Apr 24, 2013

The News . . . My Way

Paul Young put me over the top with the first article in this month's news report, so if you're not entertained blame it on him. When the new Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly editor, Guido Ebert, took over the editorial reins from Sev Pearman he decided he wanted a more traditional news column. That said, he added, "You may not miss doing the news, but I think we’ll have readers that’ll miss you doing the section." Honestly, I won't miss that job. The pay was nothing spectacular and it was a lot of work; often a whole day out of my life each month. Worse, I felt that I needed to temper my own attitude on that column since it reflected the magazine rather than just me, unlike the Geezer column. With all that in mind, here comes the motorcycle news for May . . . my way:

Loud Pipes Will Get Your Weak Ass Strangled
A set of noise-makers got a Pasadena, Texas bozo strangled in early April. Chris McLain had about enough of his neighbour's loud motorcycle and the jackass's habit of riding across McLain's front lawn at 4.30am. When he complained about those two things, the biker-neighbour stabbed him. McLain's obvious response was to choke the biker to death. The biker-bozo's name has yet to be released by police. He was "in his mid thirties." Police and EMTs rushed McLain to Memorial Hermann Texas Trauma Institute by helicopter. He's in critical condition for multiple stab wounds.

The police report said, "McLain's father said his son had no choice but to defend himself." The rest of us just say "good riddance" and hope McLain recovers soon.

Read, Fire, Aim - Our AMA at Work
Friday, April was the AMA's "Freedom Friday" somethingorother . . . celebration? Of the several items they equate to "freedom" is the freedom to terrorize, irritate, and otherwise make as many enemies as possible for people who actually ride motorcycles as opposed to the AMA's largely garage candy clientele. In that spirit, they whined that motorcycles are being "banned from public beachside parks, private gated communities or acre after acre of public land" and especially bitched about "signs that say: 'No Motorcycles Allowed.'" Clueless as always, the AMA appears to be completely unaware that their fight against limits on motorcycle noise, poor pollution and efficiency characteristics of most motorcycles, general biker hooligan behavior, and the fact that motorcycles have become mostly a rich kids' toy in the US is the core of the motorcycle image problem. "We have met the enemy and he is us."

Anyway, the AMA wants you to report motorcycle bans because, "We want to know about them, and we want to unite motorcyclists to block or overturn them." They also want insurance companies to be restrained from correctly assessing risk on motorcycles and motorcyclists. It's all part of their "freedom" campaign or something freedom-like.

April - AMA Go Ride! Month
In their usual clueless jibberjabber style, the AMA decreed the first two weeks of April as AMA Go Ride! Month. Are you clowns fuckin' crazy? There is a foot of snow on the road and ice packed into every turn. You assholes go ride. I'm staying by the fireplace. Moron Californians.

Maybe Riding Is Not Such A Good Idea
The first week of April was almost like a real April. The result was that a couple of Minnesota motorcyclists managed to kill themselves while the sun was shining.

Tyron Somaiah (23) of Crystal was "evading police at a high rate of speed on 694. He exited at Brooklyn Blvd" where he ran a red light at Welcome Avenue and was struck by a car. He died at the scene. A 57-year-old Brooklyn Center woman was injured in the crash and was taken to North Memorial Medical Center with minor injuries.

Anthony John Carlson of Lake Elmo was westbound on County Road 41 near Minnemishinona Falls when he lost control of his motorcycle and crossed into the eastbound lane and hit a guardrail. He was taken to Rochester's St. Mary's Hospital where he died.

Save the Corn Lobby, Buy Crap Gas
U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced a bill, H.R. 875, that would repeal the EPA's waiver decision approving the use of E15. The bill would require the EPA from making further "decisions" until the agency obtains some actual evidence that E15 isn't a stupid idea. Wisconsin, obviously, isn't a big corn state. Otherwise, that state's Republican representative would be all about forcing alcohol into our fuel systems. Who does Sensenbrenner work for, anyway? I didn't think there were any Republicans who weren't wholly owned subsidiaries of one or more corporations.

Why Idiot Lights are Called "Idiot Lights"
American Mental Giant (AMG), Jack Wilson, in an act of motorcycle mastery, crashed his Harley-Davidson (what else?) and tossed his wife hard and far enough to cause permanent brain damage. Judy Wilson suffered skull, facial, rib and scapular fractures and has a prosthetic skull and a permanent brain injury that often leads to future disability.

AMG Wilson is suing Harley-Davidson because he mistakenly believed his 2008 Harley-Davidson Road Glide was equipped with ABS. Wilson crashed on California's Highway 99 and told the CHP that the cause of the crash was that the bike's ABS malfunctioned. Unfortunately, the only hint of ABS his bike had was the space on the console where the ABS light would be if the bike had ABS installed. Wilson has Harley in court claiming that the icon and idiot light space fooled him into believing he was protected by magical ABS powers. Obviously, a pair of real (full-face, not toilet bowls) helmets might have been a better investment than the ABS idiot light.

Harley's lawyer said, "If the icon doesn't light up when you start the bike, anybody should know you don't have ABS . . . He should have known the bike's features after riding it for 15 months and 12,000 miles." Wilson sued Harley for the ABS icon "design defect" and hoped to win $3 million. A jury disagreed.

Victory Auctions a Playboy Playmate Autographed Bike for Charity
No matter what I do with this "news item," I'm damned. I'm just gonna say the three Playmates featured in the Victory catalog -- Raquel Pomplun, Anna Sophia Berglund and Ciara Price -- signed a 2013 Victory bagger "loaded with attitude and performance" for "Operation Gratitude, a charitable organization dedicated to providing material and emotional support to America's armed forces and their families." Nope, nothing more than that. I'm done.

Lane-Splitting Safety Guidelines
Supposedly, the CHP issued the first-ever guidelines for lane-splitting in California. I'm unconvinced this is a first, since it is exactly the same rules a CHP officer explained to me in traffic school thirty years ago, but what do I know?

"The agency's guidelines rest on a fundamental rule: a motorcycle is allowed to pass between cars in adjoining lanes of traffic as long as it does so safely.

"Safely" means three things:
1. A motorcyclist should split lanes at no more than 10 mph above traffic speed.
2. A motorcyclist should not split lanes when traffic is moving at more than 30 mph.
3. A motorcyclist should split lanes using the space between the No. 1 and No. 2 lanes.

"The guidelines are not laws. A motorcyclist could not be cited for breaking them, but neither could one avoid being cited by following them if he were otherwise riding unsafely -- not paying attention to environmental issues like lighting, weather and so on. An officer could cite a motorcyclist for riding recklessly, whether within the guidelines or not, said Sgt. Mark Pope, statewide coordinator for the CHP’s California Motorcyclist Safety Program."
My favorite section of the article was this little asside about ABATE: "Among the loudest voices was Steve Guderian, a former Ontario city motorcycle cop who is now the safety officer for the motorcycle rights group ABATE. (Formerly the American Brotherhood Against Totalitarian Enactments, ABATE is a political action organization with roots in the Hells Angels’ ultimately unsuccessful battles against the California mandatory-helmet law. Trying to shed its renegade past, ABATE now calls itself the American Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education.)"

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Licenses and other Legal Crap
Alabama has been the only state in the Union that doesn't require a motorcycle license. Rep. Allen Farley, (R-McCalla) introduced House Bill 185 that would require said license. Farley has stated that he would also eventually like to see a skills test requirement. Currently, any Alabamian 16 and older with a regular driver’s license can also operate a motorcycle in the state. The law does not require an endorsement to operate a motorcycle.

Massachusetts may join California in outlawing "for competition use only" pipes on street bikes. Senate Bill 1663 would require every motorcycle built after Dec. 31, 1982 and parked or operated in the state to be equipped with an exhaust system labeled in conformance with the Code of Federal Regulations for OEM (original equipment manufacturer) or aftermarket exhaust systems. The law would require the exhaust system label to be clearly visible without the use of inspection mirrors or other optical aids, or without removal of any equipment attached to the motorcycle. An initial violation would be punishable by a fine of $250; second violation, by a $500 fine; and third violation by a $1,000 fine.

Other states are considering laws that prohibit motorcycle checkpoints, children under the age of 5 years from being a passenger on a motorcycle, permit a motorcyclist stuck at an intersection controlled by a traffic-actuated signal to proceed with due caution, would create an aggravated offense for driving while using a video device, wireless telephone, or electronic communication device, authorize motorcycles to operate in toll lanes and on toll roads without the payment of a toll, to be equipped with a means of varying the brightness of the its brake light for a duration of not more than five seconds upon application of the motorcycle’s brakes, would make comprehensive motor vehicle insurance reparations (no-fault insurance) applicable to motorcycles, would permit motorcycle operators and passengers 21 or older to make their own decision with regard to motorcycle helmet use, and all sorts of dumb shit. Good thing we have government, otherwise nobody would think to do this sillyassed stuff on their own.

NHTSA Recalls:

Triumph Motorcycles 2012-2013 Daytona 675, Street Triple, Speed Triple, and Tiger 800 motorcycles: Due to a manufacturing error, the turn signal stems on the front and rear of the motorcycle may fracture. If the turn signal stems break, the turn signals may not be visible to other vehicles on the road, increasing the risk of a vehicle crash.

Triumph will notify owners and dealers will replace the turn signal stems, free of charge. The recall is expected to begin during April 2013.

Yamaha 2009 YW125 (Zuma 125) scooters manufactured between July 2008 and April 2009: Due to possible improper clearances in the internal fuel pump components. These improper clearances may cause an inadequate supply of fuel. The limited fuel supply could cause engine stalling, increasing the risk of a crash. Yamaha will notify owners, and dealers will replace the fuel pump with a newly designed fuel pump. The recall began on February 27, 2013.

Zhejiang Jixiang Helmets JIXJX-B210: It's hard to find recalls to laugh about, but the April recall of the Zhejiang Jixiang JIXJX-B210 series of clownish toilet bowls hit that mark. NHTSA says "the affected helmets failed to conform to the impact attenuation, penetration, labeling and retention requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard # 218." So, if you somehow lose your balance and fail to skid down the road exactly on the top of your head (the only part of your empty skull these joke helmets pretended to protect), you're just as screwed as you will be in every other kind of crash.


Andy Mckenzie said...

Thinking about the "no competition-only pipes" law, I feel like there's a simpler solution.

Outfit random police cars with decibel meters, and start enforcing noise ordinances. It's not rocket science, and it doesn't require the passing of new laws. Those ordinances are there for a reason, and they already exist. Use those idiot electronic signs on the sides of every highway to advertise that you're going to start enforcing, and then do it.

Hmm. Living in Massachusetts, I may need to write to my state rep. They might appreciate hearing "Yes, please, there are riders who WANT the law enforced!" for a change.

T.W. Day said...

I've made a few noise measurements in my career. It's not that easy to determine the noise level of a product when that measurement is made in an uncontrolled (street side) environment. In fact, it's impossible and totally contestable. The simple way to deal with the noise issue is the best and easiest to manage: if the pipe says it's not legal, it's not. If it says it is legal, it should not be modified. If it is modified, it's not legal.

Dale B said...

I missed your column in the latest MMM. Nice to see it here.

You're right that sound measurement is hard to do properly and accurately. The last time I read the MN code they required the motorcycle muffler to meet the FMVS standard for noise (don't remember the standard number and I'm too lazy to look it up). That standard refers to an EPA test method which I recall is something in the region of 80 or 83 dB. One of the above standards requires that the compliance information be stamped on the or otherwise indelibly marked on the muffler in plain sight. On every bike I've owned for at least the last 25 years this stamp was plainly visible.

Any MN licensed bike without such a label/stamp is in violation of the law. There are at least a couple down sides of enforcing this. Some classic bikes may have trouble finding an OEM replacement muffler for a restoration. Also, would not deal with people who modified their stock mufflers. If this was enforced in MN I'm sure that the hardley riders would start modifying their stock mufflers right away. Probably the squids too.

Still, it may be worth a try. No new laws need to be passed, at least in MN. Several cops I've talked to are not very enthusiastic about enforcing this though. They'd rather catch speeders and other moving violations.

T.W. Day said...

9/10ths of the cops I've had in ERC classes have been riding illegal bikes. I'm not surprised they don't want to enforce the law. They probably don't know the law well enough to do much more than run speed traps and tag the occasional drunk. Still, it's not hard to tell when a pipe has been modified and if a cop believes the EPA-stamped pipe is not legal, then the noise measurement comes into to play.

I don't have much sympathy for "vintage bike" owners. If they are really vintage and are running antique or collector plates, they aren't really legal on the streets. If there were a market for legal replacement pipes, someone or the OEMs would make them available. Old bikes pollute dozens of times over the legal levels for cars since the early 80s. There is no excuse for that. You can't ride a lawnmower on the street, either.

Thanks for noticing the change. It's good to know I existed out there for a while. My philosophy is that I can read the industry handouts anywhere. Might as well be different.

Trobairitz said...

So many good points contained in one post. Excellent as always.

It is always sad to see the ass-hattery that goes on in the spring when people take their bikes out of hibernation and promptly kill themselves. We see it here in Oregon to, to those that don't ride year round.