WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

North Carolina is considering ditching helmet requirements, but in doing so they are not protecting the public

By James - 3/27/2013

North Carolina’s Transportation Committee is introducing a law that would lift the requirement on motorcyclists to wear a helmet.

From News-Record.com

On a voice vote, the House Transportation Committee approved giving adults the choice to ride without a helmet if they have had a motorcycle license or endorsement for a year, completed a motorcycle safety course and have insurance covering $10,000 in medical benefits.

I really don’t care if you want to wear a helmet or not. With all the evidence that helmets prevent death and injury, anyone not wearing one is an idiot. Seeing helmetless riders makes it easy to figure out who the dolts are and avoid them. But America is full of idiots and I do not have the time to fight stupidity. I am fine with people riding without helmets as long as it does not cause me harm.

The North Carolina bill will cause everybody in the state harm as it is written. The requirement of $10,000 in medical insurance is not nearly sufficient to offset medical costs caused by the average traumatic brain injury caused by motorcycle collisions, let alone the more severe injuries sustained by survivors of crashes. An examination of multiple studies (Selected Traumatic Brain Injury Statistics) find that the average traumatic brain injury (TBI) can cost over $100,000 up front and $4 million over a lifetime. About three-quarters of people who experience a TBI cannot return to work and are relegated to disability insurance for the rest of their life. Those unfortunate to die after a TBI cost on average of $450,000 after life saving efforts and hospital stay before passing.

In light of the enormous costs associated with with the real and present danger of brain injury from riding a motorcycle, why is the requirement for medical insurance so low? As I have blogged about in the past, up to 90% of motorists are either uninsured or have the bare minimum. That means that when an unfortunate event happens, and when the insurance maxes out, the hospital is left holding the bag. In turn they increase rates and pass the costs onto everyone who uses the hospital. After being released from the hospital, our fortunate biker will probably have to quit their job and go on disability and Medicare further putting strain on our welfare system and the taxes we pay.

California saw a 37.5% drop in motorcycle fatalities after implementing a helmet law in 1992. Michigan recently saw a 18% increase in fatalities after repealing their helmet mandate. The cost to the public is not trivial and it hurts everyone who uses hospitals or pays taxes. The requirement for insurance to ride without a helmet should be $100,000. As someone who has a $250,000 policy, I can tell you it costs about $250 more than minimum coverage. About the price of a helmet. Again, I don’t care if you are an idiot, I just don’t want to pay for your stupidity.

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Auxiliary lighting for the R1200GS: Hella FF50 Fog Light Installation

By James - 11/30/2012

I wanted to add extra lighting to the 1200GS. I have a headlight modulator for the day but I needed some extra lighting for night. That is why I chose fog lights. I can run them at night as long as the focused part of the beam does not shine in the eyes of other motorists. On top of the increased visibility to others, I also wanted to improve the illumination that the lights put out. It is a fine line between bright headlights that let you see and lights that sear the retinas of other motorists.

The Hella FF50s have some pros:

  • They are well made in Germany
  • The shape and materials match the BMW R1200GS design
  • The price is the best value for the money

I looked at Clearwater and Rigid Industries LED lights but at $400-$700 without mounting options, it seemed a little too expensive compared to the Hellas. I got the kit from Fernblau for about $160 after the currency conversion. It comes with brackets, wiring, electrical connections and an Autoswitch.

The only downside is that the kit (lights and brackets) I got come from Germany. It took about 10 days to show up but it was a little tough without help from Google Translate. Americans will need to order through the Web site, and then email to finalize payment through Paypal.

I utilized the Autoswitch that came with the kit and wired it to the turn signal cancel switch. Holding the switch activates the lights on or off. In order to wire it to the TSC switch, I had to remove the tank, which is surprisingly easy on a GS, and solder the trigger wire to the TSC wire. The other wire I had to tap into was a power source that was hot when the ignition was on but off when the key was out. I have a heated seat that is wired to the ignition so I used that. Past that it was just wiring up the relay and zip-tieing the wires out of the way.

Here is a video of the comparison of my low beam vs the Hella FF50s during my nighttime commute home and some photos of the lights.

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In love with heated vests

By James - 2/16/2012

The funky weather pattern that has been giving most of the US a mild winter has kept the rain away from the Bay Area. This means there is less latent moisture in the air which makes for colder nights and mornings. When I say cold, it is all relative. Being this close to the Bay and ocean, temps don’t usually get below 35 degrees F, but that is significant on a motorcycle going 65mph. I used to bundle up, I looked like the Michelin man with layers and layers of shirts and fleeces under my jacket. Mobility was restricted and as soon as I stopped for any reason, I started sweating. Then I scavenged an old heated vest from my dad’s unused motorcycle gear. I snipped off the old connection and put an SAE plug on it so it will connect to my bike and it has been great. Now I can cruise in 35 degree weather without all the bulk. It is like having on a heavy vest, that heats up! If you have a lot of cold weather riding, I highly recommend getting one.

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Clever motorcycle infographic

By James - 2/13/2012

I found this clever infographic on the NHTSA’s report from a couple years ago.

Motorcycle fatality infographic

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Someone is in a hurry!

By James - 8/30/2011

You tell me…how fast was he going?

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Extra Large Formosa Cover Review

By James - 6/27/2010

I have always had a fit problem with motorcycle covers. My Givi topcase is the problem. The “universal” cover that fit my V-Star does not fit my Kawasaki, it barely fits over the tail and leaves my whole tire exposed. Formosa Covers recently offered me a cover to try out and assured me that it would be a good fit.

My first impression was favorable. The cover comes with a cable and lock as well as a convenient backpack for storage. The backpack has adjustable straps wit buckles that would allow you to wear it or lash it to your luggage. The material of the backpack is the same as the cover, with flares of reflective, heat resistant material for visibility.

The cover fit well on my bike. It covered all of the engine, as well as the chain and brakes. The only problem is the elastic tether that attaches eyelets on either side of the bike. It is in direct contact with my pipe and would have to give my exhaust some time to cool down before attaching it. Nonetheless, the cover should stay in place with only the elastic band around the base of the cover to secure it. I would have prefferred that the cover go all the way to the ground, without letting wind get underneath the cover, but for a bike with the luggage setup that I have, it is better than anything else I have seen. Formosa has designed vents on both side to prevent the cover from becoming a kite. The quality and fit are exceptional for prices starting at $20 for their lightweight series up to $50 for their large dresser covers. If you park your bike outside, you need a cover and from what I have seen, Formosa will protect your bike from the elements.

For more info:
Formosa Covers provide a wide range of covers, including Motorcycle covers, Golf cart covers, Car covers, Jeep covers, Tractor covers, RV covers, ATV covers, UTV covers, Van covers and Conversion Van covers & Tent Trailer covers.

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Fixing potholes

By James - 6/7/2009

I have a couple potholes on my street. One is particularly bad, a deep, wide gravel hole right in the path of travel when I turn onto my street. The gravel from the hole is spread around the hole making it a sour note on the end of my usually spirited commute.

I was skeptical when I read about the online form to report potholes in my home town of Oakland. I knew the form would work and that the city would get my complaint. I was skeptical that the city would fix the pothole in my lifetime. I filled out the form, intersection and my personal info and hit submit. Every night as I ended my commute and avoided the pothole I would be reminded about that city Website. And every night I was disappointed. So when I returned home from a business trip three weeks later and saw the patch over the hole I was overjoyed. Not because I can now lay my bike way over on the final turn of my commute but that my city works. It works in an efficient and tangible way that improves the quality of my life. It gives me hope in the midst of police scandals and diminishing budgets that a group of people who work for the city are doing something right for the people of Oakland.

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Kawasaki Versys finally in California

By James - 12/14/2008

I was picking up some parts for securing my ignition, parts that only the dealer in Hayward, CA carries. As I was there I was exiting a weird looking bike caught my eye. They had a Blue 2009 Kawasaki Versys on the floor. I have been looking at the bike for a while but have never seen it in person because Kawasaki was taking its time conforming to the nation leading air standards we have in California. So I climbed aboard and really liked how it felt under me. With a 32 inch inseam I was not flat-footing it, but just barely. I believe with my thicker soled motorcycle boots that I would be able to. The position in the saddle was nice and neutral, legs underneath and knees bent comfortably. What I noticed most about the difference between the position of my ZR-7S and the Versys was how far up the handlebars are but I can’t really comment on this until I ride the bike. In person I got what the Kawi engineers were going for. It seems like it is being pulled in three directions. A little motard, a little sporttbike, and a hint of touring thrown in for good measure. The only oddity was the size of the front tire. It looks very small compared to the bikes next to it but again I can’t comment on what this does to the fell of the bike until I ride one.

I am not sure when I will ride one. If I want to get serious about getting a Versys I will have to sell one of my Yamaha and if I really want a all in one bike I will have to sell my Kawi as well. I will probably wait until I start seeing them used and pick up a gently broken in unit. Let me know your experiences with the Versys in the comment form below:

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Working skycar prototype powered by Yamaha motorcycle engine

By James - 11/17/2008

Not since I saw Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang have I been this excited about a flying car. A british inventor has cobbled together a dune buggy and a paraglider propelled by a fan powered by a Yamaha R1 engine. The car will travel form London to Timbuktu all under its own power. Street legal, it drives on public roads and when it gets to places normally impassable on four wheels, you unfurl the parachute and crank up the fan. The car will fly over the English Channel, The Straight of Gibraltar, and parts of the Sahara.

If the car survives its maiden voyage, you can expect it to go on sale for about $75,000US. This could be better at avoiding traffic than splitting lanes.

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Death Valley on a Motorcycle

By James - 10/19/2008

Before Bikefest in Vegas, I decided I would ride my Kawasaki through Death Valley on the way down. From Oakland, CA I took 580 out to the Central Valley, then 108 over Sonora Pass and the Sierras. 395 then hugged the eastern Sierras past Mono Lake and the east entrance of Yosemite to Lone Pine, CA in the shadow of Mt. Whitney. I spent the night in this historic town and rested up for my trip through Death Valley the next day.

Descent into Death ValleyI was up before sunrise and the temperature was about 50 degrees, normal for early October in Lone Pine. Gas is conveniently located on the south side of town right before the turnoff to Death Valley. As I rode past the mining operations just outside the park a coyote ahead in the distance crossed the road. The ride down is spectacular especially with the sun rising through a thinly veiled sheet of clouds hovering over the valley floor. Other than a few well-marked switchbacks the turns are sweeping and there are hardly any you cannot see all the way through. The road is in great shape and I only came across a few cars that I had to pass. 90 degrees in Death ValleyAfter descending 4000 ft in two hours, the temperature was 90 degrees - and it was only 8am. But the dry heat was not oppressive and while riding I was comfortable in my leather jacket and jeans even though I stuck out with everybody else in shorts and bikini tops. It is $10 to enter the park for motorcycles and it is good for a week. There are automated kiosks and after paying by American Express I was on my way. Gasoline in the park is plentiful; I saw pumps at Stovepipe Wells and Furnace Creek. After heading south to Shoshone the road follows the eastern side of the valley. Long sweepers allow for a quick pace. The speed limit for much of the park is 45mph but I was hard pressed to find myself doing less than 65.

191ft below sea level in Death ValleyA true desert, the vegetation is sparse, sand dunes, and the eroded valley walls give color to an otherwise desolate landscape. As I left the park and entered Nevada I promised that I would return and take more time to explore what Death Valley has to offer.

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DVD Review: Why They Ride

By James - 8/27/2008

I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of the DVD “Why They Ride”. The “They” refers to me and all motorcyclists, and why we ride. It documents two brothers’ journey from Indianapolis to Deals Gap, a mecca for bikers. Also known as the Tail of the Dragon, there are 318 turns in a stretch of 11 miles of Highway 129 that runs between Tennessee and North Carolina through the Smoky Mountains. Along the way they meet and interview bikers and what riding means to them. There is a young father and his son, an older father and his retired son, a couple on their way to see a dying friend, a father that lost his daughter, a track chaplain, and a few of the people who work at Deals Gap and keep the bikers happy.

The movie is targeted towards bikers. At times I found myself explaining to a friend what a super moto is and why as bikers we hate the “super slab” but it is a necessary evil. It deals with terms and ideas that have little meaning to people who don’t ride and haven’t experienced them. But for those who know bikers it may help you understand why we spend our money, time and effort working on and riding our motorcycles.For bikers, the documentary reminded me of the little decisions that we take for granted every day when we mount our ride or hit the streets.


One of the 300+ curves on the Dragon

If you ride you will definitely connect with this film, even if you have never been to Deals Gap. The brothers that made this film really captured the stories of the people at the Dragon and as a result captured the passion that they have for the sport.

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Obama assassination planners give bikers a bad name

By James - 8/26/2008

From College OTR:

Four men were taken into custody yesterday after one man, Tharin Gartrell, was arrested in Denver when police found two rifles, ammo, a rifle scope, a bullet-proof vest, walkie-talkies and meth in his car during a routine traffic stop. They knew it was serious because of the walkie-talkies– well that, and the fact that one of the suspects told authorities they were “going to shoot Obama from a high vantage point using… a rifle sighted at 750 yards.”

Although U.S. Attorney Troy Eid obfuscates that “there is no credible threat to the [democratic] candidate, the Democratic National convention, or the people of Colorado,” Fox News (Karl Rove’s new hangout) reports that the men arrested for possibly plotting an assassination of Barack Obama may be tied to the outlaw biker group called the Sons of Silence.


Tharin Gartrell and friends planned to kill Barack Obama
Once again a biker does something so boneheaded that it makes the rest of us look bad. I will overlook the blatant disregard of the first commandment. I will ignore the contempt of our democratic process. But what I cannot forgive is the drug of choice of our dim-witted sniper. Any marksman knows you don’t want to be anywhere near meth when holding a bead on your target. Jumpy McGee would take out everyone in the area except the one he is aiming for. Marijuana, Quaaludes, even a shot of bourbon would have helped to calm the nerves and help to hold a steady aim.

So when you see me on the road and wonder what I am like under the helmet, please don’t assume that I am a mentally challenged, rifle-toting, walkie-talkie carrying, methed out hooligan.

No, I don’t do meth.

 

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Tips for Shipping your Motorcycle

By James - 8/15/2008

Whether buying a new bike, taking your bike with you to a new home, or going to a rally too far to ride to, shipping your motorcycle may be necessary in many situations. It can be very hard to find a good, trustworthy carrier if you do not know what you are looking for or where to start. Here are some helpful tips to safely and successfully transport your bike:

Ask Around

There is a good chance that one of your friends has needed a similar service in the past and used someone they would recommend to you. This may be the best place to start when looking for motorcycle transporters since you know that someone you trust had a good experience with them. You can also try asking local motorcycle clubs or posting on forums to find recommendations.

Check References

Many motorcycles have a lot of monetary and sentimental value to their riders, so you would not want to send them with a carrier you do not trust. Most companies should be able to provide multiple positive references. Make sure these references are specific to motorcycles so you know the company has experience with bikes and a good reputation. This is especially important for bikes since they require special shipping needs and most carriers should have specific experience to know how to safely transport motorcycles.

Trailers

Motorcycles are shipped on either open or enclosed trailers. Enclosed trailers are best when the motorcycle is very valuable, will be travelling a long distance or through extreme weather conditions, or if you have a very flexible timeline. Booking an enclosed trailer can be difficult since they often hold more than one bike, so you may have to work around the driver’s previously scheduled deliveries. Open trailers are safe if your bike is not going very far since it will not be subjected to prolonged exposure to the elements or thieves. They also provide you with more flexibility when scheduling the transport since most open trailer carriers do not carry a large number of motorcycles.

Door to Door Shipping

Most motorcycle shipping is door-to-door. This does not always mean that the carrier will come straight to your door as some large companies have trucks that are too big to fit on residential streets. You may have to meet them in a nearby parking lot that can accommodate large trucks. If they will be picking up or dropping off the bike at night, make sure there is enough light available to thoroughly inspect the bike for damage.

Insurance

Your personal policy will not cover your bike when it is being shipped. Your carrier should offer a minimum amount of coverage, but this will most likely not cover the full value of the bike. If your bike is very valuable, you may want to purchase additional insurance. Your carrier may be able to provide this or refer you to a third-party insurance company. You can verify the insurance your carrier offers by asking for a copy of their insurance certificate. Double-check the coverage with the insurance company listed on the certificate or with the Department of Transportation at www.safersys.org.

Preparing Your Bike

Carriers are not responsible for lost or stolen accessories, so make sure to remove everything before the carrier arrives, including anything you may have been storing in the bike. Also, check the company’s policies since some require a drained or empty fuel tank and disconnected battery before transport. Inspect the bike thoroughly at pick-up and drop off, and take inventory of any scratches or dings. Taking pictures of your bike from several angles will help document the existing damage and prevent claims that damage incurred during shipping was already there.

When riding your bike to your destination is not a feasible option, shipping your motorcycle can really come in handy. With gas prices so high and still rising now, it can also save you money! Good luck and safe riding!

 

For more info: 
Motorcycle Shipping

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Harley Davidson buys Italian MV Agusta

By James - 8/12/2008

Harley-Davidson, the iconic American motorcycle manufacturer is looking for European growth with it’s acquisition of Italian bikemaker MV Agusta for $108 million. The announcement on August 8th is Harley’s second attempt to get into the sportbike segment after it’s purchase of American motorcycle manufacturer Buell ten years ago.
With the weak dollar, Harley has seen double digit growth in European markets as of late but without a favored brand in the sportbike segment - which accounts for over 80% of motorcycle purchases across the pond - H-D is only fighting for scraps. Buells are relatively unknown and untrusted outside the United States.

Harley Davidson MV AgustaSales of Harley-Davidsons in the United States, the second largest motorcycle market after China, have floundered in the wake of the credit crisis. While overall sales of motorcycles and scooters have skyrocketed because of high gas prices, riders are preferring foreign, mainly smaller Japanese machines with lower purchase prices.

Whether or not this marks a turn for Harley away from it’s focus on iconic touring motorcycles with 20th century looks to more modern technology and appearance is too early to predict. What I can tell you is that you still won’t be able to pick up a cheap “Harley". MV Agustas start at $15,000 and can cost 6 figures for a limited edition.

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Ride Destination: Sunol

By James - 8/10/2008

A great ride for those in the East Bay or San Francisco is down to Sunol. Starting from Highway 24 take the Old Tunnel Road exit. Old Tunnel Road turns into Skyline Blvd which winds its way through several East Bay Regional Parks. Hang a left on Redwood Road and you will carve through a redwood lined valley and climb up over a ridge and descend into Castro Valley. Cross the freeway and get onto Palomares Road. Palomares winds through oak trees and farmland, the rolling hills guiding your way. You will pass old barns and vineyards and eventually enter a steep forested ravine. This tells you that you are getting close to the intersection of Niles Canyon Road. Left on Niles and follow the signs to Sunol.

Sunol barnSunol is an odd place. A small town surrounded by cities. It is the only place I know of that elected a Labrador retriever named Bosco as mayor. They reelected him to office several times but unfortunately he died while in office. There are two decent restaurants in town, a cafe next to the railroad tracks and Bosco’s, named after the departed mayor. After a bite, I usually turn around and go back the way I came. If you are in a hurry, 680 is nearby and Niles Canyon will take you to 880 through Union City.

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Who should bikers vote for?

By James - 8/6/2008

While Obama has been attracting large audiences to see him talk, McCain this week decided to go to where the crowds are. His recent stop in Sturgis, South Dakota, during the Black Hills Classic motorcycle rally, made me wonder which nominee is best, strictly on biker issues.

Gas prices
With Obama’s recent reversal of his opposition to offshore drilling for petroleum and the possibility of tapping the strategic oil reserve, there is not a lot of difference between the overarching principles of each man’s energy policies. When you dig deeper you see that McCain is in favor of suspending the gas tax which can bring temporary relief to the cost of gas, although how that would affect the condition of our roads is less than desirable. It is also questionable whether gas prices would decline since they are market driven, and not based on the costs associated with production. If that was true gasoline in the Bay Area should be the cheapest in the nation with the close proximity of the Richmond refineries. Unfortunately we have some of the most expensive gas in the country. Obama is in favor of a windfall profits tax on oil companies. The legislation would include safeguards to prevent passing the tax on to consumers, although I am sure the oil companies can find ways around this. McCain wins this battle. McCain 1 – Obama 0

McCain and Obama on a motorcycle
Which candidate is better for bikers?
Emission regulations
Obama has hard numbers on record; an 80% reduction of carbon emissions by 2050 and CAFE standards that raise the average gas mileage for cars and trucks. McCain wants to reduce carbon emissions – but has a softer commitment – and possibly eliminate CAFE standards if a cap and trade system is implemented. CAFE standards are not that applicable to motorcycles, we get great mileage already but by restricting emissions manufacturers of motorcycles will have to build cleaner bikes. This could increase the purchase price of a motorcycle – by requiring catalytic converters and charcoal canisters – from $50 - $300. Another win for McCain. McCain 2 – Obama 0

Helmet laws
Both home states of each senator have lax helmet laws. Illinois has no helmet law and Arizona only requires helmets for persons under 18 years old. I have been unable to find voting records on matters of helmet laws for either lawmaker so this one is a push. McCain 2 – Obama 0

While McCain trumps Obama on motorcycle related issues, the scoring was based on the probability of raising the price of enjoying the freedom of the open road on our motorcycles. While these costs are not significant to me – an extra $300 on a new motorcycle and an extra $10 per tank – they are a measurable and can be a burden to many Americans. What we are unable to quantify is how much clean air is worth. How much has the quest for cheap oil cost us in defense funding and the lives of servicemen and women? How much will climate change cost us and our children? These are costs that we should also take into consideration before we vote. Oh yeah, and remember to keep your tires properly inflated for fuel savings and safety!

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Roundabouts, intersections and motorcycle safety

By James -

If you have driven abroad, roundabouts can be a strange and scary experience. A constant stream of vehicles, short merges and cars entering and exiting from all directions can test the wits of the uninitiated. But for those who are used to them, roundabouts are a more efficient and safer alternative to intersections. This is especially true for motorcyclists.

Roundabouts and intersections have quite a few “conflict points”. These conflict points are places where vehicles can collide with other vehicles, bicycles or pedestrians. According to Roundabout USA, intersections have 56 conflict points versus 16 in a roundabout. Wikipedia editors prefers roundabouts because they have “40% fewer vehicle collisions, 80% fewer injuries and 90% fewer serious injuries and fatalities”. There are a number of reasons for this, but the best reason is that it eliminates the bane of all bikers, the unprotected left turn.

The commute home yesterday on my wife’s Yamaha was 17 miles of stop and go, tight lane sharing, and navigating the aging pothole-pocked infrastructure of California’s heyday. I was sitting at the intersection of Brannan and 7th in San Francisco’s SoMa district waiting for the light to change. The light turned green and I revved up and dropped the clutch. An oncoming boy racer decided he did not want to wait to for traffic and jumped out to make a left before traffic is in the intersection. Typically he would have made it easy, had the delivery truck and lost tourist slowly proceeded through the intersection. But I was already through of the crosswalk, and seeing me jump out only made him more determined. He accelerated, communicating to me that he was committed. Still in first gear, a swerve and ease of the throttle transported me out of harm’s way, and I gave him a friendly one finger “biker salute”, the kind we save for boneheads like him. Ten years ago this would have been a panic situation for me. Unfortunately it happens so often that I anticipate it and my reaction has become rote.

The number one cause of urban fatalities for motorcyclists are from cars making unprotected left turns violating bikers’ rights of way. Motorcycle going straight, car turning left… crash. Most cagers state that they never saw the motorcycle. I contend that most cagers are not paying much attention. And that is why roundabouts may be too much for most American drivers. They require you to plan ahead, anticipate and adjust your speed and be aware of your surroundings. Traffic lights tell you when it is safe to proceed. You don’t have to think about it.

Roundabouts are being built in the U.S. but are still a rare sight. Just two blocks from my boy racer incident is a traffic circle at Townsend and 8th. While it is not a standard roundabout, you have to stop before entering instead of yielding, it is a much less hectic and time consuming than an intersection. I urge all urban planners as well as citizens and motorcyclists who care about safety to look into roundabouts for accident prevention, speed regulation, to save money and for the other advantages that they offer.

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Are motorcycles green or smog machines? An examination of motorcycle emissions

By James - 8/2/2008

Motorcycles are incredible pieces of machinery. To me, their beauty comes from form following function. Their utilitarian design is perfect for moving a human or two from point A to point B. Minimalistic and with few frills, motorcycles are nothing more than an engine packed between two wheels. According to the L.A. Times motorcycles engines are extremely efficient – twice that of cars – at using gasoline to propel themselves but that efficiency comes with a cost.

Refined over a century and with few restrictions motorcycle engines have been designed to be small and lightweight while producing a lot of power. As a side effect they produce a lot of regulated emissions. There are three EPA regulated gasses emitted from internal combustion engines. Nitrogen oxides, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. The main reason these gasses are regulated is that they have a negative impact from a health safety standpoint. On top of the health aspects, the effects on the ecosystem and climate are becoming clearer too. Here are the problems with releasing large amounts of these gasses into the air:

  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx) are tied to smog, as well as various repertory diseases like asthma, emphysema and bronchitis. When combined with sulfur dioxide from industrial use and power plants it produces acid rain, which can choke lakes and streams, reduce crop yields and eat away our infrastructure prematurely. Compared to cars and light trucks, motorcycles produce 4-10 times the amount per mile driven.
  • Hydrocarbons (HC) are particles of unburnt fuel that are expelled in the exhaust. Similar to NOx, it is responsible for smog and repertory diseases. Typical motorcycles emit 2-5 times the amount that cars produce per mile driven.
  • Last is carbon monoxide (CO). Odorless and invisible it can prevent oxygen from combining with the hemoglobin in your blood resulting in lack of energy and eventually suffocation. Fortunately motorcycles typically produce less – as low as a quarter – of CO as an automobile per mile driven.
  • CO2, not regulated by the EPA but a known greenhouse gas is also as low as a quarter of what a car produces.

Today, motorcycle technology is not to the point where automobiles are when it comes to clean emissions. There are no PZEV (Partial Zero Emission Vehicle) motorcycles. Maybe the engineers have been focused on increasing power to weight ratios, maybe faster lap times have been preoccupying their time. But there are ways to make motorcycles cleaner. Charcoal canisters that recover gasoline vapors, three way catalytic converters and fuel injection – all available on a plenty of models – can have a huge impact on your emissions.

So how do these technologies affect your riding experience? As far as I can tell they don’t. Aesthetically they are a couple more pieces of equipment bolted to your frame. The weight is negligible, but the piece of mind that you are making the air a little cleaner for you and those around you should be worth it. There is no reason that motorcycles should not be as clean, if not cleaner, than cars. I suggest you demand that your next motorcycle have these items, otherwise there is no incentive for the manufacturers to innovate.

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Mailbag: How to convince the parents to let me ride a motorcycle

By James - 6/3/2008

Seth has a problem that a lot of young people run into when trying to get into motorcycling.

I am very interested in learning how to ride and then buying my first bike. My parents are against it because they feel that motorcycles are too dangerous. I am trying to find information that will help them change there view. Can you point me in the right direction? Thank you for your time and help.

Bikes are dangerous. Let me start with the bad news. According to the NHTSA, motorcyclists are more than 30 times more likely to die, per mile driven, than a motorist. Add injuries and as a motorcyclist you are more than 80 times in danger than a cager. For comparison, horseback riding, sky diving, and jet skiing are more dangerous than motorcycling; do your parents let you do any of these?

The good news is that the chances of dieing on a US road per mile driven are minuscule. The chances of dieing on a motorcycle are 30 times minuscule, or still minuscule. You can also prevent most of the serious injuries with proper gear selection, like armored jackets and pants, boots, gloves, and most important, a full faced helmet. So unless you can afford to drop at least $1000 on proper gear, you need to start saving. Receipts for the gear I wear when I ride probably total around $2500. Insurance for a young male on a motorcycle can be expensive as well. It is recommended that you get quotes for potential bikes before you buy them so you know what you are getting into.

According to Progressive Insurance, the most crashed motorcycles are Suzuki’s GSX-Rs, Honda’s CBRs, Yamaha’s R series, and Kawasaki’s Ninjas. The least crashed bikes are the small displacement cruisers, like the 250cc Virago and Rebel, 500cc Vulcans and the 600cc Shadows. Starting on a small displacement cruiser might not impress your friends, but it will go a long way for your parents.

Take the MSF class. This will get you familiar with motorcycles and let you figure out what kind of bike you want. If you pass, it exempts you from the riding part of the motorcycle test. Then go to the DMV and take the written part of your test and get your motorcycle license. This will show your parents you are committed to doing it.

I had the same problem. It was not until after I was out of college, after I stopped living with my parents, paying my own rent could I get a bike. And even then it was hard for my mom not to be worried sick.

To sum up,

  1. Go to the MSF class
  2. Take the test and get your license
  3. Work on your parents. Show them you are responsible and make sure you don’t get any speeding tickets.
  4. Buy your protective gear
  5. Get a 250cc-600cc cruiser to learn on. Nothing scares your parents more than a “crotch rocket”
Good luck and I hope you are in the wind for many years.

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Mailbag: Looking for a great 2-up motorcycle

By James - 5/31/2008

Russ had a question:

Your site is great. I just want a little advise. I’m 46 yrs old and haven’t had a bike since I was 20. I want something used in the 4 to 5,000 dollar range. Big enough for me and the wife to to take a few hundred miles with shaft drive and cruise control. Brand is irrelevant. What is your suggestions? I live in the Dallas, TX area.

Thanks much,
Russ

As soon as I read your email I thought of a few bikes that come close to your criteria, and checked on Craigslist to verify prices. The shaft drive has it’s advantages, you never have to clean and lube it, except when you change the tire. Dust and gunk don’t gum up a shaft like a chain drive. I have one on my V-Star 650 Classic and enjoy it. The two manufacturers that use shafties for cruisers and sport touring are BMW and Yamaha. Unfortunately BMWs (even a used K1200 with reasonable miles) are a little more than $5,000 used so that eliminates them.

Yamaha has a couple options for shaft drives that are comfortable for 2-up riding under $5000 used. The V-Stars, 650cc and 1100cc fit all your criteria, but the 650 may be a little sluggish for extended 2-up riding. Both are within your price range but I would suggest the bigger motor. My wife and I both have 650s and have ridden them all over the West, many miles on dirt and gravel roads. Me and the bike are covered with dust but I don’t have to worry about lubing the chain. That is when I am glad to have the shaft.

Unfortunately cruise control does not come standard on any of these bikes but there are plenty of after market kits you can get, from thumb-screws to mechanisms more like you are used to in your car. These can usually be installed fairly easily, but can be pricey.

Since it has been 20 years since you last ridden may I suggest the MSF course and getting a few thousand miles under your belt before you start carting around the old lady. Riding a bike may feel just like when you were 20 but your coordination, reactions, and ability to bounce back from crashes have deteriorated a little. Good thing your judgment has gotten better.

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Quoted in the Wall Street Journal

By James - 3/25/2008

The WSJ did a piece on expensive bikes that I was quoted in. I guess I got to play the cheepskate. Enjoy…

Posh Bikes Rev Up Amid Slowdown

By JONATHAN WELSH
March 26, 2008; Page D1

…Mr. Allgood, who is 31 and works in marketing, also writes the blog WhyBike.com and is a member of a motorcycle group called the Bay Area Riders Forum. He says members typically ride inexpensive, “get-around-town” motorcycles, but others gravitate to Ducatis, Harley-Davidsons and other expensive brands.

“People are looking for the image or the history associated with certain brands,” he says, which is fine if it makes them happy. “It’s not my money,” he adds.

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How to turn a ticket into a warning

By James - 10/31/2007

So I rode down to Tucson last Friday, 15 hours, left at 4am. In between Blythe and Quartzite I see AZ D.P.S. behind some bushes. I know it is too late so I pass the truck next to me, slow to 75mph and wait for my medicine. I watch as Smokey pulls out and catches up. Lights on and I pull over and stop.

I have been pulled over about 10 times in 15 years. I got a ticket every time. Why is this time different? Nothing went right and I tried not to admit to anything. I was tired and didn’t care anymore.

He asks if I knew how fast I was going. I refused to answer a couple of times until he gets mad and says “GUESS!". I told him the speedo read 90 and the GPS says 86. He clocked me at 87. He wants to know if I know the speed limit. I did. He wants my insurance, DL, and registration. Registration is expired. Paid but I never received my stickers or new paper. Drivers license has an old address. He walks back to his car and get on the radio.

I was thinking back to my last ticket on Martin Luther King day. Less than 18 months. I was wondering if the traffic school 18 months counted if it was out of state when I see him writing. That has never been good before. He walks back and tells me I am getting a warning. I signed and got on my way thinking WTF in my head.

So the lesson is the more you don’t want the ticket, the worse it will be. If you don’t care you won’t get a ticket.

Or maybe it is do the opposite of what you think will work and you will get a warning.

Or maybe the lesson is move to Arizona.

Or maybe people should drive around with expired registration and old licenses.

There is a lesson in there somewhere. In case you don’t get sarcasm, this whole post is in jest.

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Mailbag: High Mileage Motorcycles

By James - 9/5/2007

Scott wrote:

Hi, I recently just got my motorcycle license, and I’m considering purchasing a 1998 Sportster 883 XLH…for what seems to be a great deal at $3,000. screaming eagle exhaust, chrome everywhere…(I’m in Rhode Island) However, it has 26,000 miles on it. What do you think? Is it worth $3k? Right now he is asking $3,500, but I wouldn’t pay that. Is it risky buying a bike with this many miles on it ? Any help is appreciated. thanks, newbie

This is an interesting question and one I have seen on a few forums recently. The proposition of buying a “high” mileage motorcycle is a mixed bag. On one hand, you are avoiding all the deprecation and costs associated with a brand new bike. On the other, a motor only runs for so long and an old bike can nickel and dime you to financial death. So is it worth saving a buck and buying a “high” mileage bike?

I would say it depends. In your situation, with limited experience a used entry level bike is perfect for you. You don’t know what will happen in the next year and you don’t want to hand over a wad of cash for a starter bike. You want a bike that is reliable, since as a novice you don’t want to have problems while you are riding it, and you probably don’t have the mechanical skills to fix a bike that breaks down. Your used bike will not have the cutting edge technology, the modern aesthetics, or the cool paint schemes that the new bikes have but as you ride you will figure out whether that is important to you. Once you have a couple years under your belt you will have a better idea of what kind of bike you want.

I love older bikes. If the engine still runs strong and smooth after 50K miles you can be sure it will run strong for another 50K with the right care. You also have to look at the person selling it. If they are doing wheelies and stoppies, the bike probably has a shorter life expectancy than if a retired auto shop teacher uses it on the weekend. If a deal is too good to be true, it usually is, so take someone down to look at the bike with you or take it to a mechanic. I hope you get a good deal and that you get a really good bike.

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Bought a bike no keys, no title . . .

By James - 9/1/2007

Stew wrote in trying to fix a predicament he is in . . .

Bought a bike no keys, no title, ignition cant find that either. Its fast as hell though. So ive heard, How do i get it started? Help me please……

Sorry to tell you Stew, chances are you bought a stolen bike. So there are two things you need to do. The first is get the title squared away and try to get your money back from the guy who sold it to you before he spends it on crack and Xbox games. Take the VIN to DMV and have them run it for you. Then fill out the form for a duplicate title. The second thing is to get the ignition re-keyed. Order another ignition and install it.

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Man drives home with injured biker lodged in rear window

By James - 8/29/2007

I hear about dozens of “motorcycle down” accident reports every week but this one struck a nerve with me. A sad end to a young motorcyclist’s life.

From the AP

A suspected drunken driver left a crash and drove home, not realizing a motorcyclist was lodged in the rear window of his car, investigators said.

You don’t have to be drunk to pull out in front of a motorcycle, everyone who rides knows how absent minded cagers can be. But how drunk do you have to be to not notice that a motorcycle hit your car, the body crashed through your back window and not notice the breeze from the new opening, or shattered glass in your rear view mirror?

The motorcycle crashed into the car and Campbell was thrown through the rear window, Thatcher said. Martinez then drove away and realized when he got home that Campbell was in his car, he said.

Martinez drove to a Riverside County fire station where Campbell was declared dead, according to the coroner’s office.

I won’t speculate whether Campbell would have lived if he got help sooner but I am sure that the ride to Martinez’s crib did not help. I hope that this act of selfishness can serve as an example of how some “minor” choices you make can have serious consequences when people would rather not be subjected to the inconvenience or cost of a taxi ride.

R.I.P. Nick Campbell

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Royal Enfield selling the soft side of motorcycling

By James - 6/29/2007

These ads for Royal Enfield caught my eye not just because they are colorful but are completely different than the way we market motorcycles here in the states. More often than not, motorcycle ads in America are all about how people will see you, and the image you give off while riding your Harley/Yamaha/BMW/etc. But these Indian ads are about the places you can go not to be seen. It is an interesting opposition of ideas.

Now I would not endorse eating magic mushrooms while motorcycling in India, or any country for that matter, but enjoy the ads:

Royal Enfield
Royal Enfield
Royal Enfield

From AdRants:

Motorcycle mark Royal Enfield put together a set of prints that, we think, are meant to showcase all the sights you could see from your wizzy wee bike. It’s eye-catching and all but somehow negates all the mama’s-boy condemnation they so pithily highlighted here.

Or maybe we’re reading this all wrong and the concept is all about the big hot masculine motorcyclist penetrating the frilly feminine universe.

The prints were developed by Delhi-based Creative Independant ‘A,’ the same guys who brought us the umbilical cord video…

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Mailbag: Picking up a big motorcycle

By James - 6/24/2007

Randy asked a question . . .

Thank you so much for your article “The Grit of Riding Gravel“. I wish I had read it before taking my new Harley into my gravel driveway. Do you have any tips on how a person can get a 650 lb. bike back on its wheels by yourself, after laying it down in this kind of situation? I had to get help.

Congratulations on your new bike and my condolences on your lay-down. I have been there twice and while both resulted in less than $250 worth of damage, your ego feels vulnerable and your bike looks like crap until you fix it. At least now you have a good reason to put on those mods you wanted.

Having picked up my bike by myself and having done it with help I will tell you which I would choose. Help is always preferable but you should always be ready and capable of picking up your motorcycle by yourself. There are a few tutorials on the web that tell you how to pick up a bike but here are the basics:

  1. Turn off the kill switch.
  2. Turn the gas valve to “off". Your carbs will flood and leak gasoline while on it’s side.
  3. If you can reach the shifter, make sure it is in gear. It will make sure the motorcycle does not run away from you once on it’s rubber.
  4. Extend the kickstand if you can access it. You will thank me later.
  5. Find a suitable place to grip the bike. Place one hand on the handlebars and the other towards the rear. Some have rear handles, if not look for an exposed bit of the frame. Do not use the fender, plastics or accessories like saddlebags. They are not designed to support that much weight.
  6. Some are big enough to face the bike and lift, but the most powerful way is to have your back to the bike and butt on the seat.
  7. Use your legs to push the bike off the ground. The hardest part is the initial lift. Once it is on it’s wheels it gets easier.

If a picture is worth a thousand words a video is worth a million.


Here are some other tutorials from around the web. They pretty much say the same thing but there are nuances to sport bikes, cruisers, or UJMs that make things easier or harder.
Pick up a fallen BMW
How to Pick Up Your Motorcycle

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Motorcycle 133t speak - catlol

By James - 5/11/2007

I hate cats, but I love 133tspeak and LOLcats. Here is one I made with a motorcycle:
LOLcat

For more info on lolcats and 133tspeak go to http://icanhascheezburger.com/

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Motorcycle Safety Foundation: Experienced Rider Course

By James - 5/6/2007

I was fortunate to snag a free spot in the 8AM - noon experienced rider course held on the old Alameda Naval Air Station, in the shadow of the USS Hornet. I was in a different mindset today then when I took the basic class more than 7 years ago. All I was concerned with the first time was not messing up so I could get my M1 endorsement. This time, I was on my own bike and since there were two instructors I felt like I got a lot more one-on-one coaching. The focus was on turning and I realized that I have a bad habit of looking at the exit of my turns and not through them. I will be focusing on that in the coming weeks. Even if you have to pay for it, it is well worth the price of admission. For more information on the class check out the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.

Motorcycle Break
One of the many breaks where we got to know each other.

Motorcycle Coaching
Coaching.

Demonstration
Coach showing us how it is done.

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In a crash, the motorcyclist is always at fault

By James - 4/24/2007

A recent verdict in a civil injury case awarded a biker $17.7 million after a accident that left the biker with permanent injuries. The case was not out of the ordinary, sadly people turn in front of motorcycles all the time. What struck me as outrageous was that the jury found the biker somewhat at fault, which reduced the amount he was awarded.

“Anytime a plaintiff is on a motorcycle, the jury will find them somewhat at fault, just because they’re on a motorcycle,” Mallabo lawyer David M. Ring said in explaining the jury’s decision he was 5 percent at fault.
To state that because I ride a motorcycle, I am automatically at fault in any crash is grossly prejudicial and unacceptable. I ride defensively. I wear all the safety gear, almost all the time. I do not see why I am at fault when another vehicle violates my right of way. Most people are driving vehicles that are too big for them to control. Why should they be protected for a poor choice of transportation? Why am I penalized for riding a motorcycle with limited capacity for injuring and killing others? I am writing a letter to my representatives right now. I suggest you do as well if you want to be protected in the event of a crash.

Full article below:

NORWALK, Calif.- A Taiwanese shipping firm must pay $17.7 million to a motorcyclist severely injured when the wife of the company’s U.S. president struck the bike with a company car.

Wen-Ting Tai turned a Wan Hai Lines company car into the motorcycle’s path on Oct. 23, 2004, four days after she made at least 16 mistakes and flunked the California driving test.

The Superior Court jury deliberated two days before deciding April 19 on the $18.6 million award. The panel said the motorcyclist, plaintiff Joyson Mallabo, was 5 percent at fault.

Mallabo, who was 23 at the time of the crash, was riding his motorcycle in Cerritos when Wen-Ting Tai turned left in front of him at an uncontrolled intersection. He suffered massive injuries and must now use a cane to walk.

“Anytime a plaintiff is on a motorcycle, the jury will find them somewhat at fault, just because they’re on a motorcycle,” Mallabo lawyer David M. Ring said in explaining the jury’s decision he was 5 percent at fault.

Wan Hai Lines attorney Douglas D. Cullins was out of the office in trial this week, a receptionist said, and a voicemail message left Tuesday wasn’t immediately returned.

The jury decided Wan Hai Lines must pay Mallabo $3.6 million for medical bills and lost wages and $15 million for past and future pain and suffering.

Tai’s husband Ching Tarng Lin was transferred to the company’s Long Beach office and his wife moved with him from Taiwan.

California law allows drivers to rely on foreign licenses as long as they don’t move permanently.

Tai attempted to obtain a California license four days before the accident but failed the road test. Failure means a driver made at least 16 mistakes during the test, Ring said.

“If you can’t pass the test, you shouldn’t be driving here,” Ring said.

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Mailbag: Are cheap helmets worth the risk?

By James - 4/14/2007

Steve wrote:

Are KBC helmets any good? How come they’re so much cheaper than Arai and Shoei? Should I go straight to an Arai to protect my melon? The KBC’s are tempting because of the price.

The price of a helmet is generally related to the quality of the materials and features; liners, graphics, shields, the noise levels and venting options. You get what you pay for. KBCs have a reputation of wearing out sooner than some of it’s competitors, but if you are replacing your helmet every 3-5 years the helmet should last unless you are an everyday rider.

You may be concerned about safety, but if your helmet is certified by DOT, Snell, ECE or BSI you can be certain that it will protect your head as well as any other helmet. There has been an informal trackday study from Roadracingworld that shows that Arai and Shoei helmets prevent concussions (32% and 34% of crashes resulted in a concussion, respectively) a little better than AGV and HJC (35% and 36% of crashes resulted in a concussion, respectively). KBC was not on the list.
What stuck out to me was that the difference between the “best” and “worst” is only 4% better prevention of concussions while the price can be 300+% higher. I agree that you should pay more to protect your head, but it seems that the crash standards are pretty consistent across brands, so safety is not an issue when choosing a helmet.

The single most important aspect to choosing a helmet is fit. Some people have KBC-shaped heads, some have Shoei-shaped heads and I have an HJC-shaped head. You need to go to a store that has a lot of brands and try them all on. Find what feels best and get that one. Happy riders are safer riders so get a helmet that fits, regardless of brand.

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Underinsured Motorist Coverage and Health Insurance

By James - 4/12/2007

Ralph was recently in a motorcycle accident and had a question about what happens when you need to use your underinsured motorist coverage.

I was in an accident and Blue Cross settled with the other guy’s insurance company but didn’t give a full and final release. Now, they want to recoup more from my UIM coverage. Can they do that? They collected $15,000 (policy limit) from the driver of the truck that hit me. Blue Cross paid the hospital a total of $33,000. I have $30,000 in uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. My agent told me how to file the claim but now Blue Cross has filed a lien with my motorcycle insurance company for $18,000. I thought they could only go after the third party.
This is quite common. Your health insurance wants to be paid back and assuming that the driver has nothing to sue for, they will get it from your underinsured insurance coverage. That is what it is for. In some policies, they would be going after you if you did not have UIM coverage. Had you gone after the guy in civil court your heath insurance would want part of that. Remember to file a claim for lost wages as well. That is a commonly overlooked source of relief for accident victims.

I suggest you talk to your insurance agent and ask if your premium will increase; it should not. They will inform you on the next steps and let you know your options. But as with every insurance company interaction you will want to be informed so check the internet for more resources. Keep all your receipts and make sure to document every doctor visit and expense.

I hope you heal up and are able to get back on the road soon.

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Flip Flops and an Arai

By James - 4/9/2007

People’s rational amazes me sometimes. I wish I had a camera to document what I came across today but I left my phone at my desk. But first a word about gear.

I come from the ATGMOTT school of dressing for rides. “All the Gear, Most of the Time". There are the ATGATT nazis, “All the Gear, All the Time” and there are squids, who wear flip flops and wife beater shirt. I am in between, although closer to ATTGATT than squid. I don’t care what you wear when YOU ride, but if you are riding with ME, or ask MY opinion I will tell you to wear ATGATT. Do as I say, not as I do.

So on the way back from lunch I saw a scooter chick donning her gear. Suede jacket, capri pants, flip flops . . . and an Arai helmet. I understand protecting your head but it seems like you are putting all your eggs in one basket with that get up. If you get hit, you may save your head with an expensive helmet but your arms, legs and especially your feet will be badly injured. She had a million dollar smile so I can justify it a little, but seriously; get a decent HJC at half the price and spend the money you saved on overpants. You need to protect yourself proportionately. A $500 helmet and $5 flip flops is not better than a $200 helmet and $100 overpants.

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Perimeter Rotors

By James - 4/5/2007

Cyril Huze had a post on his blog called “Perimeter Rotors. Beautiful And Powerful.” about perimeter rotors and I think there is some misinformation being presented to the general public, most likely from the people using perimeter rotors on their custom bikes. Cyril states that perimeter rotors give you . . .

An evident powerful braking due to the diameter of your rotor matching the size of your wheels.

I am not saying in any way that they are bad or should not be used, but once you look at the physics you see why they are less efficient when compared to rotors located close to the hub. Perimeter rotors place the rotor, the piece of metal that the brake pads press against, along the outside of the wheel. Traditional rotors are mounted at the hub. Moving that mass towards the rim will increase your rotational inertia, so you have to use more torque to get it moving and need extra HP to keep it moving. Leaning the bike will take a little more effort too. And with all things motorcycle you should be worried about getting on the brakes when you really want to stop. With more rotational inertia, your brakes have to work harder to get you to stop.

The real advantage to a perimeter rotor is the heat dissipation. There is more surface area and there is more airflow around the rotor allowing it to cool faster. This allows the rotors to be thinner although no weight is shed since the the rotor has a longer circumference. The rotor is also moving slower, being further from the rotational axis, which leads to less heat buildup in the first place. Because of this, many only use one rotor, saving weight on a system that uses two hub-mounted rotors. This is where drum brakes really take a beating and one of the reasons why perimeter rotors are still more efficient than drum brakes.

Most rim-mounted rotor proponents bring up the notion of leverage. That you gain leverage as you move the rotor out from the hub. It is a logical and tangible notion, since it is easier to get leverage when you try to turn a bolt with a long wrench rather than a short one. Unfortunately leverage only comes into play when talking about static friction, or when the wheel is stopped. While the rotor is spinning, the brake pads do not care about leverage since they are just “squeezing” the rotor laterally, not applying a directional force to the rotation. Think about that long wrench you I mentioned a second ago. Will it help you turn that bolt from the side?

This is a controversial subject judging from the comments on a post by the Kneeslider. For most bikers, this won’t matter that much. If your bike is a show piece, I encourage you to make it unique and perimeter rotors are a good way of doing that. If you ride your bike on the occasional weekend, to bike night at the bar, and to the shop for it’s service, you won’t notice a difference. Now if you are commuting on your motorcycle or riding track days, where inches really matter, use a traditional rotor, close to the hub. It will give you the best performance.

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Royal Enfield and why we ride a motorcycle

By James - 3/30/2007

Once I got over the “EWWWW!” factor of this Royal Enfield commercial I thought about the message it is sending. On the surface it is saying that the Royal Enfield is worth the disapproval that your mother will bestow on you for riding a motorcycle. And that I agree with. I had the same issues when I started riding with my mother. But there were underlying concepts that bothered me about this commercial. The boy who became a man was tethered, literally, to his mother his whole life. A mama’s boy. Codependent. A follower. A motorcycle does not break this mentality by itself. Rarely is a motorcycle a source of confidence. In fact, even as my skills have matured, my motorcycle has reminded me more than once how stupid I can be. Learning to ride a motorcycle is not an automatic “bad-ass” curriculum. That is the whole premise for the movie “Wild Hogs". So take a look at the following Royal Enfield ad, from Malaysia I believe, and let me know what it says to you . . .


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Mailbag: Legalizing Lanesharing in Florida

By James -

Roy wrote in

I recently relocated to the Tampa area from SoCal and am wondering if there are any groups around here that are working to have lane sharing legalized? I would even be willing to make helmets mandatory if we could lane share. I would like to become involved with any groups that are trying to make it legal to laneshare. Thanks

I feel you Roy. I was in Arizona last October stuck in traffic in Laughlin. Temperature was in the 90s and no wind. It took us 40 minutes to go 3 miles on that asphalt oven. My wife was sweeping and afraid we were going to get tickets so we just sat in traffic. Luckily it was all downhill to the river so we cut the engines and coasted into town. If we were splitting, it would have taken us 10 minutes. I really miss it when I am out of state.

Here in California we have a powerful proponent of lane sharing in the Highway Patrol. When the lane sharing law was up for debate in the state senate, the Highway Patrol lobbied to leave it alone and that goes a long way when it comes from “Ponch and John” instead of the stereotypical outlaw biker.

Unfortunately this is not one of the AMA’s priorities so their poilitical muscle won’t really help you here. I think your best bet is to contact LaneShare.org and start a grassroots movement within your state. Find out what law enforcement has to say, as well as the opinion of state government and the voting population.

Good luck and if you need some statistics that show it can be an effective traffic solution as well as be safer than sitting in traffic read Is sharing lanes more or less dangerous than sitting in traffic?

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Motorcycles are mainstream

By James - 3/28/2007

My day job is in marketing and I frequently attend events targeting small businesses. Today was an Hewlitt Packard event in the SF MOMA. They were presenting a range of products tailored to solving technology problems faced by small businesses. They had a handful of case studies, mom and pop companies from the US and Canada. One of the businesses in the spotlight was Orange County Choppers. Straight from the Discovery Channel with an HP “The Art of Small Business” bike. The Teutuls were not there but Jason, their designer was on hand to talk about how they use HP computers to design their bikes. I was able to spend a few minutes talking to him about OCC. It definitely drew the most attention by far. Much more than the other case studies.
Orange County Chopper

20 years ago nobody would have cared what technology a motorcycle builder used to run his business. Strapping a motor between two wheels and polishing it did not make you a celebrity. People who rode motorcycles were a minority fringe. But today motorcycles represent a lifestyle, a form of transportation greater than it’s parts. Programs like American Chopper and movies like Wild Hogs show how mainstream motorcycling has become. Some think we are betraying the rebellious roots of true “bikers". Some believe the increase in popularity is good for the sport. I will let you be the judge but I know one thing. They don’t make Pez dispensers for the minority fringe.
Orange County Pez Dispenser

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Bikers as second-class road citizens

By James -

I was reading the news report where an SUV crossed a highway in the path of a motorcycle and killed the rider and put the passenger in a coma. One of the comments on the news story caught my attention.

Why should an auto driver be responsible for the death of a biker when the same accident if it happened between two autos would have caused some bodywork damage? The biker is the one that decided to take the mode of transportation they are less likly(sic) to survive in.
This is not the first time I have heard this idea. Many people want bikers’ compensation for injuries caused in accidents restricted or denied since they were not taking “reasonable” precautions with their safety. Unfortunately, this reasoning is flawed in a few ways. I am not going into helmet laws here but even with a helmet, gloves, jacket pants, armor and boots, motorcyclists are still extremely vulnerable when a 500 lb motorcycle goes up against a 6500 lb SUV.

I am curious what these people concerned with safety think we should do with pedestrians and cyclists who are taken out by automobiles. Should compensation be withheld since they are not surrounded by steel? Should they not be allowed to walk near the street since automobiles may hit them since they are not very easy to see?

I am also curious where we draw the line when deciding what is reasonable protection. Is it just pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists? Are compact cars, like a Civic, or a Mini, reasonably safe when in a head on collision with an SUV? Should we restrict compensation to them?

The truth is that motorcyclists do choose a form of transport that can be dangerous, but we do not ask for people to violate our right of way. Just because you are in a hurry, or need to talk to someone on the phone while driving does not give you the right to endanger other people on the road. Relying on crumple zones to compensate for poor driving skills is a dangerous strategy for all those around you.

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Cost of owning a motorcycle - An evaluation

By James - 3/26/2007

A lot of people coming from automobiles see the purchase prices of motorcycles and think that it is an inexpensive form of transportation. It is especially apparent when I talk to high school aged males who see that a summer’s wages can get a brand new 600cc supersport with aggressive looks. Compare that to a used compact and it seems like a no-brainer when choosing your ride. Motorcycles are inexpensive but you can’t just plop down a summer’s wages and ride off into the sunset. There are a lot of other upfront costs that you need to consider as well as hoops you need to jump through.

First is a license. A motorcycle license is not particularly hard to get, but if you take the MSF class which I recommend because it makes it easier, you will need to throw down a couple hundred for that. The other consideration is gear. You can jump in a car in shorts and flip flops but to ride a bike you need protective gear. I budgeted $1500 for the basics, a helmet, jacket, pants, boots and gloves. I included another $1000 for rain gear.

I wanted to compare how the real cost of owning a motorcycle stacks up against a car or SUV over 5 years. So I tabulated all the costs of owning 4 vehicles, a Suzuki GS500, a Harley Davidson Road King, a Toyota Prius, and a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and put it into the following spreadsheet. I chose an efficient but plausible example commuter in the GS500 and Prius, and then a less efficient but still common example in the Road King and Cherokee.

Costs of owning a motorcycle Excel file

Here are the factors I used to calculate operating costs over 5 years and 50K miles:

  • Purchase Price - MSRP
  • Depreciation - From Kelley Blue Book
  • Fuel Cost - $3.25/gallon, the current price at the station nearest me
  • Safety Gear/Rain Gear
  • Training
  • Insurance
  • Tolls/Parking
  • Tires
  • Maintenance/Service - Average cost from Yahoo Autos
  • Fees, Taxes
  • Repairs - Average cost from Yahoo Autos
  • Opportunity cost is the amount of interest that the purchase price would have garnered if you had left it in the bank.

Looking just at the totals, owning a motorcycle can be half to four times cheaper than owning a car. But there are some differences that new riders will wan to be aware of that are not factors when buying a new car. While the purchase price can be 25% to 75% of the purchase price of a car, you need to buy gear and go through training. This can bring the cost of buying some motorcycles up to the cost of a car.

Here is where the motorcycle is saving you the most money ranked in order of percentage of savings:

  1. Tolls and parking
  2. Depreciation
  3. Purchase price
  4. Opportunity cost
  5. Insurance

Surprising to some, motorcycles are more expensive for some things and other things cost about the same as cars. Here are some of those things:

  • Safety Gear/Rain Gear
  • Motorcycle training
  • Tires
  • Maintenance/Service

Fuel costs turn out not to be that different, depending on vehicle. A Road King compared to a Prius are close but you are actually saving money filling up the Prius. Comparing the fuel costs to an SUV on the other hand can save you a lot. Maintenance and service are also comparable. Where motorcycles cost more is in tires. Even though you only need to replace half the tires, they last a quarter of the miles and cost twice as much. Make sure you have some cash in the bank come 12K miles and you need to replace your tires.

So even though riding a motorcycle can save 25-75% over driving a car, there are some costs that you will incur. Here are the lessons I have learned and you should take into account when you are thinking about commuting by motorcycle.

  1. Maintenance is more frequent, but you can save some money if you do the maintenance yourself, but tools are expensive so short term you won’t be saving money.
  2. Tires are expensive.
  3. The worst traffic is on rainy days, so investing in good rain gear is essential.
  4. Just because insurance is cheap, don’t skimp. A minor crash can cost a lot.

Let me know your experiences with commuting on 2 wheels or 4.

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It’s open season for motorcycles

By James - 3/25/2007

Spring is here and a lot of people are hopping on their bikes after a few months in winter storage. It is important to take it easy while you tune your skills back to street-shape. Unfortunately we have to train the cagers that we are back on the road. As Jesper wrote last week,

A good rule of thumb, the first month or so of riding, is to ride expecting that car drivers haven’t seen you. It might sound stupid, but several years of riding have taught me that there’s something to it.

It seems to be becoming an epidemic. I have been reading about a pregnant teenager that pulled out infront of a motorcycle. He rear ended her and died when he got to the hospital.

INDIANAPOLIS – A 28-year-old man was killed Saturday afternoon in a collision involving a motorcycle and SUV on Indianapolis’ southwest side.

Police said the wreck happened at about 4:30 p.m. at the intersection of Old Mills Drive and Mills Road.

The man on the motorcycle had just received his endorsement permit earlier in the day, according to police.

Police said he was going westbound on Mills Road when an SUV, driven by a pregnant 17-year-old girl, pulled out in front of him.

The motorcyclist was taken to Methodist Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. The girl was taken to St. Francis Hospital, where she was reported in good condition and the baby was OK, police said.

The name of the victim was not immediately released.

A crash occurred when a car made a left hand turn in front of oncoming motorcycles.
MIDDLEBORO — A Raynham man was killed in a crash involving three motorcycles and a car on Route 44 Saturday afternoon.

Lt. David M. Mackiewicz said the preliminary investigation indicates the driver of the car was traveling eastbound on Route 44 and making a left hand turn onto the northbound ramp to Interstate 495. The motorcycles were traveling westbound on Route 44 when the crash occurred at 4 p.m. Mackiewicz said it is unclear whether the car hit the motorcycles, or the motorcycles hit the car.

All three men who were on the motorcycles were taken by ambulance to Morton Hospital in Taunton where one, a 43-year-old man from Raynham, was pronounced dead. Mackiewicz said the other two men were being evaluated for possible transport to Boston.

Another instance of a left turn violation of the right of way of a motorcycle.
EUSTIS – A Lady Lake man died and a Eustis woman was critically injured in motorcycle crash late Friday night.

The pair was headed east on County Road 44A at about 11:20 p.m. when a blue 1986 Oldsmobile four-door crossed their path at the intersection of County Road 44, the Florida Highway Patrol said. The driver of the 2006 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide swerved but did not avoid the collision.

The motorcycle driver, a 50-year-old man, died at the site of the crash, the FHP said. Passenger Carla A. Stephens, 46 was taken to the hospital in critical but stable condition after being ejected from the bike. Both wore helmets.

Neither the Oldsmobile driver, 22-year-old James A. Leonard, or his passengers Geneva Heard, 18, and a 10-month old in a carseat, were injured, FHP said.

I have noticed a dramatic up tick in the number of accident reports in the last couple of weeks. So, just like the rest of the year remember, cagers are trying to kill you. The difference now is that your skills are a little rusty, so your stopping distance is a little longer, your reactions are a little slower, your swerves are a little lazier, and your anticipation is a little bit less accurate.

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When Splitting Lanes you gotta know who your friends are

By James - 3/24/2007

I have been splitting lanes now for more than 7 years now. Every day to and from work and on the weekends too. During that time I have learned some good lessons, most of which are written down in Tips for Splitting Lanes. But there are a few tips I left out. Mainly because they are overly broad, differ from person to person, and are frankly mean spirited. Since the article section of the website is meant for educational purposes, I stuck to the facts. The blog has more of an op-ed feel. So here I will spew my hate . . .

I don’t like broad generalizations. Judging a whole group of people based on the actions of a large minority of those people is dumb and closed minded. But after 7 years of splitting lanes I am seeing a pattern and it is letting me be proactive in my lane position, speed, and following distance. I hope you can learn from my observations.

Trucks are your friends
I don’t know why. By all accounts they should be hard to pass when splitting lanes. The are big vehicles with big mirrors right at decapitation level. But they seem to be more aware and more motorcycle friendly than the general cager. A lot of my motorcycle buddies have trucks, maybe this is them driving to work. They seem to move over for you and give you following room much more than I am used to. I would like to give a big two finger “what’s up” to all the trucks that are paying attention.

German cars are your enemies
Not so much with the higher end German cars, I am talking about the entry and mid level BMWs, Mercedes, just about all Audis and if you exclude their vans, Volkswagen. I have seen them signal so I know the cars come with that functionality, but why are they so reluctant to use their turn signals? Without fail, when a stretch of road opens up in front of me and I get up to speed, a Jetta decides they want to be in that faster lane and without looking or signaling, cuts me off. With all that protection they might feel invincible. With my loud pipes and high beam, I might as well be invisible.

Minivans, everybody’s favorite scapegoat
I don’t blame minivan drivers. Most are moms and we all know they have the hardest job in the world. And nowadays they have to drive further to do it. But what really gets me is when they have a “Baby on board” sign but insist in driving dangerously and endangering everybody else on the road.

I love to take the bus
They are big and hard to pass but you know that up front. They don’t lure you to pass then try to kill you. They are nice and predictable. They signal, they maintain their lane positioning and they see you coming. I want to say thanks to the bus drivers.

This might just be a California thing so let me know what patterns you have noticed in your area.

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Dead (motor)cyclists have themselves to blame!

By James -

One of the blogs I read regularly is BoingBoing which reported the other day about a Toronto politician that said that dead cyclists have themselves to blame, even if they died while cycling legally.

I can’t support bike lanes. Roads are built for buses, cars, and trucks. My heart bleeds when someone gets killed, but it’s their own fault at the end of the day.
You notice that he left out motorcycles, another form of transportation with an exposed operator.

This is not a uniquely Canadian mentality, as anyone who has driven in the United States can attest to. The Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, expressed a similar position . . .

Even if they’re in the right, they are the lightweights. Every year, too many people are hit by cars - and bikes have to pay attention. Bikers shouldn’t assume car doors won’t open into their path, for example.
He is right in a couple of aspects, bikes and motorcycles are lightweights in both physical size and political force when compared to cars. And as motorcyclists we are taught defensive driving, we shouldn’t assume that cars will not do illegal things and hit us. But we should not just shrug our shoulders and say “Such is life". There are things our government can do beyond telling us to wear helmets to help reduce deaths of all motorists on the road.

  1. Bicycle and pedestrian awareness programs have been shown to help decrease the number of deaths here in the US. Motorcycle awareness programs in European countries have been show to do the same for bikers. We can pressure our government representatives into sponsoring these programs and help to put looking for motorcyclists top of mind for cagers.
  2. Harsher penalties for those who violate the right of way of any vehicle on the road. Those that put convenience over safety need to learn how inconvenient it is for person they kill or injure with their selfish behavior. I am tired of people getting slapped on the wrist when they proclaim that they were late, or they didn’t see the motorcycle. Society should not have to pick up the pieces because you have poor time management or are just to lazy to look both ways before pulling out into traffic.

Just because we are more exposed, or don’t have airbags, or don’t have crumple zones does not mean we are asking for injury or death. We do not have ourselves to blame when bus, car, or truck hits us. So at every chance you have, I plead for you to vote for motorcycle-sympathetic politicians, write to your representatives and encourage strategies for helping to increase motorcycle awareness, and when you have the opportunity to meet face to face let them know how dangerous it is getting for bikers on the raod.

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What traffic school has to say about motorcycles

By James - 3/20/2007

I had to take traffic school last night for a speeding ticket I got on Marting Luther King day. Traffic was light so I decided to pick up the pace and got nabbed. Two months later I passed online traffic school. $150 dollar fine + $30 admin fee for traffic school + $25 for online traffic school puts me at $205 all in. It was an expensive commute.

I was going through the questions and got to the trucks, motorcycles and school bus section. Here are some snippets of what they have to say about our choice of transportation . . .

Motorcycles often have excessive performance capabilities, especially rapid acceleration and high top speeds

I am not sure what they mean by “excessive” but Webster’s defines excessive as “beyond normal limits, unreasonable". Motorcycles do have capabilities beyond the limits of autos but I would not call then unreasonable. My “excessive” capabilities have prevented a handful of major accidents when auto drivers who valued convenience over safety used poor judgment. Most cars have higher top speeds than motorcycles. Even when looking at “race bikes” and compare them to “race cars” you will see that cars have a higher top speed.

They struck close to my heart when I read this:

Although it is not illegal for motorcycles to share lanes, it is unsafe.

Why make a blanket statement like that? Especially with all the FARS data that proves otherwise. There is none of the typical rules of thumb speed limits and speed differences. Just “it is unsafe". I agree that in lots of situations sharing lanes is unsafe, but there are lots of situations where sharing lanes is perfectly safe. Sometimes it is safer than sitting in traffic.

It is frustrating to think that with all the positive things that motorcyclists do, that the associations that will stick in the mind of cagers after this curriculum will be “excessive,” “high top speed,” and “unsafe.” Thanks online traffic school!

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Odd Police Motorcycle - Super Dyna

By James - 3/17/2007

My St. Patty’s day was spent at a water polo game and a rugby game on the Cal campus. While walking up to the rugby game I noticed the UCPD police motorcycle. What made me curious was that it did not have the normal profile of a police Road King. Since I work across the street from the nearest Starbucks to the county courthouse I am very familiar with the San Francisco PD bikes. I have even seen the police Electra models but this was much smaller. I took a closer look and noticed it was a Dyna. It makes sense, a smaller bike is good for maneuvering through an urban campus with narrow paths. Here are some pics if you are curious:

police motorcycle dyna
police motorcycle dyna
police motorcycle dyna

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Mailbag: Uninsured motorist coverage: Do you need it?

By James - 3/7/2007

Aaron wrote in . . .

I have a question about Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage. I called my health insurance that I receive through work and they told me I would be covered for emergencies, office visits, etc. if I were to be in an accident of any sort, being motorcycle or other, I would still be covered.

My question is, wouldn’t it be redundant to pay for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage if my copay for emergency room is only $50?

I have to sign a waiver to refuse it. Is this a scam by the insurance companies or is this really a good idea? If I don’t get the uninsured motorist coverage, I’d be saving about $200 a year.

Is uninsured motorist coverage a scam? Yes and no. Is it worth $200 per year? That depends. I am not helping much am I Aaron. Let me explain this better. This is a timely subject for me as my wife and I just raised our liability coverage so that we could also raise our uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. More on this later. First here are some facts.

Depending on which state you live in 30-50% of the drivers are uninsured. According to Devvy Kidd:

Here in California the numbers are astronomical. Statewide, over one third of drivers lack insurance–about 33 percent, according the California Department of Insurance. The figures skyrocket in low-income and minority city neighborhoods: nearly 50%. In San Jose, California, 55% of all drivers on the road have no insurance. Statewide, the problem is worst in the Los Angeles, Imperial, San Diego and Alameda counties. With the exception of Alameda, the uninsured rates in those counties reaches a whopping 90 percent range. Alameda County’s worst neighborhood, Oakland, is 63 percent uninsured.

If you do happen to have an insured motorist hit you, there is an even better chance that they are only carrying the state minimum amount of insurance. So you can see that if you are in an accident, you will probably have to deal with an uninsured or underinsured driver. An underinsured driver is one that is carrying insurance, but insufficient to pay for all your medical bills or fix your bike. Here in California the minimum is $15,000 bodily injury liability, $30,000 bodily injury liability maximum for all injured, and $5,000 property damage liability.

If you spend any amount of time looking at motorcycle classifieds you know that it is easy to total any motorcycle with just a minor accident and reclassify the title as salvaged. A low speed collision can total a $20,000 Road Glide and easily leave you with $40,000 in medical care. Fairings are expensive, frames are tough to straighten, and doctors are paid the big bucks to sew you up. If the at-fault driver has no insurance you are on the hook for the deductible on your comprehensive and health insurance and your rates will go up. What is more frightening is the time you miss from work, and your ability perform your duties at work and at home could have suffered. Your health insurance or comprehensive coverage will not compensate you for lost wages or diminished capacity to perform your duties. This is where uninsured motorist coverage comes in. If you are absent from work for months or can no longer perform your duties, uninsured motorist coverage will compensate you.

After finding out about this and researching it, we decided to up our coverage to $100K/$300K. Unfortunately, your uninsured motorist coverage cannot exceed your liability insurance, and here is where I see the scam. As a motorcyclist, I am at far more danger from uninsured motorists than the danger I pose to others on the road. But it is more important to cover myself and pay extra for the increased liability insurance than to leave myself open to a devastating injury by a judgment-proof driver.

It is up to each person to decide whether uninsured coverage is worth it to you. If you have a family, a mortgage, an integral part in a company, it may be worth it. It only takes one inattentive moment for you to be hit by a motorist and have your life changed forever.

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Biker awarded $2.4 million because of sex and video game obsession

By James - 3/5/2007

According to VisorDown, a biker in England is now obsessed with video games and sex after being in an accident.

I am one of the biggest proponents of victims rights when it comes to people who take their driving privileges for granted and put their convenience before the safety of others on the road. But I have a hard time believing the severity of this man’s claim.

A BIKER who was involved in a motorcycle crash that left him with side effects causing him to be obsessed with mobile phone games and daily sex has been awarded £1.2 million damages.

Along with motorcycles, sex and video games are my three favorite things. I can be quite obsessive about all three and at one point in my life, done each of them from dusk till dawn. I prefer to do all three over work anyday, but I still go. I understand that if I don’t go to work, I will not get any more sex, I will not be able to ride, and video games require that you pay the electricity bill. I say make this guy “right". Pay for his bike, gear, and medical bills, and put the automobile driver away, but this man has to battle his own demons. There are support groups for compulsion and I suggest this man make use of them. But lets not get ridiculous over impulses we all have learned to control.

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Vote for your best and worst of 2006

By James - 2/15/2007

The Rider’s Choice awards are now open for voting. Let the motorcycle industry know what you think.

Rider’s Choice awards

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Motorcycle Clutch Levers - I won’t take them for granted

By James - 2/14/2007

Before my ride home I noticed this VFR750 parked next to mine. Half the clutch lever was broken off. It looks like this guy has ridden this way for a while. I tried shifting gears on my bike and pulling the clutch only using one or two fingers. It is hard! Whoever rides this bike must have a huge forearm. I shifted fine two or three times, but after that my fingers were done. Take a look:

clutch lever

clutch lever 2

Never take your clutch lever for granted!

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What your gear choices say about you

By James - 1/14/2007

While doing some research I came across an article about motorcycles and CPR titled “Must you do it?“.

“MUST you perform CPR if you know how and it is apparent that it is needed? Let me bring this into clear focus for you: You find someone that is DEAD and believe you could revive him using CPR. Must you try?

My OPINION is that nothing - no law, no moral obligation, no ‘contract’, and no force of nature - forces you to perform CPR.”

I was a bit shocked that someone would have such a cowardly view, especially a so-called biker and MSF instructor. I gave him the benefit of a doubt, maybe he is just covering his ass in this litigious society, so I read on . . .

“If you happen upon a motorcyclist who appears to be a victim of a motorcycle accident and that person is not wearing a helmet, you have EVERY RIGHT to conclude that since he is so cavalier about his safety when riding a motorcycle he may well also be cavalier about wearing condoms. Maybe that’s true, and maybe it’s not true, but you have the right to decide NOT TO ADMINISTER CPR for whatever reason you choose, including that one.”

This really shocked me. You have no right to look at a rider’s gear and assume that he has a death wish. Most cagers make this same false assumption about all motorcyclists. But the final conclusion that Mr. Davis comes to, that you have every right not to help a downed biker, “for whatever reason you choose” is a sad commentary on the values of a lot of people.

According to a handful of studies I found, no one has ever transmitted HIV during CPR. According to TulsaCPR

“The probability that a rescuer will become infected with either the AIDS or hepatitis virus as a result of performing CPR is minimal. There have been no cases to date of transmission of AIDS or hepatitis during mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. If you are still concerned, there are face masks and shields available that you can place over the victim’s mouth to provide a physical barrier during mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Some of these are small enough to be carried on your keychain.”

You are more likely to contract a disease while treating a cut than giving CPR. Regardless, you cannot tell if someone is sick by looking at them. I am in awe of Mr. Davis’ ability to predict people’s medical history from the gear a motorcyclist choses to wear. Is wearing sneakers while riding a predictor of dyslexia? Does not wearing a back protector tell potential rescuers that I am lactose intolerant? Are you afraid you might contract these while providing medical care? I wonder whether he would help ANYONE who does not share Mr. Davis’ “healthy” completion.

I am not a masochist, I understand the fear of ill health or lengthy lawsuits. But an irrational fear based on ignorance is bigotry. Someone who half-asses it when another biker is hurt is cowardly and selfish scum. Mr. Davis, I can assure you that if you are ever hurt and I am passing by, I will stop and do everything I can to help. I hope you can pick up some $5 CPR safety products and rejoin the human race.

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Merry Christmas from Abu Dhabi

By James - 12/25/2006

Merry Christmas! I am visiting my parents in Dubai, UAE. After a night at a desert oasis we drove into Abu Dhabi, a city just south of Dubai. While the only motorcycles I have seen have been couriers, I saw this at the Palace Hotel, two Rolls and a Maybach. As we approached I saw the fourth vehicle in line, take a look:
Now that is the kind of company I like when I park my bike!

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Want a Diesel Motorcycle? You can finally buy one

By James - 11/19/2006

Starting tomorrow, E.V.A. Products BV Holland will start selling the first diesel motorcycle available to the public. A few other manufacturers have showed promise with the fuel, like the military’s KLR or the ThunderStar, but niether of these models are available to the public yet.

It uses an 800cc Daimler-Chrysler powerplant and can run on vegitable oil or diesel fuel. For more info on it, check out gizmag.

They have already pre-sold 15 motorcycles, so put down your deposit and learn how to import a motorcycle.

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Are unhelmeted riders really costing us an arm and a leg?

By James - 11/10/2006

Someone on a forum I participate in, while discussing helmet laws, brought up the frequent lament of those in favor of mandatory helmet laws. Insurance rates and taxes will go up as more unhelmetd bikers are a burden on the public healthcare system. I wondered how much the “burden” was and wanted to put it into perspective, so I did a little research.

Unhelmeted riders cost taxpayers $853 million last year.

The United States spent $1.9 trillion on healthcare in 2004.

Unhelmeted riders accounted for .00004% of the spend.

For comparison, caring for smoking related health problems cost the government $12.9 billion or .007%. That is more than 150 times more costly.

Here are some more numbers I found around the web:

Obesity costs the government $7.7 billion in healthcare expenses

Alcohol costs the government $12.2 billion in healthcare expenses

Medicaid fraud costs the government $140 billion in healthcare expenses

Now I am all for reducing waste, but the argument that unhelmeted riders are a burden on our healthcare system is a weak one. When it is put into perspective with other more costly activities it seems to be a pittance. Whether or not you are for or against helmet laws, I hope you find this data useful.

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Coffin Babes?

By James - 11/2/2006

It seems that Italian coffinmaker COFANIFUNEBRI is taking a cue from the motorcycle industry and using girls in lingere to sell their wares. Already a winning formula, especially in garages and chopper shops around the globe, babes in lingere + motorcycle = primal urge to buy a bike. Here is why this type of ad works in most men’s brains:

“Ohhhh, shiny bike. -Naked girl- I bet that would be fun to ride because -Naked girl- it’s fast/powerful/flickable/shiny/insert your reason for riding here -Naked girl- I could probably pull tail like that if I was riding that machine.”

Now when that guy chooses to buy a motorcycle, a descision that is not usually based on NEED, but rather PASSION and going fast, he will think of a machine which inspires passion. For most men, naked girls = PASSION and if your bike has a naked girl associated with it you are a step ahead.

Now let me get back to the girls on the coffins, how many people are thinking about “pulling tail” when buying a coffin? Buying a coffin is not an impulse buy. You need it. Using a coffin does not evoke a PASSIONATE image. (Well maybe for some) Time will tell if it works but to me it seems like a strange combination. Which is why I think I like it so much. Tell me what you think of these coffin babes . . .

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10 Motorcycling Myths Unmasked

By James - 10/5/2006

Here are some myths that the unititiated have about the world of motorycycling. I hear these questions all the time. I have to correct people’s assumptions. There are probably more but this was all I had time for. If you have any other myths or questions feel free to use the comment form below.

  1. You must not make enough money to afford a real vehicle

    False. It is true that motorcycles are an inexpensive form of transportation. The cost to operate my motorcycle per mile is about 3 times less than my car. Insurance is about 5 times less. I don’t have to pay toll on bridges and I can do most the maintenence myself. As a recent commenter said about his Corvette, “As for the gas, maintenance, resale value–who cares, I’m rich.” But when is saving money a bad thing? I have been using the money I save to redo my bathroom and backyard. I spend much more time in those two places than in my car.

  2. You can’t buy groceries on a bike

    True. And False. You can’t go to Costco on your motorcycle. But with a bungee net I go to the market an pick up dinner every few days. I prefer fresh food to canned food anyway. I can get a weeks worth of food (excluding lunches) when I take my saddlebags.

  3. Bikers are antisocial

    True. Sorry, but we get upset when cars almost hit us and we might not talk to you for a few days. Otherwise we are very approachable. It is like anybody you meet, they could be an idiot, they could turn out to be a friend you haven’t met yet. Treat us with respect and we will give you the same.

  4. You can’t wear nice clothes

    False. I guess people think that bugs splatter all over your suit if you ride a motorcycle. I have gone on interviews, weddings, dates (see “Chicks dig bikers” below) and never had a problem of showing up filthy or unpresentable. I wear a leather jacket over my suit jacket and have yet to get a wrinkle. “Helmet Hair” can be a problem but carry a little hair gel in your undertail compartment and you are good to go.

  5. You can only ride when it is sunny

    False. The same commenter above incredulously asked me, “Do you never drive a car? Even in the rain you ride a bike? God, I can think of a million different weather or occasion related instances where I’d rather be in a car.” Of course I ride in the rain. I have an Aerostich Suit and waterproof shoes and it keeps you absolutely dry. I show up at work dryer than the cagers that parked in the lot and had to walk 100 feet through the rain. Yeah wind and hail suck, but the only weather I would not ride in would be snow. Unless I had a Ural.

  6. Chicks dig bikers

    False. A motorcycle alone will not get you chicks. Some women are into motorcycles but it is not the majority. Many have the same prejudices as the general population. You can occasionally find the ones that are rebelling. That can be fun until you are the one they are rebelling against.

  7. There is no #7

    Life does not make sense sometimes. Neither do motorcycle myths.

  8. You must accept the risks

    False. There is a difference between managing risk and accepting risk. I do everything I can to prevent injury, that includes yielding my right of way because you are in a hurry. That includes paying attention to the cars behind me because I know they might not be.

  9. You must not worry about crashing?

    False. I worry all the time about crashing. Don’t you worry about crashing your car?

  10. You will give it up once you have kids

    Who knows? I will make that descision when I need to. I don’t see why it would be a good idea now but not when I have a little one at home. Of course I will be riding in my car a lot more, but giving up riding . . . I can’t see me doing it.

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Deadly collision with a pidgeon

By James -

From The Daily Record:

Ben Askew said his dad, Paul, 49, died after the bird smashed into his helmet, causing him to lose contol and hit a tree just south of York, on Saturday evening.

No word yet about the health of the pidgeon.

Watch out if you are in the Northern Hemisphere. The weather is getting worse, drivers are getting antsy, and the wildlife is fighting back.

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Old Ducati

By James - 8/22/2006

I saw this while visiting a sandwich shop, AK Subs, south of Market in San Francisco.

Sorry for the quality, it is a cameraphone. At first I thought it was an old BMW but then I noticed the awesome paint job and emblem on the tank; it said Ducati. The best part was that it was gone when I was done eating. This person really rides it around, and anyone familiar with downtown San Francisco knows that the road conditions here are hard on a motorcycle. That seat doesn’t look like it dampens much of the bumps! Does anybody know the age/history of this bike? Maybe Twisting Asphalt knows . . .

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When this guy goes, he really goes

By James - 7/20/2006

From Yahoo News

An Italian scooter rider fleeing from police hit the throttle and racked up a record penalty of 144 points off his 20-point driving licence in a few minutes of reckless riding.

After the 15-minute chase, his list of offences had grown: not stopping when police ordered, running a red light, riding the wrong way down city-centre streets, riding on pedestrian footpaths and speeding.

He was also found to be riding without rear-view mirrors, insurance or lights, and with a licence plate incorrectly attached to his vehicle.

I can’t believe that he broke as many laws as he did and not injure anyone. That is a remarkable task.

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Bikers know what it is like it be brushed aside

By James - 7/16/2006

The state of South Dakota is getting a lot of press with Stugis coming up and I ran across an article describing the protests over a proposed “biker bar", campground, and concert venue to rival the Buffalo Chip campground.

The protests stem from the proximity of the bar to Native American sacred grounds of the Lakota and Cheyenne tribes. A second development that is encroaching on the grounds is a gun range. Both of these developments are noisy and would interfere withthe fasting and praying that the area is currently used for. While I expect that there is a lot of prejudice against gun nuts and the stereotypical “Wild One” biker, both of these developments will be very noisy.

I am all for a place to have a good time but I hope the sacred grounds are protected. As a biker I know what it is like to be brushed aside for the convienence of the many. On the road it is convienent to change lanes without signalling. Off the road it is convienent to make presumptoins of my financial situation or social skills. There are things that society lets us do, mainly because of the guilt that they kill bikers at an alrming rate. They let us split lanes. They let us go through the carpool lane with a single rider. They let us park on the sidewalk and rarely ticket us.

These “perks” may make it better to ride a motorcycle but it does not address the real problem. It does not make cagers view motorcycles as real forms of transport. All anyone wants is equality and respect. That is why I would like to see these sacred grouns protected. Nothing is going to correct the wrongs of previous generations but we can start to do the right thing today and why we need education and accountability. Nobody can live on excuses and perks. Everybody needs respect and equality.

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The Helmet-Terrorists Hold our Head Hostage

By James - 7/14/2006

According to this article Ben Roethlisberger is not using his celebrity status to endorse or condem helmetless riding. Some thought that because of the severity of his injuries he would be shamed into doing public service anouncements.

“I don’t think that’s my place,” the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback said in a television interview Friday.

“Some people feel that, you know, I probably should be doing that and being a big advocate for that,” Roethlisberger said from Los Angeles. “But for me, I’m going to let people make their own decisions … So I don’t think you’ll see me doing any kind of billboards or advertisements.”

I am both dissapointed and impressed with how he is handling this incident. I am disapointed because Ben was riding faster than he was willing to crash. Someone with so much to lose needs to take reasonable precautions to guard his future. I am impressed because I am so sick and tired of celebrities using their publicity to jam their political views down our throats. I hope all atheletes, movie stars and lip-syncers take a page out of Ben’s playbook. Do what you are good at, entertaining me, and stop complaining about problems you barely understand. Let people make their own decisions. Following the reasoning of a superstar will only get you into trouble.

I can’t stand the people who are scared into their position, like supporting helmet laws only after having their face rearranged by a crash. It is so transparent. Since when is fear a good reason to do something. People who use fear to motivate are called terrorists. Good for Ben to not give in to such tactics.

So who should we listen to? Well kids, listen to your parents. The trouble is, a lot of kids have crappy parents. Just today I saw on the morning news a sad story.

A boy who died after the dirt bike he was riding was struck by a sport utility vehicle on a West Oakland street early Friday morning was not wearing a helmet and was riding the bike without a headlight, Oakland police told CBS 5.

Mikal Robinson, 15, of Oakland, suffered serious injuries in the 2:15 a.m. collision and died at Highland Hospital at 5 a.m., according to police.

The driver of the SUV won’t face charges, according to Alexander.

Usually I am all over the clueless drivers of cages, but in this case the accicent was clearly not the cager’s fault. I have to ask the parents of the boy, Why was a 15 year old out at 2:15 in the morning? Why was he riding a stolen, according to the morning news, minibike, without a headlight in the middle of the night? And why did they not require him to wear a helmet? The police are still investigating but I think they need to be investigating the boy’s parents for being neglectful.

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With motorcycle buddies like this, who needs enemies?

By James - 7/11/2006

RAPID CITY – A 34-year-old Rapid City man was speeding and had been drinking when he suffered fatal injuries in a motorcycle crash, according to the South Dakota Highway Patrol.

But that is not the worst part, well ok, that is really bad, but I couldn’t belive what his buddies did when they saw him crash . . .

There were two other people on motorcycles who were traveling with Lester. They witnessed the accident but fled the scene, according to the patrol. They have since been located and interviewed.
First Sgt. Don Allen (said) they had been drinking as well and feared arrest so they drove off and left Lester. Charges are possible against the other cyclists, Allen said.

Pick your riding buddies carefully, because you never know when they will be picking up pieces of you off the roadway.

From The Black Hills Pioneer

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You girls better hang on!

By James -

You think you have girl problems?
From Police say biker fled after losing passenger

Witnesses said Broughton and his passenger, Mary Morris, of Gettysburg, left the parking lot of Earl’s Inn on a motorcycle at 1:44 a.m., Pennsylvania State Police at Gettysburg said.

Shortly after pulling from the parking lot, Broughton accelerated quickly, causing Morris to be thrown from the bike, police said.

Police said Broughton stopped briefly, but then fled east on York Street.

I don’t think there will be a second date.

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Motorcycle Inspiration: Best of Craigslist

By James - 7/10/2006

Craigslist is a community policed classifieds site that is expanding all over the world. Started in San Francisco during the dot-com boom, I have been using it for years. I bought all four of my motorcycles through Craigslist and they have a section for “Best of Craigslist". Here are some of the motorcycle inspired posts in bite-sized prose:

Kinky encounter in the grocery store
There you were, in produce. I was bagging my broccoli. You were feeling up an avocado. The creak of your leather jacket and the sheen of your boots caught my attention…

Basic physics - was the attraction to me that strong?
I know you’re out there. I dream of you. You remember: you were in the slowest lane on the bay bridge that day, and I was in the lane next to you. I was cruising along, listening to my favorite song, when you decided you wanted to be in my space…

please don’t buy my motorcycle - $4100
I don’t want to sell it and you probably would crash it anyway. I mean, motorcycles are dangerous. Only the foolhardy go fast on two wheels. When I bought this bike, my dad (a former cop) solemnly informed me that “There are two kinds of motorcycle riders–those who have crashed and those who are gonna crash.” Although his tight little adage has proven inacurrate in my experience, I believe that his message rings true. So, please, think carefully before you buy my bike…

MOTORCYCLES & NUDE SUN BATHING
Looking in the mirrow this morning I went “Eeeee Gad!” Being in shape is nice but time to get a tan on that ghost-like body LOL! So I thought why not have fun while bringing a full body tan back on!? Here’s my plan: I’m an attractive guy looking for a fit female who owns/rides a motorcycle to join me for rides to Bolinas…

My CL Date (WTF!)
I’ve changed a couple of names to protect the innocent/guilty. So this is about a girl I met on CL but not in the typical manner. Any input would be nice. Background: I’d been thinking about buying a motorcycle—the upright kind, not a crotch rocket – and so I was looking at used bikes on CL…

Hey Crackhead
On Wednesday morning I emerged from my girlfriend’s building by U.N. Plaza to find that you had sawed the tops off both the sparkplugs on my motorcycle. At the time, I had no idea why anyone would do that. Other than the sparkplugs, the bike was untouched. Some kind of bizarre vandalism? A fraternity prank gone awry? I had no idea…

My New Ride, or Seeing What Life Is Like Inside a Cage
6 Months ago today I made a life decision and chucked my car. Partly because I couldn’t afford it, you know, outrageous insurance, war for gas, repairs I can’t do anymore (govt. and Detroit has seen to that), Bush, etc. But mostly because I bought a motorcycle…

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US roads more dangerous than Iraq?

By James - 7/8/2006

I read this article from Harlan Kentucky that saddened me and put things into perspective.

An Army soldier home on leave from Iraq died yesterday from injuries he suffered in a motorcycle crash in eastern Kentucky.

Sergeant Jonathan Howard had served two years in Iraq and was on a 30-day leave when he crashed into a car on U-S 119. . .

He was hit by a Cadillac that crossed the centerline and struck his motorcycle.

Police say a grand jury in Harlan County will will review the results of the death investigation and decide of charges are warranted.

Someone who survived two years in Iraq comes home to enjoy some time away from the roadside bombs, the morter attacks, the small arms fire, and insugents and is killed because we give people a licence who are not capable to maneuver their land yacht on public roads. Do I have to mention the irony, or are you tuned into it?

The sad part is that Sergeant Howard died because it was convienent for the other driver. More likely than not, the cager was more engaged in their cell phone conversation, or was late because of poor planning, or some other excuse for driving beyond their ability.

Four recent studies conducted from 1994 - 2004 from the United States and United Kingdom examined the causes of auto accidents. The top four causes are:

  1. Human Behavior
  2. Road Maitenence (Includes debris in the road)
  3. Road Design
  4. Manufacturer Defect

All four studies loosely used these categories and found that human behavior was the cause of automobile accidents between 86% and 95% of the time. The next two hardly register over 5% and defects cause accidents between 0.2% and 0.4% of the time.

Only when we put human life above convienence will we require stricter testing and more training before people get their licence.

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Unlikely Getaway Vehicle

By James - 6/27/2006

From the SFGate:

Man on Mini-Motorcycle Leads Cops on Chase
“A 42-year-old Lake Crystal man led sheriff’s deputies on a goose chase. His getaway vehicle: a 5-horsepower mini-motorcycle.

A call came in reporting that Douglas Lee Menne had wiped out at a downtown intersection. Sheriff’s Deputy Jeff Wersal responded, suspecting it was a case of drunk driving. . .

. . .Wersal pursued Menne to a parking lot where he paused briefly, re-started the bike and zipped out the other side of the lot. The chase continued as Menne put-putted down a nearby street at about 25 mph. . .

. . .Wersal then fired his Taser out his squad car window. One dart hit Menne, but fell out. The effort hindered Menne enough for Wersal to get out of his car and push Menne off the bike. It took the help of another deputy to make the arrest, according to the report.”

OK, first, you don’t “chase” a 5hp mini moto. You “follow” a pocket bike. Enough said, this story is bizarre enough.

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Importing Motorcycles into the US

By James -

I received an email about the process of importing a motorcycle into the United States.

Hi guys. A couple of months ago you answered a question from Trevor about bringing a bike into California. It helped me immensely as I’m doing the same thing, however I’m importing mine from Australia. I don’t suppose you know any additional items that I’m going to encounter? I’m wondering if the DMV will allow me to register it with a KPH dial rather than mph, etc. It’s 97 TL1000S with enough mileage to fill the criteria.
Thanks
Michael

My father imported an old Triumph motorcycle from Scotland. Unfortunately it was from the 1900’s and as an antique was not subject to many of the regulations needed to import a modern motorcycle. But from what I have researched, it looks like there are three national agencies, along with the state Department of Motor Vehicles that you will need to deal with. Here are the steps you will need to take and links to those agencies’ websites for more resources:

Make sure it is safe
The NHTSA will have to make sure it is road legal. Many different countries have different specifications to what is allowed on the road. Speedometers are not required in California, although odometers are, so you may need to convert the odometer into miles, but you should ask the NHTSA about this. If it fails this inspection, you will need to fix the problem parts and have the inspection again.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Importation Regulations

Make sure it is clean
The EPA will want to make sure that the motorcycle is up to current pollution standards. I am unfamiliar with Australian pollution controls, but most European four-stroke engines are required to run cleaner than American engines, so there is a good chance you should pass their test. If it fails the smog test, you will have to fix the problems and retest it, export it, or destroy it.
EPA - Imports of Vehicles, Engines and Equipment

Make sure the greedy feds get their cut
The federal government will want their “duty". Since the feds did not get their import tax when it came through the dealer, they will expect it from you. According to John K., a fed who wrote in to the blog, “The duty on motorcycles with engines greater than 700cc imported into the U.S. is 2.4 percent. All others are imported duty-free. “
US Customs Department - Permanently Importing a Motorcycle

Make sure your state will register it
Now that you have made sure it is road legal, you can take your proof to DMV and register it. This is not that common so expect to have to talk to a few different people before one of them knows how to register it. IMPORTANT! Make sure that you do not unload the motorcycle from its crate until you register it, or you may have to pay penalties. Contact your DMV first and they should be able to tell you what forms they will need from each agency.

I hope this helps and good luck on with your purchase.

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Lighntning kills motorcyclist in Colorado during rushhour commute

By James - 6/23/2006

Just last night a guy commuting on a Katana during rush hour traffic was struck by lightning and killed. At least he went out doing what he liked doing, and went out quickly.

CNN has the story and a video.

Wow. It just proves that you can go at any time, so you had better get the things done you want to get done now, cuz tomorrow you might not be able to.

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When the cops start shooting at motorcycles . . .

By James - 6/18/2006

A local story has me wondering what the police were thinking when they tried to stop a motorcycle that was running from the authorities with deadly force.

Solano County California Highway Patrol officers are searching for two motorcycle drivers who on Sunday led officers on a chase that reached speeds of more than 100 mph and involved one officer shooting at one of the drivers after being nearly struck, according to CHP spokesman Officer M.A. Williford.

At 12:07 p.m. a Solano CHP motorcycle officer attempted to pull over two motorcycles, both of which had passengers, that were clocked going 85 mph on Interstate Highway 80 eastbound at American Canyon Road near Vallejo, Williford said.

One of the motorcycle drivers appeared to comply and pulled over, while the second accelerated away, reaching speeds of more than 100 mph. The driver of the second motorcycle exited the highway at Red Top Road near Fairfield and then re-entered the highway going westbound, while the driver that had pulled over continued on and did not stop, Williford said.

A second CHP motorcycle officer later saw the same motorcycle that had not stopped exiting Interstate Highway 80 at Columbus Parkway near Vallejo and waved for the driver to pull over. The driver then accelerated toward the officer “in an apparent attempt to strike the officer,'’ according to Williford.

The officer fired a round at the driver, who swerved away and took off on Columbus Parkway, losing the officer as he gave pursuit, Williford said.

They have since arrested the rider, which I am glad they got this guy off the road, but I am wondering why the police would shoot at a motorcyclist and his passenger? Is a speeding motorcycle really that much of a threat to public safety in the big picture? Is it worth killing two people because of it?

I have been hit by a motorcyclist. I was about 13 and was with my mother and sister. We were crossing a busy street, Kensington High Street in London. The motorcyclist was splitting lanes and came around a van at the same time as we got to that van. WHAM! All three of us and the mototrcyclist went flying. My sister needed stitches for a cut on her head and my mother and I were shaken up but fine. The bike was probably going around 30 mph and we never even heard it coming.

Knowing what I know as a biker, I think I could pretty much eliminate the possibility that anyone, let alone a rider with a passenger, whould TRY to hit anything on purpose. If there is one thing you don’t have to worry about in a motorcycle chase, it is that a rider would try to ram you. This motorcycle cop should have known better. I was not there so I can only speak from the reports, but I don’t think a motorcycle running down an offramp towards you warrents deadly force.

And without knowing the status of the passenger (willing? unwilling?) how could you take the chance of hitting her or hitting him and in the crash killing her?

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Double Burnout Video

By James - 6/11/2006

I got this email from the producer of the following film:

me and my buddy did a double burnout. my bike burning out on his truck.

I thought that I should check it out, I have never seen a double burnout before, and hey, if it is twice as good as a regular one-vehicle burnout, it might make it to “mildy entertaining” status. The thing about burnouts is that they are fun for the person doing it, but watching someone do a burnout is boring. Noise and smoke and you are still here. At least be a quarter mile down the road scaping something. . .

I went to the site and here is the description that they give about the video:

Me and my buddy jim drink tequila and load my motorcycle into the back of his Dodge Dakota RT. Then he starts to burnout and I also burnout out on the bike in the back of his truck… thus we have a new kind of burnout… a double burnout.

This makes things more interesting, but they only take a swig and immediately get on with it. I wanted to see them drink the whole bottle and wait a few minutes until they were nice and drunk. That would have almost guaranteed a catastrophy and an entertaining video.

So if you like burnouts, I guess this is better than most. But beware, the guy on the bike is walking around with his shirt off for the whole video.


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Seeing Motorcycles as “real” vehicles

By James - 6/9/2006

An incident at dinner last night and some things the president of our club said got me thinking about the public’s perception of motorcycles. Now a lot of attention is given to the public’s perception of “bikers” but I am referring to the motorcycle as a machine and the way it transports us “bikers".

Let me take you back to the incident last night. I pulled into a space in front of a restaruant I was meeting my motorcycle club at last night. It is one of those metered spaces, with the corners marked out. I knew my buddies were coming so I parked right in the middle and dismounted. I stood on the sidewalk and waited for my club.

Not a minute passed and a car tried to squeeze into the spot. I walked up to him and told him that I am saving the spot for my buddies. He acknowledged and took a spin around the block and found another spot.

5 minutes later a woman tries to squeeze into the spot and I walk up to her and tell her through the glass that I am saving the spot for my buddies. She ignores me. When she opens the door I tell her that it is my spot and she has to move. Uh Oh, here it comes . . . She unloaded on me about how she could fit just fine (she was about a foot into the red) and it is not MY space but the city’s and how she is a Christian and she is just going to church and a whole lot of “well why nots” that were irrelevant. I told her that she misunderstood the law. That just irritated her more. She says, “I know the law, I am calling the law!” and dials 911. Long story short, the cops (who have a lot better things to do than handle parking disputes in Oakland) showed up 30 minutes later and made her move. Here in California and probably all of the US a motorcycle is entitled to the same rights as any other motor vehicle. That means parking too. Just because we sometimes park between cars doesn’t mean that we give up our right to take up a whole space if we choose to.

Our president summed it up niceley in our forums:

to me this is another example of people not seeing motorcycles as “real” vehicles. I’ve seen people physically pick up motorcycles so they could take the spot…………….I’ve seen people act like we don’t have the right to park in a parking space. I’ve seen people move their cars toward us when we’re splitting lanes, etc. ………we’ve all dealt with this. Bottom line: Many cagers simply don’t consider bikes to be viable “real” vehicles……….and of course, they are mistaken……………

It is easy for me to forget how motorcycles are marginalized because so many of my friends and family ride. But it is a case like this where you see how most cagers will try to take advantage of a situation if it has to do with a motorcycle. How many times have you seen a car knock a parked car on its side and drive away? But I have seen this done more than a few times to motorcycles, twice to my own ride.

I have heard talk of a day in San Francisco where all the motorcyclists park in car spots, one per stall to show how bad parking would be without motorcycle parking. And San Francisco is a motorcycle friendly city compared to others. That would be one way to put us on cagers’ radar.

Whether or not we can get the public to view us as “real” is something we all have to work on.

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Why would anyone set a booby trap across a road used by motorcyclists?

By James - 5/18/2006

It seems some neighbors of Robert Barnes, while leading a group of dirtbikers on private land, thought it would be a good idea to sabatoge a dirt road in the South Bay Area with rebar and rope, intended to decapitate motorcyclists legally using the road. At this point it is unclear whether the cause of the terrorist’s actions were because of a previous dispute over Loma Chiquita Road or noise or leaving his trash can out overnight. His attackers threatened him just moments before the incident saying, “We are going to lynch you".

At least these cowards who were hiding behind bushes were caught, although two were released today. I will be watching this case very closely and if anyone would like to contact the Santa Clara Sheriff’s department or the District Attorney here is their contact info:

Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office

Santa Clara County District Attorney: George Kennedy
70 West Hedding Street, West Wing
District Attorney
San Jose, CA 95110
Phone: (408) 299-3099

From the SF Chronicle:

Robert Barnes sat in his Los Gatos hills home Wednesday, his face grooved with gashes, his mouth reconstructed with titanium plates, and wondered: Why would anyone set a booby trap across a road used by motorcyclists?

Barnes suspects he hit a length of rebar or something similar that his neighbors had secured at both ends across the roadway, and only after he had struck that did they pull up a rope for the second rider.

Barnes’ wife, Wendy Barnes, 41, credited the helmet with saving her husband’s life.

“Without that, they said he would have been dead,” she said.

The bizarre incident stunned some law enforcement officers.

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Sometimes it pays to read the road signs

By James - 4/30/2006

My club and I rode out to coastal Davenport from Oakland today. We met up at the old Albertsons on Lakeshore and rode down to the San Mateo Bridge. Across the bay and up 92 to the junction with Skyline where we picked up some more riders. Gregory, who planned the ride, told us about a section of the road that slid because of all the rain we have had. He warned us, in no uncertain terms, that when it says “Bump Ahead” to SLOW DOWN. It wasn’t too long before we knew what he meant.

The roads through the coastal mountain range between San Francisco and Santa Cruz are motorcycling paradise. The scenery goes from rolling meadows to towering sequoia forests to coastal cliffs and sandy beaches. There are long sweepers, tight hairpins, dirt roads, goat trails, technical roads, something for everyone. Every winter they get a ton of rain and several sections need to be replaced in the spring. With the amount we got this year, there are still streams that cross the road, debris from the ones that dried up, and they haven’t gotten to all the sections of road that have sunk from the ground shifting underneath.

We rounded the corner and saw a cop directing traffic. Further around the corner we saw the ambulence and patrol cars. Behind the ambulence was a smashed gray motorcycle next to an old oak tree. As I passed and the ambulence obscured the accident scene, the paramedics raised the stretcher with the motorcyclist on it. I couldn’t tell if he was alive or not, I am guessing he was. On the other side of the road was an orange temporary road sign reading “Bump Ahead". We hit it at 20 and if I had been going over 35mph I would have gotten air. Shortly after the first was a second. I am guessing the rider ignored the temporary road sign and hit the bumps at normal speed. It is easy to picture losing control and crashing into the tree.

So pay attention to road signs. A second of cauton will save you a big headache in the long run.

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Installing a Cigarette Lighter Accessory Outlet on a Motorcycle

By James - 4/29/2006

I decided to get an accessory outlet for my bike. I am sick of going through batteries in my GPS and need to carry less batteries for my video camera. It needed to be interchangeable with both my V-Star and my ZR-7S (ZR750H) and be weather resistant, I do a lot of riding in the rain.

Here is how I did it, from beginning to end . . .

I searched on eBay and got this one for $14.99. I like it because it has a rubber cover for when I am not using it. It also comes with a cigarette lighter, the kind you push in and it heats up. I don’t smoke but you never know it could come in handy. Three days later it showed up at my work.
accessory outlet

It is a pretty easy installation, my ZR-7S has accessory leads coming from the junction box while my V-Star does not. I will explain how to hook up the outlet on both systems. First the ZR-7S. . .

Since the ZR-7S has accessory leads coming from the junction box, there was no need to access the battery terminals. All you have to do is remove the seat and find the two leads coming from the junction box not hooked to anything. One will be white and blue, that is the positive lead. The shorter black and yellow lead is the negative lead. Since my electrical connectors do not fit the stock Kawasaki ones, I snipped them off and replaced them with my own by crimping the quick-disconnect terminals to the wires. This way I can easily remove the outlet and move it to my other bike. I used blue terminals and black wire for negative polarity and red terminals and red wire for positive. I also made sure that even color blind people wouldn’t reverse the wires. I used a male connector on the positive lead from the junction box and a female for the negative lead.
connectors

Once done with the leads from the junction box I snipped the ends off of the supplied wires and fitted the quick-disconnect terminals onto them and crimped them to keep the wire secure. I wound the wires along the frame to under the pillion seat. You can use ties but I need to be able to remove it quickly so I did not. Before hooking up the outlet to the battery, I covered the exposed metal of the accessory outlet with elecrtical tape to minimize the chance of shorts. Hook up the red wire to the center fitting and the black negative/ground to the fitting on the outer shell. The supplied positive wire has an inline 10 amp fuse, which will burn out to keep your expensive elctronics alive. The ZR-7S also has a 15 amp fuse for the accessory circut. In this case we have a redundant fuse, which is fine since the V-Star does not have an accessory circut and needs the inline fuse. I plugged in the GPS cord and the LED in the plug came on. I was a bit perplexed since I expected the circut to be dead when the key was in the “OFF” position but the accessory circut is always on. Something to remember before leaving your bike overnight, shut down your gadgets, or better yet, unplug them.
motorcycle accessory outlet

OK, now the hard part. How to get the power from the rear of the motorcycle to the handlebars? My GPS power cord is about 6-7 feet long. I wound it along the frame to the main wiring harness that supplies power to the lights, meters, and everything else up front. The best way would be to remove the tank, but I found you can stick your hand in enough to wrap the wire around the harness to give it enough clearence from the heat eminating from the engine. Once to the front of the tank I followed the clutch cable and turn signal wires through the bracket and up to the GPS held to the handlebars by a RAM mount.
motorcycle GPS RAM mount
motorcycle garmin GPS eMap

My V-Star was not set up with accessory leads so you have to connect the outlet directly to the battery. You will need to remove the both seats, the left side battery cover, and the lockable compartment cover. Once those are out of the way you can unhook the rubber retaining band around the battery. This will allow you to access both battery terminals. I crimped two “spade” connectors onto two wires, a red one for the positive lead and a black one for the negative/ground and attached them to the battery leads.
V-Star accessory outlet

I taped the two wires together and wound them under and in front of the rear shock. I attached the quick-disconnect terminals to the ends of these wires to hook up with the accessory outlet. I chose to put the outlet in the lockable compartment to give it some protection and so I didn’t have to mount it where it would be hard to remove.
V-Star accessory outlet lockable compartment

From this point on it is the same as the installation for the ZR-7S, wind the power cord under the tank with the main wiring harness up to the handlebars and the RAM mounted GPS. Now you can go wherever without worrying about batteries. The 10 amp fuse is fine for just about all electronics, but you might have a problem with electric items like a blender or iron. I know, wrinkle-free shirts and margaritas are something you will just have to go without while on your motorcycle trips but sacrafice is good for you.

All the materials, including the outlet, the connectors, and wire stripper/crimper, cost me less than $30. If you have any comments or tricks to make this project better, let me know.

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Keep an eye on your spark plugs

By James - 4/24/2006

Last week I rode my new ZR-7 into work and all was good. The weather, the feel of the bike, I was in a groove. After work I walked to my bike and started it up. It idled rough but all reports say the ZR is cold blooded. I was puzzled because the exhaust smelled rich but it was still running rough. So I started riding it and thought it would warm up soon. I came to a stop light and the bike died. I figured I was out of gas so I pulled into a station and filled up. I rode the rest of the way home but the bike was seriously lagging. I finally found the problem when I got home. I saw the spark plug wire dangling and the top of the plug was missing. I was only firing on three cylinders.

I couldn’t figure out why they only broken one. They didn’t take them all, they didn’t scratch the paint. They just smashed the top off of one spark plug. In talking to people I found out that the ceramic top of spark plugs makes a good crack pipe.

At $2.89 for a new plug it wasn’t that bad, but now I am looking for spark plug covers. Anybody know where I can get one?

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New Bike: ZR-7S

By James - 4/20/2006

I have been riding cruisers for the past 7 years and thought that it was high time to venture out of my comfort zone and see what all the fuss is about with sport bikes. I saw a great deal on a low milage red ZR-7S and had to pick it up.

It was 7 years ago when I was sitting in the MSF classroom when a woman, one of two in the 15 person class, raised her hand and asked “Am I the only one not getting a sportbike after graduation?” One other person raised his hand, I recognized him from before the class when he got off his Goldwing. Everyone else, including me was set on riding sportbikes after getting their license. Of course the class was skewed to 18 - 22 year olds who really just wanted to learn how to do wheelies and didn’t care if their girlfriends were uncomfortable on the rear seat. At the breaks all the talk was about R1s and R6s, CBR600s and Ninjas. After all was said and done, I lucked out and found a great deal, and more importantly good sense, with a Vulcan 500. A parallel twin that you can ride all day, feet forward and lots of chrome. Well ok, a little chrome and a lot of mirrored plastic. Since then it has been all cruisers and I have been content. But if I am to truly experience motorcycle culture, I need to straddle the line between light and dark, good and evil. So I got a sport bike.

ZR-7SI am not sure what to call it really. A sport tourer? I don’t have saddle bags yet. It is definately not a super sport with the open engine. And it is not a standard with the fairing. The name will work it’s way out as I ride it. One thing is for certain, I am glad I didn’t start out on a sport bike. Way too much power for what I didn’t know 7 years ago. I have been struggling with the differences between my V-Star and the ZR-7S over the last week. It was raining and windy the day I got it so I only got to ride 300 miles and I am trying to learn how to use it’s advantages and disadvantages to my favor in my daily commute.

I keep lugging the thing. I am so used to the low end torque that I need to remember to keep the revs high. Once in the power band the thing just keeps pulling. And leaning is hard. After getting used to the threshold of scraping pegs it is hard to push past it, even though I KNOW the ZR can go further. That is just mental. It is nice to be on a thinner bike for splitting lanes but without my pipes nobody hears me coming. I have been cut off more in the last week on the ZR than I did all of last year on the Star. It is a different mentality. The ZR is about finesse and performance, the Star is about brute force and style.

The one complaint I have are the bars. After about an hour my palms start to get sore. I am guessing it is a lot to do with posture. I slouch, I know it and I am trying to keep my knees tight to the tank and elbows in and back straight. That helps a lot but I get lazy and slouch. Raisers might help, but lets see what happens after I break it in.

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You think you have it bad in the United States . . .

By James - 4/19/2006

Boing Boing alerted me to a video clip of traffic in India. It is interesting even though nothing happens. I watched the vehicle ballet as cars, trucks, motorcycles, pedestrians, and bicyclists pushed their way through the intersection an on with their lives. Watch the bottom-right of the clip, about a third of the way through, as a pedestrian calmly steps between a motorcycle and car to avoid getting hit. I give it up for anyone who rides in Indian cities. You must have super “spidey sense"!


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Motorcycle Awareness

By James - 4/11/2006

Sometimes coincidences do happen. I just joined the AMA and a few days after getting my card I got this email from Mike,

I’ve heard many non-motorcyclists make stereo-typical and condescending remarks alluding to the mentality of motorcyclists. Comments which classify riders into groups depending on what type or make of motorcycle one rides. What kind of pessimistic person would deem a “Harley” rider a ‘bad-boy, looking for a fight’ or a sport-bike rider an ‘irresponsible punk, trying to go fast’? It seems to me that most people who have never ridden a motorcycle make these types of interpretations out of fear or ignorance. While it is true that there are those motorcycle riders who DO fit the stereo-typical persona, it is also true that there are more absent-minded and oblivious drivers of gas-guzzling SUVs.

I was once told that “after riding motorcycles for a while, you will become a better motorist.” I really did not believe this to be true. However, after a couple of years and several thousands of miles later, I not only understand, but also fully believe its accuracy. Without the protection of a car’s safety features and encasement from the elements, motorcyclists are forced to develop a 6th sense. Our skills are honed to recognize the difference between a driver’s absent minded swaying and one who intends to quickly switch lanes.

While this skill is not inherent, it is very wide spread throughout the motorcycle community. Personally I think this is one of the biggest reasons that passing motorcyclists wave to each other; we all know what its like to be on two wheels and cut off, or worse yet have a driver switch lanes while we are right next to them.

Of course dealing with these issues comes with the territory; offset by one’s personal love for motorcycles. Riding motorcycles have many advantages. Including splitting traffic (where allowed by law), extremely good fuel economy, relaxation as well as many others. I have often wondered how substantial big-city traffic jams would be reduced if 30 - 40% would just ride a motorcycle. I’m sure this would greatly impact the smog pollution as well. Maybe this could also offset the summer gas price increases.

While my thoughts may go unheeded, perhaps they will give non-motorcyclists a different point of view from which they may expound their narrow-mindedness. I am an AMA member and I would recommend all motorcyclists to join, street or dirt. The AMA organization has done a lot to support and further protect us. Representing / supporting this organization can only better all of our experiences.

Supporting the AMA is one way to help raise the visiblity of motorcyclists to the general public.

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New Clubs

By James - 2/12/2006

My club, Wolf Pack Motorcycle Club, just started two new chapers, Roseville, CA and Manteca, CA. The patching party was in Tracy, CA, about an hour from Oakland. With the sun out and temps in the 70s I really wanted to ride out there but since I had the physical framed charters and booze I was relegated to driving, although the cosmic forces were working against me. As I was leaving I got a flat tire and had to ride the doughnut all the way out to the Central Valley at 55mph. It seems even fate wanted me to ride but it was not to be.

The party was great, they are some stand up guys we just added to our club and I look forward to riding with them up to Santa Rosa for Blues and Tattoos. Ride when you can, you don’t know what will happen tomorrow.

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Motorcycle lift

By James - 2/5/2006

Now that I have a garage I decided to get a motorcycle lift to do a little more maintenence to my our bikes. The $89 Craftsman Motorcycle Lift from Sears has to be the greatest tool I have. It makes working on the bike so much easier. Instead of rolling around on the ground now I am sitting comfortably working on the bike. I have only changed the oil but it took me half the time it usually does. If you do even minor work on your bike I strongly reccomend getting one of these, it is a really good investment.

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This guy really can’t ride through cars

By James - 1/12/2006

So unlike his movie persona, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a mere mortal like the rest of us but the media reports are clinging to this. OK, it seems he doesn’t have an M1 endorsement, but luckily this time he did not need it with a sidecar. He was asked why he did not have a motorcycle license . . .

You know, I just never really applied for it … and it was just one of those things that I never thought about it.

What the man is really saying is “I don’t need the pemission of a girly-maaan to ride my Haaaly Davidson”

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Custom Motorcycle Shops Everywhere!

By James - 1/6/2006

Dave Johnston would like to rant a bit . . .

It would seem to me that over the past four years and with the advent of lame bike shows on TV, that every one now is a professional bike builder. Here in Mass I can remember having to drive hours from my home to get the smallest parts. Now its a simple matter of walking or driving twenty minutes to find a local shop. About a week ago I spent a day traveling to several bike shops in the area.

These shops claimed to be custom fab and paint shops but all carried pre assembled bikes. At one shop I noticed a sign that charged ninety dollars per hour for sheet metal work yet they had no equipment what so ever to bend or shape the smallest piece. After talking to the owner he had mentioned to me that he could build me a gas tank for $2,800 but would take 6 to 8 weeks for delivery from their “out source tank builder". I don’t know about everyone else but I am what you would call a neat freak. and I couldn’t believe the disrepair and general “messiness” of these so called professional shops.

There was only one shop I could find that actually built every part of the bike and sold the whole package for $24,000. this was the least expensive bike I could find that was 100% hand made. Not to mention the absolute perfection of the owner and attention to detail. also the shop was very clean, i suppose because some people watch TV and take a few welding classes it would qualify them as custom builders. I feel that it is a true shame the “older” guys out there who have been building bikes for 20 years are suffering because these (what i would call) “TV BUILDERS” are just buying pre assembled bikes, and charging $50,000 for a rolling piece of crap. so i say if you want custom and want to be different and stand apart build it yourself or find a great 100% custom shop. I know that the bike i ride is all hand made and doesn’t look like something that just rolled out of rock tavern new York.

If you are fed up with the current state of custom motorcycle builders, let me know!

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Embedded in the Ride

By James - 12/7/2005

Rick has a great perspective on why we ride . . .

Since one of the things I love best is riding, I end up thinking a lot about it and about why I do it and why I like it. It seems to be one of those things that mystifies a lot of people.

How many times have you been told how dangerous it is? Bikes are unstable, You don’t have any protection. Drivers can’t see you. If you go down you can die from the road rash even if you don’t break anything. It goes on and on. The endless list of horrors. The stories about somebody who such and so knew who spent 6 months in traction, got turned into a vegetable, whatever.

Well, it’s all true. There are reasons why insuring your ride is expensive. Mostly having to do with medical costs and theft, I expect. But this is one of those odd ways of viewing the world that people use to put down the things they aren’t interested in doing.

One certainty is that nobody’s getting out of here alive. And it can happen at any moment in any kind of situation from nearly any activity. Life is not safe. Living isn’t about being safe. You going to give up eating because something could get stuck in your throat and kill you?

Still, riding is dangerous, and untrained reckless fools often have a short career - or run through a lot of bikes if they’re very lucky and can afford not to learn how to ride.

Even the best riders can get taken out by a bad combination of events. But so can a driver in a cage or a pedestrian. Things happen. No guarantees.

Unlike a new motorcycle, life is not under warranty. I need to be reminded of that from time to time and to learn, over and over, how to live with uncertainty. Riding brings it home.

Riding a motorcycle has a number of virtues that are sensible and common - you save on gas, you can park almost anywhere with no trouble, they’re relatively inexpensive compared to a car, even the insurance can be less than a car, they are less expensive to maintain and repair. Nice sane virtues, eh?

Let’s just skip the downside and get to the real reasons for riding. It’s dangerous and makes you feel alive. A lot of sports are dangerous and that’s a part of the thrill. Actually feeling your heart beat and the adrenaline rush is kind of addictive. Most parts of our lives are safe, sane, cautious and/or plain flat out boring. It’s hard to feel alive in a cocoon.

But even running an errand can bring you back to life - if you ride. A car is just another cage (car fanatics will disagree, but something with 4 or more wheels just doesn’t do the trick) and while they’re great for carrying a ton of groceries and all the kids, they’re mostly like sofas on wheels. You know, get in your cage, roll up all the windows, turn on the air or heat, jack up the 24 speaker cd system and float away. Get totally insulated from the world around you.

On a bike you are embedded in the world. You know you’re on a machine - and you are on it not wrapped up inside it. You are embedded in the machine, you’re the bike’s intelligence and your whole body is involved in making it all work. This is very different than driving a car (racers excepted, of course). Sure you can ride a motorcycle and be absent which does cause a lot of mishaps, but usually the ride demands that you pay attention, that you stay in the present, in the now of you, bike and road.

Too few things demand that kind of attention and presence. We really should live every second fully present, fully awake, completely there. But we don’t. We spend too many hours disconnected or plugged into a pseudo-reality.

The ride teaches me again to wake up and be there. It embeds me in the real world around me. I sense it, hear it, feel it and flow with it. The very best rides are a spiritual experience that can be impossible to describe or explain to anyone who doesn’t already get it. There’s a meditative quality to riding and a cleansing of the trash that accumulates in our heads. For me these are the real reasons I ride. Riding makes my life (and my head) work better.

Ride to live - live to ride. It’s a lot more than transportation.

Richard (Rick) is a long time biker - even longer than he’s been writing, consulting and training.
You can see some of the results at http://www.A-Harley-Motorcycle.com and the blog at http://www.a-harley-motorcycle.com/blog

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Loud Pipes

By James - 11/15/2005

I came across NoiseOFF’s site about loud pipes and was amused by how outraegeous their site is.

“Our goal is to present the facts honestly and directly to the media. We leave it to the noise industry to hire public relations firms to spin the media. . .”

OK, start the “facts":

“Do not approach or attempt to reason with bikers. Most of them are belligerent. When possible, take down their license plate number and call the police. In communities where the police pull over bikers, often they find alcohol, drugs and sometimes weapons. In a few cases, bikers have outstanding warrants for their arrest.”

Actually, most motorcyclists are not beligerent, in fact most motorcyclists have quiet bikes, and the amount of drugs, alcohol and firearms on bikes is miniscule with the amout found in cars, but go on . . .

“If you see a motorcycle shop opening up in your community, get together with your neighbors and stage an organized protest. Make picket signs and send a media alert to all the newspaper and television news outlets so they can cover the event.”

Does it matter which kind of motorcycle shop is opening up? Does it matter that most motorcycle clubs raise money for their community? It seems to me the louder your bikes the more money they donate, but that is just an observance.

“There is a marketing mythology that loud thunderous motorcycles are a part of the American way of life. As flag waving patriots, it gives us the uniquely American right to stand out and express our rugged individualism. All of this smarmy American patriotism is championed by the Harley-Davidson Motor Company.”

I thought that getting poor gas milage was our patriotic right, and as belligerent rebelious bikers we are sticking it to the man . . .

“Inexperienced and aggressive bikers often cause accidents and fatalities on the road endangering you and your family.”

Yeah these are just the people who we want behind the wheel of a car. Does this statement have anything to do with noise?

I encourage all of you to join their forum and learn about how a belligerent, smarmy biker can clean up his act. If their message wasn’t so funny they might get something done.

Thanks to Uncaged Librarian for turning me on to this one.

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Off to Vegas

By James - 9/16/2005

It is 6:30am. Almost ready to take off, the sun is not up yet. I just have to load my duffle on my bike then I am off for the bright lights of Bakersfield, then the brighter lights of Vegas. I will take 580 right from my house to I-5 until Bakersfield. Then I will cut over through farms to I-15 and take that all the way to the Riviera. Should take about 8-10 hours, depending how fast I feel like driving. I am going to take the back way home along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas and by Mono Lake and through Yosemite. I will only have my phone so I will be blogging through text messages.

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Biker Paint-Off

By James - 8/24/2005

I was flipping through the channels and caught the end of one of the Biker Build-Off shows. Now TheKneeslider is always complaining that the builders don’t strive for performance, instead focusing on looks. I am the opposite. Maybe it is because I am an artist for my day job but I always think they gloss over the most important part of building show-bikes; the paint job. I want to see a Biker Paint-Off. The intricacy of the paint job makes or breaks most of these art-machines. I enjoy the simplicity of matte black but marvel at the metallic foil, pinstripes, and two-tone schemes. It takes a special eye to get right the juxtaposition of leather and powdercoat, color and chrome. Sure, wrestling an oversized engine into a low-rider frame is a tough job but it is more force than finesse. Dosen’t fit? Just grind it. Try painting a matching pinstripe over a curved surface - freehand - and you only get one shot. That is talent.

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Now we match - A V-Star for my wife

By James - 8/18/2005

So after riding and comparing Savages, Shadows 600s, and Vulcan 500s I picked up a used V-Star with 2000 miles to replace my wife’s 21 year old Rebel. I now know why so many people discount 600cc bikes as serious cruisers. Honda and Suzuki’s 600 cc cruisers lack the power and ergonomics to allow all but the masochistic to go on multi day tours on these bikes. The Vulcan at 499ccs was comfortable and actually felt more zippy than the 652cc single-cylinder Savage and 583cc Shadow. This is probably because it had a 6th gear which made it less stressed at highway speed. But all three were a far cry from the V-Star when it came to value. Yamaha somehow got more “fun” out of their engine than any of the others. Now the stock V-Star won’t win any races and I am amazed at the amount of extra power I have started to take for granted after all the mods I have done on mine. I am not sure if we will replace the exhaust, air cleaner, add an air kit and rejet since my wife is content with the stock performance but the eggheads at Yamaha have made a great bike that is head and shoulders above the competition. I just didn’t know it until I actually rode the competition. Now my wife and I ride the same machine. I hate matching but when it comes to making her happy . . .

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Are you a biker?

By James - 8/8/2005

Wikipedia defines a biker as:

A biker is someone who rides a motorcycle (motorbike). Bikers are sometimes members of a motorcycle club or motorcycle gang. . . Bikers tend to associate with others that share their enthusiasm, and congregate at biker events such as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally or the Daytona Beach Rally.

As I rode away from lunch at Alice’s Restaurant, a popular biker hangout up in Woodside CA, I wondered if you could quantify the neccessary components to becoming a biker. Waving to sportbikes, cruisers and everything in between I tried to figure out which of them were bikers and which were motorcyclists.

Stereotypes
There is a Geico motorcycle insurance commercial running on the radio that starts out,
“Hi, I’m Blade and I’m a hardcore biker . . .”
The voice is gruff, as if he smoked too many cigarettes or inhaled too much exhaust. The tone is deep. I get the impression that he weighs 225-250 lbs. From that I immediately picture the guy in leather chaps and a vest, black denim jeans underneath and a black long-sleave HD shirt, black engineer boots, and a bandana. His shades and half-helmet hanging off the throttle on his Harley parked in the alley. He is definately no sissy, objecting to the soothing harp background music. The voice talent that they hired for this spot is probably nothing like this image but playing into the biker stereotype is too easy in our culture.

So what is the difference between a biker and a motorcyclist?
First things first. A motorcycle is needed to be a biker. Now I know that just because you own a motorcycle, that alone does not make you a biker, but a biker is not a biker without a motorcycle. Motorcyclists also own motorcycles but here is where attitude comes in. A motorcyclist rides his bike because of the thrill, rush, relaxation, etc. A biker will ride for the same reasons, but will do so even when it is inconvienent, illogical, or frowned upon. The biker places the ride above all else; even society’s conventions, personal stigmas, and prejudice.

This is my view of what makes a biker but this view varies between people and is most different between poeple who ride. Whenever this topic comes up in the forums I frequent it can be a heated debate. Feel free to list your criteria of what makes a biker below. . .

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Two-month motorcycle road trip

By James - 8/4/2005

I recently got an email about John Reger, a guy who is riding from L.A. zig zagging across the nation for a two month adventure. He is taking the time to reflect and relax, to figure things out. He has no itinerary, making it up as he goes along.

Work for me had always been a way to make money to do what I wanted to do. So when I took a break from what many considered a dream job, it came as a surprise.

It shouldn’t have, really. If people knew me, and few do, they know I work better without a net. My writing, much like my life, is better spent staying hungry. I’ve never been one to worry about my career, or where I am going to live. Those details tend to take care of themselves. My angst is much more focused on what I am leaving behind. Why was I put here? What can I give people? How can I make this place better?

Meditating always finds the answers and the road is where I reflect best. The one question that stayed with me was the one I thought I had the easiest answer to. Leaving, however, is never easy.

Needless to say he is a good writer, eloquently describing the emotions that seem to surround the biker lifestyle. Unfortunately I can’t add an RSS feed to the blog aggregator to keep track of his progress but you can check out his site and send him an email.

http://www.johnreger.com/

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Yamaha Roadliner Sighting - Beartooth Highway

By James - 7/7/2005

I just got back from my backpacking trip through the Montana/Wyoming wilderness with my dog and wife which was rejuvenating and exhausting at the same time. On my way up to the trailhead on Highway 212 I stopped in Cooke City for a bite to eat where I saw a somewhat familiar but unknown motorcycle across the street. After ordering my food I went over to check out the bike. It turned out to be Yamaha’s newest bike in it’s new Star line of motorcycles, the Roadliner. It was a bit of a shock to see it since it is not supposed to be available until later this year. The license plate was from California and was not a dealer plate, but had the word “DIST” on it. Was this a Yamaha test ride across the US or did one of the motorcycle magazines get their hands on the new model?

Waiting for the owner to return I checked out the bike more closely. The bike was the Midnight model, with blacked out engine parts, no windshield and only small aftermarket saddlebags, not the hard bags that come with the Stratoliner model. The front wheel, which appeared small in the pics I had seen was actually quite wide, but with the low profile appears smaller from the side. The giant triangular headlight has two bulbs, apparently one for the low and one for the high beam. The large instument cluster is on the tank and its design is similar to a 40’s era auto dashboard with speed and fuel analog gagues and electronic odometer and trip meters. The pipe was a two-into-one ala the VTX stock pipe. The handlebars were wide with normal Yamaha controls next to the grips. The floorboards had a heel-toe shifter. My food finally came and even after I ate the owner had not returned so I left for my motel to prepare for my wilderness trip.

The Beartooth Highway and Chief Joseph Highway are great proving grounds for new motorcycles. The road winds through glacier carved valleys at elevations from 7,000 ft to 9,000 ft, with vistas of heards of buffalo and pronghorn grazing in Yellowstone National Park. It is definately on the top of my list for next year’s vacation, but this time the dog will stay at home and my wife and I will ride there.

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Want to Learn to Ride a Motorcycle?

By James - 6/20/2005

I got an email yesterday from a woman wanting to learn to ride a motorcycle:

I would really love to learn how to ride. I live in Kauai, a little island in Hawaii. My name is Amy and I am 25. My contact info: 808.###.####

Now since she didn’t technically ask a question I can read this a couple of ways. Either she wants me to call her up and teach her, which is ridiculous since you can’t learn to ride while talking on the phone. She must want me to fly to Hawaii and teach her. Hmmmm, let me think, what would it take to get me to Hawaii to teach a 25 year old Hawaiian woman to ride? Not much, except maybe a good excuse for my wife; she wouldn’t appreciate my generousity and selfless promotion of motorcycling around the world as much as Amy. The only other alternative for me to share my experience with you is here on my site.

My first step for you would to be to enroll in a Motorcycle Safety Course. It looks like they don’t have a location on your island so unless it is easy to get to these classes, which my wife and I highly recommend, you may have no choice to learn from a non-professional. I couldn’t find any motorcycling clubs in Kauai, which would be the second best option. Most clubs would love to help induct people into the motorcycling fellowship. My third choice would be to go down to the dealership and ask them. It is in their best interest to get another motorcycle rider on the island, just don’t let them talk you into buying a brand new Harley for your first bike. Most bikers are nice people and would love to share their knowledge with you, don’t be afraid to go up to bikers and start a dialogue.

I can’t tell you how to learn to ride a motorcycle over the internet, so this is where an experienced rider can watch you and help you work on the areas that need improvement. Keep reading about it and practice, practice, practice. Then once you are ready to get your own bike take a look at “Starter Motorcycles“.

Good luck and tell me how it goes . . .

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New Yamaha Model - RoadLiner

By James - 6/17/2005

As I was looking for an alternative to the seat on my Yamaha V-Star, I went to look up a part number on the Yamaha website. To my surprise I came across a new model in the Star line of Yamaha Motorcycles, the Roadliner. It looks good, with retro styling and a low stretched frame. The most distiguishing feature are the three chrome accents on the tank giving it the Art Deco 1930’s airliner look, which is probably where the engineers got the name for the Roadliner’s touring version, the Stratoliner. It looks like the main differences between the Roadliner and Stratoliner are the hard bags and windshield. For about $1300 more you can get a dolled up version, the “S” with polished wheels and chrome engine casings.

With an 1854cc engine Yamaha is looking to compete with Honda’s VTX 1800, Kawasaki’s Vulcan 2000, and Suzuki’s M95 (and to a lesser degree Harley’s Road King) which has been very popular with the “boulevard touring” crowd. Yamaha seems to be diverging from a company just chasing the Harley look and inventing it’s own identity as a cruiser brand. In hindsight, their recent change to Star Motorcycles emphasises this. The name “Stratoliner” and “Roadliner” could use some help . . . I can only think of a slow lumbering vehicle when I hear the name.

Here are the specs, right off of their site:

Engine
Type: 113-cubic-inch (1854cc) air-cooled pushrod 48-degree V-twin
Bore x Stroke: 100mm x 118mm
Compression Ratio: 9.5:1
Carburetion: Twin-bore electronic fuel injection, w/ 43mm throttle bodies and throttle position sensor
Ignition: Digital TCI
Transmission: 5-speed, w/multiplate wet clutch
Final Drive: Belt

Chassis
Suspension/Front: 46mm telescopic fork; 5.3″ travel
Suspension/Rear: Single shock, link-type; 4.3″ travel
Brakes/Front: 298mm hydraulic, dual discs
Brakes/Rear: 320mm hydraulic, single disc
Tires/Front: 130/70-18
Tires/Rear: 190/60-17

Dimensions
Length: 101.6″
Width: 36.8″
Height: 43.3″
Seat Height: 28.9″
Wheelbase: 67.5″
Ground Clearance: 6.1″
Dry Weight: 705 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 4.5 gallons

Other
Warranty: 1 Year (Limited Factory Warranty)

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Night Rider

By James - 5/14/2005

I don’t know why I don’t ride at night more. The silouette of my bars and headlight against the lit up road and the glow of my instument panel under a star filled sky is relaxing. It is the same road I ride every day but the traffic is nonexistant and the cagers that are out at 1 in the morning are a little less cagey (although a lot more likely to be drunk).

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National tell-a-friend-about-blogs week

By James - 5/6/2005

I guess it is national tell-a-friend-about-blogs week and as stated in a previous post about Ride to Work Day, I think these designations are a little silly. But in this case I will go along with it, mainly so I can shamelessly plug my blog as well as my faviorite blogs. Some are about motorcycles, some are not, but I get a great amount of knowledge, entertainment, and general time wasting from each. So here are a few blogs I read and why I read them:

  • The Kneeslider
    I am a tech guy and motorcycle gadgets are the focus of The Kneeslider’s blog.

  • Seth Godwin’s Blog
    Seth has a good way of turning your preconcieved marketing notions on their ear.

  • BoingBoing
    There is no focus, which makes it so much fun. It reminds me of Netscape’s old “What’s Cool” except these guys actually have cool stuff.

  • BluePoof Bikes
    Not only is she my “neighbor” but I can’t get enough of girls on dirtbikes . . .

  • So tell your friends about blogging, especially your motorcycle friends. Of course don’t forget to mention the aggregator where you can find more motorcycle bloggers than you can imagine. And if you don’t have a blog yet . . . Why not? You can set them up for free and other than a few minutes of your time it is pretty easy to maintain.

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    Motorcycle Obsessions

    By James - 5/4/2005

    I was listening to CarTalk this weekend and a woman called in about the amount of time is OK to leave bird poop on the car paint. This subject hit close to home for me since I park my bike under a tree and because this morning I went out and saw three direct hits on my tank.

    The car talk guys basically said that you should clean it off once you have a chance. If you have to worry about it every 5 minutes then you are too obsessed with your car. As bikers we have a little more attachment to our vehicles. Unless you ride a rat bike, we all care about looks about as much as the functionality of the bike. A blemish on our motorcycle is a blemish on our image. Nobody wants to ride an ugly bike. So we usually pamper our motorcycles a little more than most car owners.

    A few months ago I let a big turd (could be squirrel or bird) sit on my bike for about 4 days. It bothered me the whole time but I was so busy that a good washing was out of the question. Once I eventually washed it off and then waxed it I could still see the inconsitancies in my clearcoat where the impact was. I don’t know much about the chemistry of avian defacation but I guess it eats away at the paint. On a single color paint it is harder to see where the poop eats away at the paint but on a custom paint job you can see it easier as the light shines differently off of the different colors. Luckily after another wash and wax or two I couldn’t tell it was ever there.

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    Ride to Work Day

    By James - 4/23/2005

    A while back I came across a promotion for Ride to Work Day but haden’t thought about it until today. I saw a sign for Earth Day, which I guess was yesterday, and thought about why we feel the need to assign “days” to certain subjects. I get Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, even Barry Bonds Day down at Pac Bell Park. But there are some things, like motorcycle or environmental awareness, that a single day out of 365 will not help.

    Even if everybody who has a motorcycle commutes to work on Ride to Work Day, I wouldn’t ride that day. This is for two reasons. The first is spite. If the treehuggers think that my environmental awareness is so low that they need to beat me over the head with it I will spend Earth Day ruining the Earth. I don’t need someone telling me when I need to do this or that. I am a big boy who is actively engaged in my environment every day. It is one of the reasons I ride a motorcycle.

    The second reason I would not ride to work on Ride to Work Day is that I am familiar with how the weekend motorcyclists ride. They are borderline dangerous when traffic is light, I would hate to see them when it is stop and go and I am splitting lanes. That would be a mess.

    So I encourage you to ride to work any day, especially now that the weather is getting nicer. But do it because you enjoy it or it makes your life easier or it makes you more productive, not because someone tells you you should for some “cause".

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    Waving to bikes, waving to cars

    By James - 4/11/2005

    I was out driving home from a hike with the dog and had the windows down, both me and the dog were cooling down on a warm and sunny spring day. She had her head out the window and I was wishing I could do the same but for the wellbeing of both of us I just dangled my left arm out. Rumbling down the road towards me were two cruisers and as they got close I instinctually waved. As soon as I did it alarm bells went off in my head. “You are driving a Civic, dummy!” my inner voice yelled.

    I was reading a survey, You Are What You Ride, about motorcycle behaviors commissioned by an insurance company. There is a section in there about waving to other riders. Now I know this gets a lot of discussion about who waves to who, everybody seems to feel left out by another group of riders. I don’t really feel like writing about that. I want to talk about waving to cars.

    Back to the two bikers I waved to from my car; they didn’t wave back. Maybe they didn’t see me, maybe they don’t wave to cars, or maybe they just don’t wave to anybody. I wondered how I would have reacted if I was on that motorcycle. I have never had a car do the oncoming-wave-thing to me. But I do know I have waved to cars. I do it as an an acknowlegement for a good deed rather than a “what’s up". I can’t always wave when someone does something good, because it is more important at the time to work the clutch, but I try to reinforce good cager behavior when I can.

    A lot of us make sure cars know when they make a mistake, but how many of us acknowledge a car moving over for us or yeilding the right of way? We have a hard enough time converting cagers to biker-friendly cagers, which makes it doubly important to keep those biker-friendly drivers happy with bikers. We should make these drivers feel like their actions are not in vain and, at least for a moment, that they are a friend of the biker family.

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    Motorcycle Blogs

    By James - 3/29/2005

    As I was getting blown from side to side in my lane on my commute home I was thinking about what makes a good motorcycle blog.

    I have been reading blogs for over a year now, and blogging for about 4 months. Usually I am an early adopter of technology trends but I have to admit, I was late to this party. I was having too much fun in the motorcycle forums. The first blogs I read were about web design and technology. Those writers were used to posting to the web and were comfortable airing their views in cyberspace. As blogging has become more accessable and an accepted form of communication for regular users, more and more people have started to blog. Maybe it is because I am a dog person, but once I saw there were cat blogs, I knew blogging had gone mainstream.

    I was a lurker on a couple motorcycle blogs for a while, Bluepoof Bikes and Twisting Asphalt, both fellow Golden State bloggers. Almost immediately I caught the bug and started setting up my own blog. It soon snowballed into more than a blog site and now includes articles from expert contributers and a blog aggregator. As I have collected the feeds from a few dozen blogs focused more or less on motorcycling, I have noticed patterns emerge. You can’t pidgeonhole all the motorcycle blogs I read but most can be lumped into one of three distinct categories.

    First you have news reporting blogs. This is the model that has lifted blogging to a household word. They will pick up a story or technology innovation and write an editorial about it. What follows is generally an online discussion and the occasional flame war.

    Then you have the blogs I call “everyday-ers". These writers chronicle their day to day activities, rides, general maintenence, kind of like a public diary. The best are the ones that serve as a warning to others of what not to do.

    The last are what I call “storytellers". These writers, and I would put myself in this category more than the others, take motorcycle events in their life and relate it to society or how it changed their lives.

    Keep an eye on the the motorcycle blogs for posts sure to interest anybody. And if you are a blog lurker, take a second to comment. We like to know that SOMEONE is reading our stuff and we always respect a fellow biker’s perspective.

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    A bike is like a horse of course of course . . .

    By James - 3/22/2005

    My dad told me when I was learning to ride (horses not motorcycles) that if you are around horses long enough, they will eventually buck you, step on you, bite you, kick you, and you will step in manure. At least I haven’t been kicked or bit yet. That is just what it means to ride horses.

    Well, if you ride motorcycles long enough there are a few things every rider experiences. There are the really good things like the feel of the wind or getting way over on a turn; they are the reasons why we all ride. But if you are around motorcycles long enough, there are some bad things that will happen.

    You will eventually get caught in bad weather. Knowing when to pull over is key. Don’t ride beyond your limits and try to plan for the worst. It only takes getting caught in a hailstorm unprepared once to “get it".

    You will eventually get hit by flying debris. I have had pebbles hit my kneecap, shin, and ricochet off my nipple. Even through a layer of leather and cotton, it stung like nothing I felt before. Full face helmets help and well made clothes will minimize the pain. And watch out for lit cigarette butts. They rarely hurt on impact. Their burn sneaks up on you.

    You will eventually forget to put down or pick up your kickstand. Rarely do new riders forget this step. It happens when you are preoccupied and not focusing on your pre- or post-ride routine. There is nothing more embarrassing than leaning your bike over and it just keeps going. Except for pulling out of the parking lot, catching your kickstand and highsiding. Your buddies will be talking about that in your eulogy.

    You will eventually put your bike down. There won’t be other cars or bikes around. You will hit gravel or oil or something slippery and you will be on the ground before you know what happened. You can however take precautions to protect yourself in case of a fall. Wear a helmet, thick jacket and durable pants to save your skin.

    Cars don’t fall over. Cars protect you from the weather and pebbles. There are reasons why we ride and things we have to put up with because we do.

    That is just what it means to ride motorcycles.

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    Spring is here

    By James - 3/10/2005

    I hope I don’t jinx my riding season proclaiming that.

    My pre-commute ritual involves watching the weather report and donning the appropriate riding gear. For the last 5 or 6 months, the weather man has told me it is going to be cold, wet or both. Today was different. Temps in the mid 50’s and not a cloud in the sky. Highs around 75 for the office with an offshore flow. No need for my windproof layer, so I left my rain pants and half-mask at home.

    It took a minute for me to get used to the wind again. I had spent all winter adjusting my gear so the wind and rain would stay out that now it felt awkward to be out there again. My chin haden’t felt the wind in ages, hiding behind a layer of neoprene that kept it warm.

    Here are some other signs that spring is here, I don’t care what that groundhog says:

  • I haven’t turned my highbeam down all week. It is usually sunny enough in the morning to have it on and not annoy the cagers but around quitting time I usually have to turn it down in the winter. I haven’t touched the switch since last week; Wednesday or Thursday.
  • The dog is shedding. I brushed her at the park two nights ago. The brush was full of hair so it cleaned it and brushed again. I got three full brushes of hair off that dog. I could have gotten 5 or 6 but I was sick of brushing.
  • It was warm enough to wash my bike last week. When it is cold and windy, it does not only make washing my bike hard but freezes my fingers. By the time I am done with all that cold, wind and water in the winter, I need to thaw out.
  • Feel free to add your signs that spring is here, or even your signs that spring hasn’t made it to your location yet. . .

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    Riding fast

    By James - 3/8/2005

    My co-workers think I ride fast. I do, but if you listened to them you would think I was jumping cars on the freeway and sparking my pegs on every turn. (The pegs are aluminum but they insist . . .) At first I figured they were just joking around but I have sensed, on occasion, a kernal of fear behind the laughter. I have been pondering this for a few days and I think it comes from the differences between bikers and cagers.

    Fast is a relative term and depends on road conditions, traffic and mood, paticularly mine. When traffic is unrestricted I am usually the slowest person on the road, puttering at the posted speed limit, 65mph, in the second lane from the right. The majority of the cars are going in excess of 15mph faster than me. But in the San Francisco Bay Area that is a rare ride. Generally traffic is congested and I am splitting lanes. And this is where the difference in perception comes in. As I ride the lane dividers at 20mph, passing people sitting in their cars, I think that I am going slow; the speed limit is 65mph and if these people weren’t here I would be hauling. But as I pass the people sitting in their cars they think I am going fast, since they are at a standstill.

    Invisibility is another aspect to motorcycling that adds to this perception of speed. It is truly amazing the number of people who don’t realize I am behind them. I wonder if it is my high-beam or my loud pipes that they don’t notice. Only when there is an opening and I pass them do they notice me. I figure the brain has such a hard time explaining to itself how they missed such a conspicuous vehicle as mine it rationalizes that I must have been speeding.

    Of course motorcycles have the performance capabilities to go really fast, and the designers make the bikes look like they are going fast even when on their sidestand. But the general perception from cagers is that all bikes go fast and it is not always correct. I go slow intentionally so people can get a peek at my bike. It looks too good to only see it as a blur.

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    How Does it Feel to Ride on a Motorcycle?

    By James - 2/21/2005

    Call me a techie geek but my server logs are a daily source of wonder for me. I think about the people who typed them in and if my site was of any help to them. I ponder if the person who typed “K75″ in Google and then clicked on my site was amused or shocked by the story of the guy on the BMW K75 hitting a deer. I wonder if the person who typed in “125cc ninja bikes” found my article on starter bikes helpful. But today someone came to my site after searching the internet for “how does it feel to ride on a motorcycle?“. I wondered if I helped to answer their question.

    I tried to think of a metaphor for riding but none were appropriate. I can talk about how to ride a motorcycle and I can talk about what you need to ride a motorcycle but how does it feel to ride on a motorcycle is a question that only experience can answer. All I can say is that sometimes it is the best and sometimes it is the worst. It is alternating fun and scary. It is relaxing yet keeps you on your toes. It is a contradiction that most people see as crazy but you will never realize the benefits unless you throw a leg over and roll back the throttle.

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    How to Steal a Motorcycle

    By James - 2/13/2005

    I read my website logs almost daily. It tells me how may pages were requested, who is reading my blog (their IP) and which articles are the most popular. But these are all warm ups for I really care about. The “headliner” in my opinion is the “Search Query Report". When you enter in a search in Google or Yahoo and then click through to my site, the server logs the words you entered I then go through the logs and see what people are searching for. I see a lot of queries on “motorcycle accidents” and “motorcycle cold weather” but today one caught my attention. It was not that a lot of people search for it, but the reasons behind the search that worried me. The lone query, second from the bottom read:

    how to steal a viper motorcycle alarm

    Someone typed this into Yahoo and expected to find an answer. If I thought it would do any good I would report their IP adress to the authorities. Keep an eye on your bike or park it in a safe location. If you are looking for some extra security for your ride, take a look at my advice, How and When to Lock your Motorcycle.

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    Bending the Laws

    By James - 2/7/2005

    Forty Years on Two Wheels has an interesting post about the future of transportation that got me thinking. What is the purpose of a law if law enforcers allows people break them? I have never understood why not raise the fine for speeding to $100,000.00 or throw them in jail? If the police want to stop people from speeding, surely that would do it. It would be a life changing event if you were caught.

    I think the fines are more of a revenue source than a actual deterent. Excessive speed accounts for most auto fatalities and we have the means to stop it if we wanted to. But convienence outweighs the grim realities and as motorcyclists we are on the front lines of this.

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    Heads Up Display for Motorcyclists Gives me a Headache

    By James - 2/2/2005

    I just read Heads Up Display for Motorcyclists over at BikerNewsOnline and got excited about the advancement. But then I got to thinking . . . Can people (can I) focus on a visor when it is only 3 inches from your eye? I just did an experiment and I wrote “Hello World” on a Post-it and put it on my visor. I put on the helmet and I couldn’t read it. It was too close. Anybody know the workaround for this other than moving the visor out to 6 inches?

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    The Motorcycle Disease

    By James - 1/29/2005

    Carolyn at Blueproof calls it a sickness. I just didn’t know how much I missed riding, really riding, until today. Now I ride every day, but that is commuting, and that is not really riding. But today I have errands to run, things I put off last weekend to go riding. While out I saw so many bikes. It is only the second sunny Saturday of the year and everyone was out enjoying it. They were everywhere. A pack of sport riders trying to tame their throttle hand for city streets. A lone full-dresser rumbling up to the stoplight. I was missing riding, really riding.

    I saw a Harley on the side of the freeway on-ramp, the rider standing behind it talking on his cellphone. I assumed he needed assistance and pulled over, a seemingly unselfish act to help out a fellow rider. But in reality I just wanted to be around a bike. I wanted to use the words only used when talking about motorcycles. I wanted to smell gasoline and get dirty. And maybe I could have been helpful but probably not. My Civic Hybrid has a really crappy tool set and the Leatherman I carry in the glove compartment is not really suited for automotive applications. I just wanted to talk ‘cycle. All this soon became moot. Before I came to a complete stop he waved me on. There was nothing wrong with his bike, he just had to take a call. I told myself I was glad that his bike was ok but I was a little dissapointed.

    I got the fever.

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    The Last Zebra Theory

    By James - 1/26/2005

    I was reading a motorcycle blog about the future, Future transportation - looks like today, and it got me thinking about the past. Not just 100 years back like in the blog, but millions of years of evolution.

    I have a close call about once a week. Combine potentially dangerous lane splitting with the second worse commute in the nation and it is only time before someone does something stupid, and that includes me. When that happens adrenaline gets released and my heart starts thumping. As soon as I am out of the immediate danger, I feel I need to go faster, which is the exact opposite of what I should do. But excessive speed is a widespread problem among riders and drivers alike. What is this need to risk your life for a few extra minutes?

    I equate it to my Last Zebra Theory. As soon as a zebra sees a lion start the chase the zebra will start to run. Now while it is nice if the zebra can outrun the lion, the mere fact there are lions proves that this is not always possible. But the zebra do not need to outrun the lion. They must outrun the last zebra. I think that as soon as we get up to speed and get around other vehicles, our heard mentality kicks in. We want to put a buffer between us and the chasing lion. It may not be rational or conscious, but instincts rarely are.

    We have reached the point in our technology where going faster is more dangerous, not safer as it has been for 4.5 million years. Now a little more than 100 years is hardly enough time for this self preserving behavior to be reversed and propagated through the motorcycling population by natural selection, but the fact that you can understand it may lead to you slow down at those cruicial irrational moments.

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    Motorcycle BlogBar

    By James - 1/24/2005

    I found a good product for keeping track of and finding new motorcycle blogs. Another motorcycle blog, Two Wheel Rants, put it together and I must say, the BlogBar has a great logo. (Sorry for the shameless pat on the back)

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    Mount Tamalpias

    By James - 1/22/2005

    It is a sunny day today, one of the first since a handful of storms have pounded the Bay Area since Christmas. Even though I have some minor fixes to do to my bike, grocery shopping and have to get fitted for a tux, I blew it off and headed out to Marin County and a loop I have driven, but never ridden. I threw together my video equipment, dressed for a crisp weather and headed out.

    Through Berkeley and Richmond the sun was shining and a breeze was blowing off the bay. As soon as I descended from the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge the temperature dropped by ten degrees and I rode into the fog. It didn’t clear until I got to the base of Mount Tam, where I found my first problem. I had planned to ride Highway 1 along the cliffs to just before Stinson where I turn up Mount Tamalpias and ride the twisties of Panoramic Highway to the summit and then back to Highway 101 and back to the East Bay. But the portion of Hwy 1 I wanted to ride was closed, I am assuming from storm damage. My loop now became a round trip. Even at 11am there was a considerable amount of traffic until I pulled off of Panoramic Hwy and rode to the summit. I guess everyone in the Bay Area wanted to take advantage of the good weather.

    I took video of it, and even though the batteries ran out halfway down the mountain, I got some good footage. Take a look . . .

    Map of the area.

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    SuperDuke

    By James - 1/21/2005

    I encourage you to watch KTM’s video touting it’s 990 Super Duke, which I found on Twisting Asphalt. It gets you yearning for the road, thats for sure. But it gets me wondering about their marketing campaign. It is hip, it is cool, but who is this ad targeted to? The guy is weaving in and out of traffic in an music video style. I don’t know the pricing of bike yet but I bet it is above what most 18-24 year olds can afford. And even if they can, the bike style is not the kind that most young riders are attracted to. It looks like a naked sport bike with dual sport styling. And with all the increased popularity of motorcycles and disposable income coming from the retiring baby boomers, I would think that they would be the low hanging fruit they would target. Even it’s website is pretty cutting edge, all in Flash with a very unconventional design. I was close to abandoning the site a couple times and I work in web development. Does that mean I am old?

    Only time will tell how well the Super Duke does but the CBRs and GSX-Rs sell themselves to young riders, KTM should spend their marketing dollars elsewhere.

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    “Antithesis to riding on two wheels”

    By James -

    In the Scene has a recent post about a commercial that struck me as odd. I reacted the same way when I saw it . . .

    Yesterday, while watching Green Bay collapse once again, I saw an add for a new Lexus (at least I think it was a Lexus, I wasn’t really paying much attention). In this ad, the “selling point” was a built-in air purifier that “kept out allergens, smells and other pollutants". The driver is seen driving through a warehouse of plants (with token pollens adrift in the air), smiling and carefree as his Lexus-purified air kept him dust free.

    And this got me thinking… this was not simply an ad for a “cage", but an ad that promoted as positive the complete antithesis to riding on two wheels. Forget the “air in your face” argument, this was saying in fact that “not only do you not have the air in your face, but you are in a filtered box that makes your air separate from the air out there". Indeed, the metaphorical “cage", while focusing on restrictive and alienating symbolism, conjurs up at least open bars with which the prisoner can reach through to have minimal contact with the landscape. Here, however, the bars of the old “cage” have been eagerly replaced with solid walls, completing the captive alienation of the driver.

    And this was the “selling point"!?

    This mentality of going through your day without the environment impacting you is much the same reason I like my leathers better than my rain jacket. It is also the mentality that distiguishes me from people who prefer to drive. I feel stimulated when I am riding and cold, or I try to figure out whether the smell is the bread factory or a burnt clutch. The fact is I get bored in a car. You can shut up, tune out and let the whole world pass you by. You don’t have to pay attention. I would say a majority of people today would say that is a plus.

    I spent a summer in New Zeland a few years ago playing rugby. In the spirit of making me feel comfortable, some of my teammates thought that introducing me to the only other Americans in our town, a couple of Mormon missionaries would be a good idea. I really was indifferent about the idea, I had lived in America, and was going to return. I frankly didn’t cross the equator to meet more Americans. But the event was more profound than I would have thought, as my teammates decided that it would be good for me. So we met at the clubhouse, it was the first time I entered the club and hadn’t seen beer pitchers out. The conversation was bland, and I just wanted to get back to New Zealand, but reading In the Scene’s post reminded me of something one of the missionaries said.

    “I was trying to get sent to Salt Lake City, but at least I didn’t have to learn a different language.”

    I glossed over the comment years ago when it was uttered but it struck me as the same mentality of the car commercial. In his defense he probably thought that he could do his best work in Salt Lake and that learning a new language might hinder him from spreading his message. But there are few people who won’t benefit from being yanked out of their comfort zone and experiencing the world. My personality drives me to go to new places, learn different customs, and do things the hard way because it challenges me. That is why I bike. Sure there is a risk, you could smell something bad, a pebble could hit you or worse, but the personal rewards and crazy experiences far outweigh it.

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    Vegan Motorcyclists

    By James - 1/20/2005

    My company hired a writer recently and I took him to the local mexican restaurant to get a burrito. We started talking about motorcycles and how he wants to start riding again, especially for his commute. It turns out he lives two freeway exits away from me in Oakland. My commute is about 22 miles and half of it is through traffic. One of the benefits of California’s lane splitting rules is that it cuts my commute in half. So we arrive and I order my burrito, a super, carne asada, with guacamole, rice, spicy salsa, no beans, no sour cream. He orders a vegan burrito, rice, guacamole, salsa and beans. I have no problems with people who choose to be vegan, more carne asada for me, but I have been thinking about it on my ride. Being a vegan motorcyclist means no leather. Now I love my textile rain jacket, but the thing has no personality. My leather jacket has morphed to fit my body. It has nicks and scuffs and a way you have to bring the zippers together so it doesn’t jam. It is a lot warmer and most important, it looks a lot better.

    I have a fondness for things that flex and bend with me through my daily routine. My textile jacket just blasts through the environment without being affected by anything it encounters. While that is handy in the most extreme cases, leather jackets seem to weather your ride along with you. It is like you are in it together.

    If you want to learn more about Vegan Motorcycling, visit the Vegan Motorcyclist, but I am happy with my leathers.

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    Bike Locks and when to Lock your Motorcycle

    By James - 1/13/2005

    I saw this post about how the Parisians are changing the way motorcycle parking is designed. It is the details that count. Until they start making spaces like that here in San Francisco, I have to make sure my bike is safe while I am away having fun.

    Just about all bikes can be picked up and stolen with minimal effort. The technology of stealing bikes hasn’t changed since their invention. A few guys and a van will have your bike on its way to a chop shop in a short minute. But there are some things you can do to make it as hard as possible for the crooks.

    Most bikes come with fork locks, which act like locking a steering wheel on a car. If someone wanted to steal it, they could only push it in circles. The downside to this method of securing your motorcycle is that the bike can be picked up and moved.

    The next level in motorcycle security is a bike lock. These can be attached to different parts of the bike and prevent the bike from moving. There are two kinds of bike locks. Disc Brake LockThe first, and smallest are disc locks. They attach to your disc brake rotor and prevent the bike from being rolled away. But you are still at risk of someone lifting the bike and putting it in a truck or van. A simple padlock from a hardware store will work, although they can be cut, hacked or hammered off, so a specially designed disk lock is recommended.

    Kryptonite Fahgettaboutit Hex ChainThe second kind of lock is a chain lock. Not all of these locks are made of chains, some are woven steel, and some are quite unconventional, but they all are a long flexible metal “rope” that you can put around a signpost, parking meter, drainage grate or other fixed object. Thread the other end through the bike’s frame, it is the strongest piece of the bike and therefore hardest to cut through. Get one with fabric around the metal so you protect your paint, chrome and powdercoat. The downside to these is that they are heavier, take up more space and are less “portable".

    One note: There are a few documented cases of people opening Disc and U- Locks with a Bic pen. I have not been able to reproduce these results with my locks.

    The third level of protection for your motorcycle is an alarm. These active systems are triggered by movement and wake up the dead with the noise they make. Insurance companies give you a discount if you have an alarm installed and after 3-5 years can pay for themselves.

    Use common sense when parking your bike. Park in well lit areas, the more foot traffic the better. You can usually park a motorcycle pretty close to your destination, so take advantage of this to keep an eye on your scooter. Parking garages are cheap and can be worth the peace of mind they give you when out on the town. Covering your bike also reduces the likelihood it will be stolen. Always use the fork locks and try to lock your bike to another bike at the very least, if not a fixed object. Just make sure you are leaving at the same time as the bike you lock it to!

    Reccommended Locks and Alarms

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    Product Review: Timberland Steel Toe Boots

    By James - 1/10/2005

    Timberland PRO - Direct Attach 6" Steel Toe (After Dark Full-Grain Leather) - Men'sTimberland PRO - Direct Attach 6″ Steel Toe
    I got these boots shortly after I got my Aerostich Jacket and Pants. There is no point having a waterproof suit without waterproof boots and I just didn’t feel safe riding in my Wellingtons. Five years later and they are still as waterproof as ever and more comfortable. I got them at Sears, and chose them by default. I knew I wanted above-the-ankle boots, that had a steel or hardened plastic toe, were waterproof, oh, and they had to be black. Sears had only one boot that fit my needs. It was in my size, felt good, and the price was half or less than any specially designed motorcycle boot with the same features. It was a plus that they were insulated with Thinsulate, something that I have been glad to have many a rainy ride.
    Five years later and the boots are still keeping my feet dry.

    They are a little more clunky than my other shoes, mainly from their over-engineered constuction. Do not wear these on the plane, the steel toe and thick sole will raise much suspicion but this is a good thing. The construction is the reason why I did not have to throw them away two months after I purchased them.

    I learned my lesson about drinking and riding my bike. I had two pints with dinner and chatted with friends for a while before mounting my bike. Drivers education always told me allow 1 hour for each drink before driving and it had been about two hours since I recieved my first beer, give or take a few minutes. I took an unfamiliar turn at 45mph when I should have been going 25. I hit the curb, bounced up in the air and slammed back to the ground; sideways. By the time I realized I had crashed, the bike and I were coming to a stop. I remeber thinking that the sparks coming from metal rubbing concrete were a nice touch, it made the crash more dramatic. I was still in the perfect riding position, although on it’s side and my foot was pinned underneath it. The bike, a Kawasaki Vulcan 500LTD, although not that heavy was tough to get out from under since I could not use that leg for leverage. Finally I wiggled my foot out from under it, righted the bike and checked for damage and assesed it’s ride-ability. I was able to ride it home, although I had to replace virtually the whole right side.

    I was lucky to have had my boots that night. Had the bike landed on any soft shoe, I would have had significant damage to my foot and leg. The steel toe and hardened heel along with thich sole kept the weight of me and the bike from crushing my foot. Although scraped up, the boot was still presentable, waterproof and kept it’s shape. A little boot polish and it was hard to tell it had been dragged under a bike for about 40 feet. The same can’t be said for my jeans or leather jacket. Both were damaged beyond repair. About a year later I hit some oil while in a turn and landed on my left side. Now my right boot had a matching scuffed-up left boot.

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    Not So Rain Gear

    By James - 1/7/2005

    The morning after touting the praises of my new H-D “waterproof” boots, they sprung a leak. Both of them. On the inside seam by your ankle. It was not much of a leak, but the moisture is obvious. Now it was one mother of a storm this morning. High winds and pouring rain harder than they had experienced in the 2 weeks I have had them. I have some spray on waterproofing that I will apply to the seams and hopefully that will do the trick.

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    Rain Gear

    By James - 1/6/2005

    With all the rain we have been having I want to write a review of some rain gear I got for myself for Christmas and some that I have had for years.
    Harley-Davidson Pecos (Men's)
    Harley Davidson “Pecos” Boots
    It has rained hard for two of my commutes and ben misty and wet for a few others and they have kept my socks dry. The lining provides some insulation and with just a tube sock underneath my feet have stayed warm down to mid-30 degree weather. The soles are grippy but I could do without the bright orange tread on the bottom. The heel tapers as it aproaches the ground, and I was aprehensive that I might sprain my ankle or not feel stable when I put my feet down at stops but have been pleased with their stability. They are less bulky than my Timberland rain boots so they are more comfortable when riding. They are a little stiff and I wouldn’t want to walk more than a couple blocks in them, but I am still breaking them in; ask me how they are in a year.

    My parents gave me my Aerostich Darien Jacket and Pants when I got my motorcycle 5 years ago. It has kept me dry in wet weather, warm in windy weather and visible in the dark. The biggest advantage of the suit is that it allows you to concentrate on the road, not on being cold or wet. It is still as waterproof as the day I got it, although it is more comfortable after being broken in. It is the best, but be prepared to pay for it. In my opinion, the Darrien Jacket and Pants are worth it and should last a lifetime.

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    How not to ride a motorcycle

    By James - 12/31/2004

    I am always looking for good video to put on the site and saw this video of people doing stoppies and wheelies and crashing. That part was not all that unusual, but what puzzled me was how upset the guy on the R1 was about flipping his bike about 5 times. It is the third segment, I think, and the guy appears to survived relatively unscathed but the bike is pretty close to totaled. He gets up and tosses his helmet and walks to a wall and pouts/starts to cry.

    On one hand I understand. I get on my bike almost everyday not expecting to crash. Sometimes I wear clogs instead of proper boots and I once rode in just a t-shirt and jeans (a pebble hit me square in the nipple and I have never tried it again). But on the other hand if you are getting up on one wheel you have to know it is just a matter of time before you are going to crash. And it is a good chance it will cost you a couple grand minimum. You should be ready for it. I guess if everybody thought of the risks before they got up nobody would ever get out of bed.

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    Motorcycle Rationalizations

    By James - 12/30/2004

    Yesterday’s post got me thinking about rationalizations. It made me think of the scene from the Big Chill,

    Michael: I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.
    Sam Weber: Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex.
    Michael: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?
    From IMDb

    I wonder how many people rationalized their way onto a motorcycle. Lets face it, it is a big step to drive down the road with other drivers for the first time. A motorcycle is more exposed to the elements, less metal to protect you from flying debris or even worse other drivers. You have to really try to get a car to tip over, scratching the paint and shattering the side mirrors, something that is a constant danger to a motorscooter. And just wait for the person in front of you to ash out their window while you are following on your bike. A real pleasure. An alien from a different planet, brand new on Earth, would surely conclude that motorcycles are an inferior mode of transportation.

    For most of us that ride, we know this not to be the case. Whether it be the wind in your face, the sparkle of polished chrome, the pull when you throttle back or the many convienences that motorcycling affords we all get something profound, more or less, from riding. So how did we get there?

    I stood in front of my mom in the living room as she expressed her disdain between tears and sobs of my recent decision to buy a motorcycle. She had gone through the same thing with my dad years earlier when he started to ride again and was going through it one more time with me. She had heard all of the rationalizations before and rides with my dad but still was not convinced I should be riding. I knew only time would assure her that I was a safe rider, but she played the trump card, “It is not you I am afraid of, it is all the other whackos out there". There really is no comeback to that question. So I filed it under “Good To Know” and went and got a 2 year old 1997 Kawasaki Vulcan 500LTD.

    But how did I rationalize that a motorcycle would be better than my very versatile, extremely reliable 4x4 pick-up? This is where all bikers differ. We all have our own reasons. Some valid, others built on shaky falsehoods and lots in the middle. Mine is the ever-present desire to do things differently and reap the benefits. It is an exercise for my mind. During my commute I need to figure out what the drivers are thinking, by observing their behavior and predicting what they will do in the future. It is an exercise in coordination. Splitting lanes in the rain hones your clutch and throttle skills while you try to avoid hitting mirrors and stay off of the slippery cat’s eyes. It is an exercise in self control. Sure I could cruise around at 90 mph all the time, and I could flip off all the cars that cut me off but being an ambassador to the culture, which all of us who ride are, we need to show that we are above that. Motorcycles for me, I know this may sound corny, relax my soul. It satisfys the three aspects of my life, the spiritual, the mental, and the physical. That is why I bike.

    So I will have to agree with the alien from another planet and say motorcycles are inferior modes of transportation, but the people who ride them should strive to be superior forms of human beings.

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    Riding in the rain and convienence

    By James - 12/29/2004

    It had started to drizzle as I walked from my cubicle to my bike through the parking lot. The planes seem to fly lower than usual in bad weather. Working so close to the airport you would think I would just tune them out. I had just left my cubicle and was donning my cold weather gear while my bike warmed up. I drove a couple blocks to the freeway on-ramp and let off the throttle as the car in front of me slowed to let a pedestrian cross the street. As I put my foot down to stop I hear the squeal of tires behind me. Usually in these moments time slows down and I run through my options and what I should to stay alive. I call it survival mode. But in this instance there was nowhere to go. I was too close to the car in front to get out of the way. Luckily the road veers right to get on the freeway and the Jeep Cherokee skidded to a stop next to me. Then he lays on the horn like it was not his fault. After all that the ped decides not to cross the street. I would jump back to the curb too.

    The whole way home I was thinking about the reasons people give for splitting lanes. One being so they don’t get rear ended by the airhead behind them. That is probably the most common one. Not that splitting lanes would have helped me in this situation. I probably would have hit the pedestrian. (I have almost hit jaywalkers while splitting on surface streets, which is why I tend to believe the rumor that it is illegal to do around town.) As I read people’s rational for splitting lanes I wonder why people are afraid to give the #1 reason anybody splits lanes. It is convenience. Splitting lanes is not safer than sitting in traffic. Both rely on people paying attention and I contest that for every rider that gets rear-ended, there are ten that get cut off while splitting lanes. I ride every day, through some of the most congested roads in the country. It is a rare commute I don’t split lanes. It has saved me from over two months just sitting in my car in the last 5 years. I will submit that in my case, and many more, the convenience of splitting lanes outshines the danger. It is the same reason cars haven’t been outlawed, even though they are #8 on the top ten causes of death. Their convenience outweighs the 50,000 fatalities a year.

    Motorcycling itself is not a dangerous activity, it is what happens if you crash that makes it dangerous. But for most the reward outweighs the risks but you must fully understand and be aware of them. Just don’t rationalize your way onto a motorcycle or you will find yourself belly down in the middle of the road after hitting a hard reality.

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    I drove my car yesterday

    By James - 12/22/2004

    For the first time in a long time I drove my car yesterday to work. It wasn’t because it is cold, nor because I am sick. I still ride in worse conditions, I just bundle up more. I drove because I figured the traffic would be light. And in the morning it was. But at night the traffic leading up to the Bay Bridge was as bad as ever and I couldn’t split lanes in the Civic. I figured that everybody would be on vacation. I just wanted to listen to the radio for once during my commute. Well, I got to listen to it a lot.

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    Why Do I Bike?

    By James - 12/21/2004

    Some people ask me why I ride a motorcycle and others are curious but too shy to ask. It is not something that can be conveyed through conversations at parties, nor to coworkers while waiting to send a fax. It is a lifestyle, a recreation and a religion. It inspires people to push themselves to the edge, while taking others far away. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you ask 10 riders why they bike you will get 10 different answers. You still won’t understand why they bike, until you do.

    I created this site out of frustration with the motorcycle sites out there. The forums where SPAM posts more than the users. The rants of elitists that care more about what you ride than how you ride. Sites where you have to pay to read a halfway decent article or links that have been dead for years left me unsatisfied.

    I don’t claim to be the best rider in the world or know all there is to know about motorcycles, but through your help posting in the forums, submitting articles, shooting videos and sending us your trip reports we can try to document why we bike, while helping out those just getting into motorcycling.

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