Aug 29, 2015

Piling on the Bullshit

Damn it, when I saw this title “THE PERFECT MOTORCYCLE: KNOW YOURSELF TO KNOW YOUR BIKE” on, I really hoped for something semi-intelligent.  When you flaunt around words like “perfect” the expectation is that you will actually put some effort into the discussion. Unless the discussion is being led by Kevin Cameron there isn’t much hope that my expectations will be even attempted on Cycle World. This article fell far below the already low bar set by the motorcycle rag industry.

Idiot advice like this is exactly why I wrote the “When You Need A Faster Bike” column for MMM, "Pick perfect power. From a safety standpoint, the amount of power you need depends on your riding. For my money, 800cc and up lets you beat city traffic, claim-jump any freeway lane anytime, and execute quick passes on the highway." What a load of bullshit. First, as said in their “11 Reasons Why You Don’t Want A Liter Bike” column, "Literbikes aren’t any faster than a 600." Who cares if your top speed is 200mph, if you are really trying to “execute quick passes on the highway?” A 600cc four will do 160mph and get there within a few fractions of a second as quickly as a liter bike and, most likely, exactly as quickly as a 750cc or the non-existent 800cc from Cycle World’s bullshit recommendation. Even better, 99% of American riders who are incapable of using any part of a liter bike’s throttle competently won’t end up sliding down the freeway on their ass when they wheelie-over their big bike pretending to be Rossi.

The half-assed effort put into justifying the advice, “Choose a bike whose skills match your own” was more than embarrassing. My advice for Cycle World, avoid the word “perfect” until you buy a dictionary and thesaurus. Stick with “half-assed” and “mediocre,” words you so aptly typify.

Aug 19, 2015

Standing on Two Feet on Two Wheels

All Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

IMG_2672 The local trials organization is the Upper Midwest Trials Association (UMTA,, where you can find the year's schedule (6 two-day events for 2013, since the first one was cancelled due to snow), see this and past years' event results, find used trials bikes, locate local dealers and parts suppliers, and join forums to talk about trials bikes and riding. There are excellent pictures of local riders and events on the UMTA site, too.

UMTA 2008 champ 023 A lot of really knowledgeable people (including our publisher, "AKA the World’s Largest Trials Rider" and the UMTA's secretary) might argue that the ultimate off-road motorcycle sport is motorcycle trials, traditionally called "observed trials." While the fine-points of trials rules are sometimes as hard to fathom as golfing rules, the basic idea is you ride over ridiculously difficult obstacles without stopping or putting your feet on the ground or the obstacles. Do either and you collect unwanted points. If you manage to avoid collecting points, you win. If that sounds easy, you should try it.

The Winterers (Jim and Ben) are one constant in Minnesota trials is that you will unavoidably run into. Jim is a consistent Senior class competitor and Ben is a regular top-3 in the Champ class. Jim was gracious enough to introduce me to several wonderful sources and and he pretty much wrote the article for me in a couple of email responses. Mark Dittman, the UMTA treasurer said, "Ages in our club range from 7 years old to 70 years old. Our club members come from all over the state of Minnesota and some from Wisconsin . . . we have 9 different classes to compete in and there is a skill level for everyone.

IMG_2700 "The biggest misconception is that everyone hops the bike around. Ninety percent of our club riders do not hop the bike around. I think people feel a little intimidated by that. There are some expert class riders in our club that do not hop, but they can turn the bike on a dime and do some incredible things on a trials bike."

IMG_2695 In the US, participation in trials peaked in the mid--to-late-1970's. At that time, there were several world-class American riders, Martin Belaiir, Marland Whaley, Lane Leavitt,  and the one-and-only American World Champion, Bernie Schreiber (1979). In recent world events, US riders consistently fill out the tail-end of every US event (the Wagner Cup) and few Americans have made the effort to compete on the world stage. Outside of the US, trials has maintained a fair presence, especially in the indoor format (X-Trials), and world events draw large crowds in several countries.

Trials is the kind of sport that attracts riders of all ages. Due to typically low speeds, extraordinarily light motorcycles, and short sections with minders, helpers, and observers who sometimes morph into catchers as do the spectators, people compete well into their 60's and 70's at a variety of competitive levels. Minnesota and Wisconsin are specially blessed with a strong, if small, group of dedicated trials competitors and if you are interested in trying this sport out, you'll find it is a great group of friendly and helpful people.

Due to the light US participation, manufacturers make a half-hearted attempt at importing bikes to the US. Currently, Sherco, Gas Gas, Beta, Ossa, and OSET (electric kids' bikes) are imported to the US. The US Montesa-Honda distributor was based in Minnetonka until Honda discontinued importing in 2005. On the upside, there are still a fair number of used 1970's to 2000's trials bikes for sale for reasonable prices. Many trials bikes are in pretty good shape even after a few decades of competition and will be more than serviceable for many years. The only motorcycle I've ever been sorry I sold was my 1986 Yamaha TY350.

Aug 17, 2015

#120 That Is Not A Helmet

All Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

Everybody is getting on the "motorcyclists ought to be wearing helmets" bandwagon. MPR did a segment a few weeks about about the burst of motorcycle deaths in early 2013 and how few of the dead and buried were wearing "helmets." One of the local television noise generators repeated that theme and "moderated" the common sense recommendation by interviewing someone from ABATE spewing their tired "everyone just needs to look out for us" and "training is the answer" song and dance. For once,

ABATE and AAA were on the same page in that spring death-match propaganda blitz. They both quoted the same statistic that reported "wearing a helmet in a crash reduces the risk of death by 35 percent and the risk of brain injury by 67 percent." ABATE added the word "only" to each of those numbers, attempting to prove that helmets didn't really do much toward making motorcycles less suicidal. Sometimes, I'm not sure whose side those guys are on.

AAAhelmetAAA's front section AAAAdvice article ("Motorcycle Helmets Save Lives") included the picture at right. I see that as a failure to communicate. That silly looking lid is not a helmet. It barely qualifies as a hardhat. It's possible that useless baseball cap might provide some protection if a cup of crushed ice were dropped from a second story window and it landed squarely on top of the rider's head. Not likely, but possible. The chances that a pudding bowl helmet will save your life, your consciousness, or your pretty face is pretty predictable, though.

It should be pretty obvious that a beanie helmet is good for about 20% of the impact that will coming your way when you hit the asphalt. If we wanted to be overly-optimistic, we could add the 19.3% of the forehead hits to the protected area, but I do not feel that is realistic. For example, Mr. AAA Douchebag's helmet at left makes a special effort to show his shiny forehead so that his admiring fellow douchebags will know who he is. That exposed area and the edge of the helmet above it provides plenty of leverage for the sliding surface to pull the helmet up and, possibly, away from that critical and fragile area of the skull. At least Mr AAA Douchebag has a 3/4 helmet on his pointy head.

gayhelmetGay little biker beanies (Don't get your panties in a wad, girlymen. I mean "happy" or "festive.") like the thing at left are pretty much useless as protection 80% of time when a helmet hits the road. Unless you can figure out how to slide down the road on the top of your head (without grinding through the cheap plastic this sort of cheeseball helmet is made from), you might as well be wearing a bicycle helmet (another useless piece of mal-designed "protective gear"). This kind of hat is a designer statement, like high-heeled red shoes. It is not armor. Obviously, biker beanies automatically go with biker face (see douchebag at left, again) and there would be no point in spending all those hours in front of the mirror practicing your biker face if you were going to wear a real helmet and be a real motorcyclist. How would anyone know how serious you are if they can't see your scowl?

I have no idea what percentage of helmet wearers are wearing this kind of crap, but when I see the words "Harley Davidson," "motorcycle death," and "was wearing a helmet" in the same news report, I automatically assume this silly shit is what the cops included in their crash report as a "helmet." If I haven't made myself clear by now, I do not consider anything of the sort even close to a motorcycle helmet. The sound of blubbering, poorly-tuned tractor motors naturally ties to either no helmet or awful helmets and . . . death by motorcycle. On the rare occasion I see a hippobike rider wearing a real, full-face helmet, it always causes me to do a double, or triple, take. Exposing my natural prejudices to the air of honest admission, it also automatically forces me to re-evaluate all of my preconceived notions about Harley owners. "If the guy is wearing real gear, is it possible his bike is not garage candy? Probably. Can I imagine that he rides it to work and for general transportation? Probably. Damn. Now where do I pigeon-hole this dude?"

I realize that nobody dresses to impress me. I don't even try to impress me. But I suspect I'm not the only motorcyclist who has a similar check-list. Even more important, you should know that your designer hat is not a real helmet and it will more than likely be useless in a crash. You might imagine that you're not going to crash and won't need a real helmet, anyway. I suspect those dead folks the media clowns were talking about this spring didn't plan on dying, either. Plan for the worst, hope for the best.

Aug 11, 2015

What’s the Motivation?

My first and last new car was a 1973 Mazda RX3. My only new motorcycles were 1974 Yamaha MX100 (my wife’s first and only motorcycle), a 1973 125 Rickman ISDT Replica, and a 1974 Suzuki RL250. The Yamaha and the Rickman were reasonably good buys, $500 each, and the Suzuki was a total bust (I paid $1100 pre-tax and Suzuki dropped the price to $700 in early 1975 to unload their unsold inventory and abandon the trials business, which totally devalued my purchase.). So, when I read an article like Motorcyclist’s 5 STEPS TO CLOSING THE DEAL | RETAIL CONFIDENTIAL, I have to admit I don’t get why anyone would buy a new motorcycle.

The article has lots of tips intended to keep the buyer from getting screwed or screwing himself, but the real ripoff is the fact that you will lose about 20-50% of the purchase price the moment you ride off of the lot. It’s nice that the magazine is offering a few ideas to minimize the financial disaster resulting from buying a new bike and I understand why they are not advising riders to buy used (lost advertising revenue). Still, I do not understand why people spend the money they spend on new cars and motorcycles and guitars and other items that depreciate so quickly and are perfectly functional after some other sucker has taken the new price hit. I’m ready to be educated, though.

Aug 10, 2015

Hell on Earth

It is impossible to describe how miserable this "event" would be to experience.

Subjects I Avoid

All Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

I grew up with the advice, “Never mention politics or religion, in polite conversation.” I didn't follow that advice, but I heard it a lot. My father and I did a solidly poor job of even honoring the spirit; and our relationship pretty much proved how valid that guidance could have been. For most of my life, being who I am seems to reflexively cause that polite rule to be abused. Something about me appears to inspire the most degenerate, least informed, nosiest and noisiest, least sober, least credible evangelists into a doomed attempt to “spread the word” at the expense of my peace and quiet. (Trust me, I’ve heard the spiel—and have been hearing it since I was a child—and no matter who you are, who you represent, what god(s) you follow, what key you’re going to sing in, or what line you’re going to take, I’ve been there and heard it.)

June23086_thumb1So, today’s experience at the library was just one in a long line of related bad experiences that have made me want to move to my Montana retirement mansion (at right) and keep a loaded shotgun by the door for greeting all visitors. I do play to fire a couple of warning shots to the head to get your attention, so be ready to duck if you show up unannounced. On the way out the door and back to my bike, a guy ran me down to ask where I’d bought my official MMM jacket. You can’t get there from here, but I aimed him at Bob’s Cycle Supply for the next best thing. He argued that they didn’t carry it although I’d been there earlier in the week and they were still in stock at that time. Trying to politely escape (my first and often repeated mistake), I pulled off the jacket to show him the brand and model label and kept trying to get to the bike. I reminded him that the MMM portion of the jacket was custom and, probably, unavailable.

When I mentioned that the jacket’s denim cover is pretty worthless but that the armor in the jacket wasn’t bad, he said “Road rash is like military patches. It shows who you are and where you’ve been.”

I disagreed (compounding my above mistakes) by saying “Neither says much, since the military gives away that stuff in Cracker Jack boxes and you can buy impressive-looking patches and pins at most Army/Navy stores or pawn shops and bicycle, skateboard,  or falling-down-concrete-stairs scars look pretty much like motorcycle rash unless you’ve ground off a limb.”

That inspired a long, boring story of his career in the Air Force (my least favorite of a list of least favorite government agencies) [My father-in-law was a Korea Air Farce "warrior" and what I mostly learned from him was that if you are married to an Air Farcer you should avoid as much physical contact as possible. They get the clap more often than squirrels get nuts.] and his simultaneous experience in some sort of military biker gang. From there, he slid into a story of hitting a deer and surviving mostly unscratched. His “armor” in that incident was having spent a few moments praying over his motorcycle before leaving the bar for home. The deer hit his bike (a big Yamaha V-Star of some sort), bent some fender bits, and left some fur on a side case but he and the deer survived without serious injury. Therefore, praying worked. I should have kept moving, but I had to tell him that my more-pious-than-anyone-I-know brother had a similar dust-up with a deer and he ended up with a busted up ankle that has plagued him for the last five years (the deer didn’t survive). Knowing my brother, there was plenty of praying going on before he left my parents’ house for home and even if the praying wasn’t done over his motorcycle, it was done as well as that ritual can be performed. I remain unconvinced that the library dude added anything meaningful beyond what my parents and brother could do. The idea that his angel was more focused than my brother’s is simply ludicrous. That inspired a lecture about believing vs. something I couldn't identify, probably due to my heretical nature.

Still trying to get to my bike, strap my gear on, and escape without more comment than necessary. He made some comment about all the gear I was wearing (not that close to AGAT, but a lot closer than his street clothes). I let that one pass, but did make a less-than-respectful comment about pudding bowl helmets. Surprise! That was the only kind of helmet he owns. More conversation to ignore as I plugged my ears and pulled on my helmet. Before the ear plugs sealed up, he expressed surprise that it took me so little effort to put on the helmet.

"It's just a hat, dude."

As best I could tell, the one-sided conversation swung from ranting about helmet laws to being pissed off about the "safety Nazis," but I had the sense to ignore that bait and fired up the WR. As I struggled to back the bike out of the parking space while he attempted to strategically position himself in my way, I caught snippets of unwanted information about his engineering career, his plan to dominate the three-string guitar market (He was not a player, but had read something about cheap guitars getting trendy.), and an offer to co-write something about something. I escaped cleanly, without have exchanged names or other useful information.

marktwainwithpipe1_thumbWhen I got home and told my wife about the experience, she marveled at how hard it is for me to get away from salespeople and talkative drunks. "Must be genetic," I replied. I always had way too much trouble getting away from my family and the same sort of conversations.

"No," she said. "I think you're just dumb."

Possibly. When pressed against this kind of wall, I usually look to my hero, Mark Twain, for an explanation. The best I could find was, “I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's.” Pretty much the same thing my wife said.

Aug 3, 2015

#119 Dark Side, Bright Side

All Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

Some of you might know I had a heart attack right after Thanksgiving (Ironic, I know.) in 2012. You'd think there is no upside to that story, but you might be wrong. There was plenty of downside, for sure. I experienced the joy of the world's most expensive, least efficient, "health care" system and will be paying off my debt to that industry until I die. That is a definite downside. There was a brief moment in my 4 days of hospitalization where I was operated on by an incredibly efficient, upbeat and motivated surgical crew who epitomized the tiny core of the best our retroactive medical system has produced. Outside of that 20 minutes, what "cared for" me was a bureaucracy that is obsessed with drug and device sales, expense and income management, procedural and legal paranoia, and obedience to years of poor science and misinterpreted data.
So, a hip replacement (Classic "old guy" surgery.) in 2011 and a heart attack in 2012 has made for two depressing years and overwhelming evidence that I have earned the "geezer" title. No motorcycle content here, at all, I know.

As much as I realize I should be a motorcycling homer, I tend to read only two motorcycle magazines semi-cover-to-cover, MMM and Motorcycle Consumer News. Even in those favorite rags, there are things I just don't care about and can't find the motivation to read: cruiser reviews, road race bike reviews, rich guy custom bike articles, and farkle previews for those sorts of machines. I'm old, I only have so much time left and I don't waste it on crap I don't care about; that includes most of the television shows my wife watches in the morning. (I soundproofed my "man cave" attic studio to be able to avoid the slightest bit of noise from that stuff.) Two of the MCN semi-motorcycle related columns I read religiously are Mark Barnes' "Mental Motorcycling" and Dr. John Alevizos' "Medical Motorcycling." The reason for that focus is that unlike the majority of the medical practitioners, these two guys are unrelentingly scientific. Because of that, their data is credible and their opinions are unconventional.

In other words, they are never boring. Not boring is a big deal. If I could manage it, I would.
So, with that in mind, this GWAG is about something other than old guys stories or wildly unpopular political opinions. It's about a classic old American guy thing; getting fat and being pissed off about it. Post-surgery, I read everything I could find on cardiac and respiratory disease. What I learned was that if you have enough time you can find a book that will justify any damn opinion you might have about diet, exercise, drugs and surgery, and all related subjects. In otherwords, hardly anyone agrees with hardly anyone else.

Taubes why we get fat[4]In my first follow-up with my cardiologist, I got a collection of drugs added to my already mile-long collection of prescribed poisons, some 1960's dietary advice, a book recommendation (How We Get Fat by Gary Taubes), and an odd comment: "About 40 years ago, American doctors and European doctors got into a war about diet and the Americans won. And we were wrong." He added,"Everything we know about diet is in Taubes' book." I went from the cardiologist's office to the library. 

I've read How We Get Fat three times in the last two months. I'll probably read it again. I might even buy a copy, since the library seems to have a constant demand for the book. The thing that I'm having a hard time coming to grips with is the fact that physics and biology are only loosely connected. My old "calories are calories" belief in diet and weight management is pretty much the American medicine mantra, but the fact is there are "good calories" and "bad calories" and my diet has consisted of way too many "bad" calories for 65 years.

Close to the end of Taubes' relentless argument that we've been fed a steady diet of bad information, he says, "We are told to eat less fat and more carbohydrates, and rather than avoid heart disease and get thinner, as the authorities had hoped we would, we've had as much heart disease as ever, and dramatic increases in obesity and diabetes . . . A more insidious problem is that all involved--the researchers, the physicians, the public-health authorities, the health associations--commit themselves to a belief early in the evolution of the science, arguably at the stage at which they know the least about it, and then they become so invested in their belief that no amount of evidence to the contrary can convince them that they're wrong."

Even the ones who know they are wrong can't change directions. My doctor aimed me in one direction, but his clinic tried to send me in another. Unfortunately, I don't take direction well. I may not know much, but I do know old information when I hear it. My memory is still pretty good. So, I went the low carb, no sugar, no drugs, "if it's not leafy and green or protein don't eat it" route and I have lost 20 pounds since January and 34 since the previous January. More importantly, I have gone down 4" in belt size. The doc and I are still arguing about which numbers I'm supposed to care about; HDL, LDL, triglycerides, cholesterol in general, blood sugar, and a variety of things I think he should be measuring but isn't and the usual list of stuff the clinic monitors that doesn't mean crap. Lucky for me, it's my life we're gambling with and if anyone gets to decide how that die is tossed it's going to be me. If I have to start carrying a .32 in my pocket like my old cowboy hero, Karl, I will.

For now, the goal is 180 pounds by August and I'd like to be able to do at least a dozen pull-ups. I'm still working on the theory that being shot out of a cannon is better than being squeezed from a tube.

Garage Life

2015-07-27 Porch & Garage (3)The garage I’ve been working on all summer is back in business. It’s whole reason for existing is to store motorcycles and motorcycle gear and it is doing that beautifully.

A secondary feature is once the lower garage was refilled, the upper garage got organized, the basement shops are on their way to being functional, and the whole house is a lot less cluttered. All good things.


2015-07-27 Porch & Garage (4)2015-07-27 Porch & Garage (5)2015-07-16 Garage

Aug 2, 2015

Put all the Idiots on Motorcycles

Against my better judgment, we spent a couple of days in the Cities this weekend. No place on earth, except possibly Seattle, is more in need of autonomous cars than Minnesota’s Twin Cities. The average driver IQ has to be well below 100 and the closer you get to the UofM, the dumber the drivers get. Watching the bumper car crowd tailgate each other like lemmings on the way to the cliff, my first thought was that there should be a special class of cage for idiots with minimal protection and harmless mass so that when these morons crash their survival rate and the damage they do to others on the road approaches zero. As soon as I said that out loud my wife replied, "There is, motorcycles. "

Almost immediately we were passed by some helmetless, bald fucktard on a sportbike in his shorts and wife beater and sandals. As he locked on to the bumper of the car in front of him, he took both hands off of the bars and gave the disinterested traffic behind him an “Awe-nold” muscle-head pose. Yep, we are, more often than not, prime Darwin Award winners deserving of absolutely no sympathy at all. To be honest, if the cage in front of this display of incompetence and cluelessness put on its brakes and tossed the biker into the air, I’m hard pressed to be able to say I would stop to render anything other than being a witness to the cager’s innocence. If the about-to-be-skinned-alive biker’s body bits flew into the path of my vehicle, I can tell you for certain that I would absolutely not put myself, my wife, or my vehicle in any jeopardy making evasive maneuvers in his behalf.

he_is_usFor the most part, I have to say driving east to west across the city on Saturday and in the reverse direction Sunday provided overwhelming evidence that the whole “Start Seeing Motorcycles” promotion is wrong-headed, statistically clueless, and probably creates more pissed off drivers than careful ones. This weekend, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”