Friday, October 31, 2008

So far, so good!

Well, I just heard from my insurance agent. The results were, in his words, "nearly perfect" and I was being offered preferred rates for the upgraded life insurance policy.

That's the short story. I'll tell you more in a bit. Let this first part serve as a warning. This sort of relates to motorcycling. The title of the blog has the word "musings" in it. Here's some of that. If information on my personal health is more than you care or want to know, you may be excused now! See you for the next post. Of course, you'll always be wondering what you missed.

Part of what's required to successfully ride a motorcycle is being in reasonable physical shape. Despite the fact that riding is mostly mental, there's a certain precision of physical skill execution involved. Not to say that we need to be in perfect physical condition. How many riders would there be if only perfect physical specimens could ride? Harley Davidson released a statistic regarding the average age of their buyers. If I remember correctly, it was 47 years. There's bound to be some physical imperfections there, I'm sure!

Realistically speaking, then, riders need to be aware of those kinds of limitations and adjust accordingly. Whether it be sight, hearing, bodily weakness, and so on, these limits need to be heeded. On the plus side, I think having a passion for something like riding, and teaching riders in my case, can help keep us healthier. Is it the passion itself that makes us better off? Or is it the subconscious desire to keep healthy enough to enjoy our passion?

Bear with me. I'll get to the meat of the matter pretty soon. It's a rainy morning. I have a hot cup of coffee in hand and I'm not really in any sort of hurry to get anywhere with any speed.

Riding means that there's a certain level of risk acceptance. That's a whole discussion by itself and I'm not going to conduct it right here. No matter how good my skills, there's still a chance I could get killed on a bike. I try really hard to avoid that possibility. Still, though, it's one of a hundred things that could end my earthly existence. Which brings me to the point. I know, finally.

I've seen too many wonderful ladies left destitute when their husbands die. Sometimes that's just the way it is because of the couple's financial situation. As long as I have the means to do so, I've determined that Katie won't be among that group. There's a few investments stashed away. I've maintained a life insurance policy. A couple of circumstances came up that made me stop and jump through a few hoops. I'm happy to announce that the jumping had a positive result.

My previous rates were locked in for 10 years. I recently received notice that the rates were about to start jumping up substantially in each upcoming year. However, if I cared to, I could submit new health information that might help lower the rates. What that boiled down to is that I've have to face that dreaded event called a physical exam!

It wasn't the actual event that put me off. From here on out in the post, I'm sharing from a guy's point of view. As a female, your results may vary. Statistics seem to show that the gals tend to be a bit smarter than us guys about these kind of things.

What worried me was what the results might tell me. I know so many guys with prescriptions for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type II diabetes, and so on. Many of them are suffering unpleasant and, shall we say, unmanly side effects. Having seen the five decade mark come and go, I considered myself relatively lucky. No prescriptions but nagging doubts.

Was the lack of drugs because I really didn't need them or because I just didn't go to the doctor? If I subjected myself to him, would he find I'd been deluding myself? A lot of conditions are supposedly symptomless. Was I afflicted but blissfully ignorant?

Oh, I've been to the doctor a few times over the years. I have a high pain threshold so it's pretty major when I go in. Let's see. There was the broken bone in my right leg. I didn't really think it was broken so I walked around on it for three weeks. When it didn't feel better I finally went in. I swear it's true. Ask Katie. Better yet, Clinton reads this blog. He could tell you.

I went in once for a puncture wound that went all the way through my left hand from palm to back. Fortunately I had some antiseptic ointment. So I put some on the end of the sharp object then pulled it back out of my hand. The next morning I went in for a tetanus shot and some antibiotics. Have to be prudent, you know?

Then there was the five broken bones in my right hand. I probably would have went on my own, but I really had no choice. I was unconscious when the medics loaded me into the ambulance and took me to emergency.

Yes, I've lived the rough life of a Warrior!

I feel compelled to put in a disclaimer. The smart thing to do is to get regular checkups. Things can be detected and corrected before they are bigger problems. That's the smart thing. I, however, am like a lot of other guys. We don't go like we should. It's worse for me because I have a pretty macho attitude. It ain't right but it's me. If you have to be brutal about it, then, you might say the smart thing is to not be like me.

Anyway. It was time to deal with the life insurance thing. Money is important. So is taking care of Katie. So I bit the bullet and went in for the physical. While I was at it, I decided to bump up the policy. Money doesn't go as far as it used to. Don't tell Katie, though. Incentive, you know?

The nurse drew blood. And some more. Blood pressure was checked. Height and weight. Poking and prodding. No lecture from the doctor. Was it the lack of a need or the look in my eyes? Soon they let me go. Now came the waiting.

You know how the mind takes things and chews on them? There was a lot of that going on. I could see pill bottles, or worse, poised to enter my life. Finally, the call came.

It was my agent from State Farm. He told me that the results were, in his words, nearly perfect. Blood pressure great. Cholesterol levels fine. Height and weight in agreement. No diabetic indications present. In fact, State Farm was offering me their best preferred rates and would lock those rates in for another 10 years.

Another bullet dodged. Life's good!

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Smugsy revisited.

My encounter with Smugsy really "bugged" me. Bad pun intended. To illustrate, I took a couple of photos of a Praying Mantis hanging out on the porch the other day. It's a bug, you know. A hungry one too, it seems, as it explores the cat's food dish. You notice the dish is empty. Our cat's 19 and a half years old. She doesn't do much anymore but she can still eat!

Several of you made some pretty astute comments about the situation. About Smugsy, not the cat. There's some aspects that seem relevant to commuting on a motorcycle. They deserve a little further exploration. This blog was started to encourage the use of a bike for everyday transportation. In the process we're going to bump up against preconceived notions. Everyone's got them, favorable or not. Everybody's also got a reason for riding. Those reasons are as varied as the riders themselves. As a motorcycle safety professional I personally disagree with some of those reasons. Particularly when someone rides a certain bike just to make up for something that's lacking in their psyche. News flash: If someone isn't enough without it, they'll never be enough with it.

When we look past the world of bikes it's apparent that this compensation happens in many other areas. Cars, trucks, houses, lifestyles, you name it. People who drive hybrid cars like the Prius are a cross section of humanity. Like riders, they are either really trying to do something responsible or they're looking for validation. In a lot of ways I don't actually care. They can do their thing and I'll do mine. I've got my reasons to ride and they're not really anybody else's business. Unfortunately, life isn't that simple for a rider.

Motorcycling, at least the recreational side of it, is getting more mainstream all the time. When the weather's nice, I see a lot of bikes that are ridden to work. I work a lot of weekends trying to add even more folks who ride to work. It's a great trend but we're still in the minority. There's organizations like the AMA, ABATE, and the MRF, that work to defend our right to ride. I applaud and benefit from their efforts. I guess my biggest question, though, is why do we have to defend our rights in the first place? Haven't you found yourself in a situation where a non-rider somehow puts you in a situation where you feel the need to defend your choice of transportation? It's not right but it's our reality. Why? Because the vast majority of voters and influencers are non-riders.

It's admittedly been a long way around but I'm getting back to Smugsy. It's people like him who have an affect on legislation. Good or bad. Whether I like it or not that's reality. That's one of the reasons I made my point and let it go. I didn't make it about bikes versus hybrids. It was about two travelers and the respect that should be shown each other. In this case, one traveler failed to play nice.

Maybe it's too subtle to follow. I don't know. My dealings with others are a fine line between standing up for myself as a motorcyclist and not crossing the line into antagonism. I'm certainly not going to let anyone walk all over me just because I don't want to alienate someone who could someday vote against motorcyclists. I'll never shy away from a battle. That battle, however, will be over how humans should treat each other and not about "car drivers" versus "riders". Am I writing this in such a way that you can follow my logic?

The incident with the Prius driver was an actual happening. What the guy said was pretty random. At least on the surface. Who really knows where people are coming from? It's like being pulled over by a cop. The cop seems rude and unreasonable. Sometimes the individual is just a jerk. How do we know, though, what might have happened recently for them? It's quite possible that the attitude is a direct result of the last traffic stop or call. Have you read Charlie's blog? Charlie's a probation officer in Spokane, Washington. After you finish this post go read this. Law enforcement personnel deal with things that make no sense. Worse, they would blow your mind, to use the common expression. As a professional, you'd hope the officer would be able to compartmentalize. I can tell you from experience that it can't always happen. That's the way it will always be since we're dealing with humans and not robots.

What had Smugsy's experience been with motorcycles? Does he often encounter riders with loud pipes? Did somebody take advantage of the "biker" stereotype and use it against him for intimidation somewhere? Has he been "strafed" by squids as he took his family on a relaxing drive? Has he lost a relative to a motorcycle accident? Or was it "none of the above" and he is just a "fear biter"?

I had absolutely no way of knowing. All I could tell is that from somewhere down deep a spark exploded. He obviously felt he couldn't stand up to me on a man to man basis. So he tried to put me in what to him was a lower class. He's a little man who needs a step ladder of some sort. Smugsy was no match as a man. I wasn't going to follow the road he pointed to. This wasn't about bikes versus hybrids.

Honor is a part of my makeup. But so is practicality. The situation boiled down to having two questions answered. What would I gain by conquering Smugsy? What could be gained by letting it go? As you know, I let it go. He may still view me as "one of those" but it wasn't by any direct action of mine. At least not to my mind. Your results may vary.

The logical conclusion didn't make it any easier to deal with. Yes, I wanted to grab him and shake him. Yes, I stewed about it for a long time. I'm both angered by his attitude and saddened by his attitude. Ultimately it will be him living with who he is, not me. I know that sounds all noble and everything. The fact that I'm saying philosophical things to make me feel better about not "doing something" to Smugsy. I don't know about noble. Maybe it's just a guy facing the passage of time. Conserving energy isn't always a bad thing. You want philosophical? Here's something Grandpa used to tell me.

Never wrestle with a pig. The pig likes it and you'll only get dirty.

This from a guy who could never get enough of proving how "manly" he was in his younger days. Then time caught up with him. A man can't just start saying that he no longer has what he used to. So he makes up sayings like this. It's working pretty well for me, too.

See how conserving energy can sound philosophical and noble? What it really means is that I'm just too tired to waste resources on this! Catch me twenty years ago.

I did have this horrible thought, though.

Who knows? Maybe one day Smugsy will become a rider. God, I hope not! I won't even ask what kind of bike he'd ride. I wasn't going to go there. Did I just do that? Shame on me. No offense intended to any readers. If you're reading this you're plenty enough by yourself. You don't need a certain kind of bike to feel worthy.

If I were to have engaged in the bike versus hybrid discussion, these are some points I would have made. Again, your comments covered some of this. Educated folks, you are!

It takes a lot more energy and resources to build a hybrid than a bike. More raw materials which require more energy. More truck, train, or ship space to transport these materials. Which takes more energy. More manufacturing time which requires more energy. More expense to buy the hybrid. Comparing the price of a new Prius to my new FJR, the Prius is several thousand dollars more expensive.

Operating costs aren't really that much less. At least to my way of thinking. Like you all brought out, the battery pushes the car at low speeds. At highway or freeway speeds, the Prius gets good mileage but is still operating as a regular internal combustion car. I'm told the batteries won't last the life of the car itself and replacing them is pretty expensive. Somebody at a dealer told me it was around five thousand dollars.

Then there's the disposal of said batteries. Toxic elements to be dealt with. Not so much of a problem with a bike.

Motorcycles are looking more "green" all the time, aren't they?

Not to say that a hybrid car is a bad thing. Just not wonderful enough to get all smug and self righteous over. I sometimes wonder why we all can't just do whatever we feel right about doing? Maybe I'm getting old and tired. I can't help but feel we'd all benefit a lot more if folks would support each other's efforts. The current method still has some bugs to work out, I think.

I'm just a simple Road Warrior. My brain doesn't have all the great answers. One thing I'm pretty sure of, though. I'll bet Smugsy never smiles as much in his Prius as I do on my bikes!

Miles and smiles,


Friday, October 24, 2008


My bike is parked between the building and his car. I'm sitting on the bike. Helmet and gloves off. His car is a pale green Toyota Prius. There's personalized plates adorning front and back. They read LES CO2.

Took me a while to get it. Was Les the driver? What did the second part mean? I could be excused, though. There were other things on my mind. Things that were threatening my good mood. Things like the back bumper of the Prius. It was looking to do bad things to my front wheel. Smugsy and I were sharing the Super Slab. The endless ribbon of steel and concrete that connects us all eventually. The Prius and I were to be connected here and now if I didn't do something.

Smugsy had passed me on the left. I was mellow and happy this day. Bike and I rolled easily along in the right lane. The rider's equivalent of smelling the flowers. Pleasure was about to turn to pain. Unless I did something. Real soon. There was only one solution in this formula. Prius passes. Prius moves right quickly. Rider brakes and rolls off. You could say I was disenchanted. At least I was in a good position to figure out that damned license plate.

Now here we were. I needed a stretch. Smugsy needed a bathroom. Circumstances said we should meet again.

Smugsy was walking back to his car. He'd have to pass by me. I studied him. Didn't look like a tree hugger. Sun didn't touch his skin much. I'd guess he spent a lot of time indoors. Hugging a bottle. Flush cheeks and small red veins marked his face. He was a small man. I guessed something like six decades had passed for him. Guys like him are ignored in crowds every day. Just another "nobody" shuffling along the sidewalk.

Smugsy walked with his head down. My eyes glared at his skull. As people will, he felt my gaze. Stare at someone across a room. Pick someone not looking at you. Watch them start to fidget. Pretty soon they'll look at you. Smugsy looked up at me. His body stiffens. There's surprise and a little fright in his eyes. He shoots a quick look at his car. It's on the other side of danger. His human helplessness is naked in front of me. Smugsy hunches his shoulders. Like he's bracing for a blow.

Good and Evil argue. Good says to let it go. Evil tells me I was nearly killed. Good says it wasn't that close. I was able to adjust, wasn't I? Evil reminds me that I call myself a Warrior. Warriors avenge wrongs, don't they? I tell both voices to get lost.

I tell Smugsy I didn't appreciate his move. Smugsy says he didn't see me. His reaction at seeing me betrays it as a lie. Smugsy knows it, too. He's trapped. He takes the offensive. A mouse squeaking at a cat. He's shaking a little. Fear? Self-righteous rage? Booze withdrawal?

"Bikers are irresponsible. You're the opposite of hybrid drivers. Pretty soon you'll all be gone."

Smugsy stares into my eyes as long as he can. Which isn't long. He's at a disadvantage. His eyes are uncovered. Mine are now behind dark glasses. I see his temporary bravery deflate. Does he have a death wish? Is he deluded? The shaking is worse now.

Good is speaking again. Let the man go. He's scared. The strong show mercy.

Smugsy is waiting for my reaction. His fear is plain. He seems shocked by what he just said. Did he just condemn a biker? I'm not one, of course. That's how Smugsy sees me. I slow count to twenty. Delay the reply. Toy with the mouse. Finally, the cat lets the mouse see freedom.

I reply by pointing my finger at his car. Smugsy doesn't get it. Point to him. Point to his car. Now it dawns on him. Smugsy is at his Prius in record time. He drops his keys. Now he's inside. The door slams shut. I've heard these cars use a battery for slow speeds. The gas engine takes over at higher speeds. I smile. I'm sure both help get Smugsy out of here.

I think of Smugsy after he's gone. He's not the only smug hybrid driver I've met. Talk of a bike compared to a hybrid can happen later. Isn't it enough to do the right thing? Why be smug? So many thoughts in my head. My brain needs peace. I pick a thought and go with it. Little people in giant pickups. Little people in hybrid cars. Overcompensation takes many forms, it seems.

Leave Smugsy and his ilk to live how they will. Hunger rumbles my body. A saddlebag holds relief. Over a sandwich I marvel at how beautiful Elvira is. Life's good on a bike!

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Another argument for ABS.

As you know, the reason I bought a new bike was to upgrade to ABS. I believe in it so firmly that I put my money where my mouth was. As one who practically lives on a bike, ABS is a welcome backup to my own skills. Yes, I think I have really highly developed riding skills. No, I don't think I'm infallible. As good as I am, ABS never has an off day, never gets distracted, and always has up-to-the microsecond data on what's happening with the tires. I'm not saying I would never again ride a bike without ABS. However, the bike I use for business will always have it. Think about how much multi-tasking is required during our work day. It's great to have ABS in the background. It wil always totally be there even when my mind may not be.

In an interesting coincidence, right after my last post which was on braking, I received some information on how ABS has contributed to reducing rider fatalities. In a release from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety ( IIHS ), it was stated that bikes with ABS had a 38% lower representation in fatal crashes than similar motorcycles without them.

The news release was provided by MSNBC. You can read the article here.

What was interesting was that similar bikes were compared. In other words, a sport tourer model for example, was picked. Researchers looked at the fatal crashes involving that particular model. The model without ABS was represented more frequently than the same model with ABS. You can see for yourself by clicking here for the October 22 IIHS status report.

Since this kind of research is used to determine insurance rates, I'm going to ask my agent if my rate can be lower due to having ABS!

An vital reminder is that there are no magic bullets. ABS is certainly a wonderful tool. It is not a force field that will deflect all troubles. We still need good braking skills. Not every stop will require ABS. When we need to stop the bike "right now!" use the ABS. That's why we paid extra for it, after all. It's still critical to use the brakes smoothly even when getting into the ABS. Believe it or not, with really abrupt braking inputs, it's possible to still skid a tire. We've seen what we call a dashed skid mark. The rider controls weight transfer while the ABS controls wheel rotation. Here comes that "practice" word again!

By the way, I've been doing my own practice with the ABS on Elvira. She will stop so quickly from highway speeds that I literally get motion sickness from the sudden decelaration. Now that's the way a bike is supposed to stop!

Miles and smiles,


Coming up next, my brush with Smugness!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Bodies in braking.

"Why do I always stomp down so hard on the rear brake when I'm stopping quickly?"

This was a question asked of me by a student in an advanced course. The Road Warrior part of me wanted to make some sort of flippant reply. Like this:

"Because you're a dumbass! If you know you're doing it, just don't do it anymore!"

Which would have been great for my ego but wouldn't have been of much use to the student. This student was sincere in their request for information. This person had obviously tried to quit using so much rear brake. Despite that, it kept happening. I needed to give them some meaningful feedback that would actually help correct the problem. Which I was able to do, of course. Come on, I'm the Guru, right?

In order to fully understand how things work we need to look beyond the physical. You may have heard of an athlete of whom it's said they have good mechanics but still aren't great. The key to greatness is realizing that there's both physics and physiology involved. In other words, we need to become aware of how our body reacts to certain situations. Once we've achieved that awareness, we can make our bodies work for us instead of against us. Like I've said before, successful riding is comprised of unnatural acts.

My first real exposure to delving into the big picture was provided by a past instructor. It was during firearms training in Academy. As we were being schooled in proper techniques the instructor told us to watch each other as we were shooting. We were told to look at the dynamics of the human body while drawing and firing a weapon. It was a lesson in both the mechanics and physiology of shooting. This would prove valuable in later years. Whatever your view of firearms, the same principle applies to riding a motorcycle.

With that in mind, let's go back and see how this applies to a better understanding of what's happening during maximum braking. Maybe we can take our skills to a little higher level in the process.

First off, let's look at the mechanics of braking.

We all know about weight transfer, right? As we begin braking the weight of the bike and rider moves forward. This weight gives us more traction for braking. It's not there all at once, so our squeeze of the brake lever has to be progressive and smooth. As the front of the bike weights, the rear gets lighter. Less weight means less traction for braking. In other words, we squeeze more firmly on the front lever while using light to lighter pressure on the rear brake pedal. Since the weight eventually quits moving forward and starts to equalize again, we also need to let off the front brake a little right at the end of the stop. Pretty standard stuff.

Another mechanical aspect is the position of the foot peg in relationship to the brake lever. For this particular student, the peg was close to the pedal. The student also had rather large feet. When the student applied the rear brake a large part of his boot was pressing on the pedal. This resulted in quite a bit of pressure initially, as well as a lessened ability to lift his boot for lighter pressure. The student needed to move his foot back on the peg. Actually, moving the peg permanently would be wise if possible.

Now let's look at the physiology involved. Just to avoid a separate issue, I'm going to throw in one other "p" word here. That's the word "psychology". Not that we're psycho for riding, although some unenlightened individuals might call us that. What I'm talking about is how our perceptions are altered by the physical size of the rear brake pedal.

I don't know if you've ever taken a close look, but a lot of cruisers have really large rear brake pedals. They're almost the size of the brake pedal in a small truck. This situation can create a psychological impression that there should be a lot of braking available from a pedal that size. It's just not true and a rider needs to ignore the mental picture created. Good technique is always "light to lighter" on the rear brake no matter the size of the pedal!

A definite physiological aspect to braking is where we look while stopping. I wrote a post about this a long time ago. Not only does keeping our eyes up and looking well ahead provide stability and help us stop in a straight line, it also affects how we apply the brakes. Simply put, looking down makes our bodies clench more while looking up opens up our stance and smooths things out. Try it sometime in a safe place. Notice the difference in smoothness when looking well ahead as opposed to looking down at the instruments or a few feet in front of the bike. Why not work with our body's natural reactions?

Speaking of natural reactions, consider this. Maximum braking on a motorcycle is stressful. Whether on the streets or just in front of an instructor, heart rates go up and adrenaline flows. Somewhere in the back of our minds is the thought that we're trying to avoid either hitting something or having the bike fall down due to a front wheel skid. In either case, the word "impact" is floating around in our heads. It might not be that exact word, but our body anticipates the hit. So what does the body do?

Think about the last time you rode in a vehicle with someone else and had a close call. It might have been a friend or partner who wasn't paying close attention to what was ahead. Perhaps it was teaching a young person to drive. Anyway, what did you find your physical reaction was? Didn't you brace yourself some way? Either with your hands on the dash or with your feet on the floorboards? Maybe both? Even if you were the driver and pushed the brake pedal, what was your left foot doing? Bracing your body, wasn't it? Both feet were pressing hard on something.

So what makes stopping a motorcycle any different? Our feet are called into play by the physiological reaction to the situation. The feet and legs want to brace us against the conjured up impact scenario. What just happens to be under the right foot? Riders often find themselves applying way too much pressure on the rear brake as a result. Most of the time they're not even aware of it. Such was also the case with my student.

The answer is simply to get in the habit of bracing our knees against the gas tank. This way the body can still clench and brace but the force is applied higher up. Without all the pressure on our feet we can use the proper pressure on the rear brake. The added benefit of pressing our knees against the tank is that it keeps the posterior firmly planted in the seat. That's a much better control position. With some ABS bikes, I've seen riders come quite a ways up off the seat. Better to stay seated.

Bear in mind that the correct actions aren't going to come automatically at the time they're needed. You knew this was coming, didn't you? The only way to make sure we do exactly the right thing in an emergency is to practice. Practice doing it right over and over. Notice I said practice doing it right. Practice by itself doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice is what makes perfect. Sorry, there's no other way. Repeated perfect practice teaches the brain and body to work together in harmony. Both mind and muscle will know how to apply exactly the right braking pressure in an emergency.

What? Are you still reading? You should be out riding and practicing! Get out of here!

Miles and smiles,


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Closing out the work week.

The work week closed out pretty much like it began and continued. On a bike. Tuesday thru Friday weren't as much fun as Monday's ART class, but it's all good.

I had ordered a new windshield and trim piece for Sophie. They arrived on Wednesday. Since she's up for sale I decided to spruce her up a bit. The old windshield was getting yellowed. Just below the windshield is that black piece of trim with the slot and the Honda logo. A few years ago a bouncing rock took a chunk out of the top of it. There's been a piece missing in the top left corner of the slot for a long time. She's looking pretty sharp, now, isn't she? Dang, it's going to be even harder to part with her now!

Friday saw me faced with a need to go back up to Vancouver, Washington. We used to have an office up there but closed it out. We moved most of the stuff to a storage unit. I had to go fetch something. Since I was going up there, I'd scheduled a meeting at Adventist Hospital to consult with them on their new building that's going up. This would be a great chance to make sure the new windshield didn't blow off after my installation job. Hey, any excuse, right?

Now that I have Sophie at the storage unit, my question is "how's she going to carry all that stuff?".

My meeting with the hospital folks went well. It was a quick consultation to get some questions answered for a factory order. I had informed them ahead of time that I would be riding. Since it was a quick meeting, I didn't shed the riding gear. Except for the helmet and gloves, of course. It's kind of hard to have much of a discussion through a full face helmet. Nobody blinked an eye. Just another reason to prove that motorcycles can be used for business as well as pleasure.

What was really cool is what happened after the meeting. I'd only had one cup of coffee and no breakfast that morning. When I was done at the hospital I found a place to remedy that situation. Katie had slipped a bagel with cream cheese into my tank bag. Bless that angel! While replenishing my bodily fuel stores, I called my boss. He wasn't anwering the phone so I left him a message with a couple of updates. Then I added the next part.

"If you're going to call me back in the next hour and a half you'll have to leave a message. I'll be on the bike and won't hear the phone ring!"

Mileage for the day was at 201 by the time I reached home. Not a bad way to end the week.

By the way, when I got home and checked my e-mail there a message that had been forwarded to me from our training program's headquarters. A student, actually the guy from the Governor's Advisory Committee, had offered some feedback on his experience at ART on Monday.

As a little background, here's a brief rundown on the format. We work on advanced braking and swerving drills. The main focus, though, is on cornering properly. That includes making smooth transitions at the right time, lines, and strategies for setting up and linking turns. In a weird happenstance, it was also a name day. Out of 11 students we had four named Dave. Our three instructors were Dan, Dan, and Stan.

Part of the cornering portion includes inviting students to take a passenger ride on our bike. If a student looks to be not getting it at all, we sometimes nearly command them to ride with us. Respectfully, of course! Nothing like seeing and feeling it as the instructor rides the track. It's a very effective learning tool for students. Practically speaking, it can be hard for the instructors. We have to be able to keep up with solo riders despite being two up. It wouldn't look good to the rest of the class if the instructors were clogging the traffic flow, now, would it? Some of our students are less than thin, you might say. It's a careful balance of keeping up without scraping so hard as to be dangerous or frightening to the passenger. Some students come to class with a deep aversion to leaning. Somehow we make it all work.

Here's the input from this particular student:

"On Monday, Oct 13, I spent a very productive and enjoyable day in the Advanced Rider Training course near Canby. The instructors, Dan, Dan, and someone whose name I have unfortunately already spaced out, were all excellent. To all my rider acquaintences and friends, I have been urging them to take this course.

At the course's conclusion, we were invited to provide written feedback. I did so, but as I thought about the course over the next couple of days, I had further thoughts. I hope you will share these with the instructors for that day.

Having taken previous Team Oregon classes, I expected to be observed and to be given feedback on my riding skills. That happened in this class as well. But two teaching techniques that were new to this class were especially useful to me.

First, the opportunity to ride along with an instructor as he talked aloud about his line of path for approaching each curve, feeling him brake and downshift at just the right time, watching the course as he watched it, and listening to his strategy. Very cool. I took every opportunity to do this, and I would love the opportunity to do that sometime in the real world with an instructor as well. Suggestion for additional advanced training.

A second strategy that was both a little intimidating and yet highly useful was having the instructor shadow me thru the course to judge my perfomance near the conclusion of the day. Again, this one-on-one experience really gave me the assurance that if I was doing anything really inappropriate it would not be missed. My only suggestion would be to take the extra time to have each student shadowed for a couple of laps at the beginning of the ART class so that the "post-test" could be used to measure change. Doing that would also inform each student about any special issues he/she needs to focus upon for the remainder of the day.

All in all, this training was just excellent. In all my team Oregon trainings, I have had nothing but excellent educators who obviously enjoy their work.

Keep it up and keep the rubber down.

Thank you."

It's always nice to get positive feedback. This kind of thing keeps my fires for training burning hot. Whenever a person can find a passion for something that helps add value to the world, what better treasure can we hope for?

See you Monday. I'm working on a post about braking technique and how human physiology affects it. A student asked me a very interesting question last Monday. Stay tuned.

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Empty heads and heritage.

"Hello! Hello? Can you hear me? Oh, there you are. How's it goin'?"

Believe it nor not, these words are coming from the recesses of a public restroom stall. Who in the world is so important or ignorant that they have to talk on a cell phone while sitting on a toilet? Come to think of it, why does it seem that nobody can ever peel that blasted thing away from their heads? Whether they're driving, sitting at a restaurant table, or even, Heaven forbid, sitting on a toilet, people can't just shut the stupid things off?

I've been threatened with collisions while riding by countless oblivious drivers. I've been annoyed by rude people having loud conversations at the table next to me. Yes, I've even been publicly put down but secretly admired when I've reminded these bovine brains just how rude their conversations are. As if that's not bad enough, now I'd had to worry if there was a certain Senator in the stall looking for company. And should I be concerned about leaving quickly?

After a trip to Ashland last week, I think I have a reason for some of it, at least. This is sort of a philosophical side road. There's not much about motorcycling here except for a couple of things. Cell phone distracted drivers are a prominent hazard for motorcyclists. Especially for those of us who commute and ride a lot. The other thing is that I used a motorcycle to get to Ashland. I just feel compelled to speak my piece here. In the process, maybe this post can serve as a reminder to us to keep the really important things in their proper place.

Ashland is in Southern Oregon. It's a smaller town in the midst of the rolling hills. The two big attractions are Southern Oregon University and the Shakespearean theme to the town. There's a long history of performances of William's plays. It was while I was having a sort of unauthorized look around that these thoughts came to me. Hey, if a door is open a crack, that's as good as all the way, isn't it?

I'm standing and looking at this stage. As I do so, I'm thinking of how many performances have been presented here. More than that, though, I'm slowly becoming surrounded by the great cloud of human drama permeating the air. Believe it or not, I've read a number of the Wise Scribe's works. Yes, Road Warrior can read! In the cloud I can feel the joy and anguish of human emotions as they encounter a vast array of situations. I can feel tragic love and fiery hate. There's both the base and the more subtle nuances of relationships. Eons pass and specific details may vary slightly, but the common threads bind us to all those who lived before.

Shaking myself back into the present, I wander some more. Some cleaning gals have spotted me but aren't looking to threaten me with eviction. My eyes are caught by the row of green plaques lining the edge of the balcony. They list the plays performed for each year. 2008 is represented at the far right. At the far left is the first one. It was a long time ago.

By now my belly was rumbling so I pulled myself away and headed down the street. There's a little cafe called Zoey's. Should have taken a photo. The camera was around my neck and I looked a proper tourist. During the meal the Nikon sat on the table. Never thought to take a picture of the place. Zoey's is a sort of Yuppie / Hippie blend. Somehow I accidentaly ordered a vegetarian sandwich. There were neat ingredients like roasted red peppers and feta cheese. I could swear I saw chicken on the description. After I got the sandwich I double checked the menu. Nope, no chicken. How did my brain suddenly get so empty?

Then it hit me. So many people these days are empty headed. Not that I'm saying they're stupid. Although that certainly seems to be what their actions are telling me. I've used the expression "afraid to be alone with their thoughts". What I should really be saying is that there probably aren't any real thoughts in there anymore. People are driven crazy by the echo of silence. So they try to fill it. With endless cell phone chatter.

This is a place across from Zoey's called "The Ashland Springs Hotel". Here's a quote from their website.

An oasis of gentility and charm in the beautiful Rogue River Valley, Ashland Springs Hotel is the premier choice for lodging in Southern Oregon. A two-year restoration project transformed the former Mark Antony into a haven of taste and elegance reminiscent of Small European hotels. Ashland Springs Hotel combines the charm of a bed and breakfast, the friendliness of a small inn, the feel of a spa resort and the safety and convenience of a hotel.

The place reminds me of a time when people would sit in the lobby and actually just chat with each other. A time when you'd sit on your front porch and talk with neighbors as they passed by. They weren't just "the neighbors". They were Pete and Martha, Harold and Linda, or whatever. Days when human interaction was always more important than electronic entertainment, which there was little of anyway. You shook a man's hand and felt the human contact. His eyes could tell you a lot about him. Face to face and the personal touch were always the preferred way to go.

People don't have that anymore. So called friends are tinny voices in their ears. There's a local coffee shop closing after 15 years. Business is way down. The owners are lamenting that people just don't come and linger and visit anymore. They say that folks wake up and start the day behind schedule. Drive thru and "to go" orders rule the day. Actual human personal contact is getting a lot more rare. Don't believe me? Try calling your power company, your phone company, or a large department store. Hope you like computers and recorded menus.

This was an actual father and daughter taking a break in Lithia Park. She was chatting happily away. Dad was eating a sandwich. There's a sign that asks people not to feed the ducks. Ever hopeful, the ducks aren't asking the pair to break any ordinances. However, if something just happened to fall on the sidewalk, well, they'd be happy to clean it up.

Movies and video games further dehumanize things. Other people aren't real to folks anymore. Maybe that's why it's so easy to pull out in front of someone else in traffic, or cut them off. It's not real people, after all, it's just shadowy forms intruding on their space. Isolation from human contact breeds selfishness which, in turn, breeds rudeness. You mean there's other people around that I have to think about?

Adding to the situation is the lack of real thinking. Maybe that accounts for a lot of behaviour, too. Katie says that drivers who drive stupidly have death wishes. I think they just don't know better anymore. Other drivers adjust in their own self preservation efforts which lets these stupid drivers off the hook as far as consequences go. I don't think most of these idiots actually even realize just how dangerous and stupid their actions really are.

There's a little more, too. Hang in there with me. Remember Shakespeare? How many people have read any of the great written works that have come before us? Who thinks deeply about the past? Who contemplates the great mysteries around us? How many, instead, just want to be entertained?

I stood and looked at these Wood Ducks for a long time. Not that they were so interesting. They just sort of cocked an eye at me, decided I wasn't a threat, and tucked the bills back under downy feathers. The water was making a soothing sound as water does. My mind was full of thoughts and questions. There was no shortage of deep things to think about against this peaceful background. A cell phone would have been a troubling intrusion. Mine was locked in the bike's bags.

In my opinion, people have lost touch with most things that are truly meaningful. If a person doesn't read great literature, doesn't study our varied and fascinating heritage and history, and doesn't care about much more than crossing off the next thing on their shallow task list, what thoughts are left? It's no wonder they always need a cell phone attached to their head. The emptiness must be deafening and scary.

Do you remember Steve Williams recently talking about how the road devours all concerns? Click the link to the right and find the August 24, 2008 post with the same name. Somewhere in the post Steve mentions Colin Fletcher. As it happens, I'd already read a book written by Colin, It's called "The Man Who Walked Through Time". The book describes a solo hike Colin took through the entire length of the Grand Canyon. This happened in the mid to late 60's, if I remember correctly, and took several weeks.

A great test would be to ask ourselves. How we would come out mentally after so much time alone? Would we be refreshed by the chance to think or insane from a lack of stimulation?

Empty heads or full of heritage?

Thanks for hanging in with me through this wandering mild rant. I wish I had some easy answers, but I don't. In the meantime, though, I continue to study and understand the enemies I encounter in my motorcycling adventures!

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Could be worse!

There's a lot worse ways to start a Monday, I'm thinking. Trees and blacktop are whizzing by at a tremendous pace. I'm all alone and loving every minute of it!

A lot of folks dread Monday morning. I used to be in that group. Until I started working so many weekends, that is. Now the only day I'm really sure of is Sunday because the paper is bigger. Not that I have a chance to read it. I just see it on top of the pile with all the rest of the week's newsprint offerings. This Monday morning would end up being a little special all on its own, though.

Last week I was in Southern Oregon. I got off the bike at a rest stop and checked my phone messages. There was a call from Carol at our training program's headquarters. She wanted to know if I would be interested in teaching our Advanced Rider Training class on the upcoming Monday. More specifically, would I be able to take the Lead postion which included classroom? Is a frog's butt watertight? What was she thinking? It was to be the last ART class for the year. The Director had been scheduled to run Lead. He's out of town back East doing whatever it is Directors do. So I would be replacing him.

Sounds prestigious, doesn't it? Being picked to fill in for the Big Cheese. Well, here's the rest of the story.

Due to the limited offerings of this class, and the fact that it's sort of our flagship class, it's been held pretty close to the chests of the Director and the Training Manager, Ray. The Operations Manager, Ron, is also certified to do the classroom for this class. Once upon a time there was another fellow certified but he's now the Director for Idaho. I've taught the track part for a good while, along with my friend Dean W. Getting certified to do classroom was a more recent event for me.

So while there's plans to add a few more instructors to the list, including Dean,the fact is that there's only four candidates right now. Dean's as good as or better than me in the classroom. I just happened to somehow cut in front of him for the training line. The Director is out of town, the Training Manager's out of town, and the Operations Manager is deeply engrossed in working with the colleges to set next year's schedule. Rather than being prestigious, then, I was actually the bottom of the short list!

I don't care, though. Teaching ART is a privilege offered to relatively few instructors. I'll take it any way I can get it! There would be three of us for the track with me doing classroom in the morning. Some extra pressure was felt. This would be the first time I was totally responsible for putting it together and making it happen. As much as I've worked the track sessions, one or the other of the two Big Honchos had always been around. Just for a little more pressure, one of the students is a man from the Governor's Advisory Committee, the group that sort of does oversight on the state's traffic safety programs. As you can see by the photos, dark clouds hid the sun. Would we get the class in before the predicted rains came?

Not really feeling too pressured, but wanting things to go smoothly, I was up and gone early in the morning. For me it's a ride of nearly an hour. The classroom needed to be set up. Any debris on the track needed to be cleared off. Things had to be ready. Setup went smoothly. Everything was ready. There was still around 45 minutes until the students would start arriving. I was the only one there. All around me was a totally empty track. Hmm, what should I do with myself in the meantime?

I looked to the South. Empty track and paddock. I looked to the West. More empty track. Looking North, I saw this.

I was born at night, but it wasn't last night. An empty track and a sleek bike meant only one thing!

Soon Elvira and I were in a world of our own. Each lap got smoother and smoother. Along with the smoothness came more speed. With nothing in our way we got into this totally hypnotizing groove. Faster, faster, and faster. On one lap I felt the front tire slip out of line then hook up again. There's been some patches done on the track along the back section. Some kind of silver colored material is spread around. Get enough speed and it can be a little slick. When I felt the front tire push I suddenly had this sobering thought.

If Danny Boy were to crash, it would be a long time until anybody found him.

I can just picture a conversation among students.

"Where's the instructor?"

"See that thing that looks like a bike on its side clear on the back side? Hanging off the edge and nearly plunging into the Pudding River? See the dude in the Hi-Viz jacket spread-eagled on the ground?"


"Well, that would be the instructor!"

Time to exercise a little more wrist management, I was thinking. Too much fun can be a bad thing.

The class itself was interesting. Maybe I'll share more of that in another post. I've at least got to share how awesome the FJR is on the track. Sweet!

For now, though, let me just say this. When your back tire ends up looking like this on a Monday, things could be a lot worse. Not a bad way to start a week. Not at all!

Miles and smiles,


Monday, October 06, 2008

Ask The Maniac!

Dear Maniac,

So I have a problem for the advice column. I recently purchased a 2007 Suzuki Bandit 1250 for a bargain price on Craigslist. I rode the Bandit the last 10 days and am just getting to know it.

It thrills me and scares me at the same time - part of that fear is that I cannot corner as easily as I can on my S50 - in the low speed around town stuff. I rode my S50 tonight and it was like an extension of me. It turns in easily and goes exactly where I want it to go.

Is it a mental thing that stops me from being able to perform the low speed maneuvers on the Bandit? Surely this bike should be easier to turn? I have 9000 miles on the S50 and less than 300 on the Bandit. What happened to my ability to ride? Do I just need to give it more time?


The Unsure Bandit.

Dear Unsure,

What happened to you is the same thing that happened to me this last weekend. I was driving a big truck for our training program. Behind me was this huge trailer full of motorcycles. Off and on during the drive it rained. This caused me to have to fiddle with the intermittent windshield wipers. Even though I knew in my head that the knob had to turn towards me for less frequent wiper action, my fingers continually rotated the knob in the wrong direction. It took a half a day to get it straight.

You may ask what windshield wipers in a truck have to do with riding a motorcycle. Maybe nothing. After all, I'm the Motorcycle Guru, not you, so you knew deep in your heart that I'd make this all about me, didn't you? Well, I'm pleased to say that this isn't the case here. My experience with the windshield wipers has everything to do with what you described to me.

There are many ways to explain what is happening with you. A different bike. The reach to the bars is different. Torque curves aren't the same. Weight distribution feels strange. Changing riding positions from a cruiser to more of a sporty standard feels weird. I'd bet the Bandit has less trail than the S50. You don't feel as "at home" on the Bandit. We could go on and on trying to describe what's happening. Thankfully for you, we'll not go there.

What it all boils down to is one basic thing. Like most basic things, this one seems so simple. Not understanding it, though, can cause a lot of pain and suffering. The simple truth is that it all has to do with these:

That's right. It's all about muscles, baby! More specifically, how our brains talk to our muscles. It's that basic thing called "muscle memory".

Sound too basic? Think about it.

My brain knew the correct direction to rotate the windshield wiper knob. However, I wasn't giving it total concentration when I was driving. There were little things like other traffic, dark and wet roads, pulling the trailer, and so on. I just let my hand reach out for the control. My brain used the most accessible memory to accomplish the task. That memory just happened to be the one ingrained from my own truck. Where the knob rotates away from me to get less wiper action. Knowing something is different than making your body do it correctly.

Back to you, Mr. Bandit.

I'm pretty sure you know how to ride a bike. You know about countersteering, balancing, how to use the clutch and throttle, how to turn your head for directional control, as well as all the other things involved in riding a motorcycle. That's the knowledge part. I'd ask you to think upon which memory the brain is sending to the muscles right now. It's the S50 memories, isn't it?

Our brains are wonderfully complex things. What I've found, though, is that they are either somewhat lazy or have a finite working space. Sort of like the RAM on a computer. It's not the storage capacity that's the problem. It's the brain's ability to rapidly retrieve information that's key. With only so much RAM available, the brain sort of picks and chooses what goes there. Things that are used more often are stored in the front of the file drawers. Memories and experiences that are used less frequently, or not at all, are stored way in the back. These things are still in the file cabinet, but it can take the brain a little time to find them. Some memories will even need to have the dust figuratively blown off of them. While all this is going on, new memories need to be processed and sorted in the file system, too.

I guess what I'm trying to say is to just relax. Your ability to ride a motorcycle is still there. It's just that your brain is still working off the muscle memories stored up from the S50. Those are ones it's comfortable finding and using on short notice. Your brain will analyze the feedback from your muscles and compensate for the different way the Bandit responds. It won't be long until the new Bandit files are made and stored in the front of the drawer and ready for quick use.

That's pretty much the answer to your question. I want to take a minute and show how this simple truth can either make or break a rider in the bigger picture.

Muscle memories include accident avoidance skills like swerving and maximum braking. These memories also cover things like cornering properly and effectively scanning for critical information. Remember the principle:

Memories used often are filed up front and are readily accessible. Memories used less often or not at all take longer for the brain to find and put into use.

If a rider hasn't done anything physically to keep the memories in the forefront, they may find themselves in trouble if called upon to quickly execute an accident avoidance manuever, for instance. Knowing how to do something is one thing. The question is, will the brain be able to find the correct muscle memory in time? Spending a few moments a month practicing these skills can go a long ways toward making sure the muscle memory will be there quickly. Which means as soon as a rider thinks it, the brain has the file ready to send to the muscles.

Basic, but critical, isn't it?

The same thing applies after a long layoff. Like parking the bike for the Winter, for example. While the knowledge may not fade, muscle memory certainly has. Files have been moved deeper into the drawer. The files up front are now things like how to wield a snow shovel or to pour another shot of whiskey while stoking the fire. Great files to have, but not useful on a motorcycle. A wise rider will spend some careful riding time helping their brain move the memories back up front where they belong!

Miles and smiles,

Dan, aka, The Maniac

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Something to tide us over

I'm off for a business road trip this morning. When I get settled into the hotel room tonight I will do the promised answer to Unsure Bandit. In the meantime, here's something to tide us over.

This is from Dean W. He found it and passed it along. It's just too good not to share, so I wanted to put it here for your enjoyment.

It's a link to a place where a person could buy a t-shirt. Here's what it says:

"If loud pipes save lives, imagine what learning to ride that thing could do"

Check it out here.

See you tonight!

Miles and smiles,


Saturday, October 04, 2008

Bittersweet Fall

What a difference a couple of days have brought to our weather! Thursday and Friday gave us a heavier dose of rain than we've had in a while. Bike parking that was full on Wednesday was barely occupied on Friday. More on that in a bit.

This is a bittersweet time of year for me. Things change on several levels. Hot temperatures are moderating. I don't know if it's global warming or whatever, but it feels like the weather changes are more abrupt. One day it will be 70 degrees (f) and the next 95 (f). There's no chance to gradually ramp up to it. Things go back to cold and wet just as quickly. I suffered through temperatures over a hundred degrees while teaching this summer. With about half a dozen classes still on the schedule, I know the chances of teaching in the cold rain are going to be pretty high!

Riding conditions are changing for the worse. At least for most riders, that is. For me, while undoubtedly being less comfortable than in summer, there's going to be more adventure. I'm sorry to pop anyone's balloon, but continued riding in ideal conditions gets boring for me. I'm a person who needs and thrives on challenges. Maybe I'm just not smart enough to know when I've got it good. Whatever. Call it what you will, but that's the way it is for me.

A lot of folks are exploring two wheels as an option to four. Allen Madding's blog had a post in late September referencing a link to a news story. The story said scooter sales were up 66% from this time last year. I believe it. Everywhere I go there's a scooter stashed somewhere nearby, it seems. Small displacement motorcycles are flying out of dealership showrooms. There's evidence like this photo from a post of mine this week.

As you recall, I could hardly find a space to park in this place reserved for two wheeled vehicles.

The Great Sorting time is upon us, though. I sincerely hope that as many riders as possible will explore getting gear and skills that will tide them through the upcoming bad weather months. By the way, that scooter in the front of the picture has a decal proclaiming the presence of ABS on the thing. Cool, huh?

My wish is that these new arrivals to our world find even a part of the joy and satisfaction I've found on a motorcycle. Using a bike as primary transportation is enrichening way beyond the fuel savings. I really do want as many people as possible to experience these riches that extend to almost every aspect of life. Truly. At the same time, there's a part of me that takes a sort of evil pleasure in seeing the number of bikes slowly dwindle as the sunshine fades.

Check out this scene from two days after the first photo was taken. I snapped it with the camera phone so it's not as sharp as it could be. You'll get the point, though.

I rode back to OSU on Friday to man a booth that TEAM OREGON had during a campus fair. You can easily see Elvira in this photo as opposed to the previous picture. This time there were only the three bikes. The difference?

The rain came!

By the way, I saw Stacy, who works at OSU. Her of fame. You should check out Stacy's October 3 post on adjusting bike headlights. It's practical advice. Sure beats my "in the middle of the night on a deserted dark road" method! Stacy and I have crossed paths fairly often recently. She's starting down the road to become an instructor. Stacy will be good as an instructor, I think. She's personable, bright, and has empathy for people. Anyway, as much as I enjoy her company, there's a slight problem. You see, as Stacy's gotten to know me better, her sense of awe is diminishing. Actually, she's even gotten to the point of harassing me! Is that any way to treat a Motorcycling God?

I was getting ready to leave the place where our booth was located. In preparation for the walk back to the bike I'd donned my riding gear, which included the Hi-Viz 'Stich. I distinctly remember some smart remark about how Stacy had seen my jacket from clear across the way. That's the point, isn't it? She also had riding gear adorning her body. Someone else was riding in the rain! Good for her!

Back to the task at hand.

It's probably just a selfish ego thing but I like being one of the few hardy souls out and about on a bike during bad weather. There's a certain elitism at work. It's a reverse peer pressure thing. You know the group I'm talking about. Instead of being one who has to "join" a group, I like being one of the few. Winter, even here in Oregon, is a great separator. If people choose not ride in the bad weather, I respect that. My own personal choice is to keep on going. I'm actually looking forward to Winter!

I'm a Road Warrior, after all. The peaceful season has been too short. I'm hungry for battle.

How are you all feeling about the upcoming Fall and Winter? I know what I'll hear from Conchscooter in Florida, of course. "Winter? What Winter?" That's ok. Michael's a tough guy in his own right. He doesn't have to ride a motorcycle in bad weather to prove it!

Miles and smiles,


P.S. I'm on the road for a few days this coming week, but I'm packing the laptop. Look for the next post where I'll answer the question posed by Unsure Bandit!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Crowded parking and true utility.

I had the need to visit the Oregon State University campus yesterday. As part of the plan, I was going to have lunch with Ray. He's the training manager for our program. I'll be forever grateful to Stacy for telling me about the motorcycle parking just off Monroe Street. Parking on campus can be problematic. You either need to buy a permit or park in a metered spot. The lot right in front of the building I visit is metered for an hour. Sometimes I push my luck on the meter. Last time I got caught the fine was $15.00.

The other option is to park off campus. 14th Street has two-hour meters. I often park there and walk several blocks. Right now, though, there's a bunch of road construction and rennovation going on. The parking area Stacy told me about is free and it's only about three blocks from headquarters. I'm grateful to the City of Corvallis for providing this for us riders.

Who would have thought that I'd have trouble finding a spot in a motorcycle-only area? After all, there's twenty spots! Arriving at 11:15 AM, I got the last one. Wow! Motorcycle commuting is alive and well in this neck of the woods. It was great to see.

Elvira's somewhere in the middle of the pack on the far end. When this space is full, it's kind of like a miniature bike show. You never know what you'll see. For example, here's a bike that is the epitome of utility. Pretty much all go and no show.

I don't think I've ever seen metal panniers on a sport bike, before!

I really don't know what to make of this. Personally, I'd never want to be seen on something so ratty. Does that mean I have really high standards and this rider doesn't? Or does it mean I have some hangups that this rider doesn't? The bike runs, obviously. There's no turn signals so the riding has to happen in the daylight. Which is okay for a daytime commuter. I find there's a blend of looking down on the rider and, at the same time, a little envy. How cool to be so secure that you could ride something totally for utilitarian purposes!

There could be a few more motorcycle parking spots. Right in the middle of the motorcycle parking is a spot reserved for bicycles. I took this photo and purposely didn't zoom in on the sign. I wanted to show the gap between the two groups of motorcycles.

I'm not a bicycle person. It just seems this place isn't really a good one to encourage bicycle parking. For one, I see no place to secure the bikes. I'm pretty sure most bicycle riders would want to be able to secure the bikes to something. Ok, I admit there's the sign pole. Visions of a really long chain for all the bikes float through my head. Wouldn't that be something to see? How about a hitching rail like you see in the Westerns for horses? Or rings in embedded in the street?

I've seen bike racks on campus. It also seems that this is kind of far away from most of the destinations. Farther down Monroe Street are bicycle racks on the edge of the sidewalk. A person on a bicycle would use the bike racks closer to the eateries.

Due to the small size of a bicycle, it would be easier to get the bike closer to the building where a person works or visits. With a motorcycle, you expect to park and walk a little. My suggestion would be to eliminate the bicycle parking and make more motorcycle spots here. Oh well.

Like I say, the good news is that two wheeled commuting is thriving. Of course, the first really heavy rain starts this weekend! It will be interesting to see what happens when the weather turns. If it's like most motorcycle parking areas, I won't have much problem finding a spot pretty soon!

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Advice column.

Sometimes the life of an advice columnist can be rough. No, not in the way you might think. Dealing with people's problems all the time isn't that bad. After all, it's not us having the problems, right?

No, this is much more serious. I'm going to give you an inside peek.

You might think that folks like me are driven to help others. Sure, there's a great satisfaction in helping riders get new skills. Yes, I feel good knowing that, due to my efforts, fewer riders will suffer accidents. However, I am not an overly altruistic person. Us so-called "gurus" actually like the chance to show off what we think we know. There you have it. Things are out on the table in plain sight as ugly as it might be.

Take the advice column. When a reader writes in with a problem, I start rubbing my hands with glee. Oh boy, here's another chance to dazzle everyone with my "wisdom". Somewhere I'll throw in a couple of witty jabs, something that comes across as slightly smug, and offer some counsel in the process. Most of the time, life's good. My ego grows bigger each day.

Just about the time my ego won't fit through a standard doorway, something like this happens.

Dear Maniac,

So I have a problem for the advice column. I recently purchased a 2007 Suzuki Bandit 1250 for a bargain price on Craigslist.

I rode the Bandit the last 10 days and am just getting to know it. It thrills me and scares me at the same time - part of that fear is that I cannot corner as easily as I can on my S50 - in the low speed around town stuff. I rode my S50 tonight and it was like an extension of me. It turns in easily and goes exactly where I want it to go.

Is it a mental thing that stops me from being able to perform the low speed maneuvers on the Bandit? Surely this bike should be easier to turn?

I have 9000 miles on the S50 and less than 300 on the Bandit.

Do I just need to give it more time?


The Unsure Bandit.

( photo from Suzuki's motorcycle website )

I waited a few days just to enjoy thinking about the possibilities. What would I write? How could I get a laugh or two without actually insulting the reader? How much of what I think I know should I reveal here as opposed to holding something back? In other words, do I tell everything or end up still looking wise and mysterious?

Oh yeah, I was so ready to publish the column. And then, aaargh! I get a second message. I was deflated faster than a hot air balloon in an archery contest. The reader had solved their own problem. Curses, curses, curses! I mean, er, uh, good for them!

Here's the second message.

Dear Maniac,

Well I found the remedy to the problem.

A ride from Eugene to Florence, to Reedsport then back to Eugene via the Smith River Road. ( links to Google map of route )

Problem solved!!


Bolder Bandit!

Oh well, there's plenty more where this one came from. Keep those cards and letters coming, folks!

Miles and smiles,

Dan aka The Maniac