~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, 2004

Weekend wanderings

Riders back east comment sometimes how nice it must be to ride all year round. It is. Still, riding in the summer in the Phoenix, AZ area is less than a delight and much of the fun of motorcycling gets dry roasted as you roll down the road. Anything up to about 100 degrees is not bad and once the sun goes down and the temps plunge into the 90's it's almost nice. But riding during the day this time of the year is about the same as standing with a hair drier set on max and blowing in your face. Sometimes the heat is downright painful.

For the guys who ride BMW R bikes it can be even more so because having your boots tucked under the cylinders as you go along adds to the misery. I used to commute to work every day on an R100RT and more often than not wound up riding with my feet placed back on the passenger pegs looking for a little relief. I loved the R100 but it wasn't a great summer bike for this area. Of course winters were a different and happier thing entirely.

With the hottest days upon us now I've limited most of my riding to evening cruises out through the farm country and particularly through the little towns of Florence and Coolidge.

When I was younger I used to blast through the miles scarcely taking notice of the surroundings except to look for cops lurking and seeking to spoil my fun. These days I move a bit less hurried and in many respects am enjoying riding more than I have in years.

Coolidge is a little town caught between the past and future, currently in a present that is something less than grand. When you ride through the town you see the signs of prosperity past, buildings mostly that reached their architectural zenith in '60s or '70s. I spoke one time to one of the city fathers who told me when mechanization came to the farms the labor force was reduced drastically and the town started to die. It's hung on for a long time now, just enough farming left to keep the grocery story functioning and an assortment of other businesses too. There are lots and lots of buildings with paint pealing, facades fading, and walls cracking and for some reason it give the town an appeal not unlike a deserted city but still largely intact.

I've been riding over to Coolidge almost every weekend, arriving in the late afternoon or just before sunset. I've found the combination of afternoon light, old buildings, and emptiness to be an irresistible subject for my camera. When I took my first pictures there a few months ago I was surprised at how interesting the place looked when captured in a small frame. Naturally to keep things tied to motorcycles I try to include my Kawasaki in some of the shots.

This combination of riding and photography, especially since I've slowed the bike down, has become a very satisfying part of my life, so much so that I finally splurged on a better camera than my Nikon Coolpix 4500. I find myself now planning rides with the camera in mind more than the roads. Winding roads aren't that common here abouts unless you ride some distance to begin with but good subjects for the camera abound if one slows down and looks. In slowing down, I've enjoyed the bike more too, the lazy rumble of the engine, the solid feel of the handling, and sense of moving through the landscape rather than blasting through it. I've also taken the time to turn down what would otherwise be uninteresting roads only to discover some amazing things. So my advice for the day: Slow down. Take a camera.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Looking around. Getting started

There's not a great many motorcycle blogs out there for some reason so I decided to offer up my own and see what happens. If nothing else it will give me a place to vent about things in the motorcycle world that bother me or to give my incredibly valuable opinion on new bikes, old bikes, biker TV shows and whatnot.

My opinions are my own, I don't work for any motorcycle companies or related companies (although I did thirty years ago) and I don't own a motorcycle related business. I do work as a test engineer for an auto company so I know a thing or two about vehicles in general but my opinions about things motorcycle are founded in 38 years of riding and owning about one bike for every year I've ridden. Yeah, I love bikes, I love them a lot, and as I told my bride to be years before she became my ex-wife: I spend too much money on motorcycles, always have, always will." I was and am true to my word.

Don't bother to send me hate mail if I offend you, I'll just delete it. If you want to offer up a contrary opinion of your own that's fine. I'm not given to the use of profanity except on the occasion of flat tires or hitting my thumb with a hammer so please keep your comments appropriate.

It all started when I was 12

Outside of Fresno, CA, my cousin Ron gave me a ride on the back of his brand new Honda 50 across Uncle Harold and Aunt Alice's farm and I was hooked. The thrill and fun of that erratic ride across the furrows of a cotton field are still as clear today as they were nearly forty years ago. That Honda was way better than any bike I had ever peddled! I let it be known to Mom & Dad that as soon as I was old enough I wanted a motorcycle. Dad was less than thrilled when my enthusiasm didn't fade.

Between the ages of 12 and 16 I snagged rides on borrowed bikes and when I had my license, told dealers I was shopping so I could get free test rides.  For my first bike I finagled a slightly used Yamaha 60.   Not exactly the Triumph or Harley that I dreamed of but it was a start and it was even faster than that old Honda 50.   I saw a nice used 60 for sale recently for $800 and was tempted to buy it for old times sake but for once resisted the urge to buy a bike.

Nearly forty years of riding later I've owned bunches bikes including Yamahas, Hondas, Suzukis, Kawasakis, BMWs, Bultacos and one Harley-Davidson. I'm pleased to say that I bought my Harley before Harley's became the disgusting baby boomer fad that they are these days.  Frankly, I think people buy Harley's because they want to go to work and brag to their friends that they bought a Harley.

I put 11,000 miles on my Harley in 10 months before I found out that I was going to be a dad for the first time. It was clear that certain toys would have to go. Good bye 1986 Harley FLST-C, hello baby... It's ok though, the baby turned into a really cool kid and now I won't be stereotyped as a baby boomer having a mid-life crisis when I go out for a ride, I've had my Harley.

When I had the '86 Softail I was comfortable hanging out with people like Animal, Big Mike, Crash, and Crazy Lady even though I don't consider myself a biker. But hanging around with the polish & pose crowd with their squeaky clean H.O.G. patched jackets and low mileage bar hopper bikes is more than I want to have to explain to my aged mother. I have some standards.

So my current bike is a 2003 Kawasaki 1600 Classic, no. 38 on my list of bikes owned. I purchased from Kelly's Kawasaki in Mesa, AZ and it's got to be one of my favorite bikes of all time although I say that about most every bike I buy. Never the less, this one is so pleasant to ride that it may actually be around more than the usual 9-12 months my bikes last. The 1600 has a nice balance to it, comfortable, and with adequate power for reasonable cruising. I miss the zipper speed of my 2001 Kawasaki Concours but the 1600cc v-twin sound makes up for it almost. I may have to buy a second bike.

In my younger years I was a SoCal crazy on a variety of bikes including my all time favorite, a 1974 BMW R90S bought new in late 1973. I was living in Thousand Oaks, Calif at the time and the gorgeous Beemer was the ultimate bike in those days. Yeah, I know, '74 was also the year for the Ducati SS, the Moto Guzzi V7 Sport, and MV Agusta 750 but none had the all around capability of looks, handling, and long distance comfort of the 90S. Anyway, imagine being 23 years old, having one of the great motorcycles in the world, and living only 10 miles or so from the famed Mullholland Drive in the Santa Monica mountains. Life was good. I do envy a little the younger fellows who live in that same area these days and have weapons like the FZ's, GSXR's, and Kaw ZX-10. Ah to be young again.

It's really kind of a wonder I survived those early days as I took conspicuous chances bombing around the highways and byways of California but I made it. I still like to ride briskly but not so much that I need a modern sport bike which would be largely wasted on the mostly straight roads around Arizona. So the Kaw cruiser does me just fine these days as I am in my 50s and don't heal as fast as I used to. Still, when I visit the dealer and see the Kaw sport bikes sitting there I'm prone to thinking "One more time, one outrageously fast bike before I'm really am too old to go fast."

Surveying the scene

There are other blogs out there and good ones too. For whatever reason motorcycle blogs are not out there in the numbers one finds for more mundane subjects like guns, sex, or politics. I've found a few more bike blogs courtesy of Travis over at Motorcycle Blog who seems to have hit upon the most straightforward name for his blog. The list of blogs is fairly short but the range of substance is good and representative of a little of the diversity of motorcycling. Oh wait, I hate that word these days, someone remind me never to use it again.

Dale Borgeson's Motorcycle Touring for Beginners looks excellent. Dale is a long time rider and a little set in his ways with a vaguely grouchy style. Just my kinda guy.

Bikes in the Fastlane is sort of a half blog / half news site based in Europe and provides a nice little insight on things over there. There's little doubt that while the Euro guys enjoy some fantastic roads, a great selection of bikes, and variety of cultures to explore (see, I didn't use "diversity"), they do suffer under much more onerous restrictions of riding and licensing than we Americans do.

It sort of raises the question "Is the autobahn and being able to legally ride 150mph (when traffic permits) worth the tiered licensing system, safety inspections, and all their expense? To me, the answer is "no." We can ride that fast or faster over here, especially in the Wild West with our wide open roads, we just have to try hard not to get caught. In exchange for this slight inconvenience we are can ride what we want whenever we think we're ready for it and no government clerk can tell us we're not ready to move up from a 125cc machine to a 1000cc machine. The less government is involved in motorcycling, the better.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

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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