May 31, 2013

Dumbest Thing Yet?

When I got back from a short ride and hang with Chris Luhman yesterday, I did some slightly-put-off maintenance: oil change, chain clean, lube, and adjust, cooling system flush. As I began the usual process, I flashed back on a rushed oil change I did, near the end of last season, on the V-Strom last year that might take the prize for being the dumbest maintenance move I’ve made in my fading memory.

I did a crap-load of stuff on the bike; from the usual to the once-in-10,000-miles stuff. I intended to do more, but while I was wandering from task to task with no real focus or check-list, I managed to dump a whole gallon of expensive synthetic oil into the fill-hole before discovering that I had yet to replace the drain plug. After smacking myself around the garage for a few minutes, I installed the plug, filled the crankcase with my backup oil (not synthetic), and terminated the maintenance session.

I still need to repack the steering head bearings, but in the mood I was in after blowing $25 in a few moments of stupidity I decided discretion was “the better part of valor” and my bike, too.
Some days, maintenance brings out the really stupid in me and on those days I try to be flexible enough to find something else, something easier, to do rather than continue on the path that will likely end in a screwed up motorcycle and additional expense. How ‘bout you?

May 30, 2013

Now Honda is really getting serious about motorcycles for the next generation of rider.

May 29, 2013

Fighting Over Small Stuff

When I first started teaching MSF classes, I tried to take every opportunity to ride the state's motorcycles in the course demonstrations. I felt that I had a pretty good grasp of the program's text and post-exercise analysis, but I was still doubting the concept of "traction" and some of the other core principles we were teaching. When I became an instructor, the qualification process "proved" that I could ride well enough to teach the course but I wasn't yet completely convinced. After my first year, that was no longer an issue and I found plenty of opportunity to ingrain the ideas and practices into my normal riding routine.

Like most of the state's instructors, I would still rather "ride than talk." For the next six or seven years, anytime I was given a choice between talking or riding I always chose riding. There is an aspect of showing off in doing the demos that is probably unhealthy and less-than-useful for our students. I have yet to work with an instructor who doesn't do some of that and I sure do. However, the compulsion to ride over standing around yakking and hanging out seems a little out-of-place with a group as diverse as our instructors. About five years ago, I began to ride my KL250 to class and most everywhere. When I moved to the small bike from my V-Strom my interest in demo'ing on the state's bikes began to decay. When I bought the WR250X, riding over talking took a big hit. Most of the time I pick whatever option will move the class along the most efficiently. If the other instructor talks too much about stuff not in the program or "enhancing" the same material until eyes glaze over and brains shut off, I'll take more turns talking. If it's taking too long to setup the range and do the demos, I'll ride. Otherwise, I don't care which I'm doing.

The fact is, my WR is so much more fun to ride -- everywhere -- than anything MNDOT owns that I don't get much out of riding the state's bikes. Figuring this out made me realize something about my co-instructors: they don't have anything as cool as the state's bikes to play with!

This all reminds me of a couple of neighbors and friends who own large, noisy motorcycles that require rearranging of the garage before the motorcycle can peek out of it's winter hibernation hole. Both of these guys are terrified of riding on the freeway and neither put more than a thousand miles a year on their bike. I am clueless as to their motivation for owning a motorcycle, other than the obvious fact that they have tied some of their self-identity to the idea of being "a biker" and owning a motorcycle is a prerequisite for that fantasy. That is a lot of stuff to mess with for a delusional self-image, isn't it? Insurance, maintenance, giving up useful garage space to a useless toy, frustration, and the continual disappointment that must come with looking at the tarp-covered hunk of hippobike every time you strap into the old family cage.

Knowing that most of my co-instructors drive a cage to their classes and all of the few who ride are one liter-or-better gigantatrons, I suddenly have something slightly like sympathy for their desire to ride something fun. Now, if I could only convince a few of them that small bikes are more practical than large.

May 27, 2013

#4 History is Everything

All Rights Reserved © 2000 Thomas W. Day

The marketing golden rule is "perception is everything." Perception is a shallow concept, compared to history. Marketing guys are partial to shallow concepts, so if you can forgive them for all of their other faults you should have no trouble letting them live over this one. From an in-duh-vidual motorcyclist's experience, my personal history and my limited study of the broader perspective has colored my perception of our sport and the vehicles we chose to ride. I think that's a true statement for almost all of us who've been on two wheels for any length of time.

As a beginning rider, I was chased from the Kansas highways by hostile and incompetent cagers. I ended up spending so much time struggling to keep my bike vertical in the ditches that I decided to become an off-road biker. (Like I had a real choice?) That first motorcycle was a 1962 Aermacchi/Harley-Davidson 250 Sprint that actually belonged to my brother but, since he was younger and smaller than me, was mostly mine. He, more or less, passively observed as I turned his bike into a oval track scrambler and, in a few months, a hunk of junk. (See the included photo for an example of an ideal application for the Harley Sprint. Source unknown.) The only positive thing you could say about the 250 Sprint was that it had a macho (low and loud) exhaust note. It was a total wimp of a motorcycle and, like other four stroke hippos, was quickly chased from the dirt by the European and Japanese two-stroke invasion.

After a pause in riding, while I conditioned myself to tolerate the rattle of two stroke machines, I bought my first real off-road bike. A long period of motocross and cross country racing, enduros, and observed trials followed. An integral aspect of my history includes loving the smell of burnt bean oil on a cool summer morning. (I'm not kidding. I can practically drown in good memories from just a whiff of the stuff.) In the early 80's, I moved back to the street, after a series of racing injuries turned me into more of an obstacle on the track than a racer. But my heart was still bent to places where street bikes are rarely seen. I still expect a road bike to be a tolerable performer on dirt roads. My worst and least logical prejudice is based on specially outdated experience. 1960's and 70's dirt bikers and Harley riders weren't exactly on friendly terms. That tense relationship and a general disdain for American "quality control" earned through 25 years as a technician and engineer, still colors my perception of folks who chose to ride motorcycles that look and perform pretty much like they did thirty or fifty years ago.

I expect that, today, there are a lot more Harley riders wearing ties and driving Accuras during the work week than there are hustling coke and participating in town-trashing. (The stats on today's Harley owners' incomes are pretty impressive.) Still, I remember being chased from some of America's great motorcycling events by smelly, wanna-act-like-a-vicious-frat-brat gangs. The sound of a badly tuned two-cylinder tractor motor raises my hackles.

There's also a function-follows-form aspect of cruiser bikes that doesn't work for me. Even the cosmetic aspects (color and graphics) of dirt bikes have a function (identification on the track). When it comes to all of the other characteristics of a dirt bike, if it didn't have a purpose it wouldn't be there. Racing, in general, puts function so far before form that it's almost amazing that racers bother with paint, at all.

Street bikes are considerably less restricted by functionality (read: no connection between function and form unless absolutely necessary) From my perspective, cruisers appear to be more intended to be seen than ridden. Cruisers may even be seen by their owners as being more art than bike. Similar to how Frank Lloyd Wright's construction projects are viewed more as creative works of art than reliable protection from the elements.

I've been married to an artist for 30+ years. My wife's disdain for proper material use and structural integrity has, and will, always confuse the crap out of me. I, honestly, can't figure out why you'd build something that wasn't done "right" (from an engineering point of view). The way I see it, you always have the option of designing something that will hold up to expected use and exposure to the elements. Why would you chose to ignore that stuff?

Of course, my wife and her arty friends see my point of view as "limiting" and they apply the derogative label of "artisan" to anyone who believes that artistic value and quality of construction are compatible concepts. While it's possible for me to imagine that they could be right, it's not something I am willing to spend any time thinking about. It doesn't fit within my historical experience or my perspective. In the same light, I can't see why anyone would chose chrome over a much more durable anodized finish, leather over a tougher and more IR and weather resistant synthetic material, an airbrushed enamel paint job over epoxy powder coating, or tube mild steel over a reinforced cast aluminum frame. It's a form of blindness that I'm, apparently, permanently afflicted with.

The opposite disability is pretty easy to spot when an owner of a "rice burner" parks on Taylors Falls' main street. All of the cruiser folks act like a sacred burial ground has been turned into a toxic waste dump. It's pretty funny to watch, if it's not your bike the boys in black leather are threatening to trash. I can't claim to understand the history behind this perspective. It's not mine to share or understand. Since 1966, I've been on the other side of the fence (If you'll give me credit for owning that ancient Aermacchi. Otherwise, I've always burned Italian, Spanish, German, or Japanese rice.)

All of that is a lot of history. All mine. Ride for 35 years and 250,000+ miles (not counting the off-road, odometer-less miles) and you'll collect a bunch of history, too. With history comes perspective and prejudice. I wish it weren't true, but it seems to be.

MMM April 2000

May 25, 2013

Coming Along, I Hope

I'm about 2/3 of the way done with scheduling my old Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly column history into this blog. It has been a few years since I've looked at this stuff, even though it was always archived on my own website with Comcast for years. Comcast doesn't offer website space for new customers and, sooner or later, I'll become a new/old customer and the website will become history.

Funny how technology and communications "evolves" and changes the way we humans communicate. For years, I was convinced that I'd find a way to "monetize" my websites (I had several and at least a couple of them were intended to attract business.) Several friends and ex-corporate drones had figured out how to make a killer living as "consultants" and I figured I could dip into that pie, too. I had this sneaky angle that "nobody else figured out," simple explained as being a contrary old guy who solved problems without massaging the egos of the corporate CEO-CFO-whatevers. 30 years ago (Yeah, it was that long ago when Americans made stuff that people bought without government subsidies.), I managed a small manufacturing business. That company went from being a money-loser to knocking out a substantial profit on a substantial gross income in a decade and I had a lot to do with that evolution. I imagined that I could pedal that experience into a fairly regular income, after abandoning my last Misfortune 500 disaster area. I didn't image this strongly enough to count on it and I did my usual thing of cranking up a half-dozen "businesses" and waiting to see which panned out/paid out the most. Having done the for-hire consultant thing for 6 months in the early 90's, I knew how phony most of the crap was and how unlikely it would be that I'd actually find a business owner who wanted to build a business instead of scrap the assets into his pockets and run away before the buildings collapsed on his employees. The one skill Americans have lost above all of the rest of our problems is the ability to manage anything for long-term benefit. We just don't know how to build anything substantial any more.

And I was right. Business and manufacturing consulting turned out to be a non-starter. My income ended up coming from a collection of much less ambitious and mostly-recreational music and small business customers doing acoustic consulting, audio forensic work, and electronic design and repair work. The websites, including the website for the above businesses, didn't do squat for me. Everything I did came from referrals.

Now, I'm told that blogs are "old fashioned." I should be "communicating" on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or some other limited-text, attention deficit resource. "Nobody wants to read a whole thought," seems to be the direction humans are heading. I am sixty-five-fucking-years-old. I do not care what cliff humanity is driving towards. Like H.L. Menken said, "I write for the same reason cows give milk." There is probably a similar reason why I ride a motorcycle, but I can't think of it. (Of course, I didn't originate the Menken quote either.) If nobody reads what I write, I still write. It's a compulsion. That partially explains why I have a "resource page" where all of the crap I've written is held for publishers to pick-and-choose from that is always about 20 essays-full and I have at least another dozen mostly-written and waiting for a bit of editing before they are also added to the slush pile.

If you haven't caught the "code" yet, if there is a number ("#1001," for example) in front of a Geezer blog entry, it's an old article being archived to this blog. At first, I thought I'd just add the stuff from Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly, since that magazine's current website status was the impetus for moving my stuff from the website to the blog. Since I got started with the process, I have decided to put everything I've had published here, too. That will include a couple of Motorcyclist how-to-ride articles, the Rider's Digest articles (in original form), and every bike review I've done in whole (rather than the published and edited versions). That will amount to about 200-and-counting articles, so the blog will be "busy" for a while (I'm up to #41 and that takes the blog into February of 2014).

I joked that, at this rate, I'll be publishing stuff on this blog long after I'd dead. My wife did not think that was either optimistic or funny. I do not come from a long-lived male heritage, so if the old stuff keeps the blog alive beyond 2015, I'm betting on the blog. And this time, my money is somewhere tangled up in this bet.

May 24, 2013

The Worst Scooter Driver in China

We know this dude isn't the "Worst Scooter Driver in China." There is always someone worse. However . . .

This dude doesn't belong on anything motorized.
HINT: Stick it out to the end.

May 22, 2013

The Modern Motorcycle Diaries

Expedition South

Simply a great story. Check out his website for more detail and YouTube has all of the episodes of his trip here:

May 20, 2013

#3 When Two Wheels are Not Necessarily Better than Four

All Rights Reserved © 2000 Thomas W. Day

A big part, for me, of the beauty of owning a motorcycle is the Zen of maintaining them. All through winter, while my garage is only a couple of degrees warmer than Hillary's heart, I think about the things I "need" to do to my bike come spring. When the early spring rains keep me off of the roads, I have a dry and reasonably well equipped garage to tinker in. It's one of my favorite ways to burn a weekend.

For the first 15 years of my riding career, all of my two-wheeled time was spent on the dirt. Thanks to the simple design and easy access of dirt bikes, I learned to love a good set of wrenches and a day spent getting dirt and grease so solidly absorbed into the pores of my hands that only acrylic lacquer thinner can cut it.

In my early 30's, motorcycles moved from recreation to transportation. I bought my first street bike, a Honda CX500, which was only a bit different than my car, a '67 Volkswagen convertible, maintenance-wise. The CX got a valve adjust every two thousand miles and, occasionally, needed it. While I had the top off, I changed the oil, checked the cam chain tension, and made a lap around the bike looking for leaks, loose bolts, and any sign of lazy ownership. I liked working on that bike as much as riding it, which isn't necessarily a positive comment on the bike's handling characteristics. The CX lived for more than 120,000 miles before I sold it (guilt free) to a friend.

Like an idiot, I sold the CX and the VW. Since then, I haven't owned a car that I can/will do much more than change the oil and plugs. My next series of motorcycles started a maintenance decline that will die with my current ride, a 1992 Yamaha 850 TDM. When it's running, I love the bike. It's suspended tall, it's reasonably quick and handles well on paved or dirt roads, and it's red. All important things, in my mind. However, I hate working on it.

Yamaha's evilly intentioned engineers made almost every aspect of maintaining this motorcycle a non-Zen experience. Even changing out the spark plugs costs a pound of flesh, because the fan housing was positioned to block off bloodless access to the right side plug. The fairing is a cobbled three piece affair that is held in place with a dozen irritating and fragile rubber mounted nuts. The battery, air box, carbs, and most of the electrics are covered by the tank, which has to be removed for almost any kind of service. Of course, the fairing bits have to come off to get at the tank. All that hassle just gets you to the stuff under the plastic. Other painful experiences are exposed once this routine is completed. As much as I like riding this bike, I dislike working on it.

At last year's Cycle World Bike Show, I almost fell in love with the Suzuki SV650. From a distance, it looked like Suzuki had made a bike to ride and to maintain. When I asked a salesman about maintenance, he looked at me like I might be contagious. He babbled about how trouble-free the SV would be. He wanted to talk about the hot new colors (red and blue, incredibly original), the low price, and the bike's specs. I wanted to see how the tank prop worked, how the wheels came off, how the chain adjust worked, if I could get to the plugs without major surgery.

We were both disappointed and I'm still living with my old bike. Until I find a ride that makes me smile when I think about working on it, I'm going to stick with what I have. There is no shortage of bikes that are fun to ride. I live in Minnesota. I spend as many months tinkering with my bikes as I do riding them. I want to have fun at both aspects of being a motorcyclist and, until I find a road bike that gives me that pleasure, I'm hanging on to my dirt bike.

March 2000

May 18, 2013

Gear Up or Else

One of my favorite motorcycle campaigns from the last decade or two has been the GearUpProject. I've been sporting one of their stickers on the gashed up side-panel of my V-Strom since I gashed it up (2007 or thereabouts). This group accumulates statistics on riders, crashes, and the effectiveness of gear.

I stumbled on this sneaker/flip-flop wearer's pre-surgery/post-clean-up shot and it is a gross reminder of the high cost of hoping for the best and planning for the same. Nature loves vacuums and hates fools. Like my experience with scooter-ownership, if you aren't smart enough to imagine how much damage sliding down the road at 5-75mph will do to your skin, you aren't smart enough to ride a motorcycle (you can own one, just don't take it out of your living room). The old "Death on the Highway" films the Highway Patrol used to show to high school kids to gross them out and make them consider sticking with bicycles for a few more years before venturing on to highways in Mom's Buick, this kind of illustration is a good reminder of how poorly we are constructed. (NOTE: Someone sent me a note saying this was post-snake bite, rather than a bike related rash. I got the picture from someone and can't even find the original email. I did wonder why the bones weren't ground up. I'm having a bad computer day and managed to "delete" the correction email instead of "publish" it. Sorry.)

After stopping at Fleet Farm to grab some cheap synthetic oil (yes, they do carry several brands of 2-and-4-stroke motorcycle oil for cheaper than average prices), a squid on an R6 rolled in beside us (parking in a regular space instead of Fleet Farm's spacious and roped in motorcycle parking area) dressed in baggy shorts, a wife-beater, and flipflops. He inspired me to consider blowing up this picture (and a dozen other hospital shots into a "squid hall of fame montage") and turning it into a window poster to go along with a "Start Seeing Motorcyclists in Hospitals" sign. How dumb do you have to be to risk this kind of damage?

Driving the camper back from Washington, I was amazed at the number of people wearing helmets (in helmet law states) and going, otherwise, naked on motorcycles. Not coincidentally, I didn't see a single one of those characters showing a lick of skill on their motorcycles. There seems to be a link between riding unprotected and being talentless on a motorcycle.

May 17, 2013

Exceeding the Limits

It has been an all-around shit week. My wife is convinced she wants to explore the world in a motorhome. You probably already how I feel about 4-wheel anything and this "plan" smells like something that will put me behind the wheel of a cursed cage for extended periods of time with no upsides in sight. Being the passive-aggressive Midwesterner I am, I found a pretty good deal on a motorhome I can probably tolerate and bought the damn thing, driving it home 1800 miles from near Portland in a couple of days (and nights).

Arriving pissed off and disoriented, I went back to what passes for my "life" Tuesday and promptly had my billfold stolen during a physical therapy session at the Roseville Community Center, The asshole smacked my MasterLock, cracking the hasp and made off with my identity, a couple hundred bucks of travel money left over from the trip, and a couple of credit cards. So far, he's racked up $2400 in idiotic charges and proved that the world of credit is populated with moronic vendors and a lot of stupid bankers. Being as true as possible to stereotypes, the jackass went first to some place called "Hat World," followed by Footlocker, "SQ Dionte Tinkel, OFG Wireless (bought a disposable phone), and to the Roseville Apple Store (twice) for iPads. If the Roseville Police can't find this douchebag, having been photographed in high-resolution by the Apple Store and in pretty good resolution leaving the community center, they should close up shop and quit wasting taxpayer money. I'll put my money on the Roseville cops being far too lethargic to find their own shoes in the morning, let alone a thief who might actually move faster than 2mph.

I know better than to bring valuables into the locker room, but you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. Leave them in the car and any idiot with a Slim Jim gets your stuff. Take the stuff into the gym locker room and they bust the lock and are off and spending money like a Kardasian with an unlimited credit card. Carry the stuff into the gym and they have all sorts of opportunities to grab your stuff while you exercise. The only solution is to avoid going anywhere. The world is obviously full of useless, bored young men and the next douchebag who whines to me about abortion might get a late term look at the procedure himself.

The lost week hasn't ended yet.

I made an errand ride to the library, returning a couple of books, getting caught in a rainstorm, and managing no to fasten my tailbag solidly to the rack, and losting the damn thing somewhere between the library and a drug store. This is the second small MotoFizz bag I've managed to "lose," the first one was stolen from the bike when I made a quick trip into work to grab some test papers about two years ago. This one, I tossed myself. Stupidly, on the way there I thought "I ought to write my name on this damn bag."

I'm sitting in the sun porch, feeling sorry for myself. Clearly, Alzheimer's has claimed what's left of my tiny brain. It's probably time to make that walk into the forest and hope for a large predator to make a quick, clean kill.

POSTSCRIPT: Someone incredibly helpful found the bag in front of his house, called my work number (business cards were in the bag) and left it on his porch where I could find it last night. Incredibly, the MotoFizz stayed on the WR's tailrack for 2.2 miles of moderate traffic maneuvering. I missed finding it myself because I turned a couple of blocks too early on the return trip to the library and the good Samaritan had already found it by the time I made the return pass. So, now I can go the the Alzehimer's clinic knowing, for a few moments, where some of my stuff is.

May 16, 2013

Getting Tricky with a V-Strom

The project bike after installment #1.
The folks at have started an interesting project, creating a better-than-the-Adventure-V-Strom for less than the additional $1500 Suzuki tacks on for the Adventure model. With a function-based goalpost, one of the usual bullshit "improvements" dumbass motorcycle magazines usually start with died out of the gate: "So we had no intention of throwing an exhaust system on this thing that would blow a grand of the budget to liberate 1.37 horsepower."

Suddenly, I have become a huge fan of The last two issues of Motorcyclist and Motorcycle Consumer News have pissed me off with their insistence on making noise as a delusion of speed and power that I am tossing their subscription letters into the trash without bothering to look at what they are offering.
They started with the undeniably best and most indispensable "upgrade" a motorcycle can get, a center-stand, and progressed to a bashplate (also indispensable off-road) and a chain-oiler (we can argue about that one). With only $600 of their $1500 budget spent, this looks like one of the best upgrade articles ever. Apparently, having a budget is the key to spending money intelligently.Who knew?

May 13, 2013

#2 Who Has What?

All Rights Reserved © 1999 Thomas W. Day

A while back, I read an article about bikers' opinions on the technical competence of Harley Davidson products. In the article, one character said something about the limitations of Harley engineers and another followed that up with "Harley has engineers?"

OK, I admit I not only thought it was a funny quote, but, outside of the suits and geeks who clutter up Harley's manufacturing floor, I pretty much agreed with the sentiment. A manufacturer that microscopically changes its design once every couple of decades (regardless of competitor activity, advances in available technology, or customer demand) isn't likely to have a pack of innovative and motivated R&D guys on staff. There are only so many ways you can dangle fringe from handlebars before you can pull every idea you need from old production drawings. But this isn't about Harley bashing, as much as that topic warms my soul.

The other side of that same slam arose this week as some guys I know were talking about Yamaha and Honda's failure to market some of their recent really interesting motorcycles in the US. Even worse, the coolest of their recent design output won't ever be seen in a U.S. dealer's showroom. Someone included "Yamaha's Marketing Department" in a statement about a bunch of those sales disasters. That was quickly followed by the obvious question, "Yamaha has a marketing department?"

So, do they?

If you look at the really cool bikes that Yamaha and Honda have lost money bringing into this country in the last couple of decades, you have to wonder what happened to the folks who convinced us "you meet the nicest people on a Honda." Honda hasn't managed an innovative advertising campaign since 1969. I don't remember Yamaha's marketing ever doing anything creative in my lifetime. These companies have been on cruise control for so long, we wouldn't take their advise if it was right.

These days, the two big chunks of the big Japanese Four are simply cutting and pasting their Harley-clones into old Harley ads. Check out the ads. If you cut out the logos, you tell me if you can tell a Harley ad from a Valkerie ad from a Royal Star ad. Without a sincere interest in farm implement design and the you'd-never-mistake-it-for-anything-else, all-time-most-butt-ugliest-bike-in-history-ness of the Valkerie, you wouldn't be able to tell Hondas from Yamahas from Harleys in those same ads.

If someone who cared discovered that these three companies all share the same clothing models, accessory designers, aftermarket component suppliers, and a custom seat manufacturer (whoops, they do; Corbin), it wouldn't surprise me at all. Essentially, they all make the same bike for the same people for the same purpose.

I guess I should be flattered. A couple billion dollars of manufacturing horsepower has been aimed at building plodding hippopotamuses for the rich geezers of my very own generation. All of those geeky kids who aspired to MBA and computer science degrees from upper-crust schools suddenly decided they need to be rebels without clues. They've traded in their creepy wingtips with tassels and three piece suits for even creepier black leather jackets with waist expansion panels and fringed leather chaps. The "Geek-boy meets Sonny Barger" look. Go ahead, tell me the picture on this site ( doesn't look like your neighborhood investment banker on his way to a yuppie bar in Wisconsin.

While all this posturing and positioning for the last financial gasps of the Boomer generation is going on, you gotta wonder if anyone is thinking about two-wheeling in the years after Y2k? My kids generation could care less what Pete Fonda was riding when he ate the big one in an obscure, godawful 1967 B-movie. While motorcycle sales are up this year, for the first time in a couple of decades, most of those sales are going to geezers who won't be doing anything on two wheels in less than a decade.

Marketing, at its best, is education. At it's worst, it's a pointless waste of money. Honda, Yamaha, or somebody better buy a clue and get excited about selling motorcycles that have a purpose. If they don't learn how to generate a lot of interest in riders under age 55, we'll see "the crash of '83" all over again in a very few years.

Winter 1999/2000

[Postscript: I was challenged to review these comments by a friend who's been "in the industry" for the last 15 years. Nope, I still stand by it 18 years later. Nothing noticeable has changed.]

May 11, 2013

A Ticking Clock

My wife and I are in the market for [gasp] a motorhome. We're approaching the point where we are going to have to make some big decisions about the next few years and one of the options we want to explore is living off of the grid (as in avenues and streets). I've picked a test model (the Winnebago Rialta 1996-2005, prefereably a 2002-2005) and the interior style (the HD or RD) and all that's left is to find a vehicle for the price I'm willing to pay.

Seems pretty simple, doesn't it? It turns out, nothing is simple except, maybe, being born or dying.

There is a lot to consider here. Mostly, where the hell does the motorcycle go? I mean, seriously, how can I live in one of these things if I can't figure out where to put the motorcycle?

For the last 20 years, my wife has been more than a little jealous of my "adventures." She's not all that interested in the adventure part, but she has a fine idea of herself as a traveler and rarely going anywhere or doing anything has done some serious damage to that self-image. I'm good with a tent/bivouac and a sleeping bag, but she's pretty set on sleeping in a bed with solid walls around us (Notice the "us," instead of the more Geezer-friendly singular term?) On the other hand, I hate cages and was sort of looking forward to purging myself of all things four-wheeled in my geezerhood. A compromise is going to have to happen here and I suspect we all know what that means. (I give up some shit in exchange for a little peace and quiet.)

In the process of searching for information about these vehicles, we met a couple who are, probably, another decade or so older than us. (Imagine that?) Dave and Mary have had a great dozen or so years of retirement, motorcycling, full-time motor-homing, sailing the Pacific, and doing all sorts of cool stuff that most kids wouldn't dream of tackling. However, at 70-something David has worn out some parts and did a pretty good job of letting me know how near that moment will be for me. The moment when I have to decide if I can keep two-wheeling or if it's time to settle to call an occasional bingo game an "adventure." David has a couple of mangled discs, a bad shoulder, and failing eyesight. His mind is sharper than mine on my best day, but the body has taken a beating and the crows of some habits have come home to roost. Like a lot of us, he hates exercise and would rather rot than put in time on a treadmill or pumping iron. I can relate.

However, that is not a functional attitude. I've mentioned Younger Next Year: Live Strong, Fit, and Sexy - Until You're 80 and Beyond before and here it comes again. The older we get, the harder we have to work to get to do any damn thing. This isn't optional, although it sure feels like it. What happens if we don't keep cranking out sweat and putting up with the pain for the gain is constant deterioration. Nature pretty much says, "If you're not going to work at this, die you worthless old bastard." Even if you do work at it, the end result is deterioration, it just takes a little longer. If you look at the world and national weight lifting champions, the downsizing of expectations with age is relentless. The Snatch/Clean & Jerk totals for 35-39 year olds is 328kG, 55-59 year olds is 239kG, 65-69 years is 213kG, and 75-79 is 180. We keep working, but our body is designed to peak at about 27 (for me) and go downhill from then on.

All this is just another piece of evidence that getting old isn't for sissies. Tonight, it's back to the workout routine.

As for the motorhome, some kind of ramp will end up tacked to the back of the vehicle and the WR250X will live there except when I'm off on a dirt road and my wife is happily ensconced in a civilized campground with the cat and dog for company.

May 10, 2013

Back in the Digest Again

In my never-ending crusade to piss off people on all sides of the oceans, Dave Gruman has cursed The Rider's Digest readers with another Geezer rant: Secondary Effects. As always, this month's magazine is a great read with the best pictures in moto-journalism.

Be sure to read Oldlongdog's article, Riding Out the Recession. He is the reason I accidentally hooked up with Rider's Digest and I chase his work down anywhere I can find it. Where else can you combine hippy politics with motorcycling? The best of all worlds.

May 8, 2013

PSA: 8km/h Can Change Everything

In the gold old USofA, this kind of PSA scares the crap out of our politically-correct, wimpy-assed conservative pussified (thank you Mr. Carlin) culture, so we waste time with "Start Seeing Motorcycles" and silly crap that doesn't get any sort of point across, but makes the ABATE bunch feel good about themselves and their campaign to keep riders at risk and shove the blame for motorcycle deaths on to the general public. We know better, don't we?

May 4, 2013

What Kind of Crash Is This?

There is a fair amount of discussion on-line attributing the "cause" of this incident to "target fixation." I completely disagree. Everything about this crash stinks of rider incompetence. Even worse, like the cagers we often whine about, this asshole decided to sacrifice unprotected bicyclists rather than accept the consequences of riding too fast and not being in control of his motorcycle and move his crash off of the road and away from innocent victims. For that, I would suggest throwing the entire rule book at biker bozo and extracting the maximum cash and liberty. Running into the back of any vehicle or person is a symptom of incompetence on multiple levels. In this case, it's also damn near attempted manslaughter.

The fact that jackass-boy is also playing racer on public roads, has a loud pipe (perfectly delineating who he really is), and reacted exactly wrong in every way pretty much puts the nails in his riding coffin. The perfect outcome would be a shit-load of tickets from the cop and learning that one of the bicyclists is a lawyer. I have no more sympathy for him than I would for a cager (especially a cop) who rear-ends a motorcycle.

This is not a poor-biker story, but a dumbass-on-a-motorcycle classic tale. This guy and the thousands like him are exactly the reason "real people" hate motorcyclists and making him into anything else puts us in his boots (or, probably, flipflops). 

Your opinion?

Postscript: This video and opinions about who did what to who and why are "going viral" on the web. A bicyclist's view of the crash is about the same as mine, "What Really Happened." Huffington Post wrote it up in "Motorcycle Crashes Into Cyclists On California Highway." One of the Huffington readers optimistically called the douchebag "Worst motorbike rider ever." We wish that were true.

May 1, 2013

#1 What Are We Riding For? (The original, from whence The Geezer came from ;-) October 1999

All Rights Reserved © 1999 Thomas W. Day

After reading the last two issues of M.M.M., it struck me how difficult it must be to write about motorcycling in 1999. First, the majority of riders are geezers (over 47, according to the last poll I read), rich ($8Ok average income), and girly-man geeks (claim "Allie McBeal" and some other godawful soap opera as their favorite TV shows).

Second, as one of your writers discussed last month, damn few of us appear to be actually riding the motorcycles we buy. When bikes are the minority vehicle at a motorcycle event (not an event occurring at the Metrodome in January), you gotta know something is wrong in two-wheeled America.

Third, the U.S. of A’s motorcycling tastes have become so unimaginative that it’s not even fun to visit the local bike shops and drool on the bikes that I’d buy if I won the lottery. The two main street bike choices are 1) Harley clones with dumbed-down motors and enough overweight chromed pot metal to build a John Deere farm implement or 2) 180hp crotch rockets with 0.25" of suspension and a riding position that would cause a proctologist’s finger to twitch uncontrollably.

If I wanted to ride something that had just left state-of-the-art when I was born, in 1948, I’d be in hog heaven (pun intended). When I was an active off-road racer, the Harley crowd ruined a collection of my favorite events (including Sturgis) and I still hold a grudge.

Fortunately, I had an active, motorcycling, childhood so I don’t need to relive my "Wild One" self-image at the same time I try to ignore calls from burial plot salesmen. If I was willing to hand over my driver’s license and, probably, my freedom for 90 days or more, the spine-pounding, more-power-than-Tim-Allen-can-imagine imitation racer bikes might trip my trigger. I really do love the concept behind these bikes, but I like to do 400-700 mile days and take off on the occasional dirt road. Off of the race track, this is a 75mph-max world, so all that power is just trouble looking for a billfold to empty. The concept appears to be without purpose, to me. I bike-commute to work most weekdays and there just isn’t any place to safely wind out to 170mph between Roseville and Shoreview. But I do admire the technology.

I know, I’m ignoring Goldwings (and their clones) and dirt bikes. Any bike that’s so cumbersome that it needs a reverse gear is not going to do it for me. I’m not knocking them, though. I have nothing but admiration for a 70-year-old who can tote his trophy wife, pull a trailer, and crank his Wing through Montana backroads at 80mph+. I’ve seen it and it is scary.

With a 29" inseam, Japan hasn’t made a dirt bike that’s a practical ride for me since 1984. Finding a place to ride a dirtbike is harder than finding honest politicians. While rocketing around places where goats need a hand up is as much fun as anything you can do on two wheels, hauling a trailer for four hours to get there isn’t.

That leaves the Suzuki SV650, a couple of decent mid-sized "standards" that have been around as long as me, three or four equally mature dual-purpose bikes, and the Ninja 250 as the sum total of "novelty" bikes imported into the US.

How many times can a magazine write "this year’s model is seventeen pounds heavier, 3hp weaker, and provides more than forty-seven square feet of polished chrome?" The alternative is "200mph is no problem, assuming you can support your family from prison." I think the pages of praise written about the Suzuki SV tells the story. You guys can’t stop raving about how much fun it is to "ride" this bike. More than half of the reviews I’ve seen talk about going places and seeing things while the reviewer is having a great time riding the bike. I know you guys know that there are at least two dozen equally cool bikes that aren’t imported into the U.S. because the manufacturers don’t believe Americans will buy bikes that are fun to ride. We’re, on average, a freakin’ nation of posers and squids and we aren’t worth the effort it takes to run an EPA test.

October 1999