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.