Jul 31, 2011

Man Rides Motorcycle "Nearly Naked" To Beat The Heat

You have to watch this "news report" to get it. This kid is cute, but he's risking way too much for a moment of attention. Many of the things that are not illegal are still stupid.

Jul 25, 2011

Lane Sharing Study

Steve Guiderian has published a study, "LANE SHARING: A GLOBAL SOLUTION FOR MOTORCYCLE SAFETY, which compares the safety record of the only state in the US that allows traffic filtering and lane sharing with the abysmal record of the rest of the country. This is, as far as I know, the only study that uses data instead of emotion and speculation to look at the safety of this traffic management tactic. His conclusions found that "California does have a lower rate of fatal rear-end motorcycle crashes when compared to other similar motorcycling states. This figure also shows that the rate of fatal rear-end collisions in California is also lower than the national rate, which includes many states with a limited riding season and fewer motorcycle riders." Guiderian also found that "California has fewer motorcycle deaths involving a motorcycle rearending another vehicle, and significantly fewer deaths from a motorcycle being rear-ended by another vehicle."

One aspect of lane sharing that Guiderian does not address is the fact that lane sharing increases the viability of motorcycle commuting, which would increase the visibility of motorcycles in typical traffic which could also result in an improved motorcycling safety record. If you have ridden in California, you know there is no downside to lane sharing. Superstition, fear of the unknown, and conservative timidity is all that prevents all 50 states from allowing lane sharing. Claiming safety as one of the restraints is unbelievable.

Looping Superior

Last week, my brother and I made the loop around Lake Superior.We hadn't done a motorcycle trip together since I lived in Colorado in the 90's and he hadn't been on a bike since he mashed his foot into a deer.We started slow, down two lanes and dirt roads, and took a really convoluted path to south Duluth where we turned east into Wisconsin. We toured the south side of Lake Superior through Michigan's UP and crossed the boarder at Sault Ste. Marie into Ontario. From there, to Thunder Bay in two days and two days back to the Cities.

Our big day was about 375 miles and our short day was a little under 250. That's kind of an ass-pounding on the WR250X, I'm sorry to admit. The only disappointment on the trip was that the V-Strom got exactly the same mileage as the 250. That's good for the V-Strom, since it knocked down 55mpg consistently. That sucks for the WR since it has a 3 gallon tank and a 150 mile range, when I'd hoped it would get better efficiency and at least 200 miles out of a tank.

Looking Old?

I spent the week with my "little brother" and we made a loop around Lake Superior on two of my motorcycles: the WR250X (me) and the 650 V-Strom (Larry). Early on, I discovered he shares a dysfunction with my wife. Larry and my wife lived the first decades of their life blessed with great eyesight. Now that they are old, they need glasses but won't wear them because it makes them look/feel old.

I have always been legally blind in one eye and somewhat sighted out of the other. Going from single-prescription glasses to bifocals was no big deal for me. In fact, I started experimenting with bifocals when I was in my mid-40's. Since I've always resembled a troll and have never been cursed with worrying about looking good, smart, or young, glasses are just one more nail in the coffin of my un-coolness.

As best I can tell, some old people resist wearing bifocals because they think glasses make them look old. So, they squint helplessly at menus and other text and ask other people to read for them or fumble through their pockets and purses looking for their "reading glasses." They also screw up a lot because they can't read anything with print smaller than a traffic sign. In short, because they can't read normal text, they look dumb a lot.

Even with a zillion dollars in plastic surgery behind her, Joan Rivers still looks and moves like a geezer. She's just a freaky scary looking geezer who inspires me to look for a cross and a stake whenever I see her face.  Here's a hint, it's not the glasses that makes you look old. It's being old that makes you look old. You really have only two choices to worry about: wearing glasses or don't. If you don't, you'll be a squinty geezer who also appears to be illiterate. Or put another way, look old or look old and stupid. It's your choice.

Jul 24, 2011

Thinking about MC Training

Here are some important thoughts about the future of motorcycle training: "The State and Future of US Motorcycle Training 2011." (Thanks Paul). Some of the more important ideas are:

"Most of our panelists believe the ideal training and licensing system is one that is graduated. In this regard, the group established three tiers and focused on the training standards that should be ascribed to the tiers rather than restrictions that the graduations should entail. As trainers, we leave it to regulators to decide the regulatory aspects of each graduation. That said, we anticipate that limitations would include motorcycle size or weight, hours of operation, and limitations on carrying passengers. Only a sparse minority of panelists felt that engine size was a useful metric."

"Rider training, however, is primarily an educational activity. Institutions of higher education (and even the agencies that regulate them) know that over-regulation of the educational product leads to poorer overall outcomes. This is because the course is less able to meet the individual learning needs of its participants. It is also less able to benefit from 'field innovation' where front-line educators discover, try and perfect small and simple, yet highly beneficial curriculum improvements." [This is similar to my argument that education is not a science, but an art. You can teach or you can't and all the credentials in the world have no effect on that fact.]

One of the key instructional philosophies of mainstream curricula is that students don’t need to know the 'why' of something, only the 'how.' In fact, basic rider training discourages teaching why things work as they do, considering it a distraction. This is antithetical to all other kinds of operations and safety training and even to most higher education." [This is definately a carry-over from academic educators, where "how" is considered unnecessary.]

"Every jurisdiction should have a dirt-based training alternative available to students who want either beginner or dirt-specific rider training." [Personally, I think the asphalt portion of training is useless.]

Jul 14, 2011

Still Deluding Yourself?

Just in case you think dragging a knee is a big deal, Red Bull and Casey Stoner used some insanely high tech equipment to show how far a MotoGP bike can lean.

"You've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel lucky?' Well, do ya, punk?"

All the News that Didn't Fit

Harley Opens the Vault
The Harley Davidson Museum's 2011 summer exhibit is called "Collection X: Weird, Wild Wonders of the Harley-Davidson Museum." The exhibit is featuring never-before-seen concept bikes, early 20th century motors designed for "everything from lawn mowers to military drones," and the rich history of 108 years of Harley Davidson accessories. In a special event on July 23, Frank Fritz, from the History Channel's, American Pickers, will be at the museum telling stories of his "pursuit of rare and unique treasures."

Marketing Genius from Vespa
Some marketing wizard at Vespa came up with the brilliant idea of linking the scooter brand with Havaianas flip-flops which is either the most cluelessly stupid or the most criminally cynical promotion since Harley's 1990's promotion that used a prison background for their Bad Boy ads. The Vespa ad says, "You might win a stylish pair of MYOH and a chic & enviro friendly Vespa." Seems like a better link would be between Vespa and a foot surgeon.

Jul 11, 2011

Second Chances

Last night, I sold my 2000 KL250 Kawasaki Super Sherpa. The buyer was an older guy who showed up to check out the bike on a big Kawasaki cruiser of some sort. (Sorry, they all look alike to me. He told me what it was, but I just don't care.) He took the bike for a long test ride, both on the street in in my backyard "test range," we haggled a bit, he put down some money and said he'd be back the next day with the cash.

The next morning, he called and wanted me to put all of the LD stuff on the bike for him so he could see that it all fit. I didn't express a lot of motivation. It felt like he just wanted to jerk me around. Later that day, he called and said he was having second thoughts and didn't want the bike after all. I had three other buyers who I'd already told the bike was sold. I've already deposited the deposit check, so giving him his money back is out of the question, at least until the check clears. He seemed to think that was unfair. Not having been in this position before, I don't know what to think.

Oddly, other than the hassle and wasted time, I'm sort of relieved. I had some alternative plans for the Sherpa that I wasn't all that happy about canceling. On the wild chance that my grandson gets over teenage angst and decides he wants to ride a motorcycle, the Sherpa would be hard to beat. I sort of thought about keeping it around as a backup bike for when friends need a temporary ride. It is an insanely fun motorcycle around town and sometimes gets nearly 100mpg.

Like most carbureted motorcycles, it's a pain in the ass to start in the winter and starting is not all that reliable anytime the temperature gets below 40F. I think that's fixable, but so far the fix has eluded me. So, for the time being it's still a project bike. I might put it right back up on Craig's List, but I'm in no hurry at the moment.

I've heard of this kind of funky transaction, but this is my first experience with a sale that turned into no sale. What do you do with the deposit? I've been on the other end of this sort of transaction before, but it never occurred to me to renege on the transaction once I have said "I'll take it." Must be a cowboy thing.

Jul 6, 2011

Failed Another Test

I can't do this with either of my dual sports, so I clearly bought the wrong bikes.

Jul 5, 2011

Late to Lucky

When we lived in southern California, I rented a two bedroom, 900 square foot, split-level duplex with a tiny one car garage (too small for any 1980's car). I'm not complaining. We could have had a larger place, but it wouldn't have been four blocks from Huntington Beach's pier and the ocean. Our apartment cost $1600 a month plus bills, including a coin operated sometimes-working laundry room. In 1983, that was a good bit of change. We lived outside 90% of the year, the apartment was where we slept.

Still, there was one guy who made me a little jealous. I bicycled to work everyday that I didn't motorcycle and I put in long, long days, coming home well after dark even during the summer. The guy lived on Indianapolis Avenue, one or two blocks west of Beach Boulevard. He had a corner lot and his double car garage was one of the sights I looked forward to on my ride home every night. I never stopped and talked to the man, but I never missed looking into his garage as I passed. As Ernest Hemingway would say, "It was a clean, well-lighted place."

My garage, on the other hand, was crammed with tools, motorcycles, a tech bench for my audio business, and all sorts of family crap that wouldn't fit in the minimal closet space of the apartment. My lighting was a single bulb in the center of garage roof and a fluorescent work light mounted to my bench on a boom. We weren't hoarders, but working in that garage had the feeling of being in a junk-filled hoarders' shed.

His garage was bright as daylight, decorated with a real moose head near the door, and there were posters on the walls everyplace there weren't tools, storage shelves and cabinets (all painted white), and he was always at the back of the garage doing something with his tools. He was a geezer, probably about my age now, and he looked about as content as a man can look. This was a workshop, not some freaky yuppie pimped-out pseudo-garage where you'd get yelled at for dropping sandwich crumbs on the floor. The floor was unpainted concrete. The walls were partially finished and the ceiling was bare rafters. Sometimes, if it was raining, he'd be sitting on a rocking chair in front of the garage, usually under the moose head smoking and watching the traffic and enjoying the rare smell of clean air in southern California.

Tonight, we had a quick rain shower that soaked the yard and washed the mosquitoes away for a few moments and cooled everything down to practically air-conditioned temperatures. My wife and I propped my shop chairs up near the garage's backdoor and we watched the rain and enjoyed a great and private view of our neighbor's backyards. After the rain stopped, I hauled a ladder to the garden and we stripped the cherry tree of its produce. Before the grocery store closed for the evening, I bicycled out to snag some groceries and when I came home, I realized I was that old guy. Both garage doors were open and the lights were blazing because my wife was looking for one of my tools for some godawful gardening task. (For once, she failed to find a $50 sidecutter with which to snip some damn flower before I chased her out with an actual gardening tool in her hands.) Clearly, I need a moose head. I freakin' love this garage.

Jul 4, 2011

Puttin' Off Order

Last winter, too many things happened at once and I missed the moment; the garage cleaning moment. Since then, nothing has gone right in my favorite room of the house. Work stuff, personal stuff, family stuff, hoarding tendencies, and general laziness kept me from performing a ritual that has kept my life semi-ordered for decades; scrubbing the garage before winter. Once I missed that window, everything has gone downhill. Finally, this weekend, I have no MSF classes to teach (looks like the rest of the summer's schedule might cancel out on me) and no freelance deadlines to meet. So, I'm out of excuses.

The problem is I've lived here too long. My natural hoarding instincts are overwhelming my disciplined mid-tech transient practicality. All of my life, I've moved every 2-5 years. Before moving into my current home, the longest I'd ever lived anywhere was the 7 years my family lived in a dinky Huntington Beach apartment. Since I was working 80-90 hour weeks, going to school nights and weekends, and managing two small businesses during that period, it's hard for me to consider the actual time spent in that California beach apartment as being more than a blip in my life. But I've lived in my current home for 14 years and the collected crap is starting to become overwhelming. My wife collects girl-stuff and most of the house is crammed with that crap. I collect guy stuff and the garage and my basement shop and the attic studio are stuffed with that crap. In the garage, I have squirreled away parts for all of the cars and motorcycles I've owned in the last decade, service manuals for the same vehicles, tools for a wood shop, toys and kid-projects that my grandson started and gave up on, acetylene welding stuff, bicycles and assorted maintenance bits for bikes, an idiotic collection of electronic components for audio products I will probably never design, mountains of acoustic treatment materials for recording studios I will probably never build, construction materials that may (or may not) end up being used on the house, and dozens of yard and gardening tools for a yard that could suck up my whole life.

It's a really big garage, but it can shrink up dramatically if I can't find the guts to toss out the stuff I will never get around to using. When I bought the house, the previous owner had stuffed the garage front-to-back and eight feet high with all sorts of crap. He had a tunnel carved in the junk to allow access to his huge television dish antenna. Most of the residue of his existence is gone from the garage now.

I used to love moving because moving forced me to make those kinds of decisions. I don't mess around when I move, either. In the last four decades, I've moved from Kansas to south Texas to Kansas to west Texas (again) to Nebraska to California to Indiana to Colorado to Minnesota. My moving motto is "when in doubt, throw it out." I don't, however, apply that philosophy to cleaning up my crap-filled garage. I use more of a "when in doubt, stuff it in the rafters" policy. The rafters are about to collapse and crush me flat. Some decisions will have to be made.

The first things to go are the kid stuff. My grandson has progressed from a sweet, energetic, fun little guy who used to direct me in building everything from robots to rockets to the usual sort of sullen teenager who is pissed off at everything I do. That makes emptying out the unfinished kid projects an easy assignment. I set the kid stuff on the curb with a "FREE!" sign and it all vanished in a few hours. It's not like I'd ever mess with model rockets or stop-motion animation on my own time and having that rocket stuff in the garage is a fire hazard.

Next goes the unfinished construction project materials. I will probably never roof a house, so all the scrap roofing materials hits the curb and instantly vanishes. I'm not adding a door to another room in this house, so the interior door that's been sitting in the rafters since we bought this house hits the curb and disappears. Likewise, the louvered closet doors, the baseboard electric heating elements, and the unused wall-to-wall carpeting left by the previous owner. All set out on the curb and all claimed in less than an hour. I'm on a roll.

Electronic parts and project cases hit the trash. I disassembled my wooden saw horses and chopped them up for materials. I have cool folding metal ones and don't ever use the old style horsies. Flammable construction materials practically fling themselves into the burn box for the wood stove. I can almost see my metal work bench and the wooden bench has been cleared since morning.

As I toss crap, I inventory the non-crap possessions and put them up on Craig's List and eBay while I organize. By 5PM Saturday, I've sold almost $200 worth of idle crap. I also have the Kawasaki Sherpa up on the jack ready to strip down to the frame and rebuild with the original stock parts. By Sunday night, the KL250 will also be on Craig's List. Once, I'd thought Wolfe and I would be doing some off-road riding together this summer, but he's made it clear that isn't in the works so I'm clearing the garage space for something useful (or just for the luxury of free space). I can always find another dirt bike if it turns out I need one. That's another transient motto of mine, "if I ever need it again, I can buy it again." Two spare helmets are on Craig's List and so is the cruise control I never installed on the V-Strom because I couldn't convince myself I could tolerate the control's added clutter under the tank.

While I'm tossing stuff and selling stuff, I'm fixing stuff, too. That's why cleaning the garage takes so long. If I find a repair part I've been looking for, I stop cleaning and do the repair so I won't lose the part again. Tomorrow, I'm installing the throttle for the electric scooter and, if it works, that damn thing hits Craig's List, too. Another dumb idea that got a lot of playtime, initially, and ended up taking up space afterwards.

Ten hours later, the garage is clean and civilized. Both work tables are clear, the work area is wide open, the kid stuff gone, a giant curb-load of stuff has been claimed by the neighborhood collectors, and a bunch of boxes are going to be part of our Fourth of July celebration as starter material in the fire pit.  Mission accomplished. Now I'm afraid to start anything in the garage because I'll mess up my new order.