~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The 10th Anniversary of 40on2

Gold Wing Sunset

Ten years ago today Forty Years On Two Wheels sprung to life from the flotsam and jetsam of motorcycle stories and thoughts rattling around in my head.   Something past 400 blog entries have been made, some of them good, and there are a handful of which I'm really proud.  I only rarely used anything but my own writing and photos; for good or ill I want the blog to be a reflection of who I am as a motorcycle enthusiast.

I am in my in my 48th year of riding and I confess that I'm getting a little burned out.  During the past several years bikes have come and gone from my garage, I believe in part because I thought another bike might buy me some new enthusiasm.   Out of that parade-of-bikes-through-my-garage situation I have discovered, as my friend Simon, over in the UK, wrote about himself at one point "Somewhere along the way I went from enthusiastic motorcyclist to motorcycle enthusiast."  I love nearly all things motorcycle, riding is only a part of that.  Simon stopped riding for a few years after a bad crash and shifted his focus to photography of bikes but he's been back for a year or three now, first on Triumph and now on one of those new Honda 750's with the dual clutch transmission.  Bike fever might go into remission but you're never really over it.

For what it's worth, I sold the Gold Wing a couple of weeks ago.  It seemed like the time to do that as the bike was sitting too much, only accumulating an additional 3000 miles in the eleven months I owned it.  My timing must have been right in deciding to sell the Wing because after only a week on Craig's List only one guy contacted me, came to look at it, brought a fat envelope of $100 bills, and rode the Wing away.

What's next for for me bike-wise after 48 years, and for Forty Years On Two Wheels after 10 years?  I dunno.  No rush.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Art, Individualism, Or Just Stupid?



I spend too much time on-line but at least a lot of it is spent on motorcycle sites.  As I look at what's being done in the custom world these days with so-called bobbers, rat bikes, or even cafe bikes,  I get the feeling that a lot of what's being feted out there in publications and custom bike blogs was never intended to be ridden, or not ridden any further than from its trailer to the bike show floor.  

Going way back to the '60s and '70s customized bikes started getting stupid with suspended frames swapped for hard tails, mile high sissy bars, and forks extended to the point that a bike couldn't make a continuous u-turn on a two lane road.   Giant ape hanger bars?  Look cool?  To a few.  To others it just looks stupid, like an accident waiting to happen.   

Yes, yes, I can hear people saying "Hey, it's their bike, they can do what they want with it!" To that I would agree, everyone has a right to self-expression and no one has the right to tell another person how to express themselves; I understand that.  I also understand that I have the right to call stupid impracticality what it is.  What people do in the privacy of their own garage is their business, how they parade around in public makes them fair game for criticism, if not laughter.

Seriously?  One slip and you're gelded.
That over done Wing above is no worse, nor less lacking in art, than some of the "customs" and "bobbers" that I'm seeing around the 'net.  Huge, impractical Firestone balloon front tires that would play havoc with steering, little tiny thin seats at steep angles that would give you hemorrhoids in 30 miles, are stupid.  They are not even esthetically pleasing to anyone with a genuine sense of taste and function born of experience.  I can understand a bike as art but I don't have much sympathy for bikes-as-art that are barely rideable or even unsafe.  A bike that doesn't work well has little meaning to me.  A motorcycle should still have some reasonable practicality and function left in it and not torture the rider or be outright dangerous to ride.

Same goes for the current fad in helmets.  Somehow, now to be cool you need to get some crappy old helmet from 1967, re-do the liner, and wear it, preferably with two days growth of beard on your angst ridden face, and also a flannel t-shirt, and low top sneakers or lace up Red Wing work boots.  Don't forget to have a pack of unfiltered cigarettes in your pocket, too.   I hate that look.  It's an affectation, a copying of motorcycle world past that never quite existed as it's imagined now.   It's not much different than dressing up as a character from a science fiction movie. Think of is as motorcycle cosplay.  Bikes and bike clothing moved on and riders got smart and moved on from the old days.   Helmets evolved for practical reasons like...oh...safety.  Wearing an old, refurb'd  helmet is stupid.   Want to ride in low top sneakers?  Your choice, but also stupid (If you're doing it because you have no money for boots, fine, try the Salvation Army thrift store).  If you're wearing your sneakers, battered metalflake helmet, jeans with rolled cuffs, and a flannel shirt so you like like some imaginary rider from the 1950s or 60s, you're just a hipster motorcycle poser and look stupid.
Having strip mined biker culture, HD moves on to hipsters.

Years ago I wrote a piece about the gawdawful Icon Skull jacket.  I didn't think motorcycle apparel could sink lower than that ridiculous piece but it has.  Barbour International, formerly an actual motorcycle clothing company of renown, has brought out a fake Steve McQueen jacket or several of them.  So what's the big deal?  We all like to think we might look just a little like the King of Cool if we just had the right gear, were handsome, and immensely talented.  

Barbour International has over 100 years in the rugged apparel business including motorcycle jackets
and they've drawn own their illustrious history to being you the Babour Steve McQueen MacGrain jacket (MacGrain?).   To help you look cool, to look just a little more like Steve, the jacket comes with fake rubber mud applied to it.  Yes, fake mud.  How desperate for an identity do you have to be to wear a jacket with fake mud on it when it's not Halloween?  I'm pretty sure any mud on McQueen's jackets got there honestly.   I don't believe in ghosts but if I did I'd be hoping McQueen would come back and haunt every moron that buys that joke of a jacket.  At the least, decent motorcyclists everywhere should laugh out loud at anyone they see wearing it, especially since the owner paid $835 for it.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Then Came Bronson

A replica of Jim Bronson's bike.

It's been pointed out to me by friends that I left an important movie off of my list of Motorcycle Movies You Should See.  That movie is Then Came Bronson.

Then Came Bronson (TV movie)

Then Came Bronson was a TV series from 1969-70.  The pilot was a made-for-TV movie by the same title.  The story revolved around "Jim Bronson," a newspaper reporter who finds life is offering more questions than answers so he quits his job and sets off from San Francisco on his Harley Sportster to see America and sort things out.  The laconic character of Jim Bronson was played by Michael Parks and is based on the real life person of Birney Jarvis.    Birney Jarvis was a reporter, a Hells Angel, a blue water sailor, boxer, and general larger than life character.  The adventures of Jim Bronson were in keeping with Birney's life.   More importantly, Then Came Bronson was probably the first movie or TV series to portray motorcycling in a reasonable light and Bronson's wanderings and philosophical bent motivated lots of young men to see the Harley Sportster oe motorcycles in general as a ticket to freedom.


Long about 1970 or so I did visit Oceanside Harley Davidson to buy a Sportster but it didn't go well.   I had the money but in those days Harley dealers were not the spit and polish places they are now, eager to drain your wallet and make you part of the Harley "lifestyle." Ugh.  In this case, the dealership was in a tin industrial building and the huge guy behind the counter looked like he opened beer bottles with what was left of his teeth.   "Whaddaya want, kid?"  he said leaning on the counter.  Skinny, 19 year old me replied "I want to buy a Sportster."  Now in those days the Sporster was still considered a hot bike, only the new Honda 750/4 pretended to be faster and the Harley people would assure you that it wasn't.   Mr. Greasy Hands at the counter turned to someone unseen in the back of the shop and said "Hah!  Hey Louie!  Da kid thinks he wants to buy a SPORSTER!"   I don't know if I was intimidated or just didn't want to spend money where I wasn't welcome but I left and bought a new Suzuki T500 which in fact was surely a better machine than the old iron head Sportster.

I tried in 2003 to buy a Sportster, perhaps some latent seed from Then Came Bronson was still trying to germinate.  I visited Chester's Harley Davidson to buy one of the new Sportsters with the rubber mounted engine.  The clean, orderly, slightly ignorant sales guy quoted me full retail plus $1200 for set-up...and wouldn't budge on any of it, even got rude when I suggested $1200 to set up a bike like the Sportster was absurd.   So I left and bought a new Kawasaki 1600 Classic from Kelly's Kawasaki, surely a much nicer machine than the Sportster.   If nothing else I suppose the above stories in a small way illustrate the impression Then Came Bronson made on impressionable teenagers in 1969.

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"When my mood gets too hot and I find myself wandering beyond control I pull out my motor-bike and hurl it top-speed through these unfit roads for hour after hour." - T.E. Lawrence



An Important reminder from the past:
"I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations." - James Madison