Tag Archives: Motorcycle

Smoke Chasing Grand Tour 2013

Smoke Chasing Grand Tour 2013

Smoke Chasing Grand Tour 2013 (SCGT13) is proud to be a sanctioned AMA National Grand Tour and a featured Team Strange Airheads™ GT once again.

Smoke Chasing is a self-paced BBQ/”Smoke” nationwide Grand Tour that combines your love of motorcycling and great food.

This GT can be completed in any state or states at the discretion of the rider and the GT concept is simple. A rider simply documents 20 or more visits to BBQ and Smoke restaurants, streets and cities taking photos featuring their motorcycle cycle, GT Flag and signs.

SCGT13 is a perfect complement to your day trips, weekend rides, team rides, club rider events, and can easily be part of your long distance adventures and rallies. SCGT13 is open to all makes and models of motorcycle and all types of riders.

Registration opens on February 15th and riders can register through June 30th. The GT runs from March 1st to November 30th 2013.

Your $27 entry fee includes a “rally flag” to document your ride. All finishers will receive a certificate and a chance to win prizes.

Visit for more information.

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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Rallies and Events


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Baby, it’s cold outside

Photo Credit: ADAM ZUCKERMAN, Rider Magazine

Photo Credit: ADAM ZUCKERMAN, Rider Magazine

Normally in the fall my friends and I take a four or five day riding trip that helps me get through the winter. This year we were not able to pull off our trip and I feel like somethings missing. I really look forward to this long ride capping off the regular riding season, but now it seems unfinished.

I’m not one to stop riding when it gets cold, but I do ride less in the colder months than in the summer. Partly this is due to me being lazy and not wanting to winterize my bike. It’s also because there are always those 60 degree surprise days that pop up all through winter and I don’t want to not have a bike to ride when they come around. Generally I’ll ride as long as the surface road temps are above 35 and the outside temps are around 40. I’ve collected a gear set that keeps me warm on my commute. With a little more layering I can go on long trips without getting cold. A few weeks ago two friends and I took a day trip into Luray, VA for lunch and a to ride the surrounding area. It wasn’t exceptionally cold but we did see snow on the side of the road as we crossed Sky Line drive on Rt. 211.

My winter kit isn’t anything special. It’s gear that I’ve collected over time and found works for me. I have Dainese TRQ-Tour Gore-Tex Boots, Smartwool tall ski socks, FirstGear TGP insulated riding pants, TourMaster insulated/windproof riding jacket, Aerostitch 3 season Vegan gloves, and a fleece neck warmer. For longer rides I will also put on my Cycle Gear FREEZE-Out base layer long sleeve top and long johns. I’ve been satisfied with my winter gear so far. The recent addition of the FREEZE-Out base layers has extended my riding range a lot. It’s light weight and breathes well keeping me warm but not hot and sweaty. My bike also has heated grips which are a huge help and allow me to wear thinner gloves but still have warm hands.

How long into the winter do you ride? What do you do to keep warm? Electric heat or no? Leave a comment and share. I’d love to discover your secret to staying warm so that we can all use it and be able to ride longer into the colder months.

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Posted by on December 7, 2012 in Commuting, Gear Reviews


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Different Strokes …

I’m not usually one to mix topics on this blog; meaning that I stick to motorcycle related topics. To that end I’m going to try and discuss what’s on my mind today using motorcycles as a metaphor.

We all know that there are different kinds of riders; not just in what we ride, but in how we ride. We also know that what we ride does not necessarily determine how we ride. I know slow sport bike riders, ADV riders who have never been off-road and we all know the old guy on a Goldwing who sneaks up on us in the curves and smokes us. There are also motorcycle owners who are more interested in owning a bike than in riding a bike. So what we ride does not determine how we ride or that we ride, but in many cases does contribute to the image that we want to portray to others.

The reason that I bring these distinctions up is that I find a similarity in motorcycle riding and riders to how people behave. I won’t take the leap to say that what and how we ride reflects our personality. However true that may be it’s not what I’m talking about here. More that the outward appearance of people, what they show to the world, can contrast with who they are and what they believe. In other words just because a person owns a screaming 1000cc sport bike does not mean they like to ride fast. It’s the idea that they have the potential to, and therefore give the impression that they can, go fast. Having the potential and the appearance however do not make it so. For some that’s fine.

Riding takes commitment but there are several levels as I see it. The casual rider who owns a bike and rides it occasionally. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this. Motorcycle riding is, at its heart for all of us, an activity we pursue because it makes us feel good. If that means that a rider only takes their bike out when it’s the most pleasurable for them to do so then who are any of us to judge that as a bad thing. The hobbyist is more dedicated to riding and may ride more often. For any number of reasons the hobbyist dedicates more time to riding than the casual rider and often plans rides in advance rather than waiting for the weather and schedules to fall into line. The enthusiast I equate to riders who commute, tour or have more time to dedicate to riding. They have made a serious commitment to riding and see it as more than just a leisure activity but an integral part of who they are. The final level of commitment is the professional. This is the person who has taken the final step to make riding their way of life and their livelihood.

These levels of commitment generally correspond to a level of acceptable risk on the part of the rider. The more involved in riding, the greater the level of risk that is accepted. Even just getting on two wheels a rider accepts a certain amount of risk. Risk in riding comes in many forms. There are the obvious forms of physical danger that are inherently increased from the general public by simply getting on a bike and riding it. Risk also comes from a lack of understanding and appreciation for riding. It can come from bad habits and bad advice. One source of risk that’s often overlooked is our own predisposition to riding, our perceptions and assumptions of what riding should be and our unwillingness to let go of these to incorporate new information.

Mitigating risk through education is the best option, in my opinion, as long as that information is accurate and taken in context. A rider may read in a riding skills book that the best way to reduce injury or avoid an accident is to perform a controlled hard breaking maneuver. This reduces the riders speed if they are going to collide with an object or may prevent a collision altogether. But what if the rider does not also read that hard breaking while in a turn reduces traction and can cause tires to slide possibly resulting in a low side crash? This rider may try breaking hard in a corner only having part of the information and end up crashing their bike. This has two consequences, the first being that the rider did not avoid an accident and may get injured.  The second is that the rider may inaccurately determine that the information regarding braking was false and not return to the skills book to get the whole picture. This forms a prejudice against the subject that may be spread to other riders when asked for advice on how to avoid an accident.

Get all the information first. If something does not go right while riding, go back to the source and study it to find out where things went wrong and how to correct it. Do not pick and choose what information you think is important or not before reading all that you can first. Riding based on half truths, myths and other peoples opinions can be dangerous and may lead to the spread of false or inaccurate information. Through learning from others, studying to validate opinions received and to get new information, being humble, and realizing that there is always something to learn, these issues can be lessened or removed altogether. There are no shortcuts. A commitment to riding well takes practice and learning. As they say in the military: “Trust, but verify.”

Motorcycling is governed by two sets of laws: Those imposed by the government and the natural laws of physics. Breaking the laws of the government may result in a fine and can be inconvenient. These laws are in place primarily to establish boundaries around riding that ensure we are all working from a common set of rules and expectations for acceptable behavior while riding. Try to break the laws of physics and you will always loose, always. They are unforgiving and never changing. It is important to learn and understand what the laws in your state are for riding. It is essential to understand the physics or natural laws that govern how a motorcycle works. Some of these natural laws are self evident, others are more subtle and can even be counter intuitive. This is why studying the immutable forces that act on a motorcycle is so important. With out understanding the context in which a bike navigates natural laws, riding obtains a level of mystery where superstition, myth and assumption can create a very dangerous environment.

Whatever level of commitment you have. Whatever image you want to project. A lack of understanding the commitments you’ve made, the risk that you have assumed, and the laws (both governmental and natural) of motorcycling, will catch up with you. The consequences can be painful and a learning experience if you’re lucky,  fatal if you are not.

Whatever kind of rider you want to be, I encourage you to read as much about motorcycling as possible. Listen to the advice of other riders, but validate that advice with information from reputable and reliable sources. Be willing to accept the truth when it’s presented to you. Be Humble. Most important, remember that you ride because it makes you feel good. It’s the reason we all ride. Don’t spoil that for others by defining for them what riding is and then trying to impose that view on them. Especially when it’s uninformed and exclusionary.  We are already separated from the general public as riders. We do not need to be further separated within that group by each other.

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Posted by on May 24, 2012 in Motorcycling


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Dad’s Bike

My introduction to motorcycles was riding on the back of my dad’s 1980’s Honda. I can’t tell you what year or model it was. I do remember my dad taking me and my sister, in turns, on rides through the then country roads around our house in Bennion, UT just outside Salt Lake City. Back then my riding gear was a t-shirt, shorts, sneakers and a purple metal flake helmet that barely fit. I was big enough to reach the pegs from the passenger seat but not tall enough to avoid the pipes. A good number of our weekend rides ended with both my sister and I in the bath tub running cold water over pipe burned patches on the backs of our legs.

My dad bought the Honda after a break from riding for several years. When I was in my teens he would tell me stories about running around in the canyons and fields near Tooele, UT, where he grew up. He had a number of bikes when he was young and spent a lot time fixing their broken parts or recuperating from his broken parts. My grandmother used to tell me she never thought he’d live past 15 the way he tore around on his motorcycles. After having kids and settling into work and family life he decided to get another bike. Unfortunately like many of us life, family, work and in the case of my dad a bad back, caught up with him and he sold the Honda. In all honesty I don’t remember its departure at all. It was there one day and then it wasn’t.

I didn’t think much about motorcycles again until I was in my mid twenties. My sister and I were out of the house on our own and my dad’s work had settled down some. Time to get a new bike. This time he was able to get the bike he had wanted for a long time, a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Electrglide. There are few times in my life that I’ve seen my dad happier then when he was riding his Harley.

It wasn’t long before the entire family got excited about the idea of riding motorcycles. Before we knew it dad bought a Suzuki Savage 650 as a learner bike. First my sister learned to ride, then me. Originally the bike was to teach my mother how to ride but she realized early on that the pillion was the place she felt most comfortable. My sister, having earned her motorcycle license, never really caught the bug. I, however, got hooked immediately. So with no home for the Savage, I decided I’d volunteered to take care of it. That was the first of several motorcycles I was to own.

My dad and I went on several rides together. Not nearly enough now that I look back. Our favorite ride was down Rt. 55 to a country store that sold home-made doughnuts. Then it was off to find some country roads and a good lunch. Honestly it really didn’t matter where we went, it was just fun riding.

When I got back into riding I bought a Harley Electraglide too. I’d taken a break for many of the same reasons that my dad had; new family, new house, work, etc. The choice of the Harley was purely an emotional one. When I saw it, I thought of my father who had passed away a few years before. It was a connection to him that I needed to have and so I bought it. The bike was bigger than any I’d ever owned. I really had no business riding it, but I needed it. There were times when I was riding the Harley I imagined I could feel his hands over mine on the grips and sense his smile as we motored through the countryside. I can still feel that now. It’s a large part of what I love about riding.


Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Motorcycling


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Blue Ridge Parkway Trip Sept 21 – 25, 2011: Ride, Eat, Sleep, Repeat

Rain falls down plunking off my tent roof as I lay awake on the last night of our five day ride down and back up the Blue Ridge Parkway from Virginia. It seems fitting since that it’s raining at the end of the trip since that’s how the trip started. Not to mention the rain that we had during the trip. Even so, it’s been a memorable and fun adventure.

On September 21st Ron, Paul, Brian and myself started out at 8:30 am from Warrenton, Va to pick up our fifth member, Carlos, in Madison, VA. at the Pig and Steak. From there we were set to ride about 330 miles to our camp for the night. Our route took us down Rt. 29 to Waynesboro, VA where we picked up the BRPW. At Roanoke we exited the Parkway on Rt. 221 to Rt. 58 to Grayson Highlands State Park. The riding was good. The weather was pretty bleak. Most of the trip on this first day was under heavy cloud cover with occasional rain. At the start of trip like this though you have to try hard not to have a good time.

Arriving at Grayson Highlands State Park we setup our tents, stretched out the large tarp over the picnic table and started a fire just in time for another rain storm. The tarp was a employed many times during the trip as a rain shelter. This time the rain was short lived. The fire stayed strong thanks to coals provided by the camp host,  a friendly and lively older man in a USMC hat and faded field jacket. He checked in on us again after the rain to make sure that the “green horns” (he made sure to tell us) where still OK and had a fire to keep us warm.

After the short rain storm we set about to cooking dinner for the night: brats, peppers and onions, and corn on the cob. After dinner the group took advantage of the lack of rain and the fire to dry out boots, gloves and socks to varying degrees of success. An inspection of the nights efforts in the morning  found several melted boot soles and a chard sock that had been sacrificed to the fire in hopes of appeasing the rain gods to keep the rain at bay. It seems to have worked, but most agreed that they would need new footwear when they got home.

Day two of the trip found us winding our way back south following Routes 88 / 105 / 194 / 19 / 197 through Pisgah National Forest and then picking up the BRPW at Bee Tree Gap just north of Ashville, NC. From there we rode the Parkway to Cherokee, NC the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway on this stretch is, in my opinion, the most beautiful and fun section of the 469 mile road. In NC the parkway swoops up high into mountain passes with elevations ranging rom 4,000 to 6,053 ft, the highest elevation on the BRPW.  Tight switchbacks and long sweeping corners with stunning views of valleys and mountain tops made it hard to pick a speed. Take the corners fast and the sweepers slow so you can enjoy the view and you get the best of both worlds.

Somewhere along the way, at one of the scenic pull-offs that line the parkway, stunned by the view into the valley below, Carlos not only left all his cares behind but his cell phone too. He noticed about an hour later at the next stop and he made a run back to the where he thought it might be.He said he’d catch up with us at the camp site that night. He arrived about an hour behind, phoneless and disappointed, but at least we had dinner ready. This was the first hiccup in the trip but not the last. A quick call to his carrier and he had a phone waiting for him at home when he got back from the trip.

We stopped in Cherokee (minus Carlos) and picked up provisions for the night. A short 20 mile trip west to Turkey Creek Campground and we were ready to setup camp, cook dinner and take a much needed shower. Dinner was steaks, potatoes, and green beans cooked over the campfire. You really can’t beat a good day of riding (more riding for some than others) followed by a steak and a hot shower. I know I slept well, full and happy. I drifted off to visions of the next days adventure to the Tail of the Dragon and the tap tap of rain drops on my tent roof.

Day three and it was off to the Tail. This was a trip we’d plan to make last year but the weather and Ron’s dead battery conspired against us and we had to skip it. This year we had mostly clear skies and all the bikes started up without a hitch. After a breakfast of eggs and bacon prepared by Paul we packed up and headed out for the famed Tail of the Dragon. If you’re not familiar the “Tail” this is a short section of US 129 in NC with 318 turns packed into just 11 miles of road. Deals Gap has become a destination for motorcyclists and like the BRPW has made it’s way onto a number of must-ride-before-I-die lists kept in tank bags or nailed to shop walls all over the country. I have to admit that I was a little nervous. If it hadn’t been for some instruction over the previous few days given to me by fellow rider on this trip and former motorcycle racer Paul, I don’t think that I would have enjoyed it nearly as much. As it was, I attacked the Dragon with as much gusto as I and my fully loaded Connie could muster. When we reached the end I was surprised at two things 1) that I had so much fun on such a short road and 2) that I mostly kept up with Paul (who I’m sure was taking it easy).

After regrouping at the end of Dragon we turned up into The Great Smokey Mtn National Park on our way back to Cherokee. There we’d pick the parkway back up and ride to Crabtree Meadow Campgrounds. That was the plan anyway. As they are want to do on a motorcycle trip things don’t always go as planned. A few miles outside of Gatlinburg, TN. Brian started to feel his back end get a little wiggly. Turned out his rear tire was loosing air pretty fast. No problem, several of us had patch kits, as good travelers should. No luck. Brian was riding a later model Harley with spoke wheels and tube tires (really?!?!). So we pumped in two cans of fix-a-flat, turned on the emergency blinkers, and headed into town. A few stops to get directions and we found a chopper shop that was more than willing to fix the tire. We all decided, with Brian’s blessing, to head back to Cherokee, grab some food, and get back on the BRPW so we could get camp setup and dinner started before dark.

We made camp at Mount Pisgah Campground right off the BRPW in time to get the tents setup and get dinner cooking before dark. Chow was chicken fajitas, peppers and onions, salsa, shredded cheese, lettuce and macaroni salad. Always good eats on the road. The camp ground was at an elevation of about 5,000 ft so it was by far the coolest night we had. No rain and a big fire made it a wonderful night. Brian made it to camp about an hour behind us. The culprit was a roofing nail he’d pick up somewhere on the route. He has plans to mount it on top of his helmet (ala Kaiser Wilhelm helmet).

Packing up dry gear for the first time on the trip was a nice change. Day four put us back on the BRPW to just outside of Roanoke, VA. From there we broke off to Smith Mountain Lake for the last night of camping. The ride on this section of the parkway is filled with sweeping turns through tree lined tunnels that open to large fields separated by split rail fencing. The scenery really brings you back to when this area was frontier country. It’s easy to get lost in thoughts of log cabins and farmsteads as you ride by. Coming down out of the mountains also brought us closer to the wildlife. Deer, wild turkeys and what Ron described as a “jumping squirrel” (rabbit?), came out to greet us but staid, for the most part, off the road.

A notable stop on this section of the Parkway is Mabry Mill. There’s a quaint restaurant and the most photographed structure on the parkway, the Mabry Mill itself. We meet a really nice couple here on their Indian, complete with matching black and red Indian leather jackets and chaps. They where on their way down the Parkway the way we had come so we chatted a bit about the weather and road conditions they where going to run into then parted ways. The rest of the ride that day was in and out of fog with breaks of sunny and warm weather.

We arrived at Smith Mountain lake, setup camp and then rode to a restaurant we’d passed on the way into camp. Tired and a little warm after being in higher elevations for the past few days we opted not to cook out. The camp site was very clean and the showers where a blessing. We stayed up a late knowing that the next day was a shorter ride. We talked over the ride and several other topics as the fire burned down and the last of snacks where consumed.

Day five was a run up to Waynesboro, VA where the beginning of the BRPW meets up with Skyline Drive. From there we broke off to Rt 29 and headed home. The day started out a little damp. Rain that night meant packing up wet gear again, but by then we were pretty used to it. Rain, fog and sporadic bursts of sunshine where the norm for the day until we got to Waynesboro. From there all the way home was a variation of light rain to heavy rain, mostly heavy rain.

Ron, Paul, Brian, Me, Carlos

94 miles of rain later I pulled into my garage and started striping off  wet gear watching the water drip off my bike and form a puddle under the center stand. All in all the trip was about 1400 miles and five days of riding, eating, laughing, camping, and more riding. On more than one occasion we all commented on what a unique event it was. To be able to bring 5 people together (Paul for the first time) who made the commitment to a five day riding trip, but we were all happy and grateful that we set the time aside. With all of our business and family commitments we were  very lucky to have this opportunity. On the last night as on the first we made a toast to our good fortune, good friends and to our families for allowing us this chance to have this adventure together.


Posted by on October 11, 2011 in Ride Reports


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