Aug 3, 2020
Rural Minnesota’s coronavirus lock-down isn’t overwhelmingly restrictive and my wife and I have taken a couple of leisurely drives along Wisconsin 35, south toward Lacrosse. With an immune deficiency disease, I’m the posterboy for this disease’s “most likely to suffocate” award. So, we don’t stop where anybody else is standing around, we don’t shop, stop for restaurant food, or spend much money. We’re just breaking the plague quarantine routine for an hour or so. The last time we made that trip, I counted 17 motorcycles for sale parked in yards and driveways in a 40 mile drive. It is a glutted market. The overwhelming majority of bikes for sale are cruisers and the dominate brand on that used market is Harley.
Harley’s current economic situation, only slightly worse than before the Trump Recession due to a decade of declining sales, is reflective of that change in the seas. Motorcyclists and, especially, bikers are getting older, from a 1985 median age of 27 to a 2003 average of 41 and somewhere between 51 and 60-something (depending on whose stats you trust) by 2020. In the US, motorcycles are just expensive recreational vehicles to 99.9% of riders; most of whom are too incompetent and timid to commute or ride in city traffic. One aspect of those statistics is grossly and incorrectly skewed by the fact that practically every US driver who ever took a motorcycle license test automatically renews that endorsement for a few bucks every 4 to 6 years; because they can without any evidence of riding competence. So, actual rider age is probably lower than those numbers but actual motorcyclists’ numbers are also far smaller than the estimated 10 million households (who are mostly storing a motorcycle under a tarp in the back of a shed). Like that motorcycle endorsement, many bike owners reflexively pay the tabs every year for a motorcycle that rarely travels further than it takes to move it out of the way of the lawnmower or snowblower.
What does it mean for motorcycling? Hell if I know, but I know a lot of people in the industry are beginning to hedge their two-wheeled bets into other recreational areas.
The owner of Aerostich, Andy Goldfine, has talked a lot over the years about the value of motorcycling to society and he and his company sponsor events that try to illustrate motorcycles utility; like Ride to Work Day. In his blog, Andy talks a lot about the motorcycle market from the perspective of someone whose primary business is selling gear to the tiny percentage of motorcyclists (not bikers) who ride every day and depend on their motorcycle for transportation. That group appears to be shrinking and Aerostich is looking around for their next market. It’s possible it might be serious eBike riders (the fastest growing segment of the US two-wheeled industry).
Our position in the world is reflected by motorcycle data, too. Lance Oliver, in his blog The Ride So Far, reflected on this in his essay, “The U.S. market is increasingly unimportant in the motorcycle world": “Here in the United States, we have a way of making ourselves sound bigger than we are. We call ourselves ‘the Americans’ even though we’re a small part of the Americas and we hold a World Series without inviting other countries to participate. In the motorcycle world, however, it’s impossible to mistake the fact that the U.S. market is becoming smaller and less important with every passing year.” The 2007 Bush Great Recession really illustrated that when a 90% reduction in Honda’s US motorcycle sales resulted in less than a 3% decrease in their world motorcycle sales. The world is growing and the American Century ended at the millennium. Maybe that was the real Y2K bug?
As cars become safer, quieter, more fuel efficient, tolerating incompetent and arrogant bikers becomes less sustainable. What do we do to try and mitigate that? We slap louder pipes on our lawnmower-motor “hawgs,” collect in even bigger gang demonstrations, campaign for special treatment and even more roadway privileges, and make greater “contributions” to highway crashes and mortality while fighting rational licensing, helmet, and traffic safety laws. Any fool could see where this is all heading, but we’re special fools and we’re going to drive this chopper right over the cliff.
Jul 21, 2020
This kind of “adventure” is sort of asking for trouble (not saying I never did anything this dumb, but I was on a LOT smaller bike when I did), but if you’re going to do it, do it fast.
Jul 17, 2020
Getting back up without the use of my left leg was difficult. Once I was able to stand, I discovered I could flex my knee without much pain and my general leg strength seemed good. Being a guy, since I had started the day off expecting to go for a bike ride I went for a bike ride. Mostly, I did fine, but every time I stopped getting off and on the bike was painful. By the time I gave up and came back home, my left leg would barely support me and climbing the basement stairs was really painful.
My wife had a knee replacement last fall and we still have the cold therapy machine the Mayo Clinic sent home with her. I used up a 15 pound bag of ice on the knee for the rest of Sunday. And I did lots of leg lifts with both legs, but especially the left one while I was trapped in a chair with the icing machine.
The next day, Monday, I boiled my leg in the bathtub, first thing, and hobbled around doing what I could after loosening it up with some flexes, stretches, and leg lifts. Monday was a rough day. Any sort of side-load on the left leg brought shouting-level pain. My wife has struggled with knee pain for years and I was moving almost at her pace for the first time since I had a hip replaced in late 2011. My empathy for her problems and pain has always been moderated by her complete resistance to any serious physical therapy (PT). This injury gave me some direct and personal perspective on the pain she’s experienced, though.
It wasn’t hard for me to imagine, though, that if this level of pain and disability lasted I might end up being a non-stop whiner. After a day of limping around and getting the occasional shock when I planted my left foot slightly off of dead flat, I was seriously thinking about a peg leg. It would take a lot for me to get used to going up and down stairs slowly and one-step-at-a-time. I mean, carefully lift the right foot to a step while using the handrail for at least 50% of my weight, then lifting the left foot to the same step, pause for pain recovery, and repeat. Between spurts of activity on Monday, I was in a chair, usually re-reading Jim Bouton’s Ball Four for the n-teenth time. Every moment I was in a chair, I was doing leg lifts. By the end of Monday, my leg was feeling much stronger, I had less pain, and it was obvious that my damage was in either a tendon or a muscle; not the actual knee or cartilage in that hinge. That is, by the way, usually the case with knee pain in the beginning. Let the muscle deterioration go one long enough, then you’ll start chewing through meniscus and causing destructive inflammation. In retrospect, I think I strained or ruptured the lateral collateral ligament.
Tuesday, I got out of bed, tentatively tested the knee while I sat on the edge of the bed, got up and on with my day, almost normally. By Tuesday morning, I would estimate that I had held my left leg in the air, unsupported by anything but the muscles necessary for that position, for at least 3 hours. For most of the day, I pretty much went through my normal tasks and activities normally. Any time there was a bit more than 10-15o of outside side load (think bow-legged) I’d get a minor twinge reminder that I was still injured. Otherwise, I was most of the way back to normal. To the point that I hiked up our backyard hill to fill the bird feeders and do some construction work on the outside of the house; ladder work, even.
Wednesday, as I write this, I would say I am about 80% back-to-normal. Remember, that is a 72-year-old “normal,” so I’m unlikely to ever be a physical specimen anyone sentient would aspire to. Especially me. At noon today, I have racked up 8 hours of leg lifts since Sunday afternoon. As a matter of fact, my left leg is lifted as I write this and has been almost constantly since I began.
And that is the “hot tip” I promised in the title of this essay; leg lifts for knee injuries.
35 years ago, I was bicycling to work 5-10 miles one-way almost every day in California. After a couple years of that, my knees hurt badly enough that I quit wearing long pants. The weight of the pants on my kneecaps was so painful that I could barely stand it. Like all good Californians, I went looking for an instant fix: surgery. Somewhere in that same period, I crashed my bicycle racing downhill and busted my left collarbone. I went through an extensive period of getting lousy advice from doctors and orthopedic surgeons before I finally lucked into a young sports medicine doctor. My collarbone had been fractured and unstable for almost a month by then and he convinced me that surgery, at this point, would be likely to fail. He prescribed a support brace that was actually strong enough that I wouldn’t be able to shrug is loose. He also gave me a PT routine that involved grinding the edges of the fracture to reopen the injury at the bone to restart the natural healing process. Within a month, the collarbone had fused, although fairly misaligned, and I was back on a bicycle and enjoying my screwed up knees again. I went to that same doctor about my knee pain.
His advice was, since I spent a lot of my work days in meetings, anytime I’m seated “stick that leg out and hold it there as long as you can.” The idea was that bicycling is mostly an posterior (backside) muscle/tendon activity which strengthens those connective tissue structures until they overwhelm the functions of the anterior (front) muscles. That allows the patella, for example, to wander across the area it has traditionally been positioned, grinding up the ligaments and meniscus. The backside of the patella is grooved from years of wear and blood flow and those grooves align with similar wear on the connective tissue and meniscus. Allowing new position and movement of the patella uses those grooves as a sort of file. [I realize this is a really pitiful explanation of what really goes on. However, it is pretty close to the dumbed-down explanation my doctor provided and how his recommendation might correct my knee pain.
He also said, if that didn’t work, we could always “try surgery.”
So, 35 years ago I started sticking my leg out as straight and high as I could get it anytime I was at my desk, in a meeting, at a restaurant, or sitting down for any other reason. 35 years ago, that exercise absolutely fixed my knee pain. Even more incredibly, when I overstressed my knee this past week, a few hours of leg lifts helped me get back to my life in three freakin’ days. Now you know.
I’ve given this advice to a half-dozen friends with knee pain in the last 30-some years and not a one of them has ever had to resort to knee surgery. On the other hand, I suspect my wife hasn’t done an hour of leg lifts in the last 30 years and she still has knee pain, had a knee replacement last fall that she still describes as “horrible,” and moves with lots of pain and general difficulty. Your choice, I guess.
Jul 13, 2020
I made the mistake wondering this on a local “Ask the Chief” city webpage and got a totally bullshit answer from the Chief, “Yes, the State of Minnesota law covers muffler vehicle noise." But he made it clear that it was the job of local residents to, literally, identify and detain lawbreakers and, then, to prove the vehicle violated the law. So, no, there is no actual Minnesota vehicle noise law and please don’t ask again.
A side-effect of asking this question was that that a bunch of local bikers got downright hysterical about the thought that someone might think their noise-making was illegal and should be fixed. One of those geniuses said, “mufflers are for pussies” as his justification for needing more attention than spoiled 13-year-old girls.
Someone else replied, “I thought that’s what Harley’s were for?” And things went downhill from there. It is true that actual motorcyclists scoff at the macho posing of the boys and girls on Harleys. It’s hard to pull off macho when you can’t exit a stop sign competently.
I do, however, think the second guy was right on the mark. Harley and the cruiser genre only have one defining “feature” to brag about: low seat height. In every other area important to actual motorcyclists, cruisers are deficient or defective. They are, to put it politically-incorrectly, “girls’ bikes.” Not women, but girls. Real women don’t ride Harleys and they don’t mess with handicapped motorcycles.
The rapidly vanishing American motorcycle market seems to be clueless about where American buyers are today. And bikers are doing their best to drive away any likely new riders with IQs into the mid-double-digits and the kind of behavior that puts the lie to “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” This is from the crowd whose purpose appears to be making as much noise as possible while looking like a sad collection of down-and-out Shriners who either lost their uniforms or couldn’t afford the Knights of Templar suit and the fez. No one with a spec of self-respect would want to join that gang and, apparently, hardly anyone does.
Way back in 2011, when US motorcycle sales were still not recovering from the Great Recession anywhere near as fast as the rest of the economy, the AMA’s Rob Dingman and the M.I.C. spokesman Peter TerHorst said, “The three biggest problems facing motorcycling today is noise, noise and noise.” That was the last gasp of reality from the AMA. The gangster crowd, who probably don’t amount to a tiny fraction of the AMA membership, scared the AMA “leadership” into abandoning this issue and losing even more members over the next decade. Since disclosures about the organization’s bleeding money in the early part of the last decade, the AMA has been really aggressive about courting members and really reticent about telling members how the “organization” is doing. In this case, I think it’s safe to say that “no news is bad news” and I doubt that I know a single AMA member among the hundreds of motorcyclists I know. Of course, none of my friends ride so badly they need noisemakers to let the world know an incompetent is in the area.
Jul 12, 2020
Jul 6, 2020
About one third of Minnesotans had been obeying the state’s social distancing rules by the time the rules started going away. Even fewer bother with masks, especially outside of the Twin Cities, and that two-thirds who aren’t taking any more precautions than they did back in January. Of course, they are constantly whining that the “the rules aren’t working.” Rules, of course, only work when people obey them. Which brings us to motorcyclists.
Thanks to some slimy legislation promoted by Minnesota ABATE in 1982, the minimal contribution Minnesota motorcyclists make to the state’s highway funds comes through gas taxes. Fees collected for motorcycle endorsements pay for motorcycle safety training exclusively, which is mostly wasted money. Minnesota uses the MSF program which has steadfastly refused to subject its training program’s outcome to any sort of evaluation. In fact, MSF instructors are cautioned not to tell “students’ that there is any relationship to the MSF’s training and becoming a safer motorcyclist. Based on my own 18-year experience as an MSF instructor, I believe the training we provided was as close to the absolute minimum possible to hand-hold the least capable riders through the endorsement test. In other words, we put a lot of butts on seats, which is what the MIC/MSF are all about. So, our every-4-year endorsement money pays for a barely-used bureaucracy and the few hundred miles a year the typical Minnesota motorcyclist rides generates a few bucks in gas taxes to pay for the roads we ride’ and crash on, to great taxpayer expense. In 2018, the estimated economic cost to Minnesota for motorcycle crashes was $1,875,540,500. The numbers aren’t in for 2019’s even higher number of crashes and fatalities, but they will be soon. As of early June, we’re on our way to setting a new state motorcycle fatality record in 2020.
Back in 2013, I compiled a database of miles traveled by collecting odometer readings from Craig’s List ads across the country. One of my readers transferred that to Google Docs format and readers/riders from across the country entered data. Eventually some asshole decided to crash the spreadsheet/database, but by then I had learned that the typical motorcycle gets ridden about 1,400 miles a year with a strong modal average at about 750 miles. Most people who call themselves “bicyclists” beat those road miles by a long ways well into their 70s.
So now that, as a society and thanks to the novel coronavirus, we’re asked to reduce our exposure to each other and to try and reduce the load and risk on our healthcare system what are motorcyclists doing? The usual, anything but something useful. I should rephrase that statement, motorcyclists are doing what they usually, being careful, going AGAT, and maintaining a small social and environmental footprint.
Bikers are the problem. Bikers are out in force, riding in their underwear, protected by magical napkins on their bald heads, making as much noise as possible, and spewing fuel and mayhem where ever they go. Bikers, on the other hand, are proudly members of the two-thirds of Minnesotans who could give a flying damn about anyone else. Their biker “rights” so grossly overwhelm any responsibility they might accept for their actions that they are beginning to attract attention from the public and, sooner or later, legislators.
As of early June, 2020, 29 people have died on motorcycles on Minnesota roads and highways; the majority are single vehicle crashes and the overwhelming majority are the pirate biker crowd. We’re on track to beat or equal the previous 1985 high for the state’s motorcycle deaths. I guess we’re “lucky” that attention has been diverted from our fatalities to Covid-19’s devastation. Bikers aren’t happy with losing that focus, though. In my small town, we have had multiple biker gatherings that are practically begging to be viral hotspots and, when they are, I’m sure we’ll hear all sorts of whining about “government tracking” when the bikers get the blame for spreading Covid-19. In our area, restaurants have been allowed to reopen with outdoor seating and decent spacing, but our local biker bar is flaunting all of that and their customers are dragging tables together and making a show of pretending to be tough boys and girls. From what I’ve seen (and experienced with asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia) I suspect that tough façade will collapse about the time they can’t breathe. Drowning in your own fluids is the ultimate waterboarding.
Imagine the attitude of overworked and stressed healthcare workers working without adequate PPE, staff, and other resources when some dill-hole in a pirate outfit is wheeled into an emergency room suffering injuries from recreating on a motorcycle. Do you really think people who label bikes “donorcycles,” “murdercycles,” and a collection of other even more graphic derogatory names are going to be happy to risk their lives on people who are too lazy and arrogant to even bother with a helmet? Do you think they should be required to care more than you do? Good luck with that. If your argument is “they knew what they were signing up for,” get ready to hear “right back at you big, bad bikerboy.” At the least, they are going to take special joy in scraping the rocks and asphalt from your road-rashed ass.
This video is of a New York biker gangster funeral procession back in early April. On their website, these characters claim they were “social distancing and being responsible.” You judge.
All of last summer consisted of a discouraging bout with ocular myasthenia gravis and constant double-vision. It was the first year in 50 in which I did not ride a single mile on a motorcycle. This year, I had reason to hope I might get another year behind the bars and my eyesight might stay under control for a bit. After all, it’s twenty-twenty, right? But the double-vision came back early and mean this March and so did my steroid prescription. At 72, adapting to being one-eyed and that eye not being particularly reliable is proving to be a daunting task without the complications of motorcycling. Odds are good that I will lose my driver’s license if it continues; and I should. My father had the same disease at the same age and, in the end, a brother-in-law optometrist was forced to take away Dad’s driving privileges after he had rear-ended four cars in four different crashes in 18 months. I DO NOT want to be my father. All last spring and most of the summer, I limited myself to very short daytime drives to necessities and my eBike just to avoid that fate. So far, this year, my vision is under control for about 10 hours a day. When I get tired, the left eye starts to wander. Bless you prednisone.
Obviously, I’ve been preparing for this for a while. Way back in 2016, around the time I re-took the MSF Expert Rider Course, I wrote rant “#148 Creating A Baseline” for my Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly column. I wrote (to myself) back then, “Nothing about being able to take a low speed left-hand turn and stop with the front tire in a box is demanding in any way to a competent motorcyclists, regardless of the bike. Nothing about weaving through some widely spaces cones and making a right hand turn should confuse or confound a half-decent motorcyclist. Making a moderately quick stop from 12mph in first gear is not complicated. A 12 mph "swerve" around a huge fake obstacle ought to be second nature. If anything on that test baffles you, either your motorcycle or your skills are totally out-of-whack.” 2017 was the first year I racked up more bicycle miles than motorcycle miles since I was a kid. So, I created an evaluation for myself, “So, every March from here out I'm going to go through the old routine but after an hour or so of practice, I'm going to run through every one of the nine BRC exercises and the day I can't do all of them ‘perfectly’ (no cones hit, no lines crossed, fast enough, and clean enough) the bike goes up for sale and I'll fill the space in the garage with a small convertible. I might buy a trials bike, but that will be the end of my street riding days.”
This spring with the world wobbling between one and multiple dimensions I realized I couldn’t see well enough to even score myself competently. I wrote up an ad for the WR, put it on Craig’s list, and waited for cash to arrive. I did, a few weeks ago, wander over to the parking lot where I used to teach the Basic Rider Course and take the test on my eBike. I did ok, but riding a 70 pound, 20-mph-max eBike competently is a world away from a 300 pound 50hp motorcycle, let alone a cruiser, big touring bike, or even my old V-Strom 650.
At this point, I think my motorcycle stories will all be told in past tense and there are lots of them left to tell. Like my oldest daughter’s tee-shirt used to say when she was a teenager and I was still a young man, “I only wish I could ride as fast as Dad remembers he did.”
French censors sent this ad back to the lab because “discredit[s] the automobile sector [...] while creating a climate of anxiety.” Those snowflake car owners (or dealers and manufacturers?) get nervous seeing the effects of their products on television?
Jun 1, 2020
My wife saw James Taylor on Late Night with Seth Myers and we had an argument about Taylor’s age. (I thought he is my age. She thought he is 5-8 years older.) I looked up his stats on Wikipedia and I was right, he is three months older than me. However, while I was browsing his history, I hit this bit, “On July 20, he performed at the Newport Folk Festival as the last act and was cheered by thousands of fans who stayed in the rain to hear him. Shortly thereafter, he broke both hands and both feet in a motorcycle accident on Martha's Vineyard and was forced to stop playing for several months.” I did not know that Taylor lost six months of his career between his first Apple Records release and his first Warner Brothers record, Sweet Baby James.
A more well-known motorcycle career alteration was Bob Dylan’s 1966 motorcycle crash that occurred the month Blonde on Blonde was released. When Dylan reappeared, he was dramatically lower energy, with the country-music-influenced John Westly Hardin in ‘67 and Nashville Skyline in ‘69. By all accounts, Dylan’s crash was more of an ego bruising than a serious injury, since he mostly moped around in a neck brace for a few weeks and was never hospitalized for injuries. Dylan was a notoriously awful motorcyclist. As Joan Baez recalled in her biography, “He used to hang on that thing like a sack of flour. I always had the feeling it was driving him, and if we were lucky we'd lean the right way and the motorcycle would turn the corner. If not, it would be the end of both of us.” Lucky for Bob and his Nobel Prize future, he quit riding motorcycles before they finished him. Although I recently read an interview with Mark Howard, a record producer, who claims to sell an occasional cobbled-up cruiser to Dylan. Hopefully, Bobby just collects them.
Piano Man Billy Joel got whacked on his Harley in ‘82 by a cager running a red light and, for a time, had concerns that he might not play piano again. Billy still rides and even has a Leno-style collection of motorcycles. Mostly, he’s a Moto Guzzi fan, but he owns 70’s and modern Japanese bikes, Harley collector bikes, and some customs. He still rides, although not particularly well.
Duane Allman famously ended his career and life crashing into a stopped flatbed truck hauling a crane; hardly a hard-to-see or avoid obstacle. Allman was, like Dylan, a notoriously mediocre rider and, worse, he had a fondness for disabled, strung-out choppers which played a prominent part in his demise. Berry Oakley, the Allman’s bass player, rode his Triumph into a bus 14 months later. The trajectory of that fabled rock and blues band was forever altered and mangled by the loss of those two key members.
A more typical Rock and Roll motorcyclist even was Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler’s 1981 crash, mostly caused by his drugged-to-oblivion state of mind when a tree jumped in front of him. Lucky he crashed on the way to pick up his daughter from a babysitting gig, rather than afterwards with her on the bike.
Billy Idol, a classic rock nitwit, wandered through a stop sign in 1990 and met a car at moderate hippobike speeds. He broke an arm and a leg badly enough doctors almost had to amputate. In 2010, Idol crashed again. Big surprise.
Some of the rest of rock and roll’s biker mistakes are Dire Straights’ Mark Knopfler, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis and Chad Smith, Richard Fariña, and, of course, Bono managed to mangle himself (fractured shoulder blade, humerus, eye socket, (orbit), and pinky finger on a bicycle. Waiting in the wings is Justin Beiber. If you’ve seen him demonstrate his “skills” on YouTube, you know that goofball is going to tear up a bunch of tattoos any day now.
As best I can tell, music and motorcycles are a bad mix. But motorcycles and most things don’t mix well, so that’s not news either.
May 27, 2020
Maybe I should be flattered? I have a mirror, so that never works. I am entertained to the point that I have left a bunch of those comments in the blog as some sort of reminder that I'm shipping out my thoughts to a autonomous world of non-readers . . . or something. If I were more trusting (could I be less trusting?) I'd have let them all go and I could brag about having written something that received 1,000s of comments. I keep suspecting one of those "anonymous" comments will have an attachment that could do harm to actual readers, but most don't and I can't figure out what their purpose is.
On another level, I am sort of proud of "Start Seeing Corners and Road Signs." It drew a little attention when it was published in Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly (even though the magazine didn't like it enough to post it on their website afterwards). "Attention," to my column always meant pissed off bikers posing as real motorcyclists. In that column, I wrote this, "A newbie rider, Harley-shopping guy, Roger Holmes, 59, said it all with his Trib article quote, 'It makes you feel good. It makes you feel younger.' Holy crap. One more sucker buying into the marketing bullshit. Dude, you need to have someone take a picture of you and your wife on your hippobike. Put it on your mirror and stare at it every day until you wise up and realize that you not only don't look younger, you look downright silly wallowing around the road on that porker. Exercise will make you feel younger. Eating smart, giving up smoking, drinking less (way less, for you cruiser characters), and reducing the stress in your lives by avoiding stupid impulse buying and idiotic debt will all make you feel younger (and look younger than your dumber Boomer friends)."It probably says a lot about me, but I am damn proud of that writing and I'll stick with the content until my bones are incinerated.
May 26, 2020
Some of this is blatantly schmaltzy. Some is slow. Much of it, I suspect, is right. Harley the corporate welfare queen may be one of the big losers from the pandemic and Trump’s Recession. It is really hard to feel sorry for them.
May 10, 2020
I don’t know much about “Business Insider,” but this article “The rise and fall of Harley-Davidson" is flat-out entertaining. Mostly, it is a collection of nonsense masquerading as economic, social, and business commentary. Some of the biker and commentator quotes are hilarious, though:
- Irene Kim: “You don't have to be a biker to know about Harley-Davidson. Harleys are big, loud, fast, and inherently American.”
- Jake Holth: “You get some of that instant respect just riding one alone.”
Of course, motorcyclists know that a Harley Davidson is the last bike you want if you want to go fast. Hardlys are so slow they have to have their own brand-specific racing class to be “competitive.” In other words, “That’s a pretty fast bike for a Harley” is the best compliment a Harley owner can hope for.
“Respect” means fear to this crowd. It’s true that cops, citizens, and the government are terrified of the domestic terrorism that Harley’s demographic represents. You wouldn’t be far from being right in saying “nobody respects these assholes” though. You earn respect and all that the gangbanger crowd have earned is the regular “faggot” epithet muttered and shouted as they blubber their way through our towns and countryside. Bikers are the ONLY people who waste two seconds of thought of the news that one to a dozen bikers were killed on the highway. That is how much “respect” bikers and Harley have earned.
- Matthew DeBord: “In decades, they could wind up just disappearing. We'll all still associate Harley-Davidson with being the greatest motorcycle brand in the world, but there won't be any motorcycles. You won't be able to buy one.”
It’s hard to imagine anyone clueless enough to consider “Harley-Davidson with being the greatest motorcycle brand in the world,” but if I remember there are people who don’t laugh when Trump claims to be the “greatest President in history” I guess it’s possible. It is also possible that someday in the not-so-distant future “there won’t be any motorcycles” on public roads; just like there aren’t any horses on those roads today. If that happens, Harley’s marketing and politics will deserve a large part of the blame. The company has defended rider incompetency, illegal motorcycle noise, hooliganism and gangsterism at the worst levels,
- DeBord: “America is a very conservative place at the time, and a lot of guys came back from that, and they said: ‘Uh-uh, I'm not interested in that. I'm gonna get me a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and I'm gonna go live on the road. I'm gonna live my life on my terms with freedom, mobility, attitude.’"
As The Rolling Stones discovered at Altamont, nobody is more “conservative,” racist, violent, mindless, lawless, or less committed to the concept of freedom than bikers. These characters line up like cows heading back to the barn behind every fascist asshole who has appeared in American history since the 1940s. They were Vietnam cheerleaders, Afghanistan and Irag Invasion cheerleaders, and they are Trump’s brownshirts. They are certainly fans of chaos and lawless disorder, but that’s because they are too lazy to be useful.
- Billy: “All we represent to them, man, is somebody who needs a haircut.”
- George: “Oh, no. What you represent to them is freedom.”
No, all you represent is old men with ponytails and bald domes pretending to be something you’ll never be: decent Americans. Yeah, this half-witted shit pisses me off.
May 7, 2020
A real upside to being there was getting to hang out in the pits for the main events. We amateurs were pretty much relegated to a section of the pits, to keep us out of the way for the pros, but we were close enough to talk to some of the racers and mechanics and watch the real guys do their jobs. One of those guys was “Mighty Mouse,” Marty Smith. Marty and his wife, Nancy, were killed in a dune buggy crash not far from their home in the California desert this past Monday. Marty was 63, which really makes me feel old because I remember him being a “kid” when I was in my late-20s and early-30s.
May 4, 2020
And I agreed, “Yep, way louder and worth at least $1,000 less” and referred the original poster to my “Seat of the Pants Performance Comparisons” essay. Oddly, several of the wannabes and hooligans from the group commented that I must have some “anger issues,” apparently based on either the content of that Geezer article or the fact that doing all of that expensive crap to a decent motorcycle makes it worth less and that bit of reality pissed them off.
And I’m confused. The whole point of putting a loud pipe on a motorcycle is to piss off as many people as possible, it is also obviously evidence of “anger issues.” While those noisy bikes are a cute expression of a passive aggressive personality disorder, it’s entertaining to hear the accusation of my anger issues when I point out their anger issues (an example of “gaslighting” if there ever was one) Psychology Today has some good stuff about identifying gaslighting and putting in its proper place; for example, “11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting.” These days, we’re so used to hearing that kind of irrational argument on the nightly news that it almost sounds “normal.” Those comments did, however, start me to thinking about the many reasons motorcycling in the United States is becoming a vanishing act.
It’s pretty obvious from the riding posts and comments these guys put up on this Facebook page, being a good rider, especially a racer, isn’t in the cards for them; regardless of their age. Their claim to riding fame is repeatedly straight line wheelies, usually in completely inappropriate places. I grant you the fact that doing a wheelie is a cool trick, but it’s even cooler (and harder) on a bicycle than a motorcycle and just as pointless a “skill,” unless you are getting that front wheel light in order to get over an obstacle. Mostly, though, street wheelies are a hooligan act of juvenile rebellion. Anger, in other words.
And, if I sucked that bad I’d be pissed off, too.
Years ago, I belonged to a sport bike group that, occasionally, rented a closed course and provided racing training. The guys who taught the classes were all intermediate-to-Expert local racers and some had serious skills. The “trainers” were all on liter bikes and when a retired pro racer from Wisconsin showed up with his bone stock 1980’s Honda 250 two-stroke race biker a bunch of the instructors decided to turn a few laps unencumbered by students, rookies, and novices. The 250 owner went out with them.
All of the liter bike guys had “exhaust, power commander, air filter, sprocket, and tires” and some had even spent dyno money trying to make all of that aftermarket crap work together. Regardless, they got their asses handed to them by the old pro. They could make lots of noise in the straights, but when they puttered (by his standards) through the many curves in the track he ate them alive. Often passing 4-5 bikes in a single tight corner. After lapping the whole pack one or two times, he came in followed by some of his victims.
Before packing up and heading back home, he was generous enough to let a couple of the faster guys ride his 250 and they were foolish enough to loan him their liter bikes. Then he tore them up on the corners and the straights, lapping everyone on the track in less than three laps. With modern big horsepower and sticky tires under him, he spent most of the course sideways, playing with traction and front wheel levitation. At least one of the guys who’d loaned out his bike borrowed a friend’s pickup to haul his bike home because his street tires were melted down to the belts.
There is a lesson here. The overwhelming bulk of characters wasting money on “exhaust, power commander, air filter, sprocket, and tires are people who would be better served signing up for a few dozen track days. When you watch those YouTube packs of street hooligans, you see a lot of no-talent nitwits flaunting the law, expressing their teenage anger issues. Mostly, the aftermarket industry is catering to suckers who hope some add-on part will be the magic bullet that will hide their inabilities. The problem is that it’s not the bike that slows you down, it is your skills. It’s not the bike that makes you fast. It’s being fast that makes you fast.
Apr 9, 2020
Here's the card, in case you want to play.
Some of these statements are really interesting; to me. The "Have more than 200,000 lifetime miles" question, for example. Several times in the last 20 years I've tried to add up my lifetime miles and mostly I come away baffled that someone would keep track of that. Fifty years ago, I worked with a salesman who quit his job and bought a Chevy dealership. He was probably 45-50 at the time (really old) and said he'd just past 200,000 lifetime driving miles and since the average American in the 70's drove ab out 100,000 miles between fatal accidents (according to him) he figured his days were numbered. So, he bought a car dealership and quit pounding the miles. About 5 years later, I passed 1,000.000 miles just from that job. Ten years of 100,000 miles per year and I still wasn't dead. Pure luck, I know. Around that same time, I estimated that I had somewhere around 100,000 off-road miles and I had tested my luck severely and it hadn't been all that great: a dozen busted ribs, five broken toes, both clavicles broke, both shoulders separated, broken thumb and index finger, and enough other stuff to entertain every x-ray tech who has ever scanned my body. About then, I bought my first street bike and the rest has been mostly uneventful, but I really haven't kept track of the miles I've ridden, ever. Mostly, my count comes from recollections of the miles the bikes had on the odometer when I bought and sold them. With some bikes, that wasn't particularly accurate because the odometers either failed and were replaced or never existed.
I have at least 2/3 of a million miles in the saddle, probably closer to 3/4. I racked up 130,000 miles on my poor Honda CX500 before selling it to a friend. My 1st TDM also had 100k on the odometer when I sold it. I put 30k in a year on 3 bikes, the CX500 in 1983, a Yamaha 550 Vision in 1988 and '89, and my '92 Vision in 1993. I will be sorry for as long as I live that I didn't put that many miles on my V-Strom, my all time favorite road bike. Every bike I've owned since my first Yamaha Vision has had a custom seat, including my WR250X. It's cheating, I suspect, to have ridden 12 months a year in California, but I did for 10 years. I also rode 12 months a year in Denver for 5, and 3 or 4 times when I lived in the Twin Cities. I could almost claim "Don't own a car," because the car I did own was my wife's for 5 of the 10 years I lived in southern California. I all but forgot how to drive until I bought a 1973 Toyota Hilux for hauling my kayak. The other spaces are just boring "doesn't everybody do that?" stuff.
I'd hoped to tag all 50 states before I quit riding, but that may turn out to be a pipedream. There are just a few southeastern states in which I have not burned fuel: 6 plus Hawaii.