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?
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.
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” . 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?
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.
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,
In 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.
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.
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+.
All 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.
We 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.
We all do our very best to prepare for an event, whether it’s a race or a long trip, we get things ready. Holidays are no different.
Usually on Christmas we have a house full of family and friends, most of them motorcycle people. The stories are flying and the more beer we have the stories fly even higher but that is part of what makes the day special. We watch classic races (World Superbike Imola 2000, Troy Bayliss and Colin Edwards…the best race to watch over and over), ‘On Any Sunday’ and whatever movie somebody brings…last year we watched Big Faus and Little Halsey (or is it Big Halsey and Little Faus??? Does it matter?).
This year everyone was here and it was time to put the turkey in the BBQ (in Southern California that is the preferred method…) Instead of putting stuffing in the turkey we put some garlic into a can of good beer, put the turkey over the can and cook. It always comes out great…except this time. The turkey decided that this year the beer was going to be administered a bit differently.
We ended up ordering pizza. Happy Holidays to all and a very Happy New Year. Now sit down and start planning your first big trip of the year. I am.
The other day MotoWorld staff photographer Heather and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Long Beach Motorcycle show. New motorcycles, (and all the hoopla that goes with them) and all the new goodies that you just have to have for your new motorcycle. I love seeing the new motorcycles, and yes, I do my fair share of drooling on them (sorry to the people who have to keep cleaning them all day…), now I only need the bank to give me a bigger line of credit to build a bigger garage and then I could have some of those motorcycles. For me however it’s the people who really make the show worthwhile.
Media day at the show is a circus. A Ringmaster parades us all around the show to each manufacturer where they tell us all about the new and exciting models and features but the real interest, for me, is listening in and being part of all the side conversations. Magazine editors, contributors, photographers, builders, racers and manufacturer reps.
Most of us in Moto-Journalism may only see each other a couple of times a year, if that, and when we do it’s not so much about motorcycles but our lives in general. We all read each others stories and product reviews so when we see each other it’s all personal. Some have new gig’s, some have increased their family size, moved their business or started a new one. Old contacts are renewed and new ones are made, it’s a great day to be around motorcycles and motorcycle people.
This year at the show I ran into my old friend Bill Stermer from Rider Magazine, we haven’t gone for a ride together for a couple of years so it was a good time to plan one. Next I met up with one of my favorite (and very fast) ladies, Laura Klock. Laura and I met at Bonneville back in 2009, she had just set a land speed record aboard a Victory Vision. Laura rode this fully dressed touring bike down the salt with the stereo blasting a cup of cold coffee in the cup holder to something a bit north of 150mph. This was not your average touring bike (thanks to husband Brian Klock) and Laura is not your average touring rider…by any stretch of the imagination.
My good friend Matt Capri, who happens to be the premier Triumph speed merchant/builder on the planet, and I had a wonderful conversation about his newest creation, a 350 lb (wet) 100+ hp Bonneville, and how much fun (scary fun!!) it is to ride. The thing about talking with Matt is that you can’t contain his enthusiasm. Arms flailing, face going through all kinds of contortions and he is talking so fast you only catch every third word but you heard everything.
My friend Skratch was there painting a gas tank and we talked about how his business is growing. Skratch is a really talented painter and builder of both cars and bikes and always a lot of fun to talk with, especially while he is taping off a flame job. Actually the fun part is doing all that I can to distract him…it never works, the man is a machine.
I spent good time with my old racing friend Evans Brasfield. Evans is actually one of the people that got me into Moto-Journalism, and I’ll never forgive him for that…I mean never ‘forget’ him for that. We have raced sprint races together, endurance races, reported on World Superbike races and camped out in the rain at those races. Evans’ writing (he now writes for Motorcycle.com) and riding I have always enjoyed and seeing him again was a nice bonus to the day.
Media Day is about the people in motorcycling that make it for me. Old friends like Nick, Bruce and Beth from Two Wheel Tuner Magazine (sadly the magazine is gone but they are still doing really well), Sandro and Robert (RobDog) from Galfer Brakes, catching up with Arlen and Cory Ness and their work with Indian motorcycles, new friends like Alicia Elfving (the motolady.com), Cristi Farrell from Moterrific Podcast and Christa from RoadRunner magazine.
Seeing all the chrome and beautiful paint, the faster than any of us can ride legally on the street motors, the bikes that want to make us cash out our 401K’s so we can ride to the tip of South America are all well and good but for me, it’s the people and their stories and their life on motorcycles that make going to the motorcycle show and my job great.
…even when you don’t need them to!
A while back I went to a ‘Bike Night’ hosted by a local dealership at a popular drive-in burger joint (aren’t they all?). I took a sh*tload of pictures ( thank god, and Nikon, for digital camera’s) and met a bunch of very friendly and enthusiastic riders.
There must have been at least 300 hundred bikes in the parking lot and more on the street. Cafe racers, cruisers, vintage bikes and a couple of very cool sidecar rigs. You name it, it was there. This was a time and place that being a motorcyclist was more important than what you rode or what you wore.
As the evening went along I made friends with a couple from Ireland, they had just moved here to California and were enjoying the bike culture that we have here. He told me great stories of riding in the UK, going to the Isle of Man TT and taking part in ‘Mad Sunday’, and the cafe racer society hanging out at the Ace Cafe in London. The stories got better as the Guinness bottles lined up next to his bike.
Around 10 o’clock the parking lot was thinning out and it was time to ride home. Nial and his wife were heading the same direction as me so we left together. The minute we pulled onto the street Nial launched a huge wheelie, almost leaving his wife on the street, and then just disappeared down the road. I said my goodbye’s inside my helmet and rode casually on. It wasn’t too long after that I spotted my new friends visiting with a local policeman. I stopped behind the cop car and got just close enough to listen to the conversation.
The officer had stopped Nial for speeding and here is what I heard of the conversation…
Officer, “do you know how fast you were going sir?”
Nial, “no sir”
Officer, “you were doing 85 in a 35 mile an hour zone”
Nial.”I couldn’t have been, this bike won’t do 85 in 2nd gear?”
At this point the officer looks at Nial’s wife and asks her, “do you believe that he wasn’t doing 85 miles per hour?”
Wife, ” I never argue with him when he’s been drinking like this…”
I ended up giving Nials wife a ride home because he did leave her on the street anyway.
I’m an open minded kind of guy, I think. I like all kinds of food (including stuff that if you really knew what it was you wouldn’t get it anywhere near your mouth), most all kinds of music (I learned to like punk because of my son but I will never accept rap as a form of music…), and even some friends choice of wives (or husbands as the case may be).
The area that I think I am the most open minded is motorcycles. As far as I’m concerned if it has two wheels and a motor, it’s great! I like most all motorcyclists as well. Ok, I do have a bit of a problem when it comes to certain motorcycle brand owners that are too into the ‘lifestyle’ instead of actually riding their status symbol, but I’m working hard at getting over it and thousands of hours in therapy are helping. I like cafe racers, dual sports, adventure bikes, long distance tourers, stretched out choppers, bobbers, baggers, vintage English bikes, UJM’s from the 80’s, and scooters too. I love motorcycles, even the ones you wouldn’t be caught dead riding much less be in your garage.
For some strange reason though, I have this weird affinity for the little old Honda 350. I have seen them laying in fields by the side of the road (that is where I found the first one I bought for my dad, yes I did like him), in the farthest back corner of an abandoned warehouse, in the basement of an old house in Hollywood (I did buy one there, really), a good number of them turn up at Vintage Japanese Motorcycle Swap Meets, and on ebay (generally way over valued).
I have seen Honda’s omnipresent 350 turned into cafe racers,desert racers (I have had both), choppers and bobbers.Grocery getters and student commuters. Todd Henning is the Guru of making Honda 350 roadracers that put bigger, more modern bikes to shame on the track. I have even seen some left stock?! The Honda 350 is the one bike that you can buy without breaking the bank (or even having to ask the bank…your wife…) and turn into anything you want it to be. That’s why I love ’em.
While looking for parts for my latest SL350 Cafe’ Racer project the other day, I came upon the coolest, or at least the most unique, styling treatment I have ever seen for a Honda 350.
I can’t imagine any high fashion woman not wanting to ride around in this classic Honda. Soichiro is probably turning over in his grave right now.
I was riding up Decker Canyon pushing my old BMW as hard as I could, having a great time and then the feeling came upon me…I needed a restroom. Not because I scared myself on that one particular uphill blind right hander with a Cadillac Escalade coming down the hill in my lane, it was my second cup of coffee taking its effect. Next stop,The Rock Store.
Ed and Verns place was a gas station along Mulholland Highway in the middle of nowhere many lifetimes ago. Now it’s a restaurant, convenience store and on every Sunday, a So.Cal bike show. Well known riders, custom bike builders, and everyday riders like you and I show up there.
There are two times to show up at the Rock Store on a Sunday – really early (the sportbike crowd), or if you are a “I had a really good Saturday night” type (the cruiser crowd), a little later. Either time requires good parking skills. I think a new YouTube video should be watching someone trying to park their bike in the middle of 250 other motorcycles before they have had the second cup of coffee of the morning.
If you’re riding Mulholland Highway on a Sunday morning, you share the road with a number of black and white cars or motorcycles with red and blue lights along with your “enjoying a beautiful Sunday morning on a motorcycle” brethren – a small fact of life but it’s still fun. Saturday is a little different.
I thought for a Saturday I’d pretty much have the road to myself. I was wrong. I was hustling along (well, as fast as you can hustle a 34 year old BMW) and all of a sudden (literally) in my rearview mirror was a group of riders that went by me as if I was anchored to the Malibu pier. My first thought, I need a faster bike. Second thought, I have one…it just needs new fork seals, rear brake master cylinder rebuild (yes, some of us do use the rear brake), and a current registration…all minor details which I’m sure I’ll get around to eventually.
When I got to the Rock Store I was surprised at how many motorcycles were there. It wasn’t a large number, but certainly more than I thought would be there. As I walked around I met Roy on a beautiful old BMW R27, Tashi on Royal Enfield Bullet 500, and Bill on a KZ1000 ELR, each of them enjoying the day (the weather was perfect) and the ride. The common thread among them was the enjoyment of less traffic, less law enforcement…which, can and does allow for a more spirited ride, and once at the Rock Store, easier parking.
I met a young journalist from Japan wandering through the bikes. He was working on a story about the Rock Store for a magazine back home. He thought that there would be more bikes there. I told him Sunday was the day for large numbers of all kinds of bikes. “Ah, Sunday…what day is today?” he got off the plane from Japan just a few hours earlier. It was Sunday on his body clock. The young journalist took pictures, talked with riders, shared his own stories, and for those of us that got a chance to meet him, made the day more interesting.
I headed up over the mountains to the coast to keep my appointment in Venice. I wasn’t in too much of a hurry that I still couldn’t enjoy a fast blast over a couple more canyon roads before cruising the coast south, so I put the BMW, and myself through our paces. But then…I caught up with the Black Sheep Scooters.
I didn’t need gas, but there at the Chevron station in Malibu was a gaggle of scooters, the Black Sheep Scooter Club. I had to stop. This is a loosely knit group, and I mean that in more than one way, heading off on a two day camping and riding adventure. Scooter pilots from all over Southern California somehow managed to get together, go ride, and have a great weekend. Except for this one poor guy whose Lambretta decided it had had enough fun for one day. I made my way down to Venice, hung out with the guys at Black Kat Motorwerks, checked out all the cool old vintage stuff at The Garage Company, and then spent some time with my old friend and racing partner Ted Toki at his shop in West L.A, talking about our kids, hot rods, and his latest (old) Triumph.
The ride home that evening was wonderful. A perfect late summer night over the canyons, the R90’s headlight was just bright enough to guide me over roads I can probably ride blindfolded, and all was well with the world.
We all look forward to the Sunday ride but, I found that a Saturday ride might be just as entertaining, if not a bit more.