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!

Sep 3, 2012

Image Is Everything

A Victory seat and luggage cover set that cost more
than both of my motorcycles. 
Years ago, I worked for a company that had the usual riff-raff for a CEO. He came to work late, mostly hung out with the cute secretaries (which were the only active hires in which he involved himself) for the few moments he was in the office, flew himself all over the country pretending to be doing "marketing" (while he scoped out other execs' secretaries), and took weeks off every few months to recover from mystical "backpain" (those CEO-free periods were always the most productive and profitable months of the year. One of the many irritating "truths" this guy taught me was "perception is everything." This is, of course, only true because consumers (humans unfit to be called "citizens") are idiots. Even worse, they are lazy idiots.

Like most of the things I've learned about my fellow humans, this is not good news for anyone but those who prey on fools. The idea that reality has no basis for comparison and verification is exactly like claiming "If I say it is, it is." The inspiration for this rant came to me when my brand new subscription to Rolling Stone appeared in the mailbox and on the page after "Correspondence" (letters to the editor) a full page Victory ad titled "Victory Hooks It Up" displayed an incredibly ugly Vision (I think) with a wimpy tattooed girlyman screwing up his chinless face into a sad example of "bad biker face" leaning on the seat (he's so tiny he makes the bike look like a railroad car) in a paint garage. Biker boy is a guitar player (loosely put) from the garageband "Five Finger Death Punch" If you can get their overloaded-with-ShockWave plug-ins website to load, you can listen to their overwrought, uninspired death metal drivel on their "Media" page. I like to call this "pissed-off spoiled rich kid music." (I'm sure Paul Ryan will put them on his iPod in a decade or two). It's a version of the kind of "punk" that drooled out of Southern California in the 80's; more spoiled brats complaining that mommy didn't buy the right Mercedes for their middle-school graduation present. This kid, Jason Hook, is posed leaning against the bike's seat, with his arms crossed so he and push out his flabby little heavily tattooed arms to look like he might have a muscle in there somewhere. The dude might be 18 and he's already doing a Donny Trump comb-over to hide his receding hairline. The tattoo on his neck looks like a clown's bowtie and he's clearly as comfortable in a workshop and leaning on the bike as Trump would be in a factory assembly line.

Victory is (probably successfully) trying to link the company's vintage technology to people who are younger than . . . me. In fact, Harley and Victory are desperately trying to connect the Marlon Brando badboy thing to people who aren't ready for Hooverounds because their key demographic is dying faster than they can crank out bikes for old men. The only old guys who will still be riding in a few years will be guys who spent their lives riding dirt bikes or road racing. The Harley crowd is suffering the price of the Harley lifestyle: at least the ones who haven't already died from heart failure, stroke, the clap or AIDS, dementia, or general purpose stupidity.

I don't see it, but that amounts to a completely clueless opinion. I never imagined an under-50 group that would be dorky enough to call themselves "Young Republicans." That's as oxymoronic as "old athletes" or "smart hillbillies." With perception being everything, anything is possible in a world where reality is so distorted that calling smart people "elites" and Paris Hilton a "job creator" is a successful tactic. I guess. I gotta move to Montana and start growing dental floss.

Wimp-rock at its silliest.
If I were a better person, I'd quit picking on this "local" company because . . . it's not nice to beat up on the handicapped. If Polaris had grown the balls to buy a piece of KTM, I might have a completely different outlook on the company. But . . . goddamn it, this kind of shit is just too easy to whack on. I feel like Stephen Cobert watching the Republican National Convention trying to decide which piece of lunacy to to hammer at first. I'd love to give you a link where you can look at this ad, but Victory has wisely kept this one off of the internet because it is such perfect material for ridicule. Maybe I'll scan it. This can't go unridiculed.

[Ok, I did scan it. You tell me if I'm over the top on this one. Not that your opinion will change how I feel about whiny rich kid rock.]

Sep 1, 2012

Dream Bike, Irritating Song

I will absolutely admit that there was a time when "Born to be Wild" seemed like a cool song. Fortunately for me, I had heard Steppenwolf's song before it was misused in Greasy Rider or I'd have never thought it was cool. I suspect the last year I tapped my foot to Mars Bonfire's only big hit was around 1968. After that, the song was always attached to some damn Fortune 500 product and has been a signature of girly-boy admen since.

On the other hand, The Yamaha XT660Z Ténéré has been around for a while (since 2008) and it is the kind of bike that we may never get in the USA. The 660 was preceded by the XT600 Ténéré that was sold in Europe/Japan from '83 to '96 and Yamaha only taunted us with the DP XT600.