Mar 29, 2013

Free Helmet Contest

If you're a bad biker sort of guy/girl, Jafrum: The Motorcycle Gear Experts are giving away four $250 Bell Rogue Helmets on April 8, 2013: Bell Rogue Helmet Giveaway.

For the fun of it, they have the 26 of the Craziest Motorcycle Helmets You'll Ever See blog entry. There are some seriously sick, but very artistic, minds out there.

Mar 25, 2013

To Countersteer or Not to Countersteer

Years ago, I saw a picture of King Kenny coming out of a corner on his 500cc Yamaha MotoGP bike with the bars turned hard countersteering through the turn and his eyes solidly pointed in the opposite direction of the bike's travel. For once, the King wasn't sliding but he was clearly pushing the limits of his motorcycle way past anything Yamaha had designed for. In that same article, one of Kenny's mechanics talked about Kenny pushing on the bars so hard that he bent normal tube steel bars, so they resorted to solid aluminum bar stock so he could make it through a race with straight bars.

Of course, in the picture above countersteering appears to be a moot point, since the front wheel is off of the ground. Still, the fact that so many motorcyclists are still arguing about this point amazes me. Anyone capable of riding a bicycle faster than 5mph knows countersteering is exactly how you turn a two-wheeled vehicle. They may not know it intellectually, but if they are staying on the road they know it intuitively.

In the example to the left, Mr. Hayden is providing a terrific demonstration of setting up a hard left by steering substantially right. It's difficult to get a great picture of countersteering in race conditions and even harder on the street because the countersteering move happens early in the turn and lasts only long enough to get the bike to lean into the turn. From then on, in normal riding situations the rider has to provide very little steering to continue the lean and is usually "steering" the bike to prevent it from leaning over further. In fact, the quickest way to terminate a turn and right lean angle is to turn toward the curve.

In the shot at right, Barry Sheene and KR are at the apex of the curve and are beginning to setup their escape route toward the next straight or another turn. Still, if you look closely you'll see that both bikes are countersteering through the turn at this point.

Possibly my all-time favorite cornering photo, at left, the supermoto rider is not only countersteering but exhibits the greatest faith in traction I've ever seen. This kind of riding is why supermotard should have been the most popular motorsport in history and the fact that it isn't says everything I want to say about motorsports fans.

The rest of the pictures on this page are just more examples of the same. If you're still unconvinced that bikes, wheels, and tires work this way, try rolling a paper cup and see which way it turns. No matter how hard you push it or what kind of surface you make this test, the cup (wheel) is going to turn toward the smaller diameter end of the cup. No divine intervention or intelligent design necessary, it's simple, predictable physics and if you're not using physics you're counting on luck or something even less likely to provide protection in a curve/swerve/evasive maneuver.

Natures loves vacuums (99.999...% of the universe is a vacuum), but truly abhors fools. This is definitely one of those tactics that you either use or lose. When Dad taught most of us how to ride a bicycle, he said "Turn the bars left and the bike will go left." We tried it and, once we got moving slightly faster than walking, the bike went right instead and we crashed. After a few scraped elbows and knees we learned that good old
Dad is a moron and we started countersteering. We've been doing it ever since.

First Ride of 2013

The video isn't what I expected, but it's still video:

Mostly, I wanted to test my new Astak ActionPro camera rig. The high for the day was 34F, but the sun was out, the sky was clear and so were the roads and I needed to ride just to remind myself why I write about motorcycles. The ActionPro did great, I didn't do so well. You'll notice that the video appears to focus on . . . my hands. First, I managed to unintentionally put the camera in still photo mode instead of video mode. After I got that, accidentally, straightened out, the mount slipped because I didn't tighten it up nearly enough. So, I got to look at high res pictures of my hands and the front wheel. Oh well, at least the camera worked.

Mar 23, 2013

Grandpa, did . . . ?

No motorcycle content, but this guy is the grandpa I want to grow up to be:

Mar 20, 2013

Because They're Water Soluble?

Redverz Gear Series II Motorcycle Tent
You probably didn't know you needed this product: a tent with a motorcycle garage. It turns out that there are a few versions of this silly-assed idea. The Redverz Gear Series II Expedition pictured at right costs $449 and is is a 13 1/2 pound, 3-season, 3-person, 16 3/4 foot long, "expedition grade" tent  with "anodized tent poles."

Harley-Davidson Rider's Dome Tent
As always, when a really dumb consumer product turns out to have a large, rich, and brain-dead market, you would expect Hardly to jump right in and they have. Since they are the largest manufacturer of dissolve-able motorcycles, I'm sure their product is sold purely as a service to their suck . . . customers. The Harley-Davidson Rider's Dome Tent sells for "only" $229and is slightly less dorky/cool than the Redverz Gear tent, but half the price. It is also nylon and uses fiberglass poles, presumably not-anodized. Harley's 4-person tent-plus-garage sports features like breathable mesh roof panels, front and rear doors with bug screens, inside zipper storm flaps, "clearview" windows on the rainfly, and the desperately needed "motorcycle vestibule." The whole thing weighs 12 pounds.

Finally, a company called "Catoma" sells a series of "Lone Rider Adventure Shelters Motorcycle tents" that Sears sells to the poncho biker crowd (Yep, that's a Frank Zappa reference.). I'm not gonna bother with a picture of that company's silly shit because Lone Riders apparently only need normal popup tents with a trendy name.

Aerostich Ultralight Bike Cover covering my fully-loaded V-Strom.
Unless you desperately feel the need to sleep with your bike, you might know that I've recommended the Aerostich Ultralight Bike Covers (I use small for the WR250X and large for the full-bagged and ready-to-tour V-Strom 650) in a previous life on this very blog. You can't sleep with your bike using one of these covers, but it will keep your gear dry on the seat during some pretty nasty weather. I know, I've tested it under conditions that practically floated away my North Face tent..

Mar 16, 2013

Acronyms and Jargon

All Rights Reserved © 2012 Thomas W. Day

Every human activity that wants to pretend to be "professional" disguises itself with acronyms and jargon. I've found that the more psycho-babble a "profession" uses, the more likely what it does is simple and accessible for ordinary people. I spent a good bit of my life in manufacturing and, when I was a manufacturing engineering manager, I banned acronyms from meetings and interdepartmental conversation. I refused to bother to remember what JIT, QA and QC, CA, ROI, SMT, ATE, and a bunch of other silly terms stood for. Just say "just in time," "quality assurance" or "quality control," "cost analysis," "return on investment," "surface mount technology," "automatic test equipment," or whatever thing or activity you're trying to describe. Nobody but other fools are impressed with the list of alphabet collections you've memorized. People who are interested in fixing problems need clear communications, not techno-babble.
When I was sentenced to ten years in medical devices, for my previous poor career choices, I stepped into a whole new world of mis-communications. The thing that popped out over time was the realization that doctors are no more special than engineers or politicians or motorcyclists. Some are really talented and some are so bad that they shouldn't be allowed to prescribe aspirin without adult supervision. The absolute worst cardiologist I ever stood next to in a surgical environment spoke exclusively in series of acronyms, most of which had no relationship to each other and made no more sense than a tele-evangelist "speaking in tongues." The dude cut himself with his scalpel and used a string of acronyms to bitch at his nurse for handing him a sharp knife.
Pretty much anyone who lives in the computer software design world speaks techno-babble. The obvious result is the ill-mannered, user-hostile, virus-laden bugware we all use at work, on the internet, and at home. Video and audio people love acronyms and jargon more than pictures and music. In fact, I think every technology uses these useless non-words to complicate admission into the "club." The upside is that after you've spent the time to learn the jargon, you'll have discovered it was not worth the effort. I think that's an upside.
Motorcycling is starting to develop some motorcycle acronyms, which bothers me. AGAT, for example, is a really bad idea. We should say it loud and proud; all the gear, all the time. Hiding this critical idea behind an acronym is a terrible idea. We need all of the All the Gear, All the Time members we can get. The brand acronyms are the worst; HD (Hundred Dollars . . . for everything from bandanas to oil filters), KTM (Keep Taking Money), and BMW (Broke My Wallet) for example. Clearly disrespectful and divisive. The acronyms of our organizations are just as uninformative and often misinterpreted: ABATE is often mistaken for Always Beer At The Event, for example. The AMA is often confused with the American Medical Association, which really pisses off the docs when bikers show up at one of their tony events. Goofy riders are called SQUIDs, the best interpretation of which is Stupidly Quick, Underdressed and Imminently Dead. The MSF appears to be totally fascinated with acronyms, SEE, FINEC, BRC, ERC, BRC II, and all sorts of secret code letters I can never remember. Lucky for me all the other instructors remember that stuff. I just concentrate on not screwing up my demos and keeping the SQUIDs from killing themselves or other students.
It might be obvious by now, I'm totally unsuited for any activity that requires an ability to remember what a few loosely associated capital letters might mean. In fact, I'm usually inclined to think about something else when I'm expected to know that kind of crap. I can't help but think of these little inside "jokes" as disinformation. While words have meanings and can even hurt us more than sticks and stones, acronyms don't mean squat unless you're in on the joke. As my kids would happily tell anyone who asks, I'm never on the inside of anything. They won't even let me park next to "hip." So, yeah, maybe it's sour grapes but I'm going to continue pretending to avoid acronyms and jargon while everyone else knows that I'm just a clueless goof. No change there, right?

Mar 12, 2013

Fixin' What Ain't Broke

Sometimes I wonder what goes through the heads of the average consumer? Take, for example, cable television. Why the hell would anyone pay a nickel for dozens of channels of "reality" crap, extended sales pitches, recycled network sitcoms, and 1950's programming? What moron doesn't know that all of that crap is free over the air? Originally, cable television was promoted as being commercial free, but today cable station commercials are longer than they are on the networks. What do you get for $85/month: HBO, mind-numbingly repetitive sports, Starz, Showtime, and repeats of the same 4 movies for a week. Since 99% of all movies are worse than reality television, that seems more like a punishment than a reward.

The REVIT Sand 2 Jacket.
Motorcycle gear appears to be going through a similar silly phase. The silly consumer was perfectly portrayed on a recent ADVRider thread when a wannabe wrote, "Aerostich's gear is superb but outdated. Maybe somebody else knows for sure, but most of what they sell appears to be circa 1985 or so. Motorcycle gear has come a long way since the Roadcrafter, Darien, and Combat Touring boots were invented. I'd love to see Aerostich modernize that stuff." Apparently, Aerostich isn't sticking on enough pockets and cupholders for this dude. A knockoff Chinese brand, Rev'IT, appears to have tripped this guy's trigger, which pretty much says all there is to say about his standards: trend over function.

The classic Darien Jacket, circa 2013.
Any gear is better than none, of course. Today, even the worst gear that tries to imitate the Aerostich Darien is better than everything except racing leathers from a few years back. And let's face it, everything that looks like a Darien is imitating a Darien. Outside of the canvas stuff from Belstaff, Aerostich pretty much invented modern motorcycle weather-resistant gear. While this douche bag imgaines that the Darien has been locked in 1985, I'm here to tell you that the first generation of this totally original product bears practically no resemblance to the current well-refined and massively practical gear. I owned one of the early versions and while it was state-of-a-brand-new-art, it sucked compared to my current Aerostich gear. For one, Goretex was a ways from being waterproof in 1985.

While I'm a regular maintenance guy, I'm not a fan of fixing things that aren't broke. My day-gig exposes me to a crap-load of people who believe that skill-lessly hacking into functioning gear to "improve" its performance  by mangling specifications and measurable characteristics. As a tech/engineer this whole perspective makes me want to move to my Montana hermit's cave and avoid contact with human beings until the big-asteroid Apocalypse settles the whole issue. The modern Aerostich-knock-offs are laden with silly shit that is more likely to be dangerous than useful. Belts and buckles, for example, are dangerous on a motorcycle. The only person who thinks multiple straps on a jacket is a good idea is someone who has never slid down a gravel road on his ass stuck to a 500 pound motorcycle by a damn bootstrap or belt tangled in some protrusion of the motorcycle. "Slow is smooth, smooth is fast," and smooth is also tangle-free. All those useless pockets make me nervous, too, for a totally different reason. With dozen pockets available to me on my Darien, I'm constantly losing shit; like my keys. I have been known to drive back 100 miles, convinced I'd lost something precious, only to find it in a pocket I use once a decade. Do not tell me I need more pockets. I'm warning you.

After giving me a lecture just like the ADVRider psycho-jabber a few years back, a friend decided to put his money where his mouth lived and bought a few bits of trendy looking made-in-China crap. The stuff lasted about 10,000 miles and two seasons before it bleached out, began to fray everywhere, and began to unravel itself everywhere from the multitude of unnecessary, weather-unresistant pockets to the seams that held the zippers in place. My 6-year-old Darien rig is still as water-resistant, tough, and practical as it was 110,000 miles ago and my new Darien is even tougher, more comfortable, better fitting, and more water-tight. I didn't really need a new suit, but it started with a brain fart and ended with $700 out the door and a 2nd set of riding gear. My excuse would be hi-viz. It would be a better excuse if the pants weren't black.

The Darien armor works. The hip pads and back armor are, I'll admit, expensive and big but I've fallen on my prosthetic ass hard a couple of times and it remains unbent. I've slid down the trail on my butt and back and not only did the Darien hold up but I didn't even get a bruise out of the ordeal. I'm old and I bruise easily. Hell, I break pretty damn easily.

So the gear costs a little extra. No CEO is getting rich from cheap Chinese labor or idiotically designed import laws that encourage companies to create jobs outside of the US. In fact, Andy Goldfine might be the most underpaid executive in American industry. He and his staff are all crazy people who would rather make great motorcycle gear and live in [gulp] the frozenest of all of the frozen woods of Duluth than go the usual route and pay $0.50/day for labor and cut rates on cheap and defective materials. If that bothers you, don't whine to me when your job gets Bain Capital'd into history. You deserve the misery you've asked for.

[Note: Yes I'm pissed off. This one has been boiling in my gut for a while.]

Mar 9, 2013

Mar 4, 2013

How to Act When You Rear End A Motorcycle

And now for something to really piss you off, a braindead cop with (yet another) an attitude:

Nothing like misplaced, misbegotten, unearned power to make a boy in a Village People outfit act like an asshole.

Mar 1, 2013

Liars, Damned Liars, and Statistics

One of the things that I'm enjoying the most about The Geezer with a Grudge: Average Mileage spreadsheet is the arguments about how invalid the data is. NHTSA, the states, the AMA, and insurance companies simply make up the data they use for motorcycle fatalities per mile traveled because they are too lazy to get real data. If they wanted real data, all they have to do is use the information we're all forced to provide every time a motorcycle is sold: the manufacturer, VIN number (which can easily be linked to model, engine size, year of manufacturer, etc.), and mileage at the time of the sale.

The fact is, what the database is showing so far is about what I expected to see; the average motorcyclist could get by with a 100cc scooter. With the big mileage riders skewing the data to the high-side, average miles/year is moving towards 1500/year. Still, it's hard to justify more than 250cc if that's all you're going to do with a motorcycle. This is what statisticians call a "fat-tail curve," though. There are going to be a few bikes on the right side of the curve and a crap-load of bikes on the low side. I'm not even a little surprised.

All of my life, I've bought my motorcycles by cherry-picking the 80% of motorcycle buyers (Note: I did not call them "motorcyclists."). Using good old Pareto Principles, 80% of the people who buy a motorcycle are unlikely to use it for much. Apparently, based on our current data, the more the bike costs the less likely it is to be ridden. More importantly, for me, the trendier the bike the more likely it will be found super-cheap a year after the trendiness wears off.

For example, my 1999 Suzuki SV650. I bought that bike in mid-2000, after the press had raved this bike into unobtainium for two years. My local dealers had no SV's in stock and were asking a slight premium for next year's 2001 production. However, I kept an eye on Craigslist around the Midwest and found about a half-dozen for sale for about 1/2 list price with less than 100 miles on the odometer. A young "motorcycle buyer" fell for the hype, bought a new SV for full list-plus, put the recommended farkles on the bike, dropped it in his driveway, and decided motorcycles were too dangerous. Five years and about 30k miles later, I sold the SV for slightly more than I'd paid for it and bought a year-old 2004 V-Strom (the "next big thing") for the same amount with less than 1,400 miles of local use (owned by an old guy who dropped the bike once and gave up). Well-used V-Stroms were going for serious money in 2005, but I waited for the usual suspects to show up and was not disappointed. I expect to unload my 2004 V-Strom for close to what I paid for it 50-some-k-miles later.

As our data is demonstrating, most motorcycle owners are not motorcyclists.