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

Saturday, July 18, 2015

CycleGear (Salem) turning customers away.

Now I'm a pretty loyal customer, I buy my motorcycle gear, parts, and sundries from several local shops to help keep their doors open. And I do my best to shop local before searching online, but local brick and mortar shops of late are making it all too easy to 180º out their door, go home, open up the laptop, (and a cold yummy beer for that matter), while I relax in the comfort of my own home, scroll, click... and purchase.
Oh look! Free shipping to my door!
Would you like to use Paypal to place an order?
Yes, please.
Return policy?
Of course, in fact we'll even pay return shipping for a simple exchange.
Why, thank you.
Oh, and you earned 6 Bonus Bucks for this purchase that you can use for your next purchase.
Would you like to use your loyal customer discount on your purchase today?
Yes, please.
When you receive your item, look in the box for a 15% off coupon too.

That is how you keep customers happy.

Unfortunately, my conversation with CycleGear in Salem today went more like this:
I bought a MegaBoost battery with the lifetime warranty in October of 2010, it's starting to act up, and I'm afraid it's going to leave me stranded soon, is there any way you could check it for me?
Do you have the battery with you?
Yes, it's outside in my bike.
Well, our battery tester is in the back, you'll have to remove the battery from your bike and bring it in, sorry but we don't have any tools to assist you.
I have a toolkit, I'll be right back... here's the battery, man it is hot outside.
We'll have to put it on a charger overnight to make sure it's fully charged before testing it.
(Voice in my head) Are you kidding me?!? Why did you have me take the battery out of my bike?!?
Well, I was actually hoping that you'd warranty it for me as it's 5 years old.
We'll have to look in our computer system for the receipt.
No problem, I marked the battery with a Sharpie when I bought it on October 20th 2010, it was midweek because I came up after work to pick it up. I talked to Lauren who used to work here.
(Voice in my head again) Brad, you can't remember what you had for breakfast most days, how the hell did you pull that tidbit of information from your memory?!? Oh yeah, Lauren now works for Team Oregon.

Lauren and I working together for a Team Oregon photo shoot.

Well, Megaboost changed their policy and doesn't offer the lifetime warranty unless it was before 2011.
Breathe Brad, deep breaths.
Great! I bought the battery in 2010, so it is still under warranty.
Well, we can test your battery but if it holds a charge it is still good.
Fine, go test it then.
It could be your voltage regulator or stator.
Yes, I suppose it could be. But you think that possibly it could be the 5 year old battery?
How about I buy a new battery, you keep the old one overnight, I'll be back tomorrow, then you can refund my purchase price?
But if it holds a charge, then we can't warranty it.
How long does it take to charge the battery?
About 5 hours, but they do come with an initial charge. You'd have install it, ride home then charge it.
That's fine, but you won't warranty the old battery?
No, not if it holds a charge.
Here's a thought, what if you keep the battery in the back room for a year, then when it's good and dead you can call me and issue me a refund?
And we can't find any record of you purchasing the battery at this store. Sorry we can't help you.
Really?!? Okay, let's review. I'm asking to buy a new battery from you, dispose of the old one, fuck the warranty and you're unable to grasp that concept?
Fine, thanks for your (cough) help, have a great weekend!

I reinstalled the old battery, thankfully my bike still started, and I rode home.

UPDATE 01/02/2016

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 again 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+ (these guys are great), 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, I will recommend the Eugene/Springfield store.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pushing the Limits of Stupid

I'm still alive, we just haven't been doing very much lately, nor anything worth writing about. Since I am not chained to a desk for work, I am not on a computer for 45+ hours a week like I used to be when I started this blog. I was told asked to "be available" during my hour long lunch breaks, so I would use that time to read and write blog posts. My current job has me operating a forklift on the warehouse floor so no cell phones let alone computer access, a quick half hour lunch break, and four 10 hour work days. I love my current schedule, however with being so disconnected, my blog has suffered, my apologies.

~ ~ ~

I have been using my time off riding my mountain bike, however I've been getting bored with the local trails close to home. Trails too close to town means too many people, too many people lead to too many dogs, and too many people with too many dogs leads to too many dog shits. Not pleasant.

So one must travel further away from town to enjoy the fresh air and tranquility. This means loading the bike onto the car and driving for a half hour or more to get to the good trails. So not only for the fun of it, but to save money and gas, Polar Bear and I load up one car and drive to the trails. This can be better for the environment, but putting both of us together in a confined space for more than a half hour has a tendency to lead to some pretty harebrained discussions and ideas.

Many of our discussions usually start off "What if.......?" or  "I've been thinking....." then before long we find ourselves asking each other "How could we........?"

I believe one of our most recent conversations lead to the very question "What if we could carry our mountain bikes on our motorcycles!?!" We could ride our motorcycles to the trails, ride our mountain bikes all day, then ride our motorcycles home!!!
Wow! To think if so much can be accomplished with one mind, can you imagine the endless possibilities when we put our two heads together? Ummmmmmm yeah, that's a rhetorical question, don't answer that.

Andy managed to get his fat bike mounted first and pulled up to the range one morning just as I was finishing up the last exercise of the day. My teaching partner says to me "Hey look! That guy has a bike on the back of his motorcycle!"

Ha, I didn't even have to look, I knew who "that guy" was and during my break I went over to take a look see. He had the bike mounted on a conventional trunk mounted bike rack, then strapped to his top box, perpendicular to his motorcycle. Pretty cool set up, but it was also pretty wide, so I started thinking out loud of other ways to mounting it.

Wait! Squirrel!!! I had to get back to class!

Photo blatantly stolen from Polar Bear

The other instructor with me that day started asking me questions about what we were doing and why. The "what" part of his question was easy to answer, I couldn't explain "why", although I think he knew. He thought it was cool and told me that he used to work in a bicycle shop so he had extra bike mounts kicking around his garage that I could use for my project. Uh oh, not that I need further encouragement, but by not having any parts readily available to me at least I was able to  procrastinate. Not anymore.

I picked up the parts that night and started mocking something up. My thought was to mount the bicycle on the rear rack, parallel or inline with my motorcycle. Using a fork mount and rail I was able to get the bike up there but it needed a much more solid base mount.

Mock up
Friday of last week I went into town to the local metal recycler looking for a piece of aluminum plate to use for a solid mount. They didn't have exactly what I wanted but I scored a couple of aluminum parking signs for cheap and fashioned a sturdy mount out of those.

I got into the project and was anxious to go for a ride, but not in the 100º heat, I had to wait for the temperature to drop that evening. I got everything bolted and strapped down then went for a ride around the block.

I think this is where fear turned to common sense telling me not to do this, but you know what? "Never let fear and common sense stand in your way" and off I went down the road for a shake down ride.

Shake down was exactly that, shaking my bike, shaking my handlebars and shaking my arms. It wasn't too bad at speed, but coming and going from a stop was disconcerting to say the least. I pulled into a deserted parking lot to attempt some professional maneuvers.

"Kids, do not try this at home. I am a professional rider on a closed course."

No, no, no. No way. Nope. Not going to happen. Forget an offset cone weave, I had a hard time completing a straight line cone weave. A swerve at any speed was sloppy at best, and a quick stop was too risky to even try. Forget it, how would I explain a crash like this to my insurance company?

I needed gas in my bike so I wobbled down to the gas station to fill up. I can say that people do see me, I had people gawking, smiling, waving and taking photos of this crazy idiot carrying a mountain bike on his motorcycle.

I topped up my tank and went to head for home. I thumbed the starter button... rrrruurrr, rrruuurrr, rruur.... dead battery! Well... on an up note, technically, I wasn't stranded... I had my bicycle with me.

I pushed the Tiger out of the way and sat for a minute to consider my options. I could ride my bicycle home in 95º heat, or I could call my ever supporting wife to come get me in the car or to boost me. Hmmm, but the battery is under the seat, which is under the bicycle mount, which is bolted to the rack, and my tool kit to undo the bolts is next to the battery, which too is under the bicycle mount, which is bolted to the rack... (along with my motorcycle registration, not that I would get pulled over. A guy with a bicycle on his motorcycle would never attract the attention of the local law enforcement). I didn't, but I guess I should have brought some wrenches with me.

I'll bet, due to the heat that my radiator fan was on and if I wait 10 to 15 minutes, the bike should cool down enough to start. Photo op while we cool down.

"C'mon Lucy, don't let me down! Good girl! Let's go home!"

I plugged her in for the night and gathered up my gear for another weekend of teaching. One stipulation for using the bike rack parts was that I had to show my fellow instructor the completed project. We just happened to be teaching together so Saturday morning I was off to the range, bicycle and all. He loved it and thought it was so cool, but I had to tell him it was not meant to be and that it was just too unstable to keep. He immediately went into devising another way to mount it, "what if you dropped the rear wheel lower?" and "what about mounting it off the passenger peg?"

Isn't funny how friends encourage you to do stupid things?

Perhaps imagination is only intelligence having fun.  ~George Scialabra

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Inspiration from a Townie

Sonja posted up photos of her Quest for Spring, but it was her Townie bicycle that inspired me to take my Electra Deluxe Relic 3i out for a bicycle ride today. Thanks Sonja!

I love the older style bikes and follow Rat Rod Bikes with admiration for the work these fabricators do and share.

So I thought I'd strip off the modern reflectors, forgo the helmet and go get some photos of my ride with the idea of making a modern bike look old timey. It helps to have an old timey university nearby.

I love this bike, it reminds me of the bike my dad had and how he would take us for rides on as kids.

A simpler time.... a simpler time.