Things we think of while riding down the road

cafe racers

Take a breath

screen-shot-2017-02-27-at-6-13-30-pmThis goes for so many things in life. When you first are born you get smacked on the butt and you start breathing outside the womb. When you ask out a girl for the first time and when throw your leg over your first motorcycle. These are great times that we always remember…well maybe not the first date thing ( mine didn’t go so well..).

When I first started road racing, Keith Code looked at us all in his class (1981) at the end of the first classroom session and said “we’ll go the track when I see the adrenaline level drop in your eyes”. Good advice and I have carried it all my racing and riding life since that day.

Years later I was racing at Willow Springs Raceway in Southern California when then Race Director Danny Farnsworth came to my pit area and told me that I need to breathe. He noticed that when racing my shoulders were somewhere up around my ears. He explained to me that breathing smoothly and constantly always helps your body relax and when your body is relaxed you have a better feel for your motorcycle and what it is doing. When you are all tightened up your motorcycle is going to fight you and that is never pretty. That was truly a lesson learned… I won the next race..I let my motorcycle do what it was designed to do.

Lets bring this back to the real world. As a Motorcycle Riding Coach I spend a great deal of my time watching somebody ride. I watch body position and I listen to the engine (throttle management) and I watch the suspension (to see how you are braking). Many times I will stop a client either in a parking lot during an exercise or on the road and tell them to breathe. I can see shoulders tighten up and controlling their motorcycle becomes very stiff. I show them the video and then they get it. So we practice breathing. Deep breathing. Shallow breathing actually wears you out faster and then your muscles aren’t willing to do what you want them to do…they’re tired! And so are you. Exhausted motorcycle riders aren’t having fun and are not riding as safe as they can or should be.

Screen Shot 2017-04-04 at 9.37.19 AMWhen you get in the habit of breathing normally you would be amazed at how much easier it becomes to control your motorcycle and you’re more willing to finally step out of your comfort zone and your skills go up. Here is one of the keys to breathing naturally while riding…head up and eyes out. Look where you’re going, not where you’re at. When we target fixate we all tighten up, hold our breath and pray we don’t crash. If we simply look forward and keep looking at where we’re going, maintain smooth throttle control and have a good feel for all our controls we can manage most all situations.

Breathe…sit on your motorcycle in the garage (if you have one…a garage I mean). Look ahead and play with all the controls but breathe. The key here is to always be looking ahead. Don’t look at the controls or your front wheel. Look ahead and breathe. It is a simple exercise  But when you really get used to it it is another one of the ‘Ah Ha’ moments and you learn “Motorcycle Meditation”.  Smooth easy steady breathing allows you to feel your motorcycle work underneath you and it always allows you to enjoy the scenery, your fellow bikers. Enjoy the ride.screen-shot-2016-04-07-at-5-30-09-pm

Think about it like this…your motorcycle needs to breathe, no air…no go. A clogged air filter doesn’t let your motorcycle breathe and performance goes way down. Its the same with us . Practice breathing while riding your bike, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel and ride.

Ride Safe, Ride Far and I’ll see you on the Road

Paul


From the “What was I thinking” File

Or… according to Elvis Costello…Peace, Love and Understanding.

I have spent up until now, 100% of my motorcycling life  (50 years) on Sportbikes, Sport Tourers, Vintage bikes  (Honda, Yamaha, Triumph, BSA, Ducati, BMW….), dirt bikes and a couple  of Adventure bikes along the way but never a two wheeled Winnebago’s (read, Gold Wing).

A number of years ago after finishing the WERA 24 hour endurance race  (third place, beating 2 factory teams), in my exhausted state I made my daughter 2 promises (motorcycle related only) 1; I would never buy a Harley ( I didn’t want to buy into that lifestyle) 2: I wouldn’t buy a Gold Wing (I will never be that old). Well, I kind of broke both promises. I have a Buell (powered by Harley Davidson) and I did buy my dad a Gold Wing and kind of enjoyed riding it but was happy to pass it along.

So, here I am today straddling the biggest motorcycle I have ever owned, a Yamaha Stratoliner. 1900cc, 800+ pounds and what feels like longer than my truck. What in the world was I thinking?Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 9.58.56 AM

Now to the subtitle. Peace, Love and Understanding.

1; Peace. Coming to grips with the fact that Sportbikes are in my past (although I still have two in my barn). Medicare, bad backs and arthritic wrists are not big fans of clip-ons and rear sets. My son was instrumental in bringing me to that peace. His comment, ” it’s really sad seeing some old guy on a 1000cc Sportbike going slower than a sixteen year old kid on a 125. My ego was brought down a notch or two, or three. But I am learning to be at peace on a Cruiser/Touring bike. Somebody help me…..Please.Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 2.49.06 PM

2; Love. I bought my Stratoliner for a number of reasons. The first is Heather. She is not a tall woman  and getting on a tall Adventure bike is no fun, I have to make it easier for her.. Number two; the comfort factor. We travel quite a bit so having a motorcycle we can ease into while loving the ride is perfect. When I first got the bike all I could picture was the Queen Mary on two wheels and then I started riding it. Other than being bigger than anything I have ever owned I was was instantly enamored  with how well the bike handled. Yamaha did a great job designing this motorcycle; chassis, suspension, and tons of power that is easily  managed…what more could you ask for.  I started to love this steamship of a motorcycle.

3; Understanding. This is where it gets weird…at least for me…understanding the ‘Cruiser Mentality’. A long time ago a local dealership carried both Yamaha and Harley Davidson , on the Harley side they had a T-Shirt that read “GOD rides a Harley”, on the Yamaha side the T-Shirt read “If GOD rides a Harley , GOD rides slow” .Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 6.52.27 AM  I have noticed that sitting on this two wheeled BarcaLounger has changed my riding…as in “Hey, when did I slow down?” Loafing around at the speed limit is well, very depressing. When little old ladies on skateboards are going faster than you, you know you have a problem.  There has got to be a support group somewhere…Cruisers Anonymous?screen-shot-2015-11-05-at-7-47-10-am

Another level of the understanding is that as a professional motorcycle riding coach many of my clients ride BIG motorcycles (read born in Milwaukee) so I needed to better relate to what they had in order to be a better coach. Henceforth the Queen Mary.Queen_Mary_Long_Beach

I have to go to Confession at least once a week to confess that I have come to peace, love and understanding with my new motorcycle and the lifestyle that comes with it.  But I still have a question…”What Was I thinking?”

PS…the guy in the picture is not me…he really needs to go to Cruisers Anonymous!

Ride Safe, Ride Far and I’ll see you on the road,

Paul


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


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.


Cretins Motorcycle Club

Picture 6When most people hear the term “Motorcycle Club” they instantly change the word club to “gang.” They picture bikers riding into town terrorizing the local folk, taking what they want and leaving the town in shambles. Ok, so I may have watched “The Wild Ones” a few too many times and I do record the “Sons of Anarchy” each season, but not all “clubs” fall into that stereotype, thank goodness.

A long time friend of mine belongs to a motorcycle club that is simply a group of guys and gals that love motorcycles and the motorcycle culture, more precisely the “Cafe Racer” culture. Welcome to the Cretins Motorcycle Club.

First, what is a Cretin? By Websters Dictionary definition you would think a Cretin is a stupid, childlike person full of pointless information that appeals only to other Cretins. If you dig a bit deeper into Cretinism, you find that it is medical term from 18th Century France that describes a condition of severely stunted physical and mental growth due to untreated congenital deficiency of thyroid hormones. This condition was often attributed to stagnant air in mountain valleys and bad water. Uh, does Pabst Blue Ribbon count as ‘bad water’? Probably.Picture 12

Second, The Cretins I know are not stupid nor childlike…well maybe a bit childlike (that’s when the fun begins isn’t it?) and yes, in this case we are full of useless information that only we care about…engines, chassis, cool bodywork, fun roads to ride…you get the picture.

The Cafe Racer culture was born in England post World War 2. Blokes would gather at a pub, have a pint and then race each other to another pub and have another pint. There are all sorts of stories about how cafe racers came about, but I’ll stick with this one for now. These were like minded riders just having fun on their motorbikes. And maybe they did terrorize a few motorists here and there. All in good fun…?

Now, the truth about the Cretins Motorcycle Club: These are people that simply love the Cafe Racer motorcycle culture. I had the opportunity to spend an evening with the Los Angeles chapter of the Cretins. This was not my first time with the Cretins. I met them back in 2010 when they hosted the LA Moto Film Fest, but this was the first time I rode with them on their weekly Thursday night ride / meeting. See the photo gallery here
Picture 11“It was a dark and stormy night” (really it was!)…Scott Fabbro, club president, and I had finished our interview for The Motoworld Podcast about his racing experience at the Isle of Man and headed to the first gathering spot, The Thirsty Crow pub on Sunset Blvd near downtown LA.Picture 35 When we arrived we just pulled up onto the sidewalk parked our bikes and waited for everyone else to arrive. In just a short period of time the sidewalk was lined with bikes. Scott’s classic GS750, a cool Honda CB400-4, First Lady Susan’s BMW Boxer Cup (signed by Randy Mamola!!), my old Honda Hawk and a variety of other bikes. The Cretins are an equal opportunity motorcycle club.Picture 31

After a pint (Pabst Blue Ribbon of course), it was back into the damp evening and off to the next stop. Now, it was a wet and rainy night but these guys and ladies didn’t let that slow them down. Picture this – a swarm of cafe racers riding in the wet like it was a warm sunny day at the beach. I felt like we were really keeping true to the “Rocker” culture in England.

Picture 33How about some pinball? That was our next stop…a very cool pinball arcade, ‘Pins and Needles’ in a recording studio somewhere near Downtown. At this point I was totally lost but I didn’t care. I was with the Cretins and having a great time. Some of us played some pinball, some just hung around outside and talked, and after about thirty minutes or so it was off to the club house.Picture 15

The Cretins Club House. When the Cretins show up it’s not quiet. You can’t have a meeting space in a nice residential neighborhood where Ozzie and Harriet are getting ready for bed now, can you? So, you pick a very cool building in an industrial area and make as much noise as you want. Picture 16

Inside the clubhouse is the requisite bar stocked with the required PBR (and some other better beverages…all drank responsibly, really). Inside there is all sorts of memorabilia from racing, rides, charitable events (the Cretins are very socially conscious), and good music.

When we got to the club house, members and friends of the Cretins who couldn’t make the earlier ride were showing up and the place came to life. Talk about bikes, rides, races, politics, family and friends was everywhere. The club really is a family of its own. Also along for the ride were two guys from Cycle World Magazine, photographer Jeff Allen and writer John L. Stein. It was very interesting that the Cretins were invaded by two journalist teams (The MotoWorld and Cycle World) at the same time and none of us even knew it was going to happen. But the Cretins welcomed us all with open arms…or was it handlebars? I didn’t get a chance to talk with John but I did get a chance to spend some time with Jeff (who will be a featured interview on The MotoWorld podcast in the near future) while watching him ply his trade as a pro moto/photo journalist.Picture 32

At around midnight it was finally time to head home. I had had a wonderful night with the motorcycle club. If all goes well this will not be my last ride with the Cretins.

Ride with your mates, share a pint or two, swap stories and carry on the tradition. For this group, this is motorcycling at its best. To know more about the Cretins click http://cretins-la.com/
Thank you Scott, thank you Cretins