WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

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.


Mailbag: Lane-Splitting Blues

By James - 8/20/2005

After reading my Motorcycle Lane Splitting Safety article, a visitor, Josh from San Diego wanted to share an anecdote. . .

So today I got a ticket for basically splitting lanes. I live in San Diego and was getting off of the freeway and saw a motorcycle cop in the right lane of the off ramp. There’s a red light and everyone stops and I stop behind a truck, pull to the right (between the lanes) and creep up to the front of traffic. All of a sudden the motorcycle cop pulls up behind me and says to pull over at the next safe spot. He gives me a ticket for “unsafe passing on the right” which is Vehicle Code 21755. Now here’s 21755 as written on the DMV’s web site.

Pass on Right Safely - Vehicle Code 21755
The driver of a motor vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety. In no event shall such movement be made by driving off the paved or main-traveled portion of the roadway.

So what exactly did I do wrong? Nothing, of course. In my experiences so far cops have an agenda against sports bike riders. Now I’ve only been riding for about 4 or 5 months and I ride a 2004 Ninja 500R. I split lanes almost all of the time down here in SoCal. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Unfortunately California’s lane-splitting law is ambiguous and hard to prove that you were traveling in a “safe and prudent” manner. Obviously a cop’s word will always win in court so I guess there is no reason to fight it. The trouble with the lane splitting law is that the biker lobby is so afraid of losing the ability to lane split altogether that nobody wants to touch it. Most bikers will live with the ambiguity, careful to not cause a scene and pay our occasional fines quietly because we know that if we brought it before the people of California they would outlaw it. It is literally fitting that the lane splitting issue, like the action itself has so little margin of error.

It is no secret that cops rarely give out tickets to make the roads a safer place. Traffic tickets are a cash cow for the government and if they really cared about safety they would require a lot more training, fines would be tens of thousands of dollars, and they would strip you of your license on your second moving violation.

So what can you do? You could lay rubber a block long right in front of City Hall. You could do a 70mph wheelie through the police parking lot. But none of these things will change the law, just get you in more trouble; even if they made you feel better in the short term. All I can say is pay your fine, keep splitting, and educate your cager friends about lane-splitting. Make them understand why we do it and how it actually SAVES them from waiting in more traffic.

For more info on splitting lanes:
Lane Splitting Articles


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 . . .


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.

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. . .


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.


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