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!