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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Old T-Shirts Are Sacred

Few things in life are as comfortable as an old motorcycle t-shirt.  They have stretched where they should, get baggy where they need to, sometimes display stains of oil changes past, and generally present the rider as someone who has been around and doesn't give a rip or tear about fashion.  Most of my regular wardrobe is made up of shirts like that.  

My "good t-shirt" for riding advertises a BMW shop and dates from 1992 and thankfully has lots of life left in it.  But my BMW '49er Rally shirt from 1993 is starting to show it's age and has me worried.  A good bike t-shirt that fits well, is frayed in the right places, and shows it's miles in the faded colors is a noble thing.

A few days ago my friend Donson wrote this in recalling an old Triumph he crashed during his misspent youth:  “Sadly, a week later I had a pretty bad crash on it and pretty much totaled it, and I still have numerous scars........Both hands got in the spokes, broken front brake lever slashed across my upper chest, header burns on right arm, removed most of the skin from both shoulders and part of my back.  It destroyed my favorite T-shirt.  Had I not been wearing a brand new Yamaha full face helmet, I think I would be in Terminal Dreamland today.”

Donson's skin grew back, the Triumph was parted out but lived on that way, a new helmet bought, but a great motorcycle t-shirt was gone forever.   The loss of a favorite bike t-shirt is a serious matter and one that I'm certain regular readers here do not take lightly.  If you're not wearing a proper riding jacket for your own hide, at least wear it to protect your favorite t-shirt.

When my old bike shirts get too thrashed to wear in polite society (weddings, funerals, the occasional bris), I take them into the backyard and place them on the ground in a small stone circle made of used bricks gathered from the ruins of the original Indian factory in Springfield.  The t-shirt is laid out, main logo up, and always facing west. Why west? Amongst the brave pilots of World War I the phrase "He's gone west" indicated a final flight from which there was no return.

To my trusty t-shirt, my long suffering friend, revealer of travels, scarred and battered on the ground, I add a cup of premium gasoline or gas/oil pre-mix if the shirt portrays a 2-stroke bike or brand.   I set it alight with a spark made by striking a flint against an old iron connecting rod.  With a smack and spark the grand old t-shirt explodes into flames, often taking my eyebrows and arm hair with it, and thus begins it's journey into wherever it is that great t-shirts go when they die.

In the next life people often imagine that they will wear silken gowns or robes of white, I hope to be reunited with all my old motorcycle t-shirts, especially the red Bultaco shirt that is near it's end.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Saturday Night Ride

Y2K Jet Turbine bike.  Sounds like a jet, smells like a jet, will empty your piggy bank like a jet.
When my buddy Keith was here our wanderings took us up to Scottsdale, AZ for the weekly car / bike gathering that takes place at the Pavilions Shopping Center.  It's not your typical gathering in that it's been going on for more than twenty years now and attracts sometimes a couple of hundred vehicles of all types.  Here's brief selection of what we saw during our stop there:

At the opposite end of the motorcycle spectrum, a Ural side car rig who's owner has a sense of humor.

A Factory Five Cobra Daytona Coupe.  The original Daytona Coupe has long been one of my favorite cars.

A well used Moto Guzzi 850.  Few bikes manage to look more old than an old Moto Guzzi.

If you can't be on a bike, this is a very classy ride for a Saturday night.

A little slice of motorcycle life.  Ah to be young again!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Plunge

Satellite view via GoogleEarth

Sunday I hopped on the V-Strom and went for my usual ride. It was the first time since probably March that it was cool enough to wear my leather jacket. I made my usual stop at Coolidge Airport, a former WWII military transit field. The airport was nearly abandoned, but is now coming back to life as a haven for interesting antique, vintage, and old military planes.  Photos from the field have turned up here a number of times in the past and probably will again.  I love the place.

The big hanger is one of the last of the old wooden WWII hangers that is still usable. It doesn't look this good at the moment, the photo is one I shot in 2010. The wood structure is in poor shape from age and storms so the hanger is slowly being restored now by people who value it's history and feel it is important to keep it around (it is).  Cost is $500,000 and work is proceeding as funds become available.

I almost always find something interesting to photograph out there, whether it's an airplane or some rustic feature of the old place. This time, out in the desert a bit and just off my usual path, I found the old base swimming pool or "plunge" as they used to be called in the old days. I'd never found it before because it required a bit of dirt road work to spot it amongst the tall desert brush.   From a distance the raised earthwork of the pool just looks like another desert "stock tank" for cattle, stock tanks are common around here.

Long abandoned now and behind it a rough stone building that I presume was the changing rooms for the swimmers, it was a bit of surprise to find.  It's fun to stumble upon something like that and imagine how it might have been in the 1940s during the war, people splashing about and laughing, B17 bombers or P51 Mustangs flying overhead while someone plays Benny Goodman records by the pool. Noise, fun, laughter, and the cloud of war hanging over it all.

The "castle" changing rooms aren't quite as impressive when you get some scale to them.  Anyway, so begins my winter riding season.  For the other photo geeks, the camera was my Oly E-PL1 with a Panasonic 20mm F1.7 lens. The hanger shot was done with my Nikon D90.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

V-Strom 1000: Better Than Expected

When I set out to replace my '06 Kaw 1600 Nomad I didn't plan on making it a mystery here but it sort of worked out that way, a small bit of fun with my twelve regular readers.

Yes, I decided on the 2006 Suzuki V-Strom DL1000 "adventure bike" despite the 30k miles on the odo.  The bike has been wonderfully cared for by it's previous owner since new and it showed when I looked at the bike.  It looked good in the ad photos and better in person. 

Better yet, the owner had added all the best farkles during his 5 years with the bike.  He had already added Givi hard bags, a Sargent custom seat, adjustable windshield, center stand, bar backs, fork brace, crash bars, the works or close to it.  Everyone loves to lavish a bit of money on a "new" bike but this one came with it all.  I've been hard pressed to find anything more to do than toss a sheepskin on the seat and call it good.

But for some small scratches on the right saddle bag and the usual boot wear on the black frame, the bike is spotless and needed nothing.  I did tell the seller, a very nice guy, all I could see to do was give the bike a good detailing  -- the wheels were dirty -- and I usually keep my bikes squeaky clean.  He looked a bit startled, as if I was nutz.  Keep quiet out there.

Hepco & Becker crash bars are an especially nice touch should I tip over on the road to Timbuktu or in the Dairy Queen parking lot.  The previous owner toured the western states with the bike and definitely used it properly.

The Givi detachable hard bags have plenty of room and are about the easiest I've seen for removing and replacing.

If the V-Strom has a negative, it's that I've found it difficult to photograph.  It's silver and black and the lines of the bike don't flow; it looks like it was styled by a committee.  BMW went for the full on military-industrial look with their adventure bike, the R1200GS, but the Suzuki seems trapped in the fractured landscape between style and function.

Never the less, the disjointed styling is redeemed by the 996cc 90° v-twin that makes near 100 horsepower, and while the the handling doesn't seem quite as trustworthy as my old Aprilia Caponord, the power makes up for it after riding the torquey but slow Nomad 1600.  The V-Strom easily stormed to and indicated 120 mph with nary a bobble and there was still power left.  Naturally, that run was done on a closed course with a professional rider...    Side note: plastic water bottles in RAM cup holders will bail out somewhere around 115 mph.

I feel good about this bike, it runs very well, turns a very respectable 48 - 52 mpg, and has more than enough dirt capability for occasional dirt road excursions.  Judging from the videos and pictures I've seen of people off-roading their VStroms, I'd say it's more off road capable than I'd care to be on a 500lb motorcycle.  I have added my Garmin GPS to the bike which will make finding each city's Dairy Queen much easier.

So will this bike stay around a while?  Who knows?  I like it a lot so far, I've put about 600 miles on it now and can't find much to not like except the seat height and I can live with that.  I just wish the V-Strom had come with an extra pair of jugs like that Harley.

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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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