Thursday, November 20, 2008

Left and Right Can't Meet in the Middle.

I've been following a thread over on the V-Strom Riders International forum for a few weeks now and its been an interesting one, to say the least. It has nothing to do with sprockets or clutch baskets, heck they hardly even acknowledge that they're motorcycle enthusiasts in it. Its about the P-word: Politics.

But rather than a heated debate on Barack vs. McCain or Palin's qualifications (or lack thereof), its simply about the idea of bringing up politics in a motorcycle oriented Internet forum. You see, V-Strom Riders International (VSRI for short) has members from around the globe, with the majority hailing from the U.S. of A. I checked the membership a few minutes ago, and they're up to 5470 members. Its important to note that these are active members, as the administrators flush out inactive accounts on a regular basis. That's pretty good for a brand and model-specific forum. Not to mention that the V-Strom isn't exactly winning popularity contests in North-America, although Europeans seem to have caught on. But I digress...

A longstanding rule in the forum has been no politics and no religion. When you register, you actually must agree with the following statement: "By registering you agree not to post any messages that use vulgar or profane language, are impolite or disrespectful toward any forum member, that express political or religious views, anything about past or present wars, or about serious law offenses."

So why put limits on subject matter? Simple. I've seen too many forums and newsgroups go from great to crap once people bring up any fundamental issue where you have to pick sides. Forum members that used to get along suddenly turn bitter. Soon it gets personal, with cheap shots galore. Then you notice that many of the members aren't logging-in as often, and the ones who are still there aren't really contributing anything useful.

Luckily, the administrator at the VSRI forum (He who must be obeyed) came down on all evil doers and closed the politics thread. Good thing, too. We've all got plenty of politics in our day to day lives, when I'm browsing through a MC forum or website, I'd much rather do without.

Monday, November 10, 2008

But, will it fly?

So Honda has actually decided to bring the avant-guard DN-01 to the North-American masses, eh? Good for them, at least we can't accuse Honda of being unoriginal. I'm just curious to find out if a v-twin, full fairing, automatic transmission, über-scooter is actually going to find any buyers here. I hope so, but if we look at other concepts-turned-production models from the past, Honda hasn't always been very successful (remember the "Rune").

Of course, Suzuki's big-Burgman has been selling quite well for the past few years... So maybe an easy to ride, non-intimidating bike with a little power to spare is just what the market wants. But then again, at over $14K USD - it ain't exactly scooter cheap either.

Time will tell.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Biker's Batsuit?

I've been scouring the Internet of late, looking for some possible replacement options for my well worn riding suit. Seems there's lots of new stuff available - and some of its rather high-tech. Both Rukka and BMW have come out with new abrasion resistant materials that have a bit of stretch built-in which should make riding gear a little less stiff, and Aerostich is no longer the only one-piece touring option available.

Rukka, those innovative Fins, have the "SRO-Anatomic" suit which touts itself as "the latest know-how in the areas of safety and comfort. Breathable, waterproof, stretching, ergonomic, reflecting, thermal regulating, durable, machine washable"... not to mention damn expensive! Over $2,000 for the jacket alone. For that price, it should be self-cleaning, have built-in airbags, and maybe a few other nifty 007-type gadgets. The look of the suit is questionable - in my eyes, at least. Black Cordura with red stitching and Aramid blend in strategic areas truly does give it a "Batsuit" look. By the way, SRO stands for Smart Rider's Outfit, which should give the owner a nice feeling of superiority (at that price, there's got to be a few perks, right?).

BMW have long been known for trying to do things a little differently than others. Sometimes the results were good, like the Hossack inspired Duo-Lever front end; and other times not so great, like the vague feeling servo-brakes. Their newest suits seem, at least on paper, to be good. The ComfortShell jacket and pants include the newly developped "c_change" membrane, which was developed through a partnership between BMW Motorrad and Swiss textile specialist Schoeller. According to the brochure, "the pore size of [the c_change membrane] adapts to the ambient temperature to thus control the breathing capability of the clothing as necessary." Translation: when its hot outside, you're cool; when its cool outside, you're hot. I've seen these suits up close at the local Beemer dealer and I've got to admit, they sure look nice. How nice? You could almost walk into a restaurant with the jacket on without tipping off the other patrons that you just rode in on a motorcycle. Again, it isn't cheap at about $700 for the jacket and $500 for the pants, but if this suit actually lives up to the hype it might be worth it.

Much has been written in MC forums all over the net about Olypia Motosports' Phantom one-piece riding suit. Many have pondered if this would finally be a worthy competitor (or replacement) to the much beloved Aerostich Roadcrafter. At about half the price, many were probably hoping it would be as-good-as the 'Stich. So what's the verdict? Depends on who you ask. Many Phantom owners love their suits, and are proud to point out that their crotch is still dry after riding in the rain - a longstanding problem with the Roadcrafter. However, for people who commute on their bikes, the Phantom still can't match the Roadcrafter's speed for putting it on or tearing it off. Guess its a bit of a toss-up, but if you're looking for a one-piece and don't have money to burn, the Phantom is definitely worth checking out.

Rev'it has also come out with a one-piece suit, which looks oddly similar in design to some of BMW's riding suits (albeit, two-piece). This suit looks like an evolution of the Roadcrafter. Although the 'Stich may have a certain utilitarian appeal, it's looks aren't really up to par with other offerings out there. That's where Rev'it's Infinity suit really shines. Without going over the top like the SRO Anatomic, the Infinity is still utilitarian in nature with plenty of pockets and velcro galore, but it also looks good with a two-tone colour scheme in neutral grey and off-white. It's also got that long zipper for easy in-and-out even when wearing boots, so it might actually be a contender to the 'Stich in that regard. One issue though, it ain't cheap! At about $1,100, it'll cost you $300 more for the extra bells and whistles of the Infinity compared to a Roadcrafter.

Anyhow, today's a beautiful day but they're saying we could be getting snow before then end of the week. I need to get out and ride. There'll be plenty of time to consider which suit to buy during the long winter months.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I've read a few interesting blog entries lately about how the press and mainstream media seem to always paint motorcyclists in a negative light. Doug, over at 40on2, made a list of what appears to be mandatory terms to be used when writing a story about motorcyclists; while Belt Drive Betty commented on the negative connotation that seems to be associated with terms like "biker".

Of course, I agree wholeheartedly with everything they said. It is factual and I don't think anybody can deny that, in most cases, when motorcyclists are portrayed in fiction or mentioned on the evening news its rarely a good thing. But that's human nature. After all, as any newscaster will tell you: "If it bleeds, it leads". Nobody in their right mind would think of leading the evening news with a story about a motorcycle club that raised $50K for a children's hospital... but if one guy from that same club crashed his bike in the back of an SUV on the way home from the event, you can bet that'll be the first thing to be aired.

Although I'm certain that the majority of motorcyclists cringe when they read yet another story about how motorcycles are dangerous and all bikers are bad, there's also that side of us who wouldn't want it any other way. Most of my riding buddies didn't get into motorcycling because of the price of gas or the lack of parking spaces downtown. They liked the image and the instant membership into this mystical brotherhood.

The outlaw biker image has been cultivated not only by the mainstream press and a slew of B-movies in the sixties and seventies, its also being touted by the very people who are making the motorcycles. Think about it: when was the last time you saw someone smiling in a Harley magazine ad? How about Kawasaki's catchphrase from the mid-eighties: "If you don't look bad, we don't look good." Cruisers are meant to look mean, not friendly!

Not since the early sixties, with the "You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda" ad campaign, has there been such a positive spin put on motorcycles. But no manufacturer in their right mind would try that kind of advertising for a cruiser! Seriously, if the folks in the ad below were riding a VTX1800 instead of a Cub 50, would you buy it?

Truth is, many are looking for an escape from their boring everyday lives. Motorcycles, and the image associated with them, provide a release. For that half-hour when you're riding around town on your chrome steed, you're no longer Jerry the Accountant... you're badass. Reginald A. Bruce wrote an excellent Case Study of Harley Davidson's Business Practices. Amongst the American manufacturer's obvious strengths is Marketing. Bruce says that "It is difficult to define an average Harley-Davidson buyer. The demographics range from a blue-collar worker to a high-power executive located all over the world. The common thread is a desire to escape the routine and become anyone you like. [...] With Harley, you can live out your fantasies, as well as experience camaraderie with fellow bikers." Obviously, its worked quite well for HD - so why should they change?

Deep down, we all know its little more than role playing. We're all still regular Joes and Janes both on-and-off the bikes, with our jobs and mortgages and bills to pay. But that's all a bit too boring, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Plains, trains, automobiles... and boats!

Aye, it's been awhile but now I'm slowly getting back to normal® - whatever that may be. In the past month my body has been transported by plane, bus, automobile, cable car, tram, train and boat. Oh yeah, and by motorcycle too!

After two weeks on a wonderful Alaskan cruise where I was a willing participant in the excesses of dining and libations, I'm trying to get used to living at home again with no five-course meals, martinis, and crew members to take care of your every whim. If there is any truth to the old saying that the bigger they are, the harder they fall, then I must be falling pretty hard given the extra weight I've taken on. Oh well, it was all worth it.

Contrary to what I had expected, going back to work after five weeks vacation wasn't the chore that I thought it would be. I didn't exactly miss the job, mind you... but I didn't really mind being back. I'll tell you what I really didn't miss - the election campaign! How great is it to be away during the major part of the campaining (i.e. bullshitting) and only get back in time to vote? Priceless! Of course, the majority of passengers on the cruise were American, so I did have to listen to alot of Palin vs. Obama rhetoric. Maybe because it was an Alaskan cruise, but I didn't hear John McCain's name mentioned once... it was just Palin, Palin, Palin. Not sure how good that reflects on a presidential nominee when his running mate gets all the attention.

Came home to nice autumn weather - which was good, although bittersweet. I love riding in autumn: the colours, less traffic, good weather. What I don't like is that those falling leaves signal something much more ominous: winter. But for now I'd rather not think about it, I just want to ride.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Feeling Mouldy

August has been looking a whole lot more like October over the past week. Constant dark clouds and drizzle coupled with lower than normal temps has got me feeling the autumn blues a bit early this year. According to Mr. Weatherman, we can expect pretty much more of the same for the next week or so.

Maybe the BMW C1 wasn't such a bad idea after all. It keeps most of the rain off of you... Nah, forget that! I'm simply losing it. Guess I'll just slip into my Frogg Toggs and find a new road to explore.

Monday, August 04, 2008

That extra wheel sure ain't cheap!

Harley Davidson has introduced the Tri-Glide Ultra Classic trike. Smart move. Considering their aging demographic and how many current Harley owners are turning to Lehman for trike conversions, being able to buy one directly from the manufacturer makes sense. You get a full warranty, and service can be handled by any Harley dealer.

...then I saw the price: $30K! Oh, and that doesn't include certain options that - to me - sound more like a necessity, like a reverse gear which will cost you an extra $1,195.

Still, for those out there who can no longer handle two wheels, its an interesting option. And of course, with 185 liters of luggage capacity it can pack more gear than most full dressers.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Essential (Motorcycle) Travel Skills

Travel writer Chris Elliott has penned an excellent article on how to effectively cope with the summer travel blues. Although most of the tips are written from an airplane or automobile traveller's perspective, I've found that they're all just as handy when travelling on two wheels.

Here are the 7 skills Elliott suggests to make your summer travels more enjoyable:

  • Take care of yourself

  • Lower your expectations

  • Think of travel as an adventure

  • Pack your sense of humor

  • Role playing, anyone (read the article, you'll understand)

  • Condition yourself to think positively

  • Look inward for a solution

Most of these skills could also be summarized as "Plan ahead, take it easy, have fun".

Friday, August 01, 2008

Is this normal?

Maybe I need to see a psychologist? I've been spending way too much time on CycleTrader lately searching for that elusive "next bike". Many have caught my eye, like that pristine Ducati ST4 with no mileage going for $8,000... or maybe that ZZR1200 complete with luggage cases for a tad over $6000. Then again, there was a nice first-generation K1200GT with the flying brick engine for next to nothing including the thousands in aftermarket farkles.

Problem is, every time I find a bike that stirrs me, I start seeing all the things that I'll probably have to tweak for the bike to fit me and the missus. Then I look at the V-Strom sitting in the garage and remember all the hours spent adding this, or changing that, or modifying this, etc... That's usually the point where I stop thinking of getting another bike.

Is the V-Strom perfect? Of course not, far from it. Problem is, I don't think there is such a thing as a perfect bike, so anything I end up buying, I know I'll have to put some work into it before I'm happy with it... and I just don't want to go through all that again. At least, not yet.

But then again, that ST4 sure looks nice.


It started almost a year ago. My wife comes into the veranda with an open laptop in her hands - typical sign that she wants me to see something. "I want to show you something", she says as she's turning the laptop's screen towards me. Celebrity Cruises' 14 Night Ultimate Alaska Cruise on board the Infinity. I look at the screen and pause a few seconds, considering my reply to what I'm guessing is meant to be a proposal.

"Uhm... How much?", I ask as visions of smouldering credit cards dance in my head. "I can get a really good deal on a balcony room, less than what we paid for that last cruise in the Carribbean". OK, I'll admit that at this point she's got me curious, as the Southern cruise hadn't cost us that much. She spills the beans, and I agreed. Being an amateur photographer, Alaska is a choice destination - so how could I refuse?

Like I first said, that was almost a year ago, and now it's almost here... Finally!

We'll be leaving in mid-September for two weeks aboard a big boat and, according to what we've read, we'll be in the much younger minority as Alaska doesn't seem to be at the top of the list for younger couples looking to party. That's fine, maybe the line-ups for drinks won't be as long.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

15 Seconds of Fame

Couldn't believe it. I was scrolling through new blog entries in Google Reader when I noticed that Doug (of 40on2 fame) had posted another entry in his "As the Wheels Turn" series of photo-soap-operas. Imagine my surprise to find out that Doug deemed me worthy of mention in his eminent blog due to a comment I had made a few days earlier.

Wow! So this is what it feels like to be famous... Damn. I was expecting a little bit more. I'll check my emails... Nope, still no invitation to mingle with the beautiful people out there.

Oh well, that came and went pretty quick.

Fame and riches are fleeting. Stupidity is eternal” - Don Williams, Jr.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Honda Cop-Out

OK, so Suzuki isn't the only Japanese manufacturer trying to justify it's exhorbitant pricing with weak arguments. I just noticed today that Honda Canada has a similar missive on their website.

It seems the reason why Canadians are being asked to pay a higher price for Honda bikes when compared to our neighbours to the South is because motorcycles purchased in Canada have "Canadian-specific features and dedicated service to provide peace of mind throughout the entire ownership experience". Blah, blah, blah... Cheesh, do these marketing types just plagiarize each other, or what?

They do go on with a list of reasons why Canadians shouldn't cross the border to buy a bike. My favourite is that northern bikes have "Canadian-specific climate-related parts, which may include such items as heated breather hoses to reduce winter ice-up." Well I'm sure glad to hear that! Wonder if you can get that as an after-market part, as I'd really love to have heated breather hoses on my V-Strom for when I just gotta take the bike out in sub-zero temps.

About the only reasons why I'd buy from my local dealer would be: a) to support my dealer and local economy, and b) to get a bike that isn't available South of the border (yes, my American friends, we've got the Varadero).

Can't help but wonder if it wouldn't simply be easier to lower the pricing on their bikes to make it a more level playing field and give their dealers a chance to stay afloat.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Something Up at BMW Toronto?

Although I've never shopped there, I like the fact that BMW Toronto seems to do alot for its customers and Beemer riders in general. From tech days to track days, group rides and social get-togethers - they always seem to have something going on. I know this because I get the newsletter every other week or so.

The latest edition, however, was a bit cryptic:

"Dear Valued BMW Toronto Client,

We regret to inform you that the seminar scheduled for this evening has been postponed until further notice.

BMW Toronto has undergone an ownership change in the past two weeks. As a result, there are several organizational and process changes that are currently underway.

We will continue to strive for improvement in the level of service that you have grown accustomed to at BMW Toronto. We truly appreciate your patience and understanding as we adjust to make ourselves a better organization to meet the needs of your Motorrad experience.

We sincerely apologize for an inconvenience that this may cause. Please feel free to contact us for any questions that may arise.

Thank you for your continued patronage.

Tim Sarch & the BMW Toronto Motorrad Team

Hmmm. Could BMW Toronto be adopting the same attitude as other single-brand mega-dealers? 90% of all effort goes to selling cars, with 10% for whatever else they've got (motorcycles, atv, snowmobiles, etc...).

I've also noticed that Honda has opened a PowerHouse™ dealer in Bathurst, NB where you can shop for a Civic while also perusing the collection of CBR's. I don't mind the concept of an all-in-one dealership, as long as the level of service offered to motorcyclists remains up to par with what I can get at smaller shops.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Suzuki Cop-Out

So Suzuki Canada has posted an explanation as to why model pricing is so much higher in Canada when compared to the same models down in the States. It seems that since certain models sold up in the Great White North "are built and equipped with Canadian consumers in mind", we should just cough-up the extra dough and buy it. I don't think so.

They also list particularities with Canadian models when compared to their American counterparts. As an example, it would seem that we Northerners prefer it naked - which is odd considering the climate - as the SV650 and GS500 are available sans tupperware North of the border, while our neighbours to the South can only get the all-dressed version. What they don't mention is that the naked SV650 actually costs $1,100 more than it's fully-faired American cousin. Same goes for the GS500, which in the nude will cost you $6,499 while the American Gixxer-wannabe GS500F retails for $5,199.

As for the models that are identical, we're still paying a high premium in Canada. A V-Strom 650 with ABS will cost you about 25% more if you purchase it here. That's an extra 1,800 loonies which could just as easily have been spent on accessories.

Now if this were the case across all manufacturers, I'd probably not bitch about it so much. But the truth is, other makes out there have considerably lowered their pricing while the Big-3 Japanese brands seem to be holding strong. So as unlikely as it may seem, it's now cheaper in Canada to buy a BMW R1200RT than a Honda ST1300. It's also cheaper to get a Triumph ST rather than a VFR (and the ST has standard luggage).

Whatever happened to Japanese bikes being the affordable alternative?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Modern Motorcycle Design - Love it or Hate it.

It seems most motorcyclists fall into two different camps: the evolutionaries and the traditionalists. They rarely agree on aesthetics.

Case in point: the Victory Vision. When Victory came out with the initial prototype and started doing the marketing rounds, even moto-journalists were polarized. Some called it a brave new design, while others thought it looked like a UFO. Personally, I liked it.

I can understand why boomers and early genexers like Harleys and classic Triumphs. Its melancholy - finally getting the bike you lusted at years ago. The look hasn't changed that much, and with a bit of faded memory a brand new Sportster looks just like the one you remember your uncle riding when you were a kid.

The same neo-styling is gaining popularity with the four-wheeled crowd too. Just check out Chevrolet's new Camaro or the Dodge Challenger. Straight outta the seventies, eh? Funny thing is, they both look remarkably similar. Then again, so do most cruisers out there.

I've always preferred thouroughly modern looking machines. Bikes that you simply couldn't mistake for your uncle's old Sportster. Of course, the fact that I ride a V-Strom should make the previous statement evident.

I talked about that, so that I could talk about this. Honda's new DN-01. Now for most traditionalists, one look at Honda's new Sports Cruiser will most likely trigger an involuntary gag reflex. I simply love it. This ain't your daddy's bike. It is modern in how it looks, how it works and probably how it rides. Forget the VTX, think of Akira's bike in the classic film by Katsuhiro Otomo. Want to be an individualist? Forget the chrome and leather fringe and get one of these. I guarantee that it'll turn more heads at the doughnut shop than the latest cookie cutter chopper.

For now, the DN-01 is only available in Japan. But I hope that some day Honda Canada might bring it over. After all, they did import the CBF1000, Varadero and CBR125.

Paperless Society?

I’ve been bombarded lately by Eco-group propaganda that I should be doing my part to Save the Planet™. Which, when you come to think of it, is a farce that probably works well on weak-minded lemmings who easily buy into that sort of advertising. Truth is, the planet’s fine. It was around long before we started screwing things up, and I’m willing to bet it’ll still be here long after we’ve blasted ourselves into oblivion. The little pests living on its surface, however, aren't doing so great.

Anyhow, I do subscribe to the Reduce, Recycle and Reuse philosophy for much more egotistical reasons: I’m still fairly young and I’d like to save some stuff for me to enjoy into my later years. But I digress…

Got an "URGENT MESSAGE" in the mail last week letting me know that my subscription to Motorcyclist Magazine was up and that I should be renewing “immediately” to either prevent World War III or find a cure for cancer… don’t remember exactly which. Well, being the good Samaritan that I am, I went to their website and proceeded to renew my subscription. That’s where I found it.

Electronic magazine subscriptions. Basically, you sign up and rather than receive a torn-up and battered copy in the mail (Thank you, Canada Post), you simply download it onto your computer and thumb through a virtual copy of the complete magazine – ads and all.

At first I wasn’t really impressed by the service that much, I mean, it would be awkward balancing the laptop on my, uhm, lap while sitting on the throne. Then I started reading more about this new distribution medium. Seems they’re going to be coming out with an application that also lets you read your favourite mags on your iPod Touch or iPhone. Now there’s an idea that holds some promise.

I travel a lot for work, and the thought of loading up a stack of motorcycle mags on my iPod is attractive. No more reading through those cheesy airline mags (although Air Canada’s EnRoute is quite good). Not to mention that my iPod is already loaded up with my favourite tunes and a few good movies – so to be able to add my magazines simply completes the concept of portable entertainment.

Oh, and when a new issue comes out you get an email notifying you. Then you simply download it to your home computer, or if you’re on the road with your iPod just find a public Wi-Fi hotspot (like any Starbucks) and download the issue directly to your iPod. Cool.

So how is this good for the environment? Well, no paper for starters. Also, no delivery which means less gas (I’m talking about the postman, he’s got the winds something bad).

And one last advantage: it’s cheap! For the price of a regular Motorcyclist subscription I was able to subscribe to Motorcyclist, Dirt Rider, and Sail.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Biker Philosophy

Great quote from FLHX Dave when commenting on Doug's post about the HD - MV marriage:

"I just can't buy into the HD lifestyle crap. Your lifestyle should be your lifestyle."

Thanks Dave. Truer words have rarely been spoken. If somebody relies on a bike - be it a Harley, Beemer, Goldwing or whatever - to define their lifestyle, then they probably didn't have much of a lifestyle to begin with.

Find what fits, ride it, and be happy!

Like a Phoenix

Reading through my usual list of favourite motorcycle blogs, I came across Doug's take on the recent aquisition of fabled Italian brand MV Agusta by All-American® Harley Davidson group. Blogs and online forums have been busy prophesizing what will happen to MV Agusta now that Willie G. and the boys have taken over. Italian purists fear the worst, of course, however I can't help but think the opposite.

I've got to agree with Doug on this one, HD's experience at resurrecting an historic marque is no laughing matter. What a group of investors have done with that company after AMF had practically dug it's grave is truly remarquable. Maybe they'll be able to work their marketing magic with MV Agusta too. I strongly doubt there'll be much parts swapping between the two brands... Just picture it: Screamin' Eagle pipes and an Evolution Twin on a Brutale. Ugh!

Speaking of resurecting a storied brand, there's alot of buzz surrounding the upcoming launch of the "new" 2009 Indian Chief. Initial pictures are promising. Flared fenders, round cylinders... yup - it's a Chief all right. I really like the upside-down teardrop headlight - nice touch. I just hope they iron out all the bugs before it makes it to the showroom floor this time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Broken Backs and Sad Goodbyes.

The past few weeks have been tough, but there's finally some light filtering through the clouds. About a month ago I woke up with a sore back - not really a big deal. But as the day progressed things got a little weird. It started with a tingling in my left hand which eventually turned into complete numbness, then partial paralysis. As I said: Weird.

Anyhow, I went to see my family doctor, he checked a few things then pronounced the verdict: a herniated disk. WTF! I'm 35 for crissakes, only "old guys" get herniated disks, right? Wrong. So the doc sent me over to get an MRI to make sure, and sure enough he was right. So it was bedrest, anti-inflammatory meds and physiotherapy for me. Great. And of course, no motorcycling. Shit.

So I've been a good boy, following my regiment, doing physio 2 or 3 times per week. Truth be told, my physiotherapist is the best. Our first session consisted of a half-hour chat as she tried to get a good idea of where the ouch was. Then she got to work! We used electrodes to stimulate and relax tense back muscles, then ultrasonic therapy, deep body massages, traction, and on and on. But it works! Still have to keep doing physio, but I've recovered most mobility in my left hand. Only the index finger is still numb and dumb... but we're working on it.

Finally last Saturday I was able to go out for a ride. Still had to be careful though, as I only had three fingers for clutching duties rather than the full-fisted approach I usually use - but it wasn't too bad. The clutch action on a V-Strom is fairly light, so it made things easier. Wandered around town for a bit, but quickly decided to stop for a visit at a local MC shop to look for a mesh jacket as the temps outside were hitting the low thirties and the long black touring jacket was making quick work of cooking me to a crisp (30 degrees Celsius, of course, for the non-metrics out there, that would be in the mid-eighties). Found exactly what I wanted in a Teknic Supervent Jacket (grey) which some guy had purchased, worn once, then returned. Got it for $75, which ain't bad at all considering it retails for about $280.

With that taken care of, I headed back out on the road and decided to ride the Fundy Trail down to Alma. Conditions were perfect and although I did get a little discomfort in my upper vertabrae (C5 to C7 for you geeks out there), my mind hadn't been this much at ease for quite some time. So although my doctor and physiotherapist wouldn't have approved, I'm sure any reputable psychologist out there would've given me a thumbs-up. Unfortunately, the feeling was going to be shortlived.

On Sunday morning, I was enjoying my coffee when the phone rang. It was my mother. Granddad had passed away earlier that day. He'd been sick for some time now, spending the past 7 months in a hospital room, but the moment you hear the news it still hits pretty hard. I'd driven up to Bathurst three weeks earlier to visit him, and although he was weak, he still sat up strait and proud in his chair. And he still had a firm handshake.

Grandad and Grandma would've celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary later this summer, and although this may sound corny, they were still very much in love. I always admired how perfectly they matched each other, they had a kinship that could be felt by all who met them. He was ninety and he will be dearly missed by his eight kids, 20 grandkids, and 14 great-grandkids. We laid him to rest yesterday afternoon, a beautiful summer's day.

This morning I'm feeling a little introspective, and melancholy weighs heavy on my mind. We had thunderstorms for most of the night, but as is always the case after a storm, the sun is now filtering through the clouds. It's a new day.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Panic! at the Handlebars...

So media outlets across the US and Canada are abuzz with Gannett News Service's new series of reports on the inherent dangers of motorcycling. At the same time, many motorcyclists' organizations have come out swinging in a bid to discredit the claims being made in the reports. Truth be told, most of the claims are simple common sense that would be hard to contradict.

I'm just wondering if this is a small sign of things to come.

It was municipal election time this week in my neck of the woods, and one of the subjects being raised for debate with the local wannabe politicians was excessive noise. Now usually, the finger always points towards motorcyclists since we're often a victim of our own persona... You may be a middle-aged orthodontist with a nice house in the suburbs who coaches minor league hockey, but once you put on your leathers and beanie helmet, you're just an outlaw biker like all the rest of them! Cruisers with straight-pipes or crotch-rockets with racing exhausts are often grouped together, as the general public can hardly differenciate between a Ninja and a Sportster.

I was somewhat relieved to notice that in this case it wasn't directed at any specific group of noisemakers, as one member of the electorate who wrote to the local newspaper stated: "Whether be it from motorcycles, sportscars or powerful sound systems makes no difference: noise is noise, and when excessive it disturbs the public peace. Someone has to stand up for the majority."

A few politicians have taken a stance for new bylaws that would limit motorcycle use, but most seem to be against it by simply stating that if existing noise laws were enforced, then no new bylaws are necessary. Time will tell.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Harley Owner with a Sense of Humour

Was riding around town last week when saw something that had me laughing so hard I had to pull over. In front of me at a red light was a beautiful, fully decked out Ultra Classic Electra Glide. The owner was obviously very fond of it, as his personal licence plate was FLHTCU (for non-HD enthusiasts out there, it's the model code for the Ultra Classic Electra Glide. And no, I'm not that smart, I had to look it up). That's not what got me laughing though.

On the topcase, right underneath the shiny chrome Harley Davidson lettering, was a simple, black on white bumper sticker that read: "My other ride is a trailer."

Since most motorcyclists will often answer the question "What's the best bike out there?" with "The one I'm riding right now", it's refreshing to find people who can laugh at themselves (and their bike) and not take things so seriously. So now, I'm thinking of having my own bumper sticker made up. Since I ride a Suzuki V-Strom, whose looks are obviously questionable, I was thinking of something like: "Hey, with looks like this nobody's gonna steal it!"

Any suggestions?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Clueless Wannabe Banter

They'll creep up on you just about anytime, and anywhere. You may be at work, or fueling-up, or maybe even in line at the cashier at the grocery store. The simplest thing will trigger them, like the helmet you're carrying or your riding jacket. All motorcyclists fear them like the plague. By now, you should know what I'm talking about: clueless wannabe bikers.

We've all been there. I remember one time last year when I went for an early morning ride and decided to stop for coffee and a doughnut along the way (hey, I'm Canadian - coffee and doughnuts are major food groups, right?). I walk into the Tim Horton's and already as I'm ordering I can tell that they're watching me, just waiting for the right moment to strike (for you Yanks and Euros, Tim Horton is a demi-god here in Canada, who ensures we get our daily fix of caffeine and Boston cream). The first one I have to fend off is a baby-boomer with a beer gut and a goatee. Looks to me like a recently retired career desk jockey who probably spends all his mornings chugging coffee here 'cause he's got nothing better to do. He fires off his first shot: "You ride?" Well, there's the pitch, and it's a weak one considering I'm decked-out in full riding gear and carrying my helmet in my left hand. My first reflex was to ask him if he'd spent too much time sniffing glue during his career, but that would have simply encouraged him. Instead, I kept it short and simple: "Yep".

I was hoping that my succint, but polite answer would've been indication enough for him that I wasn't here to make conversation... It didn't work. Soon he was telling me how he used to ride but then sold his Sears Allstate motorcycle when he got married, and then with kids it just didn't make sense to ride anymore until they'd moved out but now that he's retired he's been thinking about getting back into riding except he's got a bad back and he's also scheduled for hip replacement surgery so he's not sure if he could handle a bike for at least a few months after the operation but besides that he's had to renovate the house this year because his wife had been asking for new kitchen cabinets so he doesn't have the money to get a new bike just yet but he's hoping that next year he might be able to get one except he's not sure if he's going to buy new or used and he figures he'll get a Harley Davidson because they're supposed to be the best, right?

Damnit. Another Saturday morning gone to shit.

Honestly, I always try to be an ambassador for motorcyclists. Small things, like smiling to kids staring at you from the backseat of the SUV at a traffic stop, or politely educating non-motorcyclists about motorcycling in general (ex. No, we're not all in gangs and we don't all wear chaps and leather with fringe). I figure I should do my share to promote the positive side of motorcycling to non-motorcyclists, as we aren't exactly climbing in the public opinion polls thanks to bad attitudes and loud pipes. But I digress...

There are some days, however, when I just don't want to listen to some old fart go on about how his poor ole pappy used to ride an Indian-4 - or even worse - some pencil pushing yuppie driving a Lexus with an OCC sticker on the bumper telling me how much better a chopper is compared to my bike when the arrogant prick has never even lifted a bike off the sidestand.

Nevertheless, I finish listening to beergut-goatee guy, then I smile, nod and tell him to get a Sportster 883L as he obviously lusts for a Harley, and the low seat height and featherweight of the XL will probably make it easier on his back and hip. He thanks me and wishes me well, while I take my double-cream and doughnut and make a beeline outside for the deserted picnic tables. That's where I had my encounter with the second one. This time, it was an elderly gentleman - probably in his mid to late seventies. He was inside the doughnut stop when I walked in, and I had noticed him checking out my bike. As he walked out and past me on the way to his car, he just had to stop and make a brief comment. "That a Jap bike you're riding?"


Lesson learned: When the first thing a cager wants to know is if you're riding a Nippon motorcycle, it's never going to be pleasant. They somehow believe that they have the right... no, make that the responsability to tell you what you should and shouldn't ride.

"Yes sir, its a Suzuki." Even as I was muttering my response, I already knew the gist of what his reply was going to be. "I rode a Norton for a while, then I had me an Indian for almost twenty years. Never, ever, would you have seen me riding a damn Japanese bike." And with that he turned around, got into his Toyota Camry, and drove off. Guess that argument was settled!

So I'm now in need of advice, dear fellow cyber-bikers. Does anybody out there have any brush-offs that have been proven effective with cagers who just have to talk about bikes whenever they see somebody pull-up next to them on two wheels? I'm open (and appreciative) to all suggestions.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Still 'Ridin.

Brief blurb in this morning's Times & Transcript that put a smile on my face. Local resident Elmer Hansen on his shiny new Piaggio MP3 scooter. He says he plans on riding the scoot on a roadtrip to Ontario later this summer with his wife.

Oh, and did I mention that Mr. Hansen is 86 years young (and still going strong, obviously).

I remember when I first heard of Piaggio's 3-wheeled scoot a few years ago. At first I thought it would be little more than a novelty; something that trendy Italians could ride without having to put their feet down at intersections. Turns out that Piaggio may have found a niche market that nobody expected. The latest generation is available with a 500cc thumper putting out enough power for easy highway riding, and the fact that you can still lean in the corners without having to worry of a tip-over. The MP3 just might be the answer for aging motorcyclists who don't want a traditional trike-converted full-bagger.

Tip 'o the visor to ya, Elmer. Biker for life.

"Elmer Hansen, 86, of Moncton picked up the 25th motorcycle that he has ever owned last night at Atlantic Motor Plex in Dieppe. Elmer and his wife are planning a four-day trip to Ontario later this year. He bought the Piaggio MP3 Scooter, which has three wheels and is designed not to tip over."

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Telling It Like It Is.

Just finished reading a most excellent editorial by Thomas Day, Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly's Geezer with a Grudge. Day's topic in this issue was freedom of choice for motorcyclists as it's being touted by the various motorcyclists' rights groups out there. I agree 100% with his conclusion: in the end, the general public (i.e. non-motorcyclists) are the ones who will decide our fate, and their decision will be based largely on perception.

So keep it up with the loud pipes and bad attitudes, and it won't be the EPA or helmet laws you'll have to worry about, but an outright ban on motorcycles. Sound too far fetched? Many cities and towns across Canada and the USA have already passed by-laws that prohibit motorcycles from certain neighbourhoods or from dusk 'til dawn. It's already started and with each new by-law its gaining momentum.

At least some organizations are speaking out against the problems that we may have to face one day due to public opinion. The AMA and MRF have a "Loud Pipes Risk Rights" campaign, and even motorcycle rallies like Americade have taken position against loud pipes. But will it be too little, too late?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Oh, What A Feeling!

"What is it about motorcycling, anyway?"

So was the question that my mother-in-law asked me last weekend as she was staying with us for a brief visit. The question didn't really catch me by surprise, as she's never been too fond of my interest in motorcycles. She's also not too keen to the fact that my passion has somehow rubbed-off on her daughter! What did catch me off guard was how direct she was with the question. It wasn't confrontational in any way, but seemed like genuine curiosity on her behalf.

I can't help but wonder how many motorists (i.e. cagers) are left bewildered when listening to motorcyclists wax eloquently on the inherent advantages of desmodromic valve actuation. Then again, many motorcyclists would be confused by that subject. But to us, the chosen few, the attraction to motorcycling seems so simple yet difficult to communicate. Kinda like sex... wait, forget that. Almost everybody has some idea about sex, while two-wheeled travel remains an enigma to most.

So put yourself in their shoes for a minute, the majority. Why would you chose a method of transportation that seems downright primitive over a nice, comfy, quiet, air-conditioned bubble? I can only speak for myself, but when I'm riding on two wheels I feel alive. I can connect with the heat and the cold, the sounds around me, the smells wafting into my helmet. The feedback from the bike is physical. I shift my weight and it responds. It doesn't get much more real than that. The act of driving in a car is in itself an isolation. Car manufacturers boast how quiet and peaceful their vehicles are; its what most people want. Not me.

I've had some biker friends mock me for adding large sidecases and a topcase to my bike ("looks like Silver has hemorrhoids" said one particularly humourous biker - funny, eh?). Truth is, the big cases allow me to pack groceries, laptop, equipment for work... in a nutshell, it allows me to live without having to drive a car. And for six to eight months out of the year, that suits me just fine.

So although I still don't have an answer for my mother-in-law, I did offer this one up : "Hop on and you'll understand." Luckily for me, she has yet to take me up on the offer.

Reserve Not Met: Death of the Chopper

Looking to find out how much your beloved two-wheeled steed is worth? Forget about the Kelley Blue Book or the classifieds, they'll only give you a static image of a motorcycle's worth. Rather, surf on over to eBay and check out what the going rate is.

That's exactly what I was doing last week, as a sudden onset of spring fever following a trip to the local dealer to get a new battery (innocent enough, eh?) got me thinking of selling Silver to buy myself the latest and greatest. But alas, after a few minutes on eBay it was all too obvious that Silver's worth much more to me as a daily driver than on a trade-in.

I did notice one thing, though. Choppers don't sell. Forget about all the hype and the reality TV soap operas starring the Teutuls, Jesse James, and others with a clear lack of chlorine in the gene pool. These rolling chrome altars just aren't selling. Out of the twenty or so listings I checked out on eBay whose auctions were going to wrap-up in the next 24 hours, fourteen had not yet met the reserve price and eight hadn't even gotten a single bid! Seems a few years ago, these bikes were selling like hotcakes... so what happened?

The simple answer is: it got old. As with all that is fashion, people get tired of something when it goes from being exclusive to mainstream. And yes, I do consider choppers as being little more than a fashion accessory. They aren't really meant to be ridden, only flaunted. This was most evident in recent reviews of OCC's "production" choppers by Motorcyclist and Cycle Canada. Besides, Japanese production bikes are getting closer and closer aesthetically to these one-off creations, and the Nippon production bikes have better handling and reliability without breaking the bank. You want custom? Order some bling from the catalog and get a paint job!

To me, the great irony has always been how these neo-choppers are the furthest thing from what a true chopper is supposed to be. At least, in the historical sense. GI's returning home from World War II were disappointed with what Harley and Indian had to offer, as they found these bikes too heavy when compared to the bikes they had seen in Europe during their service. As a compromise, they started chopping off bits and pieces to make the bikes lighter and handle better. Some of the first things to go were the prominent fenders, then smaller tanks were installed, and on it went. But they weren't doing this uniquely for looks. They were trying to squeeze every last bit of performance out of them.

Anyhow, as the baby boomers move on to convertibles, power boats and motorhomes and move away from motorcycles we should be seeing a considerable drop in the used bike market. Which is a good thing if you're looking to buy!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

MBI 2008 - The results are in!

The votes have been meticulously counted and the results are in. Care to see what was the best and worst in motorcycling last year? Check out MBI's 2008 Rider's Choice Awards selected by none other than... YOU!


It's a time of celestial alignment, when the Sun is positioned directly over the Earth's equator, when the day is as long as the night. In the case of the Spring equinox, that's a good thing... as it means that the days are getting longer. I should be happy, overjoyed even. Yet, I am not.

The friendly weatherman hiding in my alarm clock let me know with a cheerful voice this morning that all schools are closed today due to the snow, hail and freezing rain we're going to be getting all day. I hit the snooze button hoping that when he'd wake me up again nine minutes later he'd have a more optimistic forecast. He didn't.

I always get a bit of the winter blues every year around late January to February, but I'm usually done with it by the time March rolls around and the snow banks start to melt away and the temps climb oh so slowly but surely. Problem is, that hasn't been the case this year. Nope, Ole' Man Winter has been popping Viagra and he's friskier than ever before! So far this season, he's dumped 381 cm (150 inches) of the white stuff (snow, that is) on us; with no signs of stopping.

I need a vacation.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Searching for the Perfect Road?

Found an interesting site while cruising through cyberspace: Think of it as a Facebook for rides. According to the site's creators, Motorcycle Roads "was developed with essentially one goal in mind - to bring motorcyclists an easy to use insider's guide to the best motorcycle rides & trips in America. provides valuable information about each motorcycle trip such as the scenery quality along the route, the motorcycle road quality, and the roadside amenities (things to do along the trip). And, we don't stop there. We also provide you with a map of the ride, with a weather forecast for the route's area, and information about the trip's contributor."

Personally, I love the idea. I bookmarked it just yesterday and already I'm using it to research some roads for an upcoming North-Eastern US trip. Cool stuff!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Soundtrack to the Perfect Ride... NOT!

OK, so I've already listed a few dozen songs that I think fit well into the aural backdrop of a Sunday morning ride. But now I want to list a few tunes that just don't work when you're making time on two wheels. Of course, as always, your opinion may vary...

  1. Me and My Gang - Rascal Flatts: C'mon, get serious. These guys have to be the least intimidating bikers out on the road today... if they actually do ride, that is. The whiney high-pitched vocals, falsetto harmonies and cheezy talk-box guitar mixed-in with pre-pubescent lyrics (ex. "We're gonna rock this thang, cock this thang") trigger a gag reflex everytime. Don't get me wrong, when they stick to what they do well - like sappy-broken-hearted love songs - they aren't too bad. But when they try to be bad, they aren't.
  2. Life is a Highway - Rascal Flatts: OK, two for two. One more strike and these guys are out. When Tom Cochrane first recorded this song is was good - maybe a little kitsch - but it had a good hook and the guitar lick sticks to your brain like fresh roadkill on summer asphalt, not to mention that Tom has a bit more grit to his voice. But these guys sweetened it up and took away any edge it might've had. Of course, they did cover it for a Disney cartoon... so what should I have expected?
  3. Low Rider - War: Weird and entertaining, but not music to ride to. Kinda like a Mexican Fiesta on acid. Oddly enough, War's Why Can't We Be Friends (from the same album) is actually a pretty good tune for the ride home. Oh, and Low Rider always reminds me of Cheech and Chong - which is good, but not when you're hanging in the twisties.
  4. Born to be Wild - Ozzy Osbourne feat. Miss Piggy: Yes, you actually read that right. The Ozzman did a humourous cover of this overused biker anthem and added the vocal talents of Miss Piggy in the chorus. This rare recording can be found on the Muppets' Kermit Unpigged album, and it was also included on Ozzy's Prince of Darkness boxset. To be honest, this version just might be more entertaining than the Steppenwolf original (my apologies to John Kay).
  5. Electric Avenue - Eddie Grant: Though not technically a biker song, the DX7-sound-FX of a revving engine seems to be trying to emulate a V-twin. Didn't work. Don't get it. Whatever happened to that guy, anyway? Two hit neo-reggae songs in the mid-eighties then: Poof! No more. In the meantime we had to endure another decade of synth-reggae white-boy cover songs by UB40.
  6. Ghost Rider - RUSH: First, let me say that I'm a big fan of Rush. Smart music, intelligent lyrics and great musicians that always seem to mesh (I've got three of their songs on my first top 25 list). These guys have managed to do what very few 30+ year old bands have done: stay together, and stay fresh. So why not "Ghost Rider"? Read the book of the same name by Neil Peart (drummer and lyricist) and understand the subject matter. Too dark and introspective for a pleasant ride in the countryside. Great song, wrong situation.
  7. Riders on the Storm - The Doors: This psychedelic, 7-minute rock opus is claimed to be the last recording before Jim Morrison's early check-out. Great song, very hypnotic, haunting lyrics and performance - which is exactly why it doesn't work for riding. There are many myths regarding the inspiration behind the song, with the most plausible being that Jim Morrison was writing about Billy Cook, the hitchhiking murderer from the early fifties.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Canada: A Dangerous Destination - Part II

A few weeks ago I mused at the idea that the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trades considered Canada to be a somewhat dangerous destination for Australian tourists. At first I got a really good chuckle out of it. I mean, who would've ever considered Canada to be a haven for terrorists and a land of spontaneous natural disasters like earthquakes and avalanches? Heck, the last great disaster we had on the East Coast was the French munitions ship Mont Blanc exploding in Halifax harbour - and that was 90 years ago!

Anyhow, it got me wondering about where the Australians could've gotten such a tainted image of this Great Country? At first, I thought that maybe we were ourselves to blame. After all, us Canucks just love to mess with tourists' innocent minds by telling tall stories of how we live in igloos and ride snowmobiles to work in the winter. And like good fishing stories, the effects of a winter storm of yesteryear always grow greater with time. But, as it turns out, it wasn't our doing at all.

Nope, after a lengthy investigation (i.e. Google search), I found the source of this erroneous information and it is... the UK?!?

Yes Sir, good 'ole Mother England is telling tall tales at our expense. Whatever happened to the great historic ties between our two nations? We're part of the British Commonwealth, for crissakes! But then I read on the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office's website that Canada has "an underlying threat from terrorism" and that "tornadoes can occur almost anywhere in Canada". What? I've lived here all my life and I've yet to see any tornadoes or terrorists... then again the East Indian guy who works at the hospital cafeteria does look somewhat suspicious - but I'd hardly consider the fact that he screwed-up my turkey wrap last week as an act of terrorism. Of course, don't forget that "Forest fires can break out at anytime, regardless of the season" in Canada. That's why I always travel with a industrial sized fire extinguisher bungeed onto my luggage rack.

Really, the last serious terrorist activities within Canadian soil weren't carried out by foreign nationals, but rather by Canadian citizens. All Canadians, and especially French-Canadians, remember the events of October 1970, when members of the FLQ (Québec Liberation Front) kidnapped government officials and murdered Pierre Laporte, then Labour Minister for Québec. It is a dark and shameful stain on the fabric of this Great and Peaceful Nation, the effects of which are still felt. But it was almost forty years ago!

Oh, and contrary to popular belief, none of the 9/11 terrorists got to the US via Canadian borders. Truth be told, none of them had ever even set foot in Canada. Guess we'll still be fighting that claim for years to come.

In the meantime, here are some true facts about Canada - and although they may not be enough to make you forget some of the lies out there, they may just convince you to visit the Great White North anyway:

  • About 10% of Canada's total population of seven million people served in the armed forces during the First World War, and nearly 60,000 died.
  • During the Second World War, the Canadian navy began the war with only six vessels, yet they ended up policing nearly half of the Atlantic. More than 120 Canadian warships participated in the Normandy landings, during which 15,000 Canadian soldiers went ashore on D-Day alone. Canada finished the war with the third largest navy and the fourth largest air force in the world.
  • The United Nations Peacekeeping Force was future Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson's creation and he is considered the father of the modern concept of "peacekeeping". He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his role in creating what would become the UN Peacekeeping Force.
  • Canada only accounts for about 1% of the world's population, yet Canadians make up 10% of the world's peacekeeping forces.
  • Canadian soldiers are the greatest peacekeepers on earth - participating in 39 UN-mandated missions and six non-UN peacekeeping duties in the past half century.
  • In the medical field, Canadians have been responsible for many achievements: Sir Frederick Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin, Wilfred Bigelow developed the first artificial pacemaker, John Dick is credited with discovering cancer stem cells.
  • Canada has consistently placed in the top-10 of the UN's Human Development Index, which is a measure of life expectancy, literacy, education, standard of living, and GDP per capita for countries worldwide.

You'd think that with all the above achievements, the rest of the world would cut us some slack... But if that isn't enough, here's another important tidbit: 52% of active players in the NHL are Canadian!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Gratuitous Self-Promotional Plug!

OK, it seems the powers-that-be over at Motorcycle Bloggers International (of which I am an ill-esteemed member) are threatening to throw me in a dark room full of two-stroke exhaust fumes if I don't convince you - the reader - to head on over to their website and vote in the 2008 Riders' Choice Awards... So here it goes:

Are you sick and tired of overpaid Californian magazine editors telling you what's to be the best and worst in motorcycling for the coming year? How many times have you read Motorcyclist's annual BOTY award and thought to yourself that drugs must be easy to come by where they are if they chose that [INSERT BIKE NAME HERE] as the best new bike? Well, here's your chance to prove them all wrong (or right)! Head on over to the 2008 Riders' Choice Awards and let everybody know what you think is the best and worst out there in MC-land. Categories range from the bread-n-butter "Best New Motorcycle" and "Best New Scooter" to some more off-the-wall categories like "Object of Lust" and "What Were They Thinking?".

Please, tell all your friends to check it out too... I don't know how long I'm able to hold my breath in all these exhaust fumes!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Soundtrack to the Perfect Ride - Part II

...a few more additions to my soundtrack:

  1. Drive my Car – The Beatles
  2. End of the Line - The Travelling Wilburys
  3. Get Down – Gilbert O’Sullivan
  4. Oh, Pretty Woman - Roy Orbison
  5. Papa's Got A Brand New Bag - James Brown
  6. Runnin' Down a Dream - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
  7. Stuck in the Middle with You – Gerry Rafferty
  8. The World Where You Live - Crowded House
  9. Vertigo – U2
  10. Wild Night - Van Morrison

Of course, please be cautious as listening to certain types of music can encourage fast driving habits to its listeners.

Tip 'O The Visor: Master Promotions

A big thanks to Master Promotions, who put on the first (and surely not last) Atlantic Motorcycle and ATV Show over the weekend here in Moncton. According to this morning's paper, over 20,000 people attended the show, including yours truly.

There's always something great about bike shows, and it has to do with more than just seeing what the new models are going to look like. I love the idea of sparking up a conversation with a fellow motorcyclist for no other reason than the fact that you're both looking (i.e. drooling) over the same bike.

Personally, I was feeling quite under the weather (still dealing with the tail-end of a nasty bout of flu), but I wouldn't have missed it for the world. It was funny to see a virgin, un-farkled V-Strom and remember how mine looked when I first got it. Glad to know that my memory is still pretty sharp, as the OEM seat really is as uncomfortable as I remembered it!

One new model that caught my attention was the Honda Varadero. Very nice adventure-tourer, with typical Honda fit and finish (in other words, top notch). Pricing wasn't available yet, but if they play their cards right this could bite a big chunk out of the V-Strom's sales. What I didn't get was that Honda is marketing their CBF1000 (another new-to-Canada model) as an adventure tourer also, complete with mud-encrusted bike on a sod-covered pedestal. I figured it would have been aimed more at the entry-level sport-touring crowd (ex. cheaper and lighter than a VFR), but no.

I was also glad to see that BMW has significantly lowered their pricing on many models. Case in point: the R1200RT base MSRP is now $19,000 - that makes it cheaper than most of the competition like the Honda ST1300A ($19,699), the Yamaha FJR1300A ($19,099). The Kawasaki Concours 14ABS ($19,099). One of the sales reps for the local BMW dealer told me that the new, more competitive pricing for the RT came at a cost to them, as the dealer mark-up has been lowered significantly too. BMW's betting that the number of RT's sold should compensate for the lower mark-up. Guess time will tell...

Yamaha has come out with some interesting "Dressed-up" models, which are basically stock bikes pre-accessorized with farkles out of the Yamaha catalog. For the most part, they're cruisers, but there is one interesting exception: the FZ1TE. First, take your new 2008 FZ1, then add a full lower fairing, taller touring windshield, and the sidecases off of an FJR and voilà: instant sport-touring bike for only $14,999. Of course, for about the same price you could get a Honda VFR with ABS and a set of Givi sidecases. Personally, I'd take the VFR as it seems a more well-rounded bike for sport-touring purposes... but that's just me.

With the Canadian dollar holding at par against it's US counterpart, I would've thought that all manufacturers would have been lowering their prices, but that didn't seem to be the case. The biggest price drops were noted at Harley-Davidson/Buell, Ducati and BMW; although a general difference of about 10% is still noted when compared to US pricing. However, none of the Japanese big-four seemed to have adjusted their prices. Take the new Concours 14ABS; it retails for $19,099CAD, and $13,799USD. That's a difference of almost 28%.

Anyway, after a few hours of checking out the new bikes and talking to the numerous reps on hand, I was pretty much worn out. Went home, took some various pills, and was unconscious for the rest of the day... but it was worth it!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Soundtrack to the perfect ride

You’re out on the Road, the weather’s fine, and there’s little to no traffic. So what’s playing in your helmet? I’ve never been one to listen to music while riding, but to be honest with it was more due to a lack of decent sound quality than anything else. My intercom (an IMC-Motocom unit) does have a music input for piping-in tunes from an iPod or such, but it ends up sounding like complete crap. Anyhow, something’s gone screwy with the intercom lately, and it’s blurting out random bursts of loud static… So I’m thinking of replacing it with something better (leaning towards a Baehr unit, but still undecided).

So what tunes should I load into the iPod for a nice summer ride? Here are some of my initial choices, and if some seem obscure – well – they were meant to be. I want the music to fit with the act of riding, without being too corny. For that reason, I’ve purposely left out the oft-overused “biker anthems” like Born to be Wild, Highway to Hell, Roadhouse Blues, ad nauseum… Don’t get me wrong, they’re good songs, but it’s just all been done way too many times.

Here’s what I’ve got so far:
1. Analog Kid – RUSH
2. Angel on my Bike – The Wallflowers
3. Bicycle Race – Queen
4. Days are Numbers (The Traveler) – The Alan Parsons Project
5. Feelin’ Satisfied - Boston
6. Feels so Good – Van Halen
7. Fly By Night - RUSH
8. Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac
9. Goodbye Stranger – Supertramp
10. Heavy Fuel – Dire Straits
11. Lay Down Sally – Eric Clapton
12. Let It Roll – Little Feat
13. Let’s Go – The Cars
14. Limelight – RUSH
15. Message in a Bottle – The Police
16. Modern Love – David Bowie
17. No Particular Place To Go – Chuck Berry
18. Nowhere With You – Joel Plaskett Emergency
19. Over the Hills and Far Away – Led Zeppelin
20. Roadrunner – Bo Diddley
21. Roundabout – Yes
22. Twilight Zone – Golden Earring
23. Walls Fall Down – Bedouin Soundclash
24. Wherever I May Roam – Metallica
25. Won’t Get Fooled Again – The Who

So, any suggestions?

"You can call it the 'Perfect Moment' when the universe aligns and the music in your head actually matches the music outside and all is well." - Hugh Elliott

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Are we better than bears?

Odd thought: Brown bears (of which there are many around here) have a thick coat of fur, combined with about 400lbs of fat for warmth. These animals are obviously made to tough it out through the cold winter months. So what do they chose to do? Hibernate!

I, on the other hand, have a very thin coat of fur, and although I'll admit to having some superfluous fat, it isn't enough to keep me warm. So why don't humans hibernate? Seems to me it would make winter go by much faster.

Here's an interesting statistical tidbit for New Brunswickers:

  • In the first few months of 1992, Moncton and many parts of New Brunswick recorded record amounts of snowfall. Ex: from January 1st to February 11th, in 1992, we had a total accumulation of 136.10 cm of snow.
  • Reality check! This year, from January 1st to February 11th, we've already gotten 143.50 cm of the white stuff!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Is my helmet legal?

I was bored, snowed-in, and looking for something to keep my feeble mind occupied, so I started reading through the various acts and regulations here in New Brunswick that relate to motorcycling. Wasn't really searching for anything specific, but I was curious about the legality of ape-hangers as I've often wondered if gripping the handlebars two feet above your head made any sense. Well, I didn't find anything specific to ape-hangers (if someone else knows, please point it out), but I did come across something rather strange regarding helmets, and I'm still trying to figure it out!

According to Section 229 of the Motor Vehicles Act:
"No person shall drive a motorcycle or ride thereon as a passenger unless he is wearing a helmet protection for his head which helmet conforms with the standards prescribed by regulation."

No big surprise there, as all ten provinces and three territories have mandatory helmet laws. But given all the hooplah lately about Snell vs. DOT vs. ECE, I was curious about which standard applied; so the next logical step was to see what the regs specified as prescribed standards, right? Well, that's where it gets confusing. In the General Regulations to the Motor Vehicles Act, Section 38, it reads:
A helmet worn by a motorcycle rider shall
(a) be a helmet of a kind that has been approved by the Equipment Approval Division of the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), or
(b) conform with the standards set out in CAN3-D230-M85[ID#710], "Protective Headgear in Motor Vehicle Applications", prepared by the Canadian Standards Association, including any amendments, additions or deletions made subsequently to it, or any subsequent editions of it, and shall bear the following label: (image of CSA approval label)

Now, a quick search of the AAMVA website lead me to the following information:
"Many years ago, AAMVA conducted a program to approve vehicle-related safety equipment, including motorcycle crash helmets. AAMVA's equipment approval program was discontinued in the early 1980s.

AAMVA continued certifying laboratories that conduct vehicle equipment testing until 1994. Both programs are now conducted independently by a private organization, not affiliated with AAMVA, called the Automotive Manufacturers Equipment Compliance Agency, Inc. (AMECA)."

Therefore, Section 38(a) of the General Regulations is invalid, other than as a grandfather clause for helmets purchased when the AAMVA still conducted equipment compliance testing.

Which brings us to Section 38(b). Those of you who (like me) have been riding for some time probably remember the CSA tags that used to be in many helmets sold in Canada. Of course, you don't find those anymore... because CSA stopped certifying helmets over a decade ago! So this would effectively render 38(b) invalid also, except as a grandfather clause for older helmets. But really, if your helmet is 10+ years old, maybe you should be thinking of getting a replacement soon, eh?

So I called up the NB-DOT, which gave me the run around and told me to call the NB Safety Council. Spoke to a nice lady there, who seemed quite confused by my call and referred me to the NB-Dept. of Public Safety. There I left about 3 messages at various numbers. Didn't get a callback yet.

So my question is this: If, in New Brunswick, I must wear a helmet because it's the law, and that helmet must conform to either of two standards that no longer exist, do I really have to wear a helmet at all?

Anyhow, just fighting a bout of cabin fever and my mind tends to amuse itself with these useless arguments.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Tip 'O The Visor - Marc "MAZZ" Mazerolle

Met an interesting fellow motorcyclist last week, Marc "Mazz" Mazerolle. Mazz has used his passion for choppers as inspiration in creating a program to help keep at-risk teens out of trouble. The Bike Klub membership is comprised of students from Bernice MacNaughton High School in Moncton, New Brunswick. They started by building a chopper-styled bicycle under the guidance of Mazz; but they've since moved on to much bigger (and badder) things. Check out these pics of Betty!

Check out their homepage and maybe make a donation if you feel so inclined.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

He Made It!

Well, it seems Paul Mondor (a.k.a. the Iceman) has finished his cross-Canada trek. "So what?" I hear you say, "what's the big deal?". Well, he did it in winter on a motorcycle and it included the Trans-Labrador Highway - a road not lightly taken even in mid-summer.

OK, I'll admit that his journey was actually on three wheels (he added a sidecar) - but to do it in the thick of winter is still quite an achievement.

For all who are interested, he kept a pseudo-diary of his journey through regular posts on his website's forum.

Canada: A Dangerous Destination!

I read an interesting article by the Canadian Press last week regarding a travel advisory by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that listed Canada as a risky destination for Aussie travellers. Amongst the reasons listed were the risk of terrorist attacks, possible earthquakes, spontaneous forest fires, and the oh-so-common risk of avalanches and tsunamis!

I always thought Australians to be a brave and hearty bunch, especially considering that they come from a country whose fauna includes the ten most venomous snake species in the world!

Oh, and by the way, here are some of the countries deemed safer than Canada: Belarus, Croatia, Guam, and South Korea.

What really bothered me is that now, on top of dodging absent-minded cagers while riding, I also have to look out for terrorists, forest fires, avalanches and tsunamis.

Friday, January 25, 2008

All Praise The Mighty Chrome!

For some reason, religion and motorcycles seem to make a good match in some peoples' minds. Now I'm not the most religious man, although I do claim to be spiritual (I don't buy-in to what most compartmentalized religions are selling), but something tells me that I'd enjoy the service at the Hope Fellowship Church (formerly The Pigeon Hole bar) in Irving, Texas.

The Christian Science Monitor recently ran an article about the Church and its pastor, Rev. Dennis King.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

2008 Motorcycle Bloggers International Riders' Choice Awards

The fine and outstanding guys and gals over at Motorcycle Bloggers International (of which I am - ahem - a new member) are collecting nominations from bikers for the best (and not so great) of 2008. So come on, tell us what you think! What was the best new concept bike, or how about the most disappointing new motorcycle. There's also some interesting categories like "Wish We'd Thought Of That" and "What Were They Thinking?". Forget what the mainstream motorcycle magazines are telling you - make your own choice and vote at the MBI website.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Too Damn Cold.

My office has a small electronic weather monitoring station on the roof of the building. We've set up a small webserver within the intranet that allows us to check the observations in real time from any computer on the network. Right now the wind is a steady westerly at 26km/h (about 16 mph), which ain't bad.

The mercury, however, seems to be stuck at the -27°C mark (or maybe it just froze there). For my friends out there who haven't fully embraced the metric system yet, that's almost -17°F. Of course, with that bit of wind coming in from the West, it dips down to -40°C with the windchill. Uh-huh, that's the break-even point between the Celsius and Fahrenheit gauges. -40°F my friends.

Anybody out there in warmer climes with a spare bike and an empty bedroom?

I Don't Trust Snell

With all due respect to the late William « Pete » Snell, I’ve lost all trust in the foundation that now bears his name. For those of us who wear full-face helmets, the debate regarding Snell vs. DOT helmets can get quite heated at times, but never did it flare up as much as the weeks and months following the June 2005 edition of Motorcyclist Magazine. The article, by Dexter Ford, was titled “Blowing The Lid Off” and it raised quite a few eyebrows then, and continues to do so today. If you haven't read it, please go ahead and do so. I'll wait. No really, its worth it.

I remember admiring the editorial staff at Motorcyclist after first reading the article, because they were obviously aware that it would result in lost advertising dollars. After all, some of the more “high-end” helmets [read: expensive] like the Arai’s and HJC’s came out last, while the overall winner was the lowly Z1R, which retails for less than $100. The problem, as was concluded by Motorcyclist, is that Snell’s criteria for a helmet require it to be too stiff, in turn transmitting too much G-force to the cranium, in turn smashing your brains to a pulp… OK, maybe not to a pulp – but you get the idea.

Even Dr. Jim Newman, former director of the Snell Foundation, and Dr. Harry Hurt, author of the now infamous Hurt Report, agreed that the 300 G's allowed to be transferred to the headform by Snell in some helmet tests was way too high then what was needed for practical application on the street.

Snell’s website is, quite frankly, one of the worst I’ve seen in a long time. From a purely techno-geek standpoint, the layout’s all wrong, and it’s aesthetically unpleasant – to say the least. But that’s just a question of taste, and seeing how it's a not-for-profit organization, they just might not have the budget for it – so we won’t dwell on that too much. Of course, in 2005 their operational budget was $1,875,325 of which almost half (48%) went to director/officer compensation and employee salaries. You'd think they could hire a part-time web designer with that kind of cash.

What really bothers me about the website is the information (or lack thereof) that is presented. Most professional, scientifically-driven organizations will offer their research up for peer review, and sometimes learn from their critics. But when you take a look at Snell’s response to the Motorcyclist article… well, it seems just darn childish! Rather than respond with their own facts and figures to what was claimed in the magazine article, Snell comes out with a conspiracy theory of sorts, claiming that Motorcyclist had published "thinly disguised and highly biased attacks on Snell standards and on Snell certified helmets". Then they must have caught themselves, as they did retort with a technical response where they claimed that "We have rejected these ideas [Motorcyclist’s] not because of the source or even the manner of their presentation. We have rejected them because they are unsound."

Well, it seems even Snell can make mistakes, although I’m not sure they’ll want to admit to them. In their latest Newsletter, they’ve published the final draft of their new 2010 standard (which should replace the 2005 standard that was reviewed in Motorcyclist’s article). So what’s different about the new standard? Well for starters, its not as stiff! Yup, you heard it. Snell’s proposed new standard is actually closer to DOT than the previous one was. But wait! Wasn't that an "unsound" idea? Flip-flop.

I don't claim to be an engineer or scientist with hundreds of published studies. But I am a motorcyclist and I do read. Even more importantly, I am a consumer and I buy. So when it comes time to fork out some of my dough, I try to get the best I can for my money. But on the flipside, I also like to buy from people I trust. People who'll be honest about their faults and will admit when they may have done wrong. The Snell Memorial Foundation, in my eyes, are not those kind of people.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Need More Toys

I've been sitting on the fence for the past year or so on the issue of trading up to another bike. I can't really afford to have more than one in the stable, so it's always a question of finding the best allrounder. For the past four years, it has been the Suzuki DL650 V-Strom, and I couldn't be more pleased. But the more two-up touring we do, the more SWMBO wishes there was just a bit more room to stretch around back there.

We'd been considering a few more touring-oriented bikes (read: bigger) and although the idea of more power and better ergos was interesting, I still knew I'd have a hard time saying goodbye to the 'Strom. Well, it seems I won't have to worry about it for another year. There's a few "must do" renos around the house that are going to seriously cut into the new bike budget... but not so much as there won't be any left for a few farkles!

OK, so I've got about $500 to spend on toys... but what will I chose? Here's the short list of things that I want:

  • Givi crash bars: Although I've been lucky so far... actually, scratch that. Luck has nothing to do with it. I've been a good rider, and thus far I've had no falls, but... you never know. These offer minimal protection (if any) to the rider in a crash or low speed fall, but they would probably limit the damage to the Tupperware on the 'Strom.
  • PowerMadd handguards: These are the Star series handguards. Not so much for protecting the knuckles from errant branches and twigs, but as weather protection from wind. I've also looked into getting the Suzuki OEM knuckleguards, but they cost about four times as much.
  • Bags Connection Camera Mount: Although Colyn in the BMWLT forum has done an interesting write-up on shooting from the saddle (pictures, that is), I'd much rather keep both hands on the handlebars as much as possible. I've already got the adapter ring on the fueltank for my Engage tankbag, so this would be an interesting accessory for videotaping those wonderful Sunday morning rides.
  • IMC Bluetooth Intercom: Man, would I ever like to cut the cord. I'm still waiting for more reviews to come in on this one to see how well it actually works. Wouldn't it be great to just put on your helmet and go?

So there are some of the goodies I'm looking at, but I'm open to suggestions. Maybe if I order just a few it would help me get over this case of cabin fever I'm coming down with?