Nov 28, 2019

Seat of the Pants Performance Comparisons

A few years ago, when I was still capable of riding half-quickly and competently off-road, I was riding with a group of Twin Cities Dual Purpose guys north of the Cities. The “route” was a convoluted collection of gravel and paved roads with the occasional single-track and deep sand trail tossed in to provide the illusion of a dual-purpose outing. It might have been one of the first opportunities I had to test my new-to-me WR250X somewhere outside of my daily 6 mile urban commute. It turned out, there was more than just a riding competency and bike capability test available on that ride. One of the other guys had recently bought a used WR250R that had been barely-used and farkled up with a loud “performance” pipe, a Power Commander fuel programmer, a hacked-up air box, and the original owner had removed the AIS and EXUP systems and the “flapper-valve.” Pretty much all of the “performance” weirdness every kid who ever bought a WR might do without any of the nasty riding crap actual motorcyclists would have done first. Both of our bikes had been owned by such children and the WR/R owner had yet to begin the long process of returning the bike to original status and peak overall performance. I got after that immediately and my bike was all the way back to bone stock the day of that ride.

After 30 or 40 miles of the group ride, we all stopped for lunch and the WR/R guy and I compared notes. He was pretty tired of the exhaust noise and wondered if any of the modifications had actually improved the bike’s performance. You might figure, I always assume any “improvements” made by shade tree goobers is a downward evolution. Having been an engineer for most of my career, my appreciation for amateurs is very limited-to-non-existent. We decided that, when the opportunity presented itself we’d “performance test” the bikes on every sort of terrain we’d be riding on for the rest of the day. In our case, “performance testing” mean drag racing the two bikes at every opportunity. Mostly, a drag race eliminates skill from the equation; the outcome is pretty much determined by the bike with the best powerband and peak horsepower. As an unintentional handicap, I was spotting the WR250R about 50 pounds, since that bike’s owner was at least that much lighter than me. He was also a decade younger and a much better, more aggressive rider, for whatever that is worth.

To cut to the chase, the end result was no surprise to me and disappointing to him. On pavement, my WR250X consistently held the advantage. We would start out neck-and-neck, but after 3rd gear my WR/X would begin to pull away until around 70mph when the WR/R began to fall into the distance. On gravel, the results were mixed; pretty much whoever got the best start would end up in front. In deep sand, I got my ass handed to me, mostly based on his skill and my cowardice and, probably, that 17” front wheel that tends to plow into the sand. I was year or two away from having my left hip replaced and, by then, anything that required a firm foot on the ground was out of the question.

So, our shade tree, seat-of-the-pants evaluation of the usual collection of silly “improvements” kids make to the WR/R/X Yamahas was that more is less. You’d hope that doing all of that crap would not have made a 250 slower with an additionally 50 pound load, but it did.

Some of those modifications are, and should be, highly illegal. Yamaha did several things to make the WR/R/X bikes emissions legal, for the US, EU, and Japan. Defeating emissions controls is a federal and state violation and I despise the fact that our states and cops are too lazy and incompetent to enforce emissions violations. In fact, I resent having to pay taxes for cops who don’t care about exhaust noise but pretend to be enforcing the peace (and quiet) of the communities that employ them. Imagining that a low tech sheet metal worker could out-engineer Yamaha is pretty hilarious, at best. The only “tuning” aftermarket pipe manufacturers do is “noise enhancement.” They know you imagine louder being faster and play to that market.

Some of the other “improvements” might actually do something useful, if the entire bike was re-tuned to compensate for the huge change in intake and exhaust pressure curves. However, most goobers are done with their project once they tack on the expensive crap and wouldn’t consider spending another $1,500 on dyno testing and tuning. So, like the 99% dumbasses in The Marching Morons, they mistake noise and an unpredictable and peaky power band for improvement and degrade the motorcycle while wasting money on junk that just irritates the general public, wastes fuel, adds more pollution to the environment, and devalues their motorcycle investment.

The fact is that you can pretty much assume that every dollar you “invest” in aftermarket performance modifications will result in a fifty-cent reduction in the resale value of the motorcycle. You might, occasionally, find a kid who will pay inflated money for a farkled-up mess, but you’ll have to be astoundingly lucky to stumble on to one of those characters who actually has money.

Nov 16, 2019

Hardly Riders and Laugh In

More Hardly riders doing the Laugh In tricycle bit. “I hit that [invisible] hole in the road,” sort of like “I had to put ‘er down.” It always means, “I screwed up and fell over totally out of incompetence.” These guys always remind me of the Laugh-In tricycle gag. How can you ride this badly and still take your badass biker posing seriously?

Nov 9, 2019

What Did You Think Was Gonna Happen?

Every weekend, I’m treated to parades of unskilled, noisy bikers wobbling through our small tourist town. Typically, 4-to-20-some bikers will ride, in staggered formation no more than 20’ apart, at 50+mph into town, often rolling through stop lights and signs because most of the riders are incapable of making basic traffic maneuvers: like stopping and starting competently. While the bikers, I’m sure, have images of the rest of us envying their “freedom” and bald domes shining (scroungy ponytails waving) in the sunlight, I am always reminded of herd animals grouping together under the flawed theory of “safety in numbers.”

There is a good evolutionary reason why antelope, gazelles, water buffalo, and cattle pack together in dangerous situations. The “good” part of the reason only applies to the young, fit, and quick. The predators will quickly identify the old and crippled and go for them, rather than waste their precious energy on the hard-to-catch young, fit, and fast. A pack of motorcycles all jammed together in an idiotic “rolling bowling pin” formation is, by default, a herd of old and crippled herbivores.

For decades, whenever we pass bikers in pirate underwear, my wife says, “They’re having fun now.”  What she means, of course, is that those characters are so unaware of how precarious their existence is that they are blissfully unaware of how close they are to death, dismemberment, and general purpose mangling. If “ignorance is bliss,” pirate parade participants are some of the happiest people on the planet.

In the August 2019 issue, ABATE’s Ed Berner wrote “I’m tired of my brothers and sisters dying on the road because drivers are distracted or just don’t give a crap about anyone else.” When 30-40% of fatal motorcycle crashes are single vehicle incidents, you have to question that analysis. Knowing that more than a quarter of motorcycle crash deaths are solely the fault of bikers, you’d be statistically clueless to imagine that the other 60-70% of fatal motorcycle crashes are primarily the fault of cagers.

Mostly, I believe motorcyclists are dying out of disability: drunken driving behavior and a fair amount of their own “distraction” while they wobble down the road. Bikers are pretty much willingly hopping onto suicide machines dulled with  learned helpless syndrome” created by loud exhaust noise that causes mental and physical fatigue, distraction from useless and dangerous pack-formation etiquette, loud sound systems, on-bike cellphone use (hands-free and otherwise), handicapped by the mostly functionally-disabled motorcycles bikers choose to ride, and the general-purpose resistance to obtaining decent riding and defensive driving skills. Complaining that the suicide machines are actually doing the job they were designed to do isn’t any sort of solution.

Until retiring this year, I had been an MSF/MMSC Motorcycle Safety Instructor since 2001. I have taught dozens of what we used to call the  “Experienced Rider Course” (ERC): now more-accurately relabeled the “Intermediate Rider Course” (IRC). Many of those classes were booked by biker clubs, often ABATE chapters. The hallmark of teaching those courses was too often excessive noise and general rider incompetence. Out of all of those courses, I only saw one rider on a big Harley who could actually handle that motorcycle competently and he was a retired motorcycle police officer with a stock exhaust and a mostly-stock motorcycle (He did have some Iron Butt farkles.). All of the other biker characters usually plowed through about half of the IRC exercises as if the cones were merely suggestions. Often, they would just park to the side of the range until the “impossible” exercises were finished.

At the opposite end of Berner’s death-and-destruction tale has been my 50-some-year association with motorcyclists (different folks than “bikers”). Counting the last two decades of hanging out with motorcycle safety instructors and the rest of my life with off-road racers, motorcycle journalists, adventure motorcyclists, motorcycle commuters, and Iron Butt riders, I have not personally known a single person who died riding a motorcycle. I have witnessed three motorcycle deaths in the last 50 years and two of the three were 100% the fault of the motorcyclist and the other was at least 50% due to the incompetence off the motorcyclist. I didn’t know any of those bikers. The riders I’ve worked and hung out with are, at best, entertained by the biker cult and, more likely, disgusted by the whole incompetent macho pirate-parade silliness. Among my friends, you won’t find a single  bike with ape hangers, straight pipes, disabled front brakes, gynecological-exam-position road pegs, handlebar stereo systems, paddle-boards, or useless chromed geegaws. No novelty helmets or bowls, no chaps, no vests, gangster patches, or bandanas. No trikes, either. Those people depend—first, second, and last—on their riding skills, the capabilities of their motorcycles, AGAT, and unwavering focused attention on the road and other road users for their safety; not idiotic and useless legislation, billboards and bumper-stickers, or self-defeating “advocacy groups.”

Like my favorite t-shirt says, “If loud pipes save lives, imagine what learning to ride that thing  could do.”

Nov 6, 2019

Are You Invisible?

This is sort of like that Dancing Bear video, with a lot more science. Unfortunately, I think too much of the "message" is a deluded hope that car drivers will compensate for motorcyclists' fundamental problems.

Nov 5, 2019

Changing Gears, Sticking with the Old Transmission

Way back in the WinXP years, I started using Microsoft Live Writer as my primary blog editor. I moved to Open Live Writer when MS decided that blogs and reading/writing skills are a thing of the past and, thankfully, dumped Live Writer into the open source world. Unfortunately for me, Live Writer hasn't been updated since 2017 and Google has made a bunch of nonsensical changes to Blogger in the past 2-plus years. Those changes and incompatibilities have made it difficult-to-impossible to easily create blog entries in a normal editor (the junk that Google installed in Blogger for editing is very 1999). 

Wordpress, however, has made a special effort to link its blog capabilities to Live Writer. All that means is that I have to create two documents for every blog update. You might have noticed that I have commented on the bullshit I'm going through getting old this past summer: including eyesight issues, selling off my beloved WR250X and ending my active life as a motorcyclist, etc. Another offshoot of all that is that I have decided to switch my blog entry focus, first to the Wordpress site--Geezer with A Grudge - Wordpress --and second to this site: Also, you may not know that there is a direct path to the GWAG stuff,, but there is. Previously, that link redirected you to the Blogger site, but as of today it will go, instead, to the Wordpress pages. 

My intention is to keep double-posting everything to both sites, but from here out I will be going to Wordpress first and Blogger second. In the past, occasionally that has meant that a few things didn't end up on the Wordpress site. It stands to reason that the opposite might be true now that my process has changed.

Nov 4, 2019

Fast Lane Biker Column (November) 
 In  a ridiculous number of ways, my years with Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly has been oddly rewarding. I was putting this one to bed when the magazine decided to call it quits. I'd have loved to see it in MMM, but I missed the window. You wouldn't think there would be anything educational or financially rewarding about wasting a few dozen hours on a beater '70s Honda street bike, but there was.