Jun 30, 2018

Good Roads and Bad Roads

All Rights Reserved © 2016 Thomas W. Day

"Minimum Maintenance Roads," the spice of life.
This summer I took a trip out to Colorado, via northern Nebraska. It was my first trip using my new (to me) Garmin Nüvi 500 GPS and while I had pretty much figured out Garmin's trip planning software, BaseCamp, there were a few features on the actual GPS that threw me a curve or three. I had planned most of my route through Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska pretty tightly. I didn't have much of a schedule, but I had a few old stompin' grounds that I wanted to visit plus a couple of new favorite stops to make on the way to the mountains. 
good-roads-bad-roadsBack when I was a young man and my kids were kids, I spent a lot of my life either driving a Ford E150 Econoline Van all over Nebraska, Iowa, and eastern Colorado or riding a motorcycle on what used to be called "limited access roads" and are, apparently, now called "minimum maintenance roads." For the first year, my bike of choice was a Kawasaki 350 Big Horn, one of the worst "dual purpose" motorcycles ever cooked up. Not long after settling into our new home and my insanely risky job, I bought the first new motorcycle I'd ever owned, a 1974 Rickman 125 ISDT. That motorcycle introduced me to the early stage of my life's adventure touring. 
In the 70's, limited access roads were once farm-to-market roads that had lost their traffic. Nebraska kept the paths open in case some of that traffic returned for fifteen or so years, then the fences came together and the roads became part of the farm or grazing land on either side. I was lucky enough to have been there when there were still some really cool places to go by those unmaintained paths. On my most recent trip, I planned on putting in three to four thousand fairly hard miles so I didn't intend to start off by beating up my tires, chain, and body parts on unpaved Nebraska backroads. I was taking US20 out of nostalgia, but I wasn't so homesick as to want to end up in the middle of nowhere with a busted bike and 3,000 miles to go. My GPS, however, had different plans. Somewhere deep in the system settings, on a second page of options, there is a checkbox for "unpaved roads." I missed that option, so my GPS route was allowed to take me pretty much anywhere a piece of farm equipment might be able to travel. About 50 miles west of Souix City, my GPS did it's recalculating thing when a construction detour pulled me off of my original plan and sent me down about 70 miles of gravel roads in the general direction of Ashfall Fossil Beds State Historical Park; my next destination. By the time I got back to fairly reliable asphalt, I was done for the day. I'd managed about 450 miles that day, including a fairly long stop at the National Music Instrument Museum in Vermillion, SD. 
When I'd stopped in Vermillion, I covered the bike and tossed my gear under the cover. When I came out the museum, there were a handfull of guys on the sidewalk looking at my bike, wondering about all of the fluid on the ground under the bike. As usual, my Camelback had leaked, but I went through the usual maintenance checks before I took off for Nebraska. When I left Vermillion, my Dunlop Trailmaster tires looked pretty much like you'd expect for tires with about 1,000 miles of wear. 100 miles later, after 70 miles of gravel, the rear tire was close to shot. The next morning, I headed back to Sioux City for a new rear tire and hit the road west about noon. This time, making up for lost ground, I let the GPS have it's head and take me to Ashfall by the shortest possible route. This time I was on gravel for about 100 miles and most of it was done pretty much WFO. There was even a stream crossing, when an irrigation system flooded a ditch and overflowed across the road. The time I spent getting reacquainted with deep sand in New Mexico paid off repeatedly.

After a quick hike around the park (Well worth your time if you are into fossils and natural disasters.), I hit the road for Valentine, NE. About midway to Valentine, I hit a section of US20 that had been recently "resurfaced," Nebraska-style. The construction folks had dumped some asphalt on the road, then coated it with a thick bed of gravel. Turning that into an actual paved road would be up to whatever traffic was available to pound the gravel into the asphalt. Considering where I'd been earlier that day, US20 looked pretty good. There was no other traffic on the road and the HPD don't like to get their cars dirty, so I owned the road for at least 100 miles.

I got to Valentine fairly late and lucked into a decent motel with a great bar and good food. As I was unpacking, two old guys (like me) pulled into the lot next to me; one on a CanAm Spyder and the other on a Goldwing. When they saw the crud on my bike, one of the said, "Did you come down 20?" When I confirmed their suspicions, they told me they had freaked out when they saw the gravel-coated asphalt and went 100 miles out of their way, well into South Dakota, to avoid it. The layer of dust and caked on mud from the "stream crossing" convinced them they had made the right decision. They'd left Fremont, Nebraska that morning and were pretty much done in for the day. I ate a steak, drank a couple of beers, listened to a decent guitar player do fairly awful country songs on the restaurant's patio, and did some basic bike maintenance before I called it a night.

I've thought about that brief conversation and the anxiety a bit of gravel caused those two riders more that a few times over the last 3,000 miles of that trip and the rest of the summer. I can't think of a good reason to own a motorcycle that is too precious or awkward to ride where ordinary cars and trucks travel. In places like Minnesota, Nebraska, Colorado, and the Dakotas, lots of the most interesting places are only accessible by gravel road and every road short of the Interstates are likely to receive the surfacing we saw on US20. If your definition of a good road is one that is smoothly paved, you are going to miss out of some of the best things about being a motorcyclist.  

First published in Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly's website: May 2018

Jun 28, 2018

Enough Is Enough

IMG_9384That does it! I need to lose weight. Last year, my 20-year-old Lawson camping hammock let go and dumped me on my head while I was “camping” at the Davenport Fairgounds with Tim and Cal. Now, my swing chair bolt broke and dropped me on my ass.

I’m supposed to fast before a physical tomorrow. I’m not gonna eat anything all day and get back on my low carb and sugar diet tomorrow. This is ridiculous.


Jun 26, 2018

It Just Rolled Out of My Life

John Wright gives me a lot of crap for my lack of sentimentality in regards to my stuff; especially motorcycles. For a few moments, after my 2004 V-Strom rolled away behind a pickup on its new owner's trailer, I felt a twinge of regret. For a lot of years, I got as close as I get to loving that motorcycle. It took me places I'd always dreamed of going and it did it flawlessly and without a complaint. Every incident I had on that motorcycle was due to my own incompetence or lack of attention. Even after all of those moments of stupidity or foolishness, my V-Strom pulled me back out of every situation and got me to my destination and back home again. I owned that bike for 12 years, which is longer by almost a decade than I'd owned any other motorcycle before.

If there is every a Geezer with a Grudge book, this picture will be on the cover. I took it during my North Dakota Ghost Town Tour. I'd just ridden about 100 miles down a county road that was supposed to get me to a barely hanging-on ghost town, but the bridge had washed out and most of the road was crumbli
ng away. Thanks to the 250 mile fuel range, it was no problem. That sort of thing happened regularly on my weird-assed trips on the V-Strom.

I think the things I will miss the most about that motorcycle will be the stickers on the luggage and right side panel that reminded me of where I'd traveled on this motorcycle. I often wished that I'd have bought aluminum cases because stickers attached better to that kind of case, but there were plenty of memories that stayed with the bike for years. I'll just have to try not to lose my mind any time soon.

One in particular was on the bashed up E21 GIVI case, "I Survived SASK 32!" That was an adventure.Sooner or later, I really need to write up that story.
If you ever needed evidence of cheap I am, the box of parts I had for the V-Strom was it. Not the extra sprockets, levers, oil filters, stock shock, scraped up Suzuki tall windshield, or the air filter. In the ad I wrote, "The fairing and front fender took a beating when I was blown backwards on the Dempster Highway in the Yukon and that is my excuse for the decal-decorated right side fairing. I broke the mounting for the right turn signal when I dropped the bike in the driveway last fall and somehow the left turn signal wiring disconnected then, too." And blah, blah.

Turns out, one of the items in the bottom of that box was a brand new fairing piece intended to replace the broken section the turn signals mount to. I have probably had that available since a little while after I got back from Alaska in 2007, but since the glue job held I didn't have the motivation to replace it. All those folks who whined about how they couldn't find replacement plastic on eBay (you can and I did) really missed out because it was there waiting for them to snag the bike. The guy who bought the bike wasn't intimidated even a little by the cosmetic work needed and his reward for that was getting the necessary piece as part of the deal. I kinda love that.

Jun 18, 2018

Boeing Wanted Jetpacks, but Got Motorcycles (sort of)

Boeing’s GoFly Contest is a “contest for inventors of personal aircraft that seemed to reinvigorate the decades-old hope of a contraption that could propel its wearer through the air.” Boeing’s design targets are “vehicles must measure fewer than 8.5 feet in any direction and travel 20 miles while carrying a single person. . . [and] run quieter than 87 decibels, as measured by sensors 50 feet away.’” Not just hard targets, but “impossible?” “’The GoFly prize is impossible,’ said Michael Hirschberg, executive director of the Vertical Flight Society, a technical society for people working on vertical takeoff and landing flight. ‘There is no way — based on conventional thinking — that someone can make a device that can meet the low noise, small size and long endurance requirements that it requires.’”

la-1529003364-kwq02l64y8-snap-imageYesterday’s “impossible” is today’s state-of-the-art and going for impossible is what created today’s quality standards, the internet economy, electric cars and motorcycles, and the computer I’m writing this essay on. I have high hopes for “impossible.”

la-1529003192-9hzkdpfrlf-snap-imageAt least a couple of these entries look more like motorcycles than jetpacks.

Jun 17, 2018

It's Never Too Late?

All Rights Reserved © 2008 Thomas W. Day

Keven Cameron's book, Top Dead Center, ends with the following paragraph: "People are clever creatures, but today in our world of specialists we tend to think we need lessons in order to tackle such activities as riding a pony, resetting a circuit breaker, or changing engine oil. This is unfortunate, because it gives people the idea that technology is magic, that there is nothing we non-wizards can discover or do about it. This puts a wall between people and the things they could otherwise understand and therefore enjoy more. The wall takes some climbing, and the ascent is easiest begun in childhood, but it's never too late to begin." There are some things that are only done well by the young or the specially skilled. I, for example, will never dunk a basketball on a regulation court. Being, literally, half-blind, my odds on the race track were limited by my inability to accurately judge distances. None of that kept me from flailing away on a basketball court or from holding down the middle-of-the-motocross-pack. 
Since 2001 I've coached MSF Basic and Experienced Rider classes. During the four decades before that, I was often employed to help a variety of people learn how to ride motorcycles, make or record music, write fiction and non-fiction, experiment in electronics and physics, use computers, manufacture electronic and mechanical equipment, and implant medical devices in surgical patients. Sometimes I knew what I was doing when I "taught" those things and sometimes I learned while I went, often just a step ahead of my "students." Regardless of the subject, I was informally schooled, often self-educated, in the subjects I taught. The fact is, the best teachers I've known in my life are rarely formally "educated" and have been driven by their desire to understand how things work rather than inspired by the education system, academic or industrial, to learn their subjects.

Both of my parents had formal education credentials and they both said their formal "Education" classes were the worst taught, most useless classes they took in their long academic careers. My father was a 50-year-veteran high school teacher who taught math and business until he was forced to retire at 73. My step-mother taught individual and group private piano lessons for 30 years and received her MA when she was 66. The skills they used to teach hundreds of students those complicated subjects are not found in any theoretical education textbooks.
A friend of mine, Scott Jarrett, is one of the most technically accomplished people I know. He deftly avoided the honor of a high school diploma and moved directly past "Go" into a career in music and recording engineering because he was driven to understand and excel at that career. For a while, he and I worked together as instructors at a private college. I learned more about teaching, music, and technology during that period than I had in all of the classes I suffered in my ludicrous 25-year pursuit of a college degree. In his late-fifties, Scott went after new knowledge as passionately as many of us did when we were teenagers. More recently, I watched Scott jump into figuring out how carburetors work, simply because he wanted to understand that part of his new motorcycle. Soon afterward, he became involved in the creation of an on-line education program with the same kind of fearless creativity I have come to expect from him. A few years ago, he designed a multi-faceted music and technology program for a college in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
not_too_lateIn 1991, I took a position with a medical device company. My new boss told me, "At your age, this is your last chance to make something of your career." Wilson Greatbatch, the inventor of the implantable pacemaker and the lithium-iodide battery among other things, began a research institute searching for a cure for AIDS when he was 80 years old. Ten years after my "last chance," when I was 54, Mr. Greatbatch told me, "If you are only working for the money, you are wasting your time." A few months later, I quit working for a company that only offered money as compensation for my time. I have not regretted that choice, once, since I abandoned Big Money to do work I didn't hate. Turns out, it wasn't too late for me to switch career directions.

One of the many cool things about an activity like motorcycling is that it is so complicated that you never stop learning about riding and working on these machines. Like lawyers and physicians, we are all "practicing motorcyclists." Only a few will actually ever become skilled in the art. As long as you are curious and interested, you can find something new to learn. I try to do some kind of experiment in every corner I turn, to either reinforce what I know or to see if I can learn something new. Every time I do some basic maintenance on one of my bikes, I read some odd part of the service manual to learn something more about the machine to which I trust my life. The fact that this activity requires some physical capacity inspires me to work on my conditioning, to stay flexible and strong so that I can keep doing it a few more years, is just topping on the cake.
Discouraging Boomers and older folks from taking up motorcycling seems like the logical thing to do. Riding is a moderate-to-high risk activity. Getting old means your bones become brittle, your reflexes slow, your eyes deteriorate, you lose strength, and your mind is addled. Positive values of all of those qualities are needed on a motorcycle. Still, you will never be younger than you are today. Life is brief and it should not be boring. I still want to fly a glider, jump out of an airplane, and travel the Pan American Highway to the southern tip of South America. I'm too old to do any of those things, but I hope to do them anyway. It's not too late until the day you die.

PS: June 17th would have been my father’s 100th birthday. He made it to 93, which is more of a longevity accomplishment than I hope to make.

Jun 15, 2018

Sellin’ It Myself

It has been a slow season for motorcycle sales, not just mine but everything I’m watching on Craig’s List and my local dealer’s sales. I’ve only had three bites on my V-Strom and I’m the cheapest V-Strom 650 on the Minnesota Craig’s List by more than a few dollars and with a whole lot more touring accessories and parts added than the competition. So far, all of the prospective buyers are clearly just looky-loos, but they’ve made it pretty clear that is the case. Two have show up to look it over and one of the two is “thinking about it.” Today, though, I got an email that read “I was wondering if I'd be able to come take a look at the bike and maybe take it for a test ride?”

tdmIt’s been a while since I’ve sold a motorcycle and a really long time since anyone asked to take a test ride. The last time I experienced that adventure was when I sold my 1992 Yamaha TDM 850. The buyer showed up in a nice new pickup, with his girlfriend, a nice set of gear, and he looked to be fairly competent and knowledgeable about the Yamaha TDM. LIke today, it had been a fair number of years between my last motorcycle sale and my chops were rusty. He wanted to take the bike for a test ride and like the Minnesota passive-aggressive dweeb I’ve become, I handed him the key.

The TDM is no beginner’s bike, as Victor Wanchena discovered when he test rode one for Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly. My prospective buyer saddled up competently, found first gear without any problem, released the clutch and eased into the street, before he had the bike straightened out and lined up for the big curve in our street, he decided to nail the throttle; I’d guess he was showing off for me, his girlfriend, or both. What he did, instead, was drop the bike on its side so quickly that he didn’t even have a chance to get his leg out from under it. The girlfriend and I held our breath and I ran across the street to help him get out from under the bike. We stood him and the TDM back up, rolled the bike back to my driveway and surveyed the damage: two broken turn signals, one mangled mirror, one bend handlebar, and some scratches on the tank and side panels. To his credit and my great fortune, he paid my asking price without much comment. We loaded the bike up on his pickup, plus the spares and busted bits, and he drove off. I transferred the title immediately, on-line, and I never heard anything from him again. I was lucky.

Today, I’m less inclined to count on luck. Now, I offer the option of my delivering the bike to a mechanic for evaluation and appraisal or this form along with cash in advance:

For the consideration of $____________________ I, Thomas Day of my address(“Seller”), hereby sell, assign and transfer to _______________________________________________, of _______________________________________. ____________________ (“Buyer”), the following described motorcycle (“Vehicle”).

Make: Suzuki
Model: DL650 V-Strom
Year: 2004
VIN: ??????????????

Seller states that the mileage reading on the Odometer at time of sale is xxxxxxxx miles. Seller certifies that to the best of Seller’s knowledge, this reading reflects the actual mileage of the Vehicle. Further, the Vehicle’s odometer has not been altered, set back or disconnected while in Seller’s possession, nor does seller have knowledge of anyone else doing so.
Buyer acknowledges the above odometer statement:
___________________________________________________________________________________ (Buyer’s Acknowledgement)
Buyer Name
Seller warrants that the Vehicle is free and clear of any liens or encumbrances.
The Vehicle is being transferred on as “AS IS” basis, with not warranties, express or implied, as to the condition of the Vehicle.
Seller certifies the statements made in the Bill of Sale are true, to the best knowledge of the Seller.
TEST RIDE INFORMATION: If Buyer returns vehicle to Seller within 1 hour of purchase, in its original condition (save for additional mileage), Seller will fully refund the sale price and Seller will retain title to the vehicle.
________________________________________________________________________________________Start time of test ride:
_______________________________________________________________Buyer’s acknowledgement of test ride conditions
Buyer Name
_______________________________________________________________Seller’s acknowledgement of test ride conditions
Transfer of the Vehicle is effective 6/15/2018.
Thomas W. Day (Seller)
Seller Name

I’ve read that some buyers are highly offended by the suggestion that they may not be competent riders, decent human beings, or have the money to actually purchase the motorcycle in question. I apologize, in advance, to those people. You might as well assume you won’t be buying anything substantial from me. I am from Kansas, I am a hick, but I didn’t just get off of the turnip truck yesterday; it was at least a month ago.

Jun 13, 2018

Sellin' My Baby

My summer companion for the last 12 years is up for sale on Craig's List: https://minneapolis.craigslist.org/dak/mcy/d/2004-suzuki-strom-vstrom-650/6594488176.html. Outside of my wife of 50+ years, I don't think I've had a more loyal companion. We've been through some really thick and thin times. Regardless of how brainless I've been (see below), this motorcycle has just kept rolling and hauling my ass out of the fire. Events have proven that I'm too old and lame/crippled for a motorcycle this large; as of this year. I want it to go to someone who will ride the snot out of it for at least another 50k miles. That ain't me, babe. 

Possibly the dumbest possible way to load a motorcycle for a cross-Alaska tour. That idiotic pile of crap stacked at the back of my motorcycle turned into an excellent sail when we were hit with a 70mph crosswind on the Dempster Highway about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle. I was sailing along at about 60mph enjoying the absolute crap "view" of what looked like Kansas with some hills in the background when, suddenly, I'm looking at where I just came from and just as suddenly I'm on my ass sliding down a road full of golfball-sized arrowheads; aka Dempster Highway surfacing. Thanks to Aerostich, I didn't lose any blood but I did break three ribs, separate my left shoulder, and bust a bone in my right hand. The truck driver watching me examine myself desperately wanted to use his satellite phone to call a $25k rescue helicopter. I just as desperately duct taped my bike and gear back together and took off for Dawson City and a hot bath tub.

My loyal V-Strom stopped sliding inches from toppling into the permafrost and sinking into oblivion. The right side of the fairing was scraped and broken, my GIVI E21 bag shattered, and bits of the fairing were cracked and dangling. I duct taped everything together as best I could with one poorly working hand and got the hell out of there before anyone could call a "rescue" to put an end to my one and only 30+ day summer vacation.

That was just one of the adventures I had with my V-Strom and not even the most memorable. The best moments were too amazing and went by too fast for me to photograph.

Jun 11, 2018

What it all Means

Ever think about that butcher's chart Icon plastered all over the Airframe Statistic? Your first thought should be how many first impacts occur to the areas of the head unprotected by all helmets that are NOT full face: 45%. Those ridiculous things I can only describe as “toilet bowl helmets” add another 12% of unprotected area over traditional 3/4 coverage helmets. I’m not kidding when I say, “That is not a helmet.” It is barely a hat.

Jun 6, 2018

Another Brick in the Crumbling Wall?

cycleworldCycle World Magazine, probably the most popular motorcycle rag in the USA went to a quarterly “coffee table format” as of the latest issue of the magazine. "To respond to the changes in consumer and advertiser media needs, Cycle World is moving to a captivating, quarterly, coffee-table sized journal focusing on the art of the motorcycle." A friend handed off the first issue from this format, with an expression of general disgust and disinterest in what the magazine might do next. He was clearly neither captivated or entertained by the magazine format. In an act of insane desperation and cluelessness, Peter Egan is back; no less. If the rag’s goal is to appeal to the over-70-crowd, they are nailing it.

CW’s readers are less than impressed on the magazine’s reader forum. One particularly not-too-bright “reader” wrote, “Look, there will always be motorcycles and there will always be motorcycle publications, whether Print or Digital. It's not THAT critical which, although I do like a paper magazine, personally.

“And despite whatever Twenty Sumpthings are doing or not doing... there will always be Thirty and Forty and Fifty Sumpthings who want to ride bikes and will pay Sumpthing for good moto journalism.. even that payment means just enduring a barrage of digital advertising.”

I have to suspect he is unclear on the meaning of the word “always.” Another far smarter reader said, “Younger people just stopped buying printed materials, the advertising dollars to support 130-page, content-rich magazines left, and our ‘Buggy Whips Monthly’ started evaporating.” Regardless of your take on where motorcycling and motorcycle journalism is going, this seems like a pretty big deal in the overall scheme of motorcycling’s future.

Jun 1, 2018

Because They Are Organized

All Rights Reserved © 2017 Thomas W. Day

At the 2015 International Motorcycle Show, I stopped at the DNR's booth to pick up the latest trail maps and while I was there I asked why there are so many trails accessible to ATVs and snowmachines and so few for motorcycles. The answer was pretty simple, "They are organized." It struck me that we motorcyclists are the equivalent to Will Rodger's politics, "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." Likewise, I'm not a member of any organized motor vehicle group, I am a motorcyclist.

ATV owners have ATV Minnesota and a few dozen other political active groups.  There are about as many Minnesota snowmobile groups as there are Minnesotans. Snowmobiliers We have a group that battles against helmet laws, the almost perfectly useless AMA, and a hand full of gangbanger biker "clubs," and the Shriners. It's not really that bad, but when it comes to political action it sure seems like we're as unlikely to band together for a common cause as Democrats are to show up to vote more than once every two or four years. We are not an organized political force. Yeah, we have the AMA and Always Beer at the Event, but those two entities have different agendas: the AMA wants to put butts on seats for its manufacturers and ABATE fights helmet laws and sells beer. Neither of those agendas do anything useful for motorcyclists who actually ride their motorcycles; let alone doing something for commuters and people who who use their motorcycles for regular transportation.

Outside of pretending that helmet laws are freedumb-oppressing unreasonable regulations, responsible exhaust noise and pollution are anti-safety, and wasting money on ineffective "safety training" while opposing rational licensing laws, what has ABATE or the AMA done for motorcyclists? They've wasted our money, for one thing. I guess that's more like something they'd done to us, rather than for us.

Every year, gangbangers wearing "colors" and pirate outfits show up at the state legislature in late January for the "ABATE of Minnesota’s Annual Bikerday at the Minnesota State Capitol." This is when they attempt to demonstrate that bikers are scary assholes and that our government and elected officials should be afraid of them. "Important" policy recommendations like "No Change to the Adult Motorcycle Helmet Law," "Oppose Changes to Motorcycle Insurance Requirements," "Curtail Profiling of Motorcyclists in Minnesota," and "Improve Motorcycle Training and Awareness" are their talking points. Look it up, they aren't shy about the bullshit they've been spouting for a couple of decades or embarrassed at the awful motorcycle safety statistics produced by their political "success." Like the gun lobby, it's more important to them that they "win" than that Americans and motorcyclists' quality of life is improved.

As for off-road motorcycle "organizations," it's even harder to find examples that anyone outside of the groups' clubhouses know about. In fact, the DNR guy I spoke with (and a friend who works for the National Forest Service)  didn't know there were off-road motorcycle groups in the state or nationally. That, to me, is more understandable than the lack of on-road motorcyclists organizations. Off-road riders are often independent, adventure-riding, solo types. That sort doesn't easily get drawn into organizations, meetings, or politics. Racers only belong to organizations like the AMA because it's a necessity for some events. Like me, lots of racers have tolerated all of the bullshit they can stand by the time they quit racing and remaining a member of the AMA and suffering more of that incompetent bureaucracy is not likely something they'll put up with when they don't need that membership card to go racing.

The on-road crowd seems like it would be a natural for effective politics: they often travel in groups, wear uniforms, go to meetings, and don't seem to have any sort of aversion to political rallies. Since 2007, the AMA has lost 28% of its already paltry membership (this link is to an excellent article by ex-AMA employee and Lifetime AMA Member, Lance Oliver, and you should read it). There are lots of reasons, all good. One would be that the AMA hired a failed politico wingnut asshole, Wayne Allard, to "represent" a group of people in an organization that is increasingly old, white, paranoid, uneducated, and timid/conservative. Meanwhile, the motorcycle population oddly includes women, minorities, and people under age 48 (the AMA member's average age). Another reason for the AMA's continued irrelevance would be it's failed "leadership." Since Rod Dingman took over in 2007, not only has the AMA steadily lost membership the organization (loosely defined) has been running in the red for several million dollars every year. Dingman, however, is still receiving a quarter-million dollar salary and getting big bonuses for his failures. He's turned the AMA into a dysfunctional and inbred bureaucracy, mostly staffed and mismanaged by non-riders. So far, nothing has come along to replace the AMA and that isn't a good sign for the future of motorcycling.

Organizations in general are not doing that well in the "age of information." People don't join trade or recreational groups the way we and our parents did. "Virtual participation" seems to be the way younger people want things to work, but it's not working very well for them, so far. The people who can make changes are the ones who show up. The lobbyists and politicians and bureaucrats who make and enforce the rules are always there at every city council, county commissioner, state legislature, and federal congressional meeting. They show up. They get what they want and the rest of us wonder why. You can have a million tweet readers and twice that many Facebook followers and still accomplish nothing until you show up in force.

That's why, as lame and unrepresentative as they are, ABATE gets its agenda on the calendar. They may not get bills passed, but they apparently get good ideas squashed or ignored. The rest of us don't even know there is a legislative event to attend and participate in, but ABATE's lobbyists and members were there on Minnesota's Bikerday at the Capitol to make their case and to make the rest of us look even more irrelevant in the process. It's not like anyone is fooled by a couple dozen pirates wandering around the state capitol building. We aren't even close to being 1% of 1% on the highways on the best of days. Everyone knows that, including the politicians. Until we actually have an organization that represents the best interests of actual motorcyclists, fewer people who matter will take us seriously until they decide to stop dealing with us altogether.