WhyBike Motorcycle Blog

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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