Posts from 2009 that are no longer in the main list.
Sorry about the lack of posts the last few weeks, I have been suffering technical difficulties. Namely, a VERY dead hard disk in my laptop. It died 2 weeks ago, so I repaired it, and it summarily died again 2 days later. So I dumped it on the vendor and went on vacation for a week.
Now that I am back in the office, I have it back and am slowly getting it back up and running. The downside, is that I use client side tools for my blogging, and without the laptop, no updates.
With summer winding down, the kids are getting ready to go back to school, I find myself wondering where the summer went. I did not get nearly the free time I expected this summer, and that translates to alot of 'functional' rides and few 'recreational'. I cannot complain really. Living where we do, even the commute includes some great recreational sites and roads to ride.
This weekend, I was riding to to Lowe's to pick up a could of items I needed for a project around the house. On the way, I had to stop to get this picture on the phone. This is a small group of wild turkeys just wandering near the road. It is, in many ways, sights like these that keep me riding. I find that on the bike, I feel more connected and exposed than in the car. This in turn prompts me to see things like this, whereas in the car, I just blitz on by.
I am not an instructor, and more to the point, I do not consider myself to be a great rider. I love to ride, but I fully understand that there remains so much more to know than what I do. Because of this, I spend alot of time reading and trying to learn more. Sometimes though, things that I do come more from experience than what I have learned in classes and online.
Riding what I call a "Street Line" is one of them. Many of the folks I ride with chide me about the line I take through twisty roads, but that's fine with me. These are the same folks that have alot more time on the bike than I do, so I listen, but I take what is said with a grain of salt. Usually, the line chosen by these folks is one that is straight and fast.
The difference is where I am riding. When riding on a track, the straightest line is usually the best one. The problem, is that we are not on the track. So rather than take the straightest and fastest line, I choose to ride a line that maximizes visibility and escapability. So while the fastest line is usually closest to the inside line of a turn, I am usually in the middle/outside of the the same turn. The reason is simple, if there is a problem ahead of me I get an extra millisecond of reaction time, and I leave myself an inside line to escape too.
Welcome Summer. Yikes it went from pleasant to toasty in a big hurry around these parts. Atlanta has always been notorious for high heat and high humidity, and that has been the order of the day the last week or so. For me, that always presents a dilemma. I want to be safe when I ride, but even mesh gear can create heat issues when your body can't cool fast enough.
On days like today, I find that I sometimes will do something I do not really like to do. Ride in less than all the gear. While I still have the helmet, gloves & jacket, I elected for lighter weight pants and shoes than my normal gear.
I felt naked on the bike.
It was a strange sensation, and while I can see the appeal, I don't think I'll do it again. All I could think about during the ride was 'what if'. What if is a dangerous game, because once you start thinking about what if's you aren't as focused on what is happening.
As they say, "sweat washes off". I think it'll be back to the armored geared in the morning.
I have to admit, the last few weeks have been interesting. I love riding, and really enjoy my scooter, but recently, I've had to take a couple of road trips. Frankly, they are just a little much for the scooter. I say this because I have taken the BV500 on a couple of trips now and I have this recurring issue when I go slab. Any ride where I ride over an hour at constant highway speeds (65+) when I slow down to idle at a stop, the engine stalls at idle. From what I can tell, this is quite common to the MASTER 500 engine, and it is tied to the US only charcoal canister that eats up so much space under the BV's seat. I have considered removing it. Reports are that it solves the problem, and the engine runs smoother for it. My concerns are the increased particulate emissions, scooters are not any better than most cars in terms of emissions per gallon of fuel burned (but by burning fewer gallons have a lower gross emissions than a car for the same milage).
This started me thinking about looking at bigger bikes better suited to longer slab road trips. I find that the more traditional 'cruiser' holds little appeal to me, so I started looking at the 'Sport Touring' class of bikes. There aren't that many out there, so I took a few hours to check some out. It was an interesting day, but what I found was that though I think the FJR is great bike, it just fails to excite me. The scooter still does. So rather than spend the money to buy a bigger bike, I am seriously considering tweaking the scooter and keeping it until it is no longer practical to do so.
Namely, me and my own. Complacency will eventually bite you. Last week, it bit me. Yes I had an accident, in my car. It was a classic case of assuming the person in front of you will do what you expect. Both turning right, we accelerated and then changed his mind. I accelerated behind him but I was looking back to make sure it was clear to merge when he changed his mind.
We all know about the word assume.
What is interesting was my wife's observation later when I told her about it. She noted that she was not surprised, and that had I been on the scooter it wouldn't have happened. Her point being that, though I shouldn't, I behave differently on two wheels versus four.
That thought intimidates me a little. If I as a rider, take for granted the added safety of the cage, how can I expect non-riders to be any better? I can't, and that is a problem.
Needless to say, I am alright, the car is a little bruised but that can be repaired. But it raises concerns about the future.
Since I first came to riding as transportation, I have heard the argument that motorcycles/scooters are NOT more cost effective than cars. To a certain degree, I have been willing to take that at face value. In my mind, it has always been a bit of a wash between the fuel savings and other costs, but there really isn't a way to really gauge the real difference.
The reason is that there are no metrics that makes sense when comparing cars to motorcycles. Miles Per Gallon and MSRP are the most often used metrics, but these are worthless numbers really.
Cost Per Mile
This is a metric I can get behind and work with, but what is a cost per mile? In order to figure out a real cost per mile, you need to address the myriad of costs, not just gas mileage into account. In order to give a reasonable expectation of getting a usable and consistant output number, you have to have some baselines for the metrics. The first is to decide how long the Cost Per Mile is calculated, the second is to establish baselines for average fuel costs.
This past weekend, I had an interesting opportunity. One of the dealerships in the area had the Aprilia Demo Truck in town and was doing a different kind of test ride. Since it is a sister store to the one I do some part time work at, I had the chance to go work the event. Though I could have ridden several of the bikes, I have to be honest that the weekends appeal for me was less about riding and m ore about visiting with the folks that were riding, before and after.
Generally, I think dealership test rides are too short to get a real feel for the bikes we buy. 5-10 minutes in a controlled area just doesn't cut it. With the Aprilia Adventure Rides, they are tackling that issue. Taking 10-12 riders out on an hour long test ride using a collection of demo bikes, riders get a chance to really get a feel for the bikes. I had the opportunity to visit with the riders before and after, and found that I am not alone. These rides are one of the best tools out there for evaluating the bikes.
Those who have ridden for a while have come to learn that as a rule, non riders have no idea what the laws are regarding motorcycles and that many of our enforcement agencies do not know much more than the average driver. Because of this, it has become an almost standard requirement for riders to know the laws of their own area.
There are a number of laws that are vitally important to be aware of because of how they directly impact the rider in every day activities. Parking, oddly enough, is an issue that is so clearly misunderstood on both sides of the fence that has led to comical and tragic results. The misconception that a motorcycle can park in spaces that are not designated for parking is the one that seems to lead to the most problematic issues. Many non-riders assume that a motorcycle can use bicycle parking, or the left over triangles in parking areas. Depending upon your locale, this may or may not be true.
In Georgia for example, it is never legal for a motorcycle to use either of those spots. The only exception to the rule is a 'moped' which is classified as a vehicle with less than 50cc displacement, which can use bicycle parking.
This winter was an interesting season around here. Between strange weather, children's schedules and my own health issues, I have only put about 1800 miles on the scooter from the end of October until now. That is less than half of what I've ridden in the previous two years. The effect has been quite interesting on my behavior around the house.
I have joked about the effects of riding upon my own behavior in the past, but this is the first time that I have had outsiders take note of it. A new coworker of mine had decided that I was one of those people that just didn't like mornings (I don't). She had only worked with me this winter, with most of my days spent in the car. As the kids schedules have moderated such that I can ride to work most days again, the same coworker noticed that change and made a comment to me about it. She did not make the association with the ride, but was curious as to why I was more 'perky' in the mornings.
The only change was the ride, versus the drive.
From my last post, and the title of the domain that hosts this blog, I hope it is obvious that I don't view scooter riders as anything but riders.
Riding, regardless of what, is an adventure that should bring everyone that rides on two or three wheels together. It is not something that should be so divisive within the communities. Little has brought this quite as vividly to the forefront than the last couple of weeks in the ride to work blog-o-sphere. Dan's three and a half (one, two, three, and a half) part postings about the uptick in economy riders sparked some interesting debate. It also exposed some of the raw edges that seem to always be lurking within the rider community.
Even before I started riding, I was aware of the latent hostility that existed between the sport and cruiser crowds. What I didn't know was how much the choice of bike almost becomes religion for many. Being in the technology industry for 20+ years, I should have expected it, but I did not.
In the technology world, we refer to the arguments of platforms and tools as religious flame wars. Where millions of words of invective have been directed at other solutions from the the 'chosen' solutions. The one that most casual people are the most familiar with is generally the Mac versus Windows arguments.
Rather than talk about me and my own riding on this bitterly cold and icy Monday morning, I want to take a day to talk about something that has been percolating in the back of the brain for a few months, and that is, should those of us riding what has ben traditionally referred to as a scooter start thinking and representing what we ride differently?
The reason being, is that the lines between what is a scooter and what is a motorcycle are becoming increasingly blurry. As a trend, I do not see this reversing either. Impacting the issue even further is an increasingly different view of scooters by the rest of the motorcycling community.
Wikipedia defines a scooter as:
Scooters are two-wheeled motor vehicles that have evolved from their classic roots combing a step-through frame, small wheels (10" to 16" in diameter), and rear swingarm-mounted engine suitable for light duty — to a broad range of modern designs that include step-through as well as step-over frames, small or large wheels, front fairings or floor boards, and manual or automatic transmissions — suitable for a range of duty from urban to highway.
Dan over at Musings of an Intrepid commuter has a good summary of an issue that I think most of the scooter community already knew about.
The Economy Rider
These are the folks that are not, and do not want to be, associated with any of the existing community. They bought the cheapest scooter they could find and they use it because of it's economy. To them it is just a motorized bicycle, and as such requires nothing more than what a bicycle does in terms of training and safety.
Dan makes some great and coherent points, but there is another side of this that, to my mind is even more destructive.
These riders are encouraged by the media and the retailers. First, every time we get a good gas price spike, we have the media outlets out there showing scooters and talking about the benefits, but rarely do they talk about the fact that these things ARE motorcycles.
Since 2006, this video is pretty much a staple in the scooter communities to underscore the issue. Take a moment to go watch it. It is the end of a live segment in Chicago talking about how great scooters are for gas and the usual fluff. At the end of the segment, where this video begins, we have the reporter hopping on with a helmet, no gear and no training. Do we need to see the video to know she is going to hit the pavement? not really.
In answer to the question about the mileage, it is just a picture of the mileage starting point for the year as a bit of a reminder to myself and for a couple of friends who have done the same. We are all seeing just how many miles we really ride, just for fun. The funny part is that though the BV500 is newer than both the BMW GS R1200 and the VStrom DL-1000 that the friends ride, it has more miles to start this year :-).
Like so many riders, sometimes, convenience wins over the desire to ride. Then convenience becomes habit, and the old cycles begin again. That's where I was his fall. Between being the kids taxi and some odd weather, I found myself running around in the cozy coupe (my SMART Car) more than on the scooter. Interestingly, some of the old frustrated driver personality quirks started to reemerge.
So with the new year I've been back on the scooter more often than not, and it feels good. The only problem, the weather has remained really strange (it was 25 on the way to work today, with highs of 33, and the home commute should be back in the low 20's). That hasn't really stopped me, but it has made me reevaluate some gear I have.
One thing that this hammers home though. I really enjoy riding in the cold. There is a different feel to cold weather riding. This is mildly entertaining, since I do not generally enjoy being cold.
Anyway, before the holidays, I got to add a Scala Rider headset with Bluetooth and MP3 to my kit. Personally, I am not one to talk on the phone, nor listen to music while I ride. Both of those seem to defeat the purpose of riding. But I do enjoy the intercom between rider and passenger or rider to rider when I ride with a friend. The Scala had good reviews, so I went with it. While it is configured with my phone, I have answered two phone calls on it, both kept VERY brief. Even with those brief usages, I see the convenience. I cannot see the appeal. Talking on the phone is a distraction that just is not needed on two wheels. That said, the sound quality is good, and the usability is very good.