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.
Moto-Camping has been a way of life for me since I was a teenager…it was always a good way to escape suburban family life. Moto-Camping tested your planning skills (having been a Boy Scout preparation was pretty easy), adaptability skills (you never what the weather will throw at you), packing skills (motorcycle luggage at the time consisted of a small duffel bag strapped to the seat and an old Boy Scout Yucca pack) and map reading abilities (where does this road go???). At times, it also tested your mechanical skills, especially when riding a mid 1960’s Triumph. It was also important to know how to Bullsh*t your boss when you wanted an extra day or two on the road.
The thing about Moto-Camping is that it boils everything down to what is absolutely the bare essentials you need to have a good trip. You spend years and lots of money acquiring just the right gear and as soon as you think have your ‘kit’ just right, you meet another Moto-Camper on the road that has something newer, better and tricker than you. More money going out when you get home.
Over the years I have camped solo, with just a friend or two and done some good sized rallys, I like ’em all. I’ve ridden bikes as small as a Honda CB350 all the way up to my newest ride, a Buell Ulysses, and everything in between. The main thing that has changed for me is that now I travel two up ninety percent of the time. It’s true, I finally found a woman who likes Moto-Camping as much as I do!
Moto-Camping two-up requires a whole new strategy when it comes to prep and packing. Suspension has to be set much different, general ergonomics have to be adjusted and sometimes even a new motorcycle. It’s all worth it. Another thing you have to think about when Moto-Camping, or any kind of vacation for that matter, is what to do with your pet. You can take them to a kennel (too much $$$), you could beg and plead with a family member to take Fido or Fluffy for a few days…the odds of them agreeing to that are a bit slim, or you can simply ask a neighbor to come over and feed Muffy or Spot, (again, a tough favor to ask…).
We love our dog, he’s a good traveler in the car and we would like to take him out into the world more. We have never really all that fond of car camping, it’s too easy. Two Martini’s later however we started talking about getting a small travel trailer (talk about being too easy!) take the dog, the grandkids and see the USA in style and luxury.
The next morning we were back to our senses. We decided that Moto-Camping is still the way to go for us but…we know that our dog would love it too. So, with a little research I found a way to take Boscoe along. It’s perfect.
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.
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.
A couple of years ago I found myself the proud owner of a 1976 BMW R90 S. It’s a wonderful motorcycle. Shortly after I bought it, like a week later, I took off on my ‘new’ BMW with a couple of friends for a two thousand mile road trip. We did all my favorite Sierra passes, saw new places, discovered new roads, got rained on…it was a great trip. And, I fell in love with my R90.
Two months later my friend Jeff called asking if I wanted to take another ride for a few days. His mother had passed away recently and he needed a road trip, leaving the next day. How could I say no. I packed up the BMW, got a good nights sleep and dreamt of twisty roads up the coast and over into the Sierra’s we both love.
I woke up to a perfect morning for traveling. While water is heating up for tea, I rolled the BMW out of the barn, double checked my packing, hit the starter button to warm it up (old BMW’s are quite cold blooded beasts) and…nothing. Flip all the switches again, nothing. Ok, quick, now what? Attach the battery charger, go have a cup of tea, call Jeff to tell him I’m running late and go over the bikes electrics one more time. Well, none of all that helped, the BMW just did not want to go for a ride.
Rather sheepishly, I went back into the barn, uncovered my old traveling partner, my ’95 Triumph Daytona, turned the key to on, pushed the starter button and…the triple roared to life. What a beautiful sound. It wasn’t beautiful just because I had a motorcycle to take this trip on, the Triumph triples song is so wonderful it makes you want to ride.
When I said ‘sheepishly’ it’s because the Daytona has been my traveling partner for many years and I felt bad asking it to be the back up for this trip. I know we all personalize our favorite bikes, some of us even give them names, my old CB350 (with a few mods), ‘The Mighty 350’, and my old ’63 Ford Fairlane’s name is ‘The Fabulous Freddie Fairlane’. I have never named my Daytona, but I hold it as dear as if it had a name. Donna Daytona??? Uh, NO…
It only took about thirty minutes to transfer all my gear to the Triumph, like I said, it and I had traveled many many miles together, so loading the Super Three up for a trip was an auto-pilot event. Jeff rolled up in the driveway and after one more cup of tea we were on our way.
The whole story of this trip of ours (which turned out to be quite an adventure with some long lasting effects) is another blog post on this website, this story is about the Daytona itself.
When we got home after riding through hurricane force winds, the Daytona and I were both stressed out…physically, mentally, and structurally. Blown fork seals on the Triumph, stress fractures on my right wrist (no, I didn;t crash…but there were times it was awfully close…). I parked the Daytona promising it I would give it the care it deserved. Well, that care didn’t come all that quickly…like two years later.
Last month I finally decided the Super Three couldn’t just lounge away in my barn doing nothing, it needed to get back on the road. The forks came off and were delivered to my friend Lance at Thousand Oaks Powersports in Thousand Oaks, Calif. The forks had been refurbished with new springs and all the necessary parts a number of years…and a lot of miles, ago, so the job was not easy. After the rebuild was done I quickly reassembled the front end, made sure the bike was running (it’s been on a battery charger for two years) and rode it to the shop.
I decided that the long way from Fillmore to Thousand Oaks was the way to go. West on Hwy 126 to 12th Street in Santa Paula, a quick left onto South Mountain Road. A few fast curvy miles later I turned right onto Balcom Canyon Rd.. Balcom Canyon is fast and flowing at the bottom then turns tight as you get to the top and down the other side. It felt great to be back on my Daytona. All the little things that make you one with your motorcycle were right there. It was a great ride that morning.
…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.