Things we think of while riding down the road

Archive for February, 2010

Update on Cal Trans sign

Apparently some people took offense to a new sign on some of Southern California freeways.Back on February 17, we here here at The MotoWorld published a story about the signs, a couple of days later other motorcycle media jumped in and then it hit the mainstream media…newspapers and TV. You know any publicity is good publicity.

On February 19th The San Diego Union Tribune published a front page story titled “Freeway messages stir outrage in some drivers”. In the article, Edward Cartagena, a spokesman for Cal Trans San Diego says, “none of the calls we have gotten have been positive, one call was a twenty minute rant” continuing on, Cartagena says “Cal Trans has received (at that time) eight hundred calls, mostly positive except here (San Diego)”. So what gives with San Diego? San Diego County is number two in motorcycle deaths right behind Los Angeles County. This sign project is a joint effort between Cal Trans and the California Highway Patrol, neither wants to be picking up downed motorcyclists.

As I have written before, yes it is legal for we motorcyclists to ride between lanes but we too have a responsibility in doing this. Don’t speed excessively, the CHP basically (it’s an officers judgment call) allows for about 15 MPH above the flow of traffic; learn how not to be in a drivers blind spot, pay attention to their mirrors, like the truckers say “if you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you”. And speaking of mirrors, learn how to watch the driver’s motions…things like when they start looking in their mirrors it’s a good chance they’re getting ready to make a move and you don’t want to be in that spot. Don’t make aggressive lane changes where you might scare somebody and they jerk the steering wheel right in your direction. We need to pay attention to drivers as much as they need to pay attention to us.

For those drivers that called to complain, there is an old saying ” before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes”…in this case my feeling is that those who are upset by motorcyclists on the road should spend just one week commuting by motorcycle on the freeway’s and their tune would change very quickly.

And lastly, when someone moves over and gives you a little room to get by, give a little wave or a friendly nod. That can and will go a long way to generate better relations with car drivers.

Oh wait, I forgot one thing…when a driver isn’t quite so courteous, do your best to avoid giving them the one finger salute…that only encourages them dislike motorcyclists.

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Vintage helmets

eBay and Craigs List have everybody going through their garages, closets and boxes out in the shed looking for things to sell. What’s the old saying…’one man’s junk is another man’s treasure’, sometimes it’s so true and then are times that, well…think twice.

I’m a vintage kind of guy…I drive a vintage car (’63 Ford Fairlane), ride a vintage motorcycle (’76 BMW R90S) and I like vintage wine but when it comes to protecting my vintage head, I don’t go vintage.

Lately, while cruising eBay for cool old motorcycles I also run into all kinds of other old motorcycle stuff including helmets. I’m going to stand next to my soapbox here instead of getting on it about wearing old helmets. It’s simple…don’t.

If you are building a helmet collection that is just going to go on a shelf, there are a lot of cool old helmets out there that have great places in motorcycling history. You can buy one that looks just the one Steve McQueen wore in ‘On Any Sunday’ for..oh I don’t know, around $50, you can even get one that looks like ‘Captain America’ from ‘Easy Rider’, the thing is…don’t wear them.

A helmet that is 30 years old has seen it’s better days over 20 years ago. The foam that is designed to save your head has deteriorated, the foam padding for cushioning has also lost most, if not all, it’s cushioning and the chin strap that holds it onto your mellon probably wouldn’t hold a grapefruit much less your head in a crash. It doesn’t matter how good a helmet looks or that the seller says it’s been in storage for 30 years, it just isn’t safe to wear.

If you want to go old school there are a number of companies out there that make new helmets that look like they came right out of the 50’s or 60’s but have modern features that can save you some brain damage, Davida is the first one that comes to mind . Save the ‘vintage’ helmets for the shelf


It’s about time

This morning while watching the local news, the traffic helicopter was over an accident on the freeway involving a motorcycle and a minivan. I know you are like me and anytime you hear of a motorcyclist down on the freeway you cringe and instantly say to yourself “I hope the guy is alright”. In this case he was taken to the hospital and injuries seemed minor, his motorcycle however didn’t fare so well. A driver crossed over the double yellow line on the freeway to get into the carpool lane (which is against the law) and took out a motorcyclist who was there legally. The drivers response to the police…”I didn’t see him”.

When traffic slows to a crawl we can split lanes, at traffic lights we can work our way to the front and at times we’re simply stuck too. It’s a lot of work commuting on a bike. I can remember days of after over an hour of splitting lanes I was exhausted when I got to work. Dodging cars that change lanes without looking, drivers turning left in front of you, somebody texting and drifting into your lane, a mom or dad yelling at the kids in the back seat (“hey you kids, knock it off before I reach back there and…”), you get the picture…drivers that aren’t paying attention and especially not to you.

Every rider that commutes has stories to tell; a driver is mad that traffic is stopped and takes it out on you because you can go between the cars by opening his door just before you get there and proceeds to flip you off, drivers that move over just to close off your path and proceed to flip you off, the driver that makes a u-turn in the middle of a block without looking and the instant they see you…they flip you off. Ok, it’s time to stop before I go into full rant mode.

Those of us that commute to work on a motorcycle everyday know the risks and accept them as part of our way of life. But, here is some good news, on a freeway that I ride regularly and has a pretty heavy traffic flow, Cal Trans has come to the aid of riders.
Thank you Cal Trans


How to properly spend Valentines Day

The Hallmark Card company, your local jewelry store and an over priced restaurant all have great ideas…spend a ton of money and she will love you forever. However, I have a much better idea.

Valentine’s Day here in Southern California was absolutely perfect, clear blue skies, 75 degrees, you couldn’t possibly ask for a better day to go motorcycle riding. So, instead of breakfast in bed, I dressed up my wife in her finest motorcycle riding apparel, fired up the old BMW and away we went. Luckily for me I have a wife who loves motorcycle rides. If you, on the other hand, aren’t quite so lucky remember this…”I’m a trained professional, don’t try this at home”.

We had made plans to meet some friends at the ‘Rock Store’, a famous, or infamous, motorcycle gathering point in the Santa Monica Mountains. The Rock Store is an every Sunday motorcycle show; Vintage bikes, dual sport bikes, classic cafe racers, modern sport bikes and cruisers. From Harley’s to Ducati’s, classic BSA’s to KTM Adventure’s, Vespa Scooter’s to Gold Wings…wherever your taste in motorcycling takes you, you’ll find something in common with someone at the ‘Rock Store’.

The ride from our home to the Rock Store to meet our friends was wonderful, the hillsides through the canyons were a beautiful green (that’s what eight inches of rain in the past month will get you), the roads are in great shape and not too much traffic…what more could you ask for? Oh, and did I say it was 75 degrees and perfect?

Once we arrived at the meeting place, we realized everybody was thinking just like us…what a perfect day for a ride. Apparently other riders have wives that would rather ride than have breakfast in bed. Now, before any of the fairer sex get offended, there were plenty of women on their own bikes that opted not to give their loved one breakfast in bed. Good for them.

Finding a place to park your bike on a Sunday at the Rock Store can be a bit tricky or sometimes you just luck out and get an easy in/easy out spot, we on the other hand, parked across the street up the road a ways, oh well. The parking lot, and the street, were full of great bikes from a Honda NR750 (rare beyond belief) to a Royal Enfield Bullet 500 (built in India). We saw classic BMW’s, BSA’s, Triumphs, Harley’s and Ducati’s. There were more Harley’s with more chrome than every ’59 Cadillac Eldorado ever made, Japanese sportbikes with every go fast part available in every catalog and dirt bikes with no dirt on them (?) it’s a great bike show free to the public every Sunday. And one more thing you see along Mulholland Highway on a Sunday morning, our friends, the California Highway Patrol, yeah we riders do tend to ignore speed limit’s once in a while.

While wandering through all the bikes or maybe eating breakfast you get to watch the other show. The riders themselves. Owners of unique bikes proudly stand by their motorcycle and talk to anyone who is interested, friends that only see each other once in a while on a ride, guys that walk through the all the bikes critiquing every bike there (“yeah, I had one of those, it wasn’t all that great”)…or,the guy that rode in on a barely rideable bike drooling over all the really cool bikes saying to his buddy (“I wish I had one of these…hey, the guy left the key in it, think he’d mind if I took it for a ride?”). Occasionally¬† a celebrity biker (Jay Leno) shows up and draws a crowd, sometimes for his bike but more often to get your picture taken with him, or her. And of course there are those that think doing a wheelie or a burnout while leaving the parking lot is cool…that is until the CHP officer sitting just right up the road around the bend informs you with a ticket that it’s not cool. All in all, an occasional trip to the Rock Store is well worth it.

We had spent enough time looking at bikes and listening to stories, it was now time for lunch. Back on the road we go. Mulholland Highway is always fun but a quick turn onto Stunt Road is even more fun. Riding along the ridge of the Santa Monica’s there are times that if you look one way you see the ocean, turn your head and there is the San Fernando Valley. It’s a fantastic vista…for the passenger..I still have to pay attention to the road. Down a couple more canyons to Pacific Coast Highway and…perfect weather Sunday afternoon traffic, great. We knew it was going to be like this so no getting upset, just a little lane splitting and lunch is soon on the table.

If you find yourself riding along PCH on any day and it’s lunch time, you will find no better seafood than ‘The Reel Inn’ at the corner of Topanga Canyon Blvd and PCH. I have said many times before, I am a member of the ‘Ride to Eat, Eat to Ride Society’ and The Reel Inn is definetly a great destination. Check them out on the web at www.reelinnmalibu.com

From lunch, the trip home was fast and fun. Up over Topanga Canyon back to Mulholland Hwy to Cornell Corners, a quick freeway jaunt, Grimes Canyon and home.

Off with the motorcycle gear, into shorts and a t-shirt (again my apologies to those of you that are snowbound), pour a nice refreshing beverage and look back on a perfect Valentine’s Day.

To see more pictures from our Valentines Day ride go the Photo Gallery page on the website www.themotoworld.com