May 31, 2009

All the News that Didn't Fit

California Smog Testing for Motorcycles
Senator Fran Pavley has introduced California Senate Bill 435 that "would mandate motorcycle smog testing for all model year 2000 and newer class III bikes (over 280cc)." The AMA is launching a campaign to oppose this "unwarranted proposal."

Minnesota “Fail to Yield” Bill
As of this writing, the Minnesota “Fail to Yield” Bill (House HF45 and Senate SF639) is progressing through the congressional system. In March, three more State Representatives have joined the list of authors (Brown, Scalze and Newton joining Emmer, Kohls, Morgan, Brynaert, Kiffmeyer, Gardner, Tillberry, Bly, Slocum, and Urdahl) to provide a little more clout to the bill. If you want to see this pass, contact your state representatives and let them know how you feel.

Polaris Joins with Bobcat
Polaris and Bobcat have announced a “long-term strategic alliance that will leverage the complementary strengths of both companies to penetrate work related market segments globally.”

“We are thrilled about the long-term implications of this alliance.” said Richard Goldsbury, President Bobcat Americas. “Bobcat’s and Polaris’ long tradition of innovation, product passion, and similar cultures complement each other very well. We are combining the strengths of the #1 compact construction equipment manufacturer with those of the #1 off-road vehicle manufacturer to deliver innovative product solutions for our customers. This alliance will enable both companies to extend our customer bases and provide profitable growth.”

Fly Australia Biker Style
On a late March Sunday afternoon, three Hells Angels motorcycle and three Comancheros bikers found themselves seated on a Qantas 430 from Melbourne to Sydney. They, apparently, called ahead to have more of their gang meet the plane and, on arrival, began a classic biker battle that resulted in dead Hells Angel and an injured Comanchero. Airport bystanders were given credit for chasing off the rioting bikers, calling the police, and attempting to assist the dying biker. The Sydney Daily Telegraph called the event, “the passenger manifest from hell.”

May 30, 2009

Need a MAID?

The European MAIDS document (Motorcycle Accidents In Depth Study) is pretty interesting. "MAIDS is the most comprehensive in-depth data currently available for Powered Two-Wheelers (PTWs) accidents in Europe. The investigation was conducted during 3 years on 921 accidents from 5 countries using a common research methodology." Since the 1981 Hurt Study, funded by NHTSA, not much new information about motorcycle crashes has been uncovered. This European study sheds some light on the value (or lack of) of expanded licensing testing and additional safety (helmet) equipment regulations. Read it and weep.

May 27, 2009

"I need some hep." Yes, you do.

"$50 to borrow your scooter for a 1/2 hour - $50 (Eagan, IGH, Burnsville)

"I need some hep and if you have a scooter that is at least 50cc's, street legal and licensed, I would like to borrow it for a 1/2 hour to take my Minnesota motorcycle test. I quickly found out last week that my full size Harley Davidson will not, under any circumstances, navigate that course. We could meet there, I use it for 20 minutes and then you are on your way. The preferred location is the MN License Center on Cliff Rd."

Ah, Craig's list. The place where all sorts of entertainment can be found and where people admit to the damnedest things. Sometimes the most personal failures become hillariously public in the strangest places. In this case, a big, bad Hardly rider looking to borrrow a 50cc scooter so he can pretend to ride competently enough to pass the state's license exam. I wonder if he'll wear his black toilet bowl helmet, tasselled buttless black chaps, and patched-and-badged wife-beater leather vest when he takes the test? That would be one hell of a picture.

Funny. I could have sworn that I met this guy, 4 times, this past week. We get this plaintive whine at least once an MSF class. Hundreds of Hardly owners take the Minnesota MSF course because "it's impossible to pass the state's test on a real bike." I'd like to address the "impossible" bit first. I've seen an old guy (my age) pass the state's test on a Goldwing with his wife sitting in the passenger seat. I've watched a couple of successful tests taken on Yamaha R1's, not exactly a bike designed for close and slow encounters. It's not a hard test. It requires basic low speed control skills, but it's a long way from being an observed trials event.

The problem with buying a bike for image is that most of us can't live up to the image. Usually, you have to work up from beginner to whatever target you're hoping to become. Buying a race car doesn't make one a race driver and buying a motorcycle doesn't make one a motorcyclist. The Hardly beginner-bike path is similar to those game players who actually buy into the idea that playing a video game is the same as doing the thing portrayed in the game. I've witnessed this disconnect with people who play Guitar Hero, Motocross Madness, and God of War. Unfortunately, going for the real thing in hopes that it will be liking stepping into a simple-minded video game is bound to end in tears and physical injury.

The character who listed this ad would be better served by removing all of the fluids from his Hardly, having an attractive stand fabricated for the hippobike, putting the Hardly on the stand in his living room in front of a big screen TV, and putting Wild Hogs in constant-loop mode on the DVD player. He could pretend he was cruising the streets in the safety of his home and nobody would be able to burst his self-image or break his bones.

On a more honestly entertaining level, a friend hooked me up to this New York Times article: The Case for Working with Your Hands. In the first few paragraphs, the author says, "The trades suffer from low prestige, and I believe this is based on a simple mistake. Because the work is dirty, many people assume it is also stupid. This is not my experience." He makes a case for real work over virtual work that is compelling and honest; something that is missing from practically every social and economic analysis I've read in the last decade. Thanks, Rob.

May 19, 2009

A Politically Incorrect Product Idea

Most of what I do requires a good bit of political correctness and, even worse, a reasonable quotient of civility and sensitivity. I teach at a liberal arts college. PC hell. I run my own music equipment repair business and many of my customers are sensitive musician types. I work in television and audio. And I teach MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) classes.

I, however, am not the sensitive type. Left on my own, I can blue stainless exhaust pipes with a string of expletives. I can make my machinist next-door neighbor shut up his un-air conditioned house in the middle of August when I describe how happy I am to be flipping the crap in my mulch pit instead of lounging by a lake. I am an equal opportunity grumpy old man and there is hardly a subject on earth that can't piss me off at the right moment. My kids and grandkids accepted, the world disappoints me mightily. Like Samuel Clemmons, I suspect humans descended from the higher animals; such as bugs and single cell life forms. I am convinced that Murphy and the universe are conspiring to keep me from enjoying my old age and the senility that accompanies that condition. Behind this calm, well-mannered exterior lies a seriously grumpy old man. From that background, comes this story.

I'm teaching a boatload of MSF classes this summer. About 5 classes into the season and I'm mostly enjoying the work. Since gas hit $4 last summer, the average age of my classes has steadily dropped. Younger students mean less work for me. Mostly, the old guys and broads are Hardly characters and have alcohol-murdered the majority of their brain cells during the first 3/4 of their lives and don't have the attention span, basic intelligence, reflexes, or common sense to be moderately safe on a motorcycle; even at 15mph on a closed range.

So, it's good that the wannabe motorcyclist age is declining. Regardless of the economy or fad of the moment, there are two sorts of "customers" who wear me out:

The first is the tattoo model, oversized factory worker white guy with an attitude. This guy is pissed off that he couldn't managed to waddle his hippobike around the DMV's simple course and is taking the class to "cheat" his way to a license. It's almost impossible to teach this guy anything because he thinks he already knows it all. He's convinced the DMV's test is fixed so guys on hippobikes can't possibly pass it. It doesn't make a mark on him to say that you've seen old guys on Goldwings pass the DMV test with their old lady in the passenger seat. He's special and his Hardly, Boss Hoss, Victory, or whatever blimpmobile his fat is draped over is "too hard to ride" in small spaces. No matter the outcome of the MSF class, this character is doomed to become a statistic.

The second is a sort of woman I like to think of as "bar maid." In her prime, she didn't need to learn how to ride a motorcycle because she could easily find a seat on the back of all sorts of hippobikes. What she did to earn that ride we can easily imagine, but we won't. Ok? Now that all the booze and bar smoke has turned her jowly, floppy, and wrinkled, she has to strap those bulbous boobs into some serious wire frames and drive herself to and from the bar. So, she bought a Hardly and discovered that he didn't have one single clue how to get the thing going without crashing into her garage door, parked cars, or the neighbor's barbeque grill. Or all three.
Now she's in my class and she has to justify herself with every piece of advice I give her. "The throttle sticks on this bike . . . I can't look where I'm going because I'll fall over . . . these brakes are sticky, I barely touch them and the bike starts jerking . . . the clutch is too stiff, I have to let it go fast or I'll break a nail . . . " Blah, blah, blah. All day long, it never stops.

I've only been doing this MSF stuff for 7 years and I've been teaching friends and other folks how to ride a motorcycle for 40 years. You bet lady, I'm sure that someone who started riding 20 minutes ago has all kinds of breath-taking-ly original things to say about motorcycling. I'm even more certain that my riding your bike and finding nothing wrong with it is perfect evidence that the bike is the problem and you are the feminine version of Valenino Rossi and Bob Hannah.

I get home, pick up a book, sit down in my favorite deck chair and my wife asks, "How'd your day go?" I tell her all this stuff that I just told you and finish with "What I want to say to the barmaid and the tattoo-boy is, 'Until you can ride, I don’t give a fuck what you think.'”

My wife said, "You should print that on a tee-shirt."

She's right. I might. (I sort of did.)

May 6, 2009

What is the difference between a Harley and a Hoover?

Sadly, I did not write this, but I found it on Craig's List and was overcome with an irresistable urge to make sure as much of the world as possible has the opportunity to read it. Whoever the author is, I salute you:

What is the difference between a Harley and a Hoover? (Minneapolis)
Date: 2009-04-19, 9:54AM CDT

ANSWER: On a Hoover, the dirt bag goes on the INSIDE!

(Sorry, Craig's List removed the rant. Probably some loser HD fans in CL's admin. Nuts, it would have been cool to have copied and pasted the whole rant, but I didn't realize CL would be so wimpy.) I must have received a dozen accusations that this was my rant and I was too gutless to sign it. If I could write that well, I'd have signed it.

May 4, 2009

Cheap Bike and Me: Poscript

Remember the category my Honda won at the MMM inspection, "least likely to be resold"? Yeah, thanks for the curse guys.

The first buyer of the CB450 was willing to take the bike away before the official title arrived. A couple of weeks later, the title showed up and I mailed it to the address he had provided. A month later, I got a call from the buyer claiming he'd never received the title. I don't know about you, but I don't have much trouble with the USPO and always doubt folks who claim "the check is in the mail" or "it must have gotten lost." However, he was trying to sell the bike and wanted me to help with getting a new title. Since we're talking about a $250, 38 year old dead bike, I wasn't particularly motivated to put much time into that project. I offered to meet him at the Roseville DMV if he ever managed to make it to our area.

In February, another guy called claiming to be the current owner of the CB and hot on the rebuild project. I made him the same offer. In April, yet another new owner of the POS called with the same story.

You know the "6-degrees of separation" theory of how we are all connected? I figure by the end of 2009, I will be directly connected to every person on this planet through that POS Honda. Great. Just how I want to be known. I am probably the one guy on the planet who absolutely hates old street bikes, Japanese or otherwise, and I'll run into some kid in West Buttplug, Montana who will want to talk about the fix he came up with for solving the starter problem on "my" CB450. Someone even tried to connect my Facebook page to a ramshackle Honda CB450 fan club. Man, I disliked that bike when I owned it, but I'm starting to hate the damn thing now.