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?