May 31, 2021

The Louder the Bike the Worse the Rider

On GeezerwithAGrudge.com, I just revived an old column from my MMM days. “#61 What Loud Pipes Say.” I was on a roll back then and that column rolled up more dumbasses per word than anything I’d written in the previous five years. Hell, I got more hate mail from Hardly goobers from that one column than the whole magazine had received in the previous five years. Our advertising rates went up accordingly.

I no longer live on a curve, so the biker goobers are no longer announcing to my neighborhood the upcoming comedy of their lame attempts at turning a motorcycle competently. Now, they’re just making noise to be making noise because, apparently, their mothers didn’t pay enough attention to them in the first few weeks of their pitiful little lives. A few weeks ago, I wrote about watching a pair of these goobers fumbling a stop, falling over, and putting on a Laurel and Hardy show trying to figure out how to pick up their hippomobiles and fumble off to the nearest bar to whine about “how mean everyone is.” Needless to say, those two fools were on a pair of mindlessly noisy Harleys.

There is, of course, no evidence at all that “loud pipes save lives” and crash statistics point to the exact opposite fact. I don’t suspect the loud pipes are the problem, though. That would be and error of mistaking correlation for causation. It’s not that loud pipes substantially increase the likelihood of crashing, it’s that all of the most incompetent riders rely on loud pipes to make up for their lack of skill, judgement, and basic intelligence. So, it might stand to reason that the louder the bike, the less skill the rider possesses.

Years of long and careful, if cynical, observation has established this theory as a fact, in my mind. In dozens of MSF “Experienced Rider” courses, (ERC) the most incompetent people on the range were consistently mounted on the loudest motorcycles. Male and female, if the bike was loud I could set my watch on the moments the rider would dropout, fail to negotiate a section, fall down, or all three (not necessarily at the same time) during a 4-hour course. They always had the same motley excuses, too. Usually something along the lines of “the course is laid out for small motorcycles” or “nobody ever has to ride this slow and this is unrealistic.” Not that these goobers did any better on the faster exercises or on the sections where every other equally large (but not as loud) motorcyclists did fine.

The funniest example of this syndrome I ever experienced was in a 13 bike ERC full of Hennepin County Sheriff Deputies. I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth repeating that these “law enforcement officers” were about as legal as a pickup load of cocaine with a meth chaser. Except for one very competent Goldwing rider in the group, 12 of 13 cops had no more business on motorcycles than they had performing in a tight rope act. Their “plan” for incompetence compensating was to be illegally noisy and wear lots of “biker face” whenever possible. A bunch of middle-aged fat guys on Harleys wearing law enforcement patches is intimidating in a bar, but in traffic it is just as useless as the loud pipes.

The local bars here are stuffed with the loud pipe crowd and when one of those groups decides they’ve drunk enough and pull out of the parking lots, it looks like pure random motion; or a flock of chickens after someone has tossed a firecracker into the pen. You have never seen worse riding skills or more unpredictable behavior and all they have with which to defend themselves is noise. And it never works.

May 14, 2021

None of Us Are Too Smart

One of my favorite books and podcasts is You Are Not So Smart (YANSS). In episode 1 of the podcast, “The Invisible Gorilla,” at about 9 minutes, Daniel Simmons discusses the “inattentional blindness” issue and directly relates it to why so many cagers do not see motorcyclists.

Especially during these years of Trump-insanity I’ve been distracted and fascinated by how poorly human brains work and how distant we actually are from the “rational animal” we pretend to be. YANSS is a wealth of information about those defective, funky, weird things that mostly reside between our ears. Since safe motorcycling is mostly a skill of the mind, rather than a physical skill of magical and mythical “muscle memory,” figuring out how our minds function or fail to function is a lot more important to those of us one two wheels than it is to cagers or mass transit commuters.

May 10, 2021

Socially Acceptable Ways to Get F****d-Up

Now that I am occasionally back on a motorcycle, I am getting the regular reminders from friends and acquaintances of how dangerous motorcycling is and v Always, these brilliant and insightful comments come from people who either have never ridden a motorcycle or, worse, have had a friend or relative who crashed and died or was maimed for life. I am, of course, totally happy to receive these ill-formed anecdotes of death and destruction and enlightened by their low opinion of my judgement and skills.

If you know me at all, you might know I’ve been struggling with a basement bathroom installation all winter and some of last fall. Plumbing and me are in no way on friendly terms. I’m not that fond of construction carpentry, either. I am, more than anything cheap and picky about how things are done on my property, so I generally turn everything into a DIY project that I will hate before, during, and after the project is completed. It is just who I am. The point of bringing up this piece of recent and on-going history is that I have smashed and nearly sawn or clipped off fingers, bunged-up my knees and shoulders and back, and experienced a collection of minor and near-disastrous injuries during this damn construction project and not one person has commented on how I could maim various parts of my marginally repairable body working on my damn house. Maybe one out of ten of these people will say something about my working on the roof of my house, even. Dying to keep a roof from leaking or to stop a spouse from bitching is socially acceptable and, probably, even expected. But riding a motorcycle is just an unreasonably dangerous risk. .

May 5, 2021

Back from the Dead

In early 2017, I first experienced ocular symptoms of myasthenia gravis and by the end of that summer I felt that not only my motorcycling days were over but my driving days might be too. Double-vision is a show-stopper and not being able to even keep my eyes open reliably put the icing on that cake. Four years later, my Mayo Clinic neurologist has fine-tuned my medications (with prednisone being the real driver in my situation) so that those symptoms are vanishingly insignificant.

Last week, I took the bold and completely irrational step of buying another motorcycle, after pretty much reassuring my wife that I was “done with that.” Today, I took the even bigger step of riding the damn thing. In fact, based on this motorcycle’s history and odometer, I might have ridden it for its first 75 mile, roundtrip, highway speeds trip. I needed to go the the Minnesota License Center in Hastings to change the title and get new tags, so I had a good excuse. I took the “scenic route,” past the Casino and through a moderately hilly and twisty county road between Red Wing and Hastings.

Mostly, I think it is fair to say that whatever skills I once had aren’t spectacularly deteriorated, even after a two-and-a-half year layoff. Red Wing no longer has a MMSC training range, so I detoured through Rosemount to the Dakota Tech School parking lot where the ranges are nicely marked off. I made a few passes through the more difficult exercises, rode all of the BRC endorsement exercises, and left feeling pretty good about myself. I even drug both pegs riding through the 135 degree testing curve. I wasn’t even trying to be fast. So, my dreaded “baseline test” turned out to be no big thing, so far.

I did have to get used to some new stuff, though. First, for the last 37,000 250cc miles, I’ve been on a 6-speed. The TU250X is a five-speed and I constantly kept trying to fine that non-existent last gear. Two, the TU’s wheels are steel and so is the frame and the ground clearance is substantially lower than the WR. That means I don’t have to run stoplights or get off and press the pedestrian crossing button. That was a pleasant surprise, to say the least. Three, for the first time since the 1970s, I can stand flatfooted (both feet) when I stop. Swinging a leg over the TU is easy, off and on. Four, the downside to that low seat height is the lack of suspension travel. Twice I was in the middle of a turn at an intersection and hit a pothole that I wouldn’t have even noticed on the WR and got my bell rung pretty good with the impact. That will take some getting used to. My WR and V-Strom had high-end rear shocks and terrific front suspensions and I have more than a cumulative 100,000 miles under my belt on those two bikes. All of those good things and a couple of mediocre issues added up to a really great ride this morning. Of course, being me I had to screw something up. So, when I rolled into my (slight downhill) driveway leading o the garage, I mindlessly put the bike in neutral, put the sidestand down, and swung my leg off pulling the bike slightly forward and off of the sidestand and ending up sitting on a landscaping log with a TU250X in my lap.

I must have some genetic connection to whatever Native American group it is that always puts a defect into everything they make so not to offend their gods. No damage done, not even a bent lever, and my already pretty beat-down pride barely noticed the latest hit.