There 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.
There is a romantic old saying “if you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you it is true love”. However, those of us that race and ride motorcycles know the saying actually goes,
“If you love something set it free. If it comes back to you, it means you high sided!
…Dirt is for planting potatoes.”
So said a motorcycle racer, and good friend.
A long time ago I swore off going to funerals, like thirty years ago, but since that time I have been to two. Yesterday was number two.
When I first heard of my friends passing I, like everyone else I imagine who has had a friend die, did pretty much nothing but think of the good things about that person and how they influenced my life. Then I started thinking about everyone else within that circle of friends and how they impacted my life.
I started my motorcycle roadracing life in 1981 then took a few years off to raise a couple of kids. When I decided to get back into racing I headed out to my nearest track, Willow Springs International Raceway in Rosamond, California to figure what kind of motorcycle I wanted to race. As I wandered around the pits listening to bikes and racers stories I met Larry Cochran who then introduced me Danny Farnsworth who happened to be the ‘Race Director’. These two ‘gentlemen(?)’ through their powers of persuasion, enthusiasm and God knows what other powers they posssessd that day, convinced me that riding an old Honda 500cc single cylinder motorcycle would be the best way to get back into racing. For the rest of my life I will rue the day I listened to those two guys.
A couple of years later I came in second place in the class championship and while everybody else at that Championship banquet was thanking everybody for support, help,etc, etc…I got up there and blamed Larry and Danny for ruining my life. I could have raced a faster better bike, but instead I was racing this old Honda single and flogging it mercilessly year after year. But, here’s the thing, those ten years racing that Ascot with Danny Farnsworth, Larry Cochran, Scott Fabbro and Scott Spears, Carlin Dunne, Steve Allen and a couple others that came and went in the class were truly the best, most fun years I have ever had on a motorcycle. It was those ten years and that group of men that keeps everything else motorcycling in second place.
Yesterday was Danny’s funeral. A number of us former Willow Springs Motorcycle Club racers attended and swapped ‘Danny Stories’, reconnected with each other and left knowing that in the Golden Era of the WSMC it was Danny that cared more about the racers and their safety, even it pissed off someone, which often times it did. Danny had no problem pulling you off the track and telling you what a bonehead move you made, or there was a problem with your bike. It didn’t matter if you thought he was wrong, what Danny says goes. Period. We all benefitted from Danny’s overriding concern for our safety.
Danny Farnsworth was the type that when your bike broke and you needed a part, he would find one from somewhere or somebody, he would loan you one out of his own stock of spares.
When my son started racing I followed in Danny’s and Larry’s footsteps and put Kelly on an Ascot. As Kelly went through new racers school, Danny took him under is wing, which he did for so many young riders, and even though my son kept saying that Ascot was trying to kill him, Danny kept giving him support and encouragement.
Those of us that got together yesterday did more than just say goodbye to a good friend and motorcycle racer but a man that gave so much to racing and racers. I owe Danny a lot, he convinced me to ride the worst racing motorcycle there was and have the most fun anyone could possibly have.
Adios my friend. Race in Peace.
Oh, and like you said at the end of every racers meeting “Keep the rubber side down and the shiny side up”, I still live by those words.
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.
I’m a pretty minimalist kind of guy when it comes to motorcycle travel. I believe if you’re going ‘credit card camping’ Motel 6 is plenty fine…as long as there is a good restaurant and local dive bar within walking distance. A couple of clean T-shirts, skivvies, socks and rain gear…you’re good to go. I have been known to pass up the budget motel once or twice after a long day in the saddle for the sign that says ‘jacuzzi’ or ‘spa’ makes me turn in.
If you’re going real camping it does take a little more preparation and packing but still, pretty easy. A small tent, sleeping bag and pad, one little stove, a small cook kit, coffee pot and the world is yours. Buy your groceries on the road each day or stop at a local diner, there is nothing better than moto-camping.
Over the years and miles I have traveled with all kinds of moto-travelers; credit card campers, tent campers, sleep under the stars campers and a couple of times I have sat around the campfire with those towing a camping trailer behind their bike. I love everybody that travels on a motorcycle, there is really no better way to see this country. But…a trailer? I’m not quite sure I get it –
Now, towing a trailer behind a motorcycle is nothing new, look at this Rudge Motorcycle ad from over 100 years ago.
While the men are out catching dinner, the women are setting up camp. Back then there was a saying…”Mens work is hunting, fishing and making love. Womens work, everything else…!???
Over the years moto-camping has evolved almost to the point of why not just buy a Winnebago? I may get some flack for that thought but…
I have to admit that over the past few years my traveling style has evolved as well. I started on a Honda 350 with an Army / Navy surplus sleeping bag strapped to the back of the bike and a Boy Scout Yucca pack on my back. Rain Gear? What rain gear? Then came a tank bag. Next was a set of soft saddlebags…I could tell I was on a slippery slope.
The day came that I bought a bike that came with hard saddlebags, I was almost embarrassed to seen with them. Was I really getting that old and soft? And then I found the true benefit of hard saddlebags…I love modern technology.
Happy camping everyone, no matter what your style. Oh and by the way, the guy at the top is not me, that is my long time traveling partner Jeff…he is much better looking than me and has a much better sense of style.
…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 started attending church when I was eight years old. The local Presbyterian church is where my grandmother decided I should go to learn about God and Jesus. Ok?…when you live with your grandmother and you’re only eight years old you can’t argue can you?! But, eight years later I really learned about God and Jesus.
In 1968 my mom married Mike, a good guy who loved motorcycles. 1968 turned out to be the year I left the Presbyterian church to join ‘The Church of Speed’ and really came to know God and his Son. Most all Sunday’s I found myself either going way too fast on a canyon road or bouncing along in the middle of the Mojave Desert (occasionally wondering where the hell I was??) on a Bultaco motorcycle that was as untrustworthy as an unattended dog near a big picnic table loaded with food. In both situations I was constantly saying “Oh GOD help me” or “Oh Jesus get me out of this” and more often, “Holy SH*t”.
Recently I was searching my library for a book I hadn’t read before or at least not in the past few years when my phone rang and divine intervention took over. The call was from my old friend Rob, the Pastor of Bikers Church back in Ottawa Canada. He is planning another trip out west this summer and was asking route advice. As I was pulling out my old maps I told him about my search for a new book and it took him less time to come up with a suggestion that it takes Ricky Gadsen to come off the starting line at a National Drag Race…”The Bible” he said. “When was the last time you read it?” I told him I was sixteen when I last read the ‘Good Book’, “well it’s about time you revisited it” he said. After talking about his trip and his urging me to read the Bible numerous times we said our goodbyes and made plans to meet on the road.
Knowing that Rob would ask me Bible questions when we next talked I picked up the book and started reading. Genesis was good but it was Exodus that really got my interest. It was in the book of Exodus that I discovered that Triumph motorcycles have been around a lot longer than most people think. Sure, Triumph has been telling everyone that they have been around since 1902 but if you read the book of Exodus closely you will find that Triumph has been making motorcycles since biblical times. When Moses led the Jews out of Egypt, he did it on a motorcycle! Really. And how do I know this? It says it right there in the bible…”the roar of Moses’ Triumph could be heard throughout the hills!”
And…here’s the original Triumph owners manual!
Long way to go for a bad joke huh?!