Posts Tagged ‘motorcycle trips’

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 Trip Planning
For those of you planning a lengthy motorcycle trip, my advice is to quit planning immediately. Planning means stating your intentions. And that means the gods of fortune are alerted to the fact you have hopes of doing something, at which point they unite against you to ensure that plenty of things go wrong. Two years ago, when I began arranging a multi-state ride, I knew none of this and planned carefully. Catching me totally unaware, the fortune gods ruined me.

Prior to embarking on a long ride far from home, it seems logical that you should turn in your bike for a thorough servicing. Take every precaution to ensure that your bike won’t leave you stranded, irritated, and walking from the Middle of Nowhere to Somewhere. Or worse. In my case, Molinara – yes, she has a name – received valve adjustments, fluid servicing, new brakes, and a new rear tire. The bill, of course, was astronomical. But, we can’t place a price on safety, right?

When the repairs were complete – and only a few days prior to my much anticipated departure – I had a friend drive me to the dealer to pick up the bike. I left like a bat out of hell, leaving my friend to drive back at a more reasonable, responsible speed.

26.5 miles later, roaring along swimmingly at 70mph on the highway, I heard a loud ping, a crash, and suddenly the bike sounded like it was on the verge of death. To my credit, I didn’t panic and do something novice. Instead, I simply pulled over, discovered my PIPES missing from the mid-joint back, and an enormous gouge torn out of my new rear tire. My pipes, by the way, were a quarter behind me in the ditch, severely dented, scratched, and at that moment searing a char mark into the grass. Despite being livid, I was thankful that my friend would be along shortly to spot me on the shoulder and help me out.

Completely ignoring me, he drove right by. Use a cell phone? No way. He never turns his on. He might have to actually TALK to somebody, you see. So, I called the dealer (who was now closed), informed them that I was standing on the side of the road with a broken bike, and that it was entirely their fault. That done, I limped the bike to a nearby exit, found a Waffle House, and sulked.

To my surprise, the manager called me back fairly promptly and announced that a vehicle had been dispatched to deliver me a loaner bike from their floor, and take mine back for repairs. They even paid for my Waffle House lunch.

But the loaner, of course, was tiny. And I’m 6ft 3in tall. I’ve listed the pro’s and con’s below:
Disadvantages of the loaner bike:

1. No windshield – and my friend called me a weenie for objecting
2. I ate bugs on the way home – I want to see HIM eat bugs
3. Smaller
4. Not loud and attention-getting
5. No saddlebags
6. It’s not my bike

Advantages of the loaner bike:

1. Um, it’s not my bike (ride hard)
2. I got home safely
3. It’s black
4. It’s better than walking, which isn’t cool at all

My Bike
Ben's Bike

Loaner bike
Loaner Bike

To shorten a very long story, the dealer discovered that they had failed to properly reattach my pipes after their work. The tire was replaced, the bike fixed, and returned to me – still broken and lathered in grease marks. So I took it back, and they fixed it again (meanwhile, I’m leaving in a couple days). Then my brand new sissy bar bag broke some buckles. Then it rained. Then I finally left – and was immediately rained on. And then, a state later, Molinara broke again, leaving me stranded, and sleeping overnight on a concrete stoop outside another dealer’s repair shop. And the next morning I was almost mugged in a gas station bathroom. Then, I tried something different.

Quite simply, I stopped planning. I would go where the road took me, stop when locals insisted there was something to see, and not stick to any schedule whatsoever. And you know, it worked perfectly. The next 13,000 miles were completely disaster free.

Don’t plan, folks. Sneak up on your trip and surprise it. The gods of fortune will never know what hit them.

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While the mystique of riding a motorcycle causes many to yearn to shed their conventional mode of transport and don a leather jacket instead, for bikers around the world who enjoy the experience on a regular basis the goal is much bigger. Many bikers dream about it, but only a few ever have the ability to make the dream a reality, here are two of the few.

Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor are two bikers who started a mind-bending 15,000 mile trip on May 12, 2007 from John O’Groats, London to Cape Town, South Africa. The journey that took 85 days included a crew of photo and videographers who chronicled the adventure.

Of course there is much more to this story than charting a course for a motorbike run. Beyond the weeks of planning was hours of physical training for endurance; traveling through different types of weather conditions, climates and time zones can be grueling and disorientating to say the least.

The book “The Long Way Down” won the Play.com Popular Non-Fiction Award at the Galaxy British Book Awards, a fitting reward and a well-earned thumbs up for motorcyclists everywhere. The film will be released on the National Geographic channel in July 2008. Check out the videos at http://www.longwaydown.com/

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