Things we think of while riding down the road

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It must be in the genes

I have a four year old Grand daughter, when did I get old enough to have a grand daughter? Uh, just look in the mirror. Oh.

grandpa-and-malenaShe is smart, fearless and loves trying almost anything except spicy foods…she’ll learn. Here is where the good part comes in. She loves her daddy’s motorcycle. She sits on it whenever it’s not covered and always asks daddy to start it.

Daddy didn’t get into motorcycles until he came home from a three month trip to Europe where on a Greek Island he rented a small bike and toured the island. I picked him up at the airport and on the way home he asked if he could ride one of our motorcycles. I said sure, but why? He said “I finally get it, I know why you love motorcycles”.

He slept most of the next day (jet lag) then woke up and went looking for a helmet. I put him on a Honda CB350 and we headed off. From there it was various riding and racing schools, 24 hour endurance races, sprint racing, commuting from Ventura to UCLA everyday…his life was on two wheels.

Fast forward a few years and he has a daughter that also loves motorcycles. He’s doomed.

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What happens when you retire from racing

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 7.45.08 AMA few years back I retired from Road Racing. I do miss it but fortunately I can live vicariously through friends that still do. Nowadays I travel a lot on my bike, teach others how to ride better and lead tours. Not a bad motorcycling life.

But, I can’t deny my attraction to the race track. “Once a racer, always a racer” is how the saying goes. Recently I found a perfect way to get back on the race track without raising my health insurance policy rates, having my life insurance policy cancelled and my family not worrying about me…or counting on the life insurance money.

I was up north visiting friends, having a BBQ, you know the basic hamburger and hot dog affair, and some fun on the track. It was a track day that I was really looking forward to but somehow turned a little different than what I expected.Screen Shot 2015-03-31 at 8.01.58 AM

Dogs and Motorcycles

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 1.30.07 PMThere is a saying “only a biker knows why a dog hangs his head out the window of a car” . It’s so true but if you’re really lucky, your dog is on your bike with you!!
Me and Boscoe.1399408152377

Wise old saying…

There is a romantic old saying “if you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you it is true love”. However, those of us that race and ride motorcycles know the saying actually goes,

“If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it means you high sided!

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Sir, have you been drinking?

Good afternoon officer. Would I do something this stupid if I was sober?
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After he stopped laughing and I passed the breathalyzer test, he drove off and Boscoe and I went to the local pub for a Guinness.Picture 2

“Asphalt is for racing…

…Dirt is for planting potatoes.”
So said a motorcycle racer, and good friend.

A long time ago I swore off going to funerals, like thirty years ago, but since that time I have been to two. Yesterday was number two.

When I first heard of my friends passing I, like everyone else I imagine who has had a friend die, did pretty much nothing but think of the good things about that person and how they influenced my life. Then I started thinking about everyone else within that circle of friends and how they impacted my life.

I started my motorcycle roadracing life in 1981 then took a few years off to raise a couple of kids. When I decided to get back into racing I headed out to my nearest track, Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, California to figure what kind of motorcycle I wanted to race. As I wandered around the pits listening to bikes and racers stories I met Larry Cochran who then introduced me Danny Farnsworth who happened to be the ‘Race Director’. These two ‘gentlemen(?)’ through their powers of persuasion, enthusiasm and God knows what other powers they posssessd that day, convinced me that riding an old Honda 500cc single cylinder motorcycle would be the best way to get back into racing. For the rest of my life I will rue the day I listened to those two guys.

Danny FarnsworthA couple of years later I came in second place in the class championship and while everybody else at that Championship banquet was thanking everybody for support, help,etc, etc…I got up there and blamed Larry and Danny for ruining my life. I could have raced a faster better bike, but instead I was racing this old Honda single and flogging it mercilessly year after year. But, here’s the thing, those ten years racing that Ascot with Danny Farnsworth, Larry Cochran, Scott Fabbro and Scott Spears, Carlin Dunne, Steve Allen and a couple others that came and went in the class were truly the best, most fun years I have ever had on a motorcycle. It was those ten years and that group of men that keeps everything else motorcycling in second place.

Yesterday was Danny’s funeral. A number of us former Willow Springs Motorcycle Club racers attended and swapped ‘Danny Stories’, reconnected with each other and left knowing that in the Golden Era of the WSMC it was Danny that cared more about the racers and their safety, even it pissed off someone, which often times it did. Danny had no problem pulling you off the track and telling you what a bonehead move you made, or there was a problem with your bike. It didn’t matter if you thought he was wrong, what Danny says goes. Period. We all benefitted from Danny’s overriding concern for our safety.

Danny Farnsworth was the type that when your bike broke and you needed a part, he would find one from somewhere or somebody, he would loan you one out of his own stock of spares.

When my son started racing I followed in Danny’s and Larry’s footsteps and put Kelly on an Ascot. As Kelly went through new racers school, Danny took him under is wing, which he did for so many young riders, and even though my son kept saying that Ascot was trying to kill him, Danny kept giving him support and encouragement.

motorcycle pictures 095Those of us that got together yesterday did more than just say goodbye to a good friend and motorcycle racer but a man that gave so much to racing and racers. I owe Danny a lot, he convinced me to ride the worst racing motorcycle there was and have the most fun anyone could possibly have.

Adios my friend. Race in Peace.

Oh, and like you said at the end of every racers meeting “Keep the rubber side down and the shiny side up”, I still live by those words.

Easy Rider…The Golden Years

Picture 11In years past, our parents generation, retirement meant selling the house, moving to a senior citizen community somewhere near Palm Springs, Palm Beach or Phoenix and taking up Golf. If you were a little more adventurous you might buy a Winnebago and go see the National Parks or visit the Grandkids. Well, over the past decade or two that scenario has changed a bit. Today, Grandma and Grandpa are just as likely to show up on a motorcycle as they are in a motorhome.Picture 16

One of my day jobs is coaching new and returning motorcycle riders to be better riders, safer riders and have more fun on two wheels. As I’m planning for the upcoming riding season, which here in Southern California is pretty much all year, I look back through all our customer/client/student files and realize that the majority are of the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation. When I get a new client, I always ask them what made them want to get into motorcycling? The answers generally fall into three categories… 1; I used to ride when I was younger and want to get back into it. 2; It’s something I have always wanted to do but just never really had the time (the second part of that answer is often, my wife didn’t want me to have a motorcycle while we had kids in the house…um, Ok?) and 3; I’m tired of riding behind my husband! Number three is a lot more common than you might think, as a matter fact, new women riders account for the fastest growing segment of new motorcycle sales. And actually there is a number 4 reason, one of our clients told us that he bought a motorcycle because…get ready, here it comes…”the ladies like bikers.” Now mind you, this gentleman has been collecting Social Security for a while, but he was having fun.Picture 30

Despite what some may say, motorcycles are big business, particularly in the over 45 years old category, these are the buyers that have the time and the money to get into higher end motorcycles. It was back in the late 70’s early 80’s that Willie G. Davidson (grandson to the one of the founders of Harley-Davidson) said, “It’s not just a motorcycle, it’s a lifestyle.” It’s so true and it doesn’t just go for Harley Davidson, motorcycle riding is a lifestyle no matter what you ride. For some people a motorcycle really does define who they are.

How big is the motorcycle business outside of the dealership? Well, cities around the country hold rallies that draw thousands of riders who spend lots of cash, which stimulates the local economy. Look at the biggest…Sturgis South Dakota, Daytona Bike Week (going on right now) and more. But as you look around these rallies, what do see, besides big motorcycles? Grey hair. The American Motorcyclist Association says that their average member age is 48+.

Picture 23All of that is all well and good for the motorcycle industry and the peripherals but there is a down side for older motorcyclists on the road. We get hurt more often and more seriously than younger riders. Damn…I hate when that happens. It’s really simple…we don’t bounce as good as we used to.

Here are some statistics that should wake some of us up.
A study conducted by the University of Michigan in 2007 showed that motorcycle fatalities involving riders over the age of 45 grew four times (4X) from 2001-2005.
Motorcyclists over the age of 60 are three times more likely to be hospitalized than a younger rider (DUH!!). Serious chest and rib cage fractures are among the most common.
The list goes on but you get the idea.
**These statistics are based on ‘averages’, this can include things like not wearing a helmet, riding impaired, unlicensed, no training, etc..

Ok, why does all this happen? it’s just life. The physiological changes we go through…little things like bone strength, fat redistribution, declining vision, slower reaction times all contribute to potential injury (crashing)…and the fact that modern motorcycles are incredibly powerful!

So, what can older riders do to lower the risk of crashing? Well, for one, more senior (I like that term better than ‘older’) riders do tend to ride more safely (their ego was put in the closet a long time ago), they understand better their limitations. Joining a riding club, such as HOG (Harley Owners Group), GWRRA (Gold Wing Road Riders Association) or any other club where you can ride with other motorcyclists and learn from one another. Many riding groups can, and do, bring in guest instructors to help beginning riders become road ready and give refresher courses to more experienced riders. My friend Les Brown of Motorcycle Coaching 101 spends a lot of time with riding clubs helping riders enjoy the road more safely.

Picture 18We all love riding our motorcycles as much as we can, whenever we can and wherever we can and we want to keep doing it for a long time. So, my advice for older riders is this …keep riding! Go take a refresher riding course, there are a lot of them out there just do a google search to find one in your area, you want to keep your skills up. You want to ride deliberately, not just instinctively. If you’re riding with friends, pay attention to their riding, when you stop, ask them “are you OK?” “Are you tired yet?” and then most importantly ask yourself those same questions.

As I say at the end of my podcasts, “Ride safe, Ride Fast and I’ll see you on the Road.” For a lot of years to come.