Jun 27, 2010

All the News that Didn't Fit

AMA Updates
On May 11, Arizona's Governor Jan Brewer vetoed Arizona: House Bill 2475 which would have authorized a one-year experiment to allow and study lane splitting in Maricopa County (the Phoenix metropolitian area). The bill was unanimously passed by the House and had a substantial Senate majority.

South Carolina Supreme Court struck down the Myrtle Beach, S.C. helmet law. The helmet law was among several rules passed by that city to restrict motorcyclists' access to Myrtle Beach. "We find that the City Helmet Ordinance fails under implied field preemption due to the need for statewide uniformity and therefore issue a declaratory judgment invalidating the ordinance." Ed Moreland, the AMA senior vice president for government relations, said, "We're pleased that the South Carolina Supreme Court struck down the Myrtle Beach law, sending a clear message to all jurisdictions that discriminatory laws against motorcyclists are unacceptable."

Racing Action
Valentino Rossi is out with "a displaced and exposed fracture of his right tibia," suffered when he crashed his Fiat Yamaha M1 in a practice round of the for the Italian Grand Prix in Mugello. For the next 6 months, Rossi is out of the MotoGP picture. Yamaha is still in good position for the series, though. Jorge Lorenzo came in 2nd in the Mugello round and added to his championship lead with two wins and two seconds for the season. Honda's Dani Pedrosa won the event while Lorenzo battled it out for 2nd with Andrea Dovizioso. Lorenzo is 25 points ahead of Pedrosa and Rossi is in 3rd place for the series title.

On the 2nd day of the series at Road America (Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin), Tommy Hayden (Rockstar Makita Suzuki) pulled off his his second career AMA Pro SuperBike win. Hayden beat Josh Hayes (Team Graves Yamaha), Day 1's winner, by the 0.178 of a second. Hayes holds a one point lead over Hayden in the AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike series. Also at Road America, Danny Eslick opened the new AMA Pro Racing Vance & Hines XR1200 Series with a win over Jake Holden in the debut on June 6.

Joe Kopp (Lloyd Brothers Ducati Motorsports Team) handed Ducati it's first AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship win at the Budweiser Arizona Mile. It was an eventful day for flat tracking, since it was the first ever win for Ducati, the first BMW entry since 1954, and the first Kawasaki to make a main event since 1975. Sammy Halbert looked like a winner early on, but he ended up in a battle with Chris Carr, Kenny Coolbeth. and Jake Johnson for 2nd. Bryan Smith (Kawasaki) came in 17th and Matt Wait (BMW) finished 18th. Luke Gough (10th) and Chad Cose (15th) were riding for Suzuki and the rest of the field was all Harley.

Bryan Smith (Monster Energy Kawasaki/Werner Springsteen Racing) and pulled off Kawasaki's first-ever AMA Pro Grand National Twins Championship podium place (2nd) on Sunday at the historic Springfield TT on his Kawasaki Ninja 650R Jake Johnson won the event on his XR750 Harley Davidson. Henry Wiles (Monster Energy Kawasaki/ Jones Racing) rode his Kawasaki KX450F to a first place in the AMA Pro Grand National Singles Championship race.

Ryan Dungey took both motos on his Suzuki fuel-injected RM-Z450 at the AMA High Point Motocross National, making it 4-in-a-row for him and putting him solidly in the lead for the 450 class. Andrew Short and Bruce Metcalfe (both on Hondas) finished out the podium for the Pennsylvania event.

The first event of the American TTXGP series was held at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif and Shawn Higbee (Team Zero Agni) took 1st in the US's first all electric superbike race. Ten competitors were at the start of the race and eight finished the 11-lap event. Michael Barnes (Lightning Motorcycles) was in the lead for much of the first 8 laps, but when his "power management safety override" tripped, he was sidelined for 45 seconds waiting for the system to reset. Barnes came in 2nd, 18 seconds behind Higbee. Near the end of the race, Higbee had some electronic and battery problems of his own to manage. Thad Wolff (Team Electra) finished 3rd. Higbee's best qualifying time for the 2.28 mile track averaged speed about 77 mph. The AMA Superbikes that weekend were averaging 87 mph on the same course.

Mathias Kiwanuka Gives It Up
After his brother was seriously injured in a motorcycle crash, New York Giants defensive end, Mathias Kiwanuka, has decided motorcycling is too dangerous for him. Benedict Kiwanuka, 32-years old, was in critical condition after a motorcycle crash left him with internal injuries and several broken bones.

My Motorcycles: Suzuki TU250X

All Rights Reserved © 2009/2015/2021 Thomas W. Day

This started off as a "review" and a really brief one (see [Initial Review August 2009] below). In May of 2021, I stumbled into decent buy on a TU250X and bought it, after assuming that my motorcycling days were long gone. So far, I'm still here and I'm still occasionally riding. I had BIG touring plans for this summer after buying the bike in the spring but cataract surgery on both eyes ate up all of July and half of August and the upper body strength I lost during that long period when I was supposed to avoid lifting more than 10-25 pounds, keep my head above my waist as much as possible, and a whole other list of strenuous activities pretty much diluted my initiative and courage out of commission. I suspect I may regret missing out on that trip for the rest of my life. Of course, at my age that is not a long-term bet.

I have taken a few 100-250 mile rides on the TU250X and the bike performed wonderfully, so far averaging 87mpg mostly running at near full throttle anytime I'm outside of city limits. This is the first motorcycle I've owned since the 70's that allows me to be flat footed when I'm stopped. I haven't cared much about that for the previous 50-some years of motorcycling, long suspensions being more important to me than stopped stability, but I'm old, not particularly limber or strong, and considerable less stable than in the past and it is a nice feature/function at this point in my life. Vibration is minimal at the bars, foot pegs, and seat; at least it is reasonable and minimal to me. Engine noise is also minimal, I've been "complimented" a few times with "Wow! That bike is really quiet." Of course, most people just assume a motorcycle will be asshole-loud and that motorcyclists are obnoxious hooligans.

The speedometer, with stock tires, is "optimistic" at best. I ride with a GPS, so I know what my actual speed is and the speedo is about 7% faster than reality: 62mph indicated is about 55mph, for example. That said, cruising speed on the 250 on flat land without wind hindrance or assistance is about 55-65mph (max and in mild temps conditions). At that speed, the bike is incredibly easy to ride for long distances, with rest stops every hour or so. The passing "experience" is a throwback to my old VW Beetle days; plan on lots of space and no noticeable acceleration above 65mph. Even getting around farm implements is exciting and the only place I can ever pass a semi is on straight uphill sections.

Off pavement, the new handlebars made all the difference. I went from being tentative about turns, deep road sand and gravel, and wet sections to being irrationally confident that my old dirt skills would get me through most anything the road tossed at me. So far, so good. 

Maintaining the TU is almost an old school experience. Valve adjustments are the old-fashioned screw adjustment system, which means it needs to be checked every 3,000 miles, but the components are fairly easily accessed and it only takes about 30 minutes once you've gone through the routine once or twice. The air filter is just a coin-screwdriver away and the oil change routine is nothing complicated or odd, except for the oil screen which is hidden behind the filter frame (some TU owners don't know it is there). 

I added a USB charge port to the handlebars to power my Garmin and charge my phone. Bar vibration is lower enough that I can read the little Garmin maps on the fly. The GPS has Bluetooth, but I don't need it or want it talking to me while I ride. I read maps through the plastic case on my Darien's thigh for 30 years. I can deal with a handlebar GPS just fine.

May 2021 POSTSCRIPTAs of May, this review turns into a "Bikes I've Owned and Loved (a lot or a little)" review. I bought a barely-used 2012 TU250X and now, I hope, this will turn into a long-term review of that motorcycle. Even after whining that I'd owned my last "customized motorcycle," I immediately started personalizing my TU. 

#1 Best Farkle: The T-Rex Racing "2009 - 2020 Suzuki TU250X Center Stand." Installing this thing is a 3-handed job, but well worth the effort. Suddenly, many difficult maintenance and touring operations are much easier. Lubing the chain, for example is possible a half-dozen different ways. 

#2: The Acerbis Dual Road  Handguards. For me, handguards are a must, but there isn't a lot of handlebar real estate on the TU. These guards solve that problem as well as it can be solved. They are a bar-end only attachment and with that limitation they robust and good protection for my hands and the bike controls. 

 #3: An old standby (for me), Oury Road/Street grips. These things have been on my street and dirt bikes for longer than I can remember. They soften the vibration and impact, add grip, add some diameter to the bars (easing arthritis pain and blood constriction), and stay where they belong until you cut them off. My comfort level on the TU dramatically improved by replacing the grips. The TU's throttle is inconveniently specifically designed for Suzuki's mediocre grips, who some Dremel carving is necessary where the handguard meets the throttle body.

#4: The stock cafe racer style bars are ok, on pavement, but I'm just not comfortable with narrow pullback bars. So, I replaced mine with Fly Racing Carbon Steel Honda CR bars, about 2" wider, straighter, and marginally lower. What a difference! The first time I was on gravel, the bike felt squirrely and a little unstable in 2-4" loose gravel and sand and I didn't feel like steering responded particularly well. Nothing else has changed, except the bars, and the bike is almost as solid off-pavement as my V-Strom or WR250X.

Stay tuned. If my eyesight and health holds up, me and this little 250 are going to go a few places.

July 2015 POSTSCRIPT] 

 Last month, I added a little track time to my TU250X riding experience. What I learned from that is that the TU250X is a fully capable urban commuting bike. I still don't know what the top speed is, but it's got to be above 70mph because I hit that a couple of times on the Dakota Community Technical College straight-away and I had some top end yet to go before I bailed out and started braking before the chicane and carousel. A better rider would have gone faster and deeper into the corner before hitting the brakes. Regardless, the TU wasn't straining at 70mph and I had a good time on the bike and the course; meeting and exceeding all of my expectations.

Last summer, my brother bought a TU on my recommendation and, as of May 2015, he had 17,000 miles on the bike and has ridden it all over Arizona deserts, mountains, and back country. He still likes the bike and doesn't seem to feel the need for more power or status, since he's knocking down 70-90mpg regularly and saving a bucket of retirement cash in the process. His big complaint about the TU, after taking a Lake Superior Loop ride with me in 2011 and seeing how much insane fun I was having on my WR250X, was that his TU wasn't very good on gravel roads and, especially, steep gravel road hills around the lakes near his house in Arizona. So, I recommended a collection of tire options and he upped the "aggressiveness" of his tires and I haven't heard a word of dissatisfaction from him since. I remain jealous of his mileage, youth, and common sense.

[Initial Review August 2009] 

This will be a very limited review, since I've only "test ridden" the Suzuki on an MSF range. But it is a work in progress. I will find one of these bikes in licensed condition and I'll add that to the report. If I have to, I'll even buy the damn bike myself.

Suzuki's newest entry for 2009 was the TU250X; a 330 pound, air-cooled, fuel-injected, catalytic-converted, electric-starting, 82mpg, retro-looking, standard bike that is the kind of machine that riders have been wanting in every major motorcycle market in the world; except the US. This $3,800 bike has everything that an urban commuter could want. Most especially, the fuel-injection makes it friendly to new riders and those of us who are tired of the hold-your-mouth-just-right starting routines carbureted bikes require from us in cold weather. The 3.17-gallon fuel tank should provide close to a 250 mile range for most commuters.

Cosmetically, Suzuki went straight after the vintage-Brit-bike-lovers' market. Suzuki's marketing department describes the TU250X as a bike with "classic styling – including spoked wheels, a round headlight and low-slung tapered muffler." With its pin-striped red paint job, it reminds me so much of old small-bore BSA and Triumphs that it gives me flashbacks. The only obvious nod to the 21st Century is the front disk brake, but the rear brake is a competently functioning drum, just like the old days. 18" wheels, front and back, add something to the vintage appearance and help give the bike a neutral handling character. Turning or going straight, the TU250X doesn't resist change and it doesn't do anything unexpected. The Cheng-Shin tires suck, but the 90/90 and 110/90-18 tire sizes are available in Metzeler Lasertecs, Dunlop GTs, Conti Go! and Ultra TKV11/12 among other tire options.

The frame is silver-painted steel and is pretty rigid, if a little heavy feeling. The engine is a stressed-member of the frame and the square-tubed backbone adds to the frame strength. The rear suspension (3.7") is a traditional dual-shock rig, slightly canted. The moderately long (54.1") wheelbase of the bike makes it stable for all sorts of street use without being difficult to maneuver. The TU has a low (30") seat height, so it's accessible to riders of all heights. The twin-section seat puts the rider in sort of a neutral-cafe-racer posture. The independent passenger seat is reasonably large and comfortable, for a 250. Your feet are mildly bent, but the 27" wide straight bars put most riders in a slightly aggressive riding position. It works for a variety of riders, from 6' and a little over (see photo on right) to the rest of us (a 5'8" rider is pictured at left). A bar-mounted windshield would be a useful addition to the bike's aerodynamics and comfort.

The 249cc, 4-stroke, single-cylinder, air-cooled, SOHC, wet-sump engine is mostly straightforward. The cylinder is SCEM-plated (nickel-silicon-phosphorous) to reduce weight and increase heat transfer, just like most of Suzuki's competition off-road bikes. The motor is tied to a wide-ratio 5-speed transmission linked to the rear wheel by chain drive. The air filter is washable foam and is easily removed for service. The plug, oil filter, screw-and-locknut valve adjustments, and battery access are readily available and straightforward. The bike has a 3,000 mile service interval, including valves, so it's a good thing that it is reasonably easy to service. Well cared for, it ought to last tens-of-thousands miles. Suzuki puts a "12 month unlimited warranty" on the TU250X, to give buyers a bit of confidence in the model.

The bad news is that the TU250X is hard to find. My local dealer was given one for the season. One. More than 80 buyers signed up for first shot at the bike, but it vanished as it hit the floor when a walk-in customer snagged it. That's it for 2009's stock from that substantial Suzuki dealer. I know of one buyer who drove from Minnesota to Georgia to buy one.

The TU250X is, obviously, fitting a niche. In the rest of the world, it has been such a hit that Suzuki has been overwhelmed by the demand, which means the paltry small-bike US market is going to be even more starved for attention and inventory. The good news is, if you are really a vintage Brit bike fan, you'll miss the puddle of oil in your garage. Take that as a consolation for not being able to see, ride, or buy this cool little bike.

Product Review: Roadgear Toolbag

All Rights Reserved © 2007 Thomas W. Day

The highly attractive Roadgear Toolbag before I loaded it with gear and spoiled it with grease.

I'm a paranoid type, always assuming the worst will happen and that it will happen to me. My V-Strom came sans-toolkit, which gave me the opportunity to put together my own kit of good quality tools. First, I needed a place to put all the tools I'd want to carry. The Roadgear Toolbag is one of those things I spied at the Cycle World Motorcycle Show in 2007. t that time, I hadn't figured out what I needed for the Alaska trip, so I stored the information in my computer and, early this spring, I contacted the Roadgear folks (http://www.roadgear.com/) to get my hands on their toolbag.

The toolbag was a pretty little thing, when it arrived in the mail. The bag is made of heavy duty nylon that comes in a variety of colors. I picked gray, to match my 'stitch and my personality. The bag incorporates a pair of straps closed with nylon buckles into a logo-bearing carrying handle. That feature is more practical than you might think. There are nine assorted-sized compartments for tools, a large partition behind the tool holders, and three small Velcro-secured partitions to store sockets and small parts/tools in front.

Some of the stuff I stored in my Roadgear Toolbag, also after 10,000 miles of Alaska abuse.

I immediately began to stuff tools into the bag until I had most of the things I expected to need in a mechanical crisis and a package that would fit into the storage container I'd added to my luggage rack. The bag would have held a lot more stuff, but then it wouldn't have fit into my available space (the inside of a 4" PVC pipe). As it is, I had almost everything I wanted to carry wrapped into a neat and convenient package.

For a lot of reasons, this was the perfect setup. It forced me to assign places for each tool, making it difficult for me to misplace a tool during a field repair. If I put everything back the way I'd originally organized the bag, it would roll up into exactly the right size package for my storage container. The combination of custom container and the Toolbag gave me fast and easy access to my tools and that meant that I would do maintenance a lot more often.

After 14,000 very messy miles, I am almost tempted to pull the tools and send the Toolbag through the laundry. Almost. The Toolbag has proved to be tough, well-made, and functional. It was a terrific addition to my touring kit and I recommend it without reservation.

Jun 22, 2010

The FBI and the Outlaws

A couple of days ago, the FBI and ATF unsealed an indictment against 27 members of the Outlaws motorcycle gang. The gang's "National Boss," Jack Rosga, "Milwaukee Jack," and several officers of the gang were included in the indictment and arrests that were distributed across several states: Wisconsin, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Virginia.

From the FBI's website, "Those charged in the indictment include:
  • Jack Rosga, aka “Milwaukee Jack,” 53, serves as the National Boss of the Outlaws organization and is also a member of the Gold Region, Milwaukee Wisconsin Chapter.
  • Joseph Allman, 46, is an Outlaws member in the Red region and holds a position in the Maine Chapter, previously serving as President and Enforcer.
  • John Banthem, aka “Bull,” 46, is an Outlaws member in Montana and is the president of a new prospect chapter in Montana.
  • Thomas Benvie, aka “Taz,” 41, is an Outlaws member in the Red region and currently serves as President of the Maine Chapter.
  • William Davey, aka “Rebel,” 46, is an Outlaws member in the Copper Region and was formerly the Chapter Enforcer in the Ashville, North Carolina.
  • Mark Jason Fiel, aka “Jason,” 37, is a former Outlaws member in the Copper Region and a former leader in the Manassas/Shenandoah Valley Chapter.
  • Mark Steven Fiel, aka “Snuff,” 59, is an Outlaws member in the Copper Region and serves as President of the Manassas/Shenandoah Valley Chapter.
  • Chris Gagner, 37, is an Outlaws member in the Copper Region and serves as the President and Treasurer of the Asheville, North Carolina Chapter
  • Harold Herndon, aka “Lil’ Dave,” 48, is an Outlaws member and is currently the Copper Region Vice President and member of the Lexington, North Carolina Chapter.
  • Mark Lester, aka “Ivan,” 55, is an Outlaws member in the Knoxville, Tennessee Chapter and is served as the Boss of the Grey Region until early 2010.
  • Brett Longendyke, 32, is an Outlaws member in the Copper Region and serves as the Manassas/Shenandoah Valley Chapter Enforcer.
  • David Lowry, aka “Little David,” 49, is an Outlaws member and currently the Copper Region Boss and member of the Charlotte Chapter.
  • Michael Mariaca, aka “M & M,” 50, is an Outlaws member and serves as the President of the Rock Hill, South Carolina Chapter and Copper Region Enforcer.
  • Thomas Mayne, aka “Tomcat,” 59, is an Outlaws member in the Red Region and serves as the regional treasurer. Mayne formerly served as the Red Region Enforcer.
  • Harry Rhyne McCall, 53, is an Outlaws member in the Copper Region, Lexington, North Carolina Chapter.
  • Michael Pedini, aka “Madman,” 39, is an Outlaws member in the Red Region and a former Enforcer in the Northern Maine Chapter.
  • Thomas Petrini, aka “Jo Jo,” 48, is a former Outlaws member in the Copper Region, Manassas/Shenandoah Valley Chapter.
  • Michael Smith, 51, is an Outlaws member in the Copper Region and serves as the President of the Hickory, North Carolina Chapter.
  • Mark Spradling, aka “Lytnin,” 52, is an Outlaws member and serves as Treasurer of the Copper Region.
  • Christopher Timbers, aka “Alibi,” 37, is an Outlaws member in the Manassas/Shenandoah Valley Chapter of the Copper Region.
  • James Townsend, aka “Vern,” 44, is an Outlaws member and President of the Lexington, North Carolina Chapter.
  • Leslie Werth, aka “Les,” 47, is an Outlaws member and currently is the Vice President of the Rock Hill, South Carolina Chapter. Werth served as the Copper Region Boss until October 17, 2009.
  • Brian McDermott, 50, is an Outlaws member of the Copper Region’s Hickory, North Carolina chapter.
  • Charles Love, aka “Chuck” and Rebar,” 49, is a member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club from Amelia, Virginia.
  • William Powell, aka “Torch,” 49, is a member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club from Lynchburg, Virginia.
  • Charles Barlow, aka “Chuck,” 43, is a member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club from Chesterfield, Virginia.
  • Dennis Haldermann, aka “Chew Chew,” 45, is a member of the Pagans Motorcycle Club from Chesterfield, Virginia.
Thomas Mayne, a regional treasurer for the Outlaws, was killed in a gunfight with ATF agents, when the agents attempted to arrest him. Kenneth Chretien , Mayne's brother-in-law, was subdued and arrested at the same location. Yesterday, a judge set Chretien free on $10,000 bond. Mayne was a suspected in an assassination attempt at a Hell's Angel clubhouse in Maine last October. He wore a "Nazi-style SS patch" that indicated he had performed a hit for the Outlaw gang.
Local and state police are notoriously impotent when it comes to confronting these violent characters and prosecuting them for crimes. All I can say is "Way to go Feds." I'm all for hauling back the military from Iraq and Afganistan and sending the whole US Army after these criminals.

Taking the Cat by the Horns

British Petroleum should take a lesson from Agip, the manufacturer of Hello Kitty synthetic oil. Agip's corporate logo, that six-legged cat at the bottom right of the can, is a brilliant advertisment for renaming problems as solutions. Microsoft and Apple have been telling us that software bugs are "features" for 30 years, it's not much of a leap to move air and water pollution into the same category.

"Yeah, our oil causes birth defects and a million other environmental problems, but look at the cute six-legged cat. Gotta love that, don't 'cha?"

And we probably do.

Jun 21, 2010

Not Much Fun?

All Rights Reserved © 2009 Thomas W. Day

"That can't have been much fun."

I'm getting to work on a late October morning. It was raining fairly hard on the way in, so my riding suit is dripping wet and I probably look like something the cat decided wasn't worth dragging in. A co-worker commented on the weather, the fact that I was still on the bike, and his impression of my appearance.

I looked worse than I felt. Yeah, it was cold and wet, but my 'Stich kept me dry. My helmet, heated vest, and the rest of my gear kept me warm. My piddling commute is probably barely worth suiting up for, but I do and most mornings I enjoy the ride in as much as anything that will happen to me all day. In fact, I felt pretty good. Any year that I'm still on the bike as Halloween approaches is a good year. It won't be long before would be condemned to a cage or the bus, but so far was still on two wheels. I get a little taste of faster-than-natural travel, feel the bite of the coming winter, enjoy a few moments of the sensation of moderate competence as I maneuver my bike through traffic and into the parking garage in the morning's rush hour, and start up my day with the mild charge that I always get from being a motorcyclist. It was, in fact, fun.

Motorcycling is a physical thing. That's some part of why it's hard to explain to a non-rider. Intellectually, riding a motorcycle is pretty hard to justify. We get pretty decent fuel mileage, but tires and other maintenance costs probably make up for that. We don't tear up the roads, require as much space, contribute to congestion, and a few other advantages but, mostly, motorcycles are a rare event on the highway and those of us who ride barely manage being a blip on the traffic radar. We're on our bikes because we want to be on a motorcycle more than we want to be warm, surrounded by a crumple zone, sucking on designer coffee, yakking on a cell phone, surrounded by a high fidelity sound system, or lounging in a plush bucket seat. You have to admit, that's weird. At least, I have to admit it.

That morning, I had a boat load of stuff to do. I got out of the house early, hit the library, stopped at a friend's house to drop off a project I'd finished over the weekend, took the long way to work through neighborhoods and side streets. I managed to turn a 7 mile commute into a 20 mile journey. It was raining, 42oF, and in every way a dreary, depressing kind of morning. I, on the other hand, was having a terrific morning. I managed to hook first dibs on the new Elmore Leonard book at the library. I was pretty satisfied with the project that I'd been working on, but my customer/friend was blown away. I got paid and felt pretty good about it. The route I'd taken was pretty much traffic-free and I didn't have to mess with the usual culprits of cagers. How perfect is that?

I admit to being a little proud of the fact that I was doing something different every day. Something slightly adventurous. Something that takes a bit of skill to pull off day-after-day without incident or worse. It's arrogant or smug or conceited or damn silly, but I'm 62 and I don't get a lot of physical stuff to feel good about. I'm going to wallow in the few I get from here until . . . whenever.

Riding my motorcycle is just icing on the cake of living. Every day I get to ride somewhere is a pretty good day. So, screw the weather. Nuts to getting old. It might not look like fun, but it is. It is always fun.

Jun 14, 2010

All the News that Didn't Fit

More Biker Brawling
Residents of Minneiska, Minnesota watched while the Hells Angels and Outlaws motorcycle gangs fought it out on April 17th as one more episode of the Spring Flood Run soap opera played out. At least one biker was "cut and bloodied," but he claimed he "fell down." As the Trib asked, "If dozens of bikers from rival gangs scuffle in a parking lot in a small Mississippi River town and don't admit to it afterward, did it really happen?" One biker was legally carrying a concealed weapon and a pair (Nathan K. Houser, 29, of Burlington and Loren Francis Aikan, 63, of Madison, WI) were cited for possessing brass knuckles. No one was arrested. Highway 61, north of Winona, was closed for two hours as police questioned about 100 members of the Outlaws.

Rourke as Barger?
Just in time to correct any positive impressions the public may be forming about motorcyclists, Mickey Rourke is hoping to be part of a Tony Scott production of The studio was quoted claiming the part is "so perfectly tailored for Rourke that it is hard to imagine another actor who could more convincingly play a character who wears the hard miles and brawn of a grizzled biker gang veteran." Sonny Barger's life story in a new film tentatively titled Hell's Angels. Fox bought the rights to Barger's life story a decade ago, but is just now beginning to go into the development phase. Screenwriter Scott Frank has begun working on the project, with heavy rewriting of the original script, as a “Donnie Brasco-like drama.” A second major character will be a young cop infiltrating the gang. In 1983, before turning his face to pulp, Rourke played "The Motorcycle Boy" in Rumble Fish and "Harley Davidson" in the financial bust Harley Davidson and the Marlboro Man, so this could be yet another flashback moment for him.

Spanish Scrappage Plan
Spain is heading down the bankruptcy path that Greece has paved so thoroughly. However, Spanish motorcycles seem to have found the cash to take advantage of their country's Moto-E scrappage subsidy. In April, motorcycle sales increased 18% over the previous year. The Spanish AMA, ANESDOR, is urging the government to extend the Moto-E deadline to prop up the motorcycle industry.

Motorcycle Awareness Month in California
May was Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month by NHTSA proclamation (and National Digestive Disease Awareness Month, by Presidential decree), but the LAPD took a different tack in celebrating the month: by cracking down on motorcycle traffic violations. As announced on the LAPD's blog, "In support of Motorcycle Safety Awareness, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) will deploy extra officers throughout the month to patrol areas frequented by motorcyclists. Officers will also crack down on motorcyclist traffic violations and other vehicle drivers that lead to fatal or injurious motorcycle traffic collisions." The site stated that California motorcycle fatalities have increased 175% from 1997 to 2008 and at fault for that "dramatic increase were speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs by motorcyclists and other drivers."

Canadian Motorcyclists Join the Parking Protest
In protest of Vancouver's "zero-emission" parking spaces for electric scooters and motorcycles that exclude traditional motorcycles, 75 to 100 motorcyclists staged a parking protest that took up all of the spaces in a two block area of the popular Robson Street shopping district. The motorcyclists want more dedicated free spaces for motorcycles. The city has proposed special motorcycle spaces that would cost 1/2 the regular space rate. The entire city of Vancouver has only 42 motorcycle parking spaces. (More than downtown St. Paul and Minneapolis combined.)

Swedish vs. British vs. USA Motorcycle Safety Ads
Leave it up to the Swedes to produce an incomprehensible motorcycle safety ad. The Brits are a lot less subtle and infinitely more effective. Monty Python would be proud. I think. However, Michigan did us (the US) all proud.

RIP: Danny "Magoo" Chandler
Danny Chandler has died, at 50, from complications related to his paralysis. The AMA Hall of Famer, the winner of the U.S. 500cc Motocross Grand Prix, the first racer to win both the Motocross des Nations and the Trophee des Nations in the same year (1982), was a positive influence for everyone who knew him after the 1985 Paris Supercross crash that left him paralyzed. After several tough years (including a divorce and the death of both of his parents), Danny went back to work volunteering with DARE, organizing visits by top motorcycle racers to children’s hospitals through his International Riders Helping People organization, conducting his motocross safety program, and promoting mountain-bike races.

“In the long run the accident has left me a richer and fuller person. Had it not been for that I would just be another guy walking around. Now I have an interesting and compelling story to tell to the kids.”

Fingernail Painting Driver Is Convicted
Lora Hunt, the fingernail painting nurse, who ran a stoplight and killed motorcyclist Anita Zaffke in May of 2009, has been convicted of reckless homicide in a Lake County, Illinois courthouse. Her attorney, her attorney, Jeff Tomczak, argued that Hunt was a victim of sexual discrimination. He claimed she should have been on trial negligent homicide as she would have been for eating a sandwich or dialing her cell phone. "I do believe it is the underlying act of painting the nails that was the impetus for the charge," Tomczak said. "I haven't seen a reckless homicide charge for dialing a cell phone." (I didn't realize "two wrongs makes a right" was a valid legal defense.)

Prosecutor Mike Mermel argued, "It is not the same as biting a sandwich … it's a voluntary disablement. She might as well have been in the back seat making a sandwich."

Hunt will face as much as 5 years in jail or as little as a brief probation. She could be sentenced on June 15th.

Evel on Display
In an exhibit that will run from July 10 through September 6, the Harley-Davidson Museum will celebrate the life of "America’s favorite daredevil"; Evel Knievel. In the largest temporary exhibit the museum has ever attempted, Knievel’s life and legend will be featured in a 10,000 foot2 exhibit that will include "his signature leathers and cane, personal photographs and letters, collectors’ toys and memorabilia, and the rocket-inspired Skycycle X-2 used in Knievel’s infamous 1974 attempt to jump Idaho’s Snake River Canyon" and his favorite motorcycle, the Harley-Davidson XR-750.

Kawasaki Returns for the Police Dollar
After abandoning the police motorcycle market five years ago when the company dropped the KZ1000P, Kawasaki has returned with the 2010 Concours 14 ABS Police motorcycle. "All units are delivered with a tighter turning radius and custom law enforcement equipment, including: adjustable speedometer, a second wiring harness with 12 fused circuits and a separate battery dedicated to the add-on electronics installed by Beaudry Motors, Inc. An extensive selection of emergency equipment is available to satisfy agency requirements." Even with a $16-22k price tag, the 1352cc Concours is about $2,000 cheaper than the BMW or Harley competition.

Triumph Wants to 'Thank A Hero'
Triumph Motorcycles North America is offering up to a $750 discount to active U.S. Military service members. The company's "Thank A Hero" program is an attempt to "show our support for the sacrifices they make for all of us,” according to Jim Callahan, Triumph's North American Marketing Manager. “This is our way of saying ‘thank you’ for everything they do.”

Kawasaki's In-House Magazine Goes On-Line
Kawasaki's owners' magazine, Accelerate, has become an on-line 'zine. You can find it at http://accelerate.presspublisher.us/. Articles by Dr. Gregory Frasier and a variety of contributors are there, free for the reading.

Texas Motorcycle Cop's Bike Was on Recall
In January, Arlington, TX police Sgt. Craig Story struck a school bus with his Harley Davidson motorcycle and died of his injuries. The motorcycle was included in a December 2009 recall that warned of failure of the "front fuel-tank mounts, which can distort in crashes and cause fuel leaks and fires." Sgt. Story's motorcycle was scheduled for the repair at the time of the crash. While Story's motorcycle burst into flames, the department said there was no evidence that the fire contributed to Sgt. Story's injuries.

New Laws
April 12, Maine's Governor John Baldacci signed House Paper 1170 (An Act Relating to Road Noise), a bill that says "A person may not operate a motor vehicle in an area designated as a quiet zone by the department or the Maine Turnpike Authority and clearly identified as such by posted signs if the noise emitted by the motor vehicle exhaust system exceeds 62 decibels at a distance of 50 feet or greater." I wonder who that is aimed at?

Missouri House Bill 2421 would require "every applicant for a motorcycle license or endorsement shall show proof that he or she has successfully completed a motorcycle training course. . . "

New York Senate Bill 7302 "establishes the 'New York state consumers' right to repair act' which mandates automobile manufacturers to release vehicle repair information to vehicle owners allowing such owners to choose among competing repair facilities for the convenient, reliable and affordable repair of their motor vehicles." Senate Bill 7385 requires a motorcycle operator to keep both wheels on the ground at all times for a wheelie-free New York state. .

Deaths Down, Down Deaths, Down
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, motorcycle fatalities were down 10% in 2009, from 5,290 in 2008 to approximately 4,762 in 2009. This was the first fatality drop in more than a decade, following the 2007 peak. You can find a copy of the study at http://www.ghsa.org/html/publications/spotlight/index.html. The reasons for the drop were explained to be "less motorcycle travel due to the economy, fewer beginning motorcyclists, increased state attention to motorcycle safety programs, and poor cycling weather in some areas."

GHSA Chairman Vernon Betkey said, “Clearly the economy played a large role in motorcycle deaths declining in 2009. Less disposable income translates into fewer leisure riders, and we suspect that the trend of inexperienced baby boomers buying bikes may have subsided.”

2010 NHTSA Recalls
BIG DOG 2004 Chopper, Bulldog, Ridgeback, Mastiff, Boxer, Pitbull: Loose connection between the harness connector and the electronic harness controller causes intermittent loss of power to headlamps a causes engine stall.

Jun 11, 2010

Politically Incorrectness

Ah, political correctness:. saying what shouldn't be said, calling things what they are, expecting common sense in a world that has made sense about as common as unicorns. A friend recently sent me a definition of "political correctness" that included the phrase "a doctrine . . . that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end." (Credited on the WWW to a student from Texas A&M, the University of Melbourne, and several other institutions, including the US Army.) The rest of this definition included the delusion that political correctness is a property of liberals and that a minority is vested in this delusion, so I'm less than impressed with the whole. The part I quoted, however, seems pretty true.

My wife and I are deemed politically incorrect by our daughters and their husbands. One family is largely liberal and the other is very conservative. We're as incorrect to one as the other. Hence comes a portion of my belief that political correctness is one of those perspectives that depends on the viewer. Rush Limbaugh and his cronies have just as many untouchable subjects as do the most radical of the left, those topics are just found in different areas. In other words, both groups display typical "common sense" in their touchiness.

In a discussion about gayness, one of my daughters suggested that "no one" would "choose to be outcast" by a substantial portion of society. I'm not disputing the biological aspects of gayness, but I suspect (and always have) there there is a portion of nurture involved in most human qualities and decisions. Nature, while powerful, doesn't have much more power than does nurture. I know that's politically incorrect, but I'm too old to care.

In my eyes, this politically correct position was particularly funny coming from a woman who shaved her head (when not dying it a variety of florescent colors), spiked her nose, ears, and other body parts with all sorts of odd sharp objects, tattooed herself with a ball point pen, and did everything she could to make herself as strange looking as possible from age 15 until her early 20's. Knowing my own history as a 60's long-haired hippy freak, you'd have thought some aspect of discontinuity might have struck her during this proclamation.

In our speck of American culture, motorcyclists are packed with these sorts of intentional social rejects. The most obvious is the Harley gangbanger crowd. The majority of society looks at these folks as outcasts, even other motorcyclists. Why anyone would want to dress-up like characters out of a 1950's B-movie escapes me, but a substantial portion of the wanna-be crowd is really into looking like society's unwashed and unwanted and unemployed. There must be a strong call to those who can't find acceptance in polite company to make a sincere effort to find a home wherever they can. If that's true for punks and bikers, I can't help suspect it might be true for other outcast micro-cultures.

Once a group finds enough members to create critical mass, that group begins campaigning everyone else to grant their different-ness with proper respect. If respect isn't possible, fear seems to suffice. A group can leverage fear in a variety of ways: threatening legal action, threatening popular condemnation, or with violence. Fear rarely turns into respect, regardless of the tactic, and many of these groups continue to alienate the majority without a thought for the fact that fear is closely related to hate. Generating hate usually backfires.

The gangbanger motorcyclist attitude is creating that sort of back-pressure for motorcycling in general. In promoting their threatening, law-disobeying lifestyle, air and noise polluting "rights," and a lousy safety record on public roads, Harley's corporate image and the company's fans are spilling over into motorcycling in general. We're becoming as easy a bad guy stereotype as the Mob, IRS, FBI, CIA, and Arab terrorists. When an author or screenwriter wants to whip out an easy character to hate, a biker is as likely to come to mind as is any other culturally negative stereotype. I just finished John Stanford's Storm Prey and, for the 4th time in this 20-book series, bikers are among the bad guys. Stanford doesn't even have to work to create believable, crazy-vicious, stupid motorcycle characters. They just flow from the page without a hint of lost credibility. If you know these guys in real life, you know they are just as sociopathic and worthless as Stanford draws them.

In the not-so-long-run, this connection to the majority or motorcyclists is going to cost motorcycling a lot of rights and privileges. Our lame "representative," the AMA, is trying to handle this turd by what it hopes is the clean end. But as long as motorcyclists allow bikers to cling to some corner of "respectable motorcyclists" we're all getting tarred with a black leather brush. I'm starting to think that motorcycle commuters and touring riders need their own organization, one that seperates itself from the cruiser crowd and returns to Honda's successful "you meet the nicest people" sort of image-making. The boys in bandannas and leather can whine about how they are politically incorrectly seen as gangsters and bums, but the rest of us should serious consider what linking our means of transportation to their gangbanger activity does to/for motorcycling.

Think about it.

Jun 8, 2010

Standing in Line

All Rights Reserved © 2007 Thomas W. Day

Here's a brief personality test: you're standing in line at a big-box store, asking for the assistance of a "sales associate." That employee is carrying a telephone which rings in the middle of the conversation and the salesperson says, "I have to take this, excuse me." What do you do?
Here's another scenario: you're zipping down a two-lane highway, having a fine time playing with your two-wheeled vehicle/toy when you come upon a dozen or more bikers in a staggered-line parade. As is typical of this kind of demonstration, they have spaced themselves in a precision "rolling bowling pin" formation that doesn't allow for passing unless you are willing to pass all of them at once or you have the skill/risk-immunity to fit yourself into the small spaces allowed between bikes as you ladder-step your way past the wannabe-Shriners highway obstacle course. What do you do?

I think both of these situations are some kind of Rorschach personality test, but I don't know what the results mean. In the first instance, I would walk away and find another salesperson or a different place to buy what I want to buy. I know that insanely stupid big-box company managers require floor employees to "service everybody, all the time." So, the salesperson is doing his/her job, as directed, by answering the phone and leaving you two twiddle your thumbs while you wait for the telephone conversation to end and hope the phone doesn't ring before you get the information you need. However, anyone who thinks a telephone "virtual customer" is more important than a live, in-store, with cash-in-hand customer is too dumb for my money and time. I don't care where the store CEO's mommy bought his MBA, that's stupid logic.

In the second scenario, if I'm just out for a ride, I look for another road to travel rather than making the monster pass or the precision step-pass. If I'm in a hurry, one or the other passing tactic is the choice. Better yet, I wait for someone in an SUV to pass me, then pass or breakup the bowling pins so that I have a little more space to work with. Regardless, my tolerance for certain kinds of motorcycles and motorcyclists gets reduced, a little more, every time I experience this kind of road arrogance. Eventually, at this rate and if I live long enough, I'll be as pissed off about motorcycle road blocks as the rest of the driving population. For now, I can still see the humor in another demonstration of declining human intelligence.

As an MSF instructor, at the beginning of each season we have the pleasure of attending a sign-up "conference" where we stand in line for several hours, waiting to sign up for the classes we want to teach in the spring, summer, and fall. The line is semi-sorted by instructor senility (using the usual "honor system" that, in these modern United States, works only slightly more effectively than when Germans used "honor" to sort out gas chamber patrons). If an instructor wants to teach more than a couple of classes during the season, he or she will have the pleasure of working through the line several times. Honestly, it's mostly a fair system and, if one hadn't been exposed to the technology advances that have occurred in the last 40 years, it would seem to be "efficient."

Standing in line simply grates against one of my pet peeves. Actually, lines in general, of all sorts, in any situation, drive me nuts.

A decade in Southern California taught me more than I want to know about the "human herding instinct." What finally drove me from the beach, a state with lane-splitting and filtering, year-around motorcycling weather, and friends and family and a great job, were . . . lines. I will walk a mile to avoid a three-person-long line. I will abandon a cart full of groceries that took me an hour to collect if I have to wait in line for more than a few minutes. I will take dead end two lane exits, go off-road (including through alleys, across lawns and golf courses, down or up freeway ditches, and damn near off of a cliff) to avoid having more than a couple of vehicles in front of me. I have changed the destination of vacation trips when I found myself stuck in traffic. I have slept in a tent, my car, buses, and train or airport depots when my hotel reservation required standing in a line of suits waiting for an over-taxed clerk to wrestle with a hotel chain's crappy computer system.

I freakin' hate lines.

Because of this personality weirdness, I rarely see movies in the first release week (I usually wait for Netflix to put the movie in an envelope and mail it to me). I rarely go to concerts or sporting events. I am totally disinterested in popular restaurants. I spend a lot of my daily commute traveling through neighborhood streets rather than more efficient freeways. While politicians see congested freeways as an opportunity to waste more money on asphalt, I see traffic as evidence that I need to send another $100 to Planned Parenthood and ZPG. There are too freakin' many people and, even worse, there are too damn many people between me and where I want to go.

Many motorcyclists and a statistically equal number of motorcycle instructors like to stand in line. What else would you call those lines of hippo-bikes jamming up traffic, violating community noise standards, and stacked in front of bars and restaurants? Gotta be line-lovers. Apparently, a fair number of instructors consider their time in line as "opportunities to network" and "social events." Wow! I either have a way better social and personal life than I thought or I'm lacking in the gene that leads humans to gather in packs, herds, crowds, and lines.

Social scientists who study animal resources have spent a lot of energy determining the square acreage or mileage that a given animal needs to be healthy and sane. An obvious and true result of that study has found that the further up the food chain an animal climbs, the more resources (read space) that animal requires. Hence, predators need a lot more territory than herbivores. Omnivores, like us, fall somewhere between being comfortable in small groups (chimps and baboons) and requiring moderate space or being incredibly solitary and requiring mountains (literally) of space (gorillas and orangutans) for the "elbow room" required to remain sane and healthy.

The top of the food chain, we'd like to think, is occupied by humans. Based on the modern urban experience, we may be as dumb and far down the food chain as Mark Twain suspected (read "The Lowest Animal") because we allow ourselves about as much territory as a hill of oversized ants. Can you think of another animal that tolerates standing in line for a morsel of food? How about sitting in line (in a cage) or standing in line (in a bus or train) for hours to get to a place where we'll stand or sit in place for hours so we can earn enough credit to sit in line (in a cage) to drive to a store where we can stand in line to exchange credit for food? There may be no other animal on earth that passive or unaware of the need for livable conditions. Mr. Clemons was an optimist.

How long do the lines have to get before we realize that overstuffing this planet to standing-room-only is going to reduce worthwhile riding (and living) territory to nothing? Pretty soon, I won't be able to find an alternative Twin Cities route that allows me to escape from the roaring mindless mass of humanity. Then what? Whatever happens, you know that you won't have me to kick around, if you're standing in line. I'll find a nice cave in the mountains to spend my leisure years.