WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

Calling All Motorcycle Bloggers

By James - 1/31/2005

I am addicted to motorcycles. I ride when I can, and when I can’t I like to read about motorcycles. I like reading about “normal” riders and what goes on in their everyday life, it is a good break from work. I guess this same behavior explains why soap operas are so popular. But I can’t stand them, I would rather be riding.

Motor Plow, in a recent post, was surprised at the sense of community between motorcycle bloggers. While I work in the internet industry and had heard about the blog communities, I too was surprised at the welcomes I got when starting my blog. How does the saying go? “You meet the nicest people on motorcycle blogs".

I was getting tired of checking out 7 or so different sites to see if there were new posts. So I created a page that collects, filters out non motorcycle content, sorts and displays the latest posts of my favorite blogs. You Blogspot folks and your ATOM feeds drove me crazy! But I created a workaround and now you are displaying correctly. After searching the net for others the list grew to more than triple that. I think most, if not all of these blogs are in the US or Canada, so there is usually a new post once an hour between the time the East Coast gets up and the West Coast goes to bed. Maybe we can get some Alaska and Hawaii bloggers to extend that.

If anybody else would like their blog listed, or knows of other good ones, contact me and I will add it to the cachebot’s duties. Here are the ones I am monitoring:

WhyBike - mine of course
Twisting Asphalt - The first motorcycle blog I came across, you never forget your first . . .
Motorcycle-blog
Bikes in the Fast Lane
Alanf’s blog…
BluepoofBikes Motorcycle Adventures - a neighbor
In the Scene
Two Wheeled Rants - Home of the BlogBar, another great tool for keeping track of motorcycle blogs
HelmetHair
BikerNews
LoudBike
Uncaged Librarian
Ride
Motorcycle Misadventures
Hersey’s Blog
The Kneeslider
WebBikeWorld
CanyonChasers
Motor Plow
40 Years on 2 Wheels
HMan
Goon Blog - If you are sensative to harsh language, stay out, the goon tells it like it is
Nook Sac
1Down4Up - I liked “WhyBike” until I saw this blog’s name; good one
ClassicMC.com
BuzzWordEnabled

If for some reason you don’t want to be included in my motorcycle blog aggregator, just tell me and I will take you out. Happy reading, you probably have some catching up to do . . .

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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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Faces in Mirrors

By James - 1/25/2005

One of the most important aspects of splitting lanes is trying to predict what the cars are going to do. One thing that helps me is to look in the side mirror and figure out where the driver is focusing their attention. For some reason this morning the people were so compelling that instead of finding the next driver and making sure they were staying in their lane, I had to peak into the cage I was passing because the drivers were crazy. A side mirror is like a keyhole. Your veiw is restricted to a small area, usually the eyes, a bit of the forehead and the nose but that little area tells you volumes. I sometimes see a good looking girl and take a peek to see if they are really good looking or just have a good looking eyes and nose. Half the time I am right. Half the time I am very wrong.

This morning a woman was sobbing. The Bay Bridge commute is not THAT bad. The view of the puffy eyes and nose in the mirror was a little disturbing out of the context of the rest of the face. Another guy had his face all scrunched up, like when you pass a hog farm. I never figured out what was up with him. Then there was a guy shaving. I had heard stories but never seen it before. I still think talking on the cellphone is more distracting than shaving. While odd, this morning’s commute was relatively light.

For more info on splitting lanes:
Lane Splitting Articles

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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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Tips for Splitting Lanes

By James - 1/14/2005

90% of people in traffic are paying little attention. And that is the way I like it. For a lane splitter, the best thing a car can do is do nothing at all. Sure, I appreciate those other 9% of drivers that actually are paying attention and move aside for me, but occasionally you freak me out with your overzealous attempt to get out of my way. For those who actually steer into the median, so that I may have a half of a lane to pass, please don’t.


Splitting Lanes 101

A short video pointing out the dangers of splitting lanes.
And what about the last 1%? The third type of drivers in traffic are drivers who are paying attention, but don’t want you to pass them. They could have been cut off earlier, been chewed out at the office, or just need to get home and anybody who is not “waiting in line” like the rest of the drivers should be stopped. Most of these drivers are not homicidal and won’t open their doors, or turn into as you pass. They see you coming and slowly move over to block your path. If you get one of these drivers next to a big rig or two next to each other, you might have to wait a bit. The best thing to do is sit it out until there is space to pass and carry on. Hand gestures could turn a combustible situation into road rage and in those situations motorcyclists are at a disadvantage.

Here are some areas to be aware of when splitting lanes:

Take it from a scout: Be Prepared
They teach you in the Motorcycle Safety Course not to cover the brake when riding. That may be good advice for the open road but when you are threading the needle between goliath vehicles you need every bit of reaction time you can get. Covering the brake with your index and middle finger while gripping the throttle with the other three may save you a half second when you need to stop.

Caginess
Watch out for areas where the cagers get “cagey". This includes where freeways merge, on/off ramps, where traffic starts to slow down or pick up. Slow down in these areas, because it is inevitable that a car will cut you off.

Traffic Density
Traffic Density is how close together the cars are packed. Generally as speed increases, traffic density decreases, but not always. The reason this is important to riders who split lanes is the effect it has on the drivers of the cars. As traffic density increases, the more alert a driver has to be to change lanes. And an alert driver is more likely to see you.

Use the cars for safety
You are most likely to get “squeezed” when one car is in the blind spot of another. Try to wait until the two cars are abreast of each other, or wait until you can pass normally. Drivers are more aware of the cars around them and less likely to turn into you.

Mirrors
Most passenger cars, with the exception of low sports cars and jacked-up trucks, have mirrors that are at the same level as your mirrors and handlebars. Since they stick out further than any other part of the car they are usually the part that gets hit in a collision. Take note of mirrors as you approach, first for placement, and then look at the driver’s eyes. You can get a lot of information by looking at the driver through the mirror and can get valuable clues to what their intentions are.

Lane Speed Differential
The best scenario for splitting lanes is when the lanes you are splitting are going the same speed. If one lane is moving faster than another there will be a lot of drivers in the slower lane trying to get into the faster lane; usually right when you get to them. When the lanes are going the same speed there are two ways for the traffic to line up. Either the cars are driving abreast of each other or they are staggered. While it may be easier to pass while the cars are staggered, it is more dangerous, since the drivers may not know you are there and could change lanes. When they are abreast, the drivers will not change lanes into the car next to them.

Space
Cars with a lot of space in front of them are bad news. Best case is that they are not paying attention to the road and that is bad news for you. Worst case is they are waiting for a gap to change lanes and that is inevitably right when you are next to them. It is not over once you pass them. Watch out for cars changing into the open space in front of the slow car.

Trucks
Any articulated vehicle is cause to slow down when splitting lanes. When traveling in a straight line the rear end of a trailer has the tendency to bounce around from side to side, usually right when you are passing it. On corners it is can be trickier. Since the rear wheels will take a tighter track than the front ones in a turn, many big rig drivers compensate by shifting to the outside of their lane. This means that when on the outside of a truck, you will find what was plenty of room to pass can quickly turn into a tight predicament when nearing the cab. If you are passing on the inside of a turn, you will find that the space will increase once you pass the rear wheels of the trailer, but beware, if you have to stop and the truck is still moving, get away from the trailer because those rear wheels may come back and hit you.

Thin is in but fat is that
While skinny bikes are good for splitting lanes, a big cruiser with loud pipes helps to alert drivers ahead of you. Don’t rely on loud pipes though, many high price cars have excellent noise insulation.

For more info on splitting lanes:
Lane Splitting Articles

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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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Alexa Ranking

By James - 1/2/2005

I was just on another site that was boasting their Alexa ranking. I can’t really talk as I have only a small amount of traffic being that the site has been up about 2 weeks now, but isn’t boasting about your Alexa ranking like telling people how cool you are? Plus it is pretty easy it artificially inflate it. I just went to Alexa to get my rank. I just want tell everyone how cool I am and boast that I am the 2,492,132nd most popular site on the net.

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Rain is here, DivX is coming

By James - 1/1/2005

The rain has given me a lot of time to start new articles and polish the old ones but I look forward to the kind of weather where I can get some video of my favorite rides. Those on my wishlist are Highway 1 to Stinson, Morgan Territory Road, and Mount Tamalpias. I got the settings on Premiere to produce high quality video for pretty small files using the DivX codec. The trouble is not everybody has DivX and a lot of people don’t like installing extra stuff if they can avoid it. Well, rain is expected as far as the forcast shows, so by the time it stops hopefully more people will have DivX.

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