Apr 25, 2009

Some Guys Will Whine about Anything

It's true. Even a gift horse can be a pain in the ass. When I was a kid, I dreamed about doing the things I do everyday now. I hid and slept under a crappy desk in a western Kansas 4-track recording studio just to be there when the band came the next day, so I could pretend to be a studio employee to the band and a member of the band to the studio owner. My plan was to find a way to make myself useful and become a recording engineer. The studio owner wasn't fooled and he always immediately tossed me out. I quit that dodge when I was 15 or 16, since I was in a real band by then and could get into studios legitimately, sort of.

Now, I not only have the run of a number of recording studios, but my day gig is teaching others how to work in studios. A big part of the teaching gig is getting to play with incredibly expensive recording equipment in facilities that I had a big hand in designing. Some days I whine about having to go to work.

Thursday night, I picked up a brand new Kawasaki Versys 650 and was told to ride it for at least 400 miles and report on what I thought of the bike. On top of that, I will get paid for riding someone else’s bike for a day. Yep, I can whine about that, too.

The night I picked up the bike, it was slightly over 70F. I put in 50 quick miles north of the cities and went home after a long day. The next day was an even longer day at work and I came home nursing a flu and hurting everywhere. Saturday morning, I woke up creaking like a rusty door hinge. My sinuses had been jammed all night, my throat was sore, my eyes were dripping like British Columbian waterfalls. I had a bike to ride and the day’s high temperature would be somewhere around 50, but it was 39F when I hit the road that morning.

I was wrapped up like an Eskimo mummy, bagged from head to toe in Aerostich gear, helmet, boots, double sock, and long underwear. I was still shivering, even though I could hardly move in my gear. Without being able to fire up my new heated vest, I was back in the stone age of basic insulation, high on decongestants and coffee, and on the edge of mutiny. But I volunteered to do 400 miles this weekend and I was damned if I’d back out. I half-hoped I’d die trying, though. I practically filled my helmet with snot and every stop required a song-and-dance of pulling off gear to get to my snot rag and emptying my head of half of my bodily fluids.

You can read about the Versys in next month’s MMM, but suffice to say if it had been a Hyosung I’d have ridden the damn thing into a river and hitched a ride home after 100 miles or less. It’s a testament to Kawasaki’s engineers that I kept at it and even enjoyed the riding part of the day.

Tonight I’m reaping the rewards of ignoring my body’s powerful “stay in bed” signals. I may never breathe through my nose again. I’ve practically twisted the damn appendage from my face, wiping it with every soft cloth in the house. My knees are killing me, my back needs a rack and a bed of nails to relieve me of the pain, and my eyes are being pushed out of my skull by my sinuses. If I can work my way back to “weepy” I’ll feel almost human.

Along the way, I realized that I have settled into “old man’s disease.” Instead of being thrilled to be riding something new, I was a little discomforted by not being on my own familiar, personalized, convenient, well-suited for my style and body V-Strom. I’ve never been particularly envious of the possessions of others, but I’m taking that lack of competiveness beyond healthy and into “if it’s not my bed, I can’t sleep in it.”

Which, by the way, is also true. I absolutely can not sleep in hotel/motel beds.

I’ve made my V-Strom so much my bike that anything else is likely to be uncomfortably unfamiliar. I have places to store stuff, places hide from weather, all of the emergency gear I ever need, and grips, a seat, bars, and other geegaws to make me feel at home. This is probably the bike I’ll own for the rest of my life, not that I expect that to be saying much.

Apr 11, 2009

A Cool Idea?

I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for video. In the last year, I've been sent at least a half-dozen YouTube clips that turned out to be phony; and I fell for all of them. This could be the same kind of scam, but it makes some sort of sense; at least, to me. It's a hell of an idea for those field repairs that require more time, tools, and patience than some of us have.

Apr 6, 2009

Frustratin' Weather

The weekend was semi-warm, after a weird snow on Saturday morning. I got out on the 250 Saturday afternoon and put in a few early morning dirt biking hours on Sunday. Just enough riding, in fact, to remind myself of why I hate my car.

Boredom, that's why. In another life, I was a field service tech for industrial equipment. I drove 100,000 miles a year, ever year for 7 years. Those miles all came first in a Chevy 3 /4 ton pickup followed by an F200 Ford Econoline. The Chevy got about 4mpg, but it would clip along Texas highways at 100mph without complaint. The Econoline up'ed the mileage to 15mpg, but topped out at about 95 screaming its pitiful 240 cubic inch in-line 6 an unsafe distance past redline (if it would have had a tach installed). By the time I quit that occupation, I was unable to stay awake in a cage after 50 miles of any kind of driving. I resorted to sticking my head out the driver's side window on -20F mornings and dumping cold water on my head while I drove to stay awake. Nothing worked, but I managed to live through the job long enough to find another line of work. The residue of that career has been an extreme dislike of being trapped in a car and an inability to find anything worthwhile about four-wheel transportation, outside of weather protection and an ability to haul crap.

For 10 years in California, we owned a variety of cages and I rarely knew if they worked or needed repairs. My bikes (petalled and powered) got me everywhere and I even did grocery shopping on two wheels. Colorado wasn't much different, but I needed slightly better rain gear for the winter months. Minnesota is kicking my ass.

If this damn winter doesn't end soon, I'm going to do something desperate; like move south or west or to another country.

Apr 1, 2009

To Lead or Not to Lead

Damn! I hate mixed feelings. Like everyone, I'd love a black-and-white world; a world where it's easy to spot the right side of an argument and where it's even easier to be on the right side.

However, hardly anything is black-and-white. For instance, the much-hated CPSIA, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008, which banned kids' motorcycles and OHVs because of their lead content. The industry, of course, is upset because motorcycles for rich little kids is a dependable source of income and sales. In this economy, the rest of us may end up living under a bridge, pawning our motorcycles for lunch and a tarp to sleep under, but the children of the rich will aways have their expensive toys.

Unless the government bans those toys.

And the federal government did just that.
As soon as the CPSIA was announced, motorcycle dealers discovered they were committing a federal crime in selling these expensive toys; a crime that could cost them $100k per sale. Even with the over-inflated prices of toy motorcycles and ATVs, it's tough to come up with a profit margin that would include a $100k tax.

On one hand, an old biking hero, Malcolm Smith, is staging his version of the Boston Tax Protest by selling 3 of these bikes on television and gearing up to fight the following court battle. Of course, he's also asking for a contribution from "everybody" to help pay for his legal costs, "I'll have to get a loan to pay it. Hopefully everybody will send five dollar checks in or something." If he goes to jail, will he ask each of us to serve a day or two for him? I'll probably pass.

On the other hand, the US is practically the last 1st world nation to ban lead from common products. We still, as Malcolm Smith proved in his protest, sell lead weights in sporting goods stores for fishing. We still use lead in electronics manufacturing. We are saturated with lead products and lead waste and it is probably affecting the national IQ. The theory seems to be, "by the time we decide lead is a bad thing, we're all going to be too lead poison-retarded to do anything about it or care."

Finally, from the perspective of an old fashioned progressive, populist radical, I don't much care about the availability of expensive toys for the children of the rich or over-credit-extended. The three characters who bought Smith's illegally sold OHVs were Troy Lee (Troy Lee Designs), Glen Helen Raceway owner Bud Feldkamp, and Jeff Ward. All millionaires, all folks with vested interests in keeping this market alive. This isn't exactly the same kind of crowd who were present at the Boston Tea Party, regardless of what Smith would like to believe.

The "right" to contaminate the planet for recreational purposes is up for question. The "right" to put our kids on dangerous vehicles, in front of spectators, for our entertainment and personal glory is also questionable. I've said it before, so I realize I'm redundant, but I hate that "break" in AMA Stadiumcross where the little kids line up and launch themselves at pro whoops and jumps as much as I hate torture scenes in movies. I can't get up an interest in kids on motorcycles, ATVs, snowmobiles, or any other motorized vehicle. Kids should be self-powered. Add to that belief my total disinterest in the problems of the rich and idle and I am completely disconnected from any concern over this vital motorcycling issue. The plaintive cry of rich dads bawling, "think of the kids!" is less than inspiring. I just don't care about this non-issue.