Wednesday, November 23, 2011

December to Remember

My wife will not be surprising me with a brand new Lexus in the living room this Christmas... 
 I am the 99 %


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Doubts About Roudabouts

You want to instill fear into the motoring public?  Public Service Announcements and graphic drunk driving films have little effect, these aren't even broadcast on television in the US. Threats of new laws, fees and fines... ha, that doesn't even faze them.

If you really want to instill fear into the motoring public, mention a roundabout.

Read the article here.

Holy shit!!! You'd think the world was ending in an apocalyptic, horrific, fiery ball of destruction.

This intersection is currently a Northbound and Southbound street (53rd) with Eastbound and Westbound traffic stopping at stop signs. The speed limit on 53rd is 45 mph.

The comments in the local paper make for an interesting read to say the least.
- "I developed an extreme hatred of roundabouts driving in Bend. The Europeans can keep them."

- "The engineer study on this project shows an increase in emissions by placing a roundabout. I was at the meeting when this was discussed. We are not in Europe folks. If you want this move there."

- "Can you imagine four cars traveling at 45 MPH entering this proposed interesection at the same time? Haven't we learned from the fiasco out on the bypass not to listen at all to any advice given the bicycle and pedestrian committee?

Does anyone in Corvallis government have a lick of common sense? Put a (cheaper) stoplight there and call it good."

Way to bury your head in the sand and believe me, there are plenty of stoplights in Corvallis, in fact another one was just installed down the street and the last thing we need is another traffic light. All of them are actuated by sensors, none of them are timed and I suggest the city change their motto to
"Welcome to Corvallis, Home of the Stoplight. Enjoy your Stay".
And where are these people getting this idea that the speed limit will remain at 45 mph entering a roundabout?

I am going to speculate, prejudge and stereotype here. I suspect that the majority of drivers opposed to roundabouts have never used them, don't know how to use them and if they have, panicked and used them incorrectly. Maybe they are simply terrified of having to finally use their turn signals.

Although there is now graduated licensing in Oregon, years ago once you turned 16 years of age, passed a written and short driving test you received your license. So this makes me believe that the majority opposed are over the age of 40, 50 or 60 and have never been re-tested or looked into further driver education. These people have been driving for 25 to 50+ years without ever having to better themselves or their driving behaviour. As roundabouts are a fairly new concept in the US have they recently been added to the Oregon Driving Manual. Now I know that as motorcyclists we are always learning, taking riding courses, signing up for clinics and track days to improve our skills. Right?

These same people are simply unfamiliar with roundabouts, afraid of change and they aren't willing to open their minds, research, read and educate themselves on the benefits or how roundabouts work.

When Brandy and I went to the town meeting last year the engineers mentioned a poll they took when proposing a roundabout in Albany, a neighbouring town. They said the proposal was faced with 90% opposition, but after it was installed and residents became familiar with it a second poll revealed a complete change of heart and the majority polled actually liked it.

New, unfamiliar and change is difficult for people to accept, but you see these opposed to change accept it everyday. Technology is a perfect example, computers were unknown and unfamiliar but now these people who hate change are reading the newspaper online, commenting and participating in real time chat and video conversation on Skype. Facebook, bah! That will never catch on. Cellphones are still not accepted by many, but those who were reluctant at first are not only talking on cellphones they are texting, surfing the web and checking email and updating their facebook status all at the same time and some even while driving.

The reason I post this is because I am curious how you motobloggers in other States of the US, in Canada and around the world think of roundabouts and of the licensing process in your municipality, district, state, province.

Which do you prefer?


Friday, November 11, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The 7 Day Challenge

Pick seven bikes to own then name them by each day of the week and ride regularly? That's going to be tough, but sharing a garage with Trobairitz really helps.

Hmmmmm....I thought about European bikes not available over here, money is no object right? But then to get caught up in the EPA regulations and red tape quashed that idea.

Sure there are plenty of older bikes I'd love to own, models I grew up with or remember as a young teen, but I like fuel injection and the convenience of thumbing the starter and riding so my choices are of late model bikes with all the reliability and amenities of modern engineering, well, except for the Ural.

Monday is a Scooter - I'd begin with something tame and start the week off easy. The Vespa GTV300 in Espresso brown, just because it has that laid back vintage look and it can carry a cup of coffee. That and it would be so cool to rock a scooter.

MSRP: $6899

Tuesday would be a Cruiser - I may as well put Monday behind me, far behind me, and why not go to the extreme with the authority of the Triumph Rocket III Roadster. This bike is pure muscle and would flat out kick ass... my ass.

MSRP $13,999

Wednesday has to be a Dual Sport - What better way to handle the ups and downs of hump day than with a dual sport and the Triumph Tiger 1200 Explorer. This was actually a toss up between the Triumph Tiger 800 but the new 1200cc won with the shaft drive and traction control and I can buy an 800 with my own money.

MSRP Not Available, I'm guessing $16,999

Thursday I went with Electric - Brammo Empulse 10.0 Electric Motorcycle, simply for the peace and quiet, besides, it's been a long week.

MSRP $13,995

Friday requires a Tourer - and Trobairtz already put a Can-Am Spyder in her "our" garage so I chose a BMW K1600GTL for swtichin' to glide and I may want to haul some camping gear or tour for the weekend.

MSRP w/premium package $25,845

Saturday demands a Sidecar - Ural Patrol 2WD in orange of course. This would be a great bike to go meet the gang for Saturday morning coffee, run errands, groceries then go play in the mud and still have all weekend to get unstuck or completely dismantle, repair and reassemble using the stock toolkit (right Jim?).

MSRP $13,199

Sunday - I was going to go with classic style bike but again I can borrow Trob's Triumph Bonneville so that opens up my next choice for a Supermoto Husqvarna TE511. This too is a toss up, I could have just as easily gone with a KTM, Suzuki DR, Honda CRF230L as long as I had two sets of wheels and tires, one set for street and one set for dirt.

 MSRP $8,999

Not too bad, I managed to keep it under $100k but there is always title, registration and accessories to put it over the top. I'm looking forward to everyone's choices and thanks for the challenge sweetheart.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Cold Weather Riding - Gear

Okay, before rolling the bike out of the garage, check your gear. You aren't going to get far or be very comfortable riding in cold or wet weather if you're freezing cold and thinking about how freezing cold you are when you should be thinking about everything else involved with riding a motorcycle.

First thing you'll notice as soon as you get the bike started, your gloves and full face helmet on is that your visor is fogging up. Your visor is going to fog up, period. I haven't tried a 3/4 helmet or open face helmet but if you do please let me know as I have yet to find a way to keep my visor completely clear short of stop breathing. I have been tempted to try the Scorpion snowmobile helmet but I am tired of throwing good money after bad.

I do however know of a few products to help. Store your helmet inside where it's warm, the cold garage will just make it worse when you stuff your warm noggin into a cold helmet. If you're going to ride in the cold on a regular basis look into getting a Pinlock or Fog City visor insert. It creates a thin pocket of air between the insert and visor and will last a year, two or three if you're careful cleaning it. Never use paper towel or tissue to clean your visor, paper is made from wood products and will scratch, use a soft clean cotton cloth or those cleaning cloths you get from the eye doctor.

I buy a smoked visor for summer riding so my stock clear visor that comes with the helmet gets a Fog City insert for winter and I can still use it for night riding too. One problem you may experience is a bit of distortion at night and oncoming headlights will cast a bit of starburst or glare but I got used to it fairly quickly.

(online photo)

You can try anti-fog sprays, dish soap, baby shampoo, Cat Crap, Pledge furniture polish or a potato but I find these snake oils have to be applied everyday and for me are not worth the hassle. Pledge does make your helmet smell nice though.

Next, you're going to have to learn to hold your breath and control your breathing. Stop lights and stop and go traffic is the worst part of cold weather riding. If you're not moving you're fogging up. I recommend using a breath box or Respro Foggy mask. Scorpion makes a breath box specifically for their helmets, I've used it and they work well.

(online photo)

(online photo)

Unfortunately, these don't work well for anyone who wears glasses. So another risk I take is to ride with just my visor as protective glasses are just another surface to fog up. In my defense, I do have a good size windscreen on my bike. I wear yellow lens safety glasses when I can and as long as I am moving they don't fog too bad. I exhale slowly and direct my breath downward into my neck tube.

Get yourself a Buffwear neck tube. These things are so versatile you'll wonder how you ever rode without one. It keeps the sun off your neck in the summer, bees out of your jacket and the wind out of your helmet.

Although riding in colder temperatures doesn't require heated gear, I recommend it. Layering is a good substitute, just don't layer so much like Randy from A Christmas Story that it hampers your ability to operate the controls or turn your head.

(online photo)

Heated gear keeps you warm without the bulk and although it can be expensive I believe it is well worth the investment. Just make sure your bike's electrical system can handle the draw, replacing stators and rectifiers can be expensive. I wear the Tourmaster Synergy full liner as it comes with the control module and I've never had trouble with it. I understand Gerbing may be better but the control module is an extra purchase. There has been some major advances the past few years in heated gear and rechargeable battery operated options are now available which is great for football games or other outdoor activities.

While looking into your electrical system wire up some heated grips. This is probably the best value for the money on any bike and I would put them above heated gear on the list of things to buy. The SPI is a great bit of kit, inexpensive and relatively simple to install. If you're looking for a more rugged set up I installed the Oxford Hot Grips on the Tiger. Both are great products and each one is simply a matter of preference and cost.

Along with heated grips, hand guards are important. Grips will keep your palms warm but hand guards will keep the cold wind from robbing your hands of heat. Look into model specific guards, aftermarket or universal, just make sure you buy the best coverage you can. Anything that wraps around the outside of the bar is great and will keep your fingertips out of the wind. Off-road guards are better than nothing but I removed the Cycra guards from my Tiger and put the larger stock guards back on. We bought VStrom handguards for Trobairitz and they are fantastic. If you can't find hand guards to fit your bike try Moose Mitts.

No, not these...
(online photo)

These!!! Moose Mitts, also known as Hippo Hands.
(online photo)

These fit over your handlebars and you slip your gloved hands into them. They are relatively inexpensive and work very well but you better know your controls because you can't see them. The one and only problem I found with these is if it foggy or rainy and you have to wipe your visor it is difficult to get your wet glove back into these at speed. I imagine the more rigid version or Hippo Hands maybe better but again are much more expensive.

Gloves, gloves, gloves... glove is all you need. Gloves so many choices, so many styles, materials and textures. Ribbed for her pleasure... Wait! What? Sorry, wrong glove.
I buy textile gloves over leather gloves and gauntlet over short cuff. For a winter glove I find textile gloves are more flexible, come with reflective piping and dry quickly. Leather winter gloves tend to be stiff in the cold, bulky and take much longer to dry, not to mention a losing proposition for the cow. Gauntlet gloves keep the cold and wet weather from wicking up your sleeves. Now there are two ways to wear gauntlets gloves, go out to the garage and sit on your bike. Do your elbows sit lower than your wrists? Wear the gauntlet on the outside of your sleeve. Do your elbows sit higher that your wrists? Wear the gauntlet on the inside of your sleeve. The reason? RAIN! Water will run down your arms to the lowest point, either to your elbows or your wrists and if you're not wearing gauntlet gloves properly you are going to end up with a glove full of water or a forearm soaked down to your elbow. Short cuff gloves... well you're on your own. Either way, look for a good waterproof pair of gloves, as much as you can afford. Some come with wiper blades stitched into the finger or thumb, I don't care for these as they are usually cumbersome at best and again reduce flexibility. Also note that over time the insulated padding will break down and effectiveness will drop year after year. If you can afford it, buy two pair, not necessarily the same gloves but if you are torn between two pair, buy them both. It is nice to a have a warm, dry pair to switch to halfway through the ride, at lunch or after work and gives you the opportunity to try a different brand. You'll eventually favor one over the other so keep the other in your saddlebags or tank bag. If you love the pair you have now and they aren't waterproof I can recommend the lobster claw style glove covers, they keep your gloves dry and block the wind. I don't use them very often so I went with the Fieldsheer ZZZ Over Glove but I would trust the Fieldsheer 2.0 Over Glove to be just as good. They take a bit of getting used to but you will be surprised how quickly you do. Another option is silk glove liners, they don't work as well as over gloves but for a few bucks they do help.

These boots are not made for walking and again waterproof is a must. You can buy Frogg Leggs boot covers if need be, but a good boot is well worth it. I am currently wearing the Tourmaster Solution boot which is no longer available and have been replaced with the Solution 2.0 WP. They have served me well for 18 months and I am going into my second winter with them. Next winter I'll step up to the SIDI Way Rain boot mainly because they are made of Lorica and considered vegan.

Socks, like gloves offer many different styles, materials and fabrics. There are Ceramic Sokz, coconut socks, merino wool socks, snowboarding socks, motocross socks, electric socks, socks with toes, electric socks you name it. I am using Kirkland Signature merino wool socks from Costco. Just find something that works, it's just trial and error. Too many layers can be too tight and cold, too loose and... well remember as kids we were always pulling up your socks.

Jackets and pants. This is where the majority of your budget will go, next to the bike and helmet purchase, jacket and pants are going to set you back hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Buy what you can afford of course and stick with reputable brand names. You're shopping for function, not frosting.
My personal preference is Aerostich, I bought their AD1 pants last year and I absolutely love them. They are a great over pant with full length zippers, gusseted crotch, adjustable armor/padding and they are waterproof. They are simple, without liners or insulation, no fuss no muss. I can layer long johns, fleece pants or jeans under them depending on the temperature or length of ride and I'm not caught up in zippers, velcro or snaps. In fact, I'm saving my pennies for their Darien jacket for the same reason.
Some things to consider with gear are style, fit, comfort, warmth, rain flaps, waterproofilityness and visibility. Three quarter length jackets are great for dual sports or standards but are too bulky for cruisers and sportbikes, shorter coats are great for cruisers but are going to show off your plumber's crack or whale tail on a sportbike. Check to see if the jacket zips to the pants as this will keep the jacket from riding up and letting the cold air in. Ride your bike to the store when buying gear and ask your local shop if they'll let you test sit their gear on your bike in the parking lot (offer to leave them your driver's license or credit card). Take your time, take all day, try several shops, you want to be comfortable and get to know your local dealer. I've posted a lot of links but I always shop local when I can, we need these businesses to stay open.
You want the jacket to fit, not so loose the armor shifts but not so tight you can't wear heated liner or layer some Under Armor, a shirt and a sweater under it without cutting off circulation or hampering operation of your bike. Remember to allow enough room around the neck for a neck tube, buff or scarf and still turn your head comfortably and wear your helmet when trying jackets on. You don't want to buy a jacket only to find the collar pushes your helmet down or not allow you to turn your head, it's a motorcycle gear shop, you're trying on gear so they expect it and encourage it.
Look for waterproof outer shell, Gore-Tex, storm flap zippers and waterproof pockets and zippers. I've lost a perfectly good digital camera to a pocket full of water, now I use ziplock bags whether the pocket is waterproof or not, if it keeps water out it'll keep water in.
You want a double fold storm flap on the main zippers, the fabric doubles back over itself and lays over the zipper and secured with velcro or snaps.

Storm flaps over zipper.
(online photo)

Liners are a matter of preference, they allow you to zip in or zip out layers depending on the weather. A waterproof liner is good, but make sure it is a second line of defense and not the only waterproof protection. Many summer jackets masquerade as waterproof jackets simply by adding a liner, at the very least get a 3 season jacket.
Personally, a fleece liner does nothing but piss me off, wear a long sleeve shirt and try the jacket on, I'll guarantee your shirt will end up around your shoulders by the time you get the jacket on. If it does have a fleece liner make sure you're willing to fight with it or wear a slick under armor shirt under it.

Visibility, if it's cold and rainy then drivers aren't expecting to see motorcycles. It's winter, why would anyone be riding a motorcycle in the winter? This can work for us too because when they do see us they see us, it is in disbelief but they SEE us. Retro-reflective piping is found on most jackets and you can buy a Hi-Vis jacket or buy a vest to go over your jacket.

Pants, the most important features you want to look for in pants is a waterproof crotch and ease of removal. When riding in the rain, unless you have a barn door sized windscreen all that water is going to run down the front of your jacket and puddle on your seat, right between your legs. Oh such a wonderful feeling when it starts to wick through your jeans and into your... well let's just say that water ain't warm. Check the inner seams, make sure they are seam taped or lined or sealed tight, this is where quality counts. Be careful of too many layers. All the liners, snaps and velcro sure keep you warm and snug but they aren't so much fun when you're doing the pee pee dance trying to get out of them.

Trobairitz loves the Rev'it Siren jacket and Rev'it Sand pants and says they "were 100% waterproof riding back from Day to Ona this year. No leaks" Here are a couple of her reviews.

That about covers it from head to toe for gear. I welcome any comments on gear you use, what tips and tricks you have and what works and what doesn't.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Cold Weather Riding - Traction

Autumn is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere and with falling leaves and shorter daylight hours comes the threat from Jack Frost and Old Man Winter, but that doesn't mean you have to stop riding. You can extend your riding time past the "riding season" by exploring the wonderful world of cold weather riding, unless you live in the snow belt of course. Many of us live in areas where we rarely see snow, so why not ride? I ride in the cold weather for the challenge and I guess for the same reason why climbers climb, because it was there. The "how" on the other hand is a little more difficult to explain. I'll start with traction, how I assess the risk and decide whether or not to ride or admit defeat and succumb to using the car.

There is plenty to consider when venturing out in the cold and as with any ride, risk is the most important factor you must take into account. Steve of Scooter in the Sticks just wrote about risk and getting your head around cold weather riding.

Along with risk, weighing heavy is traction. The air is cold, your tires are cold and the road is cold. This is going to affect how the bike handles and how you handle the bike. Every move you make is going to be compromised, from accelerating, to turning, leaning and especially stopping. You could simply make it a rule that you don't ride below a certain temperature, but you're going to have to decide what that temperature is. Slowly and carefully work your way down to colder temperatures.

When the temperatures drop below 36° or so and the weather is questionable I check the thermometer, take my cup of coffee and I stroll outside and down the street. I'm looking for any signs of frost, moisture on the road from either fog or the previous night's rain and glare on the road from porch lights, streetlights or car headlights. I check the lawn, the windshield on the car, the tops of mailboxes, manhole covers or anything that will give me an indication that frost is present and may be slippery. I know that my input to the controls of the bike is going to have to be slow and precise. I can't grab a fist full of throttle or a handful of brake. Crosswalk lines, painted arrows, and corners are going to be slick. I have to be that much more aware.

Changes in color of the road, wet equals slick.

Pay attention to the weather, short of becoming a meteorologist, note that yesterday's highs are going to affect the morning commute. Was is sunny and warm, was it rainy and cool or has it been below freezing for days on end? If it was sunny and warm or rainy then chances are that the ground temperature will be warmer than the air temperature. Notice how snow doesn't stick without numerous days of below freezing temperatures and it just melts to a slushy mess? However, if it has been below freezing for several days then I'm checking radar maps for it be dry without any chance of rain in the forecast before I head out.

Once I'm out I'm always watching for changes in texture of road surfaces and any changes in color. They don't call it black ice for nothing. Bridges and hidden culverts are the most dangerous, anything open to the air underneath can be frosty. Watch for corners with trees overhanging the road, with the sun so low in the sky this time of year the road stays wet and can turn to ice overnight. Wet leaves and moss are great indicators of shady corners. If it gets too slick on the secondary roads I'll stick to major highways and thoroughfares where traffic has a tendency to dry the roads and clear any debris.

Moss on the shoulder, could mean moss in the corner.

If you are careful and use common sense, riding in the cold can be quite rewarding. Next I'll post up about gear.