Jul 28, 2016

Riding to Get to Keep Riding

NOTE: This one snuck up on me.  This was a response letter I wrote to an MMM reader 3 years ago and it never ended up getting sent because spent too long composing it. I have no idea how it ended up on the blog, but a couple of years ago I probably decided I'd dump it before I couldn't. 

You probably got at least one thing right [The reader claimed motorcycling on freeways was particularly unsafe.]. You'd be pretty hard pressed to find a traffic situation where motorcycling is "safe" by any definition of the word (Webster's uses "secure," "protected", "out of harm's way," "harmless" and such words as synonyms). I'm unconvinced that an average rider can ever be as "safe" as an average car driver in normal traffic situations. I don't think most of us ride because we think it's safe; part of the deal is the risk. If you want to be safe, take the bus.

Apparently, it's very possible that "training" as we define it may be an fantasy attempt to create "safer" riders, since motorcycle insurance companies are (according to what we heard last week at the MMSAC) are dropping discounts for riders who have received "training." The MSF honchos, two years ago, cautioned us against trying to correlate training with safer riding. It appears that something is not as it appears in the training world. Rider Magazine has been talking about this for a couple of years. It's not new news.

I think we always get the government we deserve, so if government has let us down "we have met the enemy and he is us." I don't know where you got that, but it was an interesting leap in something. However, regardless of your paranoia, it's (I think) logical that, if we (motorcyclists) don't manage to get a grip on the fact that we are a microscopic fraction of traffic and a substantial (10% I heard this summer) component of fatalities, we're likely to lose the tolerance of those with whom we share the road. Do you see a lot of snowmobiles on the road today? How about dirt bikes, horses, carriages, tractors, or lawn tractors? The way society and democracies work, if you don't have a social value to offer, you lose clout and privleges (it appears to be less than common knowledge that driving on public roads is a privledge, not a right). Currently, it's hard to estabilish how motorcycles provide any more transportation value than any of the historic vehicles I listed above, all of which can no longer use public roads (outside of incredibly restricted application for farm implements). I commuted about 40 miles today, starting at a little before 8AM and returning at 5PM, pretty much rush hour, and saw one other bike on the road. Who would it inconvenience if the two of us were banished from the highway? There was a lot of smoke and bullshit said when one dinky US manufacturer who can't meet EPA or safety standards in the US, let alone the rest of the world. It's not like many would notice if one of the US bike manufacturers vanished, let alone a tiny one. We've tossed more and better paying jobs into India in the last year than Harley will generate in the next decade.

As a dirt biker, I saw once practically unlimited access to public land and undeveloped land vanish to today's state of practically no off-road availability; in a portion of my lifetime. Motorcyclists get a good share of the blame for that loss, since motorcyclists (including me) abused practically every land use privilege we once had. You still see that biker hooligan attitude often on private land and the resulting enforcement of tightening riding space. We have no one to blame but ourselves for what we've lost.

Only a math-phobe would imagine that our current society has any foresight, so I'd probably agree with some of your rant on that subject. We're in debt. We're the world's worst polluter. We're chewing up natural and human resources as if we don't even know there will be generations after our own, let alone care about them. You could call that shortsighted, I'd be hard pressed to credit us with any vision capacity. I think humans are pefect evidence that there is no such thing as intelligent design in genetics. We're dumber than ants, as a species.

As for US corporate execs, they clearly don't care about their companies' futures and have no reason to do so. They pay themselves for non-performance and doing fatal damage to their corporations and the public invests in their worthless stocks to let them know we're too dumb to know better. We've been here before, at least a couple of times in the last century. They aren't smart enough to conspire toward any long term goal.

Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha were all but out of the motorcycle business in the 80s because of declining profits and inclining liability. Darwin could probably remind us of why that didn't happen, I can't remember. Probably a "feature" of being old. Honda and Suzuki got into cages. Yamaha broadened its products into everything else, but has had a steadily declining income for almost a decade. Kawasaki builds ships and construction equipment. They've all hedged their bets on motorcycling and, based on the fraction of their product line that they import into the US, I'd say they're not putting a lot of effort into our market's future.

One of the concepts/goals that was introduced into the MMSAC last week was "zero tolerance" for motorcycle highway deaths as a possible goal for the state. That sounds radical, but it might be the kind of approach we need to take to remove ourselves from the sights of outside regulation. Personally, I'm unconvinced that self-regulation ever happens in society, but it would be cool if it did with motorcycling. If we set out, as a class of folks who participate in this activity, to eliminate all motorcycle traffic deaths and did everything we can, as a group, to achieve that goal it seems to me that there could be all kinds of positive results from removing ourselves from the traffic death equation.

One might be more folks would consider riding "safe" and ride occasionally. The more of us there are on the road, regularly, the more of a share in traffic management we can claim.

That's my take, any way.

Jul 27, 2016

You Gotta Love their Consistency

My wife and I have been off-and-on fans of the History Channel’s Vikings and the BBC’s The Last Kingdom. Unless you are historically and sociologically clueless, you can’t miss the resemblance between these relentlessly violent and brutal characters and biker gangs. That infamous quality of men who will do any damn thing to get in their share of rape and pillage. Of course, modern Vikings pretend to be sensitive types with “feelings” with their “Pirate Parades for Kids” bullshit and occasional high-profile, half-assed attempts to humanize themselves by not killing a stranded family or helping an old lady across a street they’ve made unsafe with a pirate parade.

Of course they are for Trump. Like all kings and strongmen from the last 500 years, Trump is an inbred weakling who masquerades as an actual human being and who appeals to their absolute worst qualities, which are their predominant qualities. He promises “You’re gonna be so rich,” which is pretty much what every warlord has promised his soldiers since the first douchebag took up a club and marched off to battle other douchebags.

Yeah, I’m pissed off. I’ve avoided these morons my whole life. At this late date, I can’t hear the sound of a badly tuned, underpowered two-wheeled lawn tractor without looking for high ground and weapons. You’d think centuries of war and military incompetence would have bred these morons out of the species, but sometimes I suspect stupidity might be the core gene to humans. With all their homoerotic Village People posing, lifestyle, and Darwin Award-winning riding skills, you’d think they’d have vanished from the gene pool.

The Ed Sanders song, below, will make a perfect soundtrack for contemplating these characters.

Jul 17, 2016

Book Review: More Proficient Motorcycling: Mastering the Ride 2nd Edition

If I’d have made it this far, this would have been a doubly fun book to review in life. I met David at the 2013 VBR3 in Duluth and got to speak with him, extensively, about motorcycling, motorcycle training, and other radical ideas. It spawned a whole lot of thought and writing that probably ended when I died. This is an excellent book and a thoughtful analysis of motorcycling. I’m publishing this review on what would have been my 68th birthday. Happy Birthday me!

More Proficient Motorcycling: Mastering the Ride 2nd Edition

by David L. Hough, 2012

All Rights Reserved © 2013 Thomas W. Day

    David Hough and, through his writing for Motorcycle Consumer News, Sound RIDER!, and BMW Owners News has been a strong advocate for motorcycle training and safety for most of his 75 years. Hough was inducted into the AMA's Motorcycle Museum Hall of Fame in 2009. As a motorcycle safety advocate, Hough has won the Motorcycle Safety Foundation's Excellence in Motorcycle Journalism award twice, but he isn't one of the MSF's fans. In fact, in this 220 page book, the MSF is mentioned exactly three times and mostly in an unfavorable light. In 2004, through a short series of MCN articles ("Trouble in Rider Training 1 & 2") Hough championed the argument that the MSF is more committed to selling motorcycles than promoting motorcycle safety and crash and fatality reduction. In 2012, he obviously holds the same positions to be true.  There are numerous references to rider training programs that Hough considers to be worthwhile, but the MSF is not among them. With that as a background, the newest edition of Mastering the Ride takes on many of the issues Hough believes are driving motorcycle fatality statistics into public discussion.
    Hough has some excellent arguments regarding how we ride and how that relates to the frequency that we end up in hospitals and cemeteries. Marketing gurus say "perception is everything" and that goes for motorcycling, too. Several sections of Mastering the Ride are dedicated to discussions of safe following distance, scanning for hazards and escape routes, visibility, and evasive maneuvers. In many piloting, automotive, and motorcycle training programs, this translates to SIPDE (search, identify, predict, decide, and execute). This takes the MSF's SEE (search, evaluate, and execute) to a more functional and detailed level by forcing riders and drivers to think about all of the steps necessary in avoiding catastrophe on the road.
    All of this stuff is about learning how to accurate gauge and react to typical situations with exceptional skill. Since Hough managed to overshoot his own limits at a ride in August 2012 and crashed Lee Park's Triumph in an emergency stopping maneuver, some people might take his advice with a small block of salt. However, most experienced riders know that there are only two kinds of motorcyclists: those who have crashed and those who haven't crashed yet. Hough isn't shy about illustrating this book with pictures of his own off-pavement misadventures and self-deprecating examples of moments when his mental state resulted in (or could have) his sliding down the road shiny-side-down. Crashing is just one possible result from riding a vehicle that doesn't balance itself.
    There are a lot of valuable, but subtle, riding tips that could be missed by a first pass through Mastering the Ride. As an example, in MSF classes, instructors always challenge riders to "look where you want to go," but Hough extends that further by saying "point your nose . . . in the direction you want to go." Using the fighter pilots' tactic of both looking in the intended target direction and keeping your eyes level to force a commitment to a direction change, this hint goes a long ways toward minimizing "target fixation." Just for this tip, I'm glad to have read the book.
    Hough's take on preoccupied drivers is accurate and usually far more politically correct than my own. When he describes the reckless homicide rear end crash that took Anita Zaffke's life in 2009, he doesn't provide more than the first name of the victim or much of a condemnation of the homicidal fingernail-painting driver. In a similar fashion, he refrains from seriously criticizing modern driving skills or in-vehicle distractions. Hough is less politically correct when he describes most US highway law enforcement tactics as being "revenue generating" rather than safety-oriented. Having been hooked by speed traps in some pretty silly locations and even sillier law enforcement legal interpretations, I'm totally on board with Hough in this regard.
    Hough mistakes bicycle habits or newbie fear for skill when he describes using two or three finger-braking as an advanced riding skill. If you watch the extras on the Faster DVD, you'll see that Valentino Rossi often uses all four fingers and I suspect Hough is rethinking his own braking skills after flipping Park's Triumph this past summer. There are times when two finger braking is more than enough, but making that a regular habit is a formula for reduced braking when you really need it and a busted finger or two when the bars slam to the ground in a right turn low-side. His take on advanced braking systems (ABS and linked) seems to be pretty "old guy biased," too.
    Where this book shines is in the street riding strategies. Hough describes a roadway that is in constant flux and a high state of hazard; just like the roads we all ride. His tips for evaluating traffic, turn radii and camber, road surfaces, and other road risks are valuable and expert. There are two appendix entries that the majority of American riders should read: "The Aging Rider" and "Travel." Since the average age of American motorcyclists is moving right along with the Boomer generation, we're all heading toward that moment when we have to consider being too old to ride. Goofy "solutions" like trikes and sidecars aside, it is simply a matter of time for all of us. Hough is close to that point himself and discusses aging and declining skills honestly and factually. His admonition that we all need to ride somewhere on our motorcycles is just good sense. Ride someplace you've always dreamed of visiting. 

Jul 13, 2016

Whose Safety Goes First?

A few weeks ago, on her way to church in River Falls my wife received a speeding ticket/random-tax-assessment on the fourteen mile unmarked section of speedtrap also known as US 63 between Red Wing, Minnesota and Ellsworth, Wisconsin. She was, as is her habit, not even close to being the fastest moving vehicle on the road at the time the trooper decided to single her out, but she was probably the only non-Wisconsin victim for Pierce County’s uniformed tax assessor.

As a Minnesota motorcyclist, I’ve long known that Wisconsin is one giant speedtrap mostly aimed at out-of-town targets. It’s a well-discussed subject on every internet motorcycle group and one of many reasons that many motorcyclists choose to ride in long, loud, and intimidating pirate parades. The state’s tax assessors are less likely to harass twenty bikers than they are one. However, one reason for the state’s high motorcycle crash/morbidity/mortality rate has to be that riders are keeping an eye out for traffic tax assessors and missing critical hazard factors as a result. If you are suffering the delusion that a 5mph-over-the-limit violation is about highway safety on a road that locals commonly travel at 75mph, you are fooling no one but yourself. If safety were a real concern, drivers’ license tests would be a difficult hurdle for at least half of the people behind a wheel.

After receiving the speeding ticket, we began to evaluate that section of road for both the average speed and the highway markings. The fact is that most of the traffic on US 63 in that area travels at well over 65mph and you will stack up dozens of vehicles if you travel at the unmarked 55mph speed limit. The more telling fact is that the only speed limit sign in 14 miles on that road, from Red Wing to Ellsworth, is right after the Red Wing bridge (a couple of miles before the cynical “Welcome to Wisconsin” sign). That one speed limit sign is carefully placed as close to a bridge barrier as possible to be easily missed. The next Wisconsin speed limit sign appears as you enter Ellsworth.

When my wife appeared in the Pierce County kangaroo court to contest the ticket, she was told by the judge that she should consider it “a privilege” to be allowed to drive on Wisconsin’s highways. When she said the state should consider installing a few speed limit signs to inform visitors that Wisconsin has lower-than-average speed limits, he said “taxes would go up on your cheese, then.” Along with admitting that patrolling this road and randomly enforcing a 55mph speed limit was nothing more than a visitor tax, those statements made it clear that the county (and state) knows it is running an unmarked speedtrap. Even more, the attitude of the two county bureaucrats, a “traffic court administrator” and prosecutor, was clearly one of pride and arrogance. At no time did either of those bureaucrats admit that more rational and fair behavior should be expected of either Pierce County or Wisconsin.

For the nearly two years that we have lived in Red Wing, we’ve travelled to Ellsworth, River Falls, and Hudson several times a week; often spending $75 to $150 shopping at the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, local stores, and local restaurants. Since she received that ticket, we’ve rarely made the trip and look for every opportunity to avoid Wisconsin’s $175-per-visit tourist tax. We have avoided purchasing fuel, food, or anything else in or from the state, not as a boycott but simply because this experience has left such a bad feeling about Wisconsin that we simply want to do what we have to do in that state quickly and escape as painlessly and cheaply as possible. The “privilege” of being allowed to travel un-harassed on US highways in Wisconsin has been excessively expensive and there is nothing about being stopped by an armed tax collector that says “Welcome to Wisconsin.”

Having just returned from a 2,800 mile motorcycle trip through Minnesota, Nebraska, South Dakota, Colorado, New Mexico, and Kansas, I can state from experience that a fourteen mile section of unmarked 55mph US highway is unusual, at best. Many states appear to have abandoned Jimmy Carter’s 55mph fuel economy altogether, but every state I visited clearly marked local speed limits. Not doing so is clearly an attempt to generate income for local bureaucrats as ruthlessly as possible and it likely explains, in part, the poor state of Wisconsin’s economy.

Recent events have demonstrated the hazards involved when an armed, nervous, and too often unsuited-for-police-work officer accosts citizens over insignificant infractions of irrational or surreptitious laws designed to generate revenue for governments rather than provide peace and security for the public. Financing local governments with “law enforcement revenue” is dangerous for everyone, except the local governments. Operating under the reasonable premise that “they’ll never uncover this scam before we’re outta her with our pockets stuffed,” the bureaucrats behind this semi-legal highwayman scheme could not care less about the communities that harbor them. If every business goes broke, every citizen leaves town for a better life, if every building falls into ruin, these people will keep doing what they are doing until the money runs out. And when one of the tax asseessors screws up and shoots a motorist because he mistook a billfold for an Glock and the family of that victim rightfully sues the city into bankruptcy, the sharks will take their resume and somewhere else and do it all over again.

The simple fact is, when a local government has screwed up badly enough that there isn’t enough revenue to support the bureaucracy, the only logical move is to reduce the bureaucracy to a size that fits the budget. Nobody in their right mind ever promised government employees lifetime employment. The idea that the last people left in town will be the local cops is well past insane.

Jul 11, 2016

Book Review: Modern Motorcycle Technology: How Every Part of Your Motorcycle Works

modern motorcycle technology

Modern Motorcycle Technology: How Every Part of Your Motorcycle Works

by Massimo Clarke, 2010

All Rights Reserved © 2012 Thomas W. Day
    Massimo Clarke is an Italian version of Cycle World's Kevin Cameron. Clarke has several motorcycle books to his name, was the technical editor of Motosprint, and is currently a Director for Assomotoracing. (If you can figure out what this organization does, please explain.) Clarke's grasp of technology is excellent and his ability to quickly describe the function, advantages and disadvantages, and evolution of machines and their parts is why this book is worth reading. The photographs and illustrations, on the other hand, are what make Modern Motorcycle Technology fun to look at and browse through.
    For me, this was not a cover-to-cover read. Instead, I skipped around to read about subjects that interested me at the moment; starting with "Intake and Exhaust." I followed that with going back to the beginning for "Engine Design" and "Structure and Function." While I have a decent basic understanding of internal combustion engine operation, there is no subtlety to what I know. When I'm troubleshooting, "suck, squeeze, bang, and blow" is about all the theory I use to stumble my way through solving engine problems. Clarke's detailed explanation of how the myriad of engine systems work and how the various one, two, three, and four cylinder configurations provide power, reduce vibration and instability, control heat, convert fuel to energy, and how design engineers compensate for the weaknesses of the basic design they have chosen was worth the price of the book. There are useful descriptions of the reliability sacrifices several engine designs make in the hunt for superior performance.
    If you ever wanted to know what manufacturing processes were used for the various parts of your motorcycle, this book is for you. If you're interested in more than surface-level motorcycle metallurgy, fuel system chemistry, and frame and suspension geometry and physics, this book is for you. If you want to know the real effect of exhaust and intake modifications on the design intention of your motorcycle, Clark has a whole chapter just for you. Transmission? Exhaust emissions? Frame geometry? Suspension parts? Wheels and tires? Electronic components? It's all there and with enough detail to provide a decent background on how each of these bike bits works.
    I can't decide if I'm going to keep my copy of Modern Motorcycle Technology in the bathroom/library or in the garage. It's good recreational reading, but it's also detailed enough to be useful as reinforcement to my service and owner's manuals, when I'm stuck troubleshooting some unusual problem. I might need two copies.

Jul 10, 2016

This Is Awesome

The “lead” motorcyclist has no more business on a vehicle with a motor than does a squirrel. Neither of these two squids are half the rider the bicyclist is. None of that is surprising, though. Spend a Saturday in Red Wing and you’ll see why motorcycle fatalities are grossly out of porportion to the number of motorcycles on the road. It’s an embarrassment.

Jul 8, 2016

Crash Data via NHTSA and DOT

The data is always a good bit of behind current trends, mostly because getting information from many of the states is like pulling teeth. This is 2014 data, but it’s still interesting to pick apart.

I can’t imagine how they generate this over-optimistic estimate, “In 2013, motorcyclists were about 26 times more likely than passenger car occupants to die in a crash per vehicle mile traveled and five times more likely to be injured.” I just don’t buy the idea that motorcycles are that large a contributor to miles-traveled in the US. I still believe we are barely 0.001% of total miles traveled (well under bicycle miles) and, therefore, closer to 1,000 times-or-greater more likely to die per mile traveled, annually.

There were about 8.4 million motorcycles on the road in 2014.” Yeah, no. I call bullshit.

In 2014, 39 percent of those motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets, down from 41 percent in 2013.” Seriously interesting.

Over the nine years from 2004 to 2013, fatalities among the 40-and-older age group increased by 39 percent, according to NHTSA, compared to 16 percent for all ages.” Expected, since the average age of motorcyclists is climbing at about that rate.


  1. California 7,221
  2. Florida 4,758
  3. Texas 3,403
  4. South Carolina 2,160
  5. New York 1,902

Huh? What’s with South Carolina?

Older riders appear to sustain more serious injuries than younger riders.” No surprise there.

This is an interesting stat, “riders of ‘super sports’ motorcycles have driver death rates per 10,000 registered vehicles nearly four times higher than those for drivers of other types of motorcycles.” Sort of fits my one hazardous moment in Colorado last week.

This will be the death of public road access for motorcycles, “The Government Accounting Office (GAO) estimated that in 2010 motorcycle crashes cost $16 billion in direct costs such as emergency services, medical costs including rehabilitation, property damage, loss of market productivity including lost wages, loss in household productivity and insurance costs, including claims and the cost of defense attorneys. ” This number will contine to climb and the percentage of costs will skyrocket as cars become smarter and motorcyclists continue to get dumber.

Jul 6, 2016

2004 vs. 2015 650 V-Strom

2016 Day 8-9 (9)
One of the cool things about riding with Scott is that he often has something new to play with. In this case, a 2014 Suzuki V-Strom of the 650 persuasion. He had about 7,000 miles on the bike and he bought it last fall. Scott is the rider I used to be. My poor V-Strom has barely been ridden, hardly been maintained, and every time I look at it I think about selling it and looking for a cheap convertible. It's a perfectly good motorcycle, but I'm old and looking down the barrel of "my last bike" and a 4-wheel future. Scott, on the other hand, appears to have a couple more decades of mountain adventure riding in front of him. So, about 9/10 of the way through our hot springs Colorado trip, we swapped bikes for a perspective on 10 years of Suzuki's iconic adventure machine.
Right off, I noticed that the transmission has dramatically less lash. One of the original complaints about the 650 V-Strom was the play between the engine, transmission, and driveline. That is not a "thing" in the 2014. My tired old 2004 V-Strom has even more lash than it did 60k or so ago, but his bike is tight as a new chain. That increases rider confidence, especially during low speed maneuvers and on tricky terrain.
The engine is both smoother feeling and quieter. Throttle response is slightly smoother and the feel of the throttle is much lighter. Again, that helps with low speed maneuvers and getting off at stop lights, especially on a hill is improved. The 2014's power and torque is insignificantly greater, number-wise, but it feels significant. I think he's depending on the on-board computer mileage estimate, but he seemed to think he was getting 4-8mpg better mileage than me on the same routes. Having experienced those computers in rental cars, I prefer to do my own math. Like motorcycle speedometers, they are consistently optimistic.
The fairing looks easier to work around and appears to be lighter. There is a lot more "air" between the inside of the fairing and the chassis, forks, and tank. I like the look of the new fairing, too. However, since Scott didn't want me disassembling his bike in the motel parking lot I'll have to assume Suzuki made some service-ability improvements here.
The seat is comfortable for a stock seat, but a poor second to my Sargent. Scott made a few positive comments about my bike's suspension, but he tempered all of them by admitting everything he liked could have been due to the Sargent seat. I agree. The new stock seating position seems more narrow, possibly due to the 0.4 gallon smaller tank? I felt like I was a little more "in" the 2014 than my bike; less perched on top of the ride or something like that. It's an almost insignificant difference, but it inspired a little more corning confidence.
The stock windshield works as well as my often fooled with Madstad system. In fact, we both felt that the air pocket behind either windshield was exactly the same.
The new stock luggage is cool and VERY large. I honestly like my GIVI stuff better, but that's just opinion BS. The Suzuki stuff packs from the top and you can cram a buttload of stuff into those three huge bags. Not enough, apparently, for Scott, but enough to take me to Alaska or Nova Scotia without any extra luggage or bags.
The Suzuki ABS system is terrific. Hauling Scott’s bike down from 65 with full pressure applied was smooth as possible. Like my experience on the Yamaha Super Tenere, I don't know how you can fault this braking system. Scott seemed to think he needed a way to shut it off, but I wouldn't. It was firm, yet had good feel and stopped solidly without no chatter or indication (other than a little bit of a soft feel to the lever) of interference. I loved it. Back on my 2004, I applied the same kind of pressure and nearly skipped the front tire in a 50mph to nothing stop. I could get used to ABS like this.
Overall, I was a little sorry to have to give the 2014 back. If I were a decade younger, I'd be thinking about trading up. I liked his Honda NC700X because of the incredible fuel efficiency, but I like the V-Strom more because it was really fun to ride.

Jul 5, 2016

A Series of Dumb Decisions

The nitwits at Fox 9 managed to cobble together this information and interview with the rider, “Jankowski [the rider] was wearing a helmet and motorcycle jacket when the object fell of the back of the boat. He says he just bought the jacket within an hour of the crash, and was saving up for the pants and gloves.

“’I didn’t want to just swerve and possibly hit a car and get run over so I tried to get to the furthest part of the right of my lane . . .I just bought the jacket that day thinking I’d come back next week and get the gear and have the full set’ Brendan Jankowski said. ‘I happened to use the jacket I just bought to help save me quite a bit of pain.’” Apparently, he didn’t own a pair of jeans?

I really wish I could buy his evasive maneuver claims, but it looks to me like he was tailgating, panicked when he saw the pad fall out of the truck, and focused on hitting the damn thing until he did. Total rookie from the moment he appeared in the camera until he stopped rolling on the ground.

Does Anyone See A Trend Here?

* A Mankato, Minn., man was injured at 12:19 p.m. when his 2014 Victory motorcycle hit a deer on Minnesota Highway 16 west of Peterson in Fillmore County. Police say Mark Fromm, 59, was flown to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

* On Saturday, a 55-year-old Oakdale, Minn., woman who was a passenger on a 2006 Harley-Davidson was killed about 3:25 p.m. on U.S. Highway 61 in Goodhue County when the motorcycle ran off the road and hit a sign. The State Patrol identified the woman as Janean Thielman. The driver, Joseph Frisch, 55, of Madelia, Minn., was seriously injured.

* The driver of a 2006 Harley-Davidson and his passenger died about 3 p.m. Saturday when their motorcycle crossed over the center line on eastbound Minnesota Highway 95 in Chisago County and struck another vehicle, triggering a three-car crash. Collin Orth, 35, of Milaca, Minn., and his passenger, Sara Orth, 34, of Milaca, died in the crash.

* An Appleton, Wis., man and a female passenger on his 2014 Harley-Davidson were injured when the motorcycle struck a deer at 8:30 a.m. Saturday on southbound U.S. Highway 53 in International Falls. Mark Natzke, 53, and his passenger, Tammy Natzke, 53, were transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

* A fourth motorcyclist was killed earlier in the week after his 2013 Victory hit a deer about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday on Minnesota Highway 223 in Clearwater. The man was identified by the State Patrol as 61-year-old Richard Engen of Clearbrook.

After reading this list of crash descriptions, my wife said, “They ought to sell those machines with a theme song, ‘All My Trials, Lord.’” She gets it. Deer or no deer, it doesn’t appear that anyone can ride those hippobikes competently.

Back in My Day, It Ain’t Over

2016 Day 2 (3)In last month's MMM column, "Back in My Day,' I wrote, “Not only can you not go back, you can’t even go where we went.” Turns out, I was wrong. On the way to Valentine, Nebraska I discovered that some of those old unmaintained roads still exist in my old home state. I even took a picture of one. I even hiked up that road a ways to discover that it quickly turned into deep, soft sand that would have put me and my V-Strom down as quickly as Raylan Givens takes out a Chicago mobster (look it up). On the other hand, if I'd have been there with my WR? I'd be on it fast and hard. It was a beautiful road, just not for a road bike.

2016 Day 2 (4)The good news is that any kid with a dirt bike and a Nebraska home address can still have the kind of fun and make the discoveries I did 40 years ago. I love that. It has been years since I’ve seen a “Minimum Maintenance Road” sign and it makes me feel good (and a little younger) to know there are still some left.

Jul 4, 2016

MN Motorcyclists Proving My Point

Look at this list of motorcycle crash descriptions from the past week:

  • About 4 p.m. Sunday, a motorcyclist ran off the road and hit a tree on Minnesota 113 near Wallace Road in Becker County. The condition of the driver was not released Sunday night.

  • Also Sunday, a Mankato man was injured at 12:19 p.m. when his 2014 Victory motorcycle hit a deer on Minnesota 16 west of Peterson in Fillmore County. Police say Mark Fromm, 59, was flown to a hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries.

  • On Saturday, a 55-year-old Oakdale woman who was a passenger on a 2006 Harley-Davidson was killed about 3:25 p.m. on U.S. 61 in Goodhue County when the motorcycle ran off the road and hit a sign. The State Patrol identified the woman as Janean Thielman, 55, of Oakdale. The driver, Joseph Frisch, 55, of Madelia, Minn., was seriously injured.

  • The driver of a 2006 Harley-Davidson and his passenger died about 3 p.m. Saturday when their motorcycle crossed over the center line on eastbound Minnesota 95 in Chisago County and struck another vehicle, triggering a three-car crash. Collin Orth, 35, of Milaca, and his passenger, Sara Orth, 34, of Milaca, died in the crash.

  • An Appleton, Wis., man and a female passenger on his 2014 Harley-Davidson were injured when the motorcycle struck a deer at 8:30 a.m. Saturday on southbound U.S. 53 in International Falls. Mark Natzke, 53, and his passenger, Tammy Natzke, 53, were transported to the hospital with nonlife-threatening injuries.

  • A fourth motorcyclist was killed earlier in the week after his 2013 Victory hit a deer about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday on Minnesota 223 in Clearwater. The man was identified by the State Patrol as 61-year-old Richard Engen of Clearbrook.

While three of these crashes were hoofed rat related and were most likely not the fault of the riders, the rest were purely the fault of the motorcyclists, including the one non-single vehicle crash. It is so rare to find a motorcycle crash that isn’t 90-100% the fault of the motorcyclists involved that the whole “Start Seeing Motorcyclists” campaign is ludicrous. As I discovered in Colorado last week (Our Own Worst Enemies), the best reason to wartch for motorcycles is to keep from getting killed by idiots on motorcycles.

Yesterday was that kind of day in Red Wing. The Hogs were out in full force and wobbling between lanes as if they had no idea those lane marker lines meant anything important. In some ways, I’m not seriously mocking the riders. I don’t have any faith that I could ride a 900 pound hippobike competently. Which is why I ride a 275 pound dirt bike and a 375 pound standard. However, it always seems that the least competent rider among a group of 12 is the guy (or girl) on the biggest bike, demonstrating the least skills and ability, and whining about how dangerous traffic is.

Jul 3, 2016

Last Long Day

Today was a big mile day; from Flagler, CO to Le Mars, IA (barely under 650 miles via the route I took). Honestly, I would have missed nothing if I’d have zoned out for 550 of those miles. There is a reason that shit is called “flyover country.”
One highlight came just before I hit I80 in Nebraska, in Holdrege, NE. The O’Reilly Auto Parts dealer had a terrific assortment of motorcycle oils and they let me change my oil in their shop. They could not be a nicer bunch of guys.
A little blast from my past came along when I hit the south edge of western Nebraska. From there until I turned north at Schuyler, NE I was reminiscing about awful old days when I worked in ag equipment and was too damn young to know when I was being screwed over. I put in three years with this sweatshop and averaged 100,000 miles a year in a rat E150 Ford Econoline that didn't have a heater, barely had a transmission, and was totally unsafe at any speed due to the 1/2 ton of gear stored behind me.
I ended the day about 290 miles from home, in Le Mars, IA at the Amber Inn Motel. Great location! Across the street from a terrific pizza place, P’s Pizza House, and a Tex-Mex restaurant I didn’t have room to try.

What the Hell?

A few weeks ago, my wife was snagged on her way to church in River Falls by one of Pierce County, Wisconsin’s mobile tax assessors between Red Wing and Ellsworth. The fine for “speeding” (not quite keeping up with 70mph local traffic) on this unmarked section of US highway was $175.30 and three license points. As a regular passenger in vehicles driven by her, I can state unequivocally that I have never seen her pass anything but farm implements (and not the Harley implements) in 50 years. She is always content to be the slowest vehicle on any roadway, ALWAYS. Just before getting pulled over by Wisconsin’s armed tax assessor, she was passed by a pickup and three cars and one semi. Locals no more pay attention to the unmarked 55mph speed limit than they do to the declining state of their pitiful economy. Cops on that section know that the speed limit is unmarked from Red Wing to Ellsworth (except for a small sign hidden as close to the Mississippi bridge as possible) and they prowl the road and hide behind trees and signs looking for fresh out-of-state victims.
But this isn’t about that. At the whole opposite end of the “law enforcement” spectrum, I was about knocked off of my motorcycle traveling between Steamboat Springs, Colorado and Wolcott, via Colorado’s Highway 131. At the city limits of BOTH Toponos and Yampa, patrolmen were stationed a few feet in front of the 35mph city speed limit signs with lights flashing to warn drivers of the lower speed limit. With nothing to do but “protect and serve” the locals and travelers, they were both protecting the local residents by assuring traffic would responsibly travel through those citizens and serving travelers by drawing attention to the much lower (65mph to 35mph) speed limits.
Other than the incredibly rare actual traffic cop directing traffic at intersections, I have not once in my life seen police officers do a better job that at those two towns. I can only ask, “What the hell is going on there?”