Things we think of while riding down the road

Archive for August, 2009

I love traffic

Have you ever had one of those days where simply riding or driving across town is the worst part of the day? Of course you have, we all have. Some days it’s just a matter of hitting too many red lights or road construction slow downs or even worse, being stopped and getting a ticket for speeding. These are things that are just plain annoying and give your day a bad start.

Here in Southern California however, we have traffic. Lot’s of it. All day, everyday. It doesn’t matter if it’s Monday morning rush hour or Thursday at midnight, there’s traffic. I truly believe that this where the term traffic was invented. We now have TV shows dedicated to traffic reports, radio stations give traffic reports every five minutes, even your iPhone gives you traffic reports at the push of a button. Southern California is traffic personified.overhead-heavy-traffic_~gwp101023

Commuting on a motorcycle here is risky business. Drivers are either putting on makeup, shaving, reading the newspaper, texting a BFF (whatever that is??), checking their GPS for an alternative route, watching a video with their kids, or yelling at the kids (Billy!! quit looking at your sister!!), whatever it is, drivers are not, I repeat not, watching what they are doing, muchless looking out for motorcycles. Unexpected lane changes…, “hey that lane is moving 1/2 mile per hour faster..I think I’ll move over” and the ever popular… “oh sh*t there’s my exit”. Those of us on two wheels have to pay attention not only to what we’re doing but what everyone else is doing too. No wonder we’re tired when we get to work.

Now, this story is not going to evolve into some safety lecture, there are plenty of those out there and it’s not going to turn into some gruesome accident story either, it’s about how I decided to handle traffic for myself. After years of lane splitting and hearing the “I didn’t see you” way too many times it was time to go on the offensive. I’m not a fan of the ‘Loud Pipes Save Lives’ theory and I look stupid in one of those reflective safety vests, so what to do?? A few calls to my congressman and my problem with traffic is a thing of the past.Los angeles traffic control

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The passing of a legend…not a motorcycle this time

A week ago I brought you a story from a riding friend about guitars and music; The Gibson Les Paul and the Matchless G50. A perfect combination and a great story, thank you Bernie. The Matchless G50 passed away decades ago but, Les Paul was still playing guitar in New York. Two days later and at ninety four years young, Les Paul passed away. A sad day in so many ways for so many people. LesPaul_pic

When I came up with this idea of pairing up guitars with motorcycles, it was over a few beers, a number of interesting combination’s came up including the Harley Davidson XR750 and the Fender Stratocaster, but the most common guitar regardless of the motorcycle, was the Gibson Les Paul. My friend Marilyn Elmore www.chessiestales.blogspot.com sent a picture of a custom Les Paul with the Indian Motorcycle logo…Indian Les Paul Pretty cool stuff. My son who rides an old Honda Hawk also plays a Les Paul.

The Les Paul guitar transcends riding styles, playing styles and generations. Thank you Les Paul. R.I.P and God Speed


Ah, the beautiful music of motorbikes and guitars

A while back I posed the question, what motorbike would you pair with what guitar? The look, the sound, the feel…the image. This story comes from my friend Bernie Ayling. A skilled roadracer, an amazingly talented guitar player and an all around good guy..considering he rides a 1972 BMW

The Matchless G50 and the Gibson Les Paul Model guitar. Perfect!

Fifty Seven years of roadracing motorcycles and playing electric guitar in various bands have been the only things (aside from the very obvious ones) that have made time stop still and make me absolutely live in the moment. So where do I put the two together?

The Matchless G50 is perhaps the most successful production singles racer of all time. Only 180 original examples were built between 1958 and 1962, when production ceased due to financial problems. Also called the ‘Golden Eagle’(perhaps due to the particular hue of some of the visible magnesium castings, but more likely due to the marque logo’s wings) it is an elegant motorcycle, perfectly proportioned as only a dedicated racing motorbike or a beautiful woman can be. The design is sparse and elegant, with every detail looking like it belongs and nothing extraneous to bother the eye. In stock trim the single cylinder motorcycle produced 51 horsepower and propelled the little 320 pound roadracer to a 135 MPH top speed. Today, they would have arguably become the holy grail of production singles racers. The great Mike Hailwood raced a G50.1960_Matchless_G50

So, if you rode a Matchless G50 and played guitar, what guitar would you play? A Gibson Les Paul.

The Les Paul was Gibson’s answer to Fender in 1952, a modern solidbody to counter the upstart from California. Named for the famous guitarist, it was a great success at the start, adapting Gibson’s reputation for old world craftsmanship and beautiful materials of the modern era. By mid 1958 though, the model was close to being discontinued due to lack of sales. In an effort to revive the Les Paul model, a three color ‘Sunburst’ finish was applied to show off the beautiful Maple top. Newly designed ‘humbucking’ pickups were added to the package as well. The enhancements failed to produce better sales results and production ceased in 1960.

During the three year production run approximately 1600 original Les Paul Sunburst models were produced. In the early 1960’s the heavy guitars languished in pawnshops around the nation, mostly unloved and unplayed. in 1965 a young Eric Clapton saw a picture of his guitar hero, Freddie King, playing an older gold topped Les Paul but the closest he would come was a used Sunburst model found in London. The combination produced the ferociously aggressive playing made famous on John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton that same year.tn

Today, original Sunburst’s are the Holy Grail of electric guitars. The perfectly balanced body with it’s arched carved top and sometimes wildly figured Maple has become another widely imitated iconic design.

You can’t pin down the success for either the G50 or the Les Paul Sunburst to any one thing as it’s the sum of the parts and the intangible qualities the comprise the mystique. Oh, and there is the spectacular performance of them both as well.


Moto-Camping goes Hi-Tek..really!!

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