Things we think of while riding down the road

Posts tagged “motorcycle commuting

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


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


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


New motorcycles and old friends

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.

ImageThis 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.

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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.

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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.

 


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.


As if I don’t have enough…

…projects. I look around my barn nowadays and all I see are projects. Not just the simple “I’d better get this place organized someday” project, but real projects. The ones like, finish rebuilding the front forks and rear brake on my Triumph, the head gasket on The Mighty 350, put the parts back on my sons CB350 that I pirated to make my 350 run, paint the fairing on the BMW, start my SL Cafe bike build and put a new mandrel on my lawn tractor. Not to mention the brakes on my 1963 Fairlane sitting out front up on jack stands…my wife loves that??!

Oh sure, there are little projects too…like; organize the recycling, clean all the garden tools, put all my extra tools in the other tool box, put my wife’s tools back in her tool box and get rid of yard and shop chemicals that went bad 20 years ago. Small things, all of them really, but when I see the big projects…my ‘A.D.D’ kicks in. I start putting old tools away and then I get to wondering what bike this one tool will fit that maybe I don’t have in my regular tool box? So, I go around to all the motorcycles looking for what this particular odd looking spanner fits. The next thing you know, I’ve put down that tool, picked up the one lying next to the spare 350 engine on the work bench…two hours have gone by and I’m being called in for supper?!. A few weeks later I will remember that the tool I started carrying around fits the chrome muffler bearings in the Fairlane.

So, while I’m standing in the open barn door looking in, I wonder which of my friends I could call to come over and help me with getting this place workable. The type of friends I have are cheap labor. …some free beer, maybe a bucket of fried chicken…I took lessons from Tom Sawyer. Then I got to thinking, always a bad thing in my case…Jeff’s shop is worse than mine, Eric’s is full of too many misguided car projects and a couple of old race bikes stashed away somewhere, Jay’s shop…well, he’s a professional, so occasionally you can see the floor between all the Alfa parts and Suzuki RGV bits, and then there’s Ken’s…well, if you could slide a Honda Trail 50 in there, I would be surprised. Not a group of good organizers in that lot. I need someone to help that knows about a neat and tidy work shop, the type of shop that you could eat off the floor…Craig! Craig is even cheaper to hire than the other guys! A simple sandwich and a sixer of Coors Light, we’re working…but, he’s got too many projects of his own. Craig’s out, looks like I’m on my own.

So, back to the original problem, I have too many projects and, another one just landed in my driveway. A 1970’s something Benelli 250 2C. Great. This is a gift (?) from my friend David. He has had this bike hanging around his house for probably 20 years, outside.It was years ago he told me he had this old bike (didn’t know what it was… he never could remember the name Benelli) in great condition just hanging about and wondered if I wanted it. Sure, I said.

Twenty some years later it finally shows up. So what do I do with it? it’s a very cool little old bike, it doesn’t qualify for the MotoGiro but will still be a great ride around the local canyons. Do I do the full restoration? Make it new again? Knowing myself and my banker…probably not. How about just get it running, put on some new tires, make sure the brakes work, duct tape the seat together and, maybe clean the rust out of the gas tank. I think I’m going to need a repair manual. My new ‘gift’ has only 620 miles on the clock, the tires look new (old, but original), there are a few parts missing (nothing important…one side cover badge and the compression release cable…who needs a compression release on a 2 cylinder 250cc 2 stroke??…maybe I need to hold off on that judgement until I try to start it…!!), all in all not a bad ‘gift’.

Now, as some of you may know, I love Cafe Racers…and this little Benelli is a perfect candidate or maybe a vintage road racer. The more I look at this motorcycle, the more I’m intrigued by what it is and what it can be. It does have a reputation as a good handling motorcycle, it is fast for it’s size, and it is unique..it’s not something you will see every Sunday on your local twisty road.
I can see it now, a hot rod little two stroke hustling up Decker Canyon leaving Ducati 1098’s in a cloud of two-stroke smoke…until the road straightens out, and then well, arevaerdecci…
Pull into the Rock Store, find a place to park, casually pull off my helmet and walk away from my little Benelli. Before I can get a cup of tea, there are at least four guys standing around my little 250…”you ever seen one of these?”, “nope”, “I heard these were a piece of junk”… etc,etc,etc,…I’m very sure that there won’t be another Benelli in that parking lot on that Sunday and to have my ‘piece of junk’ gather a small crowd…well worth the price of admission.

Here’s what I have to start with…should I go for the full resto? should I just get it running? I’ll go with your vote…