Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Two wheeled Beverley Hillbillies!

I just read another great post over at Heinz and Frenchie's blog. It's about a trip to a bistro. The colors in the photos are an appealing assortment of pastel type shades. What's amazing about the thing to me is that residents can buy passes to beach chairs. Weekly, monthly, or yearly. The advantage to a scooter rider is that they don't have to haul stuff. You can read the post by clicking here.

Of course, with proper planning you can actually haul quite a bit on a motorcycle. Take a look at this, for example.

I was getting ready to go man a table for an ABATE motorcycle show in our local mall. Years of commuting have thoroughly educated me on how to pack stuff on a bike. As you can see, I had stuff in the tank bag, lunch in the saddlebags, cold beverages in the black bag ( there's a cooler inside ), and my very own chair. It's one of those folding canvas chairs wrapped in its own bag. Pretty much self contained and ready to go. As you can see, there's still plenty room to pile stuff on. Granny Clampett has nothing on me and Sophie! Has anyone seen the rest of my bungie cords?

There's a number of areas where ABATE and I disagree. We've generally agreed to disagree in a friendly and respectful manner. There is one big matter we both agree wholeheartedly on. That's the matter of rider training. ABATE is a big believer in the value of training. In fact, they've helped us out financially by providing containers for bike storage at a number of sites. Just inside the doors of the containers are signs pointing to ABATE's help and support. For that kind of support I'm really grateful.

The person from ABATE who was organizing the show asked us to man a table for our training program. They provided a table for us. Since I lived close I volunteered for weekend duty. Amazingly, it was a weekend I wasn't teaching. The young man in the picture is on a sort of treasure hunt. He's got a sheet of paper in his hand. There's a list of questions that he has to look at the bikes to answer. For successful completion, the kids received a model of a cruiser.

I was told by one of the guys that the group wasn't allowed into the mall last year. Seems management had an objection to the noise. Being there Friday night and helping set up, I could see his point. There was a little argument over how to get the bikes into the mall. The manager wanted the bikes pushed in. He was afraid of damaged floor tiles. Not to mention the noise of running bikes. The manager was finally convinced that his floor tiles would be better served by bikes being ridden. Some of those cruisers are pretty heavy and they would have to be pushed a long ways. There would be more of a chance of dropping bikes by pushing rather than riding.

So the bikes came in a few at a time, motors running. There's just something about those open pipes that created too great a temptation for some of the riders. A few "accidental" throttle rolls rattled windows. I do have to admit that there's a unique character to the rumbling bikes inside an enclosed space like the mall corridors! It will be interesting, however, to see if they are back next year.

Anyway, I got sidetracked. I got my lunch and a chair. Now we just have to go find a warm beach!

Miles and smiles,


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Distracting upheavals!

The experts say we should do everything in our power to focus on our riding. Which means avoiding distractions. That's pretty good advice. Especially when riding twisty roads. What's really amazing is that things you'd normally not consider distractions can actually be pretty powerful ones! Yesterday I discovered another one of those things.

I had an early appointment in Monmouth yesterday. Monmouth is the home of Western Oregon University. While not a large city, Monmouth does have a unique distinction. It was a "dry" town until 2002. That meant no sales of alcohol in stores, restaurants, and bars. That was a stipulation from the early settlers from Monmouth, Illinois in the mid 1800's. 640 acres were deeded for the city and a college. These pioneers considered themselves strong Christians. Thus the stipulation that came with the land deed. Eventually the dry status got reversed. Even then, the vote was close. Somewhere around 57% for ending the alcohol ban and 43% for keeping it.

Monmouth is about 45 minutes North and a bit West of me. One blessing of living is this area is that we are surrounded by farm country. While urbanization is creeping outwards, there's still plenty of open space. As was the habit of farmers, roads wind around the fields. Sweet!

Sophie saw duty yesterday. I'm sort of in an intermediate stage with her. The STeed is still up for sale. With today's economy, calls are understandably scarce. She's a prize to me but probably not as much so to prospective buyers. Since she's for sale, I've spiffed Sophie up pretty good. The new windshield starts the glamour. Bodywork has been polished. The faded gray plastic was restored to almost new condition thanks to some magic potions and a lot of elbow grease. Sophie is glowing like a new bride.

Therein lies the rub. The bike needs to run once in a while to keep the juices flowing and the battery charged. However, I don't relish the idea of another massive cleanup. So, I'm ashamed to say, Sophie's become a fair weather ride. Whatever you do, please don't say those words anywhere near where she might hear it. You can imagine why I ask. Elvira gets dumped on with dirty weather duty. Hey, I gave her full disclosure before she married into the family! Since there was fog that was expected to give way to sunshine, I gave Sophie the nod for this trip.

After my meeting, the plan was to cross over into Independence then hit the old Corvallis Highway. You've seen this road mentioned before in this blog. There's some straight stretches with roller coaster ups and downs. In between are some great curves. The particular section I'm writing about is a series of corners posted at 25 mph. First there's a big left turn. A few hundred feet of straighaway brings you to a big curve to the right. After that turn is a shorter stretch that leads to a left turn. Then a right. A half mile down the road brings another sharp right, then a left, then back to a long straight stretch. Confused? Just remember the sharp turns connected by short straight stretches!

As luck would have it, I caught up to a car right as I entered the the first left hander. Yes, I saw the car ahead of time. No, I don't have the patience to pull off to the side of the road and wait for the car to get farther away. Besides, what usually happens is that yet another car will come along. So I followed the car for a bit and plotted my strategy.

The car was a square BMW older model four door sedan. The only BMW car model I can readily identify is the 325i because I lust after one. This car was once bright red but had faded some. Kind of like a woman's lipstick put on early in the day and worn late. Surprisingly, or maybe not, the car driver did pretty good in negotiating the first curve. Passing the car would mean a huge handful of throttle followed by a double handful of brake to slow in time to make the next curve. I decided to hang back a bit and see what came next. I do have enough patience not to make unsafe decisions.

Left curve completed, we entered the right hander. I'd left enough space to have a bit of fun in the curve. By which, of course, I mean the right peg scraped. Having fun, but keeping concentration, I noticed the BMW slowing some. The passenger door window came down. A head with close shaved hair came out the window. Somewhere in his mid-twenties, I guessed. His gaze was on the roadway beside the car. Was he seeing something I wasn't? I'm trained to always be looking for traction clues by watching for changes in color and texture on the roadway. No, I wasn't seeing anything menacing. At least, not yet.

We're approaching the next curve, which is to the left. I'm still wondering what's going on. The guy's mouth is open, now. The BMW is slowing for the corner. A little more than what I would normally expect. I'm hooked on what's going on but trying to get ready for the corner at the same time. Since the curve's to the left, I've put Sophie to the right side of the road. Which gives me a better view of the passenger. A little too good, I might say.

All of a sudden, there's a whole new world of color and texture changes to the road's surface. I thought at first that the guy had dumped a big cup of cola or something. Except I notice that there's no cup in the hand clutching at the door. Massive quantities of liquid are coming from the man's mouth. Yes, he's throwing up. Not just heaving, mind you, but bona fide projectile vomiting.

Several things are happening at once, now. My first thought is,

"Crap! I hope that's not going to splatter on the bike!"

Remember, I'm trying to keep Sophie sales-ready clean. My second thought is,

"Yikes! The curve's RIGHT THERE!"

It was like one of those monster movies. You don't want to look but you can't seem to peel your eyes away from it. Not only didn't the driver slow down, but he seemed to actually increase speed through the curve! This served to throw the passenger a little farther out the window. It also created a spray out the right side of the car that seemed to last all the way through the corner. By now I've decided that if the car doesn't stop I'm just going to slow waaay down and let them get away from me. What kind of driver does that kind of thing to their passenger? I figure it's the act of one college kid against another. Evil at the time, but fodder for laughs at some future point. If they both survive the next few minutes, that is.

Fortunately, the driver stops by the side of the road before the next right hander comes up. Possibly being a college student, he probably realizes the effect that centrifugal force will have. If he pulls the same stunt to the right, his sick passenger is likely to puke in his lap. That would certainly deter me from further prankish behaviour.

I was tempted to stop and take a picture for evidence. A restricted line of sight for other traffic is one reason I didn't. Secondly, it seemed too much like the act of a papparazzi voyeur. So, instead, I decided to finish my journey and leave them to their own devices.

What's amazing is how far I got sucked into watching the whole ordeal. It was sick and disgusting and yet fascinating at the same time. In the end there was no harm, no foul. Except to the outside of the BMW, that is. It just goes to show that distractions can happen anywhere at any time. We always have to work at keeping our heads in our ride. Not to mention our lunches in our stomachs!

Miles and smiles,


Friday, November 14, 2008


I normally try to avoid posting videos here. I figure I owe it to those who take the time to visit to actually write something. However, this video fits in so well with yesterday's post I couldn't help it. This came across our instructor's list courtesy of Dean W.

I've written before about the critical aspect of keeping motor skills sharp and on a "top of mind" basis. Riders who put their bikes away for the Winter need to compensate for the rustiness that sets in over the break. Our brains will file less frequently used motor skills a little deeper in the file cabinet to make room for current stuff.

This video is about three minutes long. It's work and family safe. On a side note, the guy on the Triumph looks a lot like Matthew Allen in the UK, otherwise known as Mad. Are you still around and reading my friend?

For your convenience, here's the link to the website listed in the video

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fill those spots!

Cruising through a couple of cities yesterday, I noticed that most of the motorcycle parking spots are empty. They're so empty you can hear your voice echo. Of course, the weather yesterday might have had something to do with it. High winds and heavy rains don't make ideal inducements to ride.

I had an early morning appointment in downtown Portland yesterday. Following that I ski'd, I mean rode, back to Salem. I saw only three other bikes actually being ridden. One was a big BMW GS dual sport, the other two were being piloted by motor officers. Duty calls despite the weather, I guess.

Speaking of weather, the weatherman on TV likened us to being at the end of a fire hose. Fast moving jet streams were dumping tropical moisture on us from some Pacific island chain. We had wind gusts of 30 some miles per hour. A couple hours NW of us, Astoria on the coast got nearly four inches of rain. To top off the day, our neighbor's giant Weeping Willow tree finally gave up the struggle last night. Somewhere around 11:30 PM I awoke to what sounded like fireworks. Fortunately, the tree crashed to the ground without hitting anything vital.

With weather like this, you know I just had to ride. It's an ego thing, I admit. The last thing I want said about me is that I am less than a hardcore rider. Call me juvenile, but I'll probably still be trying to prove my Road Warrior status until I can no longer move. Katie was kind of worried about me riding. I think the prospect of the heavy, gusty, wind on top of the heavy rain shook her up a little. Especially since my itinerary called for around 250 miles. She's my best friend and deeply loves me. I know she wanted to keep me from riding but didn't want to deny me what I needed. That's true love. I love her, too, but I needed to ride. It's who I am. It's what I do. I just hoped she didn't have some premonition of my impending doom. Her slightly frightened look haunted me all day. Just to end the suspense, things turned out well yesterday with no close calls.

Finding a place to park nearly drove me crazy. Which spot to choose?!! Hmm. This one's nice, but that one has a better view. Oh, not that one. It's under a tree full of birds. Ok, how about this one? Well, the one next to it is a little cleaner and the stripe's brighter. Aaargh!!

This spot is usually crammed with bikes during the summer. The lack of other riders is sort of bittersweet to me. One the one hand, I like the feeling of being one of the "crazy ones" who rides all year. People never know how to take you. Yesterday, for example, I was walking on the sidewalk in my wet gear, helmet in hand. A guy passed me going the other way. He caught my eye and I knew he wanted to say something. So I decided to humor him and act like I might be interested.

"Getting wet, huh?", he says, with entirely too much pleasure, I thought. Of course, I think I'm much more manly than him since I'm the one with the wet motorcycle gear. So who cares what a lightweight like him thinks, eh?

Here's another empty space at the Community College. More fodder for my ego. Which brings me to the other side of the coin. I've thrown my loyalty behind Andy Goldfine's Ride to Work campaign. Notice that it doesn't say Ride and Build Your Ego. Drat.

Not everyone can ride to work all year, I know. Little things like snow, for example, get in the way. Around here, however, snow and ice are less frequent. It's certainly not as much fun to ride in our Winter, but certainly something that can be accomplished. Not everyone wants to ride in bad weather, either. I'm okay with that. However, there's some who would probably want to ride more, they just need a little help to get there. Here's a hardy soul who rode yesterday. The birds are acting like they hope the rider left their lunch bag out somewhere.

My challenge to everyone is to help fill these empty spots as much as possible. Just across the street is another example of empty motorcycle parking.

In nicer weather, there's at least two bikes here. Sometimes up to four. Yesterday it was being used by a UPS truck. Nothing against UPS. They do a great job and I'm always glad to see their trucks roll up to my door. However, there's six tires on this truck. Those tires should be split among three bikes!

New riders are often looked down on by more "experienced" riders. Notice I put the word experienced in quotation marks. Real experienced riders are mature enough to reach out to new riders. Help them find the right gear to cope with the elements. That alone goes a long ways towards keeping them riding.

Help them think like motorcyclists. This includes realizing they can still be safe in wet weather, they just need to go about things a little differently than in a car. Here's a classic example I encountered yesterday.

I was in the lane where the white van is now. Notice the railroad tracks? These run along 12th street in Salem. 12th is a busy North-South route that skirts the downtown area. A lot of traffic comes and goes from the downtown core along streets that intersect the railroad tracks. Rubber pads separate the rails. When it's wet, everything's slick. I had to make a right turn. That's what this van is going to do. The van driver is going to start the right turn while still on the tracks. There's not much room to make the corner as you can see in the next photo.

By the way, I hope you appreciate these pictures. Each photo is taken while standing in the rain and trying to hold the camera still against the wind!

Leaning the bike to turn while on the tracks isn't a good idea, as you know. A new rider can find themselves in the middle of a heart stopping moment. These kind of things can make people swear off riding real quick! Teach them the tricks like crossing the tracks straight up, then making a quick right turn. Little tips make big differences.

Teach new riders about the wonderful treachery of wet leaves. On the way home I snuck out on some back roads high up in the hills. Miles of twisty roads to play on. Yesterday I found myself riding very carefully. Those big leaves are pretty to look at but deadly. In some places there were literally only the wheel tracks open among the leaves. Here's a place where I came down off the hills onto River Road.

Yes, it's awesome riding up in these hills. Except for the leaves of course. You can kind of see some leaves still on the sides of the lanes. At the bottom of the hill a rider's going to have to stop. Not a big deal? Check out the bottom of the hill.

Surprise! Of course, it shouldn't be. There's that thing called looking well ahead and getting critical information early. This situation isn't an issue under those circumstances. Get the information early. Plan and adjust the braking point early. Remember that other motorists can be having traction issues at the same time. Stay alert. These aren't things we can assume new riders will just automatically know. That's where we come in.

Rather than letting newer riders get scared off, or leave frustrated, sharing some of our hard won experience can help them embrace the challenge. A little knowledge can spell the difference between giving up or feeling empowered. Helping others avoid the hard lessons we've learned doesn't cheapen our own image. I know that some feel like everyone should have to learn on their own. In the long term that's counterproductive to our goal of making motorcycles everyday transportation. Freely sharing will make us all better off in the big picture.

My goal is to help fill these empty motorcycle parking spots. Are you in the mood to join me?

Miles and smiles,


Monday, November 10, 2008

Faces of the fallen.

Once more Veteran's Day is upon us. I would hope this isn't the only time that those who have and are serving get attention. A guy in a sporting goods store made a comment to me the other day. He said that we're hearing a lot less about Iraq these days in the news. I reminded him that our men and women are still living it every day. He didn't know what to say after that.

I'm one of those who thank members of the military for serving. I've paid the tab at restaurants for uniformed soldiers. The purpose of telling you that isn't to make me look special or better than anyone else. People are free agents and have to do what their hearts move them to do. Maybe my heart's just moved a little more because of kinship. A lot of soldiers from my era were drafted. Military people today are volunteers.
They're the ones who are pretty special in my book.

I saw a guy with a t-shirt that read:

"My cousin serves for God and country. He fights for friends and family."

What a travesty if that nobility goes unappreciated. These are pictures of lost lives. Thankfully, a lot come back to us still among the living. Nobody comes back unscathed, though. Physically or mentally, there's a price. Thank you to one and all. We're sorry for your pain but blessed by your efforts.

It's been my custom on this day to take a ride on the bike. I'd visit graves of family buried in the Willamette National Cemetery. I would ride to the Memorial Wall in Portland. Last time I did the ride I got so lost emotionally that I nearly crashed on a wet bridge in the Big City. My senses were dulled to the smell of a diesel spill on a rainy street. It was way too close. I'm not ready to take that chance this year. Yeah, I know it's not in the same spirit of sacrifice our soldiers show. On the other hand, crashing a bike on the freeway doesn't have the same international implications.

There's a floating display at our mall. It's called the Wall of Honor. It started as a school project. Thousands of pictures cover the boards. Names, units, birth places. And those faces. I can't describe how haunting it is to me. Looking at the faces of these human beings The earnest faces of young men and women. At the time the pictures were taken, these people had no idea of anything but a normal future of growing old. Now they no longer exist except in our memories. And the pain that family and friends live with each day hence.

Nothing any of us can say or do at this moment will bring these ones back. They deserve honor for their sacrifice though they may never be aware of our prayers. For this special day tomorrow, though, I offer these prayers.

If there is any kind of afterlife, may these souls be reaping the just rewards for their sacrifices.

May their families eventually find the peace and strength to cope and carry on.

Most of all, may humanity one day find a better way to solve their differences and live in harmony.

God bless, and Godspeed to all.

Miles and a solemn heart,


Friday, November 07, 2008

News from Honda.

Sorry for the lack of posts this week. The boss has been down. That always keeps me busy. Evening times are tied up with client dinners. Since the boss is out of town, he's got nothing to occupy him in an empty hotel room. So we take people to dinner. The good news is that it means a great meal at company expense. The bad news is that dinners go to 7:30 or 8 PM. Since the restaurants are in Portland, that means an hour and 15 minutes to get home afterwards.

I'm ashamed to say it, but I only rode two days this week. For one thing, the boss flies down. Which means I drive. He's pretty good about my riding a bike for work. Unfortunately, as of yet, I haven't been able to convince him to ride pillion! Oh well. The other thing is that I can enjoy a beer or two with the meal. If I'm riding, it's a self-imposed rule written in stone. No alcohol. Period.

Today I'm sitting in front of the laptop catching up on reports. I needed a break so it was a perfect time to slip in a post. In another few minutes I have to attend a webinar that will last two hours. More computer screen time.

I rode on Monday to the Big City. As much as I'd like to take back roads, it works out better for time and distance to travel the freeway. Yeah, it's boring, but it's seat time. Other commuters are bored, too, it seems. I passed a guy in a small Subaru sedan. He had a small, round, head. Not much chin to speak of. Sticking out the back of his head was a ponytail. I wonder if the act of pulling his hair back into the ponytail shortened his jawbone? One thing for sure is that the ponytail must have been putting undue pressure on his brain. This guy was doing a crossword puzzle while driving. Propped onto the steering wheel was a book of puzzles. A pen was in his hand.

I'm pretty sure he didn't actually have the multi-tasking skills for this. Watching in my mirrors, I'd see the car twitch like he'd drifted and corrected quickly. One time he went over two lanes. The car twitched again and went back right one lane. I was tempted to turn him in but let it go. None of the news stations I listen to reported a wreck so I hope all turned out well.

Last week or so I did a post on motorcycle ABS. I'd heard a rumor that Honda was going to install ABS on all its bikes in the next couple of years. So I hunted it down and found the source. Honda had a report issued in May of this year. The rumor is true. The photo above is of Honda's CEO as he's delivering the speech. Honda has big plans to become more efficient in producing cars and motorcycles. Secondly, they want to be more "green". Thirdly, there's plans to incorporate more safety features into their vehicles.

Here's the quote from the report on the ABS.

"In the area of safety technology, Honda will install a motorcycle airbag system and ABS (Antilock Brake System) on more products. Honda plans to install ABS in all 250cc or larger class models worldwide, except off-road models, by the end of 2010.

In advanced nations, Honda will introduce its innovative environmental and safety technologies including a Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) system for motorcycles which significantly improves fuel efficiency as well as electronically-controlled combined ABS (C-ABS), an advanced brake system which further improves stability while braking. Moreover, Honda will improve the product attractiveness of medium-to-large size models and strengthen those aspects of a product which contribute to the joy of riding .
Motorcycle R&D will also be strengthened with a determination and passion to create the Super Cub of the next generation. "

So it seems this even includes the Rebel!

Interestingly, Honda attributes a lot of its success and strength to motorcycle production.

It's not listed in this report, but Honda is also working on navigational systems that will incorporate safety features. I read about a system that will issue a warning when another vehicle gets within a certain proximity. Kind of like the military's bogie warning systems! When a talented Japanese company like Honda puts its collective mind to something, the results should be impressive! Here's some information from that report.

"Honda has demonstrated motorcycle safety technology for the first time at an automotive technology event in Germany earlier this month.'s Julian Goldsmith reports Honda's motorcycle technology is in line with UK government initiatives launched in July to encourage manufacturers to consider motorcycle safety and put together an assessment program.

According to the government, motorcycles account for one per cent of road traffic, but account for 20 per cent of those killed on the road.

Honda cites an EU funded research project called the Motorcycle In-Depth Study published in 1999, which found of the 88 percent of motorcycle accidents caused by human error, 38 percent were due to the motorcyclist and 50 percent were the fault of the other driver.

Of the latter, the majority of accidents occurred because of perception failures (failing to see the motorcycle) or comprehension failures (not recognizing the approaching object as a motorcycle) or decision failures (failing to assess the speed of the oncoming motorcycle and pulling out).

A significant proportion of motorcycle accidents involve an oncoming vehicle either pulling out of a minor road on a junction into the path of the motorcycle, or crossing into the path of an oncoming motorcycle to turn right from a major road into a minor road.

Honda's main safety feature generates warnings to both vehicles as they are approaching each other by delivering continuous positioning data over the GPS network.

Honda says the Vehicle2Vehicle (V2V) system will work with its vehicles and those of eight other manufacturers and it is participating in projects in Europe, Japan and the US.

The warning indicator display varies in intensity, color and position of the lights to inform the rider of the seriousness and direction of the hazard ahead. A further enhancement of the system is a spoken warning relayed to the rider's helmet via Bluetooth connection.

Other safety initiatives include this riding simulator that can be used for training learner motorcyclists before they get out on the road. The trainer puts the student through a number of safety exercises.

Another safety feature going into the manufacturer's production of Super Sports bikes for the first time this year is electronically controlled Combined ABS, to provide enhanced braking capability in a wide range of road conditions. "

I finally have a weekend off. Katie's been neglected because I've spent so many weekends teaching. Trying desperately to remember to keep things balanced, I'm going to devote some time to worshipping her!

Stay tuned for next week. There are several interesting topics coming up here. In the meantime you can read the entire report from Honda here.

Miles and smiles,