We’ve been together for 53 years and out of 52 those first years I was sans-motorcycle for about five years total. We were young, poor as the servants of church mice, and generally vehicle-less altogether for most of those five years. She still, occasionally, calls me her “motorcycle man.” But I’m not anymore and, likely, won’t ever be again.

On a May weekend this spring, one that was finally seasonably nice, our southeastern Minnesota small town was cursed by the pirates out in their full ear-shattering, trajectory-unstable gory glory (7 motorcycle deaths for the weekend). Even before the coronavirus lock-down began, more motorcyclists had died in 2020 on Minnesota roads than last year, which had the most motorcycle deaths in 24 years. The difference between this year and last is that motorcyclists—responsible riders who do the AGAT thing, can ride competently, and give a damn about their neighbors and communities—are staying off of the roads to avoid becoming a unnecessary load on the already stressed local healthcare systems.

That leaves the highways clear for the bikers and other posers who have none of those socially responsible qualities and couldn’t pass a comprehensive motorcycle license test on a tricycle. Those idiots are falling down and getting run over, riding off of remedial curves over cliffs and into ditches and trees, and even failing to manage competent stops and rolling through stop lights and signs into intersections where they get squashed like bugs. After doing pretty much everything wrong and ending up in a hospital and a wheelchair, the typical biker response is to start whining about “right of way” law enforcement.

Obviously, any complication created by other road users will entangle these idiots, Consistently, the worst drivers/riders/whatever are the goobers on trikes of any sort. The overwhelmingly worst of the trike bunch are on three-wheeled Harleys and the next worst are on three-wheeled Goldwings conversions. The Polaris Slingshot and Can-Am Spyder big spenders are slightly down from that first bunch in overall incompetence and, sometimes, even wear helmets and other gear, but those trike pilots are still are just hopped-up wheelchair trawlers and they generally ride accordingly. There was a perfectly good reason why three-wheeled ATVs were banned in 1988.

When I sold my Yamaha WR250X this spring, the kid who bought the bike commented on a parade of noise-makers going by our house as he loaded up the WR. “My neighbor has one of those Harley trike-things. She had a stroke a couple of years ago and it seems like a good fit for her. She’s pretty brain-damaged.”

“From the mouths of babes,” this 17-year-old pretty much summed up my attitude about three-wheelers and their riders. So, when my wife asked me, “Have you ever thought of one of those things?” My answer was, “Not while I’m still able to think for myself.” After that, who cares?

The reason, of many, for my distain for 3/4 of a cage is “Where could I go on that?” Seriously, what can you do on a three-wheeler that you can’t do on every compact car ever made? Worse, the Slingshot gets 18mpg and the Spyder is in the 30s territory.

Contemplating the current state of decline in both motorcycling and the United States in general, for a brief moment, I thought about Cyril Kornblulth’s The Marching Morons novelette for the zillion-th time since reading that story sometime in the late 50’s:

“The motor started like lighting a blowtorch as big as a silo. Wallowing around in the cushions, Barlow saw through a rear-view mirror a tremendous exhaust filled with brilliant white sparkles.

"Do you like it?" yelled the psychist.

"It's terrific!" Barlow yelled back. "It's—" He was shut up as the car pulled out from the bay into the road with a great voo-ooo-ooom! A gale roared past Barlow's head, though the windows seemed to be closed; the impression of speed was terrific. He located the speedometer on the dashboard and saw it climb past 90, 100, 150, 200.

. . . Watching them, Barlow began to wonder if he knew what a kilometer was, exactly. They seemed to be traveling so slowly, if you ignored the roaring air past your ears and didn't let the speedy lines of the dreamboats fool you. He would have sworn they were really crawling along at twenty-five, with occasional spurts up to thirty. How much was a kilometer, anyway?

We’ve arrived, long before schedule, to Cyril’s predicted future. At least he did ‘t predict flying cars as compensation for being surrounded by the Marching Morons.

Nov 2, 2020

How Do You Know I “Can’t Ride?”

One of the local gangbangers was justifying his noise maker on the grounds of “safety,” and I recommended, as always, that he invest some time in learning how to ride competently. His response was, “How do you know I can’t ride?” A quick look at his social media page had turned up a picture of him on his goober-mobile and it was pretty much what you see in the drawing to the right. So, how do I know he can’t ride?

  1. In this drawing, the “rider”1 is wearing a jacket, boots, and jeans. No helmet, of course. While that isn’t even close to decent protective gear, the real gooberboy’s picture showed him in a wifebeater, lowtop tennis shoes, and a scraggly pony tail. I know he can’t ride because if he could he’d know how fast shit can go bad and how much blood, skin, and mobility he is going to lose when he hits the asphalt.
  2. The bike the dude in the conversation rides is just as disabled as the mechanical junk depicted in this picture. Everything from the feet-forward rolling-gynecologists'-chair riding position to the extended forks to the low ground clearance screams “this is a crash waiting to happen.” Obviously, the rider and the bike are overweight and under-equipped to cope with any emergency. Actions like stopping quickly, swerving to avoid an obstacle, getting up on the pegs to add stability and reduce suspension-load (as if this thing has a suspension), or even turning sharply without running out of ground clearance because of the exhaust parts or hard-mounted foot pegs are all out of this “rider’s” reach because the “design” of the motorcycle is non-functional. I’m not an emergency nurse, but I’d join them in calling this a “murdercycle.” It’s a stage prop, at best, but a completely disabled and incompetent vehicle to the point that it might as well be a trike. You know that “closed course use only” stamp that’s on your illegal exhaust pipe? This vehicle should have “for garage candy use only” written on the tank.
  3. What other clues did I have that led me to assume the character in this story can’t ride? My favorite reason of all, we got into this conversation from one of those “I had to lay’er down” stories. If you know much about me, you know I have no respect for that claim. I don’t care if it is made by some newbie or a motorcycle cop, if you fall down in your attempt to stop, you screwed up. You panicked, screamed, and fell over and tried to sell that as an intentional evasion tactic. Likewise, this goober couldn’t intentionally lay down a motorcycle with help in his garage. Just like the fruitcake in the drawing, he never uses his front brake for ordinary stops, but rides with a finger or three resting on the brake lever and when an emergency happened, he grabbed it and discovered that he had no idea how that brake works. In my character’s situation, that extended fork collapsed with the stress (Surprise!) and his already limited ground clearance vanished and he was instantly metal-on-metal. Then he “laid ‘er down.” Right.
  4. Finally, this ain’t my first rodeo. In my 18 years of teaching MSF courses for the state of Minnesota I taught about 40 of the old ERC (Experienced Rider Course) and a dozen of the renamed version of the same course, the IRC (Intermediate Rider Course). I have suffered the abuse of loud Harley exhausts and spectacular rider incompetence and seen these characters ride straight through obstacle ranges because “my bike can’t do stuff like that” or stop about 20’ beyond the minimum exercise distance because “I’m afraid of the front brake.” There are exceptions, for sure, and they are exceptional. One of the Minnesota Expert Rider instructors is a Minneapolis motorcycle cop and he does amazing things on his huge Harley. Of course, his bike is pretty much bone stock (which makes it the most unusual of all Harley’s on the road). It isn’t loud, it has a functional suspension, and he is a spectacular rider. Otherwise, 99.999% of the time, I can safely assume if you are on a Harley, especially a chopper, you are not a competent rider because you are not riding a competent motorcycle. You might think the stereotype is unfair, but so is life. I love it when someone proves me wrong, but you will be going against the grain when you try.

1 I keep putting “rider” in quotes because I don’t consider these characters in any way in charge of the direction of travel or speed their motorcycle takes. A more accurate description of these characters would be “handlebar streamers.” They are just dangling from the handlebars waiting for a crash to happen after which they’ll whine about how their “right of way” was violated or someone didn’t property sweep the street for debris or some other excuse that no actual motorcyclist would ever claim. When they crash, and they crash a lot, it’s never their fault and someone else is always supposed to get the blame and responsibility.


Oct 30, 2020

What Really Signals the End?

 

Selling your last and only motorcycle is pretty traumatic. From experience, I can say that it doesn’t feel final. You can always buy another motorcycle. And I could, even if nothing I ever own will never be as tricked-out and personalized as my last two bikes. I owned my 2004 V-Strom 650 and 2008 Yamaha WR250X longer than any other motorcycles in my life. I put more miles on a few other bikes, but those two were as close to being “friends” as inanimate objects can be for me; even more so than my guitars or my favorite microphones. Still, if I found myself recovering from this MG thing and felt confident in my ability to go places and return reasonably safely and reliability, I could find a satisfactory motorcycle, saddle up, and ride off into the sunset. It could happen, but it likely won’t.

If you’ve followed the train of my thoughts over the years, you know I’m not fond of being owned by stuff. I own a lot of motorcycle stuff, not even close to the least are my two Aerostich Darien suits. Sandwiched between the two Dariens is a non-descript black armored nylon jacket that my wife liked a lot and a Cortech DSX jacket with the now-extinct Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly logo embroidered on the back. I’ve had the grey Darien suit and the Cortech jacket since 2006, the black nylon jacket for at least 30 years, and the HiViz Darien AD1 prototype and off-the-shelf Darien AD1 pants since 2011. I have put more than 100,000 miles on the pair of Dariens, crashed in sharp gravel and survived in the grey suit, had my lack of attention to traffic rescued by the HiViz suit (more than once), and had hundreds of wonderful conversations started in coffee shops and motorcycle events by the embroidery on the Cortech jacket. (Don’t minimize that last one. I am, by nature, a loner and an introverted  wallflower. Possessing a conversation starter is no small thing for me.) 

Behind those jackets are the last of 3 full coverage helmets in their storage bags. That small group is left over from a pile of on and off-road helmets I gave away when we left Little Canada in 2015. On the bottom of that shelf is a large plastic storage box that houses spare gloves, cold weather gear, storage bags, tank bags, camping gear, and stwo sets of MC boots: my Gaerne Goretex road boots, and a pair of barely-used Icon Patrol Boots.

On the other pole, is the Giant Loop saddle bags for the WR, a couple of Camelback water storage packs, an Aerostich courier bag, and a couple other shoulder bags. In the garage is a toolbox full of special motorcycle tools, an Aerostich wheel balancer, a bead breaker, and a box full of farkles, parts, and stuff I never got around to putting on my bikes before I sold them.

This kind of gear will be hard to get rid of because, as I always told my motorcycle safety students, “Buy the best gear you can afford and buy a motorcycle with whatever money is left.” I did that. So, if I sell or give away my gear, going back to motorcycling will be at least a $2,000 entry fee; before I even look for a motorcycle. At my age, fixed income, and overall motivation level, that resembles an insurmountable obstacle.

Back in the 70s, my riding gear was pretty basic: a 3/4 helmet, lineman’s boots, very lightly armored coveralls, Justin roper gloves, and a set of hockey shoulder pads I wore under my nylon jersey and canvas jacket (in cool weather). In the mid-70s, I blew it out and bought a pair of $100 Malcom Smith ISDT boots and within a month, I’d high-sided and crashed practicing for the weekend motocross and, when the bike landed on my heel as I slid face-first toward a pile of busted-up concrete, I ended up with all of the toes on my left foot broken and had to have that boot cut off. I did not spend big money on gear again until I moved to California in 1983 and, thanks to a wet, cold spring I mail-ordered a brand new Aerostich Roadcrafter and ventured into a life in real motorcycle gear; mostly. I admit, during those early years I occasionally went for comfort and just a simple leather jacket and jeans instead of the ‘Stich, but I have been very lucky for most of my life. By the time I left Colorado in 1995, I was a committed AGAT guy and there have been more than a few times when that habit saved my skin, skull, bones, and life.

I have discovered a different kind of emotional attachment to the riding gear than I had for my actual motorcycles. Obviously, I was closer to the gear, pun intended. I never slept on the bike, but there were more than a few sub-freezing nights that I slept in my Darien suits and a few where the Darien backpad and my gloves provided a picnic table sleeping mattress. Through my gear, I got to meet and become friends with Andy Goldfine, Aerostich’s owner and chief designer, and the crew of that great American company. Over the years, I’ve spent at least $3,000 with Aerostich, attended 3 of their Very Boring Rallies, and used RiderWearHouse as an excuse for an afternoon or weekend ride to Duluth too many times to remember. I bought the Gaerne Goretex boots from Ryan Young, in person, at one of the US Trials Championship rounds at Spirt Mountain in Duluth. At least three of the coolest camping trips I ever enjoyed was done on my Yamaha WR250X with the gear stored in my Giant Loop Coyote Saddlebag. I took my grandson for a 3,300 mile motorcycle trip to, through, and back through the Rocky Mountains—and home again—wearing my Darien. I wore that same suit to Alaska and back, for 13,000 miles in 26 days, in 2007. Again, in 2009 I wore that gray Darien across Canada from Sault Ste. Marie to Quebec City to Halifax where I picked up my wife wearing that black nylon jacket, her luggage, and we slogged 100 miles through the worst rainstorm I’ve ever experienced.

Damn, I have some attachments to this stuff, but someone else will get use out of it and my kids won’t have the slightest idea how to find it a home. I’m gonna have to do it.

Geezer Column October: What Really Signals the End?

Aug 3, 2020

Where Is This All Going?

If there is an upside to the apparent end of my motorcycle life, it might be that I sold the two motorcycles while there was still a market for them. I sold my “big bike,” my 2004 Suzuki V-Strom last spring for pretty much Blue Book list with almost 100,000 miles on the odometer. My Yamaha WR250X went this April for a decent price after two weeks on Craig’s List. I suspect the arrival of the economic stimulus checks had something to do with that sale, although the buyer was a 17-year-old kid from Wisconsin driving a newer pickup than I will ever own.

Rural Minnesota’s coronavirus lock-down isn’t overwhelmingly restrictive and my wife and I have taken a couple of leisurely drives along Wisconsin 35, south toward Lacrosse. With an immune deficiency disease, I’m the posterboy for this disease’s “most likely to suffocate” award. So, we don’t stop where anybody else is standing around, we don’t shop, stop for restaurant food, or spend much money. We’re just breaking the plague quarantine routine for an hour or so. The last time we made that trip, I counted 17 motorcycles for sale parked in yards and driveways in a 40 mile drive. It is a glutted market. The overwhelming majority of bikes for sale are cruisers and the dominate brand on that used market is Harley. 

Harley’s current economic situation, only slightly worse than before the Trump Recession due to a decade of declining sales, is reflective of that change in the seas. Motorcyclists and, especially, bikers are getting older, from a 1985 median age of 27 to a 2003 average of 41 and somewhere between 51 and 60-something (depending on whose stats you trust) by 2020. In the US, motorcycles are just expensive recreational vehicles to 99.9% of riders; most of whom are too incompetent and timid to commute or ride in city traffic. One aspect of those statistics is grossly and incorrectly skewed by the fact that practically every US driver who ever took a motorcycle license test automatically renews that endorsement for a few bucks every 4 to 6 years; because they can without any evidence of riding competence. So, actual rider age is probably lower than those numbers but actual motorcyclists’ numbers are also far smaller than the estimated 10 million households (who are mostly storing a motorcycle under a tarp in the back of a shed). Like that motorcycle endorsement, many bike owners reflexively pay the tabs every year for a motorcycle that rarely travels further than it takes to move it out of the way of the lawnmower or snowblower. 

What does it mean for motorcycling? Hell if I know, but I know a lot of people in the industry are beginning to hedge their two-wheeled bets into other recreational areas.

The owner of Aerostich, Andy Goldfine, has talked a lot over the years about the value of motorcycling to society and he and his company sponsor events that try to illustrate motorcycles utility; like Ride to Work Day. In his blog, Andy talks a lot about the motorcycle market from the perspective of someone whose primary business is selling gear to the tiny percentage of motorcyclists (not bikers) who ride every day and depend on their motorcycle for transportation. That group appears to be shrinking and Aerostich is looking around for their next market. It’s possible it might be serious eBike riders (the fastest growing segment of the US two-wheeled industry).

Our position in the world is reflected by motorcycle data, too. Lance Oliver, in his blog The Ride So Far, reflected on this in his essay, “The U.S. market is increasingly unimportant in the motorcycle world": “Here in the United States, we have a way of making ourselves sound bigger than we are. We call ourselves ‘the Americans’ even though we’re a small part of the Americas and we hold a World Series without inviting other countries to participate. In the motorcycle world, however, it’s impossible to mistake the fact that the U.S. market is becoming smaller and less important with every passing year.” The 2007 Bush Great Recession really illustrated that when a 90% reduction in Honda’s US motorcycle sales resulted in less than a 3% decrease in their world motorcycle sales. The world is growing and the American Century ended at the millennium. Maybe that was the real Y2K bug?

In this country, motorcycling is a lame excuse for “lifestyle goobers” and barely a recreational vehicle. I think that sucks. The old fat guys on Harleys, and their unemployable offspring, have sucked the life out of motorcycling as transportation. Their 500 miles/year posing flat out turns off anyone who might otherwise think a motorcycle is “cool.” Their pirate parades generate more hatred toward motorcyclists than all of the Hells Angel movies ever produced. Their insistence on white privileges without responsibility makes every motorist on the highway want to “unintentionally” wander into a motorcycle’s path just to watch the likely Laugh-In tricycle action. When a pack of biker gangbangers gets squashed on the highway, most people think, “good riddance.”

As cars become safer, quieter, more fuel efficient, tolerating incompetent and arrogant bikers becomes less sustainable. What do we do to try and mitigate that? We slap louder pipes on our lawnmower-motor “hawgs,” collect in even bigger gang demonstrations, campaign for special treatment and even more roadway privileges, and make greater “contributions” to highway crashes and mortality while fighting rational licensing, helmet, and traffic safety laws. Any fool could see where this is all heading, but we’re special fools and we’re going to drive this chopper right over the cliff.