Aug 25, 2011

The Laugh Machine

That is the VT1300 in the foreground, the V-Strom in the middle,
and the WR250X in the back. The shot is taken straight out from
the VT1300.
 This morning, I picked up a Honda VT1300CT Custom Interstate to review for MMM. This thing is an amazing hippobike that probably does everything hippobike buyers want a bike to do. It's long, low, loud, and fat. In fact, when my wife saw the bike in the garage, she said, "Wow! That's an old fat guy's bike." And it is.

The Interstate's seat height is a troll-like 26.8". It's almost a foot shorter than my WR250X's seat before I dropped it a bit. If you can't swing a leg over this monster, dude, you are a cripple. Stay up tonight, watch a little Channel 29 and get that number for the guy who will get you your Hoveround for "no money out of your pocket."

There are all kinds of prices to pay for a low seat height. For example, at right the WR250X is in the foreground, the V-Strom in the middle, and the VT1300 at the back with ground clearances of 10.5", 7", and 4.5". Four-and-a-half inches of ground clearance with no rider! You couldn't drive that thing over an ant hill without being responsible for a massacre.

Honestly, if all I owned was a Honda VT1300 I doubt that I'd ride more than a couple of times a year. The bike is a total pain to get out of the garage, and that's when it's in the front of the garage. I don't think I stopped and started twice competently in 140 miles today. The Interstate makes me feel weak, old, and uncoordinated. I'd feel sorry for all those hippobike riding ERC students I've insulted over the years, except they picked the damn things to ride. It's not my fault they can't ride what they bought. I can't either. Feeling sorry for someone struggling through a corner or wobbling away from a stop light when they had options that included actual engineering is like feeling sorry for a fat man at a basketball court. "You don't have to eat everything you see, you know?" I know I didn't (have to eat all that stuff, that is.).

Finally, the last straw was being seen on that monster. No, I'm not worried about my reputation. I trashed that years ago. This was more of a funny bit than an embarrassing bit. When I ride my WR250X into the city, I get a lot of kids (people under 40) asking about the bike. Men, women, boys, and girls notice the WR and comment on how cool it looks. On the big Honda, the demographics of the positive commenters jumped up about 20-30 years. Lots  of blue hairs mumbled "Nice bike" as I wobbled toward them at stop lights.

Great. Grandma likes the VT1300. Gotta get one to pick up those hot near-mummies.

Aug 23, 2011

Irritating Follow-Up

Edmund's InsideLine followed up my comment on automotive boredom with a list of "The 100 Greatest Cars of All Time." I agree with exactly 10 of their choices (the numbers are theirs, the comments are mine):

4. 1938 Volkswagen Beetle: Edmund's comment was that this car "May be the most beloved car ever." I would still consider owning and driving a '67 Beetle if I didn't live in the Rust Belt. If I were going to drive the South American Pan-American Highway, it would be in a Beetle. This car was in production for 65 years with minor improvements. If this isn't the greatest car ever made, the standards for "greatness" are stupid.

9. 1908 Ford Model T: This is more of a political choice, for me, than engineering. The Ford Company was beginning to become something democratically revolutionary, inspite of the company's fascist owner. "It was the first car most people could afford." The people behind and on Ford's assembly line created America's first middle class. They are still doing it, too.
15. 1964 Ford Mustang: The original car was just a screwed-up Ford Falcon and how it "made Lee Iacocca an icon" is more about how modern management pulls credit up and pushes blame down than saying something about Iacocca's "vision" and leadership. Since the Falcon wasn't on Edmund's list, I'm left with the residual choice. I like the Falcon better, though.
24. 1949 Ford: My first 4-wheel ride was a '54 Ford convertible, which was definitely one of the models that Edmund's said "would follow" the '49. Solid car that proved it could run without an air filter for longer than it should have. I was a dumb kid.
27. 1990 Acura NSX: I don't lust after sports cars, but I always lusted for an NSX. If I won the lottery, I might have one. Probably not, though. I'm too old now.
34. 1984 Honda Civic CRX: Edmund's silly comment, "The first fun economy car" just shows how out of touch their writers are with history. The VW was fun, especially the convertible. The VW Karmann Ghia was fun. The original 1972 Civic was fun. The CRX is unnecessary, for me. Honda made a mark with the introduction of the Civic and has been denting the auto industry since.
46. 1992 Toyota Camry: This was the 3rd version of the Camry, but I thought the original '82 Camry was pretty "standard" setting. I owned a '73 Toyota Hilux at the time and was already sold on Toyotas.
45. 1976 Honda Accord: Nothing to be said here. A nice, Americanized Japanese car that everyone wants to own.
74. 1946 MG TC: Like all MG's, this is British crap, but it was fun crap to drive when it worked and sort of fun to work on (which owners had to do all the time).
79. 1950 Volkswagen Type 2: The VW microbus was the original do-everything vehicle. I loved mine, low mileage engine and all. You could camp with the family or bag up your 125 and drive to the motocross in a VW Bus. This vehicle started the whole mini-van business.
97. 1968 Datsun 510: A cheap, sort-of-sporty car that got good mileage and held up during every challenge except Midwest salted roads. Had one, liked it, thanks Doug.

My additions to the list:
A. 1986 Nissan Pathfinder: the only real SUV Japan ever made.
B: Datsun 520 Pickup: the Japanese break-through vehicle to the US market (mostly in California).
C: 1973 Toyota Hilux Pickup: The single toughest vehicle I have ever experienced.

 I probably don't disagree with Edumnd's about the other 90 cars, I just don't care about them. The whole "great car" argument is lost on me. Cars have two too many wheels and make driving so simple even the simple can do it. When it comes to driving, I'm an elitist; if you can't do it well, you should be on the bus. When it comes to expensive and mostly useless cars, I can't generate enough interest to even look. Cars are for carrying people and stuff you can't carry on a motorcycle.

That is all I have to say about cars. Let us never speak of this again.

Aug 21, 2011

A Partial Gearhead

All Rights Reserved © 2009 Thomas W. Day

Most of my friends think of me as a gearhead. It's true that I like almost all kinds of gear; motorcycles, guitars and other musical instruments, recording studio equipment, computers, manufacturing and machining tools, almost everything mechanical or electrical. It's not true that :I like all things mechanical, though. I particularly dislike gear that has passed into obsolescence and continues to waste human resources and energy; like cars. I don't like driving them, riding in them, thinking about them, and, especially, I hate owning them.

My wife ruined her knees walking on concrete, while working for one of the big box hardware stores. So, riding a motorcycle is no longer a pleasant pastime for her. For our anniversary this year we took a cage trip south along the Mississippi into Iowa. She gets carsick, so traveling by cage, plane, boat, or bus isn't all that pleasant for either of us. She usually drives and that's fine with me. Other than the knee issues and the motion sickness, she's a fine traveling companion.

I hate driving cages. There are two too many wheels and the damn things give me an unpleasant feeling of instability and cumbersome awkwardness that is mind-numbing and a little scary. For three to four months every winter, I'm stuck in my Ford Escort wagon wishing bus service was even close to practical where I live. No, having a "better car" wouldn't help. I've driven Beemers, Porsches, stockcars, dune-buggies (my favorite cage), and a collection of staid Eurotrash luxury sedans and unpronounceable Italian "sports" cages and they all leave me bored. Convertibles are almost tolerable. If I could poke out the windshield, they'd be better. If I could legally drive a dune-buggy wearing a heated suit and helmet, I'd be about as happy in a cage as I'm likely to get. However, if I have to be in a cage I'd rather be a passenger than a driver. Being a passenger in a cage is at least productive, since I can write stuff like this as I ride along isolated from the wind, weather, and all sensations of speed and motion. If I'm going to be caged, I prefer the biggest cage I can get into: buses, trains, and such.

Floating past my favorite letter roads along WI35 was particularly frustrating. My GPS is littered with routes I would be taking along the river, if I were on a vehicle that well-tolerated dirt roads and twisty two-lanes. That kind of path is a perfect formula for agitating my wife's nausea. And her getting sick doesn't do my traveling Jones much good. I can hang upside down in a moving box while reading a technical journal without a lick of stomach instability, but if someone else gets sick near me I'm following their path like a cow heading to the barn. Barfing is something else that never happens to me on a motorcycle.

I keep hearing about "man's love affair with the automobile," while talking heads try to explain why we're pouring money into the black hole of cage manufacturing. I don't get it. What's to love about a cage? To me, that's like loving a chair or a wheelbarrow. At best, a cage is another utilitarian device that has outlived its usefulness; like horse-drawn plows or buggy whips or cell phones. We only cling to the damn things in the US because we haven't been bright enough to maintain our mass transit infrastructure. We're going to pay for that within a few years.

In San Francisco or New York, I could rent or borrow a cage on the rare occasion I need one. Where I live, the bus stops running anywhere near my home at 6PM. A decade ago my route ran till midnight, but that schedule ended after the current administration took office. I don't expect to live long enough to see real mass transit in the Cities. We're way too conservative and oblivious to reality to put rail or any other alternative on the burner until the last pump drips its final drop of gas. Then, in true conservative fashion, we'll shriek "the sky is falling" and it will.

We made the Wisconsin-and-back trip safely. She didn't get sick. I didn't throw a boredom-inspired tantrum. That's as good as cage traveling gets for us.

The next day I mounted up and headed back to Wisconsin. Almost immediately, I got stuck behind a gaggle of doddering cheese-burners on WI35, but at the first county road (which happened to be gravel), I split off and got back on my pace. Within a couple of hours, I had almost forgotten the torture of being trapped and strapped behind a windshield, listening to poorly selected radio music or talking head babble. On a real vehicle of transportation (physical and mental), I was swinging through the countryside with my own music in my head, pacing my own rhythms, thinking my own thoughts, enjoying the ride and the place. I hate cages and love motorcycling.

Aug 18, 2011

My Application

So, here's my application, Motorex.
I am a 63-year-old experienced motorcyclists with arthritic hips, worn out knees, and a little extra padding around the middle. In almost 20 years of racing (my last race was almost 30 years ago), I never managed to win a single trophy. Some stupid ribbons, an occasional trophy tire or set of goggles, but no trophies. In fact, the only trophy I've ever earned was a "Spud Award" from a past California employer for being an "unidentified flying object" when I crashed a mountain bike and busted a clavicle and a couple ribs. The only trophy girl I ever got to kiss has been my wife.I'm not complaining.
While I am old, I am also a little slow around the track. About 30 years ago, I crashed and broke all of the ribs on my left side. Since then, I've been a little shy about catching air. I can do it, I just don't like it much. [See left: You may have to blow up the picture a ways to see the actual air under the bike. I've been told a brand new US dime could be slid under that POS Honda while it was airborne. This may seem like sour grapes, but I was trying to minimize the impact because the Honda was falling apart in several directions as I rode it around the track. I have launched my new WR250X a lot further into the air, but nobody has bothered to get a picture of that because they don't want to embarrass Yamaha.]

It's not that I wouldn't like to be fast. I would. Maybe if I had the right oil in my motorcycles I'd be faster. The only way to find out is for you to sponsor me and we'll hit the track together. Me and you and our race bike. What do you say?

I'm not only old, I'm a little lazy. So, I'm assuming your sponsorship comes with a mechanic and a driver and a trailer with sleeping quarters (for me, the employees can find their own accomodations). I'm not broke, though. I am assuming I'll be responsible for my own food expenses. I think that's only reasonable.

Aug 17, 2011

Pure Kid's Bike

For those of you with money to burn:
Date: 2011-08-12, 3:42PM CDT

Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]
i have a 1992 kitana bike for sale with no title not sure were it is bike do run cluctch is out bike have been droped farins is off bike but i still have them all this here not sure how much i want but shoot me a number thanks 763..291...7073 greg

[Thanks for the warning, Paul.]

Aug 8, 2011

What A License Means

Last night, I was in a non-motorcycle related meeting with three other middle aged guys and after the meeting broke up we all ended up congregated around my motorcycle, the WR250X. All three of the meeting participants had motorcycle licenses and used to be motorcyclists. Two of them still owned non-functional motorcycles. This would be an example of the "180,000 Minnesota motorcyclists" often cited in pro-motorcycling propaganda.

All three of those guys are competent, intelligent men who would probably be decent riders if they rode. However, they make a solid case for changing the idiotic state of national motorcycle licensing. Nothing about having passed a remedial riding test 5 to 50 years ago says anything about a rider's current capability. That's true for any driving license, but considering our outrageous mortality and morbidity rates it's particularly true for motorcyclists.

The subject of motorcycle technology was the reason for the little post-meeting parking lot gathering. All four of us had a stake in our opinions. The oldest guy was an English ex-pat retired physician with a nationalist penchant for all things Brit, especially mechanical things. When I described the WR's fuel injection, he eulogized the "great British carburetors" and their superiority over all things Japanese. Having experienced the wonders of SU (MGA & MGBs), AMAL and Villers (Triumph & BSA & other assorted marginally functional Brit bikes), I'm less than convinced that the Brits can build anything that can hold fluids of any viscosity. The other two guys weren't particularly ethnocentric, but they are of the "old bikes are best," anti-electronics crowd. I am, obviously, all for as much modern tech as I can get my hands on, afford-ably.

I also ride my motorcycles (except the Sherpa which is just not interesting after the WR). At the end of the shade-tree mechanics' meeting, I realized that possessing a motorcycle license is as much an indicator of motorcycle-capability as having health insurance protects me from bankruptcy if a life-threatening disease were to strike. None of these guys would try to pass himself off as an expert motorcyclist, but they would all feel confident in their ability to ride a motorcycle because they all possessed a license that gave them the legal right to ride. If motorcycling were in some what like driving a car, that might not be catastrophic. But motorcycling provides at least 100-times the opportunities for disaster as driving a car. Our licensing system is dumb and needs to be reworked.

Decisions, Decsions

This weekend, my wife decided she wanted to take a short motorcycle trip. Short it was, but it was also informative. We have a moderate armada of vehicles, for two people; two cars and three motorcycles. Since the 250 has been stripped down for one-man (me) touring, the only option of the day was the V-Strom.

It had been a while since I'd fired up the 650, the WR250 had become my vehicle of choice since early April. The little bike is, simply, more fun. It is also dramatically easier to get out of the garage, especially when the garage is stuffed with cars and household crap (see previous post). It's just a no-brainer, especially when my arthritic hips are acting up. Wrestling the V-Strom out of the garage reminded me why I don't ride it much. Loaded with gear, the V-Strom weighs almost as much as two WR250's. The V-Strom is twice as wide, a few inches longer, and the overall feel is "large."

When I used my WR250X in an MSF "Experienced Rider Course" a few weeks ago, my co-coach kept referring to my bike as "Tom's bicycle." Like most of the students in that class, he rides a large liter-bike and, relatively, my motorcycle is a bicycle in comparison. My top speed is about 90mph. His is about 140. His bike is twice mine in every category except engine displacement where it is 4x my engine's size and his engine cranks out that much more power, too. The  students were all on hippobikes, so their motorcycles were even more dramatically different, although not as dramatically different top speed and horsepower-wise.

So far this season, I've put about 3,000 miles on the WR and less than 300 miles on the V-Strom. My brother checked out the V-Strom, again, for a trip to Canada so the bikes' total annual mileage is a little more similar than my actual riding preference would indicate. I, in fact, always pick the 250 these days for everything I do. Unless my trip plans make a sudden change for long distance, it's possible I might end up being a one-bike guy with the 250 as the one bike.

A New Motorcycle Safety Theme

My wife made this one up after watching idiots tailgate and bumper-chase each other on the freeway yesterday, "It's not a video game, this is real life. Ride like you know the difference."

Product Review: Thor 50/50 Motocross Boot

-->All Rights Reserved © 2009 Thomas W. Day
"The ultimate motocross boot to meet the demands of professional riders." Yeah, that's what I need for touring backroads on my 250 enduro and a V-Strom 650 because I'm obviously a "professional rider." Ok, my reasoning was a little sketchy, but when I tried on a dozen or so boots at Bob's the 50/50 boots were the best of the lot.

Back in my off-road racing days I was as old school as you could get, including wearing padded denim overalls, hockey pads, and lineman's boots instead of slick nylon integrated modern gear and--more important than all of that--the best protection afforded to modern motorcycling; Heckel boots. Bultaco distributed those blue and yellow plastic spoke-killers and only the rich or sponsored could afford them, at least in my realm. I eventually managed to con a distributor into letting me test and write about a pair of Malcolm Smith labeled Hi Point boots. I still have that same pair and wear them occasionally, off-road. To this day, I envy the bulletproof protection those plastic-hinged warrior boots provided. 

When I decided to armor up for a long-range back roads trip into North Dakota, I went shopping for more protection than my spiffy Gaerne "G Class" road boots provide and more mobility than I get from my ancient motocross boots. Neither pair, to be honest, are comfortable on any kind of hike. The Gaerne boots tear up my heels and the Hi Points blister every contact point on my feet in less than a mile. Considering the places I wanted to go and the bike I planned on taking there, I needed tough boots that I could wear if I had to walk back. Leather hiking boots might have been the ticket, but I was in a rare money-spending mood.

After trying on practically everything on the store's wall, I ended up liking the Thor 50/50 boots best. The stitched-on, double density sole, ankle protection, two locking adjustable buckles, and the flexible Achilles protection were big parts of making that selection. Instant walking comfort was next in line. Two aluminum buckles per boot and you are cinched in and heavily protected; no wimpy zippers like the Gaerne's or awkward belt-hole buckles like the Hi Point's. You cannot twist your ankle in these boots, if they are laced up right.

The 250 didn't make the trip, so my back-up V-Strom did. I didn't have to walk out of anything resembling remote territory, but I did do a lot of walking on that trip. I walked all over various museums and parks in Bismarck. I hiked almost 20 miles of the Teddy Roosevelt National Park. I practically ran through the Icelandic State Park hiking trail, chased by mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds and horseflies with attitude. My feet were never tortured by the 50/50 boots on any of those trips. In fact, I think my oldest, completely broken-in hiking boots wouldn't have been an improvement.

-->[At Left: View 2 of my Thor 50/50 Boots at 10,000 miles of road and 2,000 miles off-pavement.]
 At the other end of the comfort scale, that trip put me in the middle of North Dakota's wettest ever June. I was rained on from Day 1 to the last few feet of my driveway into the garage. I could have sworn the salesperson told me the 50/50's were Goretex-lined, but if he did he was wrong. The funny looking mesh above and below the lower buckle is a water-magnet (read "sponge"). My feet were wet almost every evening and most of every day. As bad weather touring boots, the 50/50 Thor's are a wash, literally. I'd suspect this is a weakness for actual motocross use, too.

Bob's Cycle is the local distributor (Little Canada, MN) of Thor Products.

Aug 7, 2011

My Kid's Book

Ok, I'll admit this has nothing to do with motorcycles. However, I'm a father and damn proud of my kids. This is the display a friend and I found earlier this week of my daughter and son-in-law's book, Walking Twin Cities. If you live in the Cities, you owe it to yourself to check out this book. It will take you places you never knew existed, even if you've lived here your whole life.
Personally, it makes me more of a Garrison Keillor fan than I've ever been (it's his bookstore). I couldn't ask for a more prominent, nicer display of their wonderful book. I think I love this bookstore.

And now back to your regularly schedule motorcycle-related program.

Aug 6, 2011

Product Review: Aerostich A.D.1. Pants

Early this spring, I thought my 5-year-old Darien pants had been stolen from my car. There seemed to be no other explanation, since I'd recently piled all of my gear in the car when I went to pick up my newest two-wheel acquisition. It turned out that my wife had bundled the pants up, hauled them into her sewing area for a minor repair, and forgot about them.

[Picture at left: This is what a  brand new, un-abused pair of Aerostich AD1 pants looks like when modeled by the Invisible Man. (Aerostich photo)]

After searching the usual storage places a dozen times I gave up and visited my local motorcycle accessory store to buy a cheap replacement. I usually punish myself for being stupid (losing the pants, for example) by buying a crummier version of whatever I've lost. That was my theory this time, too. I looked at First Gear, Tourmaster, Icon, Alpinestars, Joe Rocket, and the rest of the usual suspects and learned that I am spoiled. The difference between the imitations and the real thing, Aerostich, is subtle but massive. For as little as $120 I could have had more pockets, a zip-out liner, an MP3 player pocket, and probably an insulated cup-holder with any of the above brands, but the zippers were lightweight, the material is flimsy, and the construction quality and workmanship is not even in the territory. So, off to Duluth we went for a "winter vacation" and a visit to the RiderWearHouse.

Looking for a deal, I found a pair of Roadcrafter pants that fit perfectly. I bought them, took them home, and discovered they were too perfect. I have a toad-like body and the Roadcrafter's attempt to make me look streamlined resulted in a fit around my thighs and calves that could be politely described as "snug." After a few hours around the house, I began to feel like Roddy McDowell in Arnold. When we found my old Darien pants, it was obvious how uncomfortable I'd be in the Roadcrafters. Taking advantage of Aerostich's money back offer, I traded the Roadcrafters for a pair of AD1 pants. (AD1 is for "Asian Darien 1," as the AD1 pants are the first US-designed, off-shore-manufactured Aerostich product.)

Like the lower priced competition, the AD1 pants are loaded with pockets (5), including a waterproof zippered "cargo pocket" and hook-and-loop secured cover flaps on all front pockets. No more lost billfold in the campground when I hang my riding pants out to dry. Unlike the competition, the HT600 denier nylon (up from the standard Darien's 500 Denier Cordura®) is tough and the oversized and durable zippers are classic Aerostich. The AD1 pants are a closer fit than my old Dariens, but the knee and crotch gusseting makes them at least as flexible right from the start.

One of the things I have always hated about most nylon motorcycle clothing is that god-awful flimsy perforated nylon inner lining that snags on boot heels and anything else with an edge and is usually torn to shreds after a few uses. The Aerostich gear is lined with smooth and durable GORE-TEX® nylon that holds up and is easy to get in and out of, regardless of the abuse I heap on it when I'm tired, hurting, and grumpy after a day's ride or a bad night's sleep. GORE-TEX® works, by the way. I have ridden in downpours in my Darien gear and the few leaks I discovered in my old Dariens are plugged in the AD1s; the gusset behind the fly being the best idea since the pocket knife.

The single most valuable improvement I can suggest for the AD1's would be double-height hook pads for the knee pad mounting. The current pad position works for some people and, according to the company's reviews page, works badly for a few of us. I realize that my troll-dimensioned body represents a one-man counterargument for Intelligent Design, but there appear to be a few of us out there based on the company's website reviews. I'm cautious about the supplied money belt, too. I've had an Eagle Creek (from REI) money belt that uses the same nylon buckle and it has been fragile, to put it mildly. The Darien belt's side-release buckle has been bulletproof for 60k miles and if it ain't broke, I say "keep it."

Many things farmed to Asia are well-designed but suffer workmanship flaws. My AD1 pants were no exception. The fly zipper began to disintegrate at the bottom because the stitch missed the zipper tape. Not something that would pass any part of the Made in USA Aerostich process, but something Aerostich will have to inspect for with the Asian product. Aerostich repaired the broken zipper for free and got the pants back to me in record time.

After three months of cold weather riding, a long hot summer, and two options for riding pants, I found myself almost always opting for the AD1's. The pocket security is a big deal; having lost keys, a billfold, earplugs, a retirement plan worth of spare change, receipts, and a sense of personal security to the slippery front and rear pockets of my old Darien pants. The crotch and knee gusseting makes the stretch on to my bikes easier. I haven't used the extra pockets much, but it's nice to have them. The AD1's are somehow more comfortable than my well-broken-in Darien pants that were specially tailored to my troll dimensions. It could be that familiarity is simply breeding contempt, but I'm feeling the beginning of a new long-term relationship.

Aug 5, 2011

All the News that Didn't Fit

Two Motorcyclists Down in Mankato
At approximately 11AM on July 20th, a 17-year-old delivery driver for Arctic Ice, a Mankato packaged ice delivery service, crossed the center line on Highway 14 outside of North Mankato and killed two west-bound motorcyclists, Lars A. Albrecht, 49, of Rio Rancho, New Mexico, and Robert N. Austin, 61, of Canby, Oregon. A car driver and his son were also injured by the out-of-control truck. The driver of the truck was slightly injured. The Minnesota state patrol said the teenager fell asleep at the wheel and allowed the company-owned Dodge pickup to drift into the opposite traffic lane.

Albrecht was pronounced dead at the scene and Austin was flown to St. Mary's in Rochester where he died of injuries. The truck driver's name has not been released because he is underage. Both motorcyclists were wearing helmets.

Motorcycle Hitchhiker
A Victorville, CA motorist discovered a semi-conscious motorcyclist in his backseat as a result of a rear end collision. After a motorcycle slid into the back of a turning minivan, the van driver continued a short distance to his home to call the police before returning to the scene of the crash. Meanwhile, police had arrived at the scene, found a damaged motorcycle, but no victim. The motorcyclist had crashed through the van's rear window and ended up dazed and confused in the van's rear passenger seat. Other than asking for an ice pack for an injured hand, the motorcyclist was, apparently, uninjured. Police said his helmet "sustained most of the impact," No charges were filed and the crash was listed as a "non-injury collision with a twist," according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's office.

American V-Twin Dealer Show
First they have segregated racing events, with each boutique manufacturer lumbering around a track tailed by a dozen identical motorcycles. Now, they want to have their own dealer show without the hassle of those nasty current technology manufacturers messing up the lines of giant chrome cruisers. So, Advanstar Communications is accommodating the "premium" v-twin brands with "The American V-Twin Dealer Show" at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis February 17-19, 2012.The event is designed to be "a haven for Independent Specialty V-Twin Dealers, Harley-Davidson Dealers, Custom Bike Builders/Designers and Multi-Franchise Dealerships with large cruiser lines." No motorcycles with any connection to 21st Century technology will be allowed.

Airbag Jackets and Vests
An US company, SaferMoto, is marketing a line of "airbag-equipped jackets and vests for all ages" that can "deploy in less than a quarter of a second. A tether cord connects the vest or jacket to the motorcycle, and inflation from a compact replaceable CO2 cartridge is triggered instantly when the rider falls." Airbag gear is used by the Tokyo Police Department, is marketed in more than 30 countries, and has been credited with saving lives and limbs by all sorts of riders. The company makes airbag gear for equestrians, too.

Suzuki Evacuates the Beach
Suzuki Motor Corporation announced that it would move the motorcycle business from Iwata City to north central Hamamatsu to consolidate operations and to be further from the Japanese sea shore. The new facility, tentatively called the "Miyakoda Technical Center," will be the hub for motorcycle and next-gen alternative energy vehicles engineering and research. The Miyakoda Plant will assemble motorcycle engines and should be in production by 2017. The current facility is only 200 meters from the ocean and Suzuki hopes to avoid catastrophe from the next Tokai earthquake.

Honda vs. India
In March, Honda dissolved its arrangement with Hero Motors, selling the 26% share and severed dealer and distribution arrangements with the Indian manufacturer. While it appeared that Honda was abandoning the massive and Indian two-wheel market (11.79 million units sold in 2010), the company's actual plan is to take on that market directly. Honda opened a new plant in June and will be adding a third manufacturing facility with the intent to increase Indian manufacturing capacity 2.5 times to 4 million units by 2015. The company expects to double its dealerships in 4-5 years, also. Currently, Honda owns a 10% Indian market-share. Hero Motors sold 5.26 million domestic units in 2010 (India, alone) and control 44.7% of that market. In 2014, Honda Hero dealers will have to decide to sell Honda or Hero and both companies are pressuring dealers to make the decision soon. Hero has gone on an engineering raid of the local Yamaha organization and rival Bajaj Auto and has more than four times (approximately 4,000 dealers) Honda's sales outlets.100-110cc commuter bikes, selling for approximately $900, are the volume product in the Indian market Honda is releasing several models in this size and price range.

If you've ever considered the possibility that the US might not be the motorcycling center of the universe, these numbers should shed some light on that discussion. In 2010, all domestic and importing manufacturers sold about 664,000 units in the US, with about half of the sales going to the 250cc-and-above category. The US manufacturers exported 493,464 units, 70% of which were over 250cc's and half of our export production went to Europe.

Triumph vs. India?
In a related story, Hinckley, Leicestershire, UK's Triumph Motorcycles (sometimes regarded as the "fastest growing motorcycle company in the world") appointed a "Managing Director for India" and issued a PR statement saying, “India is a very important motorcycle market and Triumph has assessed it carefully before deciding to step in. We see it as the next step in our global business model. The appointment of Ashish Joshi is a signal of our seriousness about success in India. I wish him the best and look forward to comprehensive growth from the Indian market.” [Wonder how a 100-110cc market will react to Triumph's 2,300cc Rocket III? Triumph's smallest bike is the Daytona 675.]

Land of the Brave and Free?
French drivers and motorcyclists banned together on June 18th to stage a protest against their government's draconian attacks on drivers and riders. Across the country, 75,000 motorcyclists staged a ride-in under the guidance of the French Federation of Angry Bikers. In Paris alone, 15,000 participated in the protest. Local police assisted in directing traffic and managing the protest riders' safety. Two of the prime considerations for protest were the banning of lane splitting and filtering and speed trap targeting of motorcycles. While in the US, we can't even manage to get a noticeable showing of motorcycles on the road for Ride to Work Day. [Almost makes you proud to eat French Fries, doesn't it?]