Lost

•December 31, 2012 • 1 Comment

 I have found myself a little lost of late. I don’t seem to be enjoying the time on my bike as much as I used to. Old age? Perhaps.

 I miss the days when I first started riding some 27 years and several motorcycles ago. Back then a motorcycle shop was a meeting place, bench racing was the pastime and no one bothered you about having a latte. The people selling you the bike or parts knew what they were talking about. While touring a shop a couple hours south of my home I was approached by a teeny bopper spewing out pamphlet style info about some bike that he had never even sat on. Ever notice how you can smell the non-riders as soon as they speak?  I was afraid to step into this place with my grimy track boots, the floor was so clean. I was afraid to touch the bikes, which were all sporting signs bellowing “KEEP OFF!!” I didn’t take the offered latte in case I slopped the stupid thing and caused a meltdown in the staff at this place.

 What the Hell has happened?  I’m going to lament here the long lost Parry Sound Cycle and proprietors Bill Robinson and Paul Bushey. Though Bill and Paul are both involved in other ventures, I miss their cycle shop. When I went in and said “Paul, on my bike there is that thing that moves that doohickey inside the left casing, I need one of those.”  Paul always knew exactly what I was talking about.

 Bill was the type of guy that would bend over backwards to help you…. until you jerked him around and then you weren’t welcome in the shop. Case in point, when I crashed my 750 Honda many moons ago and the forks need to be straightened and rebuilt, Bill had the guys in the back fix them up and then let them sit on a shelf while I recovered and earned enough of my high school, hairnet, name tag job earnings to pay for the repairs. When I finally did pick them up I thanked him for not throwing them in the snow bank. I still remember his reply, “No problem, I knew you’d come through.”

 Bill’s stories of the days when he carried Norton motorcycles were the stuff of legends around here. I’m always surprised at how many people once they find out I am from Parry Sound, ask about Bill and Paul and tell me how they bought their first bike from them or how they broke down and Bill and Paul stayed open late to get them back on the road.

 The mechanics in the back of the shop always had time to fill you in on what they found wrong and things to watch for in the future.  A summer job at the shop had these guys teaching me a lot of stuff and I was the brunt of many jokes. A little advice, if someone tells you to hold a spark plug with the electrode ground off, don’t do it.

 I am fortunate that there are a couple shops in people’s garages that I frequent. Good friend Ian’s shop has a floor somewhere under all the cigarette butts. His big old German Shepherd likes to roll in the swamp out back and lay in his favourite spot in the shop. You can go in there and put your feet up and shoot the poop while Ian works away.

 D’arcy up the hill from me is more often then not at the track with his son Aubrey, an up and coming racer that we need to watch. Often D’arcy will answer a knock at the door after hours and get someone fixed up and rolling again. His shop smells like race fuel and posters of girls with motorcycles line the walls.

 Motorcycles are a state of mind, a part of life, and motorcyclists are defining in them selves and the shop experience is just as much a part of that as riding is. With all due respect to all the shops out there, there are some that need to return to a little more old school way of thinking.

 Maybe a visit to one of these old school places will get me back on track

The Road Less Traveled.

•June 24, 2012 • 2 Comments

 While technology can be a good thing, there are times when I really question the serious need for it. I even dislike using my bank card; I like the feel of a few bucks in my pocket. That crisp crinkly feeling of some cash is a reassuring thing to me. Another excellent example is GPS. I don’t own a GPS and have never really had any desire to get one. I am sure they have their moments when they are handy, perhaps in my car or in a work vehicle they may be a great tool. Some of the time I spent driving a tractor trailer saw me using a GPS to locate customers I had never been to before. But GPS for my bike? No thanks.

 I have traveled with people who use them and they did save some headaches considering we were heading to areas we had never traveled before plus a tight schedule with some appointments to meet. But I don’t know, we followed them blindly like lost sheep and frankly I am 100% sure we would have made it there without the electronic device. The machine picked the most direct route to our destination I suppose, which ended up being much of what motorcycle writer and icon Max Burns refers to as the Trash Canada Highway. When we got to our destination with plenty of time to spare, I said see ya and went out on my own, trusty road map in the pocket of my tank bag and did some exploring of the area’s sights and roads.

 Isn’t much of the point of riding exactly that; to get out there and explore? Why do you need a machine to direct you where to go? I know, I know, when you find a cool spot you can enter it in to the GPS and you’ll be able to find it again. I do something similar, it’s called memory and it has rarely failed me and in the process I have seen places and met people I otherwise wouldn’t have. I’m not so sure the GPS would have taken me down some of the same routes I have traveled.

 I have even had an email tirade with a former associate who claimed I must not do any long distance riding because there is no way I could without GPS. Whatever buddy, ever heard of a map? Ever tried talking to the locals for tips on where the gold is? When you have the miles logged that I have, come and see me.

 

About the only electronic device I seriously enjoy using while riding is my iPod. It’s nice to have a bit of music to listen to while riding, but caution must be used; your ability to hear what is happening around is limited. Not much difference from a radio playing in a car I guess. Although I have to admit while listening to certain songs I do notice my speed tends to increase. Tony Iommi’s guitar work seems be to especially speed inducing.

 There are so many areas to tour why would you need to be told where to go by an electronic device? When it comes right down to it, wouldn’t you rather just get out there and explore? How many times have just made a turn on to some road, just because you wondered where it went? There are countless times I have done this and more often than not the rewards are worth any misgivings. It’s easy to turn around if the road turns out bad or boring. Turn off the GPS or leave it at home, you will still get to your destination; it may take you longer than you originally thought, just remember, it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.

Swallow Your Pride

•December 23, 2009 • 3 Comments

I think it probably started with my mom back when I was a wee lad with visions of motorcycles dancing in my head. It began with the ever popular “motorcycles are dangerous!” and evolved into full newscast reports of every accident in the known universe where a motorcycle may have been involved.

Now sitting in the editor’s chair of this little newspaper of ours, it continues, although not so much from my mom, but from email, newsletters and other forms of media. I have an account set up with Google to send me daily links of things related to motorcycles. My original hope was it would help keep me informed of changes in the world of motorcycles, everything from new laws to new companies and products and everything in between. It has become a daily barrage of the grim and heart wrenching things we never want to happen to anyone. I am amazed at the continuous stories of death and injury our fellow motorcyclists and their families and friends have endured. It never ends.

One of the most disturbing articles I read happened some time ago. A teenage girl had just gotten her license and for her first bike she purchased a beautiful Yamaha R1. If you could see me now I would be shaking my head side to side and sighing loudly. According to the article she had picked up the bike at the shop and proceeded on her first ride as a licensed rider. 10 minutes later, 10 MINUTES, she was dead. A terrible mixture of inexperience and too much speed.

I have mixed feelings about limiting the size of bike a new rider can ride, I know of one person who had a Suzuki GSX R 750 for their first bike. They have ridden safely for years. On the flip side I know another individual who had a nice little Honda XL 185 and ended up with an erector set in his leg. It’s all about riding at your abilities and not overstepping them I suppose, but you really have to swallow your pride.

This past spring I started training to become an instructor, hoping to pass on to some of the new riders the experience I have had. I spent a weekend working with a class of individuals as diverse as the bikes on the market today. All wanted to experience the freedom and lifestyle we all share. All the participants passed the course and are all licensed to ride on the road now. However I have this incredible fear in my heart that some of them will end up being statistics. Some of them passed just by the hair on their chinny chin chins. The regular instructors arranged for the few that really shouldn’t have passed to receive extra training.

One thing the training course really pushes is to start small, no more than a 250. However some of these students had their own visions of motorcycles dancing in their heads. One woman had bought a 750 because a “friend” told her a 500 would be too small. Another had purchased a big Harley touring bike. She could barely hold up the tiny Honda CM 250 she was training on and refused to own anything other than a Harley. Maybe a nice 883 would have been a better choice? I’m not sure. When her husband rode in to see how she was doing a lot was explained; he had a full dress Harley and fancy leathers, the whole nine yards. He also just about dropped it in the parking lot. But he had “the image.”

This is the one time you need to swallow your pride, start small, become a safe and skilled rider, then move up to that bigger bike you’ve been dreaming about. That way you won’t end up a statistic and you’ll appreciate that dream bike even more.

The Evolution of the Power Cruiser

•August 25, 2007 • Leave a Comment

In 1985 Yamaha kicked in the door of the motorcycling world and made a bold statement with the introduction of the V-Max motorcycle. At the time the V-Max was the most powerful production bike on the market, belting out an unheard of 145 horsepower with a 1200 cc V-4 engine. The Mighty Max is the bike that started an entirely new class of motorcycle; the power cruiser.       

 The V-Max is a simple concept; major acceleration based on the classic American hot-rod theme, drawing its heritage from a bridge race; a type of drag race from one end of a bridge to the other. The V-Max has spawned a cult following of tire shredding riders looking for something a little different, a little radical. “.I’m sure that this is due to it being the kind of bike which is very different to the crowd.” Dave Shepherd, Yamaha technical Specialist says, “It often happens to bikes that are designed outside of the box”.
        
 After 20 years with only minor changes in 1993 when the Max received 43mm forks (up from 41mm) and new 4-piston front disc brakes (up from twin pistons calipers), the V-Max has remained virtually unchanged with continued strong sales with no plans to cease production. While there are other power cruisers on the market, none have the 20 year history the V-Max has.  “The usual reason to discontinue a model is either declining sales interest or its ineffectiveness against competitor’s models,” Says Shepherd,  “Yamaha is still waiting for the others to catch up with Mr. MAX.”         

 The one thing that all the major motorcycle manufactures have learned from the V-Max’s success is that when it comes to power cruisers, big horsepower and massive acceleration add up to big sales.  All the major manufacturers have cruisers with large displacement engines. Honda has the VTX 1800, Kawasaki has the Vulcan 1600 Mean Streak, Suzuki has introduced the Boulevard M 109. Harley-Davidson has the beautiful V-Rod and even Canadian manufacturer Merch Motorcycles has their RT 120 with an optional 125 cubic inch V-twin motor.  

 When it comes to true horsepower few can compete with the Rocket III, the latest big-boy-on-the-block from British manufacturer Triumph. The Rocket III is the largest displacement production motorcycle ever produced, a 2294 cc inline triple with cylinder bores the same diameter as the Dodge Viper.                  

 A project five years in the making, the Rocket went through many design and engine configurations before the right mix was found. Though big and brawny, Triumph engineers and designers retained some of the look and feel of a classic British motorcycle, looking to the original Triumph Trident and the BSA Rocket II.        

  Is the Rocket III the bike to end the V-Max’s reign over the power cruisers? Not a chance. The V-max has 20 years of solid sales combined with 20 years of after market accessories and go-fast add ons. The rocket III is however, the natural evolution of the power cruiser motorcycle. Actual speed is starting to fall to the wayside in favour of the earth shattering acceleration that a bike like the Rocket II can pump out. The power cruiser rider wants to feel the ground shake and the bike twist when they snap the throttle at the stop lights.        

  The Rocket III may have started a new phenomenon in the power revolution that the V-Max started 20 years ago. If horsepower and cc’s continue on this upward trend, we may very well be one day referring to liter size bikes as a mid-size ride.

Maybe size does matter.                                                      

A Viable Two Wheel Alternative

•June 16, 2007 • Leave a Comment

We are all forced to endure it, and there is little we can do about it. Whether it is the war in Iraq or the effects from Hurricane Katrina, gas prices are continuing to rise with no real relief in sight. Although most motorcycles are much more fuel efficient then their four–wheeled counterparts, riders are still feeling the pinch. Alternative fuels and hybrid vehicles are starting to become more common and motorcycle builders are starting to follow suit. A viable alternative may very well be a high performance diesel engine. Before you start thinking of a slow moving, smoke belching dump truck with a line of traffic behind it, Europe has a long history of high performance diesel engines in automobiles; it seems only natural that motorcycles may evolve into diesel power.                          

Star Twin, a Holland based manufacturer has recently introduced the Thunder Star 1200 TDI sportbike. .Using a 1200 cc three cylinder turbocharged direct injection motor taken from a Volkswagon Lupo, the bike has an estimated power output of 60 bhp and 165 foot lbs of torque. By remapping the controls this is increased to 120 bhp and 250 ft lbs of torque at 5500 rpm. With a Yamaha FJ 1200 five speed transmission and weighing in at 450 lbs, the sleek looking machine has similar looks to other sport bikes on the market today. Early estimates put the fuel mileage at 150 mile per gallon. Star Twin is presently exploring the possibility of marketing the bike and while top speed is not at par with the many gas powered motorcycles on the various race circuits, Star Twin may very well have their sights set on the race track in the future.           

The American and British Military have also noticed the advantages a diesel motorcycle may offer. F1 Engineering has developed a diesel powered dual purpose motorcycle. Using a Kawasaki KLR 650 modified to run on diesel, the bike puts out 24 hp and gets 25 miles /gallon with a top speed between 80 to 100 mph. At the Bonneville Salt Flats, F1 Engineering took two bikes for testing; a civilian issue model and a military model with a small turbocharger. Each bike made 2 passes with the civilian model averaging 84 mph and the military model averaging 92 mph. “This is a high performance enduro bike that will run over 100 mph, revs over 7000 rpm and will climb the proverbial brick wall.”           

The obvious advantage for the military is the diesel fuel itself. The bike is able to use the same fuel that tanks, trucks and other military equipment use. A logistics problem is slowly being eliminated as more military vehicles start using diesel and less are using gas.           

Canada is slowly starting to add bio-diesel to the local gas bar. Bio-diesel is diesel made with recycled vegetable and animal fats. It is clean burning and does not add to the global warming problem and can be burned in any diesel engine. Bio-diesel may very well be eliminating a disposal problem; used oils from French fry fryers can be converted to bio-diesel very easily.           

 The day is fast approaching when there may very well be a diesel powered sportbike making a victory lap at a track as its gas powered cousin begins its final days before being retired. Let’s just hope the fast food joints will share their fuel.                                                                                 

The Sounds of Almost Silence

•April 1, 2007 • Leave a Comment

           Some years back, when I was offered a regular column with a start-up motorcycle mag, I made a promise to myself that I would never flog the dead horse topic of Why I Ride. I have no real problem with this topic, but how many times have you read a story dedicated to this subject? I agree with the person who said, “If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand.” Lately several non-motorcycle people have asked me “Why do you ride?’  I apologize to everyone who feels the same way I do about this topic. For those who may be wondering why I ride please read on.
 

I have heard all the reasons. I have experienced many of the things that people say is the reason they ride. There have been the starry, summer nights when the road went on forever and the bike was running like a Swiss watch. The red glowing sunsets that you are certain were painted by the very hand of God. The twisty road that goes on and on and you drag your pegs on every corner. I have even had the proverbial “one with the bike feeling.” on countless occasions.
 

But the actual reason I ride? I’ll tell you; the reason I ride is so I can wear my helmet. Surprised? After I thought about it, it became obvious; I ride so I can wear my helmet. Before you start thinking that I must be a few sandwiches short of a picnic or that maybe I rode the short bus to school, let me explain my reasoning.

 One particular Saturday afternoon I was sitting in the living room thinking about the things a man thinks about on a Saturday afternoon when he sits in his living room thinking about the things a man thinks about. My youngest daughter came in to introduce me to her new boyfriend. Did I mention the new boyfriend has a Mohawk hairdo approximately 12 feet from the tip of the spikes to his shiny bald head? What hair he does have is a lovely shade of green and he has enough piercings and safety pins in his face to grate a block of parmesan cheese.

“Dad this is my boyfriend Festering Boyle, we’re going to a Rancid concert to do some moshing.”
 “That’s nice honey, could you pass me my helmet please?” I said with a sigh.
  “Uhh, Dad, it’s winter, you can’t ride anywhere.’ She said as Festering snickered under his breath and mumbled something about “dude” and “sticking it to the man”
 “Oh yeah,” I said, “Guess I’ll go take your mother’s vacuum cleaner for a spin, if I can find the kick start.”
 

I usually try to avoid Rancid things, and moshing, well it sounds like a strange ritual you do when dancing around a fire while wearing sheepskin chaps. I think Festering Boyle is still a gentleman to my daughter; otherwise a traction test on his fingers might be in order.
 

My eldest daughter also seems to have a knack for making me put on my helmet. Let us observe. 

“Dad I need $150.00 for a new pair of shoes for the prom.” Did I mention this kid has enough shoes to make Imelda Marcos jealous? She has an entire closet full of new shoes for the prom!
 “That’s nice honey, here, take my wallet, could you pass me my helmet please?’
 “Uhh dad, it’s winter.”
 “Oh, okay, I’ll go try the spin cycle on the washing machine.”
 

I’ve learned to watch my wife’s mood swings and body language and I am pretty good at getting the jump on her, by the time she gets to me, my helmet is securely on my melon and a virtual “cone of silence” surrounds me. I am immune to any thing she can say. When she talks to me all I hear is Charlie Brown’s mother talking to me. “Wonk wonk wonk.”

I just smile and nod “That’s nice dear, can’t you see I’m wearing my helmet?”
 “Wonk wonk, winter wonk!” she said.
 “Yes dear, I’m going to see if I can drag the pegs on the snow blower.”
 

When I have my helmet on and I’m riding my motorcycle, all I hear is the drone of the engine, the wind whistling by and I am alone in my thoughts. I am able to think about the road ahead, the destination, the other people I ride with, or any other thought that comes to mind. Riding is a great way to clear the cobwebs out of your head. Best of all when my family decides to drop one of those little tidbits of conversation that makes me want to jam an ice pick into my ear I am safe. There is no way I could get an ice pick through the side of my helmet. Now if I could just figure out how to fix all the ice pick chips on the side of my helmet.
 

The REV-olution of the Canadian Motorcyclist

•February 25, 2007 • 2 Comments

“The times they are a changin’ “sings Bob Dylan. There was a time when a motorcycle was a cheap mode of transportation or a statement of rebellion, a way to get back at your parents, ridden by devil may care hooligans. The Canadian motorcycle rider is a much different animal today.
 

According tot the Motorcycle and Moped Industry Council, motorcycle sales have more than doubled from about 24,000 in 1996 to about 60,000 in 2001. The litre size motorcycles making up the majority of street bike sales, from almost 19 000 in 2000 to over 24 000 in 2002
 

Recent studies show that the majority of Canadian motorcyclists are an average age of 46, a college graduate and an established family man. The Canada Safety Council says, “The average age of riders in their motorcycle training programs are now in their late 30’s; about 10 years older than a decade ago.”

 Although these studies show the average motorcyclist is usually male, there is a growing trend in women taking to two wheels. In 1990 in the United States, 6.4 percent of riders were women, in 1998 that number rose to 8.2 percent. Interestingly this study also found that women out spend men in the motorcycle apparel and accessory markets.

 In 2002, Ontario had almost 120 000 registered motorcycles, with 91 percent of those belonging to men and the other 9 percent being made up by women. Of the 120 00 registered, 58 percent are between the ages of 30 to 49 years of age.

 The Baby Boomers are a big part of the increase in motorcycle sales, the re-entry buyer; the person who wanted a motorcycle when they were younger is now purchasing the bike they never had. “The Boomers are reaching retirement age and have money to spend,”  motorcycle salesman Jim Homes says,  “It may even be a mid life crisis thing.”

 Dubbed “Rubies,” (short for Rich Urban Bikers) many are buying the top of the line bikes at the top of the horsepower class. “When it comes to street bikes,” Jim says, “The large cruisers are the purchases the rubies seem to be most interested in making.”  Not only are the Rubies buying “top of the line” bikes, they are also spending the extra money for accessories and aftermarket products to make their bike unique and reflect their own individuality.  “Once the bike purchase has been made, within a few weeks the accessory purchases start,” says Jim

 The MMIC’s statistics also show that off road bikes up to 125 cc have consistently been a big seller making up the majority of bikes sold. Off road riding is an easy and inexpensive way for children to become involved with motorcycling. Programs like Honda Canada’s Junior Red Rider’s Club, allow parents to find the answers to questions and concerns about motorcycling and kids are able to get the proper training necessary to keep the sport safe and fun. “We will get a parent buying a bike and then returning to buy a dirtbike for their kids.” Jim says, “It has really become a family activity.”

 D’Arcy Bailey, an avid motorcyclist and parent who shares off road riding with his wife and two boys couldn’t agree mere, “There’s nothing like the feeling of riding with you kids,  I’d rather go riding with my kids then be a hockey dad.”
 

Motorcycling it seems may be slowly shedding the bad boy image of the outlaw biker. The person riding the big Harley may be an accountant, lawyer, rich or poor, it no longer matters. The times they definitely are a changing.’

Hang on and enjoy the ride.