Monday, December 31, 2007

Pickin' On The Purists

Doug wrote a great blog entry yesterday that had me chuckling a few times. He writes about how he finds it amusing to mess with purists' minds. You know the kind, the "My-Bike-Brand-Is-The-Holy-Grail-Of-Motorcycling" group. I've teased some of my Harley-riding buddies a few times about the various Japanese parts on their American Iron steeds, and I can attest to the amount of fun to be had.

Anyhow, give it a read.

Winter Riding Or Calculated Suicide?

On boxing day we loaded-up the car and drove my mum-in-law back home to Caraquet as she'd been staying with us for the holidays... and yes, I'll admit that it was a long three hours in the car, but we got there in the late afternoon and the trip was fine.

That evening, we drove into town to get a few things at the market. That's when I saw it. Coming towards me from the opposite direction was a lone headlight that I knew looked familiar. As it came closer, my visual memory kicked-in to overdrive and I realised at that moment that someone was actually riding a GL1500 Goldwing on that cold December night.

Now, to put this into perspective, you've got to know a few things about this little town called Caraquet, my birthplace (although I haven't lived there in over 17 years). In summer, it is festive and quaint, the wharf bustling with activity, and tourists galore wandering through the area to enjoy our many festivals, fresh seafood and beaches. In winter, it is only slightly more appealing than a blizzard in Siberia.

So to see this luxo-touring bike riding around the day after Christmas, on icy roads, in minus 20° Celsius (about -4° Fahrenheit)... well, let's just say it was a Twilight Zone moment. After a few seconds, it was over; his (or her) taillight fading away in my rearview mirror.

To whoever that Arctic rider was: my hat's off to ya! It was either a bold act of motorcycling enthusiasm, or a crazy joke. Either way, I got a kick out of it.

Southern Shopping - The Sequel

Holidays are almost done (whew) and within a few days things should slowly get back to normal. Last night I was relaxing on the couch with a nice glass of Australian Chardonnay (Lindemans - I think), and I was thinking back to all the hustle and bustle of the past few weeks.

I stopped by the local music store a few days before Christmas looking for something for my 13-year-old nephew whose a budding musician. As a musician myself (and admitted technology geek), I headed straight to the keyboard department... ‘cause they always have the coolest gear. Terry’s been a fixture there for the past 10 years or so, and I know him well as he’s assisted in emptying my wallet quite a few times. Things weren’t too busy in the store (oddly enough), and we chatted for awhile.

Eventually, we got to talking about the current state of the Canadian dollar and what effects – if any – it was having on business. He admitted that, although they had lowered their prices on many items, more and more people seemed to be buying stuff from Internet music stores. After comparing prices on a few items, I can’t always say that I blame them... and neither could Terry. Nope, the biggest issue he had with Internet shopping is when customers come into his store, and he spends half-an-hour doing a full demo of a keyboard or other gizmo, only to have that same customer walk out the door and order it online to save a few bucks. I’ll admit, if I were in sales that would leave a rather bitter taste in my mouth too.

But here’s where it gets better. Terry’s actually had some people buy stuff off the Internet, then go to his store with the article in question so that he may explain to them how it works! I’ll tell ya, he’s a much more patient man than I. If somebody pulled that kind of crap on me, they’d get a good loud rant right there in the store... which kinda explains why I’m not in sales.

Anyhow, as Ron White would say: I told ya that story so I could tell ya this one.

I can’t help but wonder if the same applies to motorcycles. I admit that I spend way too much time at the local MC dealers during winter, just hanging out and looking at the accessories catalogs, or drooling on the new ’08 models that are starting to come in. Its my therapy for dealing with cabin fever. So I’m trying to imagine how I would react as a dealer if a MC-addict like myself spent countless hours in the store pestering my sales staff, only to turn around and buy the bike across the border.

But then again, I think the frustration would be doubly so. First because I’d feel betrayed by the customer, and secondly because I’m powerless to do anything to counter it. I’ve heard that some American dealers are actually selling motorcycles at less than what the dealer cost is for Canadian dealers.

So for 2008, my prediction is that either the Canadian prices will go down considerably on many motorcycles, or that we’ll continue to see more and more dealers close-up shop.

Another thing I’ve noticed lately is the number of car/motorcycle/atv/snowmobile dealers that have been popping up. I guess this is another way to stay afloat; although I can’t help but wonder if the level of service for motorcyclists is going to be affected somehow by these new mega-dealerships.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Give 'Em What They Want.

It seems someone at Honda Canada has been listening to their customers. I was impressed last year when they came out with the CBR125, as I found that the "entry level" category had been sorely lacking for the past few years. For someone looking to learn on something other than a cruiser, about the only thing available was the Ninja 250 at a whopping $6,200CAD. The micro-CBR has a much more accessible MSRP of $3,499.

However, Honda was still lacking in the Sport-Touring and Adventure-Touring categories. For sport-touring, they still have the ST1300... which is a great bike, but I've always found it somewhat bulky for spirited riding (kinda like a GoldWing on Jenny Craig). Now they've confirmed that they'll be bringing the CBF1000A to Canada. This model should fit nicely between the VFR Interceptor and the ST1300.

For the adventure-touring segment (which has known the most growth over the past two years), they'll finally offer the Varadero 1000. A quick glance at the spec sheet puts this bike into direct competition with the Suzuki DL1000 V-Strom: similar power, 90° v-twin, large fuel tank, etc. The one thing it will offer over the big 'Strom is ABS (which is only available on the DL650). Of course, it also packs a few extra pounds...

No pricing information was available yet. However, it should be noted that only Canadians will be getting these new offerings, like the CBR125 last year, they won't be going Stateside.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Paul Mondor 2.0

Call him crazy or adventurous, either way I've got to admit that I like this guy! Anybody who has the guts to take-on the Trans-Labrador Highway in the middle of winter on a Beemer F650GS (or any other motorcycle for that matter) is tops in my book.

Best of luck to ya, Paul. If you're ever passing through Moncton, New Brunswick; I've got a few beers with your name on them!

Is It Alive?

For many bikers (myself included), the motorcycle becomes not only an extension of oneself, but also a seperate, living entity. It lives and breathes like us, and in many cases has it's own personality. I remember reading a comparo of sport-touring bikes in a MC magazine a few years ago, and although the reviewers griped about the always hot FJR, or the lack of oomph from the BMW GT (old model, not the new one), they didn't have much to say about the Honda ST. One guy finally admitted that the ST didn't really stick out because it didn't have any flaws... but that also made it somewhat bland and uninteresting!

At first, I thought the comment was curious, but when I got to thinking about it (a dangerous endeavour - I admit), it made perfect sense to me. As time passes and mileage accumulates, there's a relationship that develops between rider and machine. You get to be more familiar with the sounds coming from your bike; the chatter of the chain when it needs tightening, or the sound of the intake when the throttles need to be synched. To this day, I can easily tell when the throttle bodies are out-of-sync by simply sitting on the bike at idle.

A parallel could easily be made between motorcycles and mates. Although I'm sure my wife would start loading the shotgun if she heard me saying such things! But the truth is, life just wouldn't be that much fun if everything was predictable, consistent, planned. Having a "Stepford Wife" may have been every guy's fantasy at one point or another, but it would make for a rather bland relationship.

I need my bike to have its quirks, or its little demons. There's something oddly comforting about knowing that my bike sometimes does unpredictable things that only I understand.

Just like my wife ;-)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Of Southern Shopping and Dealer Survival

I've read a few magazine editorials lately about the motorcycle industry's rising concern with cross-border shopping. It seems more and more dealers are going into panic mode as they see their clients going South-of-the-border to buy their new (or used) motorcycle.

First off, I’d like to say that I sympathize with the dealers in this case. I spoke to a rep at our local Yamaha/Ducati/BMW dealer and he told me that the retail price on some models in the ‘States is actually lower than the dealer cost here in Canada. So to remain competitive, he’d have to sell certain models at a loss! It’s an unfair situation, and the dealers aren’t the ones holding the big end of the stick; although in the end, they will be made to pay.

Problem is, you can’t exactly blame the consumers either. I mean, let’s get real for a moment... If you’re in the market, say, for a new Kawasaki Concours 14. You’d have to be nuts to pay $19,099 CDN when you can hop across the border and get it for $13,799 USD. Either that or you’ve got way too much “disposable income”. Even at the current exchange rate (which is close to par), that comes out to a 27% difference – over one quarter the price of the bike!

Some manufacturers have started adjusting their prices to more closely reflect the climbing loonie, while others are trying to offer incentives to keep their buyers from making that trip down South. But the real truth is in the numbers. I’ve yet to see one case where a motorcycle model was priced the same in Canada as in the US. Now I’m sure that manufacturers will be quick to point out how the market is different in Canada, or how shipping may cost more up ‘ere in the North; and most of these arguments do hold a measure of truth. However, the basic fact remains that as long as buying a bike in the States is considerably cheaper than buying it in Canada, that’s what’s going to happen.

Motorcycling is one of the last bastions where brand loyalty rules (ex. how many die-hard HD owners do you know?); but Canuck consumers can still stay loyal to the brand, while dumping the dealer. In the end, Canadian motorcyclists may end up being the biggest losers of all. As more and more local dealers are closing shop, who will we turn to when we need support? A trip to the ‘States may be easily justifiable when buying a new bike, but I don’t think it makes much sense when you need to get that front wheel balanced.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bikers Can Read Too!

Awhile back I had written a post about "Biker Movies" and had gotten quite a few suggestions. I'm now looking for opinions on motorcycle books. Here are the ones I've already read, so I'm just wondering if there are any other good motorcycle books out there.

  • Jupiter's Travels by Ted Simon
  • Riding High by Ted Simon
  • Ghost Rider by Neil Peart
  • Roadshow by Neil Peart
  • Mi Moto Fidel by Chris Baker
  • Motorcycle Diaries by Ernesto "Che" Guevara
  • The Perfect Vehicle by Melissa Holbrook Pierson
  • Long Way Round by Charlie Boorman & Ewan MacGregor
  • Chasing Che by Patrick Symmes

Before anybody suggests it, I've also just ordered "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert M. Pirsig.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The Big Move

The big Day is finally here. And although we're both extremely excited about moving into our new abode, I've got a feeling it's going to be a long day. We're tired. Not only because of the numerous trips to hardware stores, lawyers, realtors, contractors and city planning commission (UGH!); but the lightning storms we've had for the last three consecutive nights have left us sleep deprived. Oh, it has nothing to do with a deep astrapophobia for either one of us... but our 80 lb Bernese Mountain Dog turns into a blubbering heap of fur at the first thunder clap. She climbs into our bed, crawls up and lies - sideways - between our pillows. She then pants (hyperventilating?) all night long... and drools down my neck. I awoke to a drool-soaked pillow a few times this week!

So here we are, with boxes all over the place and bags under our eyes. The contractor for the garage we're having built should start work within the next two weeks - which is exciting news for me (and Silver). For now, I'm just pushing to get through the big move!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Still here!

Haven't posted anything in a while now, so I thought I'd just stop in to give a sign of life! Things have been crazy lately both at work and on the home front. We're moving into the new (to us) house at the end of the month, so we've been running around trying to make sure that everything's ready... although I'm sure we will have forgotten a few things when the day finally comes.

We'd actually considered building a new house, but in truth that was just a compromise solution. What we were both really looking for was an older house in one of the downtown neighbourhoods - but it seemed that every old house we visited was more of an overpriced moneypit then anything else. So we had all but decided to move to the burbs in a new "cookie-cutter" house... but as luck would have it, the house came on the market just a few days before we were going to sign the building contract. Ain't it funny how life turns out that way sometimes.

Of course, I've also been spending a fair amount of time on two wheels. The weather for the past few weeks has been so damn good - it would almost be a sin not to be out riding! Yesterday I did some recon around our new neighbourhood; checking out all the sidestreets, the local parks, and what the neighbours look like ;-) I was pleased to see a few motorcycles parked in the neighbouring driveways... that must mean it's a good place to live!

I've been so busy that I've actually fallen behind on Silver's maintenance regiment. I'm about 800kms overdue for an oilchange, not to mention that I should be trying to find a bit of time to sync the throttle bodies (but that can wait). I did manage to wash it over the weekend, but just a 30-minute quick job - which was sufficient to get the bugs off the windshield and fairing, and the oil fling off the rear rim and swingarm.

Today we're at t-minus 18 days until the big move, and I just can't wait.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The Emperor's New Clothes

I've been considering getting a new riding this year. Not that there's anything terribly wrong with my current suit; I just feel like trying something different. What I'm wearing now is a two-piece textile touring suit made by Rhyno. When I got back into motorcycling a few years ago, money was tight - but I didn't want to go "sans-suit", so I settled on this one which was cheap but functional. It's Cordura with a removable insulated lining and pads (non-CE). Being a budget suit, however, it does have a few limitations:

  • Colour. Its black. Completely black. Not exactly the best thing to be wearing when you're trying to be conspicuous. It also turns into a wearable sauna when mid-summer sun shines down on me.
  • Bulky. Like wearing a full-body diaper. This thing give me a good idea of what the Michelin Man must feel like.
  • Hard to get into. The pants only have 6-inch ankle zippers, which means boot-on entry is out of the question. Seriously, I've known nuns that were easier than this.
  • Venting. Two smallish chest vents, two armpit vents, and one non-functional back vent. See the "wearable sauna" comment above.

This past winter, I've spent some time researching the various options available out there and I think I'd rather have a one-piece suit; although I can understand why this doesn't work for many other riders. If you're the type that will regularly wear a jacket, but "get by" fine with jeans - then a one-piece is probably not the best thing for you. Personally, I never ride without both the pants and jacket (ATGATT), so one piece rather than two simplifies things for me. Another bonus is that most one-piece suits are easier and quicker to put on than comparable two-piece suits.

So what are my options out there? Here's a few that I've been checking out:

  • Aerostich Roadcrafter: Ah yes, the grandaddy of serious touring suits. Back in 1983 Andy Goldfine decided that there had to be something better out there for touring and commuting motorcyclists. When he didn't find anything, he decided to make it himself. The rest, as they say, is IronButt history. Many touring and long distance motorcyclists wouldn't be caught dead without their trusty (and sometimes crusty) RoadCrafter suit. Go to Beemerville or the Honda Hoot and it shouldn't be too hard to spot a few of these in the crowd (in a variety of not-so-fashionable colours). So what's wrong with the 'Stich - basically, it looks very 1983! That's to say, it isn't the most fashionable suit out there. It's also a tad on the expensive side at about $750USD. I also wonder if Andy might be resting a little too much on his CE-Padded laurels? Maybe it's time somebody challenged the RoadCrafter... Guess what: somebody did!
  • Rev'It Infinity: Although it isn't out in stores yet, this one-piece textile is oh-so-nice, and it bears a striking resemblance to some of BMW's suits (albeit, two-piece). I like the colour which is a light grey/grey combo. It should reflect more heat than it absorbs. I also like the assorment of pockets and the new Schoeller-Dynatec material in lieu of the popular Cordura. This new, abrasion resistant material has some cool qualities like stain resistance, and it breathes without letting in moisture (yeah, I know that sounds like a diaper commercial). There's a whole bunch of technological marvels in this suit; but to get the latest and greatest doesn't come cheap, and you'll have to cough up about $1,100USD to get into one of these... OUCH!
  • Olympia Phantom: OK, these guys seem to have gotten it right, and judging by some of the initial reviews that have been coming in, this suit just might give the venerable RoadCrafter a run for it's money. Available in a high-conspicuity neon yellow, or a boring pewter, this Cordura one-piece with removable lining may be just the ticket for me. Oh, and did I forget to mention that the price is a very reasonable $450USD?

My biggest beef with Olympia is that the nearest Canadian dealer is in Oshawa, some 1,500kms away... But then again, that sounds like a fun weekend trip!


Silver Needs a Bath

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. OK - it's not really all that bad; but amongst die-hard chrome worshippers, it could be considered a cardinal sin to leave a healthy coat of road grime and dust on a motorcycle. Guess it's a good thing that I'm not big on chrome, eh?

I'll usually give Silver a decent bath twice or maybe three times a year (i.e. when taken out of hibernation, mid-season, and before returning to hibernation). Other than that, cleaning is usually limited to removing the bugs from the shield and headlight lenses. This year marks the first time that I've taken it out of hibernation without so much as a quick wipe. I figure it was clean enough and besides, I had a serious need for some saddle time and nothing short of being physically incapacitated was going to delay my appointment with two-wheels and the open road.

Thanks to all the rain we've gotten lately, Silver now looks like a chocolate bar. Lotsa mud, baby! I don't really mind the "rugged" look, but I'm worried that the crud might make it's way into places where it shouldn't be hanging around. So I've decided to clean it. For those of you who actually care, here's my cleaning regiment:

  1. Rinse. Get as much of the crud as possible to rinse away with a steady stream of water.
  2. Lather. Foam-up the panels and fairing, along with seat and cases.
  3. Rinse (again). Make sure no soap residue stays on the bike - it can eat away at the paint.
  4. De-grease. This is for really cruddy areas like the rear swingarm. My bike's got a chain-oiler, so lots of the stuff tends to fling onto the swingarm, inside the rear fender, and on the rear wheel rim. I use the "Green" cleaner, spray plenty on, wait a few minutes, then use a wheel brush to get to the hard-to-reach areas.
  5. Rinse (one last time).
  6. Final buffing. This is more for upkeep than for looks. I usually buff the seat with some beeswax (it's leather, and the wax helps keep it waterproof). I'll also spray some BoeShield on most of the exposed metal parts (ex. aluminium swingarm) to prevent crud from sticking and prevent rust or tarnish.

That's it. It may sound like a lot of work, but I usually get it done in 30 to 45 minutes. Oh, and one last step: get out there and ride it!


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

On The Road Again...

OK, so I haven't posted much here in the past few weeks - but I've got a good excuse... really! I'VE BEEN OUT RIDING!!! It seems that spring is finally here, boys and girls. Mama Nature got the memo I sent her regarding the less-than-seasonal temps that we'd been getting, and she decided to take action. Last weekend had record temps in the mid-20's, which was a very welcomed change.

However, this weekend the weather was overcast with occasional showers and - ack - snow! Yup, you heard it right, we got some of the white stuff over the weekend. But to keep things real, it wasn't more than half-an-inch and pretty much melted away as soon as it hit the pavement. In other words, not enough to cancel a ride.

Tried out a few backroads I'd never seen before and got a little lost for a while... but isn't that half the fun?

Keep rolling with respect,

Friday, April 13, 2007

Mother Nature's Yo-Yo

OK, this is getting a little out of hand. Yesterday was sunny and beautiful, with temps nearing 10° C (about 50° F) - basically perfect spring riding weather. Last night on the news the weatherman said (and I quote) "not really sure what's going to happen tomorrow due to a strange weather system coming through". Ha! Oh well, I've got to give the guy points for being honest.

This morning when I got up the sky was grey, but no snow. When I finished breakfast, it was starting to come down. By the time I was ready to leave for work, it was really coming down! Now I'm sitting here at my desk looking out the window at the snow covered street. Morning DJ on the radio says all the schools are closed, as are the colleges, universities, medical clinics, etc... Yet, I'm still here. I guess it's not that bad, I mean, it's not like I could be riding!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Get Me Out Of Here!

Sitting in my office, it's near quitting time and I'm looking out the dirty window at the street below. It's right then that I see something that really stirs my soul... five motorcycles ride past in the street below (two Yami Stars, an ST1300, an Z1000 and a ZX-12). That settles it: I need to ride.

Some of my coworkers think I'm a bit strange due to what they consider to be an "unhealthy" obsession with motorcycling. I figure it's probably one of the healthiest things I could do. From a purely emotional and psychological standpoint, when I ride I effectively filter out all the rest of the crap that a typical workday in bureaucracyland can throw my way and leave lingering in my brain. Kick-up the kickstand, press the starter button, drop it in gear and let go of the clutch... Poof! All the day's worries are flushed away until tomorrow.

If anything, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than an half-hour at the therapists'

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Guess Who's Back?

Just when the scent of spring was lingering in the air, I wake up Sunday morning to several inches of freshly fallen snow on the ground and storm-like conditions outside. So much for the idea of an Easter ride! Just when I think that I've become jaded and Mother Nature has run out of tricks, she pulls a fast one on me and I'm humbled.

On a positive note, the white crap seems to be melting away this afternoon, and they're calling for more "seasonal" temps by end of week. Maybe I'll go for that two-wheeled egg hunt next weekend...

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Change of Seasons

Things have been busy at work lately, but then again it always is at this time of year. I’ve been spending way too much time at my desk (nights, weekends, Argh!) and not enough time at home. My wife’s been great about it, but I can still pick up her vibes and she’s growing impatient hoping that this spring rush will lose some momentum. There is a silver lining, however: I’ve been riding Silver steadily for the past two weeks!

Man-o-man, it is such sweet release to be able to sit down on it and feel the weight of it beneath me as I tilt it off the sidestand. I’m impressed by how thoroughly reliable an “entry-level” Japanese motorcycle can be. After spending almost 5 months on the paddock stand, I just dropped the battery in it and pressed the magic red button. Instantaneously it purred back to life, sputtered for a fraction of a second, then settled into its oh-so-familiar idle.

I took it easy for the first few days though. Lots of sand and salt dust still on the road, and I haven’t had a chance to practice much either. The old airport’s parking lot where I used to spend a few hours practicing figure-eights, slaloms and braking techniques has been barricaded. I guess I’ll just have to find another vacant parking lot.

For now, I just can’t wait for April to pass and things to settle back down at the office, just like Silver settled into a steady idle.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Other Itch

This year's new batch 'o bikes are slowly making their way from the magazine pages to the showroom floor; and it's so damn tempting! I've seen the new Ducati 1098 (say 10-9-8) up close and, although I'm not a sport rider, I've got to say that it's simply sexy. Sleek, Italian, and that beautiful shade of red that says: "Pull me over and charge me for speeding". Even just sitting there on the showroom floor, it looks fast - like it's moving while standing still.

I've also checked out BMW's new "entry level" bike, the F800 series. This parallel-twin bike has the new tectonic look that graces most newer Bimmers, with the handlebared ST wearing a full-fairing and the clip-on S with a half-fairing. Like 'em both, but I'd probably lean towards the more touring-oriented ST - comfort is a big thing that I look for in a bike. Unfortunately, at $13K (CDN) it just seems way too expensive for a small(ish) twin. But again, you're paying a premium for that roundel...

One of the local dealers has also started carrying Moto-Guzzi. I think it's just something about the look of those two diagonal cylinders sticking out each side of the bike that makes Guzzi's special. The new Griso 1100, with it's polished frame running down each side of the fueltank, is the kind of look I love: modern, yet still a touch of retro. It just wouldn't be practical enough for me; but as a second bike to tear-up some local roads on weekends, it gets a nod.

Anybody out there have a winning lottery ticket they'd like to get rid of? I've got a serious need to go shopping... or maybe that's just another side-effect of acute cabin fever.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Itch.

It's been over four months and the bouts of cabin fever have been coming and going more frequently. Now to make things worse, it's 6 degrees outside (Celsius - about 43 Fahrenheit), the snow is melting, the roads are nice... and by the time I get Silver ready for the road it'll probably turn cold again! The thermometer's recent excursions into the land above freezing have given my the two-wheeled itch. I don't just want to go riding, I need to.

Tonight when I get home I'll roll out Silver and push the magic red button of bliss! Even if I can only get ten minutes worth of saddle time, it'll be enough to hold me over for a few weeks.

Chizzle my blogizzle (or something like that)!

First off, let me just warn you that this is nothing more than silly fun... oh, and some of you may be offended by the resulting "tranzliation"! Came across a site called Gizoogle while surfing which resulted in hours (really) of fun running all sorts of other websites through it's translation service. Ever wonder what your blog would read like if it was from the 'hood? Check mine out:

I don't know who the people are that came up with this, but I love it! Be sure to check out the latest news on CNN too:

...or how about the latest Hockey scores (hey, I'm Canadian - I can't help it):

Childish? You betcha! But sometimes laughter is the best medicine (and cheaper than therapy).

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Crazy, but fun?

Came across the SnoXcycle website while wasting time on the 'net and what they're offering really piqued my curiousity: a kit to ride your bike in the snow! For some reason the hooligan in me starts drooling when I see stuff like this.

I'm thinking I could get a Suzuki DRZ400, which seems to be the only compatible dual-sport, and ride the streets and trails in spring and summer, while hitting the snowbanks in winter. Talk about the best of both worlds, eh?

Cabin Fever - Part II

OK, a while back I wrote about suggested therapy to beat the winter blahs. I'd now like to add another suggestion to the list: GO SOUTH!

Just got back from a Carribean cruise last week and it was sweet. Lots of sun, exotic island, good food... and plenty of boat drinks! Ah yes, boat drinks. For some reason they only taste good when you have them on a boat; try to mix up some tropical fruit juice with rum at home and serve it up in a pineapple... it just doesn't work.

Spent eleven days on the beautiful Celebrity Constellation that took us to ports of call ranging from the beautiful (Grand Cayman) to the downright messy (Colòn). However, each different port had wonderful locals to meet and new cultures to discover. We also made new friends on the boat, both fellow travellers and crew members.

My only regret: didn't get to rent a motorcycle!

Monday, January 08, 2007

Heroes and Rebels

More than any other means of transportation (with the steam locomotive being a possible exception), the motorcycle will forever be associated with certain romantic qualities. All those B-movies from the sixties have forever tainted cruisers and choppers as bad-boy bikes while scooters are either for punk-rockers or hopeless romantics - depending on which movies you watched as a kid. More recent movies like Torque or Biker Boyz, both of which were mediocre by any cinematic standards, have made sportbikes the tool of choice for thrill seeking testosterone-enhanced males. The funny thing is, none of the above have ever left any kind of a mark on my existence.

The riders I tend to admire are non-fiction; not the ones who are riding a dolly-mounted bike behind the camera truck (ex. watch the motorcycle scene in "Paycheck" with Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman - you can easily spot the tie-down brackets on the R1150R, not to mention the dolly's reflection in passing cars). My heroes are guys like Ted Simon for choosing to go around the world on a motorcycle long before marketing types came up with the term "Adventure Touring" and BMW came out with the GS. Or John Britten, for having the guts to go up against the big guys... and win! How about Avis and Effie Hotchkiss, the mother and daughter team who set out from New York to San Francisco on a Harley-Davidson sidecar hack... in 1915!

Of course, some of my heroes haven't reached semi-celebrity status yet. They're just the good folks I meet through the Internet and happen to do stuff that seems crazy to some, but makes sense to others. Guys like Gary Charpentier or Victor Wanchena who ride to work in the Minnesota winter; or the brave women who ride the Amazon Heart Thunder rallye each year.

Hollywood can keep their special effects and stereotypes; I'd rather read about those who are really out there... riding!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Coping with Cabin Fever

OK, I'll admit it's only been a little over a month since I put the Silver Streak away for a long winter's nap; but I'm already noticing advanced symptoms of cabin fever. Buying insane amounts of motorcycle magazines, watching "Long Way Round" over and over again, making a list of farkles from the Aerostich and Touratech catalogs... all are symptoms that this dreaded disease has progressed much faster this year than usual.

Luckily for me, I've discovered a few ways of coping that just might get me through the next 3 months without a complete breakdown:

  • Planning a few trips: I'll sit down at the computer for a few hours and research different areas that I'd like to see on an eventual two-wheeled journey. Then I plug it all into MapSource and try to plot which route would be the most interesting. Sure, I may never get around to doing all these wonderful trips I've been planning, but come spring I'll have a nice list to choose from!
  • Spa: Not for me, of course, but for the bike! If you've got a heated garage or storage shed (or you simply store your bike in the livingroom), then winter's the perfect time to catch-up on maintenance and accessorizing. Even if my bike is in tip-top shape, I still enjoy the opportunity to tear the whole thing apart just to put it back together again. I make it a point to be as familiar as possible with Silver's inner workings.
  • Gym: This one is for me. Motorcycling is great, but it isn't exactly a workout (unless you're constantly dropping it). I love working out at the gym in winter, the physical activity helps to counteract the winter blahs; plus, when riding season finally comes around, I'll be in good shape to take on that BunBurner run ;-)
  • Live through others: I'll spend more time reading blogs and forums. Somewhere out there is warm weather, and you can bet there's a motorcyclist taking advantage of it. Lucky for me, many of these warm climate bikers are also bloggers. I'll also subscribe to motorcycle-related podcasts; 15 minutes of hearing someone talk about motorcycling can do a world of good.
Another guilty pleasure is wasting time on YouTube or Google Video and checking out some motorcycle clips. Through these videos I've been riding in the Sahara, the Swiss Alps, the French countryside...

Anyhow, for my cold weather friends who may be hibernating (like me), I wish you a speedy winter. To all warm weather bikers out there: keep blogging!