Things we think of while riding down the road

scooters

First dates

I like motorcycles, she likes boats. The first time I asked my now wife on a date it was to go look at all the Christmas decorations around town. The fun part of all of this was that I was going to take her in a motorcycle side car. Now think about it, how many first dates are in a side car…I was hoping this might score me a few extra points for being creative. Well, I was flatly turned down. Apparently creativity goes just so far.

A month later,and several other attempts (also rejected), I came up with the perfect solution and it worked!!! However, her best friend did come along as a chaperone.Picture 26

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Girls are just as fast…

At about 15 or 16 years old my daughter decided she wanted to learn how to ride a motorcycle. I was roadracing at the time and she had come out the track a few times but somehow the ‘bug’ never got her. Until, she met a boy who rode motorcycles. Great? Well, at least it was better than falling for a surfer or football player…maybe?

“Dad, teach me to ride!!!” I was one happy guy. My daughter had gotten ‘the bug’. The good thing was we had a little Honda ‘Step Thru’ (a 1959 Honda Super Cub) in the garage that was a perfect basic trainer. Ok, that training session lasted about 15 minutes…”Dad, can I ride ‘The Mighty 350?”Picture 30

Now this is one of my prized motorcycles…it’s not a museum piece, it’s just a bike I have had forever and have ridden everywhere. In a weak moment I agreed to teach her to ride on ‘The Mighty 350’. By the way, ‘The Mighty 350’ is a 1972 Honda CB350 with a sh#t load of miles on it. Again after about 15 minutes, my daughter was off into the sunset. She returned an hour or so later with a great big grin on her face.

Leah moved her way up onto her brothers Honda HawkGT but as she has told me many times, it was that little Honda Super Cub that really gave her the biggest fun.

The boy she had met was also a roadracer. While out at the race track on weekend, she and her friends decided to take on the boys to see who was fastest. The boys were quite surprised.Picture 31


Everybody has their own sense of style

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).

Picture 28The 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.

Picture 20For 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).

Picture 23I 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.
High heeled cb350

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.


What a difference a day makes

Last week I headed down to Venice…California, not Italy, for a Vintage BMW event. I had some extra time so I took a quick tour of the Santa Monica Mountains roads that I love which is always fun.

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.


L.A Moto Film Fest

A couple Saturday’s ago I was riding up in the Santa Monica mountains on my way to a Vintage BMW gathering down in Venice, California, and one of the required stops on that kind of ride is The Rock Store on Mulholland Highway. It’s always a good stop because you’ll see a few really cool motorcycles, (on Sundays you see hundreds…), maybe friend or two and, if you’re hungry or thirsty, good food and drink. While I was hanging around and checking out a couple of bikes, I saw a flyer tacked to the oak tree in the parking lot advertising a motorcycle film festival in L.A, cool. I took a picture of the flyer so I would have the info and headed my way down the coast.

As I was sorting through my photo’s of the day later that night, I saw the flyer and thought this is an event I really want to go to. I showed Heather, my usual passenger and wife, the flyer and she agreed, I should go. I’m a lucky man. Actually, I think she just wanted a Saturday night all to herself.

The film festival was being held at the Cretins Motorcycle Club in downtown Los Angeles. I know a couple of those guys and I’ve been wanting to interview them for my podcast program for a while, this is perfect!

Film Festival day came and the weather was looking pretty iffy for an outdoor event but I had faith it would come off no matter what. For me, I had to decide to either ride or drive. It’s a pretty long ride for me and if it does rain, the LA freeways are not where you want to be. If I drive and it doesn’t rain…what a wimp. Every now and then, style trumps practicality. I rode.

It was an easy ride to Downtown until…I got off the freeway. Google maps and downtown Los Angeles apparently don’t have a good relationship. Without going into boring beyond words yet comical details, I was lost for a good half hour. I made more U-turns, asked more people in cars at a stoplight I had been through at least five times to roll down their window and tell me where the hell Sotello St. was, (not one of them knew either..), even the guys at a gas station (that turned to be just about six blocks away) had no clue. About the time I decided these guys really are Cretins, Google maps that is, I thought I would give it one more try before heading home…I’m not letting some computer directions beat me, no way! The last try paid off. As I rode up the driveway I knew all the frustration of being lost was well worth the price of admission…six dollars by the way.

What a fantastic event. These guys, the Cretins, have it together big time. The Cretins clubhouse is on the roof of a parking structure looking right into the LA night line. Picture this, a couple hundred motorcycles with skyscrapers for a back drop…too cool. When I got off my motorcycle, I checked in with my friend, and Cretins club member Scott Fabro. After a fast visit and swapping of a few racing stories ( we used to have some epic battles in the Formula Singles class at Willow Springs ), I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough.

The Cretins are known for being a cafe racer / rat bike kind of club and it’s true. But…this event, and as it turns out, pretty much everything they do is open to all riders. On this beautiful roof top were ratty ass old Honda’s, long in the tooth BMW’s, a big Suzuki Cavalcade tourer, Harley’s with ape hangers…you name it it was there. As at any motorcycle gathering, we all walk around, look at bikes, talk to the owners, take pictures and start making wish lists.

As interesting as the bikes are, it’s the people who make any event an ‘Event’. Believe me boys and girls this was an ‘Event’. I don’t think I have seen a broader group of motorcyclists talking, telling stories and laughing in one place than I did Saturday night on a roof top in downtown Los Angeles. The Flaming Knights Motorcycle Club, The Pyrate Riderz (yez, I spelled it ryght)…I’ve never heard of these clubs but that doesn’t matter, we were all hanging out together. Couples that rode in looking like movie stars on bikes that just came out of a fashion magazine photo shoot to guys riding on bikes that made you wonder how they made up the driveway. It’s the people and their stories that are always the most interesting…and, they all came out for a good cause.

There were two reasons for putting together this event according organizer Mark Duncan. First was, in his words (sorta) “there all kinds of film festivals but none about or for motorcycles, so I decided to do one”. On top of that, he wanted to help his favorite charity, Riders for Health. The Cretins Motorcycle Club, being the good charitable guys and gals that they are, offered up their clubhouse and all their good (?) connections to help out. Mark sent out emails and built a website www.lamotofilmfest.com looking for film makers to join in.

After going through about twenty five short films he settled on fifteen for the festival. There were movies about ice racing (the true lunatics of the motorcycle racing world), traveling across Libya, learning how to race at Willow Springs, even a great comedy about Captain USA capturing Osama Bin Laden, this film had everybody laughing their asses off. Films about off road adventures and urban adventures, racing old Honda 160’s and how to travel on $54.80 a day. It was all great stuff and we were all watching these films shown on a brick wall, on a roof top, in LA. How lucky were we.

While having some pizza and moving a trash barrel, I had a good visit with Mark Duncan; Willow Springs racer, creator of the event and, film maker in his own right www.nckfilms.com. This guy was so stoked as to how the evening was going, you couldn’t have wiped the smile off his face with a blown motor. It only took Mark two months to pull this all together but he’s already planning the 2nd annual film fest. The Motoworld interview with Mark is at www.themotoworld.com it’s short but really great.

I can’t say enough about how great the 1st Annual Los Angeles Motorcycle Film Festival was, the Cretins Motorcycle Club as hosts and, all the people who came to support the film makers and the Riders for Health organization www.riders.org

A full photo album of the gathering is on the website www.themotoworld.com this is an event that you really don’t want to miss. I have a feeling that with the success of this years film fest, the Cretins club house is going to be way too small next year


Vintage values

There’s an old saying, “something is only worth what somebody else is willing to pay for it”. I write another blog about vintage motorcycles, www.vintagemotorcycles.wordpress.com and here is where I learn what people think their motorcycle is worth and I will say this right off the bat, some people have a very inflated sense of the value of their motorcycle or their 1970 metalflake helmet.

In my years as a surf shop owner I spent a great deal of time helping people determine the value of the used surfboard they wanted to sell. A customer would come in toting an old surfboard that maybe they have had for years or they picked it up at a garage sale somewhere for a few dollars, either way it’s time to sell it. I would always start off the conversation by asking how much do you want for it? The customer would reply, “how much is it worth?”, next is me asking again how much they want for it, knowing that they do have a dollar figure in mind…getting that figure out of them is a very funny game of cat and mouse. This game goes on for just a bit and then I throw out a price of what I think I can sell it for (we sold surfboards on consignment for a small percentage). One of three things happen now, the customer is surprised in a good way, they’re offended or sometimes I get lucky and I’m right there with what they had in mind. At least half the time it’s door number two. If the offended one doesn’t walk out the door in a huff, I try to explain why I put the value on their board that I did. It comes from the knowledge of knowing what it will sell for, not what it may be worth. There is a difference.

The other difference I have to explain to people whether we are talking about surfboards or motorcycles, is the difference between just old and classic. What is the difference? To make it as simple as I can, a ‘classic’ is something that truly stood out in it’s time and has stood the test of time. A ‘classic’ is something iconic, something that helped define that time period, either technologically or sociologically. In surfboards, a 1967 Dewey Weber Performer is a classic, a 1967 stock production, no model name surfboard is just an old board. A Honda CM400A is just an old motorcycle, a 1969 Honda CB750 is a classic. A Kawasaki Samurai is a neat motorcycle but it’s just an old motorcycle, a ’72 H2 is a classic. You get my point here I hope.

I spend a portion of each morning perusing ebay for cool old motorcycles or interesting parts for my vintage motorcycle blog. If I find something interesting that I have some history with, I write a story about it, add some pictures then post it. If I find something interesting that I don’t know much about, I do some research and then write what I have learned..spread the knowledge you know. But here’s the best part of looking at bikes on ebay…the value a seller puts on the motorcycle. I catch myself laughing out loud every morning, I guess laughter is the best way to start the day. For some people the price is based on sentimental value, “I have had this bike since I was just a boy back on the farm in Iowa”, or, ” I completely restored this bike from the ground up, I have $7324.14 in receipts”, opening bid for this Honda CB350 is $7500. Here’s the deal folks, sentimental value does not translate in real world value. If you don’t want to sell it for a realistic price, then don’t put it on the market. If you spend $7324.14 on a CB350, well first, you should be institutionalized, then you have to realize that every dollar you put into it was for your own enjoyment. When you add accessories or do restoration work, the rule of thumb is that you can expect to get back around half of what you put into it. That’s the real world.

I put together a little list of bikes I thought fit in the “you must be kidding” category, ready…? A rusty, sidecover missing, fenders all scuffed up 1979 Honda XR80 for only $2000. How about a custom Maico dirtbike from the ’70’s for a paltry $7,000, or maybe you have fancy a dirty, banged up, yellowed gas tank, not sure of the mileage or hours on the bike ’88 Yamaha BIG Wheel with a starting price of $3500. How does a very nicely restored 1968 Suzuki T500 for $7000 fit in your garage? Now here is where the fun really begins. How can you turn down the opportunity to buy a 1969 Indian 50cc minibike in well used condition for only $2600. I don’t even think you could get that much for one of the Harley Clone Indians from a couple of years ago!?
And here is the capper for the day, a beautiful, 99% original 1978 Kawasaki Z1R turbo that will only lighten your wallet by $25,000, you can actually find a real nice one for less than half that.

What do all these bikes have in common? besides crazy prices, they have all been on ebay a while, and they all have zero bids. I wonder why.

So what was my point in writing this today, it’s not really to make fun of anybody or what they believe the value of their motorcycle is, the point was to take my experience in selling used goods for people and use it to help somebody think about pricing their Suzuki 250 triple that needs work, or that 1970 metalflake helmet to sell..not languish about on ebay. If you want to sell it, sell it. Get a fair price for it and be happy. Like my old friend Doug used to say, “buy it for $1, sell it for $2 and be happy with a one percent profit”


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.