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The Motorcycle Blog Page....

   Welcome to the motorcycle blog & thought process... This is where I throw things that really have no place in the bigger scheme of things, because they're not HCS and they weren't from the road and it wasn't an upgrade, but it was still motorcycle related some how.

21 June 2003
Tampa, FL

Early 80's Cycle Magazine Ads...

   I stumbled across these ads from the early 80's for cycle products (although I guessed 1969 thru 1979 when I was looking at them) and didn't know where else to put them, so I just shoved 'em in here. Here's a half-size sample:

Early 80's ad for chrome cleaner with nude chrome-colored model

The Rain Brings Insanity...

   Or then there's the fact that I want to whine about the 7 inches of rain that hit our area in the last 4 days (fucking hell!) -- and the next 7 in the coming day or four, all resulting in floods and intersections turning to recreational water complexes with buried cars... But I really won't permit myself because in Florida there are still a few ridable hours in any 24 hour period -- even if they happen to fall into the middle of the night... although I'm nuts that way -- I rode through a hurricane on a Honda Shadow 700 once (leaning about 35 degrees to go straight) because I didn't hear that the university campus had been closed for the storm and wasn't going to miss an engineering calculus II exam. Life gets easier in some senses with time.

You Will Wreck in Your First Year on Two Wheels...

   Oh, and in case no one else is smart, honest, clear enough to say this to you: the first year you ride a motorcycle, you will have at least one accident (here's some real world statistics of why, how, etc.).
   Not "might have an incident." Will have an accident. If you're lucky, it will be you and a bit of empty blacktop at a very low speed. If you're not, it'll be glorious, hideous, and make for great Real TV footage, if you survive at all (not everyone does... [or the much more warning: stomach-turning victim close-ups at accident site of motorcycle fatality]reality version]).

WORD TO YOUR MOTHER: WEAR A FULL-FACE HELMET YOUR FIRST YEAR, EVEN IF YOU DON'T HAVE TO BY LAW. Actually, you should always wear one, but that first year is the most important time...

   A lot of it is about three-dimensional awareness to a further boundary than normal, and the zen of precausation, or just having "the force" be with you (as all those star wars junkies might call it); it's the ability to know ahead of time what can endanger you. If you drive in a highly populated area filled with old fucks who have no reaction speed and almost perfect tunnel vision, you'll learn fast one way or the other (with or without an accident). A car driver worries about certain range of issues -- about 10 to 15 feet to the left and right, plus a hundred feet in front and perhaps 20 feet behind. And that doesn't yet include reductions because of distractions induced by answering a cell phone (or worse yet, dialing it), eating a hamburger, applying make-up, reading the morning paper, shaving, calming the dog/baby/lover/husband, trying to win the radio give-away, etc.
  A motorcycle rider needs to make that into a much, much larger area, including a couple hundred feet in front, at least 60 feet behind (because your bike can stop faster than anything else on the road), and at least 80 feet to each side. Kinda like this:

Car Driver's Typical Zone of Awareness
Motorcycle Rider's Necessary Zone of Awareness

   So I'm working my arse off to make sure that my other half's first year (this is her first year -- hell, this is her first month of real riding) goes off with only a dropped bike accident and not her catapulting into something hard. She attended the Beginning Rider's Course (BRC) at state certified school (big thanks to them for scaring the shit out of her -- really!), and we picked her up an used first year scratcher bike in good shape (a '94 Ninja EX500D, both small enough to train on and big/fast enough to ride for a year or two without whining, really loud aftermarket exhaust for her safety). They taught her the raw basics and the low-speed stuff that generally gets people into trouble...
   Now comes my turn to turn my own time as a German driving instructor and multi-decade 24/7 rider into technique for her to learn (hopefully without being nagging or irritating in the process -- always a problem when teaching someone you know). The important things that may save her life:

  • Never ride in the center of the lane (or brake there, or stop there at the light), because that's where the oil puddles & transmission fluid drips live.
  • Don't ride on the painted lines, especially if it's raining, as they are the slipperiest substance known to two wheels.
  • Drag that back brake lightly long before you get to the point that you need to stop, so car drivers can figure out you're decelerating and coming to a stop even in the middle of their conversation on the cell phone between bites of their hamburger.
  • Always turn on your high beam during the day to increase your visibility.
  • If you're negotiating a turn without an intersection, carry a bit more speed through the corner, because under 10 MPH will make you less stable.
  • Put yourself in a place where the car in front of you is annoyed by your high beams in both the outside and inside rear-view mirrors (he'll know you're there).
  • Look at the ground out in front of you often enough that you won't hit something you don't have to (like a pot hole).
  • Get on your signals early and remember to turn them off about 99% of the way through the turn (instead of a mile later).
  • Never ride behind city buses (cough, cough), construction vehicles (pebble - ouch!), idiots with a cigarette in a hand dangling out the window (smoldering cigarette in the crotch is painful), or semi tractor-trailer rigs (tire shredding = possible death). And because all of these are serious health concerns, pass them whenever you can do so safely, even if it means going around them illegally at a red-light que-up, only to stop in front of them (because traffic tickets are cheaper than lives).
The list seems to go on and on and on... And with the pissing rain, the time to practice for her just doesn't seem to be forming often enough (especially since she wants to do a 150 mile road-trip in just under a month).... hmmmm...

30 June 2003
Tampa, FL

Just a few remembrances...

   My other half got out and rode on the interstate for the first time (just about a mile and a half, from one exit to the next), and exited straight to the nearest parking lot. Watching her shaking quite a bit with the nervousness (not excitement -- I must not get confused), I realize it's sometimes hard for an eighteen-year veteran rider like myself to remember just how scary the learning process can be. Moreover, she's not the 19 year old fearless male I was; she's not prone to such things as riding just to gain miles under the belt, prone to getting up in the middle of the night to go on a full-moon ride (I think the phrase is "she's night blind"), riding to the store, work, play, everywhere.
   In some respects I barely remember that first month of riding, of owning my first motorcycle (I remember the bike itself perfectly, however), but I do vaguely recall riding everywhere -- for any reason -- as much as was reasonably possible and then some. I think I recall doing the service intervals more than the actual mileage in retrospect -- I know I must have laid down 600 miles in a couple weeks, 1,200 in a month and a half or less, that sort of thing. You have memories of certain rides, certain stretches at certain times of day that will be with you for life, but can you definitively say it was the first month of riding or the fourth month that the memory was imprinted perfectly? Unlike my ride-everywhere attitude from the start, she's the opposite -- she rides only with a planned destination, a pre-planned route, extending the boundaries of capability and knowledge execution just a hair bit each time. I think she's managed about 35 miles total in a month of ownership and the furthest she's ventured away was about 3 miles, as the crow flies. I have to take the time to stop and respect that she is acknowledging her limits, working herself into it all slower, although it sometimes leaves me feeling that she is filled with regrets (I know that at times she is) about deciding to take up riding. I am and will continue to try to make conscious effort not to push her too fast, too hard, trying hard to stick to only the simplest of pushes: "wanna go for a ride?"
   She did say the sweetest thing the other day, though: sometimes she misses being on the back of my bike because it means she is now deprived of the ability to wrap her arms around me and the physical closeness that comes as a result of riding two up with someone you love... Ah, the prices we pay for having our own bikes at first...

3 July 2003
byline: Klamath Falls, Oregon

Because we share the road with idiots...

14 July 2003
Tampa, FL

Rumors abound of a new Blackbird to Dominate

   The desire for a new cycle, something different, more powerful, faster than the Katana has been biting at the back of my mind for months now, although honestly said, the Katana is about as much motorcycle as I truly need on a regular basis. The desire to be able to lift the front wheel into the sky with a twist of the throttle is tempting, but at the same time, the knowledge that the Katana won't do so, instead applying all it's power to the pavement, is reassuring from a stability stand-point. I'm still trying to get the suspension on the new one ironed out into what I want it to be (mental debates on whether the stock tires & seat are contributing to my poor perceptions -- as verses to the previous Katana's perfection -- or if the rear shock / front forks are actually crap from some abuse or an overweight rider in a previous ownership). Meanwhile, the temptation towards something more is still nipping at my heels.

   I had been debating between the GSX1300R (Hayabusa) and the GSX1000R, comparing handling, maintenance, running costs, top end, acceleration, as well as every review I could devour from all over the planet. Have to know what I want before I can decide whether to obtain it. I had come to the conclusion that the Honda CBR1100XX Blackbird was probably the wiser choice -- more civilized and still horridly fast, infinitely more comfortable and more of a real-world day-to-day bike for an all weather rider like myself. But I was still having problems resolving the balance between the lesser performance of the Blackbird and the fact that it is sold at the same basic price-point as the other two contenders...

   Now rumors which had been flying around for almost four years that Honda would get off their duff and give the Blackbird the going-over to make it competitive with the Hayabusa (especially now that the Kawasaki 12R or whatever it's called is up in that class too), but it all seemed to be just rumors, wishful thinking and what-if's. I dug around on the web searching for some sort of pre-release media information on the possibility of a radical change in any of the three models (including Honda's media site), when I stumbled across MCN's preview info for the new CBR1200XX due out for the 2004 model year. Finally, a reliable source saying "hey, we know for sure, and it really does exist, and is slated for production, and will be available." OK, granted that even their article was filled with some speculations (they said Honda hadn't committed to whether they were incorporating the VTech cams into it or not, and their photo was a computer-enhanced artist's rendition -- but they still said it's a for-sure thing). See links:
First Leak (4/2002): sectionID=50677&documentID=140188
Latest Info (5/2003): sectionID=50677&documentID=171897

   Reliable sources at Bike (UK) also said that there was a major revamp in the works for the coming model year for the Blackbird, citing it as a way of haggling prices downwards on the current models with dealers looking to clear out their current inventory before the new model arrive in the fall.

Side thought: new inventories arrive in the fall, just in time for people not to buy in the colder weather climates. By the time they get to ride, us Floridians have already put 6 months on the newest of the new. Why would any motorcycle magazine be in a place filled with snow?

   Other rumors (from other sources, most far less credible) said Honda hadn't committed to whether they were planning on using an inline 4 or a v4 or v5 layout, possibly adapting the V4 style layout from the ST1100 in a larger displacement. Honda has not announced their 2004 fall sport-touring line-up officially yet. Still, if the price doesn't suddenly bounce out of the stratosphere compared to the others, and it's performance is up there while retaining the comfort that gave it the real-world edge over the others in the same power category, guess who wins in my book? Even the ST1100 or ST1300 might have been a contender (albeit, a very large one), but the pricing keeps it from being a serious consideration...

   It might be interesting to note that the first motorcycle I ever rode, as well as the first two I owned, were all Honda's, and I appreciate their engineering and build-quality over the competition (the valve-adjustment features of those older bikes were a huge selling point with me -- the concept of loosening a bolt at idle, waiting 60 seconds and then retightening to do a valve adjustment was something I wish all bikes had).

PS - got Paula out on the road again this past weekend, and she did quite well, although she still needs to learn to either keep up with traffic on the interstate, or at least use the slow lane... She drove 70 - 75 in the slow lane, but only 60 - 68 in the center lane... consistently!

19 October, 2003
Tampa, FL

Annoyances with Leather Protesters...

   OK, it's been a while since I posted here, and in-between was a wonderful 10 day ride up to the Dragon's Tail (NC) that saw good weather and miserable, plus my other half dropping her bike once coming off a stop sign (ouch to the bike) and a second time in coming into a turn on US-19 a bit hot, braking too hard and hitting a patch of gravel (that really hurt -- her and the bike). So, now that we're caught up, I stumbled across this via a strange series of links:
Unfortunately, the image is no longer available and I didn't store a copy locally -- but it was protestors at Sturgis Bike Week advocating the use of pleather instead of leather for Biker appearal

So, what's the problem here? PETA's recommended alternative is Pleather, a vinyl product. Well, I can think of at least half a dozen reasons to prefer leather...

  1. Leather has a very, very high abrasion resistance, which pleather doesn't. When you come off your motorcycle and are sliding over a gravel-strewn stretch of asphalt, what you need is something that will abraid to shed speed without tearing to reveal your skin.
  2. Leather is a lifespan product -- if you maintain it correctly, it's useful lifespan will match yours. Pleather rarely lasts longer than 3 to 5 years in regular daily use under any circumstance.
  3. Leather isn't generally flammable, and acts as a flame- & heat-barrier. Pleather and vinyl-based alternatives advocated by PETA will melt into your skin. When your tank cracks during a skid and the sparks are flying, do you want to roll away, or melt into oblivion?
  4. August in Florida: It's 94 degrees outside, with 98% humidity. Vinyl-based products will cause heat stroke. Leather is much less likely too, because it sheds heat at the same rate at human skin -- and can be perforated to breathe better without significant reduction in strength. That means riders wearing Pleather in hot, humid environments are a hazard to the traffic around them.
  5. McDonalds alone will continue to serve hamburgers, 1.3 million cows' worth a year according to one press source I recently read. That means that there are 1.3 million hides that could be protecting your hide rather than being used as oven-dried chew toys for your dog.

The problem I have with PETA isn't that they aren't supporting something that may well be considered a viable and compassionate platform, but that they aren't advocating intelligent choices as leather alternatives for the motorcycling enthusiast -- ballistic nylon, kevlar, amarid and a dozen other fibers that can offer similar abrasion resistance and protection. In all honesty, however, no one has yet found a "better" leather substitute for all the benefits of leather for the riding community (such as flammability resistance and abrasion properties that rapidly shed speed). And this is why leather still rules on world motorcycle racing circuits as the protection clothing of choice (and often Kangaroo leather at that).

Three Perfect Examples of Why To Wear Leathers & a Helmet:

14 May 2005
Tampa, FL

Rumors abound of a new Blackbird to Dominate (PART 2)

   It's been a long-long time since I updated anything in this blog... Meanwhile, more information on Honda's upcoming V5-based Blackbird+VFR rolled-into-one platform keeps popping up in the industry. The newest words in the industry rags is that HMC (Honda Motorcycle Corp) has acknowledged the unit will be based on the same V5 block used in the 2004 year HRC world cup bike by Valentino Rossi when he was team Honda, although re-cam'd far less aggressively and made far more torque-rich as a result. One Honda spokesman was quoted as saying (off-the-record) that slotting the engine directly into the hyper-sports-tourer segment will give it the best possible real-world test environment and be a far better initial public-release platform than taking the engine straight to a race-rep style motorcycle. This makes sense, in that those in the sports-tourer markets tend to do high levels of maintenance, not excessively abuse their bikes and still rack up miles like they are going out of style -- in all possible weather conditions and environments. Unveiling is expected in late 2005 as a 2006 model at this point. Looks for the new bike are still strictly rumors and no candid shots of the final bike have surfaced yet (although a lot of artist's renditions have).
   Poor thought of the day: what if the American market doesn't see the bike in it's first year of production, just as we didn't get the new Bandit 650 for the '05 model year (although it was out in Europe)?


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