Monday, September 26, 2011

Bikes, Boots, and Convertibles.

Just a few photos and comments.

Saw these in Bend Friday night. Not a pair you would normally see together. I think the common denominator was the downtown festival and beer garden around the corner. One of the bikes may be counting on the other to protect it. The question is which one?

In the top right corner of the photo below you can see my patient bride waiting for me to get my photographic jollies. Thanks for all your support, my lovely princess!

This bike was at an ART class I was teaching a while back. Made me think of you know who. Care for a little more bonding with Max?

Here are some photos to titillate the guy with a foot fetish. A guy we dearly love, of course! The first photo is one of the class instructors.

Some assorted footwear among the students. We require the ankle bone to be covered. Boots not necessarily required.

Here's what happens when a student doesn't have over the ankle footwear. They get a dose of stylish duct tape.

Reminds me of a quick story. Notice how the duct tape goes up the side of the leg like stirrups. Then the pant leg is secured to the stirrups. This keeps the pants protecting the ankles, light as the protection may be. More importantly, note how the duct tape is OUTSIDE the pants!

I once worked with a new instructor. A student needed taped. The new instructor assured me he knew about the stirrup and wrap technique. So I turned him loose. There was one small piece missing in the technique. The taping happened under the jeans. The young man who was getting taped was wearing no socks. It was a powerful reminder to me that one should trust, but verify!

Needless to say, the student had the proper footwear the next day. Go figure.

Ever have the urge to buy a convertible?

This one is for sale. Windshield wipers included at no extra charge.

Miles and smiles,


Friday, September 23, 2011

Foot down? Precisely!

I would like to introduce you to Precision. She is the sister to Prudence and Purpose. Precision is the studious one of the three. She gets straight A's in school and is good at math and science.

Her social life isn't what you might expect. You see, she's not impressed by flash. One or two grand gestures just won't cut it. No, what Precision loves is somebody who makes little efforts to court her favor each day. Some say she's playing hard to get. Others say she's stand-offish and aloof. They misjudge her, I'm afraid. Once a person makes the effort to really get to know Precision they are always so glad they did. It will be a rewarding relationship that will be forever cherished.

When someone writes about riding with precision the first thing that often comes to mind is endless hours of practicing grueling drills. This tends to be a bit overwhelming mentally. As a result, not many start on the journey towards a relationship with Precision. I think more riders would take that trip if they only realized that, like any other journey, it all boils down to a series of small steps.

That's my intent over the next few months. I want to break down the road to excellence into its simple steps. There are small things we can do today. There are small things we can do tomorrow. It doesn't seem like much from day to day. Get a ways into the trip, though, and look back. It's always amazing and rewarding to see how far we've really come.

I saw a poster years ago. It said:

"Success is the sum of small efforts made every day."

It really is that simple. We just want to make it harder than it is. I know I'm taking a risk here. Making it seem simple will probably shatter the illusion people have of my standing as a professional motorcyclist. The mystique will evaporate faster than dew in the desert. That's ok. I've never claimed to be some mysterious motorcycle god. I've simply been around some great people and have worked hard to get where I'm at. It would really please me to have the company of anyone else who wants to tag along.

Speaking of steps, let's start with something literally having to do with our feet. That's the matter of putting our feet down at stops. Or not.

I don't know what it is, but it seems like riders have this sick aversion to putting their feet down. You've seen it. They'll twist the handlebars back and forth, put their tongue between their teeth, blink fifty times quickly, and anything else they can think of in an effort to avoid putting their foot down at a stop.

Sometimes this is ok. Other times it's not.

There are times when being able to balance the bike at very low speeds is a sign of great skills and control. There are also times when it's appropriate to adjust our speed so that we don't have to stop and put our foot down. Coming up to a signal light is an example. We can adjust our speed in order to get the timing down. Hopefully, we'll keep a bit of momentum and be able to flow smoothly through the intersection when the light turns. That's control applied to achieve a smooth flow through traffic.

Even then, we need to be careful. For example, when other drivers are behind us they expect a certain thing. Years of driving with other traffic has taught us that there is an expected point where the vehicle ahead of us will begin slowing for a traffic light or stop sign. It we start slowing significantly earlier than that, we are guilty of causing a ripple in the current, is it were. If a driver behind us were to have a close call, or even hit us, it would technically be their fault. On the other hand, as we point a finger at them there are four pointing back at us. We actually caused the situation by changing the flow.

When we make bad decisions in order to avoid putting our foot down, then it becomes a real problem.

I will be the first to admit that I was guilty of this. A lot of getting to where I am has happened by looking at what I do. I either put it in the "that works" stack or in the "that needs some adjustment" stack. Having been there, I'll write this in the first person. I do not operate the same way now but it will help you understand why I saw the need to become more precise in this matter.

So here I am. Riding a big street bike. Sometimes with a passenger who is usally the person nearest and dearest to me. We are exiting a parking lot. The downward slope of the driveway towards the street is a bit disconcerting. I want to make a right turn and blend into traffic. I can't simply proceed as I need to find a gap. Traffic isn't really heavy but it's enough to make me pause.

Because of the mental thing about putting my foot down and a bit of worry about the slope I'm going to create two problems for myself. Remember, too, that I'm using a parking lot as an illustration but I could be anywhere. A four way stop. Pulling out of an alleyway. The possibilities are numerous. Back to my potential problems.

Firstly, I'm going to spend a lot of time in a really ugly, unbalanced situation. I am barely in control of the bike because we are at like, 1 mph. God only knows what will happen if a pedestrian suddenly darts in front of me. Or what if a car turns in beside me and goes a bit wide? I'm really vulnerable because I'm not in a stable position from which to respond. What if I need to move right but my handlebars are doing a side to side dance in an effort to keep balance? If I quickly pull a bit of throttle I'm as likely to go down as I am to successfully move the bike. I don't even want to talk about what will happen if, in a shocked response to almost being hit, I get a big grip on the front brake while the bars are turned so far to one side. By doing all this shucking and jiving to avoid putting my foot down I'm actually stacking the odds against me.

One reason to come to a stop and create a firm and balanced platform from which to work. If I'm stopped and stable I can also more freely move my head back to forth scan for bogies.

Granted, the odds of having an issue at this point may seem small. I can see arguments both ways. What is not up for discussion is that being in this situation is the opposite of riding with precision.

Now we come to the second, and far more sinister, complication.

Remember the need to pick a gap in traffic so we can pull out? We really shouldn't be seeing how close we can cut it. If we were sitting stable, with a foot down, we would take our time and pick a suitable gap. Instead, here I am, about to crash any minute because I'm so unstable. Again, for whatever reason, I feel my foot will fall off if I put it down and actually stop. This becomes the primary factor in my next decision. I decide to take a chance because I don't want to put my foot down.

Now I pick a questionable gap, pull out, and do some heavy throttle rolling. I'm lucky in that there was room in front of me to get a bit ahead of the car I pulled out in front of. I was also lucky because there was nothing slippery in the road that could compromise traction on my rear tire when I gassed it. I'm also feeling a bit guilty that I put my sweetie in a dangerous spot. Guess what will happen the next time?

Yep. Same-o, same-o.

Like I say, I was often there myself. I see it over and over. That's what I do. I watch riders when I see them. I'm a professional trainer and evaluator. It's in my blood and I can't "not" do it. I know you've seen it, too.

So much better to be precise. Solid stop. Foot down. Ready to respond accurately and intelligently.

Small thing? Exactly. The journey towards riding with precision literally begins a foot a time.

Next time we'll talk about changing lanes and passing.

Miles and smiles,


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Really need your help!!!

I really need some help out there tracking somebody down and checking on their well being. It may be a long shot but there are folks reading here from all over the world. Somebody often knows somebody who knows someone else, and so on. I'm hoping this is the case.

I don't want to reveal his personal details but here's the very short story.

The guy I'm looking for is named Mohan. I don't have a last name. Nor do I have a phone number. I simply have an e-mail address. He is probably in the Malaysia area. Some of you know him as The Snark. He kept a blog for a long time called Hunting the Snark.

He's had some heavy difficulties over the past year. He's also trying to take care of his two young sons. We have corresponded via e-mail. In my own small way I've tried to be there for him during tough times. I recently got an e-mail message that worries me. Since then there have been no replies to my return e-mails. It may be melodramatic. I certainly hope it is a false alarm. However, I have reason to believe it's legit and that he may have harmed himself, so to speak.

Somehow I hope this post spreads around the network of folks and I can get some feedback on what's going on. Please give me whatever you might have offline at

Mohan, if you're still reading here but for some other reason haven't replied to my messages I'd appreciate a note letting me know you're still hanging in. As you can see, your well being matters to me.

Thanks for the help.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What I did this weekend.

The weekend before last I spent my birthday weekend teaching new instructors how to present the classroom portion of our program. This last weekend brought a bit of variety. One of the other things I do is conduct what we call Site Compliance Audits. Pretty much what it sounds like. A few of us do these. We have to assure the Oregon State Department of Transportation that we're teaching the same program throughout the state. Each site needs to be visited once each season.

We do a check of the sites and the supporting equipment which includes bikes, fire extinguishers, and so on. We also offer encouragement and guidance to the instructors as they continue their journey towards excellence.

So I found myself headed North. It was dry when I left but the farther North I went the wetter it got. Eighty miles from home and soaking wet. Great start!

Lunch is a simple affair. In a Bobskoot style portrait, minus the bare feet, you can see me enjoying a prepackaged chicken salad in the luxurious Che' Shipping Container.

A man had brought his own scooter for the class. Pretty snazzy looking!

This creature was a one - squirrel cheering squad for the students.

A couple of interesting window reflections of the students in the parking lot. I seem to be open to seeing these kind of things much more often these days.

This sort of scares me. A brand new BMW S1000RR. Ridden to class by a student in our Basic Training. Which means he wasn't endorsed. The worse part is that I saw him ride one of our training bikes. Even at the end of the course this rider was struggling. I'd watch him ride the perimeter and inexplicably downshift to first without the clutch. The bike would understandably lurch and cause him control issues.

The BMW has ABS and traction control. I sincerely hope they do their job for the guy. In fact, I pray he doesn't ride faster than his Guardian Angel can fly until he gets his skills together.

Here's a photo I made in an effort to copy the style of Steve Williams.

A good looking scooter purposely framed by the tree leaves. Maybe not a great imitation but at least I created a photo by design instead of happenchance!

The trip home was interesting. I'd decided to take pity on a Firstgear jacket that had been hanging neglected in the closet. The fact that it had a thick liner also helped in the choice. I took the long way home. No surprise there, I suppose.

When I left it was still raining and Elvira's temperature display indicated 63 degrees ( F ). Apparently it hadn't rained at all farther south. By the time I got south of Salem the sun was bright and the display showed 84 degrees!

Only on a bike do we get to experience the full variety of our surroundings. Cool, eh?

Next weekend I'm off to Central Oregon to do another audit. Katie's coming along. Can't wait to see what adventures we'll have.

Miles and smiles,


Friday, September 16, 2011

Thanks, but I'll pass.

Stopped in downtown Salem to get a bite of lunch. I appreciate the fact that some city official somewhere has deeded there will be motorcycle only parking. I fail to get warm fuzzies when it looks like the only reason it's put aside for us is that it's not useable for a car. Hard to get into, hard to get out of, but no step for a real rider.

This was the daily special at a downtown "Pizza by the slice" establishment. No, thanks, I think I'll pass this one by. Although I sure wish I knew if the rear end in the corner of the photo was a customer or the supplier!

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Simple Recipe

I'm going to try to help simplify the process of getting good at riding. I know I've written a lot of specific and technical stuff here. It's all stuff we need to know. On the other hand, it's a bit overwhelming at times, isn't it? Judging by some of the comments you all have left there's a certain amount of confusion on where to start, how to go about practicing, and so on. I feel your pain. Like I wrote in the last post, it's time to go back and provide some navigational beacons. It's kind of like traveling. First, let's just decide which city we're headed for and plan a general route. Later on we'll go back and fill in some details like specific roads.

Just to keep it fun, at least for me, I'm going to go into cooking mode. I find I've got a sort of skill in the kitchen. I'm even better at eating. Katie and I never thought we would turn into Foodies. In the non-snobbish way, of course. We're trying a bunch of new recipes and I'm getting fatter by the minute. Life is good in that regard. What I've discovered is that a recipe with more than a few ingredients immediately hits the "reject" pile. I like simple recipes.

Keeping things a bit more simple, at least less complicated, is becoming more and more attractive to me. I just hung another year on the wall and I'm feeling really tired these days. Even though you might not admit it, I'd bet money a lot of the readers here totally identify.

These days I'm pretty sure I'm looking back on more of my life than what I have to look forward to.

There's only so much concentration available in my brain cells these days. Concentration is a resource that needs to be used wisely and efficiently as there's little to waste and it takes so much effort to summon it forth in the first place.

Sometimes there are days when tuning out the world and taking a mid-afternoon snooze is as enticing as cold iced tea on a scorching hot day.

There are other times when I seem to have missed something. I'm left wondering what the heck just happened here?

Other days it seems too much effort to even get up and get dressed. Let alone try to color coordinate my shirt, slacks, and sometimes a tie. I guess that's a reason I like the Hi-Viz Aerostich jacket. It goes with about any color.

More and more I find I'd like to just find a spot in the sun and be left alone to watch the world go by.

I got close to a simple recipe when I found the principle of the 7 "P's". It goes like this.

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Piss-Poor Performance.

That's a simple statement but it still has too many ingredients. Reference the above if you've somehow forgotten why I want to keep things simple. My brain is full, folks. Scientists who cut open dead people's skulls say that things we learn are turned into wrinkles on the brain. My brain must look like a dried prune by now. If I add any more wrinkles they will spill over onto my face. Did you ever wonder if an older person's wrinkles were just their brain's knowledge and wisdom overflowing out their ears and onto their cheeks?

I'm also getting old enough to totally resent being told what to do by somebody else. Not to mention arrogant enough to think I often know better. Feedback used to mean something to me. It's like when I used to look in the mirror and find I didn't like what I saw. I'd do something about it. Hit the gym, skip some desserts, get a haircut, shave, shower, that kind of stuff. These days I still do something about it. Just different stuff.

Now if I look in the mirror and don't like what I see I simply toss the mirror in the garbage can.

So here's my recipe for successful riding reduced to a few simple ingredients.

1. Ride with Prudence

2. Ride with Purpose

3. Ride with Precision

To go all Food Network on you, I add a liberal amount of Controlled Agression as a binder to hold it all together.

There you have it. Irondad's Three P's. Simple, but very effective. These are the navigational beacons that keep us headed in the right direction. Firstly we need to know where we are going and why. Details are then added as needed for the journey.

I'll share how to blend these ingredients into our riding as we go.

Miles and smiles,


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Navigational Beacons

I can't believe that it's nearing fall here already. Summer flew by in a blur. The passage of two more sleeps, as Bobskoot likes to say, will bring another birthday for me. These days I'm feeling every one of them. This caught my eye at a recent classic car show. Not only did it catch my eye, but I can feel myself starting to relate. Maybe not chronologically, quite yet, but certainly mentally. I'm old enough that the AARP is very interested in me but I'm not yet planning where to live in retirement.

Have you ever been at a point in your life where things that were so intensely near and dear to you no longer hold the same meaning? This isn't about people, mind you. Those folks near and dear to me will always be cherished. As will friends. Those I have now as well as those I hope to meet down the road. I'm talking about activities. A person can start off having a passion for something to the point they willingly let it take up a huge amount of their time. Then one day this tiny bit of resentment starts to creep in.

You still enjoy the activity but other pursuits and interests have started to intrigue you. The time demanded by the current activity eats up that which could be spent exploring these new paths. The logical question would inquire as to why a person doesn't just simply quit spending time in the old activity and start spending more time with the new interests. That would certainly be a valid question. There is no simple answer, I'm afraid. See, there's this complication.

Passion, aptitude, and a drive to succeed can lead to being pretty good at something. Sometimes that gets noticed and a person is offered a chance to do something new. I'm a sucker for chasing a carrot on a stick held out in front of me. After a number of carrots are chased and caught a person can find themselves someplace they had never imagined they would be. On the one hand that's a pretty awesome thing. On the other, it also means a lot more work and responsibility. The more you advance the farther removed you can find yourself from what you originally loved in the first place.

By the way, this is the first time I've ever tried panning an airplane while it was landing.

Stepping back really isn't an option. I'm not the kind of person who is content to be there halfway. It would be too awkward hanging around the edges and not being involved like I was before. Walking away isn't to be taken lightly, either. A lot of time and effort have been invested in getting me to where I am. In some cases there are only a couple of people who do what I do. Doesn't seem fair, somehow, to leave now. I know the old illustration of putting your hand in a glass of water. Pull it out and see how big a hole you leave. In this case, conceited as it may seem, I think my leaving really would leave a big hole. Not something I want to do to them all at once. Gracious timing feels important to me.

Still, I have to take care of me and mine in the long run. Motorcycle training has been a long, fun, and rewarding ride. As great as it's been there's a real chance this may be my last season. I want weekends free to spend bumming around with Katie. My interest in photography is growing by leaps and bounds. Free time to spend making and processing photos would be nice. I'm enrolled in an online and correspondence photography course. It has economic possibilities. Eventually I could see making a living from writing and pictures. Of course, we'd have to live simply! At least until I can figure out how to write like Jack and make photos like Steve.

Having a built in model to practice on is surely handy, I'll have to say!

It's just hard to know which direction to move in, sometimes. It's even harder to figure out when you live life at a fast pace. There's no time for deep thought when you're trying to keep a dozen candles lit. I know it's not in the same league as things some people are going through. Not at all like the end of life thoughts my grandmother is having with advancing cancer in her 90's, for instance. Not like the constant ravages of a chronic disease. Nor like worrying every day about having enough to eat or a roof over one's head. Nonetheless, trying to figure out where to go from here often keeps me awake at night.

There is that classic struggle between doing what's right for me versus what's right for others.

There are times when we need to take the higher view of things. We need a bigger picture. Rather than details of how to do something we can gain more valuable insight from having navigational beacons. That's what I'm looking for right now. The first thing is to figure out what the eventual destination is. The rest of the journey can be mapped along the way.

In the meantime I've decided to take the blog in a slightly different direction for a while. There will still be motorcycle training content. That's what this blog was born for, after all. While thinking about my personal situation it crossed my mind that a lot of riders are overwhelmed by all the detail. Detail is great but not without a reference framework in place. I have been guilty of sharing a lot of detail. Perhaps it's time to go back and put some of that structure in place. Things make a whole lot more sense if we know how they contribute to the whole.To that end, rather than continue to delve deeply into the "how to" part of riding, I want to spend some time looking at it from a higher view.

Besides, things have been way too serious, here. It's time to have a little fun along the way, don't you think?

I'll share and explore the navigational beacons I've followed as a professional rider. It should be fun and informative. I hope you'll all tag along with me.

Miles and smiles,