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."