Category Archives: Motorcycling
It’s been a long time since my last post. In July I took on a new role at my company and just haven’t been able to get back into a rhythm with writing and riding since then. Most of my riding in the second half of the year was commuting so nothing exciting there.
Part of my reason for not posting was also that I like to write really finished article style posts. I figure if people are going to read posts on this site the content should be worth their time. I’m slowly coming to the realization that not every post has to take weeks to pull together and edit. It is a blog after all. And it’s free. And it’s mine. So, it really can be whatever I want it to be. I was recently reminded that good content along with consistency is really the key here. I’m going to try harder to do both this year.
The most recent motorcycle related event that’s happened in the past few months was attending the IMS in Washington DC. I always try to make this show every year in January. It’s the perfect way to get a dose of motorcycle excitement in the middle of winter.
There were two bikes that stood out to me at the show.
2015 Kawasaki Versys 1000LT.
I am finding myself drawn to the 1000 cc range of bikes that are coming out in the market. They are powerful, agile, and comfortable. The Versys, was all of those things. At least from what I could glean from marketing materials and sitting on the bike for longer than was probably appropriate by the looks I was getting from the booth reps. The bags are a little smaller (28 liter) than those on my Connie 14, but they are large enough to be useful. There’s also an aftermarket top case, so no worries on storage. It has all the technology that I’m looking for in a bike: ABS, traction control, multiple riding modes. All the fun stuff. I also really love the orange color. The Versys is sized well for me too. The reach to the bars from the seat is perfect. No lean over at all (for me). I’m going to try and find an enterprising dealer this summer and see if I can get a ride on one.
For more information on the Versys visit Kawasaki.com
2015 Yamaha Super Tenere ES
The other motorcycle the continues to catch my attention is the Super Tenere. Everytime I sit on this bike it just seems to fit. It pushes all my buttons too. Electronic suspension, ABS, traction control, multiple fuel maps. Being an “Adventure” bike it has an upright sitting position and easy ergonomics. I know that both of these bikes fit the adventure/off road style of bike that’s become very popular, but that’s not what really draws me. I also think that the reason these style of bikes have “become” popular is that there are no standard bikes anymore. If you want neutral handling, comfortable all day riding bike you have to buy one of these adventure style bikes. I’m fine with that. I’m more interested in comfort for long rides, flexibility, and utility.
For more information on the Super Tenere go to Yamaha’s website.
Here are pictures of a few other bikes that were honorable mentions or at least caught my eye.
I had knee surgery recently to repair two tears in the meniscus in my left knee. The injury was not motorcycle related but it means I’ll be off the bike for a while. So, what to do while I can’t ride? Well, I took advantage of the down time to get through a few projects I’ve wanted to do.
The first was to get my bike ready for the spring riding season, even though I can’t ride it for several weeks. I changed the oil, oil filter, air filter, rear tire, and gave it good once over. I tightened all the nuts and bolts and lubricated everything. All pretty straight forward except for changing the Air Filter. I have to hand it to the folks at Kawasaki, 12 bolts, 3 plastic rivets, 3 body pieces, and several connectors to unplug just to get to the air filter. Total time to do everything except the air filter was a few hours. The air filter was another solid hour. It kept me busy at least and even though I couldn’t ride my bike I still got to play with it.
Up to this point I’ve been a little shy about doing the service work on my Concours. It’s a very complicated machine and not like anything I’ve worked on before. Being able to take the time to work through the service knowing that I wasn’t riding took a lot of the pressure off. If I didn’t finish the work I wasn’t missing anything and could get back to it when I had more time. Of course it turned out it was easier than I thought and once I got into it everything was very much the same just in different places. I didn’t take on changing the spark plugs, that’s a task for another long weekend. Something about having to remove the gas tank … not sure I’m ready for that yet.
Next I organized my gear by building custom shelves, a rack, hanging cabinets, and generally putting things in their place. It’s so nice have all my gear in one place. There’s also a practical reason for organizing and hanging up my gear. We moved to a new house last summer and I had a similar setup in my old house. Having a place to hang sweaty or wet clothes is great for letting them air out and dry. They tend to last longer when they have good airflow. It also helps them smell better next time I use them. The other reason is for convenience. Like most people, I don’t like to search for something. If it’s not in reach when I need it I’ll find an alternate solution. Having my riding gear all in one place means when I get ready to ride everything I need to grab is right there. I’ll have options instead of only using the jacket I can find, and I will use the gear that’s appropriate to the ride I’m going on.
I realized as I was putting my bike back together and organizing my gear that they had a similar purpose. Having my gear all together makes it easier to know what I have and what condition it’s in. Organizing my tools and other bike related cleaning and maintenance materials also helps me know what I have, how much I have, and where it’s at. Working on my bike regularly helps me understand it. The more parts I look at, and work on the more familiar I am with my machine and how it works. The more familiar I am the more apt I am to know if somethings wrong and I might even have an idea of how to fix it. My gear collection grows as I understand what different conditions require in terms of protection and comfort. The more comfortable I am the longer I can ride and longer my riding season is. My tool collection grows as I work and maintain my bike. The right tool for the job is always the best tool to use. So too does my understanding of my bike grow as I ride it and work on it. The more I know the better I can care for my bike and extend my riding.
This train of thought brought me back to my knee surgery. I’ve tried for several years to “get in shape”. I know intuitively that it’s important. Looking down the barrel at 40 my body isn’t going to bounce back on its own. So, while I work on my bike getting it into shape for the summer I concluded I need to do the same to me. Just like a bike that’s out of tune, it might run for a while but eventually it’s going to need some work to get it going again. The amount of work really depends on how well it is maintained. My body is very much the same. I’ve missed a few regular service intervals at this point. So, as I get my bike in order I’ll also be working on getting me in better shape this summer too. Let’s see if I can tune this body up before it’s too late and I get put out in the shed with a tarp over me.
Bruce Brown’s 1971 classic documentary, On Any Sunday, exposed legions of folks to the wonderful world of motorcycling. Now, Bruce’s son, Dana Brown, a filmmaker who made Step into Liquid and Dust to Glory, is creating a modern take on the original, capturing on film those who ride motorcycles today and what the sport means to them.
The beautifully shot movie, scheduled for release this fall, features Travis Pastrana, Marc Marquez, Robbie Maddison, James Stewart, Carlin Dunne, Dani Pedrosa, and others. If this new version of On Any Sundayhas half the impact of the 1971 original, it will be a huge success. Enjoy the trailer!
May 12, 2014 By
It’s a little intimidating at first. I didn’t know what to expect having met online or getting hooked up by a friend. Sure, I’ve looked at a few pictures and profiles and everything looks good, but there’s still some doubt. Is it going to work out this time? Is it going to turn out like last time where everything was great at first but then really kind of fell apart at the end? Or is this the one? Meeting a riding group for the first time is a lot like going on a blind date, even with a friend along for support. There are a lot of unknowns and different personalities involved. The best thing is to just dive in and see where it goes.
To ease into riding with a new group I generally look for a short ride that involves a lunch or dinner stop. This makes it seem even more like dating but the meal actually serves the same purpose in both situations. I don’t generally get a chance to have more than a 5 min conversation at riding breaks so a lunch or dinner is a great way to get a feel for the group. I can meet and talk with several members usually for over an hour in a relax setting. Some more formal riding groups have meet-and-greet nights, bike washes, BBQ nights, etc. These are perfect for meeting other group members and getting to know the structure and personalities of a group before going on a ride. Sometimes I know right off the bat after meeting a group if it’s going to work or not even before I go on a ride with them.
After meeting some of the members and getting a feel for their riding styles, if I’m still interested I’ll meet up with them for a longer day ride. Short rides are good for getting to know the members of a group. Day long rides are good for getting to know the riding dynamic of a group. How often does the group stop for breaks? How fast or slow do they ride? Are they sticklers for staying in formation and together as a group? Are they OK with letting faster riders meet the more casual riders at the next stop? My comfort level on a ride is as important to me as the people I ride with. If the group and my riding rhythms are not compatible then I’m not going to enjoy the ride and I’m not going to want to come back. There’s always some level of adjustment and compromise when getting to know a new group. In general I know my patterns and if the group isn’t within a tolerable range of what’s acceptable to me, I know I’ll just be frustrated. My time is important to me and I don’t want to spend a glorious weekend riding frustrated and feeling less relaxed then when I left. That kind of defeats the purpose.
A riding group can mean many things to many people. Some are formal groups or clubs with strict rules, membership dues, patches, and officers. Some are just a group of friends who get together every few weeks to ride. I belong to and have belonged to both kinds. Unlike dating, I can belong to as many riding groups as I want. This gives me options for attending more types of rides. I don’t have to go on every ride for every group either. It also means when I host a ride there’s a larger pool of riders to pull from, so I’m sure to at least get a few people to show up. Personally, I prefer groups that lean toward the informal . Some structure is fine, but too much makes me feel obligated to the group in a way that is counter to why I ride with a group in the first place. My main goal in riding with a group is to enjoy the friends and social aspect as much as the riding. Not that clubs and riding associations don’t have a good time, I just like to keep my riding a little more casual.
Of course groups change over time as people join and leave, just as my riding style has changed. So, if a group doesn’t work out I can always go back to a group I haven’t ridden with in a while. Things might have changed in that group or my riding habits might have changed making us both more compatible than before. I try not to burn any bridges when I leave a group. I never know if they are going to post a ride that looks interesting or I want to ride with them again. Also, the ridding community in my area isn’t incredibly large. It’s surprising how many people know each other.
Riding with a group is about carving up great roads together and at the end of the day getting to hang out with some pretty fun people. It enhances the ride and should not detract from it. So, get out there. There’s plenty of fish in the sea … I mean riding groups to choose from. Go find one, and have a great ride.
There’s 3 items of interest: new category of motorcycle- autocycles, the wearing of masks for warmth is legal now, and the blame for on-coming left-hand turn accidents.
2014 Virginia General Assembly Wrap Up
March 13, 2014
The regular session of the Virginia General Assembly has concluded. We can of course expect a special session so that the two chambers can continue to fight over the budget and the impasse over Medicaid expansion. However, as that is a topic not specific to motorcycles or motorcyclists, I will not wade into those waters.
Motorcyclists had a pretty good year in 2014. The Virginia Coalition of Motorcyclists (VCOM) had three main issues going into this session, two of which have become law which will go into effect as of July 1st, 2014. If this were baseball we would be batting .667 and would qualify for the hall of fame. Yes Mr. O’Reilly that is called spin.
This year Virginia will get a new classification of motor vehicle called an autocycle. Both HB 122 and its Senate companion SB 383 have been signed by the Governor. Under this new law, an autocycle is defined as a three-wheeled motor vehicle that has a steering wheel, seating that does not require the operator to straddle or sit astride, and is manufactured to comply with federal safety requirements for motorcycles. The code also specifies that unless otherwise provided, an autocycle shall not be deemed to be a motorcycle. The reason for this legislation was the rise in popularity of three-wheeled cars such as the T-Rex and Elio which until now have been considered motorcycles due to having three wheels. The manufacturers of these vehicles do not want them to be considered automobiles because they would then have to meet the federal safety standards for automobiles. We motorcyclists do not want them to be motorcycles because they will unfairly distort our crash statistics. VCOM worked with Tanom, a company in Virginia which manufactures such vehicles, and with several state governmental agencies to create this new classification. This new classification satisfies all parties. Autocycles only have to meet the federal safety requirements for motorcycles so the manufactures are happy. Likewise, when these three wheeled cars are involved in a crash which results in an injury or fatality, they will not be considered motorcycle injuries or fatalities. I do not mean to sound indifferent about any injury or fatality, but the reality is that much of the laws that we see restricting motorcyclists are driven by crash data. If the government is going to use such data to pass laws aimed at us, we should demand that the data at least be accurate.
If you would like to read the full bill as enacted you may do so at the following link:
The second bill to be signed by the Governor is HB 542 which concerns wearing masks in public. It is a felony to wear a mask in public in the Commonwealth of Virginia except under certain circumstances. This has historically been problematic for motorcyclists in Virginia who utilize cold weather gear, or who use a bandana to protect themselves from dust or sun. Many were being pulled over and told to remove the protective coverings. The code section now makes it clear that it is only a crime in Virginia to wear a mask in public with the intent to conceal one’s identity. Covering one’s face for the purpose of staying warm or to protect one’s self from the elements will no longer put a motorcyclist at risk of facing prosecution.
If you would like to read the full bill as enacted you may do so at the following link:
Unfortunately, our third issue, which would have made it reckless driving to kill another motorist while committing a right of way violation, was defeated by the House Courts of Justice Committee. Despite support from motorcyclists across Virginia, the Committee defeated the measure on a 9-13 vote. Those who opposed the measure did so due to the fact that the bill made a traffic infraction a criminal offense without any change in the intent of the offender. We argued that the court would still have the power to find the offender guilty of a simple infraction if the evidence supported such a finding. We further explained that the main purposes of the bill was to force those who kill others on Virginia highways to come to court to answer for the charges, and to give courts more power to deal with such offenders appropriately. Despite our best efforts the measure failed. At least for now.
VCOM will continue to monitor issues affecting motorcyclists in the Commonwealth. If you have any concerns about such an issue please feel free to contact me. Additionally, if you wish to support VCOM you may join and become a supporter at vcomonline.org
McGrath & Danielson
Tom McGrath’s Motorcycle Law Group
Our mailing address is:
2606-2608 West Cary Street
Richmond, VA 23220
On the border of Virginia and North Carolina just off US RT 29 there is a small gas station that does a fair amount of business for a Wednesday afternoon in mid-July. I know this because I’ve just spent the last few hours here. My bike is doing its best impression of a statue. I am sitting in a decreasing pool of shade from a highway sign trying not to sweat too much. The last hour was spent tearing my bike down with a limited tool kit trying to figure out why I have no electrics. I finally concede defeat and call roadside assistance who assure me they will be here soon. The tow truck will take me to a dealer that should be able to help me get back on the road.
Over the years I’ve read several motorcycle travel stories where the authors assert that it’s the delays in a trip that make the journey interesting. These interruptions usually are the best stories. Every good road trip account I’ve heard or read is about the stops more than the riding. I’m fascinated by riders tales of around-the-world and around-the-country adventures. Where they went, what they saw, what they needed to do to get from where they were to where they wanted to go. Is it the adventure in foreign lands that entices me? Sure that’s part of it. Stories of far off, and not so far off, places and sights I probably will never see draw me in. More than that though, it’s the bumps in the road. It’s the stories of the places people stop, the people they meet there, and what they experience. That’s the heart of it. A unique experience being shared. On my motorcycle trips and wanderings the best, and most often repeated, stories my friends and I share are about the pauses, the struggles, and the strange things that happen on or around a motorcycle once it has stopped.
The tow truck driver is here now and we strap down the bike to the back of a flatbed tow truck. I’m lucky the driver is also a motorcycle rider. He understands how to strap down a bike correctly. We are soon on our way to a dealer about 30 miles away from the gas station. On the way we talk about the bikes we’ve owned, trips we’ve taken, and other bikes he’s towed. We cover a bit of ground in our short conversation. He’s mostly a sport bike rider and likes to stay around town. Right now he’s in between bikes but has a line on a GSXR that a buddy of his is giving up on the cheap. I can hear the excitement in his voice when he thinks about being able to ride again.
So much of what I hear in conversation at work or have when I’m out with friends is regurgitating information gathered from sound bites and headlines. In our busy lives, and because of the onslaught of information thrown at us every day, it’s an easy pattern to fall into. Glean a little information from the news headlines, twitter, facebook, etc. Then meet up with a friend, reiterate the soundbites and maybe discuss them a little. This is what passes for conversation. I think this is more information sharing than conversation. There’s a place for this type of discussion but I find too often that it’s taking the place of people sharing their own experiences with each other.
When my riding buddies get together and talk we recount stories of the time our friend got a flat tire outside Gatlinburg, TN. The time our boots melted when we tried to dry them out around the fire after riding all day in the rain. The fajitas we made at Mt.Pisgah campground off the Blue Ridge Parkway after a long day of riding. We rarely talk about the multiple miles we rode on a trip, except to maybe comment on a nice section of road. I’ve rarely gone on a ride longer than an hour and not come back home without something interesting (or even frightening) to talk about.
The tow truck pulls up next to a building sandwiched between several houses on a neighborhood street. The only indication that it’s a motorcycle dealer is the faded sign and motley assortment of scooters and ATVs lined up in the mostly gravel parking lot. This is not what I expected when the woman from road side assistance said I’d be going to a Kawasaki dealer close by. The only other dealer in the area couldn’t make room for me for 2 weeks and this dealer could look at my bike today so I don’t have much of a choice. I help unstrap the bike and wheel it into the service bay at the back of the building. The service area looks more like my buddies garage who can’t seem to throw old bike parts away. It’s complete with an old 50’s era fridge, 80’s era boom box belting out 90’s era music. The mechanics are nice guys and take the bike right in. I’m not encouraged when their first question is “What kind of bike is that?” The closest motorcycle they have in their stable to my Concours 14 is a used Ninja last seen with Tom Cruise astride it in Top Gun.
Fortunately the basic workings of bikes are the same. Based on the ATVs, Minibikes, and “custom” motorcycles waiting to be serviced, these mechanics are accustomed to improvising and thinking outside the box. They locate the source of the problem in a very short time. The issue is an overheated (partially melted) fuse behind the battery due to a bad ground. The mechanic replaces the fuse and files down the powder coat on the frame so the ground can get a better contact. Things look like they are going well until he has to drill out the screw he just torqued the head off. After fixing the screw, he reattached the ground and the bike fires right up. With well wishes on a safe journey, and an apology for the broken screw, I’m off. Total cost: $20.00.
I arrive at my hotel three hours later than I expected. After unpacking I walk over to the rally I was trying to get to all day, grab an adult beverage, and find a few friends. We catch up and spend the rest of night telling stories about our adventures over the past year. I have a few (and one new one) I’m just itching to share. My story prompts the telling of other stories about on-road fixes. 20 uses for baling wire, best fixes involving duct tape, the multiple virtues of vice grips, and many more. The story telling and conversation go on late into the first night, and the next. Great conversation is easy with friends, especially when you have good stories to share.