Thursday, January 19, 2006

No Bodies Perfect!

Sometimes, a dark hidden side of me wishes that we were all the same... Same attitude, same size, same measurements - all identical, like a bunch of perfectly duplicated clones. Don't misread this; I'm not against individuality or free will, I'm speaking from a purely practical point of view. Wouldn't it be great if every man was a spitting image of Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man? Think about how simple it would be to shop for clothing, or buy a lazy chair, or get a mattress! Instead of trying to design something that would be the best compromise for all body shapes and sizes, all the designer would have to do is make something that fits them perfectly - since they'd be exactly the same as all their customers...

POOF! Dream's over and reality kicks-in.

I love my motorcycle, and for the most part if fits me like a glove. Unfortunately, my butt doesn't fit in a glove (see previous post about custom seats). It would seem that my gut doesn't fit into any old glove either. Lately I've been shopping for a new riding jacket and pants to replace my rather bulky touring jacket. It's starting to seem like I've tried on thousands (when in fact it's only a few dozen) but regardless of how large the choice is, I still haven't found what I'm looking for (Oops! Gratuitous U2 plug). Most jackets are too tight at the shoulders, or bulky at the back, or are - well - just darn ugly!

My problem is minimal when compared to my wife's. If I can't find a decent riding suit out there, odds are that she won't be able to either. You see, there are far fewer choices out there for women (except for the leather clad biker-chick crowd). Add to that the fact that my wife is very picky - in essence the suit must be "just right".

I've started looking into some of the made-to-measure suits (like Aerostitch), but these are quite pricey and aren't the most stylish, opting for a much more utilitarian angle.

Whatever, it's still January which means that riding season is still a few months away.

"Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one." - Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, January 09, 2006

Cape Breton TT

If you're an avid motorcycle road racing fan, then you've either been to the Isle of Man TT races or you've dreamt of going. It's a pilgrimage for many fans, with some saving-up their money every year in order to attend the historic event. At first, the Isle may seem an unlikely candidate to host motorcycle races, as its only 53 by 21 kilometers in size. Nevertheless, it has been hosting the TT races annually since 1904. In the beginning, these were automobile races - it wasn't until 1907 that motorcycles were allowed on the course which winds through the island's countryside and small towns.

Well, for North American fans who can't make it to the small British island to attend the racing Mecca, some enterprising racing enthusiasts in Nova Scotia may have something of interest. Cape Breton will be holding it's first annual Festival of Speed in September 2006, and it will model itself off the famed Manx races. They've even got the Isle of Man TT's blessing as an associated event.

Anyhow, for those of you interested in going, you can check their website:

"I know what it means to do an overtaking in the last turn: it is pure adrenalin!" - Graziano Rossi (Valentino's father)

Friday, January 06, 2006

Your Most Sensitive Asset!

When I bought my motorcycle a few years ago I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, but just like any fling, the flaws start to creep out slowly over time. Last summer I noticed that I simply can't ride long distances in comfort anymore because of the seat on my bike. Now I don't think I've aged that much in so few years, and as far as I can tell my butt hasn't undergone any bizarre transformations. So the only logical explanation is the bike's seat.

Luckily, I'm not the only motorcyclist out there without an iron butt - so there are many aftermarket saddles available. Here are a few of the ones that I've been looking into:

-- Corbin: They've been at it a long time and their saddles have a good reputation. They've recently started adding nice options like backrests and heated elements. The price isn't too bad, but you've got to keep in mind that the padding is somewhat generic, where many other saddlemakers ensure a custom fit. One advantage to the Corbin saddles is the fact that they manufacture their own pan; so you're not sans-seat for a few weeks while your new saddle is on order.
-- Russell Day-Long: The Day-Long seat is a favourite among Iron Butt association members; so that should be a good enough reference for you. These are made to measure, so you can't simply order one over the net and install it. The ideal situation is to ride in and have them measure and fit the seat; if not you must at least send them some pictures of you sitting on your bike so they can estimate riding position, height, etc. Aesthetically, some find it ugly (I do too), but I think this is more a case of function over fashion.
-- Bill Mayer Saddles: Really nice saddles that use molded urethane foam. Rocky Mayer now runs the company that still holds his father's name. Bill was known as both the Saddle Meister and the Dr. of Buttology! He was one of the original custom saddle makers having designed the original "Day-Long" saddle, and many still swear by his designs. I like Rocky's seats because their designs are simple: less stitches, no pillow stitching, etc.
-- Rick Mayer Cycle: Rick is Rocky's brother. So they've both learned from the best, and their styles are somewhat similar. I find Rick puts a little more work into the top stitching, creating nice symmetrical designs. He uses various densities of foam and memory-foam to offer a custom fit. Many who have gone to Rick's shop to have their seat custom fit have commented on what a great guy he is and how he goes out of his way to make things right.

These are the main players, but if you're a tinkerer you might want to consider re-upholstering your own seat. If so, please check out Sunmate Cushions who manufacture much of the foam used by custom seat makers like Rick Mayer. I've actually decided to go this route. I figure that if I screw up, I'll simply have the seat redone anyway - so I don't have very much to lose.

Writing and travel broaden your ass if not your mind and I like to write standing up.” - Ernest Hemingway

Chrome Trash, or Engineering Marvel?

I don't usually buy into the whole "Chopper" phenomenon, to me most of it is little more than motorcycle-by-numbers with some gratuitous chrome thrown in for good measure. Not to mention that most of the superstar chopper builders that are on TV these days seem to have the combined intellect of a wingnut.

All the more reason why French motorcycle and car tuning company Lazareth continues to get my interest every time they come out with something new. These guys aren't only about the "look", but they push the engineering envelope also - which makes it more interesting than all the other custom bike makers. Their creations aren't all about S&S V-Twins and hardtail frames, most of the time they'll start off with a Yamaha V-Max or even a Suzuki Hayabusa - are you starting to get the picture?

One of their latest incarnations is the Roadster V6... yes, as in V6 engine! What's cool about it is that it's a naked sport bike that doesn't come out looking like the lovechild of Chevy and Harley-Davidson (i.e. Boss Hoss). They've managed to create a naked roadster à-la-Ducati that hides it's innards and weight remarkably well.

Although it may not be easy to see on the picture, it has a transversely-mounted 1800cc V6 engine from a Mazda MX3 coupled to a HD 5-speed tranny. Rear suspension is a single-sided swingarm with single shock, while the front is a single-sided fork with an ingenious shock within the pivot. Brakes are rim-mounted with two 3-pot calipers in front and one in back.

For more info, check out

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Are We Missing Out?

It's too bad that North Americans are so preoccupied with size and the whole "bigger is better" mentality, because we're missing out on some really cool toys out there. Want to have some fun? Check out what most motorcycle manufacturers are offering on the other side of the pond. You'd be amazed what can be bought at Yamaha and Honda dealers in Europe when compared to the one down the street.

A friend of mine suggested that it was because Europeans ride motorcycles not only for pleasure, but also as a viable and economical means of transportation. They're not as caught up in the "bling factor" as we are here. How many beginner bikes are available around here for newbies who want to build up their skills before trying to harness the power of a +100hp machine? Not many... But in Europe there's a whole pack of 125cc bikes that are available cheap and everywhere.

Isn't it a bit odd that we can't get something like the Honda Cub in North America, when that same motorcycle is the all-time best seller worldwide? I'll admit that at times I would love to have a Cub, or a similar standard 125cc bike to ride around town. Nobody in their right mind would want to tour with one of these bikes, but for urban attacks - what more do you need?

Alas, we'd rather pay ridiculous amounts of money for an overweight and unpractical chrome beast that some celebrity chopper shop built out of mail-order parts... Truly sad!

Total freedom of expression does not compensate for lack of talent.” - Nicolas Gomez Davila

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Winter Tips for Motorcyclists.

I figured I'd try to start the new year off on a good note and give some tips and advice to other motorcyclists out there... Not that I'm actually qualified to do so - but what the heck!

Please note that many of these tips are from nowhere else than my own pathetic experience - use at your own risk.

  1. When winterizing your bike, you should also consider winterizing your gear. Riding jackets, pants and gloves should go to the cleaners and then get stored in the plastic bag that the dry cleaner used. Boots should get a good cleaning and buffing; I like to stuff them with newspaper or something to make sure they keep their shape. If your helmet has a removable liner then clean it; if not, spray a few squirts of Febreze or a helmet deodorant before packing it away for the winter. Helmets should be stored in a breathable bag (cotton is best) - not a plastic bag.
  2. For winterizing your bike before hibernation, you should be sure to check the freeze-point of your antifreeze if you're in an area where the temps drop really low (if your bike is liquid-cooled... Duh!). In my area, a low of -35°C is not unheard of, so I always make sure my antifreeze is up to par. You also want to shine the seat! Put some sort of protector on the seat and bring it inside if you can. Vinyl that is soft and pliable in the summer heat can become hard and brittle in sub-zero temps.
  3. Winterize your brain! If you're anything like me, you'll find winter is torturous. You can make it a little more bareable by subscribing to a few motorcycle magazines. Some of my favourite winter reads are magazines that have ride reports (like Road Runner), these give me ideas on trips that I can plan for the next season.
  4. If you can't beat 'em... If you live in an area that has significant snowfall, consider getting into snowmobiling. Of course, it's not the same as motorcycling - but it can help compensate for lack of two-wheeled mobility.
"Winter is nature's way of saying, 'Up yours.' " - Robert Byrne

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Greatest Motorcycles

The Discovery Channel recently aired a show called "The Greatest Ever: Motorcycles" which was basically a Top-10 list of sorts. It was interesting to me as all styles of motorcycles (i.e. cruisers, sportbikes, UJM) were represented and the jury was made up of well respected motorcyclists. For the most part, I am in total agreement with their choices - though I'm sure many will not be.

Among the bikes to make the list, we find the Harley Davidson Knucklehead, MTT's Y2K Turbine Bike, Ducati's 916, Moto Guzzi's V8, the Vespa and Honda's CB750. One of the things that I noticed was that there's only one American bike represented (above noted Knucklehead - number 10) and only one Japanese manufacturer (Honda). All other bikes are European-bred except for one very notable exception: kiwi John Britten's magnificent V1000 racebike.

Marine Turbine Technology's Y2K jet bike probably garnered the most opposing comments from the jury, with some calling it "technical masturbation" while others drooled over its 320hp and 425ft/lbs of torque. Whatever your take on it, you can't deny that this is one very fast bike. Jay Leno's anecdote about melting the front bumper on an Infinity with the Y2K's exhaust jet was hilarious.

Their pick for number one sure surprised me at first, but after thinking about it for a few minutes it makes perfect sense: the Honda C50 Cub. No other motorcycle has known such a long production run (still going after over 50 years) and sold so many units (over 30 million to date). Actor and motorcyclist Charley Boorman (of Long Way Round fame) even ran the poor C50 with used cooking oil in its crankcase to prove how tough the little bugger actually is. The final coup-de-grace was pitching the poor bike off a three story building, then picking it up and kick starting it - on the first try! This is probably another reason why the Cub made it to number one - it is quite possibly indestructible.

"Thank god for Roger Corman. He gave me the part because he'd say, 'Alright, you got to ride this motorcycle and jump off this cliff into this bag.' And I'd do it. It got me a reputation, and people kept hiring me." - Robert Patrick

The Sun Sets...

Well, there goes 2005. The Sun has set on yet another year, and I suppose now is the time to reflect on what transpired in the past 365 days... Bullshit! What's done is done - why waste time on it. It may sound cynical, but I hate all those "year in review" shows on radio and TV that get aired at this time of the year, because they usually concentrate on the negative. Never have I seen a news anchor or radio DJ say something like "all in all, last year was great!"

Here's my review of 2005:
- I'm still healthy, which would probably mean that I'm also still alive.

OK, that's about it! Everything else was either out of my control or something that I had a part in making real (on purpose or unwillingly).

This being said, I still wish a great 2006 to everybody. Hope things roll your way.

Oh, almost forgot to bitch about something that's been nagging me the past few days: DIET PILLS ON TV!!! I'll admit the timing is probably right as I too have erred on the side of excess during the holidays, but does anybody actually believe in these pills? All smoke and snakeoil if you ask me.

"Let our New Year's resolution be this: we will be there for one another as fellow members of humanity, in the finest sense of the word." - Goran Persson