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

Monday, June 28, 2010

TT Zero. Really


TT Zero is one of the names used for the "zero emissions" electric bike race at the Isle of Man TT races.  Never mind that electric vehicles are not really zero emissions, they merely relocate their pollution to some other part of the planet that no one cares about except the people who live there.  Calling them "zero emissions" makes people with little common sense in technical matters feel better.  But I digress. 

Below is the TT Zero bike at the 2010 Isle Man race.  This is what some think is the future of motorcycle racing.  Sit back, turn up the volume on your speakers, and enjoy the future of motorcycle racing.  Or not.

TT On Bike 2010 - Mark Miller - TT Zero Race- MotoCzycz E1pc electric bike




Impressive, eh?  *Yawn*

Ok, try this: 

Isle of Man TT 2010, spectator point at Bray Hill


Better experience?  Which sort of event would you travel to and pay money to see?  Or even watch on TV?  Is electric motorcycle racing really the future?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Orbit 6: I'm Still Here

In the movie "Papillon" when the protagonist anti-hero played by Steve McQueen finally escapes Devil's Island and is floating out to sea on his raft made of coconuts in lashed together burlap bags, he shouts back at his tormentors and the world "Hey you bastards!  I'm still here!"  I kind of feel like that sometimes.

That has little or nothing to do with this blog entry except that I'm still here after six years of blogging.  If I've learned anything about blogging on this, the 6th anniversary of Forty Years On Two Wheels, it's that any blog entry containing the name "Steve McQueen" always gets lots of hits.

To celebrate this 6th anniversary of 40on2, besides once again working in Steve M's name into things, I decided to do a little photographic look back on the bikes I've owned and ridden since I started the blog.  If it were not for the bikes, there would be no blog.

You can click to see the archived version which usually looks a bit nicer:

In 2004 when I started Forty Years On Two Wheels I was trundling around on an '03 Kawasaki 1600 Classic.  It was a nice, ridable, metric cruiser with a decent sound and good road manners.  Above parked outside of the old Catholic Church in Florence, AZ. 


Late in '04, a fit of late middle aged madness overtook me and I bought an '01 Aprilia Falco.  Hot, sexy, addictive, but too demanding of a mistress for me.  Photo above parked outside of a now defunct B&B, also in the very photographable town of Florence, AZ

The Falco got swapped after only a month for the much saner but still tons of fun '02 Aprilia Caponord which I rode quite a lot.  Sold it in late '05 to pay for a wedding.  Above, parked outside a shop in Tubac, AZ

In 2005 I thought I might go touring again so the Kaw 1600, which had been languishing in the garage while I consorted with the Aprilia, got sold and replaced with an '05 Honda ST1300.

In 2006 I missed the blue Aprilia Caponord and as my friend Shane had a spotless, red, '03 Capo sitting in his garage a deal was struck.  Lovely, lovely bike, but the demands of job and life caused it to sit too much so I sold it.  Still sort of regret that. Photo above on a side street in Florence, AZ.

In '07 the ST1300 left, too uncomfortable for 2-up work since I'd gone and married.  I know others would disagree but the ST just didn't work for us so it left and was replaced with a 2002 Honda GL1800 Gold Wing.  Wonderful bike.  Amazing motor.  Above, the big 'Wing, parked at a rest area in the Salt River Canyon of Arizona.

As retirement approached, late in 2008 I began to confront the ugly reality of a paycheck that would be cut by 50%.  Retirement can be scary, even if it's well funded, and mine isn't.  So bright red Caponord got sold to a fellow in Washington and the brighter red Gold Wing got sold to a Doug up in Canada.  In a fit of common sense I made different riding plans and downsized to a Yamaha TW200 which could also be carried on the back of our motorhome.  Gadzooks, was that plan ever stupid on so many levels.  The motorhome is gone, the TW200 is gone.  I may be ready for a 200cc bike as my regular ride someday but this ain't the day.  Photo above on a dry lake bed east of Casa Grande, AZ.


So along came the '03 Kawasaki Concours in 2009.  Fine bike but I rode it only a little.  It really didn't suit what has become my habit of doing only 75 to 100 mile rides at a relaxed pace.  Too much bike for too short of a ride.  Photo above at the visitor center at Saguaro National Monument.


Later in '09 the long legged Concours left and was replaced by the '07 Kawasaki 900 Classic LT.  Like it's 1600cc big brother I was riding when I started 40on2 in '04, the 900 is a ridable, usable bike.  Photo above behind the old WWII hanger at Coolidge Airport.

So into 2010 the 900 Kaw has survived.  It might have had a short stay, as so many other bikes have had, but my wanton bike buying and trading over the last 44 years of riding has left me with less than buckets of cash on hand and now I'll have to make do with less bike than I'd really like to ride.  No real regrets though.  If I'd have not bought all the bikes I'd have missed all the fun.  If I had maybe put all that motorcycle money into something sensible like a 401k I'd have only seen it vaporized by the greed of others.  The plundering, blundering bankers and government charlatans cannot steal my memories.

As a serial bike buyer and seller -- and I don't know what else you'd call buying nine bikes in six years -- it seems that the buying and selling is as addictive as blogging.  So I'll ride on into my 7th year of blogging on the mid-sized Kaw and continue now to focus more on the photos than on what bike is under me.  Photo above, out riding with friends, a diverse group of three.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Isle of Man TT Race and Electric Bikes

If you're not up, at least a little, on the annual Isle of Man TT races and you love motorcycles, your motorcycle education is remiss.  Read about it, watch videos, look for coverage on TV, or get completely crazy and buy a DVD of this years race. The TT race is very much part of the heart of motorcycling and has been going on since 1907 and virtually no motorcycle events have such a colorful, fast, and dangerous history, not even the campgrounds at Sturgis.

Unless you you have been dead for some time or regularly drive a Toyota Prius, there's no way to watch the race videos and not have your pulse quicken and your throttle hand get itchy.   The Isle of Man TT race is unique and special and mind blowing in it's intensity, especially if you've ever tried to ride a motorcycle fast on a curvy public road.  I know none of you have done that but you probably know someone who has.  Trying to fit your own motorcycle go-fast experience into the racing you see happening on the Isle of Man is like comparing 4th of July fireworks to the launch of the Space Shuttle.  There's fire, there's sparks, it's cool, but it's not the same experience.


Isle of Man TT promo video

There's been a fair amount of coverage this past week of the "Zero Emission" event at the Isle of Man TT races.  Electric powered bikes are slowly coming into their own and this year were granted their own, proper event at the world's oldest motorcycle race.
The winning electric bike this year, the MotoCzysz E1pc, (below) lapped the 37 mile TT course, run over closed public roads, at almost 100 mph and saw near 140 mph in the top speed section. There is a $10,000 prize for the first electric bike to lap the famous circuit (no pun intended) at 100 mph and the boys from MotoCzsyz came darned close, averaging 96.82 mph.   Everyone seems very impressed by that and the MotoCzysz bike is a Tron-like wonder to behold.  But I can't help but try to bring my own grouchy perspective to the race results.
MotoCzysz electric race bike. A little faster than a 125cc race bike.
Image via PopSci and Amadeus Photography

The MotoCzysz achievement at IoM is amazing and worthy of much respect in electric bike terms but keep in mind they've only managed to lap the TT course at a speed not quite equal to the 1957 lap record of Bob McIntyre on a 500cc Gilera and only slightly faster than the 125cc race bikes of 2008.

In 1957 this was the hot ticket for shear speed on a road race track.

MotoCzysz and the rest of the electric entries had the advantage of stuffing their electric motor package into a chassis/tire/suspension package that has benefited from 100 years of developed knowledge.  Poor old Bob McIntrye was stuck with Gilera suspension tech that was barely beyond girder forks and sprung hub rear ends.

Technology builds on technology though, and I'm sure that it won't be too many years before we see electric bikes doing a proper, multi-lap race at the Isle of Man, perhaps with pit stops to exchange pull-out battery packs just the way one changes out the battery on a cordless electric drill.
By the way, the techno-dinosaur, gasoline powered bike ridden by Ian Hutchinson this year lapped the TT course at an average of 128.607 mph for four laps, not one.  Average.  Block walls, curbs, public roads. 128 mph average.  The one lap record is past 130 mph.

I don't doubt for a moment that in decades to come electric bikes in races will be common place but the auditory joys of racing will be poorer for it.  Maybe they can use clothes pins to clip old playing cards on the bike and let them flap on the wheels and make the things sound more like real racing motorcycles than electric gizmos.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Update on San Jose to Morro Bay in 1948

The wife and I just returned from a week of visiting family and friends in California.  Sandwiched between the usual stuff was a visit to a vintage glider gathering in Tehachapi, CA and also a dog show in Pomona where we met up with the breeder of my Corgi pal Gromit.  Motorcycles played only the slightest part in the trip but provided one of the more interesting moments.

 A couple of blog entries back I posted a picture of my dad and his buddies outside their motel in Morro Bay, CA back in '48.  It was the turn around point of their ride down from San Jose.  Since my dear ol' Mum lives just down the coast from Morro Bay in the lovely old town of Pismo Beach, I decided to drive up to if I could find the location of 1948 picture snapped by my Uncle John.

The night before we drove to Morro Bay I spoke again on the phone to Uncle John.  He couldn't summon up much more for memories of their "adventure ride" except that they'd gone home by way of Highway 101.  No matter, that answered the question I had about how they returned home and meant they'd done a grand total of 590 miles of riding on their 3hp Harley-Davidsons.  He said later they bought bigger bikes of about 185cc which were much nicer.  Power crazed guys, all of them.  I'm guessing the newer bikes were probably some version of an NSU or DKW but no way to tell unless more photos turn up.

Talking about Dad & Uncle John's trip with my mom (89 years old this week), she casually mentioned that she and Dad had once ridden Dad's motorcycle down to Morro Bay from San Jose, just the two of them.

Huh?!

Yup, two-up on presumably the bigger 185cc bike and a ride of right at 400 miles round trip.  I knew Dad was tough, but Mom?

I inquired further and Mom mentioned that on the steep hills at the upper end of the route that she rode the underpowered bike to the top while Dad hitched a ride with a passing truck.  "When did Dad teach you to ride a motorcycle, Mom?"  "Oh, he didn't, it didn't seem that difficult so I just got on and road it up the steep hills."  I knew she baked killer sugar cookies but I didn't know she had that kind of moxie.  But then she raised four sons so I guess she had to be tough.

Back to Morro Bay.

A check of Google Earth showed the general area of the '48 photo as being easily identified by a large stand of eucalyptus trees.  The chance of the motel still being there was slim but there was a building in the area that was the correct, long, narrow shape.  So off we went and found the building, now extensively remodeled into a private home.

The corner of Dune St. and Napa Avenue. 
Rather than prowl around someone's yard with my camera and wind up in jail, I knocked on the door of the home and a friendly fellow named Pete came out.  I told him what I was up to, showed him the old photo, and we proceeded to walk around trying to find the precise location of the shot.  Turned out it was the next street (50 yards) north and sure enough, if you held the picture up, sited on the unmistakable geographic monolith of Morro Rock, put the now very much bigger eucalyptus trees on the right, there you are.  The old motel is long gone, replaced by newish homes and condos.  Progress happens.

Me & Biker Mom checking out the scene

I walked back to the van and drove Mom around the corner to the spot I'd found.  We got out and I showed her what I'd found and held up the photo.  "Why, that's really something!" she said.
Here's what she saw.
It wasn't the site of the Hollister Riot or some other great event of motorcycle history but I thought it was pretty cool.

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Addendum. September 2012

A couple of former residents of Morro Bay have written me to tell me I missed on the location, that there was a second stand of trees a block or so away and that was the actual location of the Holmes Motel.  More research including trading some e-mails with a guy name Vic, who tells me he did the plasterwork on the Holmes when it was built, led me to the correct location which I viewed late in 2010.  Being essentially lazy I'd not bothered to update the story but today Joe D. wrote me today and included some photos: 

"I just wanted to let you know that you actually missed the location of the motel your Dad and his friends stayed at in Morro Bay. the Holmes Motel was well known and the buildings stood until the mid 1980s, although it had been closed several years prior to that. The actual location was half a block south of Morro Bay Blvd. between Shasta and Marina streets, and the driveway extended the length of the block. I used to use it as a short cut to get to the Bay Theatre as a kid.Today, there is a group of timeshares occupying the space, with a similar driveway. The grove of eucalyptus was removed about the same time as the motel. Enclosed are a couple of Google street view captures of the location today, and an aerial photograph postcard from about 1947. The garages stand just about where the motel buildings are in your Dad's photos. In the aerial, the motel is hidden inside the large rectangular stand of eucalyptus trees near the bottom center of the photo."

Ariel view about 1947.
original Holmes Motel postcard


Location of the Holmes Motel as it looks today.  Google Street View image

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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



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