Sunday, October 26, 2014
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
|1974 BMW R90S in factory style "Silver Smoke" paint|
|on the road, 1974|
You guys that pay attention to my ramblings might recall I bought an R90S new in late '73 when they first came out. House of Yamaha / BMW in Santa Monica, CA got in two of them, I bought one and Tommy Smothers of the Smothers Brothers comedy duo bought the other. I was 22 years old, had a decent job working for UniFilter, and good credit. I was 22 years old living in So. California just about 10 miles from Mulholland Dr. and the Rock Store, and had a new BMW R90S under me. It was a sweet moment in life. The bike left eventually, as they tend to do in my life, but the fascination with the machine never did. I have a model of it, I have all the major magazine articles, I have the original sales brochure the dealer gave me in '73, and I have a lot of great memories.
After the Gold Wing left back in June I got it into my head that I should get another R90S, maybe recapture a bit of my youth and enjoy owning a now truly classic BMW. Wonder of wonders I spotted one on Phoenix Craig's List a week or so after I started looking. What were the odds? They didn't build vast numbers of the 90S and 40 years on they don't just turn up in your town every week. They are around, some very nice ones, too, but usually far away.
So I went to look at the 90S in Phoenix. The price was too high, the bike needed some stuff, and the owner did not seem real flexible. My gut told me to walk away so I did but not without some regret. One fellow on the R90S group on Facebook commented after I related that story "In two more years it will cost you twice as much." He may be right. R90S values are climbing and pristine examples or museum quality restorations are bumping $20k.
So yesterday out of the blue I get an e-mail from the seller offering to lop $1000 off his asking price. I did the logical thing and wrote him back offering $500 less than that. We settled on $1250 off his original asking price. I met up with my buddy David and we went up to get the bike and I rode it home last night.
|late 1973. Life was good even if I wasn't smiling|
|2014. Life is still good, maybe better.|
I think the R90S has held up better than I have, it's become a true classic, I've merely become a little bit eccentric. I could use some fresh paint and an overhaul but will have to rely solely on my charm to get me by.
|The R90S cockpit, complete with quartz clock, was a revolution in 1974|
Riding it home last night in the dark I had a lot of thoughts running through my head. I was making a mental list of the stuff that would need to be addressed even as I recalled riding my original 90S to Canada from SoCal in '74, to Colorado in '75, and doing 922 miles of twisting roads one Saturday in an old event called the California 1000. I have lots of history with the 90S and racked up a lot of little stories. The bike means something to me, it's not just another bike like so many I've own.
I'm not clear how much I'll ride it, the riding position is still young and I am not, but I think the riding I do should be thoroughly enjoyable. I have no quibbles with the functions of the bike, some things are obviously 40 years old but nothing about it comes up short enough to spoil my fun. The adventure continues...
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
|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
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.|
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
|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 SPORTSTER!" 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.
Sunday, May 18, 2014
Above is the old Pinal County Court House, the main image from 1938, the Gold Wing image is my 2002 Gold Wing photographed there about 2008. I've passed the court house countless times now and stopped periodically to photograph it alone or often with a bike in front of it. It seemed like combining the pictures would be fun so I did. I've seen it done around the 'net with various historic pictures so I thought I should try my hand.
Saturday, April 19, 2014
This year was the 30th annual, more or less, and I've been going to them since they were a "vintage picnic" at a local park. It's been interesting to see the event grow, get too big and attract the wrong crowd, get small, then start to grow again only to be hit by the downturn in the economy. This year was interesting, there seemed to be fewer vintage bikes than ever but the biggest crowd I've seen in several years. The swap meet was well populated also. I'm not sure why the turn out of vintage bikes is getting worse, there's lots of them around Arizona, but it was mostly the usual suspects that turned up again this year. I suspect it's a case of a club drifting and not really trying real hard to promote the event. I sent them three e-mails with a question about getting in early to shoot pictures will the light was good but never got a single reply.
There were some interesting bikes though, like the Simson. I'd never even heard of the brand before, it was another German brand that had been taken away from it's Jewish founders by the Nazis and then re-emerged in East Germany under communist control after the war. I spoke with the owner, he spotted it sitting in someone apartment as a decor piece and managed to buy it. He said it's taken a bit of fiddling and some parts but it's working again and he rode it to the event on Sunday. He said he's in it about twice what it's worth now and isn't sure how much further he'll go in refurbishing it but it's fun to play with.
The club apparently decided branch out this year offering special classes for cafe racers and bobbers but to no great success. There were a handful of interesting bikes between the two groups, the CB750 below being one of the nicest.
|Photo cropped to protect cosplay guilty.|
A Hercules showed up, first one I've ever seen in person. I kept imagining some engineers and designers stepping back from the prototype thinking "Ja! Zis vill change de verld!"
Oddly enough there were almost no dirt bikes this year and not a single Bultaco. Booo...hiss! There was a Ariel 500cc raced with some success back in the late forties and now kept by the rider's son.
One lone Ducati 250, included here for the Italian bike fans out there:
And while we're thinking Italian, a very nice Benelli 650 Tornado. I think this is the first one of these I've seen in person too. Pretty bike, almost more German looking that Italian but for the red paint.
And finally, a 1926 Indian Prince, unrestored:
I spoke with the lady who owns the Indian, the bike is for sale. Her husband's father bought it new in '26 and lost interest after a while so the bike was put away in a barn on their 500 acre cherry orchard in Michigan. There it sat for the next 80+ years. She said her husband knew about it but wasn't interested. He's passed now so the bike is hers and she has no need of it and recognizes both it's value and need for a proper home to preserve it.
More pics from the day here.
Monday, April 07, 2014
My friend Simon over in England did a shorter US tour back in 2011 and was amazed to discover, as Gary France did, that Hollywood isn't America and what's in the news isn't typical America, it just stuff that happens in America. Way better things happen here -- good people, friendly people are still to be found between the headlines. It will be very interesting to read about what the Blighty Boys discover. John and Jon have already made landfall in the States, down Florida way, and will be headed west shortly.
|image via Blighty Boys blog|
Wednesday, March 19, 2014
I recalled that my buddy Keith, over in California, was looking for a tail bag for his BMW K1200RS. I checked with him and "Why yes," he'd love some free luggage. Go figure. Anyway, He selected the "Motorcycle Tunnel Seat Luggage" from the Viking site and in due course it arrived here in Arizona for my inspection. I looked it over carefully and once again was impressed with how much quality Viking puts into their products for a very modest price, in this case $109. After some photos back into the box the bag went and off to California for Keith's evaluation and use.
At right, Keith's K1200RS out at Vasquez Rocks in the California desert. If they look familiar, Vasquez Rocks has been a shooting location for many TV shows and movies including Star Trek. If you remember a scene in Star Trek where Captain Kirk rolls a boulder onto a lizard-like alien called a Gorn, this would be the general location.
Keith is a former aerospace test engineer and and I'm a retired automotive test engineer so between the two of us we can raise pickyness to a fine art but we didn't find much to be picky about with this bag. About the worst thing we could find wrong was that it has a strong "plastic" odor when you open it up but a day of sitting open in the sun took care of that.
The bag comes with a variety of tie-down options and tie-down points including a fabric base that can be secured to the bike so the bag can be quick detached and carried like luggage. Keith still struggled to attached it well to his BMW. The smooth, plastic design of the back of the Beemer didn't give a lot of tie point but with a bit of creativity he got it done. The bag also has a carry handle and strap and Keith commented Once the bag was off, it has a good, comfortable luggage style handle much like a suitcase handle."
|Mounting base, assorted straps, and a rain cover|
The bag looks good on the BMW, it blends in about as well as can be expected. No one ever accused Keith of being a style maven but he still didn't want something that looks like a big kludge lashed onto the back of an otherwise fine looking machine.
You can't see it in the photo but the bottom of the bag is tunnel shaped to allow it to slight fit over a normal seat. This helps the bag stay more secure and less likely to slip off to one side.
One of the things Keith told me he really appreciated was the low profile of the bag, it makes it a little easier to get one's leg up and over when getting on and off the bike and doesn't catch him in the back or but even if the bag is over-stuffed.
Space, the final frontier:
The bag isn't a giant bag. From another company I have a tail bag that holds waaay more stuff, but then it opens higher and higher until it looks like you strapped the "leaning tower of luggage" onto the back of the bike. For some people speed and traveling still require a bit of style. Looking like the Joad family headed west from Oklahoma isn't an option. The Viking seat bag had a good amount of storage and pockets, I'd say enough space all on it's own for a long weekend ride. Further than that and you're still going to need some saddle bags.
The Viking bag has eight or nine different storage compartments for your sundries. It's nice to be able to compartmentalize your travel junk rather than fish around in the bottom of one big cavernous bag.
|Some, not all, of the compartments|
I'll let Keith sum it up since he's been using the bag for a month or so now: "For the money the bag sells for, the size, and versatility, I think it’s an excellent bag" and "...The more I used it, the better I liked it."
Monday, March 10, 2014
Why We Ride is the first really good general interest bike movie since On Any Sunday came out more than forty years ago. My friend Dave bought the WWR DVD and brought it over to watch on my big screen TV.
WWR was a nice movie and more relevant for "modern" viewers than On Any Sunday is now. We watched OAS right after it and the contrasts in style and storytelling were interesting. OAS came out at a time when dirt riding was still getting big in the US and flat track motorcycle racing was THE big form of motorcycle sport in the US, so it fit the times. Dave, who had never seen On Any Sunday, saw it mostly as "a racing movie" and thinking about it, I believe he's right.
The big advantage of WWR over OAS is that it shows a much wider perspective of the motorcycle sport. Why We Ride does give a broader looked the world of street riding, for instance, that was missing in On Any Sunday.These days the sport of motorcycling is different, perceived differently by the public, and so the two movies are decidedly different to my eyes.
I found On Any Sunday was much more fun and more entertaining --I've watched it over 50 times now -- but I did enjoy WWR despite some tedious interviews that seemed to have no point and the movie's general lack of a storyline. It was nicely filmed and the visuals were great eye candy. WWR drags a bit in places, the director seems in love with slow motion shots even when there is no purpose to them. Motorcycles are often about speed and sometimes you have to really show that speed.
So, despite it's few short comings, do take the time to see Why We Ride, you can find it sometimes in special theater screenings or you can buy the DVD or even download the movie. Big screen would be more fun that shown on a TV, motorcycles are big enough for the big screen and often diminished a bit by the small one. And if you have some non-riding friends or family who just don't understand why you ride, it's a good movie to show them, better even in that respect than On Any Sunday.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
I've been puttering around a bit on the Gold Wing, riding with Dave and some other riders I've gotten to know through Facebook. All of us from this area are trapped in the same sort of motorcycle doldrums, that is, we live in an area where there is a dearth of interesting roads and to get to the few fun roads in Arizona means at least a 250 mile ride. Last weekend three of us wandered up to old copper mining town of Globe, AZ to have Mexican food only to find the restaurant was closed. Oddly enough, we found their other location in the town of Superior to be open. Food was good. Yum. I love Mexican food.
But apart from the meanderings I have not done any meaningful rides in a long time but I'm thinking about it. A friend up in Edmonton, Alberta (1800 miles north of me in Canada) is getting married this summer and would like me to attend. I could fly up there, it's a cheap ticket, or I could make an adventure out of it and ride. Along the way I'd pass through Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, and other scenic points that I've yet to see in person. I've especially always wanted to see the Grand Teton Mountains by bike.
Funny thing is, flying to Canada would be a lot cheaper than riding, riding would be at least a four day trip up there plus hotel rooms. And the ride back would be via the aforementioned scenic spots and several days longer. So what's the issue? Well, the first one is money. I racked up some doctor bills in December courtesy of some kidney stones and the bills are still arriving for that special torment. Side note: Drink lots of water, you don't ever want to get kidney stones. I thought I knew something about pain having broken assorted bones over the years, had a couple of head concussions, and suffered second and third degree burns on my arm in a motocross crash in ancient times. Kidney stones, especially ones that won't come out all on their own, are a special kind of pain. Someone said kidney stones are the only pain equal to giving birth to a child. I wouldn't personally know about birth pains but I know women often decide to have another child while no one ever wanted kidney stones a second time.
Anyway, I've been pondering the whole ride-to-Edmonton thing and trying to decide if I really want to do it. I'm retired so I have the time. Goodness knows the Gold Wing is the right machine for the ride. At 1800 miles it's not even that far, I did longer rides on lesser machines in days gone by. By June the doctor bills will be paid off and I'll have a few sheckles put aside again for whatever. I've always wanted to see Yellowstone, Banff, etc. I have not been on a long motorcycle trip since about 2001 so I'm overdue. What's holding me back? I dunno. I turned 63 in January and while the doc says I likely have a lot of good years left in me, it's not like I have an abundance of time to waste either. None of us do, when you get right down to it none us are guaranteed even another day. And yet I am reluctant to commit to the trip for reasons not clear to me. I know it will be fun and of course I could get a whole bunch of blog entries out of the trip. Too, there is the wedding, seeing friends I've never actually met in person, and I admit I enjoy good cake. Decisions, decisions.
Monday, January 27, 2014
|Yamaha MotoGP bike front brake.|
In all candor, the show wasn't great, most of it was booths from the big bike companies, a hand full of interesting customs, a few vintage Japanese bikes that show up at every event here, and an assortment of vendors hawking products in which no one seemed too interested.
Which comes first, a great show or good attendance? I'm thinking the show needs to up it's game a lot, including in promotion, if they expect great attendance. I had reasonable fun at the show but there is lots of room for improvement.
|Yamaha MotoGP racer|
|Yamaha Bolt custom scrambler by Hageman Motorcycles|
|A Kawasaki for the ladies|
When have adventure bikes gotten too big? I'd say when you need a winch on one.
Other stuff: Harley had their new 500cc entry level bike on display. I sat on it, it seemed nice but pretty much looks like a Honda Shadow. As my friend Brent pointed out "If everyone can copy Harley year after year I guess it's okay if Harley copies them once." Regardless, I think the bike will be a hit with entry level women riders in this country and huge overseas where regulations and high prices force riders onto smaller displacement machines. Harley seems to be doing a fine job of catering to the ladies, they even had a young woman their booth demonstrating how to pick up a dropped bike and she'd pull a woman from the audience to do it to show how it's about technique, not strength. I think that's better marketing than skull shirts and loud pipes.
A few more pictures here on Flickr
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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