Monday, April 30, 2007

Reply to Yoda.

Wow! I can't believe it. By some galactic miracle Yoda actually reads my blog. Not only reads, does he, but offered words of wisdom in a comment on my last post. I mean, one always hopes that someone as legendary as Yoda will grace their blog, but I hadn't dared believe it would actually come true. I am truly honored. Although I do not have nearly the status and abilities as you, Master Yoda, we do have a little in common. I have been called the Yoda of the motorcycle world. A former student of mine presented me with a mouse pad with your image on it. Flattered, I am, to bask in your reflection.

Although I am disgraced to be wrong in my assumptions, words of wisdom you truly speak. The multitudinous small minded humans do not know how to responsibly handle horsepower. Consequences can be disastrous to themselves and innocent others. The words that end your comment are wisdom I shall carry with me.

You said "Well, I should ride".

I shall endeavour to do so at all times. These words will be carried with me in the same sacred place as a movie quote. It is from an earth movie called "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly".

In it, the Mexican character is in a bombed out hotel taking a bath. A desperado comes upon the scene and proceeds to tell the Mexican how badly he has wanted to kill him all these years. In the course of his long dissertation, the Mexican pulls out his gun and kills the desperado. Afterwards, he utters these words dear to me.

"If you're going to shoot, shoot. Don't stand around talking about it!"

Your words of wisdom will join these in my heart.

Come to think of it, you, Darth, and Obi Wan have your own Good-Bad-Ugly thing going, don't you? You can guess who's who. By the way, what's this thing about motorists being the death of me? That kind of sounds like bitterness from someone who's legs are too short to reach the ground on anything but a skateboard.

Please forgive me. I don't know where the unkindness came from. Part of it is the fact that I'm just so flustered by the fact that someone as great as you has graced my blog. I'm stumbling around like a 'droid with a short in its circuit board. Another part of it is my humanity. I've not had the benefit of centuries of life as you have. I've also never had the opportunity to benefit from any sort of Jedi training. All I've had is Army basic training, police academy, and a correspendence course in locksmithing. I beg your humble forgiveness if my shortcomings have caused you to have hurt feelings. Despite my best efforts the Dark Side still influences me at tmes.

I actually hold you in high esteem. You would be such a welcome companion as I ride to work. Being small, you wouldn't affect the bike's handling too much. Dang, I did it again, didn't I? So sorry. I would benefit greatly from your being with me. For example, I could ride as quickly as I wanted. If a Law Enforcement Officer pulled me over, you could do your Jedi mind tricks.

"This is not the bike we seek. Go on your way in peace. Oh yeah; Have a nice day!"

Just imagine the possibilities in traffic jams. I bet your Jedi powers could levitate us right over it all onto clear roads so easily, huh?

I'll bet you like a little speed yourself, don't you? Maybe literally. You called ignorant, arrogant humans power-mad monkeys. I saw you in one of the new movies doing battle. The energy, explosive power, and lightning fast movements were astonishing. So much so that my oldest boy was moved to call you a crack monkey!

The only problem might be getting a helmet to fit over those ears. I'm sure we could work something out. It might be painful to have them flapping in the wind. Wouldn't it be cool to ride together? I know, I'm hoping for too much. One as great as you posts a comment and I'm already planning how we can ride together. Forgive my presumptuousness. Wishful thinking. Another trait of us imperfect humans, I'm afraid.

Thank you so much for gracing my blog, Oh Great Yoda! I shall do my best to heed your wisdom. Please give my warmest regards to Luke and the family.

Miles and smiles,


Friday, April 27, 2007

Metaphysical musings.

The other day Harv, aka the Roadbum, put out a post about riding in heavy traffic. There was also somewhat of a philosophical element to the post. Click here to go to his blog. The post is called "Two sides of the same coin, Part 1".

My brain has this annoying quirk of taking things I come across and running with them. Sometimes it's a great thing while other times it can make me crazy. I keep thinking about riding a motorcycle in heavy traffic. One of the reasons it stays on my mind is that I ride in heavy freeway traffic almost every stinkin' day! Nothing like two hundred miles of dealing with possessed cagers to keep a rider wondering about one thing. Why????

Why do they all seem to have the same crazed traits? Why do so many of them take such dangerous chances just to get a car length or two farther ahead? Why are they always in such a rush? Why does driving a car seem to bring out the worst in them? Why is it that the feeding frenzy is at its most vicious when traffic is bunched up? Why can't they just relax and go with the flow? Why can't they even use their freakin' turns signals at least?

Seriously, I shake my head in wonderment every day. It is literally unfathomable to me that the highways aren't littered with more carnage than they already are. I have a hard time understanding how a seemingly normal person can get into a car and turn into a seething, raving, lunatic. Just a couple of days ago I observed this small sedan doing things that would net the driver some serious penalties if pulled over by a cop. That's nothing new, of course. Here's the thing that blew me away, though.

I'd seen this driver a little earlier in the trip under more serene circumstances. Just North of Salem the freeway expands to three lanes. There's no majorly populated towns along the interstate for a number of miles. Traffic flows pretty smoothly through here. This sedan had passed me. I ride about 75 mph along here. The car driver was doing about 82. I observed her as she went by. To all outward appearances she was some Daddy's little girl. Young, nice looking, with a sweet face to go with it all. Somebody you'd imagine blushing as she brought her beau home to meet Mom and Dad. It was hard to believe that this same sweet looking creature was now the Raving Lunatic. Up toward Wilsonville the Interstate starts to enter the heavily populated Feeder Cities. People are stumbling their way towards work in the Big City of Portland which has over half a million people in the city proper. Naturally, traffic is slower and heavier up here.

Now this same sweet looking girl was diving in and out of gaps barely big enough for the car. Having caught up to her, I watched her flip off some other drivers. I saw her pound the steering wheel once. Reading her lips, I determined that the things coming out of her mouth I wouldn't even want in my hands. I wouldn't have been surprised to see her foaming at the mouth by now. What happens to people?

I think my brain's finally come up with the answer. Bear with me while I make a little trip to Star Wars. By the time we're done here, maybe you'll agree with me. Maybe you'll have your own opinions to share. Just remember, though, Light Sabers must be checked at the door!

You'll notice a picture of Obi Wan at the top of this post. Remember his immortal words to Luke Skywalker? "May the Force be with you, Luke!"

If you were an Imperial Storm Trooper you probably needed all the help you could get riding this Imperial Speeder Bike! Then again, an Ewok stole one and rode it, so how hard could it be? Come to think of it, isn't that what we see all the time with riders? "I have no training or past experience but how hard can it be?" But I digress.

I'm not an expert on things relating to deep spirituality and the larger forces at work in our universe. Come to think of it, I'm just a Warrior with high testosterone levels. Be that as it may, I've seen some things that lead me to believe there's some sort of higher connection among humans that only a minute number of us are even aware of. As complex as we are it would seem reasonable to deduce that the capacity is there. Scientists claim that humans use only a small part of their brains. I have no trouble believing that statement! There are documented events that show how powerful the subconscious mind is. So to this battle hardened Warrior it would be reasonable to think that some sort of larger Force is out there somewhere.

I think this Force is acting on people whether they know how to channel into it or not. It influences humans even though the individual may be totally unaware this Force even exists. With me so far? Follow me as we explore further.

I've watched documentaries where it looks like a person has developed their own ability to tune into this Force, whatever it is. These folks are rare. Most humans can't do it by themselves. Just like with TV signals, radio waves, cell phone frequencies, or whatever, an antenna will improve reception. The device that displays the result of the transmissions needs the ability to be fine tuned for clarity. So it's possible to have an antenna but no clear means of getting clarity on the signal. Think of it as static on a radio. There's a signal there but the radio isn't tuned properly.
Still with me?

What if it turned out that enclosed vehicles actually turned out to be antennas? Cagers could be driving under the influence of a signal that they're totally unaware of? That could also explain why we aren't as affected on a bike. No metal around us to pick up the signals. We carry our own programming, so to speak. So now we have a glimmer of what's happening to cager's brains. I know that still doesn't explain the terrible behaviour. My brain's worked that out, too. Interested? Read on.

Having been a soldier and a cop, I've seen humans at their best and their worst. The worst usually happens when there's a notable lack of guidance for good. Have you ever noticed how quickly behaviour sinks to the lowest common denominator when left to itself? Literature is full of this theme. One book that was required reading in high school was "Lord of the Flies". Those images still haunt me. Rather than take a lot of time with documentation, let me just restate it. Without a constant influence for good, human behaviour easily sinks to the lowest levels. I'm sure you all have plenty of your own personal observations in this regard.

Back to riding a bike in heavy traffic.

We now have a bunch of drivers under the influence of a Force that could be used to great good. Since they have no idea that this Force even exists, let alone how to filter it for proper reception, only the Dark Side gets through. That accounts for why they turn into such screaming lunatics when they get into their vehicles. If you think about it, it also explains why it's so much worse in heavy traffic. Due to the close proximity of all these antennas, the effect is amplified. Literally. Being among all these concentrated negative waves can also explain why even those of us on two wheels can be tempted to do things we might call "less than civilized". Riders just have to be aware of the situation and let these negative waves slide off of us. After all, wouldn't you rather be associated with Princess Leia than with the Emperor? Even if she does have what looks like cinnamon rolls stuck to the side of her head!

Interesting to think about, isn't it? This could be a reasonable explanation. I could also be the tortured ramblings of a shell shocked Road Warrior. Maybe it's just whimsical fantasy from a blogger who's had way too much coffee at 5 AM! Either way, have a great weekend! Oh, yeah,
May the Force be with you!!

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Misc. Musings

Business Monday took me to the Oregon State University campus. Clouds dominated the sky for most of the morning. By mid-day, though, sunshine ruled. I set out for my appointment during the transitional phase. The reward came after my meeting was done. It was early afternoon and I had nothing really pressing to do for a while. There's something quite inviting about a university campus under sunny skies. There's also nothing like being on a bike to make one want to explore. One quirk of this campus is that most of the roadways are pretty cramped. Another quirk is that there are always a lot of pedestrians. Plenty of students and staff were ambling around enjoying the sunshine.

Navigating all this in a car can be extremely cumbersome. Sort of like motoring a barge up a stream. Being on the bike and opening my flip-up helmet I almost felt like a pedestrian myself. In fact, I actually had a conversation or two with some students about riding. Just another confirmation of why motorcycles are called the ultimate freedom machines.

As expected, there are a lot of cars on campus. My experience with universities has been that parking is sort of a hassle on all of them. Cars and trucks take up space. There's only so much space available. Most of the parking lots tend to be on the perimeter of the campus. Which means parking and then hoofing it to whatever destination a person has. During my explorations I came across little pockets between buildings. Yes, you guessed it. These pockets were crammed full of cars. Check out this picture I snapped.

Looking the other way from Sophie, you can see that's there also a designated parking spot for bikes. It's always sort of sad to me that bikes are forced into these ignoble little spots. Despite that, these rides were proudly claiming their space. Can you imagine how cool it would be if the ratio to cars and bikes were reversed? I could see this whole space reserved for bikes. The odd car or two would have to sneak in wherever they could find room.

It's protected bike parking even if it is crammed between a dumpster and a bicycle rack! I was sort of puzzled by why the bikes weren't backed in. Maybe it's a regulation although I didn't observe any signage. Anyway, there needs to be more effort to reward those who ride by making parking close and convenient.

Everyone who needed to be on campus could park so much closer to where they had to go. Not that walking is a bad thing, mind you. Healthy or not, walking a long ways in the rain isn't all that nice. I'm sure the morale and enthusiasm around campus would be greatly improved. I'm actually puzzled why there aren't more two wheelers here. Aren't colleges usually associated with people greatly concerned with conservation and ecological issues? I realize there's always extenuating circumstances but I'd expect to see more single track vehicles here.

All this exploring made me hungry. Up until now I'd plain forgotten about eating. Around 2:30 PM my stomach woke up and started rumbling. I suddenly realized I hadn't eaten all day. OSU is located in the heart of Corvallis, which has a population of around 50,000 or so. Riding through town looking for a sandwich shop I observed a number of riders out and about. Sunshine does that for us, doesn't it? One guy on a sport bike had a pretty close call when a car changed lanes into him. It looked like the rider was going down until he finally saw the car and dove into the other lane. Coincidentally, almost hitting a car himself in the process. The rider seemed to be fascinated by something on his left which made him oblivious to what was going on to his right. No, I didn't see an attractive female. I suspect he was watching himself in a large storefront window.

While I was eating I was doing some contemplation. There's quite a few folks out there who ride seasonally and / or recreationally. Most don't have a lot of experience. I know there's also a large number who've never been exposed to the proper techniques and strategies. Untrained riders just automatically know what to do, right? With gas prices climbing people are looking for relief from the weekly bite of filling up a tank. There's more and more of them climbing onto two wheels just for economic purposes. Still with no training. My oldest son called me just last night. His brother in law went out and bought a used dual sport to commute on. This guy has never ridden before but expects to just jump on and go. My son's comment to this fellow was,

"Dude, great plan, bad execution! You need to go take one of the classes my dad teaches".

Sad fact is that many will do the "learn by burn" thing. I and my colleagues will probably never have a chance to help give these riders a good start. If I had the opportunity to sit down with someone like this over a cup of coffee here's some wisdom I'd impart. Interacting with traffic is the biggest challenge they'll have right off.

What gear should we ride in around town? 2nd? 3rd? Makes one think, doesn't it?

There's no specific correct answer. There is, however, a guiding principle. Remember that SIPDE process for gathering critical information early and then making good decisions based on that information? After Predicting what might happen, as in a possible collision, we have to Decide what to do. One of the options is adjusting our speed. This can be either down or up.
In other words, we need to be prepared to either slow down or speed up. Having decided to speed up, what if we roll on the throttle and the bike says "huh?" A rider needs to stay in a gear that allows strong acceleration from their current rate of travel. My experience is that this gear is usually one lower than we're used to riding in.

Most riders aren't ex racers or speed demons. They're usually uncomfortable hearing the motor rev up like it will in a gear that allows for strong acceleration. In order to make the motor quiet down, the rider kicks it up one gear higher. Depending on the available torque, the ability to quickly speed up is negated. When a rider decides they need to move, they need to move right now! If our bike's a shifter, we should go out and experiment.

For those of us riding scooters, the CVT or whatever mechanism the scoot uses takes care of that automatically ( pun intended ). Lucky people!

What about blind spots?

How do we know if we're in a driver's blind spot? We can't see their eyes in their sideview mirror. That seems pretty obvious but how many riders actively check to see if they're in a driver's blind spot? Over and over again I see riders lingering in a blind spot. That's more trust than I'm comfortable with. As far as I'm concerned, it's our responsibility as riders to keep out of these kinds of situations.

Most multi-vheicle collisions happen at intersections.

A lot of riders seem ignorant of the fact that intersections aren't just places where there's cross streets. Alleyways and driveways are intersections. Riding along on a five lane street with numerous businesses on both sides is risky. After all, what are all the driveways into and out of the parking lots? Intersections. Vigilance is definitely required. I advise all riders to cover both the brake and clutch to reduce the reaction time. Scooter riders, just cover what ya got!!

Getting information early is critical, isn't it? Especially in intersections. Waiting until the last minute to make a decision is a surefire way to become a hood ornament. How many riders know how to prioritize information as they come to an intersection? Take a look at this crudely drawn picture. I drew it over a cup of coffee, coincidentally. Fortunately, I was able to edit out the coffee stains!

"Dangit, Jim, I'm a Warrior, not an artist!"

We are on a bike travelling toward the top of the picture. The bike is indicated by the "T". Get it, small body with handlebars? These are some typical situations we'll face. There's a very tall fence to our right. In front of us is a truck with the left turn signal flashing. There is cross traffic on both sides as well as a car behind us. Granted, we want to take in all the information we can as soon as we can. Our eyes aren't going to stay on any one hazard too long. Prioritizing can help us get the most critical information first. How would you prioritize these hazards?

If you said you would give first attention to the corner with the fence, gold star to you! Any time there is reduced or non-existent visibility that takes precedence. Remember, we're talking about normal riding. I can hear some of you saying that a hurtling truck or oil spill, or whatever would take first place. This is an everyday ride with the normal cast of characters. The area blocked by the fence is the big unknown. This gets first look as well as continued looks.

What's next? Statistics show that hazards from the front are next in succession for hazard supremacy. Left-turn Larry in the truck needs watched. Don't count on eye contact. I've raised teenagers. I've seen them look right at me but I knew nobody was home, so to speak.

What next? Cross traffic from the left because that lane is physically closer to us. Then comes cross traffic from the right. Then we check out Bob in the Buick behind us.

Again, this is a very quick assessment process. All the hazards need to be identified and accounted for in an extremely short period of time. The Hurt Study determined that the time is about 1.9 seconds between when a rider picked up a hazard and had to adjust or face a collision. Shows you how important an aggressive scan is, doesn't it? Having a system in place to prioritize hazards helps tremendously. As a matter of fact, good strategies are vital.

Well, I did it again, didn't I? I get to talking about taking care of ourselves out there and I start running off at the keyboard. This is such a passion for me it just bubbles out, I guess.

I'll leave you with something I saw this morning that kind of bothers me. Wish I'd had the camera with me to take a picture. I saw a fully dressed GL1100 'Wing in a handicapped parking space at Bi-Mart. Yes, the bike also had a handicapped sticker on the windshield. If a rider needs the sticker should they really be on the bike? If a person's sturdy enough to ride a bike should they have the sticker? I don't have enough information to make a good decision. It's the kind of thing that makes my brain hurt, though!

Miles and smiles,


Monday, April 23, 2007

Snowbound? Try a Snow Hawk!

I've been feeling guilty for a number of months. Despite torrential rains and nasty wind storms, riding to work all Winter has been possible for me. I know that a lot of you have been inundated by snow storms which has severely limited your riding. Like I say, I can hardly enjoy my rides, I feel so guilty. ( care to buy oceanfront property in Arizona? )

In my fervent desire to help you all find a solution to this single track deprivation ( note the emphasis on single track, not two wheels ) I can now offer you a way to commute in the heavy snow. Drum roll, please! We proudly unveil the Snow Hawk!

This single track vehicle will handle snow covered highways, sidewalks, yards, and the occasional pedestrian unlucky enough to get in your way. Just in case you might be thinking there's no thrills in a vehicle like this, I took it out for a test ride. Check it out in full adrenaline mode.
This beast has a Rotax 800 High Output motor. 140 horsepower pushing 410 pounds less rider. Yee freaking haw!!!

I'm also testing it out on mud flats. My thinking is that I have a little more time to present the mud flat test. Mud slides don't happen too much in our part of the world. I'll limit my mud test to short cuts around traffic only. The biggest issue I'm having is with vision. My CAD / CAM program is feverishly working on a built-in sprinkler system for the visor. Mud riding would definitely be a solo sport. Pity the fool who rides behind me! Come to think of it, perhaps the mud version would be perfect for commuting in Washington DC. Those folks are quite adept at mud slinging and side-stepping.

Should you wish to acquire further information, here is the web site link:

This is a real product. I get no commission so I am sharing this out of the goodness of my heart. Don't say I never did anything for you!

Miles and smiles ( don't smile too much when riding in the mud, though )


Friday, April 20, 2007

Time for tires, again!!

Once again a set of tires is kissing the wear bars. I almost hated to use this picture. Mile after mile of freeway riding has resulted in noticably squared off tread. For a wild man like me it's kind of embarrassing! It is what it is, I guess. At least the tire's being well worn instead of sitting around drying up.

I'm going to have to hit up my tire sponsor ( me! ) for a new set of rubber. These particular tires happen to be Avon ST's. They're a sport-touring compound that's supposed to give good grip as well as good mileage life. I can't complain about the life of the tires. This rear tire has around 12,000 miles on it. The front tire has well over 20,000 miles on it. The wear on the front is about equal to this rear tire. The grip isn't as good as some tires I've had on the bike. For normal riding the grip is fine. Normal is defined by what you would expect of someone riding a 700 pound bike in everyday commuting.

I tend to be, shall we say, a little more aggressive than the normal rider. Sophie also sees duty when we do our track based training. In my opinion, there's a little more credibility if the instructor uses a big bike. Most of the students are average riders on cruisers, sport-tourers, and similar bikes. When the instructors are using sport bikes on a track, students often fail to see the connection to their own mounts. When I ride a bike just as big as theirs it seems to make more of an impression. Specifically, the students realize that they can realistically do the same things on their bikes. The Avon tires wear like iron but leave a little to be desired grip-wise in hard, fast corners.

In the early days, when I was a little more poor than now, my tire choices were dictated more by economics. My long line of Honda CB series bikes usually got shod with something like Cheng Shin tires. I have no recent experience with them, but at that time they were good tires for a reasonable price. In keeping with the purpose of these Universal Motorcycles almost of my riding was commuting. The tires matched the capabilities of the bikes just fine.

As I starting honing my skills and buying more powerful bikes, I became more discriminating in tire choices. I actually had a little more cash available, for one thing. Now I had the luxury of trying to match a tire to what I expected it to do on each bike. I also started long distance riding about then. For years and years I bought Metzeler tires. I found that the ME-33 Laser front tire paired with the ME-88 rear was a perfect fit. The ME-33 has a great tread pattern that channels water well. This tire hunts less in rain grooves and small pavement ruts so the bike feels more stable. Wear was perfectly acceptable. I even ran these tires on the Pacific Coast bike we owned for a few years.

Acquiring the CBR and the VFR added a whole new dimension to tire choices. Since Sophie has been the star of this blog, I'll stick with tires that she's worn. Literally and figuratively.

The stock tires that came on the ST didn't last long. At 6,000 miles the front tire started cupping strangely. I can't even remember what they were. Maybe Bridgestones. Either way, they were soon replaced with Metzeler tires. Here's a finer point for those of you who might be interested. The standard ST1100, of which species Sophie belongs to, comes with bias ply tires. The ST1100A, which has ABS, comes with radials. Both the Honda factory and the tire folks agree it's fine to run radials on the standard ST's.

Metzeler came out with a sport touring tire called the ME-Z4. These tires were touted as having good wet weather grip and a long life. The claims were true on both counts. I'd get around 11,000 miles out of a rear tire. Being a stickler on tires, I would replace both the front and rear tire at the same time. The contact patches combined are about as big as a Size 10 tennis shoe so I wanted them to be as good as possible. Several sets of these Metzelers came and went.

Then one time the dealer didn't have a set readily available. There was a ride coming up or some such thing so I didn't really want to wait. A set of Dunlop D205's sat on the shelf. Let me tell you, these are the best tires I've ever run on Sophie. The wear is about the same as others I've tried. Grip and predictability are awesome. Almost too awesome, actually. Some sport touring tires have more of a peaked profile. Which means that you press and press for a turn while it seems the bike doesn't lean much. All of a sudden the tire rolls over the top of the peak and feels like it falls over into the turn. It can be disconcerting at higher speeds. These D205's rolled over very smoothly. The tires were too good in that I tended to get more aggressive on country back roads than I should have. Not that I ever crashed, or anything. I just found myself looking back on a ride and thinking that was a little over the top for the conditions. The scraped tupperware was another clue. I wasn't too ashamed, though, as I ran through two sets of these tires.
As a side note, riders have to appreciate just how good tires are these days. These Dunlops are probably as good or better than the DOT's I ran as a club racer. What totally fun days! Early 80's, a big GSXR, and some great buddies to hang out with. The things we could have done if somebody had zapped today's tires back to us in a time machine!

There's an on-line ST1100 owner's club. I have a membership number and participate in the forums once in a while. Quite a number of owners raved about the Avon ST45 and ST46 sport touring tires for the ST. I figured what the heck and tried them as my next set of tires. They just don't work for me like they must work for the other riders. Since the front tire still looked so good when the rear was worn out, I left it on and bought another Avon rear tire. Which is the one in the picture above. Like I say, the mileage wear is tremendous. The price I personally pay for the long wear is a lack of grip for my own personal riding style. I can't feel the tires very well, either. My experience and skills are such now that I can feel and intrepret the feedback from my tires. These tires aren't all that talkative.

So I'm looking at going back to Dunlops this time. Although I see that Metzeler has a new series tire, the Z6. I'd be open to and appreciative of feedback on your tire experiences.

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

She's up to something ( I just don't know what it is! )

Somebody was rudely shaking my shoulder.

"Come on, are you going to sleep all day?"

I sort of thought I was going to sleep at least part of the morning, now that she mentions it. I tried faking a gentle snoring while not stirring at all. She was not to be denied. The proverbial mother of my children knows I'm a light sleeper.

"You promised to take me on a dam ride, today!"

Despite what some of you deviates out there may be thinking, there was no actual profanity being uttered. There was some vague discussion of a ride on Saturday but I certainly didn't remember any promises being involved. Katie loves water. We happen to live within an hour or so of a couple of actual major dams on the Santiam River. I forgot Detroit, that makes three. If a person is really into boats, fishing, and hunting, we live in the ideal place for it. We often end up stringing far flung back roads together with a stop at one dam or the other in the middle.

She looks pretty innocent in this picture. Let me tell you, she's up to something. I just haven't figured it out, yet. Come October I'll have been delightfully married to her for 30 years. I thought I knew her pretty well. Lately, though, she's been acting a little strange when it comes to motorcycling. Like this insistence on riding today. I'm ten hours removed from a 528 mile day on Friday. Katie's got an endorsement of her own. I taught her to ride in one of my classes combined with some personal training later. I know she has a basic level of competence. We sold her CX500 but I've offered many times to buy her what she wants to replace it. Katie knows where the keys are to the bikes around the house. This girl would rather ride pillion. That's ok with me. I like her being with me and she's a great passenger.

Somewhere over the winter Katie started developing a greater desire to go riding. Weather doesn't matter like it used to. Once upon a time she was a fair weather rider. The really bad stuff I ride in still puts her off. Clouds and some rain don't seem to deter her, though. Here's a picture of the clouds when we'd been riding for a little while. As you can see, it's not exactly a sunny day.

I know it seems weird that I was reluctant to ride but that's the way it was. All during breakfast Katie was rushing me along. Usually I can linger over coffee while she does her hair and stuff. Since we were shoving on helmets, no hair fixing went on. I tried to take my time but the fumes of impatience were overwhelming me. By the time I got geared up, Katie had put drinks and snacks in the saddlebag and was tapping her booted toe on the ground. Off we went. Sometimes you have to take a break from riding to work to take care of those you go to work for in the first place.

Those of you who've been reading this for a while know I'm usually doing the fast and furious thing. Katie, on the other hand, likes slow and scenic. This is especially true when we're riding along a river. Or, like on this ride, on the back side of Foster Reservoir. I figure when she's with me I can do slow and scenic. There's plenty of opportunity to do my own thing otherwise. Riding helps clarify one's thoughts at whatever speed the bike's doing. Here's a gem from that particular stretch.

Poets, philosophers, and creators of literature have been trying for years to describe love. They give example after example. I'm a hardcore motorcyclist. If it ain't got a reference to two wheels I just can't relate. Most of you out there probably won't admit it, but I suspect there's some of that going on with you, too. So here's an example of true love that I'm sure you can relate to.

The road along the back side of the reservoir didn't have a lot of traffic. I kept the speed down to about 30 mph so Katie would have plenty of opportunity to sightsee. That's love, right? Putting the interest of the mate ahead of your own. Let me tell you about TRUE love. At one point an SUV was approaching from behind. We also happened to be on a great motorcycle road. No, not the scenery, the curves!! The natural thing to do would be to speed up so as not to impede traffic behind. For Katie's sake I resisted the urge. On a relatively straight stretch I pulled over and waved the SUV around us.

"No man has greater love for a woman than he who will purposely let his powerful bike be passed by a freakin' Ford Explorer!!!!!"

Along the way we stopped at the fish hatchery. Not much was going on but they have this big aquarium by the office.

There's supposed to be a sampling of the species that come up the river. Spring chinook salmon, cut-throat trout, rainbow trout, some sturgeons, and other stuff are represented by signs. Not all of them are in there at the moment but there were still some fine specimens.

I often wonder what must be going through their brains as people come up to have a closer look.

"Dudes, like come look at those neon humans out there!"

By now the sun was coming out a little more and I would have been content to spend a few more minutes looking around. Even through my 'Stich I could feel more of those impatient fumes coming at me. Turning around with camera in hand, I saw that Katie was already geared up and ready to be back on the bike.

Notice those crazy red gloves? Drives me nuts. I've offered to buy her black pants for the 'Stich. That's way too much Hi-Viz all at once for me. She likes all the color. Those red Tourmaster gloves look funny to me in contrast to the Hi-Viz. Katie doesn't care. She likes the gloves. Like I say, drives me nuts. Come to think of it, there's a lot of that kind of thing in a marriage. Here's another piece of philosophical wisdom in the context of motorcycling.

Marriages and relationships end because people look at things like this the wrong way. I could chose to dwell on the weird contrast between the red gloves and the Hi-Viz of the 'Stich. I could get to the point where I see it as a huge fault on her part. Why is she so stubborn? A person could do the same thing with snoring, belching, flatulence, or whatever. Little things that could be perceived as faults to the point they become divisive. Let me tell you, these aren't faults. They're the good stuff. If you ever find yourself unwillingly deprived of your partner these are the things you'll look back on fondly. These are the things you'll miss the most. Go with the flow. Smile and enjoy them while you can.

Back to what my angel's up to. I still don't know. Here's some more highlights of what's happened in the past few months. Katie's pushing me to buy a Givi trunk for Sophie. Weird, isn't it? The wife's bugging me to buy motorcycle accessories. We should all be so lucky. Enter a comment I overhead her make when we were in Medford. I distinctly remember Katie telling another instructor that we needed either more luggage or a bigger bike. Why? Her explanation was that we'd need it if we were going to be gone a couple of weeks at a time on the bike. She's also bringing up the time we borrowed a BMW K1200LT for a long weekend. According to her, that air pillow passenger seat with the armrests was soooo comfortable. Does she know something I don't? I haven't been talking about any long trips or retiring any time soon. What is she up to?

By now, it's around three thirty in the afternoon. I decide to test Katie. Her being so eager to be back on the bike and all. I tell her we could be in Bend by suppertime. The expectation is that she won't go for it. Bend is 120 miles East over the Cascade Mountains. We're at the beginning of where Highway 20 starts to wind up over the hills until it meets with Highway 22 that climbs over the Santiam Pass. Elevation at the pass is 4815 feet. Roads will be clear but the air will be cold. On the other side of the pass is Central Oregon which is high desert.

"Let's go", she says.

It's a good thing I've just pulled my helmet on. Kind of helps hide the strangling sound I make. We have no extra clothes, no toothbrush, and no overnight kind of stuff at all. Just snacks and bottles of water. My kind of riding and impetuosity. Not hers. At least not up until now. Who is this woman? I mean, I'm starting to be really intrigued but where did she come from?

Steve Williams in his blog "Scooter in the Sticks" wrote about how he couldn't seem to resist the bike and tree picture. Of course, his trees are always on top of hills. This is a flat stretch in the hills. Counts the same to me. Here's one from a rest stop we took. This picture is very symbolic. The freedom of a bike, the natural wonders like the tree, and the reality of life as represented by the brick of the toilet building on the right. Pretty cool for a Warrior, huh? Like that one? Then try this one!

It's an even bigger tree and I never had to move the bike!! Seriously, Steve is truly the master of photography. I am but the humble amateur who bows before the Master. It was worth having some fun with, though.

Speaking of fun, we had a great time in Central Oregon. I actually got to sleep in a little Sunday morning!! There were some cold moments coming home. It was late in the afternoon as we headed back over the pass. I kept trying to creep the speed up as we came down this side of the mountains. The lower the elevation the warmer the temperature. Another few hundred miles on the odometer. It's going to be time to buy tires again soon.

Some of this is written as fun. Behind it all is a seriousness. Katie's got the bug to go somewhere far away on the bike. She's talking about going to Arizona to see her brother. She's mentioned the East Coast. It will be interesting to see where this goes, if anywhere. Who knows, I may be blogging about having just purchased a luxo-tourer. ( groan, I'm not ready for that, yet! ) I'd be all over a really long trip but I do want her to be comfortable. Hey, the Iron Butt Rally is running this year. How about doing it two up, Katie?

Miles and smiles,


Monday, April 16, 2007

The long commute.

I'm sitting in traffic and muttering to myself. It's I-405 between Kirkland and I-5. Friday afternoon rush hour. Nobody's going much of anywhere. Except for the HOV diamond lane sitting tantalizingly to my left. For some reason my twisted psyche has deemed this a time to work on building "character".

Part of me is talking to the other part of me. That's enough to weird me out already. The part that's talking is trying to convince the rest of me that we need to work on our "Zen".

Just because it's there doesn't mean you have to use it. Going there would be the easy way out. You're tougher than that. Isn't it enough to be on the bike in the first place? You're always talking about how great you feel on the bike. Now's your time to sit back and enjoy it. There's no rain at the moment. This is your chance to look around you. Think "tranquility".

Tranquility, my ironbutt. Nerve endings are starting to tingle. All I can see is that lane next to me beckoning so invitingly. I need to be moving. Like a shark, I feel like I'm going to expire if I don't keep swimming. Where's Katie when I need her? When she's with me on the bike I'm calm. Alone, I crave action. Altruism isn't working. The part of me that's talking tries appealing to my competitive nature.

You aren't going to let Steve, Gary, and the other scooter folks show you up, are you? They must be mentally tougher than you. After all, they deliberately choose to ride scooters. Maybe they're more secure than you. They know they don't need to engage in battle to prove their strength. Scooter riders have more self control than you, don't they?

It's true that I have the utmost respect for those who willingly choose to commute on a small scooter. Most of the ones I'm aware of don't run scared. Instead, they use skill and brains in place of brawn. I'm almost starting to believe the voice in my head. For a brief moment I feel slightly shamed. Suddenly a mental picture springs forth which I use to counter this insane attack from my "gentle side".

I picture myself standing defiantly in front of an oncoming pickup. You know, one of those trucks with four doors, a full-size bed, huge tires and wheels, and lots of chrome. The kind driven by those trying to compensate for their own personal shortcomings. I'm holding a scooter over my head in upraised arms. With a battle cry I hurl the scooter through the windshield. Yes! Born a Warrior, we are Warriors to death. I feel so much better. Although I'd probably never do such a cruel thing to a scooter. It is a bike, after all.

All this discussion's made me crazy. I'm salivating and trembling like a wolf with a lamb chop draped over his snout. Snap!! The jaws close and I'm off into the HOV lane. I've lasted exactly 22 minutes.

The HOV lane has its own perils but at least I'm no longer doing the stop and go thing. For the last 22 minutes the fastest I've ridden is 9 mph. Mostly it's been a matter of moving thirty feet followed by trying to wear out the brakes. We're doing much better than that now but I have to watch out for the drivers who literally dive into this lane. HOV or not, any driver will suddenly pull out in front of faster traffic to gain a little advantage. The speed differential and lack of intelligence makes it kinda scary sometimes.

Let me set the record straight here. I do have patience. It's not the kind of patience associated with tranquility, though. No, it's more that associated with the hunt. I patiently wait until my opponent shows me their weakness. I wait to make a move until it's more advantageous for me. I have the kind of patience associated with a stalking lion. I love fly fishing and bass fishing. I hate just sitting in a boat watching a bobber. I was born that way. I accept my role. Brains and brawn; I'm loaded with both. The secret is to balance them into controlled aggression. I AM A WARRIOR!! Now get out of my way!

How I have the patience to teach new riders, I'll never know. It's probably because there's a challenge in and of itself in getting them from point A to point B. That journey intrigues me.

My morning had started pretty early. Sophie was saddled and rolling at 4 AM. There was frost on the windshield of my S-10 pickup when I left. Scoffing at the cold we began the long commute.

A little after 5 AM my trusty STeed and I found ourselves in Portland traffic. Even at that time of day, things were busy. At Foster Road another rider merged onto I-205. I followed for a while. The bike looked like a KLR but was smaller. It was still dark and I couldn't see any badging on the dual sport. Judging by the general condition of the bike it was either older, well-used, or both. Didn't Kawasaki make a bike called the Sherpa back in the day? Wasn't it a 250cc street legal dual-sport?

What I noticed most about the bike was how hard it was to see. Like I say, it was still dark. There were some street lights along the freeway but they didn't pierce the gloom very far. On top of it all, there was some light fog. The rider was wearing what looked like good gear. It just wasn't doing much to help his visibility. A dark red helmet sat on top of a dark red jacket. Covering the bottom half were dark colored pants. Notice the theme, here? There was no reflective material to be seen. A very small tail light and a dim license plate bulb were the only signs of his presence. Sometimes following somebody else can give us a good clue as to what we look like to drivers.

Somewhere around Tacoma I had the urge to stop and stretch my legs before the final leg of the trip to headquarters. I also couldn't resist playing with someone's mind. Whipping off at Exit 128, I headed for a Starbucks I know about. Katie swears I navigate by Starbucks. I think she may be right! I only drink plain drip coffee, though. This particular one has a drive up. I opened up the flap of the tank bag at a fuel stop. Moving stuff around, I created a little crater type nest. I stashed a couple of dollars in the clear map window of the bag. It was so cool to roll up to the drive up and order a tall coffee to go. I thought the barista's eyes were going to pop out when she saw me put the coffee in the bag. She probably spent all day wondering how I drank the coffee while riding the bike. The truth was that I only went as far as behind the strip mall and then stopped to drink the hot brew. Fun times. I love making people's days more surreal.

Most of the rest of the ride was just interstate droning. Here's a couple of other tidbits from the commute.

Firstly, here's an obversation or two about vehicles on the road. Toyota seems to be hugely represented out there. The new Jeep Commander looks a lot better coming than going. A maroon colored specimen dove in front of me and I was forced to follow it for a long ways. I eventually passed it again and got a good look at the front of the rig. Not too bad. Following it was another story. This vehicle suffers from the ugly wazoo syndrome. That being said, nothing out there is as ugly to me as the Pontiac Aztek!

Secondly, it always blows me away how many people are driving the freeway and talking on the cell phone. Most barely have the divided attention to drive, let alone talk at the same time. So many get into the left lane and travel below the speed limit. It reminds me of behaviour that established probable cause for a drunk driving arrest. Weirdly enough, I discovered that trying to count the number of drivers talking on a cell phone can be as distracting as actually talking on the cell phone!

Washington State will probably have a hand-held ban in place come Janurary 1. It would seem that the drivers up there are trying to cram in as much cell phone to the head talking as possible before then. In an effort to pass time and amuse myself, I started counting the number of drivers using cell phones. Not only that, but I studied body language. After all, I've always wondered who the heck they were all talking to! The study of body language has been both a useful tool for survival and a fascinating endeavour.

I saw everything from big smiles like you'd see in passing along gossip to dark looks common to heated arguments. I was really getting into my research. Almost too much. Traffic in big cities has this nasty habit of coming to an abrupt halt on short notice. I almost missed one such incident. Actually, to be more accurate, I should say I almost didn't miss one such incident. No harm, no foul. There was plenty of time for me to react. The takeaway is that distractions can take many forms!

Seat time ended up being nine and a half hours. Total miles were 528. Not a bad day of riding. Yes, there was a fair amount of rain here and there. I don't care. I hate being wet but hate even more not being able to ride. I arrived home 15 1/2 hours after leaving. My bride welcomed me with a warm smile and hug. Just before we went to bed, Katie mentioned that since this was the last weekend I'd have off for a while, maybe we could work in a motorcycle ride. Aye, carumba! But that's the next post!

Miles and smiles,

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Expanding our limits.

I came across a quote in Men's Health magazine I wanted to share. Thanks to my big mouth, I'm not resting at home like I intended. We are now 140 miles or so away. We were on the bike and I said we could be in Bend by suppertime. Katie called my bluff. After a trip to a store for a couple of necessities, I'm sitting at a desk in a hotel lobby and paying for the privilege so this will be short. The full story will come later!

Here's the quote:

"Growth demands a temporary surrender of security." Gail Sheehy

I've written about having to get out of our comfort level in order to gain new skills. Exploring new territory can be somewhat disconcerting. Fact is, there's no other way to do it. Once having gained new skills we find it was worth fighting the fear.

Big leaps of faith aren't usually required. It's just a matter of stepping a little bit farther than we're used to. Then doing it again. There's an Oriental proverb which says,

"The longest journey begins with a single step."

Expand that thought and we find that the entire journey is composed of single steps. One builds upon the other. Pleasant journeys!

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, April 12, 2007

Proficient motorcyling

It's been a long day and tomorrow will be even longer. I just arrived home from manning a trade show booth all day. 4 AM tomorrow will see me leaving for a ride to our headquarters in Kirkland, WA. I'll have a five hour ride, four hours or so in a meeting, and five more hours to come home. At least that's ten hours of riding. Maybe longer. Pray for me as I'll be dealing with Seattle area traffic on Friday the 13th.

For those who might be interested, I'm posting a recommendation for independent reading. David Hough has several books out that are great for everyday street riders. Being in the motorcycle safety business, I come across a lot of printed materials. Most of it is good reading. I just find that quite a number of publications tend to stray towards the rider who wants to put in track days here and there. David's books aren't the only quality writings out there, to be sure. They do, however, stand out as being totally dedicated to street riders. Commuters figure predominantly in the book's contents.

There are three books available that I would suggest investing in. If you are a commuter and can only purchase one, then "Street Strategies" would be my choice. Two books are kind of a set. The first is "Proficient Motorcycling". The book after is called, fittingly enough, "More Proficient Motorcycling". The picture of the book was stolen from MCN's website. Sorry, Dave Searle, but I'm promoting one of your writers!! I personally own all three of these books. Two of my boys ride and I made these available for them. Actually, it was required reading, but what the heck?

Here's the link to purchase them.

Don't be thrown off by the fact the link is connected to books and magazines about animals. Bowtie Press is connected to Fancy Publications. My experience with their customer service has been entirely positive.

I have absolutely no connection with the selling of these books. No royalties, commissions, or good will comes my way. David Hough has dedicated a lot of time into writings that benefit motorcyclists. If I'm not mistaken, David's also served as an MSF instructor. He has my deepest respect. I sincerely feel that the books are of great value to riders, especially for two wheeled commuters. In that vein, I'm sharing them with you.

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Aim first, then fire!

Sorry, no pictures. There just wasn't anything that seemed to fit this time. I feel delinquent in the lack of attention I've been devoting to blogging, lately. So sorry. Please hang in there with me. I know what it's like to tune in for information and entertainment and find...nothing. There's a couple of trade shows to get out of the way this week. After that I promise to make it up to you all.

In the meantime, I came across a grim reminder of how many motorcyclists get the whole cornering sequence wrong. Good judgement's critical no matter what vehicle we're in or on. When the vehicle's a bike, it's even more critical. The consequences are so much worse for those of us on two wheels. I continually have cause to shake my head. It's not like new and unique things are always springing up to surprise riders. That happens once in a while like when I had a bear run across the road in front of me coming down off of Odell Lake. What gets the most motorcyclists are the same things over and over.

Getting corners wrong and being whacked by left turning cars are two scenarios that are repeated over and over, ad naseum. These are things that are right in front of us as riders. All we have to do is look. Use our eyes and gather information. It sounds over simplistic. While there's no magic bullets, simply using our eyes effectively isn't rocket science, either.

Riders don't look nearly far enough through corners. What happens is that extremely important decisions are made without having all the required information. Corners are taken literally on blind faith. If a rider can't see all the way through a corner, or worse, just hasn't looked the best that can happen is a guess. Time after time I see riders gamble their life on a guess. My question is, WHY???

Here's the latest thing that set me off.

Late Saturday afternoon. Highway 20 runs East of here and eventually heads over the Cascades into Central Oregon. Like any road that follows mountains it has its share of curves. Where the accident happened the curves were just starting. A 36 year old rider from Astoria was piloting a 2006 Kawasaki cruiser. Coming the other direction was a 25 year old man and a younger passenger in a Buick LaSabre. Bear in mind that Astoria is way up on the Northern Oregon Coast. Probably a couple of hours from the accident site. Which means that the road was likely not a familiar one to the Kawasaki pilot. Good visual information would have been the best ally for the motorcyclist. Accident reconstruction showed this factor to be missing. The rider crossed the center line in a curve and hit the Buick head on. This accident wasn't fatal but the rider was taken to a hospital with some pretty serious injuries.

Many police reports have that catch-all phrase listed. "Failure to negotiate" A casual observer would conclude that it was because of excessive speed. Someone more familiar with motorcycle accidents would ask where in the corner the accident happened. The last third? Ah, a classic case. Speeds weren't too fast for the bike, after all. Most bikes are way better than the rider ever hoped to be. No, the speed was too fast for the information the rider had. Crashing in the last third of the corner is the prime indicator. The rider does one of two things. One is straightening up and running off the road, colliding with a tree or some other fixed hazard. Or, as in this case, the rider runs over the center line and impacts oncoming traffic.

Looking is so important to the cornering sequence. Everything else hinges on the visual information. Entry speeds and lines should be set by what can be seen. Charging blindly through a corner can have disastrous consequences. Aiming comes first. Have a target to shoot for. If a rider can't see all the way through a corner then they need to assume the worst. Only after having a definite target can a rider successfully "fire", or pull the trigger on the corner.

I know I seem wound up about this. It's probably because I am. 85 percent of our fatalities in the last few years have been riders getting corners wrong. What a travesty! If motorcylists would just work on looking farther ahead, the fatalities and injuries would drop. I know I'm preaching to the choir with the ones who read this blog. Please accept my urgings to spread the gospel among riders you come into contact with.

Coming up in the next week or so should be a post on ABS and linked brakes, looking for traction clues, as well as some fun stories of riding to work. After all, that's why we do this, isn't it? We ride to have fun and look good, don't we? If there's any interest I might plug something in about lines and apexes in corners.

Miles and smiles,


Friday, April 06, 2007

Spring fling!

"The beaten path is the safest but the traffic's terrible!"

( Jeff Taylor, founder of )

That statement's probably the biggest reason I commute on a bike all year round. It's always special being on a bike but I don't always show the same level of enthusiasm. I know I come across as some hardcore Road Warrior and I truly am, I guess. During the Winter, though, my appetite for battle isn't always strong. I freely admit that I have days when I just don't want to be wet and cold. I'm not real thrilled at the prospect of riding in blustery winds, torrential rains, dicey traction conditions, or the multitude of other adverse things we face. Not to mention putting myself in a position where I'm more vulnerable to the cager idiots. A lot of people, including my own relatives, think I have some mental issues. They seem to think I'm some sort of masochist who likes pain and suffering.

Far from it. Dang right I'd like to be warm and comfortable. I'd love to eat Egg McMuffins and drink coffee during my commute. Heck, on Wednesdays I'd even order hash browns. At least until I couldn't fit underneath the steering wheel anymore! I'd like to know that if I made an error in judgement the consequences would be a little less critical than if I were on a bike. So why don't I just give in?

Like many of you, I'll fight being crammed into somebody else's mold until my dying day. I refuse to take the "beaten path" and become like all those people I see on the freeway every day. This is the essence of being a true Road Warrior. It's having the physical and mental toughness to battle for what you believe in. It's girding your loins by putting on the gear and saddling up the bike. Day in and day out through the Winter even though it causes you discomfort and possibly outright pain. It's who we are, it's what we do.

Winter can make riding a chore. We do it despite a feeling that we're just going through the motions. And then along comes a sunny day. Suddenly everything changes. The very same people who look at me all Winter like I'm crazy are now themselves crazy with envy. Sunshine and a bike is the recipe for the ultimate restorative tonic. Forget caffeine, chemical stimulants, or vitamins. Want a great mental boost? Ride in the sunshine! It's even better than Lucille Ball's "Vitameatavegiman"! God, did I just date myself, or what?

On top of riding to work in the sunshine, which made the temperature climb into the mid-seventies (f), add the chance to ride FOR work. As a cherry on top of the sundae throw in some pleasant surprises. What you'll have is my day yesterday which I've described in the title of this post.

On the way up the freeway I saw an Oregon State Police trooper working traffic. He was sitting at the side of the road on his new bike. They've switched from the BMW to this Honda ST1300. By coincidence, the same basic bike I spent a week and a half riding recently. I'm sure the Hondas came in a little lower in the bid process. One of the big differences in the police bike is that the output of the alternator's been ramped to 660 watts. I'm hearing, though, that the batteries are draining fairly quickly. The bike will be switched on but not running. With all the pumps, electronics, and extra police gear like radio and radar gun, a battery can be drained in about 20 to 30 minutes. There ought to be a key position where just the radio and radar gun are on. I'm sure that the techs will fix this soon.

The officer and I exchanged a friendly wave and I continued on my way to the office. Our mission for the day was to run down some problems with electromechanical door hold-open devices at the Veteran's Hospital in Portland. A specialist had come down from the Kirkland, Washington office to help out. He and the sales manager from Spokane were taking a car up to "Pill Hill". That's the common name for the hill the hospital's on. There's also Doernbecher Children's Hospital, Oregon Health Sciences University, a fancy eye center, and who knows what else up there. Thus the name.

My task was to go by the Portland Airport to pick up some circuit boards that were being shipped in overnight. Once I had them I was to deliver them up to the VA Hospital. The boards would fit in the bike's saddlebags.

I had a little time to kill so I decided to go to a local Starbucks for coffee. It was 8:15 AM. Starbucks was packed and the line was long. I didn't need their coffee that badly so I left. Just as I was pulling out I remembered there was a Crispy Creme donut shop a little farther down. Their coffee's not bad so this was Plan B. I discovered a neat little trick when I walked in.

My plan was to just have some coffee. Crispy Creme has this endearing policy of handing customers a hot, glazed donut as they enter. I hadn't remembered this. I was just after coffee, after all. How, though, could I resist the offer? Therein lies the trick. Go in just for coffee and get a free donut to go with it. No charge for that tip, folks!

The ride to the airport was neat. Short, but fun. Parking was the only thing I was really worried about. Instead of using a regular freight carrier, the parts I needed were coming in as checked baggage on an Alaska Airlines flight. Don't ask me how that works. All I knew is that I would have to go clear up to the terminal. Being one to push limits slightly, I figured I'd head on up to where you can pick up passengers. I seemed to remember a sign when I got back from Orlando in February that 15 minute parking was allowed. If I hurried I could park the bike at the curb and go fetch my package.

Chewing on that option, I almost missed the sign that pointed to my salvation. Fortunately, I'm a trained observer. Right before I had to make the left turn that would commit me to going to the terminal I saw a small sign. The sign read "motorcycle parking only". Looking past that I saw a bunch of bikes hunkered down underneath the ramp. A quick flick to the right and I was in motorcycle parking paradise.

Under cover, close to the terminal, and out of the hubbub, Sophie and I found respite from the hassle and financial cost of airport parking. Most of the bikes apparently belong to employees, according to one of the fellows you see in the picture above. The promise of great weather brought out a large number of bikes. I'd see the same situation other places in my travels this day. The really great news about this particular space is that the only regulatory sign is about bike parking. No signs about "employees only", "permit required" or having to pay. You bring a bike you park it here free. No questions asked. Totally freakin' awesome!

Here's a picture of a bike I thought you might enjoy. This rider has their own flair!

Yes, it's a Gold Wing. Speaking of 'Wings, maybe somebody who rides one can give me some input. I've seen several of them on the freeway this last week. Late eighties models and newer. In the early mornings when I'd think they'd be cold, the riders have had jackets but no riding gear over their jeans. If I ride without the Roadcrafter pants my lower half gets cold. These guys either have a short ride or the weather protection is that good. I'm not sure which. The lower fairings on the 'Wings seem wider so it looks like the wind is moved farther away from the rider's legs.

Being able to park Sophie in with this bunch of bikes totally de-stressed my mission. I got the packages, bid farewell to this bike sanctuary, and set off. There's an Air Guard base next to the airport. As I was leaving the terminal two fighter jets took off. Talk about power! I could see the twin tail nozzles spouting fire while the planes built up a little speed. Then they shot almost straight up. The visor on my helmet literally buzzed from the sound and power of the jets. These things must be the ultimate thrill ride!

It's a little over 15 miles to the VA Hospital. Once there, the road up the hill is a winding one. Gee, too bad. Do I have to ride this great road? I saw some bicyclists riding up the hill! These people are crazier than me. I'm not sure I'd even make it up the hill in the first place. I have a 15 speed mountain bike that I ride off and on. I've never tackled a hill like the one up to the hospitals. If one were commuting to work on a bicycle, the good news is that the ride home is downhill. Convenient after a long day of work, huh?

This was a perfect day of riding. At least, for a day spent working. By the time I arrived home there were another 271 miles on the clock. The only ripple in the current of motorcycling happiness yesterday happened on the way home. A Lexus SUV made a half-hearted effort to take me out. I'd been following the Lexus in the "A" lane. Sorry, cop talk. How about the hammer lane of three freeway lanes? The SUV driver pulled back into the middle lane. I was travelling a little faster and slowly started making my way by. For some unexplained reason the Lexus driver decided they really wanted to be back in the hammer lane. Over they came. Not abrubtly, but purposefully. I moved onto the shoulder but didn't reduce speed. After moving two thirds of the way into my lane the driver finally noticed me. How they lost me in the first place is what puzzles me.

It was partly my fault because I lingered in their blind spot. I was alert and ready so I wasn't as aggressive as I'd usually be about moving out of the danger zone. I know it sounds weird. Kinda like saying I'm prepared to run so I'll go up and slap a bear in the face. No harm, no foul. Both the Lexus and I continued on our ways unscathed. Both hands even stayed on the handlebars. It was too great a day to mess up by negative waves. Remember Donald Sutherlin as the tank driver in Kelly's Heroes? Dated myself again, didn't I? Enough of these negative waves, man!

Riders in general, and commuters specifically, need myriads of little strategies to survive on the streets. That's one strategy; namely, watching to see if we're in a driver's blind spot. How many riders look at a vehicle's sideview mirror to determine if they can see the driver's eyes? If you can't see their eyes they can't see you. I know it's hard to tear ourselves away from looking at storefront windows to see how cool we look. Still, it's our responsibility to make sure we stay out of other driver's blind spots.

That was my ride to work yesterday. My batteries are charged for a while. Once again I'm reminded of why we choose two wheels in the first place. As if we needed the reminder, right? The rain's coming back real soon. I'll still ride but you can bet I'll be thinking of my Spring Fling! By the way, I do really feel for those of you still getting snow and cold weather. I hope Spring comes real soon for you.

Miles and smiles


Monday, April 02, 2007

Ride report.

My cell phone vibrated on my hip just before noon on Sunday. It was The Director.

"Where's my bike? I opened my garage door and it wasn't there." I'd known he would be back sooner or later and I'd have to give up the bike.

"If you ever want to see your bike again, get together a thousand dollars worth of unmarked riding gear. Put it in a worn piece of soft luggage. Come to Albany and put the bag on the pitcher's mound at the ballfield", I told him in reply.

It would seem that I was the only one of the two of us that found this amusing. The only response I heard on the other end of the line was a snort. He wasn't going for it. My time to play with the ST1300 had expired after ten and a half fun days. Here's some high points of the experience.

I'll have to preface this by saying I expected not to like the bike all that much. When the ST1300 first came out, I really didn't like the looks.

Sophie, my ST1100 has a more flowing look than the 1300. Call me a lecher, but I prefer sensuous, sexy curves over sharp angles. As you can see in the picture, the 1300's body work is comprised of numerous edges.

Looking at the bike, I feel less like I'm being seduced and more like I'm being attacked. To me, it was the difference between Mae West's "come on up and see me sometime" and Madonna's "in your face" approach. Call me old fashioned, but I like to make the first move!

Then there was the back end of the bike. I know, I know, a real gentleman wouldn't be looking back there. Not only did I look, but I didn't care much for what I saw. Here, you have a look for yourself.

Those triangular tailpipe housings present a sharp contrast to my mental picture of how motorcycle pipes should be. It goes back to the flowing curve thing, I guess. Between the pipes and the turn signal lenses that rise upward like ears on a dog, it all looked sort of cheap and tawdry to me. Up until now there really hadn't been anything that made me want to rush down and trade Sophie in.

Despite the looks, I had a bike to play with for a while. Like people, some bikes look better than others, but they're all bikes, right? With that attitude in mind I started the process of exploring this bike.

After a surprisingly short time on the bike, all the visual awkwardness was forgiven. This bike and I were a lot alike in one regard. Looking at us can put some people off. Once you get to know us, though, it soon becomes apparent that we are exceptionally competent! Besides, once actually on the bike, you don't see the rest of the body work so much. Here's the view from the cockpit.

It's not so bad from this angle. It sort of reminds me of my first pickup truck. Grandma would laugh her head off at me when I'd give just the hood a quick wash. I don't know what was so funny. The hood's all I could see when I was driving!

The tach and speedometer are still analog. My CBR had a digital speedometer. Here's my stubborn streak showing again, but these two instruments were meant to have moving needles. On the right side of the instrument pod are some amber colored LED's. These tell the rider the ambient temperature, the engine temperature, the time, average fuel consumption, and how many miles should be available on the remaining fuel. There's also two trip meters and the odometer. With the button on the left that toggles four ways the readouts can be changed. There's also three stages of brightness for the LED's. A rider has to be careful to keep attention on the road and riding! Speaking of attention, did Honda purposely change which side fairing pocket locks? On the 1100 the right pocket locks. Which means that a rider can get into the left side pocket while riding. In contrast, the left pocket is the one that locks on the 1300. You can't access the right pocket without taking your hand off the throttle. Interesting.

Once familiar with all the goodies I set off riding. Sophie's set up such that I sit down in the bike. I felt more like I was sitting on top of the 1300. It was a comfortable seating position. Sitting on top of the bike also made it feel more agile. The down side was that the bike felt a little less stable in gusty side winds. It wasn't a problem, it just felt different. Where I really felt a difference was in the fuel injection and extra horsepower.

Fuel injection allows for more precise and efficient use of the fuel. There's also drawbacks. For being smooth, I much prefer a carburetor. That "lightswitch" effect of fuel injection always gets to me. One thing I noticed on the 1300 that I never noticed on the CBR was how long the fast idle stayed on. For a few blocks after starting off in the mornings, I'd let the clutch out and the bike would want to surge quickly ahead without my giving it any throttle input. Weird, but no big deal.

There's a little more weight to the 1300. ABS requires extra hardware and I think the body work is slightly heavier. That's more than made up for by the 20 extra horsepower over the 1100. Combined with the fuel injection's crispness, the 1300 feels more like it wants to get up and go. Did I mention the extra 20 horsepower?

The windshield is another feature that looks funky but works really well. I'm a die-hard traditionalist, I guess. I've never changed the windshield out on Sophie. I like the way her factory shield looks. Not so wild about how the aftermarket ones look. So I give up a little available comfort to retain the sleekness of the bike. I have to admit, though, that it was nice to be able to change the shield height in certain circumstances. A little higher at faster speeds and a little lower in town. Worked really well, it did!

One time, for a brief period, I raised the windshield all the way. It was really quiet in the cockpit. It was too much like being in a car so I lowered it again. I wonder what having that shield up there all the way does to the fuel economy? Kind of like pushing a glass wall through the air. As the shield raises the angle also flattens out.

Comfortwise, the bike worked. One particular feature was a bonus for me but not so much for Katie. Our footpegs are farther apart than on the 1100. I usually have to be pretty precise when I put my foot down at stops. If I let my foot drift back at all it hits the front of Katie's foot. She tries to keep back a little but there's only so much room. On the 1300 I have a little more clearance. A small thing, but nice. The bigger space between the pegs means that the passenger seat is a little farther back. Instead of being able to snuggle up close Katie found there was a little space between us. The rider's footpegs are lower than on the 1100. I was able to stretch out a little more which gave me more options for comfort on the long parts of the ride.

I'd soon find that the lowered pegs demanded a price in ground clearance. Namely, that the 1100 will lean a little farther before things scrape. The reason I went to Medford was to conduct an instructor update. We spent some time working on our Rider Skills Practice class. At both the beginning and end of the class we do a circuit ride. It's a combination of low speed maneuvers, cornering, swerving, maximum braking, and the Barrel Run. The whole thing is timed and scored.

The Barrel Run is done around three cones. It looks a lot like what you see in rodeo but with a steel steed instead of flesh and blood. In this location the light pole is the center barrel. I had Katie snap a photo as I rode a demo. You can see how close the bike is to scraping here. In fact, a couple of times I heard grinding noises from somewhere underneath. Sorry, Mr. Director!

All in all, riding the 1300 was a pleasant experience. The biggest reason I'd change right now is for the ABS. No matter how good our skills are, having a computer backing us up is worth a lot. The computer never gets tired, distracted, or scared. I was riding some demonstration runs in the maximum braking chute. The idea was for the instructors to get practice in observing how an ABS equipped bike reacts and be able to coach accordingly. My first run was a normal, smooth stop without getting into the ABS. On the second run, the intent was to get into the ABS. I came in and used the brakes very aggressively and did a short stop from about 30 mph. Two of the instructors are motor cops and they swore I didn't get into the ABS. I had to agree as I didn't feel it. What blew me away was how well developed my own skills are. Cool.

I'm not going to talk much more about the ABS here as I intend to do a separate post later.

One of the things riders complained about on this bike was the excessive heat coming off the right side. This ST1300 is a 2004. It wasn't until just recently that Honda did some kind of "fix" for this. I never noticed it because the temperature outside never got over the mid sixties (f). It would be interesting to try the bike in the heat of summer. Then again, maybe not, if it's really that hot!

Now the bike's back with its owner. It was fun while it lasted. I never did get my riding gear, either!

Miles and smiles,