Posts Tagged ‘motorcycle riders’

Threw my leg over the warmed up Harley at 6:30 a.m. this morning. Kissed Boo goodbye and told her I’ll be back in two weeks. Worked my way on the backroads down to 212 West through Montevideo in the cool of the early morning hours and headed West. Had lunch with a young cop buddy I met a few years ago in Redfield, South Dakota. Just sitting in the park on a bench, munching a sandwich and talking about work and motorcycles. He loves to hear the old stories, and at my age, its all I have left. Now its 2:00 p.m. and I’m cruising West on 14 through the rolling South Dakota prairies. Keeping the bike at 60, I’m in no hurry.

The sunlight warm on my face, the dry wind blowing through my hair, the clock turns back and I feel 40 again. The sun casting cloud shadows on the prairie to my right, teasing me, urging me to kick the bike in the ass and race them, but I don’t. Tried that years ago, they always win. I laugh at them, and they race away, disappearing over the hills ahead. A herd of antelope suddenly appear on my left, loping along inside the fence line, I wave, but they don’t wave back, suddenly veering off down a dry grassy coulee, and disappearing from sight. The good rich smell of hot engine oil comes and goes with the breeze, the Harley has settled into a steady rhythm and the deep throated exhaust mutters along behind me. I haven’t seen another vehicle in about an hour. the last one a truck load of young girls, giggling and daring each other to wave at the biker. In my leathers, and behind the shades and dew rag, and from a distance, I probably look a bit exotic. Boy, would they be disappointed! But now, its just me and the ribbon of road, stretching out ahead of me, winding through the hills and out of sight. Beckoning and promising adventure, somewhere up ahead. Just the way you like it when you want to be alone for a while with your thoughts and just enjoy being alive.

I’ll cruise down, arcing to the South to pick up I-90 West, with a pause for the cause and a cold drink at Vivian. Maybe talk to some other bikers. On a bike, you’re never without new friends when you want them. Eager to swap stories, talk about weather ahead, and enjoy being part of a family, ever ready to stop and help a fellow biker, or share a beer and a laugh about the things we’ve all seen and done on the road. If you’re ever in trouble, call a cop. But if you’re ever in real trouble, call a biker.

I’ll pass through the Buffalo Grasslands and Rapid City, then on up to Sturgis which is just starting to wake up with the Rally just a few weeks away. Then over to Deadwood before picking up 14 to roll through the curves down through Spearfish Canyon to the Spearfish Canyon Lodge for a relaxing late supper. Spearfish Canyon, a spiritual place where God himself must ride a motorcycle on warm Summer days, with the soft, fragrant scent of pine everywhere and the gurgle and splash of Spearfish Creek to keep him, and all the bikers who come here, company.

I take a deep breath, its really good to be here, on the bike headed West. Suddenly, I hear a familiar voice, calling to me. I blink and the prairie fades away. “Hey, I said, are you alright?” Its, Boo, down below me, as I stand on a ladder, propped against the side of the house. My hands are sunk to the wrists in foul smelling glop in the storm gutter. I blink and look down at her. “I said, are you okay? You’ve been standing there motionless for almost ten minutes, just staring straight ahead. I thought you’d had a stroke. Jeez, you scared the crap out of me, you dopey old bastard!”

I clear my throat and drag more glop out of the gutter, tossing it into the bucket tied to my ladder. “No, I’m okay, I was just thinking about something and got caught up in it.” I can sit down with a home brew and tell her about it later. She’ll understand. She’s a biker, like me. She’s rolled the curves through Spearfish Canyon, smelling those pines, and has sat in the warm sunlight, with her feet in the cold, clear water of the creek on many occasions. I’ll finish my task, and then maybe open that homebrew and clean the bike, and maybe the dream will come back and I’ll make the Lodge by early evening, to sit and have a bite to eat and a cold beer before heading to my room and a nice soft bed.

Some people ask me, “Aren’t you scared, riding a motorcycle around like that?” No, I’m not. But the plain and simple truth of it is that what scares me, what really scares the living hell out of me, is what happens when I can’t ride a motorcycle around like that anymore.

What did Frost say? I have miles to go before I sleep.
Author: Jim Fleming (Jafrum.com Customer)

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About the time the warm spring winds finish the job of blowing out the rest of the winter chill, restlessness takes root in the heart of every motorcycle rider. Spring has sprung; it’s time to ride.

Typically, enthusiasts tend to focus on the driver enjoying the thrill of curve hugging rides through open country. The feel of raw power in the throttle hypnotizes motorcyclists across the globe. But, there is one point of view not often written about. It is the view from the rear seat.

True enough, there is a scintillating thrill that shoots up the spine when that V-twin roars to life. For the rider, the experience allows for a unique view of the road. Settled comfortably against the sissy bar, feet planted securely on the foot pegs, the sky looms wide and unrestrained. The rider is free take in the beauty of the ride with a freedom not afforded the motorcycle driver.
As with any aspect of motorcycle riding, safety is the number one consideration for the driver and rider as well. How does the back seat motorcycle rider contribute to the safety of the ride? The following tips are a good place to begin..

Learn the Moves
Learn to lean with the driver on corners. If the driver veers left, the rider should veer left as well, matching the movement of the driver. Basically, the rider’s actions ought to mirror that of the driver. A sudden shift in weight throws off the balance of the bike causing the driver to struggle to keep it on the road. At a high rate of speed, a shift could be devastating.

Keep distractions to a minimum. Riding is a solitary event. Unless there is something pressing that cannot wait, resist the urge to tap the driver on the shoulder. Chances are he will not be able to hear anyway. The tap may be distracting and cause an unfortunate jerk on the steering. It is a good idea to discuss pit stops before climbing on the back of the bike.

Group Etiquette
There is an unwritten code among bikers to keep an eye out for other riders. When riding in groups, the lead bike has a responsibility to keep an extra watch for debris and other hazards in the road. When he spots something, the universal sign for danger consists of pointing a free hand down at the road, signaling the object. As a passenger, mirror this move. This will give the riders bringing up the rear an added indication to watch out for the danger on the road.

Dig out the helmets; dust off the leather. A long ride down the open road is the perfect initiation rite to usher in the springtime. For some, the seat behind the driver is the best seat in the house.

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motorcycle repair cleaningIt’s a weird thing, but many riders don’t mind the hassle of getting their bike ready for the riding season nearly as much as they do when getting ready to store their bike for the winter!  When spring rolls around and you have to get your bike ready for another riding season it’s just one of those tasks that you actually enjoy. The anticipation is almost too much to stand!

One of the first things you should do is read over your owners manual to refresh your memory on some of the maintenance issues you will have to deal with after a long winter in storage.  Every bike is unique and you want to address the things specific to your make and model.

Here is a quick list of things that will need to be checked out for most models, this can be a great starting point:

1.  Make sure the battery and the terminals are in good condition.  You can use baking soda and water to clean off the terminals if they have a lot of corrosion. Charge and install the battery or buy a new one if needed.

2. Check the oil and all lubricant levels.  Top up when necessary.  Depending on the last time you changed our oil, now may be a great time to do that too.

3.  Inspect all cables and treat with whatever product your owners manual recommends.  If any cables are damaged either replace them yourself or take your bike into the shop and have them do it for you.

4.  Check tires for excessive wear and replace if necessary.  Also check air pressure and add air if necessary.

5.  Check all lights and replace any broken lights or burned out bulbs.

6. Check out brake pads and shoes for wear and replace as necessary.

7.  Apply leather treatments to seats, saddlebags, etc. Repair or replace damaged items.

8.  Inspect the drive belt, chain or shaft and repair as necessary.

9. Clean your motorcycle helmet, inside and out.

10. Thoroughly clean and polish your motorcycle and all the chrome.

11. Make note of your mileage.

12. The last step is to take your bike out for a ‘practice’ spin.  Sure, I know you’re an experienced rider but the truth is that we all get a little rusty when we haven’t done something for a while so taking your bike out for it’s ‘maiden voyage’ in the spring will be a good way for both you and your bike to get into the swing of things.  A short jaunt is all you need and it will help you find out if you’ve missed anything on your maintenance inspection.

Have fun and enjoy your riding season!

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I Was There

You don’t buy a motorcycle for transportation, in my opinion. Sure, when you turn your car in at the shop, you might use your bike, but that’s an exception. As a general rule, bikes don’t have enough cargo space, they’re too vulnerable to foul weather, and they’re entirely too expensive. No, you have a car for transportation, and you have a bike because it’s fun.

Cars are boxes, and their occupants (aside from those who live a little and drive convertibles) are very much “inside.” They’re protected from the elements, hidden from the wind, and climate-controlled. At times they’re so stuffy that the gastrological behavior of a passenger in the back seat can ruinously disturb the driver up front. And as far as I’m concerned, drivers are spectators to the scenery and a world that swiftly passes them by. They are simply relocating from point A to point B. What lies between the two goes largely unnoticed.

But then there are the motorcycles. You have the wind in your face, regardless of the speed. You have the 20 degree wind chill (at 60mph) to factor into any weather report. You have bug guts slathered across various areas of your
leathers and motorcycle helmet (or windshield), and perhaps a few on your face. When it rains, you get wet; and when the road is treacherous, you stand a chance of seeing it even more closely – pinned under your bike in a skid. Riding is a real-time interaction with the scenery, the weather, the road, the buffeting wind, and the bike itself – constantly. Whereas drivers occupy the mental wasteland between their starting points and their destinations, riders are always precisely where they need and want to be: riding. Not spectators, but participants.

If I were to close my eyes while riding (and I assure you that I don’t), I would still know where I was. Aside from the freedom and thrill of the riding itself, my favorite aspect is the smell. It changes constantly, and it always tells you
something. One moment it’s a skunk, and the next a cow pasture. Then it’s fresh-cut hay, or the dead leaves of autumn. In the Appalachians it’s wet rocks and moss. In downtown areas it’s the occasional whiff of marijuana, then
exhaust, then asphalt and rubber, then somebody’s grill in the back yard. On Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, it’s a virtual cloud of marijuana, movie theater popcorn, and the distinct aroma of weird. At random intervals along any
road, it’s roadkill. Regardless, it changes with the scenery, and I like it. Drivers miss every bit of this.

When they aren’t punching at their cell phones or wishing they’d reached their destinations, drivers might look about long enough to remember a billboard or a particularly rough section of road. I will remember how an area smelled. Then I will remember that I was on my bike at the time, and then I will remember how much I enjoyed it. It didn’t matter where I was going, or where I came from; it mattered that I enjoyed the ride. Why? Well, it’s easy. I didn’t pass a place; I was in it.

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Silver City New Mexico
Silver City, New Mexico

When I enlisted in the Marine Corps Infantry, I was surprised with the responses I received when others learned the news. Most, probably envisioning me marching away to war, expressed concern for my safety, a handful indicated they were proud of me, and the vast majority tried to relate: “hey, I have a cousin in the Army. He says he likes it, I guess.” A few, however, blurted that I was going to get myself killed. Thankfully, that reaction (a disconcerting one) was rare. But when I purchased a motorcycle, it was the norm.

“So you just got a motorcycle, huh? Well, you’re gonna crash and die.”

An incredible number also felt compelled to tell me about specific incidents where that had happened, too. It was always somebody distant to them, like the husband of a cousin’s neighbor’s niece. Invariably, something horrible had taken place. That, too, was disconcerting. It was always bad news…

“You got a motorcycle? Yeah, I just had a patient who ground his entire lower body to a nub when he skidded off his bike doing 100mph on a back road. Have fun riding.”

“You got a motorcycle? Our prayer requests in Bible study yesterday were for the surviving family of a man killed when he was riding his motorcycle on his farm.”

“Motorcycle, huh…..you ever seen that video of Evil Knievel hitting the pavement after his jump? I think he broke every bone in his body – at least twice. It was heinous. He looked like a rag doll.”

“Yeah, my cousin bought a bike, but he crashed it on his first ride and now he’s in a wheelchair.”

“One of the neighbor’s kids used to ride, but then he wrapped himself around a tree and died. I think he was about 20.”

“Well, bikes are neat, but I’m too afraid to ride. I’m terrified that somebody will open a car door and I’ll go flying off. Have you seen that movie where there’s this scene….the guy landed in an intersection and got run over. It was pretty cool. But I don’t want to ride a bike, though. Too risky.”

I even had one person offer to pay me NOT to purchase a motorcycle. Naturally, I declined.

Yes, it may be dangerous, but so is life itself. Besides which, there are number of measures one can easily take to mitigate the risks – beginning with a motorcycle safety course, leathers, and a motorcycle helmet. Furthermore, most other risks can be drastically reduced if riders set aside their pride, ignore the compulsion to exceed the speed limit, and simply enjoy the road. That you have a bike – a sleek, powerful beast with lots of shiny parts – is showing off enough. Respect it, be hyper-vigilant, and you’ll be just fine. You have a greater risk of injury riding a horse (according to the Hughston Sports Medicine Foundation).

In looking back on the whole ordeal, I’ve reached the conclusion that the first thing that comes to mind with a non-rider is the dangers of motorcycling. Thus, that’s what comes out of their mouths. For a rider, however, is the freedom, the road, the roar of the pipes inside your helmet, and the known fact that people in their boring little cars are staring at you with envy. All their kids are waving, too, much to the horror of their mothers. Maybe everybody’s a killjoy because they’re jealous that I’m going to have a lot of fun and they’re not.

And here’s the best part: Now only two years after purchasing my first motorcycle, nearly every person who said something negative about riding has since gone riding with me and thoroughly enjoyed it – to include the person who offered to pay me to not buy the bike. At least one has purchased a bike of his own, and several more have expressed interest in buying them in the future. I win, folks. Well, motorcycles win. (I will note that one passenger kept peering over my shoulder to monitor the speedometer, but I think she still had fun.)

There’s something about a motorcycle that’s almost universally appealing. Something about the way it hugs the road in curves and bolts up the long inclines that cars struggle to climb. Or the deep rumble as you cut through tunnels and under overpasses. Maybe it’s the subtle statement that, “I can go fast if I want to, but I’m happy just relishing the ride.” All you naysayers, we’ll win you over yet. And then, we’ll see you out there on a bike of your own. You can’t help it; it’s just fun.
About Ben Shaw, the author

Motorcycle Trip Planning-To Plan or Not To

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The Harbortown bobber DVD is from the award winning directors of the movies “Choppertown” and “Brittown”. This fabrication documentary took over two years to make and it follows the building of a ’69 bobber owned by Scott DiLalla. Featuring Irish Rick, Earl Kane, J-Bird and Dennis Goodson, the movie chronicles the crew as they work on the motorcycle and share their personal stories.

Along with an interesting ground up build, it’s also loaded with tons of helpful tips for anyone who wants to learn how to build their own bike. It’s far better than the staged ‘reality’ TV shows, this movie shows real people doing what they do best, without all the drama.

You can almost share in the excitement the first time Scott fires up the bike to take it for its maiden spin. It’s exhilarating when everything works just the way it’s supposed to with nothing going wrong, as it so often does.

Even if you have no interest in building your own bike, this is a great movie to just get an inside look at what building a bike is really all about, it also has a great soundtrack by The Lords of Altamont. The DVD has a run time of over two hours.

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Cold Weather Riding

For an avid rider, one of the hardest things to face is the end of summer and the prospect of putting your bike away for winter. But with a little planning you can easily ride longer into the fall, and even the winter. All you have to do to enjoy cold weather riding is to make sure you have the proper gear so you stay warm. If your body gets too cold not only will it be uncomfortable, it could be dangerous since your reaction time will slow down considerably when you’re cold. 

Another potential safety hazard is the icy conditions of the streets. Even if the air temperature is above 32 degrees, you might still have some slickness to deal with so it’s important to remember to slow down a little. Just as you would in a car, allow yourself more room to stop and more time to get to your destination. 

Here are some tips for finding the best cold weather riding gear so you can enjoy your bike for a lot longer than just three months:

1. Dress in layers. If you are going for a long ride you might actually start to get a little overheated as you ride. If you have several layers you can just peel one or two of the layers off as needed. Make sure your base layer is made up of a fabric that will wick sweat away from your skin. We often forget that even when it’s cold out we can sweat. If that sweat stays next to your skin, you’ll get colder sooner. 

2. You may have to make adjustments to your helmet so that it fits properly over your hat. Don’t try to just cram it on, make sure you remove some padding and/or adjust the straps as necessary. It’s important to stay warm but you don’t want to sacrifice safety by wearing an ill fitting helmet. 

3. Hands and feet are very vulnerable to getting overly cold. Make sure you don’t cheap out on gloves. Get high quality insulated gloves. You can also protect your feet by getting thermal booties. Flexing your fingers frequently can help keep the blood flowing and help them stay warm. 

4. If you are going to be riding longer distances in very cold weather you should probably consider investing in some heated riding gear. That way you can really enjoy your rides for much longer distances, and times. 

Just because the holidays are around the corner and the leaves are all off of the trees doesn’t mean you have to put your bike away until spring. Just follow these simple cold weather riding tips and you’ll have a great time long after Labor Day!

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