WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

Hatemail: Pissed off drivers

By James - 6/30/2006

I get hatemail. There are people who think that motorcycles should be banned because they are not held up to the same crash tests that cars are. Some think that the biggest vehicles rule the road and motorcyclists should just get out of the way. These people are idiots and I usually give them the consideration of my delete button. But this guy used the name of the “motorcycle community” in his “argument” and I would like to reply, and since the coward didn’t leave his email, I will respond here.

you are an a**hole. if you’re going to ride between cars you should be looking out for other people. not expecting people to look out for you. people like you gove(sic) the rest of the motorcycle community a bad name.
- mikeikem

I will ignore your opening statement, since it shows your gift for critical thought.

When I am spitting lanes, I am always watching for other people. I usually know what you are going to do before you do it. I see the woman, three cars up, hunting through her glovebox. I know she will drift into my lane as she overcompensates for leaning across the car. I see the executive, on his cellphone, who is trying to get over four lanes of traffic because he zoned out and missed his exit. I can’t say I have seen it all but I most days it is the same story, and it is always a sad story.

The problem is that 9 out of 10 drivers are not looking for motorcycles legally splitting lanes. They change lanes without checking their blind spots, and some of the ones that do check simply do not see motorcycles even though they are less than 5 feet from them. Many motorcyclists are hit when splitting lanes, but if we are riding in a safe and prudent manner, the cager is usually at fault.

Ironicly your rage and beligerent reation is typical of many cagers and is why motorists have reputations of being clueless and unfit to operate their vehicles. I could say something like “I hope to see you on the road” or assault your personal driving habits, but I think that the fear, anger, and fustration that you have to go through in your everyday commute is punishment enough. I will keep passing you, in the morning and on the way home.

My suggestion? If you can’t beat us, join us. Get on a motorcycle and leave all that anger behind. Life is too short to overheat.

For more info on splitting lanes:
Lane Splitting Articles


Mailbag: My Sportster is too much for me

By James - 6/29/2006

Brenda emailed me:

My Sportster is too much for me as a first bike. I really like the feel of the Yamaha VStar and the Kawasaki Vulcan, I am not so sure about the forward controls though, are they hard to get used to? I am going to go out on the sporty a few more times but I think I am going metric. I am driving myself crazy, I just want to ride and be happy!!

I started with the Vulcan 500LTD and then moved up to the V-Star 650 Classic. The Vulcan is much lighter and has less torque but does have a higher top speed with a 6th gear. I like the full fender design and V twin of the V-Star better than the “chopped” looks of the Vulcan with the small front fender and parallel twin but that is all preference. Both bikes have performed almost flawlessly. The Vulcan had an issue with a loose connection that would cut out the motor at random times. I replaced the battery connection for about $10 and it fixed the problem.

The larger front tire on the V-Star never feels “heavy” because of the center of gravity and with the higher weight feels more stable at highway speeds. I rode the Vulcan down to Cabo San Lucas from San Francisco and all the Harleys we passed could not believe that I was riding a 500cc bike. I couldn’t understand why you would need a bigger engine just to ride down to the beach. The V-Star has been just as reliable although it has never been out of the country. People always think it is a bigger bike than it is. I think that is because so much thought went into the styling. The Star has a bigger seat, but my butt still hurts on both after a while without the Airhawk Pad.

The forward controls should not be a problem. I switch back and forth all the time and there is no learning curve.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you are happy doing it. I hope this helps you make up your mind.


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.


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.

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.


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.


Mailbag: What is my motorcycle worth?

By James - 6/21/2006

I got this in an email:

I’m simply trying to find out about how much my 1987 1100 sporster is worth if I sell it. It’s in great shape

The answer as always is, “it depends". There are two places I look to find the value of my motorcycle before I sell it. The first is Kelley Blue Book. Their online Motorcycle Value Guide will ask you some simple questions about your bike and give you a value. The second place I like to look is in the classifieds. Look in the paper and online at places like eBay and Craigslist. You can usually find a make and model like yours. See what it sells for and price your accordingly.

I hope you get a good price for it. Good luck!


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?


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.


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.


Mailbag: Honda Rebel on the Open Road

By James -

“Teacher” wrote:

Hello all. I’m wondering if Rebels are built to travel some what long distances? I live in Chicago, an want to travel to Kankakee, which is about 60 miles from Chicago, all open road. Any tips for taking somewhat of a long trip?

The Rebel is not the one that will poop out first, you will. On long trips, you need to pull over when you are tired or thirsty, those are your most important cravings to pay attention to. You also need to rest your butt. Get off the bike and stand around for a while. 60 miles is not a long distance. You don’t need to do anything different for a trip that short. If you are traveling at highway speed I might recommend a wind shield or full face helmet. It will be over before you know it! Some of the other riders that visit here will also have their own tips for riding long distances. Guys, Chime in . . .

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