Friday, March 25, 2016

Because 76 MPG

I'd like to welcome a new blogger to the blogosphere, say hello to John at Because 76 MPG.

John commented on my blog, and upon learning he was a local rider and writer, I couldn't help but add him to my blog roll on my side bar.  I enjoy his writing style and I can certainly appreciate his sense of humor; I have yet to meet John in person, but we are sure to get together for coffee or Bike Night soon.
Addendum: John joined us for coffee this morning and hopes to make to bike night next week, great guy.

John is new to motorcycling and decided to write about his recent venture, and like all of us, other things as well.

Here is his about page:

Because 76 MPG began when I started thinking seriously about buying a motorcycle. I had lots of questions. Why buy a motorcycle? Which motorcycle? How risky is riding a motorcycle? What can I do to make it less risky? And so on. I have answers to a lot of my early questions, but with new questions, musings, and knowledge arriving all the time, I decided to try to hang on to some of it. So I started writing it down.

This is not a blog for motorcycle enthusiasts. There are plenty of those out there, and their authors and readers are far more knowledgeable on that topic than I. All are welcome, of course, but the venn diagram of readership that I imagine as I write consists of two circles. The reader in the first circle has an interest in the machines. Maybe he is curious about buying a motorcycle. Maybe she already owns one. The reader in the other circle enjoys a little escape into someone else’s head, merely for the sake of getting someone else’s perspective on this time on earth. This reader doesn’t find motorcycles particularly interesting, but (hopefully) the rambling musings here contain some interest for him. Where the circles overlap is where you’ll find me. I enjoy stories, I’m having a ton of fun on my new motorcycle, and I’m here to tell you all about it.

Some posts will skew more toward the technical, others more whimsical. I attempt to keep both relevant to any audience, and for that reason that I don’t consider this a “motorcycle blog.” Motorcycles are a jumping off point, sure, but what we’re really talking about here is nothing, everything, and motorcycle commuting.


Photo credit: Because 76 MPG

I don't know many motorcycle bloggers that ride bicycles too.... but I'm sure he'll fit right in. ;)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Happy New Year 2016

For some dumb reason, probably in a weak moment, I posted up a Polar Bear Ride for New Year's Day. It seemed like a good idea at the time, sitting in the warm house with a seasonal ale in my hand, but with 2015 behind us and 2016 greeting us with 28ºF and ice, I started having second thoughts.

Long underwear, fleece, windbreaker, heated liner, gloves, suit.... check, check and check. However, it didn't take long before I was regretting my enthusiastic posting. I was waddling around the house as fat as the Michelin Man and sweating in all my preparedness. My theory on layering is I'd rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it. I can always take layers off.

I backed the Tiger out of the garage, and turned it around in the driveway, thumbing the starter to a reluctant rerr...rerr...rerr...rerr.  But she fired up into an eager idle before settling down matching my mellow demeanor. Thatta' girl.

Trobairitz decided to ride with me two up rather than brave the frost and ice on her bike, hoping it would be warmer sitting behind me than taking the brunt of the cold wind sans windscreen, and putting my mind at ease.

We rode over to the coffee shop to meet the rest of the gang whom foolishly agreed to ride as well. I had full intentions of  simply riding to coffee then riding home to call it a day, but after taking all of our gear and layers off, discussing a route and destination, we finished our coffee and the sun encouraged us to play.

Mel, Bob, Jay, and David

So on go the layers again, and out to bikes we go. Then.... rerr...rerr...rerr...rerr, rerr...rerr...rerr...rerr, rerr...rerr...rerr...rerr, shit! Battery is dead.

Fortunately, BMW riders carry jumper cables, thanks Jay! Lucy sure doesn't like Polar Bear Rides.

We rode over to Falls City to see if the Bread Board Artisan Bakery was open, which was not, so we rode over to Monmouth for lunch at the Yeasty Beasty instead. I stayed toasty warm, Brandy's fingers and toes were frozen as always, but Jay was asking if I was "plugged in" as he was cold even with his Gerbing heated jacket.

I was wearing my Ansai battery heated jacket but hadn't even plugged a battery in, let alone turned it on. I told Jay he had his base layer (of polyester), but was missing an insulating layer of fleece and a windbreaker layer. He was strictly relying on his heated gear and motorcycle jacket. This got me thinking.....

I surf the interweb and watch online videos, usually with one of those survival shows playing on the TV in the background, but I'm always learning something; retention on the other hand is another problem. Just the other day, I read this article on staying warm, and vaguely recalling something about conduction and convection I learned in school.

Although I was starting to sweat in all my gear leaving the house, by layering I was able to remove a couple of layers at the coffee shop and at the lunch stop to regulate my body temperature.

The secret to staying warm is strategic layering, with high quality material, no cotton. I avoid wearing wool, but with a polyester base layer, a fleece insulating layer, a light jacket, and a waterproof windbreaker under my suit I was quite warm.

We had a great ride, and as the day warmed up I could've kept riding. It was nice to get out on the bike again. 

After arriving back home and getting Brandy into the tub to warm up her toes back from near hypothermia, I went back out to the garage and took the battery out of my bike. Remember my argument last summer with CycleGear who refused to honor the Lifetime Warranty?

I've babied the same battery for nearly six months, having it leave me stranded at a gas station on the hottest day of the year and now on a very cold New Years Day Polar Bear Ride. I decided to give CycleGear one more chance to redeem themselves, but this time I went down to the Eugene/Springfield store. I took the battery out of my bike, placed it in the original box with the receipt, had it load tested at BatteriesPlus+, and headed off to CycleGear ready for battle.

I walked into the Eugene/Springfield store and was politely greeted by Jon, whom I simply told that my battery left me stranded yesterday. Pulling the battery out of the box, he commented on the date (10/2010) I had wrote on the battery. "Looks like you got 5 years out it, you use a battery tender don't you?" He quickly grabbed a new battery off the shelf, then asked me if I had any other shopping I needed to do. Dumbfounded, I walked around the store looking for anything I needed. Not finding anything, Jon had me fill out my customer information and warrantied my battery. No questions asked, no arguing, no battle.

That, is how the issue should have been handled 6 months ago!

I will never walk into CycleGear Salem store again, nor recommend them. But thanks to Jon, if I have to go to CycleGear I'll make it the Eugene/Springfield store.

So 2016 has started off well for us, and we hope to do more riding this year. 

Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous New Year!!!!

Boring Stats:

  58656 odometer reading at the end of 2015
56807 odometer reading at the end of 2014
=  1849  miles traveled in 2015 

GASP! Only 1849 miles ridden last year. So how does that compare to previous years?

Miles in 2011 = 10538
Miles in 2012 = 8653 
Miles in 2013 = 7098 
Miles in 2014 = 6482 

Miles in 2015 = 1849

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Go Big or Go Home... pfft

This is BIG!

Many years ago when we moved to the US we were shopping for a new car, but just couldn't find what we wanted; a small, affordable, economical hatchback. We are hatchback people, evidently the majority of Americans were not.

They say history repeats itself and much like the big, gas guzzling muscle cars of the '60s being shut down by the oil embargo of 1973, I suspected the oversized Sport Utility Vehicle trend of the '90s wouldn't last very long either and face the same fate.

Graph of oil prices from 1861–2007, showing a sharp increase in 1973, and again during the 1979 energy crisis. The orange line is adjusted for inflation.

Econo-cars were the norm throughout the '80s, but then for some reason either safety, consumer confidence, cheaper gas prices, or vanity took priority in the '90s, making the SUV so popular.
Bigger is better, right?

Small Ford Explorers turned into full size SUVs, creating a marketing niche for the Ford Expedition and bigger yet Ford Excursion. Remember the small 2 door Chevrolet and GMC S10 and S15 Blazer and Jimmy, downsized from the originals? Gone! Consumers were told we needed a full-sized Tahoe and Yukon, not to mention the fullsize family hauling Suburban and I won't even get into the Hummer H2 and H3 craze.

Fortunately Dodge was smart enough to stay with the midsize Durango.

If you wanted something more economical it was either the minivan or luxury sedan. The econo-cars of the 70's and 80's got fatter too, the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Nissan Altima out sold the smaller Corolla, Civic, and Sentra.

Hatchbacks? Oh, you want an SUV, nobody really offers a hatchback. (Although Honda, VW and Subaru continued to make hatchbacks), I credit Ford as the different drummer and releasing their new Ford Focus ZX3 and ZX5. It wasn't until the early Y2Ks when the hatchback made a strong comeback, now you can't drive a mile or so without seeing another hatchback.

SUVs will forever be the soccer mom piloted, family ferrying, parking lot crowding, road barges they are, however Fiat 500s, Mini Coopers, Smart cars, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris, Scion XBs and IQs are chipping away, making their presence known.

So what does this have to do with motorcycles Brad?

Just as big SUVs dominated auto sales in the late '90s, big adventure bikes are now dominating motorcycle magazine covers, showroom floors, and most importantly Starbuck's parking lots.

(And yes, this includes my Tiger....)
A few years ago, after experiencing the SUV trend of the '90s, I'd inadvertently got into an argument with an online forum member whom stated there isn't a demand for smaller, under 500cc bikes. I told him there is a demand, albeit small, and that the motorcycle market isn't all about horsepower and testosterone. I did learn however, that forums evidently are.

At the time, you couldn't buy a bike between 250cc and 600ccs. The demand just wasn't there.... yet.

It took manufactures quite some time to realize that they needed to stop chasing the baby boomers, and look back at their new target market they were leaving behind. Some have stopped at the fork in the road and are building a new segment of sub 500cc bikes, while others are in the R&D stages.

Conchscooter wrote a blog post on smaller bikes and I've been thinking, I'd love to add a 300cc to 500cc bike to the stable, but I'm indecisive between the practicality of a Honda CB500X...

and the reminiscent old school Royal Enfield.

I was unaware of the reliability and maintenance issues Conch mentioned on the RE, so that makes me reconsider.

He mentioned the KTM 390 Duke, a very nice bike and quite tempting,

...but I'm leaning toward small adventure bikes and waiting for the 
KTM 390 Adventure to debut.

KTM 390 Adventure Concept (Photoshop)

Or for the CCM GP-450 to come stateside.


As well as the CSC RX3 Cyclone to gain some popularity.

CSC RX3 Cyclone

Rumor has it Honda is also designing a CRF250 Rally bike, once the 1000cc Africa Twin fad fades of course.

Honda CRF250 Rally

As Conchscooter mentioned, even BMW is getting in on the sub-500cc bandwagon with their 2016 G310R.

2016 BMW G310R

Now if only BMW will make this into an adventure or rally model, only time will tell.

So bigger isn't always better, it's an exciting time to be a motorcyclist.

You have succeeded in life when all you really want is only what you really need.  
~Vernon Howard

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Miss You Bob....

Last weekend (10/31), we went to the Progressive International Motorcycle Show for its debut in Portland. I didn't necessarily want to go, since the recent Seattle shows were waning terribly, but I wanted to support the show's first stop in Oregon in hopes that it'd be better this year.

We have gone to the show every year in Seattle since 2009, back then it was the CycleWorld International Motorcycle Show, before Flo from Progressive Insurance white washed and commercialized the hell out of it. 

We went with good intentions and mustered a positive attitude, but even that couldn't save this year's show. It was a small venue held at the Portland Convention Center, the weather was absolutely terrible, not conducive for a successful motorcycle show, nor for the only marque offering demo rides, Harley Davidson. We braved the flooding in the little Fiat and paid to park under cover; the trip home had me wishing we'd brought the Subaru, the rain was that bad!

Honda was a no show, which was a 'Big Red' disappointment. In previous years, Honda anchored the entire show with a huge, bright yellow carpet, lit signage and displays, with numerous bikes in the center of the arena. They continued to do so when it was moved to the Seattle Convention Center. I was disappointed as I was really looking forward to checking out the CB500X, with hopes of seeing and discussing the Rally Raid conversion kit.

Yamaha didn't make it to the show this year either, that's a 50% no show from the big four. Fortunately, Suzuki and Kawasaki picked up the slack and had some great displays, I appreciated checking out the Kawasaki Versys 650 and 1000cc bikes. (Don't lick the cookie).

 As well as Suzuki's new GSX-S1000 (nice bike Geoff).  

Local dealers did do their best to represent the absent brands, but could only deliver and show the models they had in stock, lacking the vast models available.

KTM, Triumph, and Indian also failed to show, relying on dealerships to fill in the void.

Ducati had great representation as did BMW, but so they should based on their high MSRPs.

The vendors selling gear, helmets and other wares were there physically, but as we found at the Subaru show earlier this year, seemed more interested in texting their friends and spouses than talking to live people standing in front of them with wads of cash in their hands. I like to call myself Joaquin Byer.

We spent nary an hour at the show, didn't collect any swag or take any pictures, and couldn't wait to go home. It was then I realized what Bobskoot meant when he said he didn't go to the show for the bikes, but went to meet other bloggers.

It's the social aspect that make the shows, not the bikes, the vendors or Flo for that matter. So I expect  it to be a social affair for the Vancouver show in January.

See you there!

My whole life is waiting for the questions to which I have prepared answers. ~Tom Stoppard

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The New AeroStich R3 Light

What's better than one AeroStich Roadcrafter Light one piece suit?

This past Spring, I sent my AeroStich Roadcrafter Light in for repair, then when I got it back I updated my post review here:

I am incredibly happy with the customer service and communication I received from everyone at AeroStich,  more so the emails from the girls and staff that make things happen, but I'll give credit for the personal emails from both Kyle Allen and Andy Goldfine too.

As I mentioned in my repair review, I was impressed with the heavier stitching and thread they used to repair my suit, they also updated my zippers with new waterproof ones at no additional charge. Thank you again.

Worn suit (left) vs NEW R3 Light (right)

However, I believe it may have been my comment regarding the difficulty putting on my suit, due to the shoulder pads getting in the way when donning my suit, that prompted correspondence from the higher-ups at 'Stich. I received an email from Mr. Goldfine stating that they resolved that issue on the new R3 suit; how the R3 Light is now made entirely with the heavier thread, that some new R3 Light suits are made in the USA and that they can do custom alterations.

Lastly, he mentioned that if I could spare my suit again to send it back to them to retrofit the shoulders. I chuckled to myself, after being without my suit for several weeks, I couldn't possibly surrender it again.

The next logical thing to do was to simply order a new AeroStich R3 Light, right?

Again, the staff at AeroStich kept me updated via emails on my order, when it was being sewn and when it was expected to ship.

When I received my new R3 Light the first thing I checked was the stitching, yes they use the heavier thread for every seam on the R3.

NEW R3 Light

NEW R3 Light

NEW R3 Light - stitching compared to the previous suit

Heavier stitching throughout the suit

The fabric is their 200D GoreTex nylon used on the previous suit, and it has double layers in the elbow, knee, and shoulder area. These same impact areas also have heavy duty hook and loop fastener system (aka VelcroTM) and the TF3 armor as did the previous model. It's the stitching that holds true here.

Comparing the two suits side by side, revealed subtle, yet well improved differences.

The back vent caught my attention right away. On my original suit, I couldn't figure out why the zipper was designed the way it was, other than "it is what it is". It would only open from either side or from the center, so there was little option for venting, left, right, center or all the way open.

Former suit back vent zipper opens in the center

The R3 Light back vent has a zipper that meets in the middle, so to speak. This affords me the option of venting a small or a varying amount from both the right and left side at the same time, as well as either being fully open or fully closed. Like I mentioned, a subtle difference that makes much more sense.

NEW R3 Light opens from the center to vent from the outer edges

NEW R3 Light adjustable back vent
Additional (VelcroTM) has been added to the shoulder pads, so I no longer have to jump, or wiggle into my suit to get the shoulder pad over my shoulder. It slides overtop of my shoulder with much less effort. This was the one major hang up, (pun intended) that I had with my original Light.

Additional velcro to keep the shoulder pad in place
The R3 and R3 Light come with their TF3 shoulder, elbow, and knee pads. However, the TF5 Transit Hip Pads and Hip Pad Sleeves (which should come as a set) and the TF3 Standard Back Pad are all optional and recommended by AeroStich. Just get them! I've been using the big, bulky, TF3 hip pads out of my AD1 pants and the smaller TF5 hip pads are much better.

TF5 Transit Hip Pads
The magnets are now in little sewn pockets, rather than heat seamed or glued pockets. I've never had an issue, but I have heard from others that the glue can fail.

Magnet pocket sewn on NEW R3 Light
Old glue/heat seam pockets

I found this little button hole, which will come in handy for heated gear, I should have ordered an extension cord, but I didn't know the button hole was an added feature to the R3 Light. I have been using a battery operated heated jacket, but now I can go back to my wired, full sleeve, heated jacket.

Made in the USA, not that I have anything against the Vietnamese, but I do prefer keeping jobs local.

Previous model - Made in Vietnam

NEW R3 Light - Made in the USA

I noticed the (VelcroTM) on the hip access pockets is more narrow than the previous suit. I don't know whether or not the wider (VelcroTM) was difficult to separate or pulling on it caused too much stress on the suit. I would think the heavier stitching would have resolved that issue without resorting to less (VelcroTM). I never had a problem, but a friend has had his (VelcroTM) come away from his suit.

New R3 Light (left) vs Previous Light (right)

I also noticed small pieces of (VelcroTM) sewn onto the underarm vents. Was there an issue with vents flapping in the wind? Do these help keep the vents open? Do they create a scoop? I don't know.

NEW R3 Light underarm vent/velcro

Overall, the quality, workmanship, and customer service is what I have come to expect from AeroStich, they are top notch and have set the bar for many other outfitters to reach. AeroStich is a company that designs, manufactures and sells a product that I can trust.

Thank you again to everyone at AeroStich, keep up the great work. I hope to make it to Duluth some day soon.

Our clothes are too much a part of us for most of us ever to be entirely indifferent to their condition:  it is as though the fabric were indeed a natural extension of the body, or even of the soul.  ~Quentin Bell