Friday, June 19, 2009

Ride to Work (tm) stories.

I have a couple of stories and a very funny experience to share from Monday's Ride to Work Day. First, though, a little housekeeping.

A little clarification seems to be in order. It concerns my hundred mile per hour maximum braking run. Mr. Riepe made a joke about trying to duplicate the feat in a parking lot. I'm hoping it was just a joke, Jack. You never know about those BMW riders, after all. Then somebody else made a comment that made it look like they thought I was in traffic or a parking lot. Just to be clear, I was on a coned off airport taxiway. It was set expressly for the purpose of conducting high speed braking and swerving drills for the motor cops. The standard disclaimer of this being a professional rider on a closed course is literally true.

This next comment is specifically for Mr. Steve Williams. Yes, I chided you for purposely skidding the rear tire to see what the bike does. Now you know the correct way to practice. You're wasting your time on skidding the rear tire. Everyone knows that the most stopping power is in the front so that's the one you should practice sliding first! ( note: The last statement was written with tongue firmly in cheek! )

Life has been hectic, as you can see by the lack of posts. Elvira is home. However, the curse continues. I ordered a new mirror for the right side of the bike to replace the scratched up one. Three times it has come in as a left side mirror. No amount of explaining that this is the THROTTLE side of the bike seems to help. I don't think it's the dealer's fault. There seems to be some sort of glitch with the Yamaha warehouse. One of the boxes even had the correct part number on it. The mirror was still wrong. Tuesday morning will see Elvira fitted with new Metzeler Road Tec Z6 tires. I really like these tires, for whatever it's worth.

Training season is in full swing. We're seeing a bit of affect from the down economy. Where classes used to be filled 90 days out, now it's closer to 45. Good news for those who want to take training as the wait isn't as long, I guess. I taught a class last night. As I was cruising through the parking lots of the community college I spied Balisada walking towards her Rebel. We briefly chatted. I'm often at the college for one reason or another. The Rebel is almost always there. A tip of my helmet to you, girl! You're a great example of what this blog is about.

Monday found me riding for work, as usual. One of my stops was at Oregon State University. I'd been down to Medford over the weekend conducting an instructor training exercise. We were following a morning group of new riders. In the afternoons on both days there were what we call IRT ( Intermediate Rider Training ) classes going on. This class is for folks who know the basics of riding but need to get endorsed. We work on mental strategies and accident avoidance skills in the process. Students can bring their own bikes or use ours. In the class pictured above three riders brought their own bikes. Two guys looked like the ZZ Top band. They both also had Harleys. The gal in the back brought her little red scooter. It struck me as an interesting contrast. The ZZ Top guys were a little worried about image, even though I give them great credit for taking training on their own bikes. The girl was just there to learn and was having a great time.

As you can see in the photo, I caught an instructor in mid stride. His name is Alain. He's French Canadian. Alain likes to move quickly. I consider Alain a close friend and it was good to see him, again. Even if I had to travel over two hundred miles to do it!

TEAM OREGON is headquartered at OSU. I had stuff to take back to the office. There's a few curves on the route if you ride through Bryant Drive and Riverside Drive. Unfortunately, I had to hit Highway 34 to finish my trip to Corvallis. As some of the locals know, this four lane highway isn't the most pleasant place to ride. People think it's the freeway and drive like crazy while still talking on cell phones, eating, reading the paper, etc. The accident rate is pretty high.

As I neared Corvallis I was in the left lane. To my right was a small, beat up gray sedan. The driver was a somewhat plump girl. She looked to be in her mid twenties. Her passenger was a tall, thin, scruffy looking fellow. I'm immediately on alert. I would be anyway, but the beat up condition of the car suggested the possibility of less than careful driving, if you know what I mean. We're approaching a stop light where you can either go left to take the bypass towards the coast or cross the bridge into downtown Corvallis. The light is a few blocks away, yet. The sedan is coming up behind a slow moving truck. The little voice in my head tells me to roll off the throttle.

Sure enough, the girl looks over her shoulder to change lanes. Trouble is, the look happens at the exact moment she moves the car into my lane. I always thought you should look first, then move if it's clear. If you have enough attention span, you also throw in an advance turn signal. Since I'm prepared, it's a case of no harm, no foul. However, if I hadn't been ready, she'd have taken me out. It was pretty close as it was. Interestingly, there's more.

After the driver had violated my space, I gave her a slight beep of the horn. I mean, how else does a factory motorcycle horn sound? It wasn't an angry blast, just a reminder that there was actually a person on the bike she tried to cut off or run over. The horn button tap was accompanied by a sort of half shrug with my left hand and arm. Sort of, "What where you thinking, if you even were?" There was no response from the girl. At least not yet.

As we approached the bridge, the gal pulled back into the right lane as she had passed the truck. I pulled even with her. I know, living dangerously, isn't it? Her window was down. She looked over at me. Both hands came off the steering wheel in the supplicational position commonly associated with prayer. She mouthed "I'm sorry" to me. Did I mention both hands were off the steering wheel? Did I also mention that we were going over a narrow two lane bridge with concrete walls on both sides? As she was busy genuflecting her car was rapidly drifting to the right. Now I'm praying, too. Albeit with both hands still firmly on the grips. I'm praying she doesn't bounce off the wall and come back into my lane. Fortunately, it all came out okay. Hey, I appreciate the apology, but for heaven's sake use some sense, here!

Farther down Harrison street I saw a woman sitting at a stop light on a side street. She appeared to be middle aged. She was dressed just like you'd expect a mom to be dressed as she went shopping. Tennis shoes, shorts, a button down blouse, and a three quarter face helmet. Oh, did I mention she was on a scooter? I believe it was a Honda Metropolitan. Anyway, as I was approaching I waved. I'm on Elvira, a sleek black big sport touring motorcycle. The full 'Stich, gloves, and full face helmet on my body. The ultimate hard core rider. We're about a half block apart when I wave at Scooter Mom. She stares back. As her face is out in the open, I can clearly see several expressions cross her face in a very short time. There's plenty of time to watch her as the speed limit is 25. As everyone knows, I am a very meek and law abiding person!

First is the blank look. Then confusion comes in. I can see her look around a bit. Like she's searching for somebody. Then a bit of understanding crosses her countenance. Almost like it was literally written on her face, I see,

"Holy crap, he's actually waving at ME!"

A smile and a return wave end the brief interchange between us. I can't help but think I made her morning. Is she new to riding? Does she commonly get ignored by riders of shifting bikes? I don't know. I always wave at scooter riders. We're all on two wheels for one thing. Sometimes there's not much difference between so called motorcycles and scooters these days, for another. The lines are becoming more blurred all the time. Who needs divisions? Let's just ride.

This was only the start of my day. The best and funniest experience is yet to come. However, this post is getting pretty long by itself. I know how easily I can bore you all, so I'll continue it in the next post. Here's a hint. Think construction job sites, a Roadcrafter riding suit, and hard hats!

Miles and smiles,



Balisada said...

I have found that I prefer my motorcycle to my pickup, so I really do go everywhere with my motorcycle.

It was good to see you last night. I had forgotten that it was Thursday and intrepid new motorcyclist trainees would be wandering to the college to learn how to ride.

The crazy drivers must be out because twice in the same 1 hour period last week I saw two people try to merge into the same lane at the same time. Fortunately, I was viewing from a safe distance. ;)


Charlie6 said...

so that's why scooter riders don't wave back at me....they're confused by the gesture from a motorcycle guy....

Richard Machida said...

Up here in AK, the riding season is so short that just about everyone waves (unless there is a large group) sport bikes, scooters, Harleys, especially the tourists. The exception seems to be the ADV/GS riders. Not sure why.

Steve Williams said...

OK. I've made a checklist to make sure I have things correct.

1. Find a parking lot capable of 100mph speeds. Preferably one without a lot of traffic.

2. Go real fast and then lock up the front wheel to see what happens.

3. Repeat step 2 until I learn something.

I have things right right??

Beat up gray sedans are beacons of disaster. I give them very wide berths. You are a brave man pulling up alongside one. It's like swimming with sharks.

I still get a little rush when someone waves to me on the road. I always wave and most riders return the gesture. Expect for those that are constipated (emotionally) or didn't play well with others as children.

The woman was confused because she thought you were hitting on her Dan. On the road Elvira is probably the two-wheeled version of what Christopher Walken represents in Saturday Night Live's "the Continental".

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Conchscooter said...

Oooh, you've got scooter in the sticks buzzing! Good job. Pure Triumph tells me my Bonneville is ready to ride though their painter has yet to give an estimate on my dented tank. Less than two weeks to get it sorted and back on the road. Triumph rocks Mr Yamaha Man! And I'm not put out by a few scratches on my daily rider because I'm Triumph Tough (or stupid. whatever)! cheers, Michael.

irondad said...

I know how you feel. Once you're used to a bike, a car or truck feels way too cumbersome. There will probably be a new crop of endorsed riders joining us as soon as DMV opens next week.

Exactly. Especially by BMW riders!

Everyone needs to frolic while they can, eh? Interestingly, it's the GS/ADV riders that are most likely to wave at me down here.

Steve Williams,
You need to make a small adjustment to step one. Traffic is okay. After all, we also need to practice separating braking and swerving.

Let me know how your efforts turn out!

Now I'm going to have to go find out what this Saturday Night Live thing is all about. I have a lot of success with women as long as I wear a full face helmet with a tinted shield. Just passing on a useful tip, you know.

I bow to your manly toughness and the irrepressible Triumph. I can't help but notice you're feeling a little extra frisky, though.

Does the impending Italy trip have anything to do with it? Or did you hit your head in the accident, too?

Take care,


Lucky said...

You know, I am also a meek and law-abiding person. Don't know why people trip over themselves getting out of my way when I'm geared up. >:D

Waving at scooters down here suprises the riders, but what's REAL fun is waving from the scooter at a fellow on a Harley. I'd say it's 50/50 wave back / gape in confusion

bobskoot said...


I find that bikers on the US side of the border wave more than on the Canadian side, and they're more tolerante of bikes. drivers up here are so aggressive and dangerous.

I don't have any desire to travel at 100 mph on a bike, or in any vehicle even though I have very capbable machines. I try to hold the line at 8 kms over the speed limit but find that I am usually the slowest one on the road

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Anonymous said...

Motorcycles are for people; scooters for individuals. There seems to be a class distinction between those wh operates a scooter and those who ride motorcycles. Same plant, different worlds.

Jeff in NY said...

It is odd how its possible to anticipate the complete lack of attention another driver is about to demonstrate. 9 times out of 10 I'm not surprized when someone runs a stop sign, blindly changes a lane or otherwise forgets they are driving a car. But, in hindsight, its hard to think what exactly tipped me off to the upcoming infraction... Just something about the stride of the vehichle if you know what I mean.

Steve Williams said...

Bryce: I'm not sure I follow your distinction between motorcycle and scooter riders--- people vs. individuals. That certainly goes against the Harley advertising.

You may be right but I don't quite understand the people category. And my own experience is that we're all the same. I see serious motorcycle and scooter riders. And I see completely clueless ones as well. And everything in between. And there are scooter riders who tattoo themselves in ways consistent with a scooter sub-culture and the same holds true for parts of the hog riding culture.

For myself, I think I could easily change from scooter to motorcycle without missing a beat.

Once you pry the Vespa from my cold dead hands...*grin*

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

kz1000st said...

I'm with Steve, You see, I have both in my garage. A 150cc China scooter and a W650 Kawasaki. To me they're both Bikes. As far as waving, we had this discussion on Scootdawg recently. When I ride the scooter almost everybody waves to me because 1) I wave first. 2)I always wear a leather jacket and a full face helmet that says,"My other ride is a bike'. 3)I wave with attitude as in "I see you and I dare you not to wave back" Practically everybody does, Harleys, name it. Maybe it's because I got the scooter second. Maybe because my first bike was a hand shift moped. I've been riding long enough to know it's the journey that counts and that we're out there facing the same danger and having the same fun whether we're shifting or not.

Krysta in MKE said...

"Three times it has come in as a left side mirror"

Have you thought about ordering a left side mirror? Maybe it would come in right. Maybe there's an inversion tesserect between China & Oregon that flips parts into their mirror images. You didn't notice on the whole bike 'cause the mirrors just changed places.

Maybe I shouldn't have rhubarb upside down cake for breakfast...

And what's all this BMW-bashing going on around here?? ::harumph:: I wave to pretty much anyone, if I see them in time & it's not dangerous.

"There seems to be a class distinction between those who operate a scooter and those who ride motorcycles"

Like a kid brother / big brother thing? I dunno... With the advent of the larger scooters the line is blurring.

I agree the mindset is different, switching between styles. And certainly some of the skills are different. Little scooter tires respond much differently than big motorcycle tires.

cpa3485 (JIM) said...

I encountered a fire truck running a red light this morning. He even gunned it as he went through the intersection and he wasn't on an alarm. Guess you gotta watch out for everything and expect the unexpected.
And re the lady on the scooter; I bet you did make her day, especially with your good looks. I like the wave and make it a point to wave at most other 2 wheeled vehicles. They don't all wave back, but it is appreciated. I am even working up a blog post about the types of waves I see.

irondad said...

Hmmm, why do people scatter when you gear up? Have you met you?

Nice touch, waving at the Harley riders from a scooter. Then again, I love mind games.

If drivers up there are more aggressive and dangerous, then I admire you more for riding a scooter in those circumstances!

I have been at speeds closer to 200then 100 on a bike. Only at appropriate places, though. I seem to remember you writing about being on scooter time a while back. It's a way of life I'd like to adopt but find myself just too intense and easily frustrated to live by.

In my world the line is getting more blurred all the time. That's why I just wave at them all anymore. I saw it written somewhere that it's not what you ride, but that you are riding. I do understand what you are saying, though.

I know what you mean. I describe it as a flow. There's a normal flow to things. What I look for are the anomalies. That's probably what you're tuned into, as well. Sometimes they are pretty small but experience has taught us to effectively spot them.

I did consider ordering the other mirror. By the way, I would never be guilty of bashing a BMW rider!

When you least expect it, expect it. At least some sort of medical pesonnel would be readily available!

The only reason I have good looks is because most of me is covered when I ride. :)

Take care,


Baron's Life said...'re a manufacturer rep Bro....give me a call 1-800-440-5582...tomorrow office hours...PNW time...we're in Vancouver BC

Anonymous said...

I must be getting old. I only thought Nash built Metropolitans...

And for Steve Williams benefit in viewing both motorcycles and scooters from the comfort of my quadracycle,
the scooter riders don't acknowledge motorcycle riders any more than
motorcyclists acknowledge scooter riders.
Suspect because the only real similarity is they are both two wheeled vehicles with a petrol powered prime mover. Otherwise they are totally different, and also most
scooter people they don't want to be assimilated with the motorcycle holligans. Then again scooters at least the physically smaller
appearing machines tend to appear to be a more civilized form of transport; and the method of dress by said operators so indicates; they aren't bikers.

In days past anything up to 49cc and thus called 50 cc was more than adequate. Then along came the 70 cc Honda step through machines, then 125 cc. Which was about it for those early machines.

Technology has changed things, a 250cc scooter was in the past unheard of and the Italians know how to wring a considerable amount of get up and go from these new machines, Steve Williams will attest to that. Problem is the
internals of the machines improved however the seating is still very cramped; no way for me of my elephantine sizing..