Dec 29, 2012

A Perishable Skill

The focus of this video is unrelated to motorcycling, but the concept of continuous training and practice is directly related. At the end, one of the police trainers describes the ability to use a weapon in a high-hazard situation as "a perishable skill," one that dissipates quickly with disuse.

Lots of people imagine that driving or riding a bicycle or motorcycle is the kind of skill that sticks with you indefinitely, once you've "mastered" it. One of the side-benefits of being a motorcycle safety trainer is gaining the absolute knowledge that physical/mental skills are perishable.

Dec 24, 2012

Nasty Blast from the Past

One of the guys from the V-Strom list sent this out as a reminder of the "good old days." I was the guy with the soccer armor and padded coveralls, usually riding a slightly obsolete Rickman or Suzuki motocrosser. I never thought I was "dynamite," but I definitely had more fun than that pack of sparkly caballeros in Xmas colors.

The story about this company is, "This ad was obviously a big flop for Wheels of Man m/c clothing company (which was actually a subsidiary of the Parker Pen Company).  In the pre-internet and computer days, unprecedented scores of readers called and wrote letters promising to cancel subscriptions. The subsequent editions of m/c mags carrying these ads quickly distanced themselves from Wheels of Man clothing, promising to never carry such demeaning advertisements again.  Apparently, the Wheels of Man clothing company made a bad impression on its target audience and no one bought their gear and they went by way of the Dodo bird." (Gary)

It would have been fun to be on the set of that ad shoot, just to listen to the marketing morons babble about the "effect" their work would have on motocrossers. (I do like the girl's outfit, though.) The rest of the boys look like holdovers from a Styx concert.

Dec 13, 2012

Does This Fall Make My Butt Look Stupid?

No comment necessary here:

Crossing Obstacles

Every season, we talk about technique for crossing obstacles and every year I get to listen to some rube explain how pointless this exercise is. I bet this Mexican Presidential guard wishes he'd practiced. This is just one more demonstration of the inadequacies of cruiser design.

Dec 11, 2012

Winter Crazies

A friend,, has been committing to three wheels (Ural) for most of his winter commuting. I get the desire to stay out of cages, regardless of weather. I'm not sure I'm man enough for the "competition" on Minnesota streets for the first few weeks of real winter.

"Minnesota Nice" has been contaminated by a small number of drivers who believe their lack of planning and skill should be a problem shared by all. On my way to work yesterday, a douchebag in a Nissan sports-mobile of some sort decided to slow to a near stop in the far left, fast, lane of I35E southbound (right at the exit for I94 eastbound), make a 90 degree turn in front of on-coming traffic across two lanes, stop in the snow packed median and wait for his opportunity to dive into fast moving traffic to get to one of the far right lanes heading in the opposite direction (I94 westbound), I don't miss a lot about California, but I do miss living where this moron would have been shot dead by at least a dozen passing motorists for making half of that many arrogant, stupid, incompetent moves on any southern California freeway. As usual, the MNHPD cruiser behind me ignored this idiot on his way to the donut shop. Actually, Minnesota cops are among the worst and most arrogant drivers in the state, so he probably thought that was a perfectly normal maneuver.

On the way home, stupidly on Rice Street (thinking that I could avoid some of the high speed foolishness from the freeway), a Green Taxi driver had slid across the road into opposite traffic, coming to a stop against the curb and facing the wrong way into traffic. Without a thought in his head, he dove right back into traffic, the wrong way and without enough traction to get out of anyone's way. He caused traffic to backup for a couple of blocks in both directions while he spun his wheels and wobbled back into his intended lane. Again, where are the road rage shooters when you really need them?

Nearing the top of a hill just south of Hwy 36, three cars were stuck on the hill after stopping for traffic. All three were violently yanking their steering wheels left and right while hammering the gas in a Hollywood demonstration of how to really get stuck on ice. Fortunately, they had completely anchored themselves to their places on the road, so getting around them on the right was no problem. All-wheel and front wheel drive is useless with an idiot behind the wheel.

Of course, the usual culprits in big wheel pickups were demonstrating their aggression and incompetence by blasting through traffic on either side, sliding into corners and nearly taking out stopped traffic "in their way." Apparently, the first requirement for purchasing a large pickup is that you have no need for a pickup and no driving skill with an associated unawareness of that incapacity.

When I lived in Denver, the rule was "avoid the freeway until the first couple of ice storms or blizzards kills off all the Californians and Texans." Appears to be true in Minnesota, too.

Dec 10, 2012

US Camping Data

A few years back, I had a great time camping and riding across as much of North Dakota as I found interesting. Three weeks and about 2,500 miles and I could have spent another week on the eastern edge without getting bored. I'm fooling around with another summer tour for 2013 and it would be hard not to put North Dakota on the route sheet on the way to Alaska. Two things jam up those plans: 1) for the next couple of years, North Dakota is going to play the oil boom game and the cost of staying anywhere between Bismark and the western edge of the state is out-of-sight and 2) after my experience in Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth tap water smells like a weird combination of sulfur and carpet cleaning chemicals), I'd like to avoid any more consumption of fracking contaminated water than absolutely necessary.

It turns out that avoiding that mess isn't as difficult as it might have been. Since the EPA is pretending to monitor underground water contamination (and they are doing little more than pretending), they have created a few maps marking off the territory where this practice is . . . popular. It sucks that one of my favorite national parks, Teddy Roosevelt National, has been contaminated by this shortsighted corporate welfare practice, but it is what it is.

Canada, on the other hand, is a problem. A lot of my favorite places are in the gun sights of the oil companies. My favorite part of the trip, the Top of the World boarder crossing puts me right in the path of this ecological mess. I guess all that long-term water contamination explains why east coast water is so nasty, too.

I suppose the upside is that petrochemically contaminated surface water will be as hard on mosquitoes as it is on me. Maybe taking a shower in the stuff will work like "Alaska aftershave."

Dec 9, 2012

Biker Social Network?

You gotta love the ads that pop up on a Google blog site. Today's laugh is, "A Social Network for Bikers" Please, follow that link for me and let me know what kinda crap I'm selling this week. 'Cause if you know me you know I'm all about social networking. Especially social networking that ends with an exclamation mark! (Like that one.) I snagged a screenshot of the sort of "networking" this fine organization promotes and (surprise!) the networkers appear to be a collection of geezers, bimbos, Village People, pirates, cowboys, hookers, and one Santa Claus impersonator.

This week I planned on being a little social. A bunch of old guys hang out together for breakfast on Saturdays and I really enjoyed their company a few weeks back. Between then and yesterday I enjoyed the company of a collection of doctors and nurses and got a new piece of stainless steel in my chest for their efforts and my discomfort. It sucks not being able to show off hardware that is that expensive, but there you go. But, life jumped in and tangled up my weekend. Maybe I'll be social next weekend.

Anyway, just for laughs and because we have 6" of snow in the driveway and rising, I clicked on a couple of the characters pictures for their whateveryoucallit. Guess who is who? (No, I am not making this shit up.)

LizaJ...**Mauibuilt** it's da kine** 
Female, 90 years old, and single. Birthday is September 18, 1922. Owns a 2009 Harley-Davidson® Softail® Deluxe FLSTN and 1 other bike. Interested in males. Looking for riding partners or friends. Religious view is Pele goddess of the volcano...look out she's gonna BLOW ;). Drinks socially. Lives in Seattle WA and Kihei Maui, Hawai

Male, 55 years old, and in a relationship. Birthday is June 28, 1957. Owns and rides a motorcycle. Interested in females. Looking for riding partners or friends. Drinks socially. Lives in Burlington, Kentucky United States. Member since December 2008.

Fast Rat 
Male, and single. Backseat available. Owns and rides a motorcycle. Interested in females. Looking for friends, riding partners, or a relationship. Religious view is I am my own Pope. Drinks socially. Libertarian political views. Lives in Madison, New Jersey

Dec 4, 2012

Book Review: The Harley in the Barn

The whole book name is The Harley in the Barn: More Great Tales of Motorcycle Archaeology. I'm not sure how this book arrived in the mail, but I suspect it wasn't aimed at me. If it was, "they don't know me very well, do they?"

I've been struggling through this tome for a couple of months. In the meantime, I've read everything written by Dan Ariely, P.M. Forni, and a couple dozen entertaining fiction and non-fiction books. I just can't find a way to care about $5,000-$50,000 "barn find" Harleys, Vincents, BSAs, and Indians.

Unlike Will Rogers, I've never met a rich guy I could like and all of these people have way more money than sense. The foreword by the Dobbie Brother's Pat Simmons didn't get me off to much of a start, either. About the only thing that pisses me off more than rich rock and roll musicians is rich athletes or inherited wealth. If you want to point the finger at where a culture begins to decline, you can't beat overpriced pop culture and idle wealth for a starting point.

I gotta give this thing away before it does serious cardiac damage.

Nov 29, 2012

Book Review: The Carin' Sharin' Chronicles

The Carin' Sharin' Chronicles

by Dave Gurman, 2008

All Rights Reserved © 2012 Thomas W. Day

All of this book's essays were written for the British motorcycle magazine, The Rider's Digest, between the years 2000 and 2002. Dave Gurman is the current editor of that now-exclusively-on-line "magazine" and is a regular contributor to its virtual pages. The poofy title is from Dave's post-bike-courier career (social worker) and an Alexei Sayle comedy routine, which is obscure and British and typical of a lot of this book. If the title led you to believe this is the story of a touchy-feely biker in a hard-assed world, you'll be surprised and disappointed or both. Dave is, however, a nice guy and a few of these stories expose the savage underbelly of a chronically decent person trying to make his way on a less-than-civilized planet.

The language barrier is an obstacle. English is not as shared a language as I expected. For one, they have an allergy to the letter "z." I've had some Brit and Aussie friends and have been exposed to many of the odd words they use to describe ordinary objects and activities, but Gurman is more British than my past experience. In a single sentence, he can use so many unfamiliar words that I am forced to spend more time on Google figuring out what he's said as I do reading the pages of the book. "Totting-up,"  "despatch," "gonadotrophin" (it's probably what you think it is), "Cinquecento," "Vitara," "breaker," and a host of other words I either don't know or don't know used in his context baffled me in "Fatal Attraction," but I still laughed throughout that story. Even Dave's use of the word "football" is confusing. What does David Beckham have to do with football? I thought he was an underwear model or a men's perfume salesman. Come to think of it, I don't understand half of the dialog in a Monty Python skit, but they have always made me laugh.

Carin' Sharin' is a collection of essays, stories, opinion pieces, and what are, essentially, rants from a fellow old guy. A "geezer," in fact. You might expect me to be particularly favorably disposed toward such a man and his words and . . . you'd be right. Dave is a humorous, clever, insightful, sympathetic author and those characteristics shine through in every page of Carin' Sharin'. He might be a too liberal for many modern US pseudo-conservative tastes. If a moderate view of economics, sociology, and humanity is going to upset your tightly-held beliefs, you will be bothered by more than a few of Dave's insights.

Simon Kewer's excellent cartoons might be even more upsetting, since they are rarely politically correct and can even be seen as sexist (gasp!) in the same way Monty Python's routines often disrupted the delicate American sensibilities.

With all that behind us, it's important to remember this is a motorcyclist's book about, mostly, motorcycling. For example, in "You Can Take the M Road . . . ", Dave wraps up the reason motorcyclists search out twists and turns and he describes what kind of people travel by freeway. "The Romans thought they were real clever bastards, what with their baths and straight roads that go on forever; but what good are either of them to a biker? The Welsh have got it better sussed. The looked at the mountains and said, sod knocking that lot down, let's follow the rivers and chip a bit off the edge." In our bums' rush to make the country safe for what will turn out to be the dumbest, most suicidal distribution system in human history, long-haul trucking, we are in the process of paving and straightening every interesting road in the county and doing our bit to leave behind ruins as idiotic as those Roman roads. I will never again ride down a boring highway without thinking of those "real clever bastards" who leveled an interesting countryside in the interests of NAFTA and general stupidity. Dave offers some of the best advice for taking the long, interesting route as opposed to the "time-saving" quick and boring path. "Where do you keep the time you've saved? And when do you get to use it?" Now I feel better about rarely being able to make it to Duluth in less than 250 miles.

A documentary of a few years back provided me with the unpleasant realization that there were people in England's national government who cared more deeply about democracy than in the shambles that remains of Washington D.C. It is equally disquieting to discover that a British motorcycle magazine (Rider's Digest, where all of these essays were originally published) is the place to go to a motorcyclist who is concerned with the future of motorcycling, unimpressed with but sometimes entertained by the hooligan character catered to in modern motorcycle marketing, aware of and inspired by the risk attached to an activity like motorcycling, capable of grasping the value to society provided by risk-takers and adventurers, and philosophical enough to look at motorcyclists as a diverse, entertaining, slightly-insane, sometimes brilliant speck of a broader, more conservative, barely-conscious, mass-marketed culture. Dave may have had the best insight into the reaction we should have had in the US after September 11, 2001, as he put his two cents in with "Terrorvision."

One of Dave's cultural references, Alexei Sayles, summed up a good bit of the message from the Carin' Sharin' Chronicles, "I don't want to be sold a lifestyle. I want to devise my own." Dave wrote, "A biker is someone who rides through choice. Not because it's the most comfortable way to transport a body, but because it can be the most magical way to carry a soul." Dave Gurman has definitely made a good shot at creating an individual lifestyle and he has described it beautifully in this collection of essays; and the boy has soul.

Nov 27, 2012

Déjà vu, All over Again

I wrote that last rant for Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly a while back. It sat on the shelf until I decided to pull it off and put it on my blog. I liked it, but my editor did not. Today, looking back at what I wrote, I'm even more convinced that I should have taken better care of myself.

A few weeks ago, I did . . . something to myself. I didn't notice it at the time, probably because I was having fun or too pissed off to notice little stuff like a bit of chest pain. Afterwards, I had a little chest pain, front and back, that felt a lot like my usual winter edition of bronchitis and an odd irritation on the right side of my neck during almost any level of exertion. I'm pretty much a preventative maintenance guy, when it comes to machines, my house, my occupation, or my relationships but when it comes to taking care of myself I tend to ignore the big, little, and medium-sized stuff. I am, after all, a guy and I have a perfect right to expect infinite durability and longevity (right up to whatever my expiration date might be).

After the usual Thanksgiving gorging and an afternoon hauling firewood from the storage stack to the house stack, that irritating ache in my neck was more insistent than I'd noticed in the past. Maybe the fact that I was working my way through a book on paying attention, The Thinking Life by P.M. Forni, allowed me to pay a little more attention to myself. For whatever triggered a moment of intelligence, I should be grateful.

I called the nurse hotline provided by my health insurance company. The nurse listened a bit and suggested, "Call 911 and get yourself to an emergency room."

Not wanting to make a complete overhaul of my lifestyle, I thanked her for her concern and decided to visit my regular clinic the next day. I got through night fine and wandered into the clinic about 9:30AM. The doctor on staff dialed 911 and put me in an EMT truck to an emergency room. Three days later, I'm sporting a jiffy new cardiac stent propping open my right coronary artery and I'm only a little worse for the wear.

One of the docs in the OR offered me a deal. "If you get away with out having anything wrong, you win. If you don't, I get to smack you." He won, but decided against smacking me. After all, I'm old and at least a little senile.

The moral I have taken away from this weekend is "The longer you can ignore stuff the less hassle it will be." Since it's too late for me to start taking care of myself, I'm going to concentrate on enjoying the shit out of however many days  have left and "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." The lesson I received from my father and father-in-law's last decade of life was "I need a faster motorcycle." Nothing I've learned in the last few days contradicts that value system.

Nov 25, 2012

If I Knew I Was Gonna Live This Long

All Rights Reserved © 2010 Thomas W. Day
One of my favorite R&R guys, Al Kooper, wrote an autobiography titled Backstage Passes and Backstabbing Bastards. For most of my life, I thought he'd planned to call the book "If I Knew I Was Gonna Live This Long, I'd Have Taken Better Care of Myself." Turned out, I was wrong. Mr. Kooper personally made that clear to me. He firmly claims he never said that. It turns out that an even bigger hero of mine, Will Rogers, made that statement. Even better.
Earlier this year, I had an article published in a music magazine and a friend used that as an excuse to reconnect. He was a little surprised that I was still doing stuff in music because the last time we talked I told him I was "retired." To me, being retired means I don't do stuff I don't like to do and I don't work 80-hour weeks. He has always been smart enough to avoid doing work he doesn't like and he still likes putting in long days. I did too, when I was 50. At sixty-something . . . not so much.
For some people, sixty feels a lot like fifty or even forty. I keep hearing "sixty is the new forty." For most of us, sixty is definitely sixty . . . and old. Exercise and diet help, but some of the most careful, conditioned people I have known have come apart and, even, died in what really was middle-age. Some of the least-cared-for folks I've ever known seemed to get a second wind at sixty and took off for a decade or two of high activity. Luck, as always, seems to have a hand in how we age. I've had more than my share of luck. Since I never expected to live past 30, living twice that long is freakin' amazing.
For those of us who have the "jock tendency," our past life catches up about this time. Every bone I've broken, every tendon I've ripped, and every muscle I've carelessly abused has its say when I get out of bed in the morning. My back--that poorly designed collection of soft tissue, hard tissue, harder tissue, and fluid--is so screwed up that I suspect I'm growing Stegosaurus plates just above my hips. I'm not flexible enough to inspect any part of my back, so if the plates are there I'm just going to ignore them until I discover I can't lie flat on my back. Some nights, getting into a comfortable sleeping position seems to take all night. My doc calls all this "the payback for years of use and abuse." Screw him.
So, while we discussed my ancient history, my recently-reconnected friend asked "Would you do it all over again, knowing you'd wear out this soon?" I don't know if I'd call myself "worn out," but I'm definitely worn down.
I was never a good jock, just an energetic one. I played football, basketball, baseball, racquetball, tennis, wrestled, bicycled, and did some martial arts. I rode a whole bunch of off-road motorcycles, from flat track to motocross to observed trials (chronologically). Pretty much every one of those activities cost me an injury or ten. I loved flailing away at all of those sports, especially basketball and cross-country motorcycle racing. I've always been short, slow, unable to jump over a brand new dime, and beginning in my mid-40's I spent a good portion of my time hopelessly trying to avoid being fat. But I've also been fairly strong with good endurance, I have a high threshold of pain, and a pretty good grasp of strategy. So, I suck; but not badly enough that I don't get to play.
That's all that matters. Getting to play.
So, would I do all the crazy crap I did, knowing that I'd be paying this aching price today? Yeah, I would still do most everything again. Don't get me wrong, if I could avoid repeating the really stupid stuff, I'd do it. But if the only way to avoid injury is not to play, I'd play. If the only way to avoid being a creaky old man was to be a careful young man, damn the torpedoes and let's jump into the fire mixing metaphors all the way.
I had some fun out there. I can remember the feel of the wind and dirt in my face from a thousand reasonably well-executed corners and jumps. I remember passes and getting passed and those moments still give me pleasure. I can close my eyes and feel the bike vibrating beneath me and all the motorcycles around me shaking the gate (or the stretched tire tube), waiting for it to drop (or snap) and the start of a race. I hope I will always wish I'd have played more, not less. I wish I'd have invested more money in a competitive bike and practiced more, been faster, taken more chances, started earlier. More memories would be better now than the minor advantage of a little less pain.
In fact, I am still planning a few adventures that could easily add to my pain locker's contents. If I can figure out how to get around the disadvantage of only speaking English, I want to ride the Pan American Highway. Compensating for the English-only disadvantage, I'd like to explore North Africa's Roman ruins. New Zealand, Australia, and Europe are on the list, too. I want to go back to Alaska and, this time, make it to Deadhorse. I still have a few Rocky Mountain ghost towns left to visit. If you have advice or suggestions on hitting any of those targets, I'm all eyes and ears. As every geezer knows, the only resource that is absolutely limited is time. Do it now, or risk never doing it. Life is shorter and sweeter than you think.

Nov 23, 2012

Book Review: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values

[One more book review that attracted little-to-no interest from my MMM editors.]

by Robert Pirsig, 1974

All Rights Reserved © 2012 Thomas W. Day

In 2014, Zen (or ZAMM) will celebrate its 40th year in publication. It is one of the best read books in history. Google returns 2 million hits for a search on the book's title. There are dozens of guidebooks for readers: study guides for high school and college students, anniversary editions with introductions and explanations, primers for the less-than-literate, me-too copies, and lots of philosophical analysis. For a book so often despised by academics, ZAMM has inspired an incredible amount of examination and deconstruction.

I have owned a copy of this book since the first year it was published (1974). I have reviewed more than 100 books, several hundred music CDs, and written hundreds of thousands words since I first stumbled upon Zen and, before now, I have never found the confidence or arrogance to write about one of the books that shaped my life. Recently, I found a digital copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and was amazed to realize that a popular book published in my lifetime has gone into the public domain. I am probably on my 20th copy of the paperback version of this book, having loaned and lost each of the previous copies I've owned. At the minimum, I've read ZAMM twenty times. For almost forty years, every time I have backpacked into the wilderness or travelled by motorcycle for more than a couple days I have brought a copy of ZAMM for those quiet moments that are the reason I venture into unfamiliar and isolated places. Of the few good things I know, Robert Pirsig and Colin Fletcher (The Complete Walker and many other wonderful foot traveling stories) and John Muir (Keep Your Volkswagen Alive; A Manual of Step-By-Step Procedures for the Compleat Idiot) are responsible for at least 50% of my life's accumulated knowledge.

When someone I respect a lot told me he'd tried and failed to read ZAMM to the end, multiple times, I restarted the self-evaluation experience that always accompanies my exposure to Robert Pirsig's insights; just to see what might make this book difficult to read. When I discovered that all but one novel, Catch 22, from the collection one of the greatest authors of the 20th Century, Joseph Heller, had been purged from my local library system, I felt compelled to write about ZAMM to slow Pirsig's disappearance into the flotsam and jetsam of our trivialized and drug-and-attention-disordered Facebook and Twitter'd world.

When my father discovered my teenage interest in mechanical and electrical concepts, he told me, "Anything you can do for yourself, someone else can do better." When I was a young man, in his "Chautauqua" Pirsig told me, "A motorcycle functions entirely in accordance with the laws of reason, and a study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a miniature study of the art of rationality itself." Pirsig's description of the mechanics who botched his bike repair illustrated a world I wanted to avoid, "At 5 P.M. or whenever their eight hours were in, you knew they would cut it off and not have another thought about their work. They were already trying not to have any thoughts about their work on the job. . . They were involved in it (technology and their work) but not in such a way as to care." I knew that the only person who would care about the things I wanted fixed or built was me. Pirsig convinced me that I could learn to do the work.

I grew up in a very religious family and community where "rationality" was avoided whenever possible. I was the family black sheep, green monkey, or whatever label you use to identify and whack the prominent nail. I desperately sought rationality and ZAMM is packed with it from the first to the last page. The confluence of technology, logic, and reason, and the possibility of a career nestled between those concepts was revolutionary. It still is.

Surrounding the practical aspects of ZAMM, Pirsig pursues the concept of "quality." All of us are involved in this search, but many of us are distracted by the sparkly lights advertising uses to convince us that quality is something we can purchase. ZAMM flies against the whole "lifestyle" theory of product marketing. One reason the counter-culture so readily accepted ZAMM is that Pirsig validates the philosophy of questioning authority. From a traditionalist's perspective, Persig's dissection of romantic and rhetoric philosophies was a cold-blooded evaluation of the gaping holes in emotionalism and formal argument. More than a few academics, who live and thrive on emotionalism and rhetoric, fought back from the ramparts of their gloomy institutions while five million of us took refuge in the streets armed with a new way to look for Quality in our lives.

From a hopeful writer's perspective, ZAMM is inspirational. Rejected by a record 121 publishers and selling 5 million copies worldwide, ZAMM is a beacon of hope for authors of all stripes, even though few of us can hope to approach Pirsig's brilliant combination of formal and contemporary style and content. From a life-long student's perspective, Pirsig taught me that in a world full of irrational people, insane cultural garbage, and what seems like universal foolishness, there can be small outposts of rationality and calm. You just have to find them; or make them for yourself. Maybe this is just another version of Dylan Thomas' "Rage, rage against the dying of the light," but ZAMM makes the effort seems more like an attempt to build something than just a rant about death. Pirsig told me, "Trials never end, of course. Unhappiness and misfortune are bound to occur as long as people live, but there is a feeling now, that was not here before, and is not just on the surface of things, but penetrates all the way through: We’ve won it. It’s going to get better now. You can sort of tell these things." I needed to read the book through to that point, multiple times in my life. I did it again, this spring, and I believe it is going to get better now. As it always does.

Nov 19, 2012

Loud Pipes and Perfect Pitch

In a world full of cruelty and misery, this has to be pretty close to the cruelest, most miserable sound on earth: the unearthly blend of potato-potato and the screech of bagpipes.

It does, however, remind me of my favorite musician joke. Do you know the definition of "perfect pitich?" It's when you throw a banjo into a dumpster and it skewers a bagpipe.

Nov 11, 2012

Motorcycles for Everyone, Especially Me

The dirt bike was my favorite "bike." My favorite line was regarding the cruiser, "In all honesty, this is probably going to be the most painful day." What have I been telling you people?

Nov 3, 2012

We're All Dead

The election is close and, according to the douchebags who tell us what we think, the only people left in the country who haven't made up their simple little minds are "swing voters." In this election cycle, those voters are "young white women without college degrees who have an annual household income of less than $50,000." (Most of them make way less than $50,000.) In otherwords, those braindead, tailgating bimbos who scare the crap out of everyone on the highway with their general, all-purpose incompetence are going to decide who will drive the remains of the United States of America over a cliff. Stephen Cobert tried to interview one of these decision makers and even he was frustrated by her vapidness. We are so screwed.

The only upside possible here would be if the candidates had to grovel so completely to this demographic that they had to promise Washington DC jobs for all of them. The IQ of the rest of the country would jump an easy 10 points, even in the Southeast, and Washington can't get any dumber.

Oct 27, 2012

If you owned this, what would you do with it?

1974 Bultaco Sherpa T 350 - $4200 (Madison WI)

Date: 2012-10-23, 1:34PM CDT

Completely original 1974 Bultaco Sherpa T 350 trial motorcyle with less than 200 original miles. Runs excellent and lovingly maintained. Additional competition fenders, skid plate and race tags included. This bike competed in Vintage World Trials Championships in Park City Utah! A unique collectors piece. Not many of these around and in this pristine condition. 

I am not and never will be, a vintage motorcycle fan, but this was tempting for a few moments.One, the Bultaco Sherpa T was and is a beautiful motorcycle. Two, I really want to find a trials bike to play with, again. I sold my '86 Yamaha TY350 a few years ago when a knee injury convinced me that I wouldn't be doing that sport again and, now, I'm missing that great bike terribly.

But what would/could I do with a near new 1974 Sherpa T? I'd be afraid to ride it, since anything I do will degrade that stratospheric $4200 investment. Not only do I not have a cool place to display a brand new-looking dirt bike, but I'm not inclined to do that sort of thing. The next bike is even less useful, even more expensive but almost as cool. Lovely to look at, but completely useless.

Ducati 160 "Trials" bike - $1 (So Mpls)

Date: 2012-10-18, 10:06AM CDT
[Errors when replying to ads?]

1965 Ducati 160 Trials (Clone)..... Never produced; previous owners rendition. ALL new. New tires, radial on the rear. Betor forks, Betor gas shocks, Fiberglass tank, Starts easy and runs GOOD. $4,750 obo. Contact Ed at 612.743.4758....... 


Oct 21, 2012

Falling Down on Camera

To watch this train-wreck on two wheels demonstrate incompetent technique, the perfect stupidity of the cruiser design concept, and show how helmets protect even the emptiest of heads, follow the link: cruiser crash. The only thing this boy has going for him is luck. (Thanks for the heads-up Paul). He proved that luck will make up for lack of skill, an absence of common sense (or, more accurately, the usual "common sense"), and almost any other deficiency.

The Corvette characters who were turned on to this picture scenario by the unfortunate owner of the trashed Corvette had lots of comments about how Train Wreck should have "laid 'er down," demonstrating that people who buy Corvettes are who we always suspected they were. (You know the difference between a Corvette and a porcupine, right?)

Oct 13, 2012

A Trio of Stupid Vehicles

As if there aren't enough stupid vehicles on the road, Campagna Motors introduces one more stupid trike because you can never have enough of a bad thing.

To follow that depressing "news," I was barraged with a collection of silly pictures of even sillier vehicles. I have included at least one of the silliest. If I didn't know better, I'd think Monty Python "designed" the goofy looking "vintage thing." On second thought, they had better taste than that. And they were funnier.

At least the Irish rig comes with the right accessory, a hearse/coffin carrier. Everything about three wheels affects me like a three-legged stool. It is bad design work from start to finish. If one of these idiots had the sense to make the damn thing front wheel drive (with two wheels in front), it might have a chance of making sense. Maybe.

As I've said before, a motorcycle is "Not A #&;^%#@ Wheelchair."

For added stupidity, this idiot proves that any fool can burn up tires, but most fools can't turn worth squat. Watch him practically come to a stop anytime this POS has to turn a corner. We can only help he burns up his inheritance on tires and has to do something productive with his otherwise worthless life.

Oct 11, 2012

Cold Weather Insanity

I have got to get some kind of helmet cam going again. My ride into work today was crazier than bumper cars at an ABATE beer bust. People crossing 3 lanes to exit and stopping in the middle of the freeway to backup when they missed the exit. This is why Californians started carrying guns on the road. Someone has to remove these idiots from the gene pool. The police are hiding behind signs out in the boondocks, where it's safe. The freeway has become a real freeway; with emphasis on the "free" part.  If you ever possessed delusional idealism about how the free market is lubricated by the "natural human rational desire to optimize personal benefit," you're either a distracted driver or purely superstitious. People are crazy. Dumb and dumber.

It would be fun to film a series of commutes and comment on the lunatics for something to post on YouTube. I will always be amazed by people who can't merge but who think they are in control of their vehicles tailgaiting at 70mph and 15 feet behind a car or truck. There is a reason Americans are 23rd in math skills.

Oct 10, 2012

New Rider Blues

An acquaintance from work bought a used Harley for the usual reasons; middle age funk and more money than sense. He had the bike for a couple of weeks before he discovered that he was no longer a motorcycle owner, he is now a motorcycle theft victim.

As a brand, Harley's are no longer the most popular motorcycle among thieves. Honda has taken the top shelf, followed by Yamaha, Suzuki, and Kawasaki. (More detail about motorcycle thefts in 2011 can be found on the National Insurance Crime Bureau's analysis of their data.) Minnesota is ranked 35th among the states in number of bikes stolen (329 in 2011). One piece of depressing news is that 63% of stolen bikes are not recovered. While thefts were down 6% from 2010, the 47,000 motorcycles lifted in 2011 means a bike was stolen somewhere in the US every 11 minutes.

There is probably a moral here, somewhere. I've sort of given up on looking for morals in the state of decay where our collapsing empire current resides.Based on popular opinion and current politics, I suspect they are overrated and under appreciated.

Oct 5, 2012

Join the Club?

A lot of folks think they are joining a "club" of some sort when they buy a motorcycle and start riding it on warm sunny days. If there's a warm weather club, the cold weather riders are practically family.

Today's ride into a couple of business meetings and work was the first near-freezing ride of the fall. Winter in Minnesota is on the way, although next week is supposed to be warm again; at least, during the days. Twenty miles and two stops later, I'm on my way into school and stuck at a stop light about 5 minutes late for a morning recording session. I am freakin' in love with my Aerostich heated gear and thinking about how uncomfortable I used to be on days like this before I had electric gear. One of St. Paul's "finest" is trying to make a left turn from the lane to my right. He's dressed like the cop in this picture, except his gear is leather. I think that includes his face mask. He looks close to frozen. He sort of wobbles into the intersection, comes to a stop because the car coming across from the other lane is moving too slowly for him to time the turn. Just before he took off for the turn, I saluted him as a fellow "rider in the cold."

When he stopped to let the opposite direction traffic go by, he saluted me back; with his middle finger.  Huh? Does a hand to the helmet mean something different in Minnesota? Maybe he was jealous that he had to ride a four-ton Harley while I was on my V-Strom.

Maybe that frozen leather gear soured his disposition? Would mine. I admit I was surprised to see the pudding bowl helmet with the gangbanger face mask on a cop. It's probably been there all the time, but I just wasn't looking. Honestly, I haven't seen the St. Paul motorcycle cops on the road much all year. So, my reason for thinking about them is pretty remote.

The whole incident did remind me that there is/was/always-will-be a "them and us" divide between the cops and citizens. Even when were are the only motorcyclists on the road together on a cold October morning, that divide keeps us apart. That nasty tax collector aspect of their job puts a barrier between them and us and I don't see that barrier growing any smaller in the foreseeable future. One of the guys at work thought it would have been quite a bit different if we'd have swapped salutes. I can't disagree with that.

Oct 3, 2012

I might need one of these (Ryno Motors).Since my Polaris Electric Scooter has bit the dust, my electric transportation system has vanished.

Oct 2, 2012

How You End Up on a Hoveround

I guess it was some kind of fitting that this video was linked to an ad for "How you get your Hoveround."This wall-to-wall list of motorcycle crashes is a testament to human flexibility. I have no idea how some of those people bent that far and ever moved again.

Oct 1, 2012

Here's a picture of where we're crashing in Minnesota. There is more data to be found by clicking on the graphic.

Sep 30, 2012

Black Is Back

All Rights Reserved © 2012 Thomas W. Day
Aerostich, the pioneers of Hi-Viz gear have taken to heart the old marketing wisdom, "sell them what they want, not what they need." The company's newest product is the Stealth Roadcrafter One Piece; "the power of the dark side is strong in this one...a bad-ass riding suit that has ridden more, traveled farther and saved more road rash and broken bones than any other textile riding suit. Entirely black, even the label." For $997 ($100 more than a regular Roadcrafter, including Hi-Viz versions), Aerostich has removed the "distinctive 3M Scotchlite™ reflective" bits and created a black-on-black-with-black-highlights riding suit for riders who don't want to be seen unless they're seen as being cool.
I understand the logic. We're in a rough economy and we're going to be here for a while. Maybe, the rest of my life. Motorcyclists are an aging group and our favorite vehicle is becoming more toy and less transportation. The Village People are the majority U.S. market and they barely wear gear at all and wouldn't consider Hi-Viz or even neutral colors because their peer group would consider anything resembling AGAT to be treason. Logic and good sense aside, the Stealth Roadcrafter is seriously sexy looking. At least, in enough light that it can be seen at all.
I get Aerostich's reasoning for this product. I don't like it, but I get it. I imagine it sticks in Mr. Subjective's craw as much as it does mine.
My own experience, especially recent experience, begs to differ with common wisdom and stylish trends. I lucked into a prototype Aerostich AD1 Darien jacket at the Aerostich Garage Sale last spring. Mostly because it fits me perfectly and was as comfortable as an old glove from the moment I tried it out, I wear this jacket everywhere. Before the AD1, my only serious nod to Hi-Viz has been my helmets, which are decorated with tastelessly applied reflective tape and are either white or yellow. I don't put n excess of hope in visibility, but I know that light travels almost 900,000 times faster than sound and any edge I can get might have some life-saving value.
On my usual commute to downtown St. Paul, I was stuck waiting for a break in Rice Street traffic at my neighborhood intersection. To the north, I had about a block-and-a-half of space before south-bound traffic boxed me in. To the south, one large, black van was signaling a turn at my intersection. Behind it, at least another two blocks of clear space. Not trusting the van to do what the turn signals indicated, I waited until the van was beginning its turn before I eased out into the road. Hidden from my view was an asphalt-colored sedan, tailgating the van. The van's blacked out windows and size had completely obscured my view of the tailgater and, now, I was solidly in the car's path. The driver hit the brakes and I nailed the throttle and we missed each other by a few feet. The event was close enough that I can still raise a little bile several weeks after the near-crash.
I have been on two-wheels for almost 50 years and I can't remember ever coming that close to becoming a statistic. I split-lanes in California traffic for a decade and 200,000 miles. I have crossed the country several times, ridden through crazy Tijuana, Mexico on my way to the southern end of Baja, and found more ways to fly off of an off-road motorcycle than Harley parts, but I do not believe I have ever been that close to getting squished and busted into pieces.
Unless you are so committed to the "loud pipes" delusion that you can ignore all aspects of physical reality, it should be obvious that no amount of noise would have been useful in this situation. First, I was incredibly lucky that the cager saw me at all, let alone did a pretty impressive job of reacting. Second, getting seen was key to the happy outcome of this moment. There is a lot of grey on this jacket and my riding pants (also Darien AD1's) are black, but a good bit of the jacket is Hi-Viz yellow. I can't count the number of times I've heard "I could see you a mile away" when I've worn this jacket around town.
My original Aerostich gear is road-surface grey. I loved that suit and still wear it when I need extra room for insulation layers. (I've shrunk a little since that purchase.) I have a cool denim riding jacket with MMM's logo embroidered on the back that I like a lot. But until I get over nearly becoming road kill, I probably won't consider going back to drab colors in town.

Sep 28, 2012

Seriously? I'm Supposed to Care?

My editor recently tried to shame me into not using the word "cager" so much in my column and the news. Apparently, cagers think being called "cagers" is insulting. I only have one thing to say about that; who gives a fuck?

They should attend one of my MSF classes where I warn new riders to look out for cagers because their choice of vehicles has clearly marked them for incompetence. "If you need four wheels to balance yourself in your vehicle, you're obviously handicapped, incompetent, and dangerous." A cage is just an oversized Hooveround. If you need one, fine. Just don't ask me to call your crip-mobile a race car. Yeah, I'm specially pissed-off today. Live with it.

All the News that Didn't Fit

Our Motorcycle "Community"
Paula L. Larson, 42, of Bethel, was charged with two counts of criminal-vehicular homicide in Anoka County. Police charge that she was responsible for the deaths of John A. Jordan, 48, and Patricia L. Kalla, 46 when she made "an unknown maneuver" on Viking Boulevard (Country Road 22) that resulted in the motorcycle, probably driven by Jordan, striking the driver's side door after leaving substantial skid marks before the impact. Initial breath tests found Larson's blood alcohol to be 0.195%, more than twice the legal limit. Both motorcyclists were dead at the scene. Neither were wearing helmets.
Possibly the most disturbing aspect of this crash was that a witness at the scene saw two other motorcyclists riding with Jordan and Kalla. After they circled back to see what had happened, one of the riders exclaimed, "Oh my god!" They quickly did another U-turn and "took off west down Highway 65."
Better than 2011
The nonprofit trade association, Motorcycle Industry Council, announced that sales for scooters and motorcycles was up almost 9% for the first half of 2012, compared to the same period in 2011.  441,000 off--and-on-road bikes were sold in 2011, down from 950,000 in 2007.
New York Magic Act
Back in July, the New York City police commissioner and Manhattan district attorney put on a big show about having snagged a gang of motorcycle thieves who had plagued the city's motorcyclists for several years. The city officials were all ready to show off the 63 motorcycles they had recovered in a major press event when they discovered that seven of the recovered motorcycles had been stolen from the police impound lot.
Paul J. Browne, the chief police spokesman, provided an e-mail explanation for the disappearance, ''The lot is fenced, but not locked or not guarded in the sense that there are guards, private or otherwise.''  That does seem to be a pretty good definition of "unguarded," but it doesn't explain how disabled and wheel-locked motorcycles were removed from a police impound.
The 33 suspects in the original thefts were still behind bars at the time of the theft, so they probably didn't re-steal the bikes. In fact, the current theory is that this was an inside job. That has to a comforting thought for New York motorcyclists.
NTSA Motorcycle Recalls
Ducati 1199 Panigale 2012-2013: On the heels of five Panigal recalls earlier this summer, Ducati announced another recall due to improper attachment of the rear suspension to the swingarm that could cause a “catastrophic suspension collapse [to] occur and adversely affect the ability to safely handle the motorcycle, increasing the risk of a crash.”

Sep 27, 2012

One More Nail in the Coffin

The character who wrote this piece, "Missouri Cops Hit Motorcyclists," seems to think that this is an example of police harassment and abuse. I don't see that at all. In fact, I'd expect the aftereffects of this kind of spoiled brat behavior to spill over on the rest of us not just in dealing with the police but when any sane member of the general public sees motorcycles on public roads. These idiots are not "Streetfighterz," they are just spoiled children who need a severe beating and should have had their motorcycles and licenses confiscated. More evidence that young men should not be allowed to congregate in groups larger than 3 (and that might be too liberal).

There is nothing good to say about this "motorcycle event." Supposedly, it was going to be the last, but nothing bad ever dies easily. These children are doing everything they can to eliminate motorcyclists' rights and privileges on public roads and as one experienced rider put it, "You're witnessing the death of our sport right there, at least here in the US. Don’t you just feel it in your gut? The level of stupidity is just growing to obscene levels all over the county. How can communities not react to scenes like that. Ride it while you can." It makes me almost glad to be old.

Sep 23, 2012

Caine's Arcade

No motorcycle content, whatsoever, but Caine would be a great motorcyclist. There isn't a lot of inspirational stuff happening in the US these days. So, here's some. I'd consider riding to LA to play Caine's Arcade.

You can do something like this in your hometown, though. This October 6th is the first annual Global Day of Play.  Learn about it. Do something with it. Help kickstart the next generation of motorcycle engineers, scientists, artists, and cool people.

Sep 22, 2012

6 Things Nobody Tells You About Owning a Motorcycle

This Cracked Magazine article, "6 Things Nobody Tells You About Owning a Motorcycle,"starts with "Due to recent financial hardships, I had to trade in my beloved old truck. In its stead, I got myself a motorcycle." If he'd have asked us, we could have told him that didn't make sense. Somehow, Ezekiel Buchheit, got the crazed idea that owning a motorcycle is an economy thing.

His first big thing is one I've never worried about or noticed; spiders and other bugs. I guess I'm not girly enough to pay attention to stuff I can squash with one finger. So, we know Buchheit isn't a tough guy. I'm not entirely sure Ezekiel is a guys' name, so maybe I should have expected girly behavior.

His next deal is a panic about not being able to trigger stop lights. Followed by complaints about waving at other motorcyclists, the disturbing realization that when you are out in the elements those urban elements are often grossly polluted and it gets on you. He discovered that motorcycles are "invisible" to the distracted driving public. And being a newbie with minimal talent, experience, or common sense, he thinks he's expert enough to comment on lane splitting, a traffic standard everywhere but here in the home of Marching Morons.

So, the article is funny, sort of stupid, occasionally insightful, and written by someone who will be back in his cage as soon as he can afford one.

Sep 20, 2012

Where the Need Meets Demand

Ok, it's not a real product, but it should be. (Thanks Paul) There is probably more demand for this POS idea than any other product in motorcycling history.

Sep 19, 2012

More to this Story?

A friend sent me this photo yesterday. Obviously, I'm not a fan of H-D's, but I don't want this picture taken "wrong." I'm not endorsing pissing on the company sign or the company's fans. I'm not much of a fan of any corporation, Honda included. The institution in general is psychopathic and one of the dumbest ideas the Romans ever stuck on humanity. That's saying something. The Romans were practically a waterfall of dumb ideas: slavery, inherited power, endless foreign aggression and never-ending war, overwhelming debt, and cultural moral decay. (Sound familiar?) The fact that the pope was one of the first British corporations says more to me than I need to know to dislike incorporation and, no, Millard, corporations are not people.

I'm assuming this sign is in Milwaukee. I have been to that city a few times, the last on a fruitless attempt to interview Eric Buell. Honestly, the place depresses me. It's a Rust Belt city with special emphasis on rust and poverty, with a few pockets of the filthy rich who are more depressing than poor people. I can't remember any part of the city looking as clean as this picture depicts. My wife's big complaint with the rich and corporations is that they are people who don't "pick up after themselves." I don't think anyone picks up after themselves in Milwaukee. It's like LA, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, or any number of places where people work and sleep, but almost no one lives.

It wouldn't be hard for me to be a Harley hater, but I'm agnostic on the concept (among other things). When Harley partnered with Eric Buell, I really wanted to like the company. When they shut Buell down and played Millard Romney with the future of his company, I very nearly hated HD. I'm sure some Italians feel the same way about how HD mishandled MV Agusta. Italian laws made it impossible for HD to trash the remains of MV, though. We don't have much in the way of law that protects workers from predatory corporations, so HD was free to toss Buell's products and workers into the trash can. I still believe that will come back to haunt HD as the braindead Boomers head into the sunset on their Hoverounds. But, I've been wrong a lot in predicting the future. I don't get Young Republicans and I don't get young people and  primitive, historic, slow machines.

Another Minnesota Motorcycle Company

Who knew these guys were still around? (Rokon, not this pack of 'roided up geezer Hollywood freaks.) The last time I saw a Rokon I was getting booted from a Kansas enduro for riding too fast. I was just keeping up with the Rokon factory team, but didn't realize they'd left 20 minutes earlier than me. I guess any advertising is good, but I'd want to comment on that sticky throttle if I were in Rokon's marketing department; that better be optional ("Helicopter killing, stuck throttle - optional equipment").

Sep 18, 2012

The Hooligan Rides

Sunday morning, Sev sent me a note too look into the Streetfighterz Ride of the Century "event" in St. Louis. He joked, "Do you run the obvious "pirates on hippobikes" angle? Or do you go with the 'cops hassling innocent riders based on vehicle choice' angle?"

My first take was, "Looks more like spoiled children having tantrums on crotchrockets. I'm starting to think there is no such thing as 'innocent riders.'"

Take, for example, me. After plowing through the news, my French class homework, and way too many questions from my wife about her father's idiot (or idiot father's) financial mess, I went riding on the WR on the dirt roads north of White Bear.

About dusk, I managed to discover a rural rich person neighborhood that was a collection of wonderful dirt roads, that looped on themselves, ended up in deadends, and made about as much sense as downtown St. Paul. I was having so much fun tearing around the roads that I got lost and spent even more hooligan time struggling to get back to county road 7. I was a long ways from racing, but I was a good distance from plodding, too. Toward the end, I was getting a little frustrated with the endless loop neighborhood and I admit I was wicking it up a bit beyond my normal pace. I missed the escape turn twice, which cost me a couple of "laps" around the rich folks road and the last lap might have been my record time.

Back on pavement a few miles east of that neighborhood, an HP car came ripping down the road, swung a U-turn and came sailing after me just as I'd turned down another dirt road more-or-less heading toward Taylors Falls. He didn't hit his light, but I stopped when I saw him coming up behind me. He got out, took a look at me, now without my helmet and clawing at my key holder to get at my insurance info, and said, "I had a report that some kid was motocrossing a neighborhood. You probably weren't him."

I kept my mouth shut (Fuck you Sev, I can do it when there is a gun in the mix. And the gun isn't mine.) and waited for him to tag me or leave me alone. He left me alone. I went back to sliding my way to Taylor's Falls and came home back the same way, although a lot slower because it was dusk-to-dark.

The "moral" is, look as old as possible and cops don't take you seriously. I'm getting that trick down pat. Every day, I look older than the last.

On the way out, I was on a short but cool piece of asphalt with several 90 degree, 15mph curves when I about did a Victor (Victor put his BMW down hard coming home from work a couple of years ago. All he remembers about the incident was riding and not-riding. It happened that fast.) I hit a patch of oil or french fry grease or something equally non-traction'y and the bike went totally sideways and when I put my left foot out it slid just as friction-freely as my tires. Ice would have not been slicker. I didn't get a bite of traction until the back tire was in the gravel on the shoulder. A couple more feet and I'd have been slammed into a 3' deep ditch, $50k ass cheek down first.

Two things I learned from that experience: 1) my new leg is stronger than my old leg, because I can now hold up the bike with a foot out and 2) if I crash and die the cops will say "he made no attempt to stop" because there were no skid marks on the way to the ditch. The only sign I left was a couple of grease lines and some torn up grass on the shoulder.

Later, I avoided a group (herd?) of young deer with hard braking and no sliding on loose gravel. (Lots of deer and turkeys on the roads, BTW.) Clearly, I do not know how to lay 'er down. Again, the "evidence" police use to prove or disprove driver/rider attempts to slow or change direction would be absent.

Thank you hundreds of MSF class demos.

Sep 17, 2012

An Open Letter to Rob Dingman

Two or three times a year, since I dumped my AMA (American Motorcyclist Association, not American Medical Association, Academy of Model Aeronautics, American Marketing Association, American Management Association, or American Music Awards) membership back in the early 1980's, I get a membership plea from that strange "organization." Every year, I glance over the organization's list of "accomplishments" and get a little pissed off before I toss the mess into the trash. This year, I decided to do something Geezerly; I wrote good old President Rob a letter.

Rob Dingman
President & CEO
American Motorcyclist Association
13515 Yarmouth Drive
Pickerington, OH 43147

Dear Mr. Dingman,

I appreciate your interest in my favorite transportation system. First, I have to say that 30 years after I last belonged to the AMA, I admire your organization's persistence, if not the frugality or common sense behind sending so many letters over so many years to someone who has shown absolutely no interest in belonging to your organization. I belonged to the AMA back in the days when I was an off-road racer and had to belong to ride on a few race tracks. Back in those days, the AMA was mostly an irritant and an arrogant rule-making organization that was as rooted in what riders wanted and needed as the IRS demonstrates during an individual income tax audit. So, when I quit racing one of the first things I jettisoned was my AMA membership card. Back in those days, the only real "benefit" AMA members received was a poorly constructed patch that a few of us stitched to our nylons but most of us tossed into the garage rag bag.

The most recent recruiting ad suggests that modern AMA membership has more to offer: AMA Roadside Assistance (a benefit with which more than a few of my friends have experienced discouraging results), discounts on stuff from dealers and other vendors, access to your website, and a subscription to the American Motorcyclist Magazine (which other MSF instructors are always giving me just to see me get pissed off at the latest goofy AMA legal campaign). I have to tell you that for $110 a year, I get 200 mile towing from AAA for all of my vehicles and I can't imagine where your 35 mile limit would be useful to me. AAA isn't too shabby in the motel and travel discount territory, too. So, financially, I'm not convinced that an AMA membership is a good move.

Where the organization would really grab my cash is if the AMA were my "toughest advocate for the freedoms [I] deserve as a motorcyclist." (I underlined and bold printed those claims just like they were printed in the letter.) The fact is, though, the AMA appears to be completely unaware of any issue important to me. A few months back, Peter TerHorst claimed to be paraphrasing you in saying, "“The three biggest problems facing motorcycling today is noise, noise and noise.” Lousy grammar, but a wonderful sentiment.
For a few moments, I thought the AMA was about to get on the right side of a fight, for a change. Almost a year later, the issue seems to have vanished from the AMA's plate or the AMA issues waffling statements that put the blame on the people who complain about motorcycle noise rather than the noise makers. Meanwhile, the noisy exhaust crowd is making thousands of enemies for those of us who ride regularly.

The recruiting letter bragged about how the AMA's campaign against motorcycle-only checkpoints was doing something for motorcycling, while we continue to contribute 13-15% traffic fatalities while providing less than 0.1% of the country's transportation miles. I've never heard of the AMA promoting lane-sharing and filtering or seen any effort from the organization to help commuting motorcyclists obtain reasonable parking access. While there is something to the claim that the AMA's promotion to fix the glitch in the Consumer Product Product Safety Act that accidentally included vehicle lead-acid batteries in the banned materials, we all know there are alternatives ATV manufacturers could have used for those batteries and that this was a non-issue for typical motorcyclists.

The fact is that the AMA does not represent anything I care about and that is either a comment on how weird I am or how out of touch the AMA has become. The AMA claims to represent 235,000 motorcyclists, but the Motorcycle Institute Council (MIC) found there were 10.4 million motorcycles in the US in 2008 and about 9 million licensed motorcyclists. That means the AMA is representing about 2.6% of the country's motorcyclists. Of course, only about 200,000 of us commute to work on a daily basis, so you could just as well concentrate on us instead of the boneheads. In fact, until the AMA quits representing the "rights" of drunks, hooligans, and noisemakers you're wasting your time and postage sending me these silly letters.

Hell, I've been trying to get Andy Goldfine to move the Ride to Work Day organization into the void the AMA has left between racers, gangsters, and the rest of us. I even gave them $100 this year to try and inspire a little political action. They do more for commuting riders than the AMA has done in 88 years, but that's not enough. As your website says, the original AMA moto was ""The slogan of the AMA will be: An Organized Minority Can Always Defeat an Unorganized Majority." That's what US motorcyclists desperately need, an organized minority. You could be that organization, but you're going to have to work harder on the important stuff and lay off of the obviously destructive crap.

Thomas Day
Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly Magazine

Sep 16, 2012

Turbospoke - The Bicycle Exhaust System

I'm afraid to ask, but I will, is this for real? What, a Hardly owner training kit? Convert your environ-friendly bicycle into something that pisses off your neighbors and is hard to pedal. Noise and slow, sound familiar? "Make your bike look and sound like a MOTORBIKE with the Turbospoke! Turbospoke is the hottest new bicycle accessory that transforms any bike into a pumped-up street machine."

Yes, it is for real. This idiotic POS sells for $22.99 and adds about 2 pounds to a bicycle and enough drag to let me keep up with you on my bike. It comes with 3 different noise-cards, so you can "tune" your bicycle to sound as dumb as possible.

Sep 15, 2012

Get A Grip!

There aren't a lot of products that I have used for decades, but Oury's Road/Street grips are in that group. I can't remember when I discovered this product, at the least I had a pair on my 1979 Honda CX500 Deluxe and have been using them since sometime in the mid-80's. Being the creative guy I am, I buy any color option (black, red, blue, brown, light grey) as long as it is black. (Although, now that I've seen brown, I might try that out.)

These things have been around for years, at least since 1983. Developed by ex-pro motocrosser, Bill Oury, the company began developing these "vibration damping grips" in the late-70's and in 1985 offered their iconic Oury Pyramid grip shape.That must be about the time I started using them in California. They are the only grips I've used since.

I've had the Road/Street grips on my dirt bikes, my road bikes, and my bicycles for so long that anything else feels wrong.

Sep 9, 2012

Rider's Digest #170

Probably the best looking motorcycle magazine in existence, The Rider's Digest, just issued #170. Bigger than ever (174 pages), prettier than any PDF/Flash publication has a right to be, with the usual bike reviews, travel articles, and Brit gibberish . . . er, "dialect" (sorry Dave) this edition is cursed with another piece by me,. "Sound and Fury," on page 17. Dave Gurman, the editor, dug up a vintage Castrol Oil ad that was worth writing the piece just to see again. I do miss the smell of that stuff on a spring or fall morning, with the buzz and rattle of 2-stroke motocrossers all around me, and the anticipation of combat on a race track in my head.

For several months, I have been enjoying Paul Browne's "Two Wheels to the Ends of the Earth" journal and this month's entry was another great story. He still hasn't explained how an old guy getting laid off from his financial services job came up with enough money to bag up his life, buy a new BMW, and take his young and attractive girlfriend across two continents, but I'm hoping the answer will come before it's too late for me.

Jonathan Boorstein (a suitable name for a crotchety guy if there ever was one) provided a particularly grumpy and geezerly review of a collection of travel books from the high budget book/movie genre (Charley Boorman) to no-budget disaster books about being kidnapped in South America. It's one way to look at what a travel book should be. Not my way, but a way.

Martin Newman's tour of Greece was amazing; even breathtaking. The pictures and story make me want to blow the family fortune and ride even more of Europe. 

Sep 5, 2012

Tire Tools

About half of the time, when I need to install a new tire, I bum an hour from Paul Streeter and do the deed in his nicely heated basement shop. We drink a couple of beers, I use his bead buster and tire mounting frame, and the tire gets changed with minimum knuckle busting. I made a bead buster of my own, last year, after one of those trips to Paul's and it works, but it's ugly and less than super-stable (at right). As you can probably see, it was made from wood scraps and pieces of metal I found lying around my shop. Every other time I use it, I end up slightly re-fabbing it because it wasn't that strong. It works, but it wasn't pretty, reliable, or fun to use.

The No Mar Classic Model; $645.
So, this weekend, when I needed to pop a new tire on the V-Strom, I did a quick look around the internet for tire tools and was disappointed with the price tag, again. Until I hit this discussion from a biker blog: New Tires. Why the Hell is it so Hard to Get New Skin on a Motorcycle? In the Comments section of the blog entry, a few of his readers started talking about tire tools and bead busters. The consensus was that the No Mar ($665) or Cycle Hill ($465) tire changers are the hot ticket, with a low budget unit from Harbor Freight ($29 on sale) being a non-serious alternative.

I decided on the $49 Harbor Freight unit. You are surprised, right?

It's not really a motorcycle tire tool, but the bead breaker is a lot more solid than the one I built and almost exactly the same as Paul's. So, I trotted over the Harbor Freight in Minneapolis and pulled the box for the tire changer out from under the bike work stand (on sale for $465 this week). It's heavy and clearly more suited for car wheels than bikes. So, I wandered around the store, thinking about where I would be putting this monster in my beloved garage. If there was a practical way to use the wheel holder (the top) of the tool on a motorcycle wheel, it would have been a no-brainer purchase. However, there is no simple way to make that work. Fifteen minutes later, I decided I just didn't want to commit the storage space and I almost walked out empty handed.

The $44 bead breaker.
Then, I saw Harbor Freight's "bead breaker" tool; $44. Not only is it a lot more like a motorcycle tool, but it's smaller, lighter, and more suited to the kind of rim and disc brake guard design I had in mind. So, I disassembled my home-made unit and tossed the wood bits into the fire box and set about assembling my new bead breaker. Ten minutes later, I'm ready to pop a bead.

Off comes the V-Strom's back tire, and, a bunch of cobbling with boards and foam for the "No Mar" effect, and the tire is off of the rim. My tire mounting stand is just a metal bench with a heavy vise. I stick a 5/8" bolt in the vise and slip the tire over that to give myself leverage to tire iron the tire from the rim. The same jig helps put the new tire on the rim. I turn the bolt sideways and spin it a few times to "balance" the tire. A couple of wheel weights and the new tire is on the bike.

Since Paul wasn't there to remind me of the usual 17 things I forget to do when we're drinking beer and playing with tires, I didn't drink a beer until I'd test ridden the bike and new tire. For a change, I didn't put the tire on backwards the first time. I could not, as usual, find the damn dot, so I have no idea how Bridgestone intended the tire to be installed for balance.

I'll be in less of a hurry next time and I'll make my "no mar" modifications permanent. When that happens, I'll include a picture.

Poststript: A while after I bought my tool, I stumbled on to the Motorsport Products Portable Tire Changer with Bead Breaker (#70-3002). This looks like a really great garage/racetrack tool for the money (about $70). I'd be a little irritated by having bought "the wrong tool" if this gizmo didn't give me a great idea how to modify the tool I have. 

After I posted this article, one of the folks on the list recommended Stubby Tire Tools ( I snagged a pair of the Stubby Tire Tools and am impressed. Great tools!