Dec 2, 2023

Beware of Bowling

Warning: This story is only as accurate as the author's memory.

I have done a lot of moderately risky things in my life, but I will aways put bowling at the top of the list of scary, risky, painful, dangerous things that I will never do again. This is an old story and I’m sort of amazed that I haven’t told it before, but I did a thorough search of this and the Wordpress blog and didn’t find a single word about it. So, in the late stages of my life and whatever is left of my two-wheel “career,” I am going to explain my terror of all things related to bowling.

It all started when I was just a kid. My father was a pretty decent adult athlete, although I guess he wasn’t much as a kid. Into his late 60s, he played competitive tennis at the Kansas state championship level, bowled consistently in the 230-250 pins territory, had a decent golf handicap, and when he was in his 40s he played basketball well enough to be recruited for the Washington Generals when the Harlem Globetrotters were in town. He was also a high school basketball, football, and tennis coach until he was well into his 60s. From about 5-years-old on a good bit of my life revolved around sports. Usually, thanks to asthma and other physical limitations, sports that I didn’t play particularly well. I never managed to play any of my father’s favorite games well enough to impress him and a couple of them—golf and bowling—were sources of irritation for both of us. Still are. Much later in life, I had a spurt of playing beach basketball in California, but that was a world and a game totally outside of his experience.

Moving forward about a decade and I’m a twenty-something working-class husband and a father of two beautiful daughters, I worked a lot of 80-hour weeks, drove a worn-out 1969 Ford E100 panel van 100,000 miles a year across six Midwestern states without A/C or heat. I was employed by a con artist of a boss who generated a lot of angry and disappointed customers. My only escape from pressure, stress, and confusion was the occasional few hours I was able to spend on my dirt bike.

After a couple of years in small town Nebraska, Mrs. Day, on the other hand, was getting desperate for a social life outside of caring for our two little girls and visiting with other mothers of small children. So, she signed us up for a bowling league, partnering with the only young couple she knew who didn’t have kids. I managed to slither out of the first two league games, claiming (honestly) that I had to work at the other end of the state those evenings. The third match was unavoidable. I couldn’t get out of it because my slimeball boss caved in to my wife’s complaints about her missing-in-action husband and “gave” me the weekend off.

Other than rolling a couple of games with my father and brother during the occasional holiday break visiting my family in Kansas, I had managed to stay away from bowling alleys for a long time. By that point in my life, I had learned that “games of patience” do not play to my strengths. Anything that requires me to do the “zen focus” bullshit when I’m losing is only going to be frustrating. I played and loved basketball well into my 50s because catching up (or staying ahead) requires working harder. Same for racing motorcycles, to catch up or stay ahead you work harder and go faster. Golf and bowling require the player to concentrate on form and geometry and I suck at both. So, that evening at the bowling alley started poorly, with me tossing a couple of gutter balls and barely grazing the end pins in my first couple of frames. Mrs. Day wasn’t much better, but she wasn’t expected to be and our new friends were getting cranky only a few minutes into the evening, which promised to be long, boring, and pointless.

I am an alcohol-lightweight. I have been drunk twice in my life and neither of those episodes had yet occurred. I can easily nurse a portion of a beer or a mixed drink for several boring hours at a party and one drink is usually my limit. About two beers into the bowling evening and I was losing interest in the game and I decided to redefine the fundamentals of bowling. Just rolling the ball down the lane was an insufficient challenge and I started trying to see how far I could heave the ball before it struck wood. I wasn’t going for altitude, just distance, but the ball began to make a fair amount of noise when it landed after I’d suffered through the first game of the three we’d committed to playing. About the time I started to think I was getting the hang of this version of bowling, probably at about the 3-4 beer mark, the bowling alley proprietor asked me to leave. Mrs. Day and her friends were embarrassed. Our new social life came to a screeching end and I don’t think I ever saw the other couple again. In fact. I don’t remember being at all upset at being done with my moment in small town social life.

rickmn2After the bowling debacle, I still had a weekend off. I had planned the next day, Saturday, for some recreational practice time on the limited-access roads I loved about 20 miles north of our home. I’d loaded up the Rickman the previous evening, strapped a couple of five-gallon cans of premix to the trailer, loaded my privative 1975-style gear into the family station wagon, and headed north for some trail therapy. Sunday was race day and I’d signed up for my usual spot at the back end of the Nebraska State Intermediate class races. And I’d be wrenching for a friend who was actually competitive in the Expert class.

As you might suspect, I was slightly hungover that morning. Having never been even a little hungover, I was clueless as to what that might mean.  The place where I chose to make my stand was in the sandhills about five miles east of Palmer, Nebraska and about the same distance south of the Loup River. Back then, this area had well over 100 miles of limited-access roads tied together in a way that allowed me to ride for hours without ever crossing pavement. And that was my plan for the morning. My excuse for running out on my family on a beautiful Saturday summer morning was that I would be “practicing for Sunday” at the races in Genoa. That was sorta true, but mostly I was getting as much alone-time as possible anyway possible. But I was unwittingly impaired.

I unloaded the bike from the trailer, strapped on my gear, gassed up the bike, and took off heading north toward the Loup River. The first section of the route I’d planned was over some mild hills thoroughly coated with deep, fine dust bowl blow-out sand. I don’t know if I have ever ridden a motorcycle more suited to that kind of riding. The Rickman didn’t have much low-end torque, but once you spun it up over about 4,000 rpm it would sail across the sandhills like a prairie racing catamaran.

I had barely got the bike warmed up, less than a few miles from where I’d parked, when I let the bike slide down the side of a sandhill into a tractor rut. Normally, no big deal. Just haul back on the bars, give it some throttle, and sail back up the side of the hill. Hungover, I considered a brand new option: step off of the bike and bail out. I was doing about 50mph at the time and abandoning ship was a freakin’ stupid option. I discovered that immediately. The thing about the next few seconds that has stuck with me for 40 years was a sound I can only describe as “a pound of hamburger thrown hard against a refrigerator door.” Splat!

Some undetermined, but calculatable, period of time later, I awoke imbedded about a foot into soft, hot sand. While I was unconscious, I’d hallucinated that I’d been tossed out of an airplane without a parachute. When I woke up, the dent in the sand, the pain, and the near-desert surroundings fit nicely with that hallucination.

With some effort, the time I’d been unconscious could be mathematically be determined by the flow rate of fuel from my Rickman’s tank overflow hose. When I righted the bike, I discovered I needed to change the petcock to reserve to get the engine started. My guess was that I’d been unconscious for at least 20 minutes. Getting the bike upright was a challenge, I hurt everywhere, but mostly I couldn’t catch my breath. Getting turned around in that deep sand was another challenge. Getting the bike started and moving in the right direction was tough, but easier than the first two hurdles. By the time I made it back to the parking spot, I was having serious problems breathing. I absolutely failed to lift the Rickman’s actual 250+ pounds (216 pounds claimed weightAnimated Smileys Laughing - ClipArt Best) on to the trailer. In frustration, I climbed into the station wagon, reclined the seat, and decided to see if I might feel better after some rest. After a few minutes, I was so seized up and hurting that I couldn’t get back out of the reclined seat. And breathing was harder, not easier.

Sometimes the old adage, “No good deed goes unpunished,” gets proved wrong in spades. Over the past year, I’d put a lot of effort into being friendly and useful to the area’s ranchers. I had helped chase cattle back through downed fences, ridden to the nearest ranch to tell the owners about damaged fences or escape cattle, and always stopped to talk (rather than run away like other dirt bikers usually did) when I met someone working the fence lines bordering the limited-access roads.

As I lay in the car imagining what the odds anyone would find me out on this remote road before I suffocated or starved to death, three actual cowboys rode up (on actual horses) and stopped to talk. I was barely able to say “howdy” and real conversation was beyond my capacity. After a bit, they figured out my predicament, pulled me from the vehicle, loaded up the bike and strapped it down, helped me pull off my boots and gear, turned the car around, and even offered to drive me back home if I couldn’t manage it. [That wasn’t the first or last time I’d be rescued by cowboys or horses.]

Because I was, and probably still am, an arrogant, macho/dumb male, I declined the designated driver offer, gritted my teeth, engaged the clutch, shifted into 2nd (to minimize having to repeat that painful movement), and took off for home. I had to pass through two small towns and about half of our hometown on my way home and braking or shifting quickly identified themselves as painful and impossible tasks. For the first and only time in my life, I desperately hoped a cop would stop me and arrest me, even shoot me and put me out of my misery. But I sailed through both towns and the north end of our hometown at 60mph without a glitch. I think I even blew through two stop signs on the way. The station wagon was a 1973 Mazda RX3 and it would easily do 60 in 2nd gear and start with a little clutch slippage, so I didn’t shift all the way home.

I pulled into our driveway, turned off the key and shuttered to a stop, but I couldn’t get myself out of the car. I blasted the horn until Mrs. Day and our little girls came out to see who and what was causing the racket. They helped me out of the vehicle, into the house, and on to the family room couch. After a bit, I thought a hot bath might help, so I went into our bathroom and ran a tub-full of near-boiling water. And I almost drowned when I discovered I couldn’t keep from sliding into the big old clawfoot tub and going down helplessly. I slept on the couch for the next few weeks because our bedroom was on the impossibly-distant second floor.

When I finally made it to the local doc’s office, an x-ray determined that all 12 of my left-side ribs were broken or cracked. The closest thing to sympathy or assistance I got from my doc was, “That’s what you get for riding a motorcycle.” The injuries put me out of work for more than a month and, thanks to the usual 1970’s small business total lack of any sort of disability or healthcare benefits, about destroyed our family’s economy, . However, I had more than enough vacation time, so at least I got paid for a 40-hour week while I was out of work. A few weeks after I was back to work, I ran into the doc limping around our grocery store, on crutches with his leg in a cast. I sympathized with him by saying, “That’s what you get for playing with those damn skis.”

The long-term effect of the crash, the pain, and the extended recovery time was that for years afterwards when I got into any kind of extreme situation on a motorcycle (a little air, going a bit sideways, skittering along a sandy section of road or track) I PTSD’d myself into going through the worst part of that desert crash and usually found myself parked on the edge of the trail or track sweating and panicking over another crash that had only happened in my mind. It was several years before I could really enjoy offroad riding at any sort of respectable speed and look what that got me.

Nov 19, 2023

A Two-Wheeled Life

That is a pretty arrogant title coming from someone as uninspiring as me. Mostly, my two-wheeled vehicles have been transportation, first, and recreational, second. For 18 years, there was also a vocational aspect to my motorcycling when I was an MSF instructor. I did have a brief, very low level regional (Texas and Nebraska) racing moment (about 10 years) with motocross, cross-country, enduros, and observed trials. That period of my two wheeled life was only partially recreational because to support that habit I ran a repair shop out of my tiny garage for six of those years and even sold Ossa dirt bikes for three of those years. Since I have been riding motorcycles since at least 1963 and the overwhelming majority of miles I’ve put on motorcycles has been commuting to work and school. My brother and I have mixed memories of when we started and which of us got the first motorcycle in the family. (He thinks I was first and I think he was.) We both remember how much our father hated motorcycles and how quickly shit could go badly when something he discovered one of his sons was doing something he disliked. (My “favorite” example was him tossing a loaned electric bass and bass amplifier down the basement stairs when he discovered I’d made more money playing in a band one summer than he made all year as a high school teacher.) Between bicycles and motorcycles, I have lived a lot of my life on two wheels.

Some people get to keep doing this sort of thing a really long time. Some of us die doing the thing we love. Most of us, get shoved off of two wheels due to old age and infirmity. I don’t know if I’m there yet, but the last few years and, especially, this fall have presented a lot of obstacles that seem ominous. In early 2019, I started to have bouts of double-vision that seemed to be untreatable until after I had been diagnosed with myasthenia gravis (MG) in June and medications (I love prednisone!) began to control the symptoms. By then, I’d sold my 2004 V-Strom both due to the vision issues and declining upper body strength that made my wonderful near-400 pound motorcycle impractical and, probably, dangerous. The next spring, at the beginning of the COVID shutdown, I sold my WR250X. At the time, I figured I was finished with motorcycling. I was 72 years old and looking at my father’s history and decline due to MG and fully expected to be in a wheelchair and trying to figure out what was happening on a big screen LCD television from a one-foot viewing-distance.

Did I mention I love Prednisone?

Thanks to terrific medical care from the Mayo Clinic’s Neurology Department and the perseverance of my doctor there, I got most of my function back by late 2020. My grandson had donated a beat-to-snot Rad Rover eBike in 2019 and I’d revived it and started riding it that winter, quickly discovering that me and ice still don’t mix. By the spring of 2020, I was on that bike for practically every local errand or half-assed-excuse to go somewhere by myself. As of this past summer, thanks to the incredibly generosity of an old friend, I have a Specialized electric mountain bike that has a suspension rivaling my WR250X. A collection of physical setbacks made riding a lot this past summer difficult, but I managed to put more than 1,000 miles on the old Rover and just short of 400 miles on the Specialized bike. That’s not impressive by any standard, I know. But it is what I managed this year.

I had some big, hopelessly optimistic goals for this past summer and I managed to achieve exactly none of them, except the bare minimum 1,000 mile goal for the Rad. Back in March of 2023, I weighed somewhere between 234 and 238 pounds. I only barely remember seeing those startling numbers on my bathroom scale and at the doc’s office, but those hefty values stuck with me. I gave myself a target to shoot for and a reward: under 200 pounds by the end of summer and a long motorcycle trip to . . . somewhere. Obviously, I didn’t make it. I’ve been stuck between 198 and 202 pounds since the end of September, which means no tour this year. My poor, setup to travel, barely-and-rarely-used 2012 Suzuki TU250X sits in the garage with far fewer miles than either of my bicycles on the odometer.

Mrs. Day is fond of saying, “It could always be worse.” Which is almost always undeniably true. About the middle of October, I woke up one morning to discover my right knee was almost useless. I couldn’t support myself on that leg at all. I think it would be safe to say this is the worst (and the first) “injury” I’ve ever experienced that wasn’t preceded by . . . something: a fall from a bike, stumbling down a cliff, landing wrong from a jump or a ladder, or some event that I could tie to why the hell my leg isn’t working. A month and a half later, it still isn’t wholly functioning, but it has cost me a good bit of the physical conditioning I’d built up during the summer. This is how old people end up in wheelchairs, they wake up after a good night’s sleep crippled. WTF!

Since I retired in 2013, I’ve had a few “this is it” scares. Sooner or later, one of ‘em will be the one that puts me into a cage for the rest of my life—maybe an ambulance, maybe a hearse, or just our Honda CRV—but a cage nonetheless. I used to tell my motorcycle safety students, “Always worry about people who are so incompetent they need 4-wheels to stay upright.” From where I wobble now, I think that was amazingly good advice.

Oct 10, 2023

Noisy Kids Who Go Nowhere

I was sitting in my backyard, mostly enjoying the quiet country environment, but being intermittently blasted by various noise machines: motorcycles, jacked up pickups, sportscar-poser Honda Civics, totally illegal-for-street-use ATVs, and other noisy toys. After the umpteenth laughable Hardly yard implement passed by, I started thinking about the two motorcycles I've owned with aftermarket exhaust systems and the one with a hacked up stock pipe.

Back in 1993, I bought a like new 1992 Yamaha TDM from a doctor. I have no idea what he thought a TDM was, but he had spiffed it up with a custom Corbin seat, a Kerker pipe, and some nice luggage. By the time I got home, less than 20 miles later, I went to work replacing the Kerker with the stock pipe (which had been included in the sale). I found a victim for the Kerker with an ad at my local Yamaha shop and got $250 back from my sale price.

A few years later, I bought a barely used Suzuki SV650 from a kid in a Michigan suburb. A friend in Ohio picked up the bike and I took a train to his place to ride it home. The SV  had a Two Brothers pipe and by the time I had ridden the 800 miles back home I was ready to remove the Two Brothers pipe with a sledgehammer. Again, I found a dumbass in Minneapolis who sold me a stock SV pipe for $25 and another dumbass who paid me $250 for the Two Brothers.

My last loud pipe experience was with my Yamaha WR250X. That bike's original owner was a nitwit who took a hacksaw to the last 4 inches of the stock pipe. Having totally screwed up the fuel injection mapping, the bonehead also removed a chunk of the air box and the air filter in a failed attempt at regaining some kind of performance. Again, I found a dumbass on Craigslist who sold me a stock WR pipe for $25 and someone on Facebook who sold me the entire WR air intake system for another $25.

In all three of these instances—two carbureted motorcycles and one fuel injected—returning to stock not only quieted the motorcycle down it improved the performance. I'm not saying that an aftermarket pipe can't improve performance, but I'm saying most of the idiots who diddle with aftermarket pipes are too lame to do all of the dyno, rejetting, intake redesign, and fuel mapping work necessary to compensate for the reduced back pressure.

In the case of the WR250X, I even had the opportunity to drag race multiple times in multiple situations a substantially lighter Rider on a WR250X with an aftermarket pipe, a power commander, and a hacked up intake system. Mostly, we determined that the two bikes were not measurably different power-wise, but the noise difference convinced the other rider to start looking for stock parts. Even riding side-by-side near his bike made my ear-plugged-ears ring.

Now, back to today where I am listening to multiple mediocre-at-best motorcycles blubbering as loudly as a freight train, ridden (to use that word loosely) by total unskilled idiots disturbing the peace for no reason other than their obvious personal insecurities. This isn't a brand new thought, but it is one that has occurred to me repeatedly through this summer: I think it is a safe bet that damned few of the people with loud exhaust systems ever go anywhere on or in their vehicle.

I'd be willing to put some money on that, in fact.

From a bunch of years of accumulating odometer readings on motorcycles up for sale on Craigslist around the country, it's pretty obvious that the more crap someone piles onto a motorcycle the less likely they are to actually ride it. My late step-brother was an example. He poured more money into his Harley then I have invested in all of the cars and motorcycles I've owned in my life. Seriously. And for him, a trip from one end of Springfield, Missouri to the other was “a long ride.”

In the several hundred thousand miles I have ridden motorcycles in my life, I ran into all kinds of people on the road, riding all sorts of motorcycles, and almost universally the people who ride the most miles ride the quietest motorcycles. Even some of the big mile characters on vintage motorcycles, where a stock pipe is only available from salvage yards, do their damnedest to keep exhaust noise at a minimum.

There is nothing about the output from the exhaust pipe that tells you anything useful about the operation of the motor. In fact the less noise the exhaust makes, the more likely you are to be able to hear upcoming engine problems. More importantly, the pounding your ears take from excessive exhaust noise adds exponentially to the fatigue in a long day's ride. Obliterating what little information your ears can provide about hazards and traffic, doing permanent damage to your hearing, and adding to your distraction and fatigue is not conducive to putting in long (thousand mile) days.

And usually, when I've been forced to talk to these noisy pipe characters I hear that they think a hundred miles is an excessive day. And lots of them are really proud of themselves for riding 20 miles to a bar, spending the afternoon drinking and eating, and wobbling their way back home. So along with knowing that the loud pipe character is an asshole, it's pretty safe to assume he or she is a wimp.

Sep 6, 2023

Why I Think They Are Wrong

The constant reminder that the “Normalcy Bias” plagues motorcyclists into making fatal and foolish decisions is one of many reasons I decided my Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF)/Minnesota Motorcycle Safety Center(MMSC) instructor career was not worth continuing. Years ago (2006), I wrote one of my all-time favorite essays, “Panic Reactions,” where I described a phrase I came to use almost as often as “good job” in my motorcycle safety classes, "Every panic reaction you have on a motorcycle will be wrong." As part of my answer to every question a student might have had would be my constant hunt for “escape routes.” The latest version of the MSF’s Basic Rider Course (BRC) de-emphasizes risk to the point that instructors were reprimanded for talking about things like escape routes. There, of course, is a reason for that: 1) The MSF is owned by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) and their overwhelming incentive is to put butts on seats; 2) The MMSC is funded by motorcycle license endorsements and their overwhelming incentive is to make it easy for anyone in the state to obtain and retain an endorsement. Years ago, I was asked to present a “This I Believe” talk to the Unitarian Universalist society to which my wife and I belonged and what I believe in is that “Incentives Are Everything.” Sadly, I find absolutely no evidence that humans are anything more than a slightly evolved animal and that 99.99…% of human activity can be explained by self-interest and incentives.

I get why the MIC is uninterested in actual motorcycle safety. Like every corporation on the planet today, today’s profits over-ride any future self-interest; you gotta satisfy those “equity investors” first and everything else be damned. The MSF’s mission statement is pretty clear, “MSF is the country's leading safety resource and advocate for motorcyclists. We create world-class education and training systems for riders of every experience level. We raise public awareness of motorcycling to promote a safe riding environment.” “Public awareness” is not motorcycling’s main problem: incompetent motorcyclists is overwhelmingly the biggest problem, illegal noise is second, and a close third is the outright hostility toward the motorcycle gangs that largely represents motorcycling in the public eye. Neither of the two groups I was once associated with have a reason to care about those problems. The state’s civil servants are all old enough that they’ll be long retired before any change happens and the MIC’s executives will be long golden parachuted out when the economics behind US motorcycling finally drops the coffin lid on motorcycles and public roads.

In the past couple of months, I’ve had to listen to at least a dozen motorcyclists and ex-motorcyclists describe their “had to lay ‘er down” stories. Not a one of those fairy tales was even slightly believable. If you can’t competently use your brakes, you sure as hell can’t pull of that stuntman bit, but what you can do is panic, scream, and fall over and, then, make up some bullshit story about how you planned it all and it either worked out or didn’t. At least three of the goobers telling me their sob story were hobbled for life from their motorcycle episode. Even they imagined doing something other than simply and stupidly fucking up and falling down when they crashed and disabled themselves.

Back to the “normalcy bias,” one of my favorite books (and podcasts) is You Are Not So Smart and the chapter on normalcy bias describes people frozen in their seats as a crashed airliner catches fire and burns down around them, while their brains chant “this can’t be happening, everything is normal” until the air is sucked from their lungs and they are fried or blown to pieces. The only way to avoid being trapped by your disbelief is to prepare in advance, to consider the options in a disaster, to look for escape routes, and to think about the steps necessary if escape becomes necessary. Every place you go and everything you do should be accompanied by this process, especially in Crazyville, USA where the NRA has armed every nitwit, fanatic, and pissed-off momma’s-boy incel with enough weapons to empty an auditorium. On the highway, an intelligent motorcyclist knows that bicyclists and pedestrians are the only road users who present a lower threat than a motorcycle and, as such, we’re invisible. The only protection we have are escape routes and a vehicle capable of using them [sorry cruiser and trike guys, you’re likely dead since your invalid bike can barely manage asphalt].

You could argue that riding while constantly worrying about being run over by a distracted, incompetent, and/or angry cager takes all the “fun” out of riding a motorcycle. You could delude yourself into imagining that riding rural highways minimizes those risks. The only real protections you have are your skills, your preparation, and luck. [Never discount luck.] An insurmountable obstacle for me to consider continuing my “safety instructor” career was the organizations’ discounting risk in favor of “more butts on seats.” I love motorcycling and motorcyclists (not bikers, they aren’t the same people) and my life was greatly enhanced by 60 years on a motorcycle, but filling the roster with untrained, unprepared, and unskilled riders is going to kill this form of transportation and I don’t want to be part of that.

The best guess is that motorcycle crashes cost the US economy $16B and the entire US motorcycle industry produces a gross income of about $5.6B in 2022. The damned industry and our idiot licensing systems and godawful training approach produces an income that is not-quite 1/3 of the cost of motorcycling to the nation. In comparison, the automotive industry produces $1.53T in gross income and the cost of automotive/truck crashes is about $340B, or one-fourth the national revenue from cars and trucks. Any half-rational nation would start purging motorcycles from public roads a few minutes after absorbing those numbers. We are closer to half-witted than half-rational, but that just means it will take longer to happen. But it will happen.

Jul 10, 2023

VBR 5 and Me

A while back, Andy Goldfine invited me to be a guest storyteller at the 5th Very Boring Rally (Aerostich’s 40th anniversary). I have had a long, enlightening, and valuable friendship, first with Aerostich, and, after I moved to MN in 1996, with Andy. I bought my first ‘Stich gear in 1983, after moving to California from Minnesota. I wore that suit until I replaced it with a Darien in 2008, not long before I rode my V-Strom to Alaska. Mostly from when I moved to Minnesota, my collection of ‘Stich gear has grown steadily and every product I purchased from the company exceeded my expectations along with the company’s legendary customer service.

I was the first speaker in the VBR5 series and I didn’t have high expectations for a turnout. Andy and his marketing team must have over-hyped me substantially; or the draw of a free lunch overcame a fair number of motorcyclists’ better judgement. We had a nice crowd of about 15 rider/spectators and nobody threw tomatoes or other produce at me. Some disagreements, especially on the AGAT propaganda, but I’m used to that.

The industry has changed a lot since my first experience with a Roadcrafter and US motorcycling is either in serious decline or at a moment of serious change. In 2022, Honda sold 17M+ and a peak of 22M unit/motorcycles in 2018 worldwide, but on 32,000 of those in 2022 were US sales (0.19% of total motorcycle sales). When the US motorcycle market crashed in 2007, the worst year of the US recession only amounted to about a 0.05% drop in world motorcycle sales. The average age of a US motorcyclist has increased nearly one year each year for the past couple of decades. When the Hardly/chopper Boomer boom ends, which will be damned soon, something is going to pop. With the insane public costs of motorcycle crashes “the GAO further found that motorcycle crashes’ total direct measurable costs were approximately $16 billion.” The fact that the total USA motorcycle market had an estimated 2022 revenue of $6.24b USD out to be a total wakeup call for the public who foot the bulk of that $10B in totally unjustified taxpayer expense. If you add up the drunk riders, the unlicensed riders, the reckless riders, the unprotected riders, and the uninsured (medical and/or vehicle) riders, you are looking at a responsibility-free recreational vehicle that is ripe for recreational vehicle status and a public road banishment.

There is, finally, the beginnings of a couple of responsible motorcyclist organizations; since the AMA vacated that for the marketing riches of being nothing more than an industry spokesbabbler. Stupid crap like this Rick Gray side-stepping shuffle-dance ( is typical of the AMA’s uselessness. However, both Andy’s Ride to Work Day campaign and SMARTER (Skilled Motorcyclist Association–Responsible, Trained, and Educated Riders) are trying to bring motorcycling as a reasonable transportation alternative, along with the responsibilities associated with that privilege, up front and personally. It might be too little, too late but it’s also better late than never time.

Feb 7, 2023

The Things We Get Used To

I am a lurker with a bunch of local motorcycle guys who pass on rumors and facts about motorcycles and motorcycling. The latest batch of bqack-and-forth was about Hardly’s LiveWire sales; or lack of sales (569 motorcycles last year). Yesterday’s conversation was punctuated with a quote, At highway speeds, no real motorcycle gets more than 100 miles of range.”

I figured that the scribbler must have been talking about EV “real motorcycles?” Motorcycle repeaters just seem to become dumber and less literate every decade. I know at least one Zero owner who would disagree with that claim. He commutes 140 miles from the mountain desert to San Clemency several times a week on a 2020 Zero somethingorother. (Don’t know the model.) That rider was pretty jazzed about fuel savings, and bragged about it often, until his electric bills went through the ceiling in the last year. You’d think everyone in southern California would be powering their homes/vehicles with solar, but I guess not.

At least from my fixed-income and old fart vantage point, the price of EV vehicles is still an overwhelming obstacle for most everyone but the idle rich. But that is kind of true for motorcycles over 650cc in general. For example, the 80hp LiveWire S2 at $15k is their “cheap” EV bike, while $30k for the LiveWire One was priced for Jay Leno and his buddies.

As a reference bike that I might consider (if I were a decade younger), at about $12k Suzuki’s 2023 V-Strom 800DE is packed with features, 85hp, a 280 mile range, a Quickshifter, ABS (switchable), three riding performance modes, four traction-control settings, and low RPM assist. Comparing that to the LiveWire S2 still seems like a no-brainer. In every important category, except carbon emissions, the ICE bike wins.

But that is not the point of this rant. To me, $12,000 seems like a LOT of money for a motorcycle. $30,000 is an insane amount of money to spend on a freakin’ toy. And, for 99.99…% of motorcyclists, a motorcycle it’s used so rarely it barely qualifies as a toy.

I’m still stuck where any motorcycle costing more than $3k is “too expensive.” Since 1982, all 10 of my street bikes have cost less than $3,000 (most were under $2k) and, while they were all “used,” most of the were barely broken in after 2-10 years with their original owners. Granted, my current motorcycle is a 2012 250cc “beginner’s bike” that had 700 of climate-controlled-garage-stored miles on the odometer after 10 years with the original owner and the TU250X wasn’t expensive new ($4,100). Before my street bike period, all of my dirt bikes cost less than $1100, with a brand new Suzuki RL250 being the most expensive of the bunch (at $1100 in 1974) and the rest costing less than $500, including a new 1974 Rickman ISDT125 and my wife’s new 1975 Yamaha MX100. Those were my first and only new motorcycles and I’d been riding for a decade before that.

My most expensive car, so far, as been $9000 (a used 1988 Nissan Pathfinder in 1994 and our current 2012 Honda CRV). Most of my cars have been under-$2500 beaters and lots of them were under-$500 60’s and 70’s VW Beatles. The most I’ve ever paid for a freakin’ house was $104k in 1997 and our current home cost $88k in 2015 (a repo bank sale by the dumbest bank in recent US history, Wells Fargo). Any vehicle that costs a significant percentage of a house is nuts. But a motorcycle? Not even if I had Keanu Reeve’s money or Leno’s.