Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Luggage Limits

Motorcycles are a great method of travel, much moreso than the automobile or train, or even aeroplane. Covering miles on a motorcycle is as much a journey of discovery as it is simply displacing yourself from Point A to Point B. You get a panoramic view of the road and countryside that no automobile can offer. The sights and smells (yes, even the bad ones) are ever present for your enjoyment. In short, its the most rewarding way that I've found to travel.

There is, however, one caveat: Minimal luggage space. Although many of us cling tooth and nail onto the ideal image of the lone traveling motorcyclist with little more than a sleeping bag and knapsack tied to his rear seat with a few bungee cords, in real life it simply doesn't work. At least, not for me! I've gotten rather spoiled by the evolution of man, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I like a fresh change of clothes after a long day in the saddle, all to make me presentable enough so that I may discover what any given town's culinary artists have to offer. I've also grown quite fond of all my digital gadgets and things. After all, what's the use of buying a video camera or digicam if I'm going to leave it at home when I travel?

All these wants and needs are doubled due to my most important accessory when travelling: my wife! Yes, she also has a list of "favourite things" that she can't bare to leave behind, regardless of the mode of transportation. So you see, the two sidecases, topcase and tankbag are usually full to capacity when we head out for a few days of two-wheeled discovery. I had considered getting larger sidecases, but at best they would only add 8 or 10 liters capacity to my current rig, not to mention that they'd look a bit too wide. A friend of mine once commented about a ZX-10 Ninja with Givi sidecases that it "looks like its got a bad case of hemorroids"! I really needed to find a more palatable alternative.

The obvious solution was the one I had been trying to avoid: a trailer. Most motorcycles I had seen pulling a trailer were geriatric luxo-barges (Goldwing et al.) - not exactly my cup 'o tea. Add to that the fact that most trailers seem to have a greater utilitarian leaning than aesthetic (i.e. they're butt-ugly), and you can start to figure out why I'd been trying to mentally block them out of my mind. Enter the mono-wheeled trailer!

The first mono-wheeled trailer I heard of was the Cyclops, which strangely resembles the small trailers that I see many long-distance cyclists tugging along. Although I wasn't too crazy about the look of it, the idea of having a trailer that didn't affect the motorcycle's handling appealed to me. A friend then directed me to the Uni-Go website. This is a small mono-wheeled trailer that (used to) be made in New Zealand. The biggest advantage to the Uni-Go was it's looks! It was simply stunning. The downside, however, was its price: $2,500 or more for a motorcycle trailer is simply, in my mind, ludicrous. I'm not saying it's not worth that much - just that I'm too frugal to pay that amount. I just couldn't bring myself to pay an accessory one quarter the cost of my motorcycle!

Enter the Monogo. Michel Vachon of Granby, Québec has found a very ingenious way to build a mono-wheeled trailer while still keeping costs low. Rather than start from scratch and build the whole trailer from the ground-up, he decided to use parts that were readily available and, best of all, relatively inexpensive. The body of the Monogo trailer is actually a car-top luggage carrier (i.e. a Thule box). By using this, he doesn't have to fabricate the body out of fiberglass or steel. He simply added a lightweight suspension, a simple hitch, and voilà ! You've got a very useful and nice looking trailer for under $1k! This just might end up being the solution to my dilemma.

"Riches do not consist in the possession of treasures, but in the use made of them” - Napoleon Bonaparte

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Everyday Horror Story

Read the following entry on CanyonChasers and it scared me.

Is 25 Years Without Training Acceptable? - Canyonchasers News

It really got me thinking (as always - a dangerous thing) about how many bad drivers share the road with us everyday. The story that Dave relates is, if anything, all too common. How many times in the last few weeks or so have you been witness to somebody running a red light, or cutting somebody off, or narrowly missing a pedestrian? The list goes on and on.

Dave raises some controversial issues; like the privilege to drive for physically or mentally impaired persons. Since we're being controversial, I'd like to raise a few eyebrows myself! Should we require mandatory driver testing at prescribed intervals? I think so. I also think that it should apply to all drivers, not just seniors, or juniors, or handicapped, etc. Every five years or so, we should be obligated to do a written test, and pass a driving exam. If you fail, you go out and get a good pair of walking shoes.

Anyhow, I'm sure my thoughts will piss-off quite a few who believe it's their "God given right" to drive (or ride) like a complete idiot. Here's news Bubba: if it was your right, you wouldn't need a licence now would you?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Isn't this a bit much?

I realize that with our North-American mentality bigger is always better, and super-sizing seems like a good thing... but really! How many people really need a 200hp motorcycle? The operative word being need. Kawasaki's new Ninja ZX14 has a 1400cc inline-4 engine that - most people are predicting - will break the 200hp barrier fresh out of the showroom. All this power on a sportbike sounds like a recipe for disaster.

What will they think of next: a turbine-powered motorcycle? Oops... It's already been done ;-)

Friday, February 03, 2006

Choices: The Good And The Bad

Our lives are defined by the choices we make, so is the burden of being an independant and self-aware being. OK - before you start thinking that I'm in a deeply philosophical mood, I better get to the point. After all, I risk upsetting the very few readers out there that have ever seen my blog! The true subject of this post is photography. 35mm SLR cameras to be exact.

Quite a few years ago when I decided to get into photography, I bought my first real SLR. There were a few used SLR's available - the usual assortment of Nikon's and Canon's - but I chose the road less traveled. It was an old, used and heavily abused Minolta Maxxum 7000 - one of the first autofocus SLR's. To me, it was a beautiful tool that saw me through my formative years. Just about every type of film to grace the Photolab's shelves went through that camera, and over time I acquired a complete collection of lenses and accessories to go with it. Telephoto, wide angle, fisheye, zooms, macro... just about everything is tucked in my camera bag. Eventually the old Maxxum started breaking down on me, and I just couldn't trust it as a primary camera anymore. So I went out and bought a brand spankin' new Maxxum 7 - pure photographic nirvana.

Everything was rosy until I noticed that many pros were switching to digital by simply changing their SLR. Nikon and Canon both came out with digital equivalents to their film-based cameras, which meant that existing lenses and flash units would still work with the newer digital SLR's. Figuring that Minolta wouldn't be too far behind in the trend, I waited... and waited. Eventually I gave up and bought a Fuji model. Minolta did come out with a digital SLR, but it took them a long time.

Just last week I heard that Minolta has sold off all of their photographic technology to Sony who intends on building a digital SLR with interchangeable lenses that will be compatible with Minolta's line of lenses. Maybe all is not lost after all. In this case, my initial choice may not have been as bad as it seems.

"Life is a sum of all your choices." - Albert Camus

What Do Motorcyclists Want?

I've been thinking lately - and that's a dangerous thing. What do motorcyclists want? I'm looking for ideas to manufacture an accessory or farkle for motorcycles, but I'm not sure what to build. Why would I want to do this, you ask? Simple. It sounds like a fun thing to do!

Honestly, I'm getting tired of my daily grind: go to office, deal with issues, get pissed on, go home, repeat. I mean seriously, there's got to be a better way to make a living. I'm not looking for a get-rich-quick scam or something that will generate millions. I don't want this to evolve into a big corporation. I don't look forward to making my IPO. I just want to make a living doing something I enjoy.

So why manufacture a motorcycle accessory? Again, it's very simple. I'm a motorcycle nut - actually, make that an aficionado. I breathe, eat and sleep motorcycles. I also enjoy tinkering; always have. From the moment I developed motor control, I've been having fun building, rebuilding, demolishing, modifying and customizing just about everything I've been able to get my hands on.

What will I build? Well, that's where I'm hoping to get some guidance. What kind of product do motorcyclists want that is currently either a) in short supply, or b) too expensive? I've been toying with the idea of building a mono-wheeled trailer that would offer about 80 liters of baggage space. This came to me as I was looking for one myself and noticed how darn expensive these buggers are. I mean really: $5K for a motorcycle trailer? Get real! My aim would be to manufacture something similar for one quarter of that. Just consider me the Burt Rutan of the motorcycle accessory world.

Anyhow, if anybody has an idea for a cool motorcycle accessory - let me know!

"Analyzing what you haven't got as well as what you have is a necessary ingredient of a career." - Orison Swett Marden