You Are No Cowboy

I grew up in western Kansas and spent a lot of my K-12 years working on an uncle’s eastern Kansas ranch. My cousins were actual cowboys, even winning state roping and riding championships. I liked the work, it turned out that I don’t like horses all that much. In the late-60s, my wife and I rented an apartment from a dude in Dallas who desperately wanted to be a rich guy and had bought a “ranch” that he planned on turning into a horse breeding business. Since my wife loves horses and I had spent some of my youth working on an uncle’s ranch, our landlord thought we’d be cheap help on his ranch. For two years, I trained, fed, castrated, exercised, and got tossed on my ass by a motley collection of thoroughbreds and quarter horses. Most of which were almost as smart as a two-stroke motorcycle; especially the thoroughbreds. I have documented my horsie experiences before, in Geezer with A Grudge: “#48 An Attempt at Understanding.” The end result is that I have enough trouble keeping track of one scatterbrain and I generally don’t ride horses or want to ride horses.

At the beginning of my electronics career, I worked in commercial ag equipment; electronic scales, to be precise. Most of my customers were cattle, hog, and horse (seriously) feedlot owners from South Texas to North Dakota and all states between and east to Louisiana and west to the Rockies. I met a lot of working cowboys in that job and saw a lot of rodeos. I am not one, but I know a cowboy when I see or hear one and I know a great rider when I see one.

Ira McKeever 3There are two things that are guaranteed to piss me off are Nashville country singers wearing cowboy hats and Harley asshats pretending that their idiotic motorcycles are throwbacks to “western American riding style.” The picture (left) is of my wife’s grandfather, Ira McKeever, a real live western saddle cowboy and if you can see a resemblance between his saddle position and a Harley’s traditional gynecological exam awkwardness, you need both glasses and some damn sense. You’ll notice a real cowboy doesn’t wear that ridiculous asshat Nashville city boys pretend is a cowboy hat, either.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What’s Stopping Them?

Sitting on my front porch this morning, when the trash truck showed up and a half-dozen cars backed up behind him, I was (as usual) amazed that the noise from a trash truck, three pickups, and two cars were totally obliterated by one blubbering Hardly at the back of the line. I moved to this place to escape the I35 noise in the Twin Cities, but the biker noise on our county road is making me reconsider that move and I’ve been looking for a quieter place since; probably not in Minnesota where cops are not only terrified of biker gangbangers but are often among their grubby “club” memberships. If that isn’t a firing offense, cops are a long ways from being effectively “defunded.”

A while back an acquaintance trying to prove that people aren’t pissed off at motorcycle noise claimed that the rare Goldwing that passed through his small Wisconsin town with it’s idiot stereo system blasting was noisier and more irritating than the usual horde of idiots on Hardlys. He mentioned something about taking a shot at them and I wondered why that wasn’t happening all the time. He claimed there was some guy who had taken shots at bikers, “of all kinds,” and after a few days I decided to try and find that story. As best I can tell, it never happened. [His rebuttal is “This happened pre WWW, about 1988 and I believe between Poplar WI and Bayfield WI.  At the time I was living in Duluth and it was my garbage man’s son who did the shooting.  If memory serves me, which it sometimes doesn’t, his last name was ‘Henderson.’  If you could view the archives of the Duluth News Tribune I’m sure you would find the relevant stories as it was a bit of a sensational event in the region.”]

And the question is, “Why not?” Americans shoot at every possible group of people, except actual bad guys. Gun nuts have slaughtered people in a dance club, people watching a country concert, people in churches (especially Black churches), high school kids, grade school kids, and, probably, pre-school kids, But actual assholes? Not so much. Where are you, John McClane, when your country really needs you?

If you do a Google search on “motorcycle” “shooting” (the quotes are necessary to get everything with “motorcycle” and “shooting” and nothing without both terms involved) you’ll get “About 25,900,000 results” with titles like “Woman dies following motorcycle gang shootout on I-4; Boyfriend charged with second-degree murder” and “Deputies investigate shooting at motorcycle club” and “Man, 22, was shot in the back of the head by motorcycle riders” and “Police investigating burglary suspect shooting, fatal …” and lots more, but no one shooting at motorcyclists just because of the rage factor. Americans shoot each other when one person accidentally mows a bit of his neighbor’s weedy yard. Why aren’t there at least a few instances of guys going off the handle and opening up on a pack of biker gangbangers? Is there anything else in this country more irritating than some half-wit blasting the peace and quiet simply because his mommy didn’t love him and his daddy had the good sense to get the hell out of town when that moronic bimbo found herself pregnant?

I did find this story, which is pretty hilarious everywhere but the cops’ usual incompetence, “Deputies arrest 84-year-old woman who shot at neighbor’s ‘noisy’ children.” I don’t know if the targets were actual “children” or just asshole teenagers with moron parents, but it’s pretty typical that the cops didn’t think of doing anything about a family of biker gangbangers. There is a not-unusual story about a drunken asshole biker who the cops found naked and rev’ing the engine of his hippobike because his neighbor had asked him to keep his dog quiet. There is no shortage of people complaining about this illegal behavior and a total absence of anything resembling law enforcement doing anything about it. As gun-loving as this country is and as much noise is made about “stand your ground” rights, you’d think someone would be cleaning the streets of these bozos. But you’d be wrong and disappointed.

Why is that?

There are some pretty sad reasons why cops don’t do the job they are paid to do. At least one ex-cop has an opinion, “The TRUTH About Loud Motorcycles, Automobiles, Trucks, the Police Won’t or Can’t Tell You.” To sum him up, 49 of 50 states have laws that regulate the noise output of vehicles and “Mayors [and other political and bureaucratic city officials], motivated by political expediency and greed for the city coffer, opt to ignore the protective intent of well-established Federal and State muffler laws – laws enacted specifically for the “protection of the citizenry” within their jurisdiction – while these elected officials provide police protection and services for the law breakers i.e. the Loud Biker Cult[ure] and permit these narcissistic bullies to roam their municipalities unencumbered for days while the tax-paying citizenry suffers.”

I do not get why there aren’t occasional folks going off-the-rails and taking the actual law into their own hands, since the people paid to enforce laws are busy stuffing their maws with donuts. It almost seems un-American that the news stories aren’t filled with episodes about “ Good ‘ole Billy Bob just got tired of all that damn noise and shot up a bunch of bikes and burned down the biker bar with all of ‘em in it, pickin’ ‘em off when they came streaming out of the bar like a bunch of smoked-out ants, till the cops got there and took poor ‘ole Billy Bob down.” You’d think “’ole Billy Bob” would be a national hero with a parade attended by people from all over the country.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

eBikes, Mopeds, and Motorcycles: Is There A Difference?

eBikes (“e-bikes”?) are becoming the most dangerous vehicle on the road, despite eBikers claim that bicycles and eBikes are not “vehicles.” Hint: if you are not walking and you are moving you are in or on a “vehicle.” "noun: vehicle; plural noun: vehicles 1. a thing used for transporting people or goods, especially on land, such as a car, truck, or cart." A bicycle/eBike is definitely “a thing” and even if you are just moving about recreationally you are being transported. This is, perhaps, the dumbest aspect of eBike promoters argument against regulating and licensing eBikes. If you like dumb arguments, you’ll love this doofus: Bolton Bikes.

If you’ve stuck with me for a while, you’ll know I think motorcycle licensing in the US is idiotic. And by that I mean any idiot with $13 and bare-minimal skills can get a motorcycle endorsement and, based on local traffic, I’d say every idiot in Minnesota has a motorcycle endorsement.

eBikes: Federal law in HB 727, a 2002 law enacted by Congress, defines an electric bicycle as “A two- or three-wheeled vehicle with fully operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts (1 h.p.), whose maximum speed on a paved level surface, when powered solely by such a motor while ridden by an operator who weighs 170 pounds, is less than 20 mph.” Most states adopted that definition of eBikes and most also adopted the federal park regulation that allowed eBikes fitting that description access to bicycle trails and bike lanes. In some states, eBikes are excluded from the legal definition of “motor vehicles.” That, mostly, is for the purpose of minimizing licensing requirements.

State bicycle/eBike helmet laws are inconsistent, irrational, and unequally enforced. If there are bike helmet requirements, most likely they will only be applied to whatever the state decides are “children.”

Mopeds: Mopeds are probably the most misleading named vehicle on the planet today. A moped is legally defined as "[a] vehicle that has two or three wheels, no external shifting device, and a motor that does not exceed 50 cubic centimeters piston displacement and cannot propel the vehicle at a speed greater than 30 miles per hour on a level surface." You’ll notice, I hope, that nothing is mentioned about pedals in the moped description. A zillion years ago, mopeds were mostly bicycles people had stuck un-muffled 2-stroke motors to, leaving the pedals to fool lazy cops (as if there is another kind?) and piss off as many pedestrians, neighbors, and property owners as possible. State laws about mopeds are all over the place. Some states require a license plate and motorcycle endorsement for any vehicle that meets the definition of moped and above (anything not legally a bicycle or eBike) and some states only require a license for under-16 or under-18-year-old riders. Most “mopeds” are just small (50cc/under-30mph) scooters. Moped horsepower definitions vary by state from anything over 1 h.p. to 5 h.p. Some states (Colorado, for example) have a weird undefined area between 750W and “4,476 watts for electric motors” (6 h.p.) where the vehicle is neither an eBike or a moped. I can’t imagine what kind of nutjobs wrote those laws, but I’ve pretty much given up on at least half of the fools in this country so I’m not inconvenienced.

Likewise, helmet requirements are all over the place for mopeds. Like motorcycles, there is no rationale behind moped helmet laws. Most states require helmets for 18-and-under, but states like Minnesota rarely bother to enforce those laws (or any other laws that don’t get cops into non-white people business).

Motorcycles: Motorcycles are pretty much everything else, including some 3-wheeled vehicles, like the Polaris Slingshot and Can-Am Spyder, that are “motorcycles” because that is how the manufacturers slithered past car safety regulations. The lesson there is “If you don’t care how many of your customers you kill, call your vehicle a ‘motorcycle.’” The Bolton goober claims there “are no horsepower limits on motorcycles.” Of course, he’s about as useful a source as I am on particle physics. In 2010, the EU limited production motorcycles to 100 h.p. for a while, then changed its little mind in 2015 and reversed that ruling. France didn’t follow the EU in going back to unlimited horsepower and maximum road hazard until late 2016. US DOT restrictions indirectly limit production bike horsepower with emissions, noise, and safety restrictions. Of course our lazy local policing allows bikers to circumvent federal and state regulations because so many of the so-called “law enforcement” gangsters are also biker gangbangers. The one thing cops really hate are laws that apply to themselves.

It is fair to say that anything that isn’t either a bicycle (or legal eBike) or a moped is a motorcycle; regardless of if it is a scooter, an electric two-or-three-wheel vehicle, has or doesn’t have pedals, or is a custom one-off or production vehicle. The definitions of these three vehicles are solely determined by powered speed limits and horsepower/watts. Any attempt to cloud those definitions are nothing more that blown smoke and any policing fooled by that smoke isn’t worth the price of a badge or public support.

Motorcycle helmet laws have been under siege by the very people they are designed to protect, in practically every country. As I speculated a while back, the only real argument for not wearing a helmet is a childish desire to be recognized as a biker. In 1966, the federal government offered highway funding incentives for states to enact helmet laws. (Eeek! Social engineering!) Regardless of the look-at-me! crowd delusions, the evidence for reduced serious motorcycle injury and death with helmet use is overwhelming. However, helmet laws have been under attack by the AMA and ABATE and other biker disorganizations from the start and, somehow, the AMA convinced our congresscritters to repeal the federal incentives in 1975. At that time, California (believe it or not) was the only state not to have a mandatory helmet law. Today, only 19 states have mandatory universal helmet laws. Oddly, California is one of ‘em.

Some stats about motorcycle riders, helmet use, and motorcycle crash data are . . . interesting. The average age of motorcyclists is somewhere between 51 and 56, depending on who’s data you’re believing this week. In 1980, the average age was 27. 19% of riders are women, compared to 6% in 1980. 3% of motorcycle deaths “are attributed to women” and 93% of motorcycle passenger deaths are women. (No surprises there.) “Mothers don’t let your baby girls grow up to be biker chicks?”

The point of this essay was to try and clarify the very clear lines between eBikes and the rest of motorized two-wheeled transportation. A surprise, to me, was that the line between mopeds and motorcycles is so sloppy.

Posted in ebike, helmet laws, moped, motorcycle, motorcycle safety legislation | Leave a comment

Remember When?

 Remember when motorcycle manufacturers thought sales were worth advertising for? It feels like a lifetime ago.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

No, 70 Is Not the New 50

A good friend and I are trying to plan a moderately unscheduled motorcycle trip, meeting in South Dakota and traveling up the Hills into Teddy Roosevelt and across to Bismarck, before we split up and he heads north into Canada and I go back home. At least that’s the plan as of this moment. We’re both riding Suzuki TU250X’s, so speed isn’t a thing for this trip, hence the “moderately unscheduled” aspect of the trip. We won’t be pounding out big miles, ideally. Mostly because I’m old. I mean I started this GWAG thing when I was 50-something. I thought I was old then and I was, but I am really old now.

I’ve been sleeping on the ground since I was a kid and that was a long time ago. To avoid being drug to church by my parents, I would sneak out of the house late Saturday night—with a blanket and a canteen and a flashlight and a bag of potato chips I’d smuggled into my room and had hidden in my kid’s crap pile—and cross the Highway 50 bypass to the ruins of an old Catholic school in an abandoned lot not far from our house. The only thing left of those buildings were the basements and I’d found an old wooden ladder that I propped up next to the ruins of the basement stairs of one of those buildings and that was my hideout from church “duty.” It worked for most of a year until my parents gave up and let me stay home if I would have lunch ready for the family when they all came plodding back from being preached at and scammed out of their allowances and an unreasonable portion of an already meager teacher’s salary. I was about 12 at the time. I’d still rather sleep on the cold ground than listen to a sermon.

After I moved out on my own, the summer I turned 16, I took a “gap month” after I’d dropped out of the worst community college in the planet and the band I would spend the rest of the summer touring with got a late start for the summer because the band leader crashed his Thunderbird into the only tree in Oklahoma on his way home to Little Rock. I didn’t have any real camping gear, but I remember scavenging a canvas Boy Scouts’ pup tent and a nasty looking sleeping bag I’d found somewhere. I lived along the Arkansas River between Dodge City and Cimarron, Kansas shooting squirrels and jack rabbits with my single-shot .22 and pretending to live off of the land, while occasionally sneaking into town and ripping off food from some of the south Dodge residents’ outdoor freezers and refrigerators. 

A few years later, I was living in Hereford, Texas (the place the hose goes when they give the world an enema) and struggling to make a living and clinging to my sanity as a new father, a barely-trained and unskilled electronics technician, and a failed ex-musician. The only escape from the pressure I could afford was backpacking the occasional free days in Palo Duro Canyon, mostly in the winter when no one else wanted to be there, but I hiked the Canyon any time I could get away for three years running (literally, often). About the same time, I lucked into Colin Fletcher’s The Complete Walker, one of the few books I have kept throughout the last 50 years. Fletcher taught me about gear, preparation, survival tactics, climbing and descending (with a loaded pack), and most of the “skills” I’ve used in backpacking, running rivers, and solo motorcycle camping. Sometime in the 90’s, I swapped out my trusty North Face tent for a Lawson Blue Ridge Hammock, but I still have much of the gear I started with. I’ve camped in ditches, abandoned farm house backyards, forests and windbreaks, by the ocean, streams, and lakes, and, even, official campgrounds all over the country; from California to Nova Scotia.

But I’m done with all of that now. Scott and I wrestled with all sorts of trip plans, with the assumption that camping is the safest way for old guys to stay away from the goobers spreading SARS-CoV-2 across the country. Camping just isn’t a practical option for me anymore. I might consider a trip that could guarantee trees for the Lawson Hammock, but this trip won’t be in that kind of terrain. My last trip was pretty much a disaster, but even if the “campsite” hadn’t been a dumb idea and well-tipped into idiotic if hilarious I learned that the costs of sleeping on the ground are too high now. I could do it if I had to, but I’d wake up stiff all over, the arthritis in my hands would be crippling, and that’s if I managed to sleep at all. If we’re going to do this trip, it will have to be with motel rests at night so I can boil my hands in hot water, ice my knees and shoulder, and sleep in a reasonably comfortable bed.

No, 70 is not the new 50 and anyone who says it is knows nothing. As Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel said in "Why I Hope to Die at 75, "over recent decades, increases in longevity seem to have been accompanied by increases in disability—not decreases. For instance, using data from the National Health Interview Survey, Eileen Crimmins, a researcher at the University of Southern California, and a colleague assessed physical functioning in adults, analyzing whether people could walk a quarter of a mile; climb 10 stairs; stand or sit for two hours; and stand up, bend, or kneel without using special equipment. The results show that as people age, there is a progressive erosion of physical functioning. More important, Crimmins found that between 1998 and 2006, the loss of functional mobility in the elderly increased. In 1998, about 28 percent of American men 80 and older had a functional limitation; by 2006, that figure was nearly 42 percent. And for women the result was even worse: more than half of women 80 and older had a functional limitation.” I was playing basketball fairly competently at 50, I probably couldn’t reliably catch a pass today. I confidently took off on a 30-day motorcycle trip to Alaska in 2007, when I was 59. I might still consider an Alaska trip at 73, but I wouldn’t have much confidence in the outcome. My 50-year-old self would kick my 70-year-old self’s ass any day of the week. So would sleeping on the ground for a week.

Posted in camping, touring | Leave a comment

Makin’ Up the Numbers

The other day a friend (yeah, you know who you are) was bragging to me that he’d ridden more than a million miles in his riding lifetime. If you know anything about me you know I am a numbers guy and you also know that I assume 99% of Americans are embarrassingly mathematically illiterate. (That is putting it mildly.) After 73 years on this planet, in a country that despises math, science, and reality as much as the Catholic Church hates kids who rat out priests, I pretty much doubt everything anyone tells me until I can verify it myself. I doubt myself, too. I know some surveys have given the USA a slightly better math literacy score, but I think they are optimists. Ted Sturgeon once said that “ninety percent of everything is crap.” I think Ted, also, was an optimist. My name is “Thomas” for a reason, although probably not the one my parents intended; whatever that was.

Regardless of what your favorite politician has told you, a million is a really, REALLY big number. Here are some million-mile scenarios as a half-hearted attempt at elucidation: I reflected on how big a number that is back when my original blog site (geezerwithagrudge.blogspot.com/) finally passed a million hits in December 2020, after being on-line since 2008. (That was after converting my original GeezerwithAGrudge.com webpage to a Google blog. The original page had been on a Comcast site, which Comcast discontinued, since 2000 and had collected about 300,000 hits.) The Google site had been collecting an average of 3,000–5,000 hits per month with occasional monthly peaks of around 25,000 between 2014 and 2017 and as it approached 500,000 I got interested in watching the numbers roll towards a million. After a few months of that, I got bored and missed the big blog odometer counter roll-up. A 5,000 hits a month, it takes 100 months to collect 100,000; almost 8 1/2 years. Likewise, it takes a lot of riding to collect 1,000,000 miles:

1) If you ride 5 days a week for 35 years, to get to 1,000,000 miles you’ll have to ride an average of 110 miles a day. If you ride 7 days a week you’ll only have to average 78 miles a day.

2) Add a 1,000 mile annual vacation trip to the above daily miles and you’ll only have to average 21 miles a day seven days a week or about 23 miles a day for five days a week for 35 years. a 2,000 mile annual trip takes the 7 day necessary average to 12 miles and 5 days to 12.6 miles A 3,000 mile annual trip knocks the daily 7 say average to 8.5 miles and 5 days to 8.75 miles. If you’ve managed to pull off a 5,000 mile vacation trip every year for 35 years, you’d only need to ride to work and back 5.3 miles a day seven days a week or 5.4 miles for five.

We’re not talking about doing this daily ride occasionally. You have to average those miles on a weekly basis for 35 freakin’ years. You might be able to imagine that you’ve done that, but I’m not going with you. Likewise, I’m not going to believe that your get 30mpg in your Ford F150 or 60mpg from your Yamaha R1, either. Do not try to show me that idiot mileage calculator built into your fuel injection system. Show me a spreadsheet with at least 50 tank fills and no weirdness and I might begin to be convinced.

3) If you average 5,000 miles per year, it will take you 200 years to rack up a million miles: 7,500 annual miles needs 133 years, 10,000 needs 100 years, 15,000 will take 66 2/3 years, and 20,000 only 50 years.

All that said, in a 35 year riding “career,” odds are you haven’t crossed a million miles yet. Likely, you’re not even a quarter of the way there yet. Odds are even better you’ll never get there. I’ve been riding, off and on, since 1963, but there have been periods where motorcycles weren’t anywhere in my life and periods where motorcycles were about the only functional transportation in my life.

I know there are some rich, idle geezers who have managed 1,000,000 mile riding lives and–I guess–“hats off to them.” There are even some civil service characters with their typical 3 months a year vacation time who can act like rich idle geezers and who have pounded out big miles. (Yeah, I’m jealous.) But most of us working stiffs are likely to peter out at 200,000-500,000 miles if we’re lucky. Unlike my salesman friend, I suspect the average driving lifetime for motorcyclists is pretty close to 10,000 or 20,000 miles between fatal accidents. Craig’s List ads indicate the average motorcycle travels about 1,500 miles per year, which sort of clicks with the number of bikes the usual suspects have owned before ending up in a ditch bawling for an ambulance.

The cool thing about these kinds of claims is that I have never heard any of that kind of stuff from the few hard core motorcyclists LD I have known. All of those guys have worn their way through a pile of motorcycles and keeping track of the final odometer reading over a lifetime of doing more important stuff just isn’t a thing. Math geeks really shy away from making claims that don’t add up. The people who are really happy to quote wild and big numbers are too often self-declared mathphobes and innumeracy sufferers.

For example, one guy I know is a radical left-winger and who loves to jabber about “big banks” and “big finance” and how dysfunctional our economic system is, while admitting that he is so micro-economically incompetent that he can’t balance a check book, pay his simple 1040A taxes without an accountant, or manage a credit card. None of that inability even puts a glancing blow on his confidence that he is a macro-economics wiz and the world would be a better place if it listened to him and banished money and went back to living off of the land and under a rock. Personally, I wouldn’t put a dime in his hand if I expected to get it back. And I hate farming. I’d rather be a hitman than a farmer.

Now, before your panties get all wadded up and you become a prime candidate for a super wedgie, I’m not calling anyone a liar. Deluded, probably, but lying not so much. Even worse for your case, I don’t care. At this point in my life, pretty much all bragging goes in one ear and out the other. After the last 4 years of non-stop bragging from a character whose whole life has been one failure, disaster, crooked scheme, ripoff, bumbling idiocy, and easily fact-checked outright lies, bragging has lost its power and entertainment value. Self-depreciation, curiosity, and an appreciation for facts and reality, on the other hand, have really taken on a whole new light.

At the opposite end of this accomplishment and self-evaluation spectrum, I had the immense pleasure of hanging out with some ex-students from my McNally Smith College years this past week and their history and stories of the music business and their experiments with motorcycling (mostly 70’s Japanese bikes turned into café bikes, but at least two several year experiments at road racing) made my week. It takes a lot to make my week, so if you weren’t there you really missed out. If you were, thank you for allowing me to enjoy your life.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Start Seeing Unicorns

All Rights Reserved © 2014 Thomas W. Day

We’re turning over a new leaf in our family. I hate driving four-wheel vehicles and after a fairly miserable several months stuck as the sole driver of our winter excursion in an RV, I am giving up driving our family car as much as possible. My wife, on the other hand, gets car sick when she isn’t driving, can’t read a map, program a GPS, or provide useful directions as a passenger and claims to actually like driving. After 46 years of being the family primary driver, we’re swapping roles. She is a perfectly fine driver with good skills, reasonably good vision, and decent judgment. I hate driving and am prone to zoning out after a few minutes behind the wheel.

So, we’re on the way to visit our daughter’s family in Dinkytown on a warm April evening. My designated driver is about to turn left on Hennepin Avenue across two opposite direction lanes after a barrage of vehicles finally created a slot. She’s focused on the cars coming toward us, about 100 yards away. I saw a motorcyclist in the far lane and provided a slightly-over-the-top warning (not quite a shout) before she turned into his path. She stopped safely and the completely undressed kid on the black motorcycle, wearing black clothing (without a stitch of protective gear), and who’d cleverly disabled his daytime headlight shook his finger at us as some kind of warning. As usual, he hadn’t made even the slightest effort to remove himself from any aspect of the near-crash: no braking, no evasive maneuver, no horn honking, headlight flashing, or even a shout. Just a limp finger-wagging. Loud pipes wouldn’t have done him any good, since they’re only good for warning people behind the motorcycle that a noisy asshole is in front of them. 

This is where the “Start Seeing Unicorns” comes in. Delusional motorcyclists and safety bureaucrats imagine that if enough propaganda and severe enough penalties are applied, motorcycles will magically become visible to drivers who have real threats to worry about. Not only do most motorcyclists dress to be invisible, but at 0.001-0.01% of total traffic on any given perfect-for-motorcycling day, we’re about as common a sight as unicorns. Nobody but little girls who watch too much television looks for unicorns because they are a statistical unlikelihood. The same logic applies to motorcyclists, with only a minimally greater chance of a sighting. Asking other road-users to watch for us when we are rarely present and don’t make the slightest effort to be seen or rescue ourselves is an exercise in hubris. Your mother may have told you that you are the center of the universe, but no one else on the road has heard of you and, worse, probably won’t notice you until you are bouncing off of their vehicle or sliding down the highway on your bloody ass. 

Earlier that day, I met a guy who bragged that he’d crashed 18 times before he quit riding a few years ago. His last crash was into a house, after an uncontrolled wheelie and jumping a curb and tearing through a garden. He crashed into a house. He admitted that “all of my accidents were my fault, except one.” Speeding, lousy cornering technique, poor judgment, and an irrational belief in his indestructibility all were to blame for all but one crash. The one that he claimed wasn’t his fault was because a woman “pulled out in front of me.” Based on his other experiences and my own later the same day, I suspect that blaming the one crash on someone else misses the point of that one experience. Like the rider who narrowly escaped becoming a hood ornament on our car, this ex-rider clearly needed some decent skills, a dose of common sense, and protective gear.

In fact, too many people supposedly involved in motorcycle safety issues argue the nutty fallacy that motorcyclists are pitiful victims. For example, a University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research study found, “that 60 percent of the time motorists in other vehicles are at fault when they collide with motorcycles.” I’d love to see where that data came from, in detail. Since 34-50% of fatal motorcycle crashes are single vehicle events, it’s pretty obvious that we can’t even deal with the freakin’ road, let alone traffic. What kind of fool would believe that a group of people who are totally responsible for killing themselves half of the time are innocent victims during the other half, when traffic is involved? Seriously? We can’t ride well enough to keep from flinging ourselves into the trees on a solitary road but we suddenly become more competent in heavy traffic? I’m not buying that for a second. And my experience on motorcycles for nearly three-quarters-of-a-million miles totally contradicts that wishful thinking. Every one of the motorcycle fatalities I’ve seen were either completely the motorcyclists’ fault or would have prevented with the tiniest bit of riding skill and reasonable protective gear.

Instead of wishing and hoping that drivers will start watching out for us and compensate for our invisibility and mediocre skills, I think giving up on that dream and getting on with learning how to ride competently would be a good start toward reducing motorcycle crashes. If a rider is serious about staying jelly side up, becoming as visible as possible, and  getting real about the slim chance that anyone will be looking out for us while they are worried about giant trucks, distracted bozos in oversized pickups and SUVs, and their own distractions is absolutely necessary. The whacked idea that people in cages are going to save us from ourselves is delusional, arrogant, and foolish. In 2013, motorcyclists accounted for 15% of national highway deaths. There is no justification on this planet for that massively disproportionate contribution the the estimated $228 BILLION in “societal cost of crashes.” At some point, the country is going to decide to either make motorcyclists prove their competence before obtaining a license, wear reasonable protective gear, or get the hell off of the public’s roads.

I’m not saying motorcyclists need to be paranoid and tell themselves “they’re all out to get me.” We aren’t that important or interesting. They don’t even know we are on the road because we are not a serious threat. You could drive most mid-sized 4-wheel drive pickups over the whole Minnesota contingent of biker gangsters’ toys and still make it to the store for bread, milk, and cookies and back home before you worried about scraping the biker gunk off of your bumper. Not being a threat is much worse than being a potential enemy. You can sort of guess what someone who’s out to get you might do next. If your opponent doesn’t even recognize your existence, there are an infinite number of awful things they might do completely unaware of you and your motorcycle. If that doesn’t make you want to gear up and put your riding skills and motorcycle in order, you do not belong on a motorcycle.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Helmetless and the Maskless

Every morning, my wife and I start our very different routines. I head for the kitchen, assemble a bowl of fruit and cereal, make coffee, and either settle in on our porch to read or at my laptop in the far corner of the house to write. She fires up the television and spends the first couple hours of her day watching the previous evenings’ streamed Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Meyers shows. I usually insert a nice set of Bluetooth noise-cancelling earbuds so I can ignore the noise and, especially, the “news” with which she starts and ends her day.

Today, she had to “share” the news that US House Republicans are refusing to wear masks and vaccination. Of course, I did not need to know that or, at least, hear it. In these days of the American Empire’s dying light the news is relentlessly depressing and uninformative and useless. The nation’s original massive flaws and bonehead founding decisions and “values” are slowly coming home in dozens of directions and there is nothing I can do about it. So, why bother me with it? Stuff I can fix, I’m interested in. But if I’m in the back row of a 747 headed straight down from 30,000 feet at 700mph (or 1,000 ft/sec) after a software failure locks up the plane controls, I’m just in the plane for the ride down and, hopefully, a quick and painless death. Don’t ask me to take the controls or even make suggestions to the pilots in those final 30 seconds.

Mission Impossible 2 Epic Action Scene - YouTubeHowever, hearing that “news” did remind me of a thought that I’ve had for the last couple of decades about motorcycle helmets and the people who refuse to wear them as some sort of strange rebellion against common sense and intelligent decisions. Contrary to the self-image these characters have, I have yet to see a single helmetless motorcyclist who even slightly resembles Tommy Cruise (even the weird looking plastic-surgery-enhanced 60-year-old Tom Cruise) or Ron Perlman. More typically, they look like some fat version of either Marty Feldman, Rosie O’Donnell, Steve Buscemi, Joe Pesci, or Danny Trejo with or without scraggly beards (including the Rosie O’Donnell look-alikes). Nobody needs to or wants to see that, but these goobers all think they are gracing the scenery with their inbred faces and we all have to suffer for their vanity.

There is a logical fallacy called “the Spotlight Effect” that probably explains much of this pain and suffering. The Spotlight Effect is used to describe “the tendency we have to overestimate how much other people notice about us. In other words, we tend to think there is a spotlight on us at all times, highlighting all of our mistakes or flaws, for all the world to see.” Or, in the case of Republican congresscritters or bikers, deeply flawed humans who imagine everyone is looking at them with envy or admiration.

Trust me, we aren’t.

In fact, we are doing the best we can to ignore your existence, but you’re making it really difficult with all the whining, potato-potato noises, and traffic-stopping incompetence. Real motorcyclists know that, at best, motorcycling on public roads exists by the will and tolerance of 99.99. . . % of the population. Motorcycles are nothing more than recreational vehicles as used by the overwhelming majority of motorcyclists and every one of you noisy pirate pretenders.

Roaring from bar to bar, impeding traffic, disturbing the public peace, and getting killed at exorbitant rates and in expensive ways is not a demonstration of a “lifestyle.” It is a statement of insecurity and a desperate need to be noticed. You are simply compensating for having been (rightfully, probably) ignored as children and are mistaking irritation for admiration. Take off your pirate outfit and disguise yourself as a normal human being and mingle with other human beings in any downtown are plagued by bikers and listen to the comments made by those people about the jackasses on motorcycles. You’ll be surprised, disappointed, enlightened, and (on your best day) humbled by how much people hate motorcycles and bikers.

Likewise, if you are paying attention when a Goldwing or other real motorcyclist is in the same traffic situation you’ll notice that nobody hates them or even notices their existence. That is the best situation possible for a recreational vehicle on public roads. Because if we get enough attention for our outsized contribution to noise and air pollution, traffic congestion, and general lawlessness we’ll end up in the same place as horses and horse-drawn buggies, ATVs, go-karts, farm equipment, jet skis, and the rest of the world of adult toys not allowed on public roads.

So, put a helmet over your mess of a face, put the stock pipe back on your bike, and shut the hell up about your bullshit “right of way” and learn how to ride that thing before you lose the privilege . . . for all of us.

And, if you are a Republican chaos and destruction promoter, please expose yourself to as many equally careless and contaminated goobers as possible. Coronaviruses can only do the job evolution designed them to do if at least 70% of the population are dumb enough to set themselves on fire to thin the herd.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Motorcycle Review & Bikes I’ve Owned and Loved (a lot or a little): Suzuki TU250X

All Rights Reserved © 2009/2015/2021 Thomas W. Day

This started off as a “review” and a really brief one (see [Initial Review August 2009] below). In May of 2021, I stumbled into decent buy on a TU250X and bought it, after assuming that my motorcycling days were long gone. So far, I’m still here and I’m still occasionally riding. I had BIG touring plans for this summer after buying the bike in the spring but cataract surgery on both eyes ate up all of July and half of August and the upper body strength I lost during that long period when I was supposed to avoid lifting more than 10-25 pounds, keep my head above my waist as much as possible, and a whole other list of strenuous activities pretty much diluted my initiative and courage out of commission. I suspect I may regret missing out on that trip for the rest of my life. Of course, at my age that is not a long-term bet.

I have taken a few 100-250 mile rides on the TU250X and the bike performed wonderfully, so far averaging 87mpg mostly running at near full throttle anytime I’m outside of city limits. This is the first motorcycle I’ve owned since the 70’s that allows me to be flat footed when I’m stopped. I haven’t cared much about that for the previous 50-some years of motorcycling, long suspensions being more important to me than stopped stability, but I’m old, not particularly limber or strong, and considerable less stable than in the past and it is a nice feature/function at this point in my life. Vibration is minimal at the bars, foot pegs, and seat; at least it is reasonable and minimal to me. Engine noise is also minimal, I’ve been “complimented” a few times with “Wow! That bike is really quiet.” Of course, most people just assume a motorcycle will be asshole-loud and that motorcyclists are obnoxious hooligans.

The speedometer, with stock tires, is “optimistic” at best. I ride with a GPS, so I know what my actual speed is and the speedo is about 7% faster than reality: 62mph indicated is about 55mph, for example. That said, cruising speed on the 250 on flat land without wind hindrance or assistance is about 55-65mph (max and in mild temps conditions). At that speed, the bike is incredibly easy to ride for long distances, with rest stops every hour or so. The passing “experience” is a throwback to my old VW Beetle days; plan on lots of space and no noticeable acceleration above 65mph. Even getting around farm implements is exciting and the only place I can ever pass a semi is on straight uphill sections.

Off pavement, the new handlebars made all the difference. I went from being tentative about turns, deep road sand and gravel, and wet sections to being irrationally confident that my old dirt skills would get me through most anything the road tossed at me. So far, so good. 

Maintaining the TU is almost an old school experience. Valve adjustments are the old-fashioned screw adjustment system, which means it needs to be checked every 3,000 miles, but the components are fairly easily accessed and it only takes about 30 minutes once you’ve gone through the routine once or twice. The air filter is just a coin-screwdriver away and the oil change routine is nothing complicated or odd, except for the oil screen which is hidden behind the filter frame (some TU owners don’t know it is there). 

I added a USB charge port to the handlebars to power my Garmin and charge my phone. Bar vibration is lower enough that I can read the little Garmin maps on the fly. The GPS has Bluetooth, but I don’t need it or want it talking to me while I ride. I read maps through the plastic case on my Darien’s thigh for 30 years. I can deal with a handlebar GPS just fine.

May 2021 POSTSCRIPTAs of May, this review turns into a “Bikes I’ve Owned and Loved (a lot or a little)” review. I bought a barely-used 2012 TU250X and now, I hope, this will turn into a long-term review of that motorcycle. Even after whining that I’d owned my last “customized motorcycle,” I immediately started personalizing my TU. 

#1 Best Farkle: The T-Rex Racing “2009 – 2020 Suzuki TU250X Center Stand.” Installing this thing is a 3-handed job, but well worth the effort. Suddenly, many difficult maintenance and touring operations are much easier. Lubing the chain, for example is possible a half-dozen different ways. 

#2: The Acerbis Dual Road  Handguards. For me, handguards are a must, but there isn’t a lot of handlebar real estate on the TU. These guards solve that problem as well as it can be solved. They are a bar-end only attachment and with that limitation they robust and good protection for my hands and the bike controls. 

 #3: An old standby (for me), Oury Road/Street grips. These things have been on my street and dirt bikes for longer than I can remember. They soften the vibration and impact, add grip, add some diameter to the bars (easing arthritis pain and blood constriction), and stay where they belong until you cut them off. My comfort level on the TU dramatically improved by replacing the grips. The TU’s throttle is inconveniently specifically designed for Suzuki’s mediocre grips, who some Dremel carving is necessary where the handguard meets the throttle body.

#4: The stock cafe racer style bars are ok, on pavement, but I’m just not comfortable with narrow pullback bars. So, I replaced mine with Fly Racing Carbon Steel Honda CR bars, about 2″ wider, straighter, and marginally lower. What a difference! The first time I was on gravel, the bike felt squirrely and a little unstable in 2-4″ loose gravel and sand and I didn’t feel like steering responded particularly well. Nothing else has changed, except the bars, and the bike is almost as solid off-pavement as my V-Strom or WR250X.

Stay tuned. If my eyesight and health holds up, me and this little 250 are going to go a few places.


[
July 2015 POSTSCRIPT] 

 Last month, I added a little track time to my TU250X riding experience. What I learned from that is that the TU250X is a fully capable urban commuting bike. I still don’t know what the top speed is, but it’s got to be above 70mph because I hit that a couple of times on the Dakota Community Technical College straight-away and I had some top end yet to go before I bailed out and started braking before the chicane and carousel. A better rider would have gone faster and deeper into the corner before hitting the brakes. Regardless, the TU wasn’t straining at 70mph and I had a good time on the bike and the course; meeting and exceeding all of my expectations.

Last summer, my brother bought a TU on my recommendation and, as of May 2015, he had 17,000 miles on the bike and has ridden it all over Arizona deserts, mountains, and back country. He still likes the bike and doesn’t seem to feel the need for more power or status, since he’s knocking down 70-90mpg regularly and saving a bucket of retirement cash in the process. His big complaint about the TU, after taking a Lake Superior Loop ride with me in 2011 and seeing how much insane fun I was having on my WR250X, was that his TU wasn’t very good on gravel roads and, especially, steep gravel road hills around the lakes near his house in Arizona. So, I recommended a collection of tire options and he upped the “aggressiveness” of his tires and I haven’t heard a word of dissatisfaction from him since. I remain jealous of his mileage, youth, and common sense.

 

[Initial Review August 2009] 

This will be a very limited review, since I’ve only “test ridden” the Suzuki on an MSF range. But it is a work in progress. I will find one of these bikes in licensed condition and I’ll add that to the report. If I have to, I’ll even buy the damn bike myself.

Suzuki’s newest entry for 2009 was the TU250X; a 330 pound, air-cooled, fuel-injected, catalytic-converted, electric-starting, 82mpg, retro-looking, standard bike that is the kind of machine that riders have been wanting in every major motorcycle market in the world; except the US. This $3,800 bike has everything that an urban commuter could want. Most especially, the fuel-injection makes it friendly to new riders and those of us who are tired of the hold-your-mouth-just-right starting routines carbureted bikes require from us in cold weather. The 3.17-gallon fuel tank should provide close to a 250 mile range for most commuters.

Cosmetically, Suzuki went straight after the vintage-Brit-bike-lovers’ market. Suzuki’s marketing department describes the TU250X as a bike with “classic styling – including spoked wheels, a round headlight and low-slung tapered muffler.” With its pin-striped red paint job, it reminds me so much of old small-bore BSA and Triumphs that it gives me flashbacks. The only obvious nod to the 21st Century is the front disk brake, but the rear brake is a competently functioning drum, just like the old days. 18″ wheels, front and back, add something to the vintage appearance and help give the bike a neutral handling character. Turning or going straight, the TU250X doesn’t resist change and it doesn’t do anything unexpected. The Cheng-Shin tires suck, but the 90/90 and 110/90-18 tire sizes are available in Metzeler Lasertecs, Dunlop GTs, Conti Go! and Ultra TKV11/12 among other tire options.

The frame is silver-painted steel and is pretty rigid, if a little heavy feeling. The engine is a stressed-member of the frame and the square-tubed backbone adds to the frame strength. The rear suspension (3.7″) is a traditional dual-shock rig, slightly canted. The moderately long (54.1″) wheelbase of the bike makes it stable for all sorts of street use without being difficult to maneuver. The TU has a low (30″) seat height, so it’s accessible to riders of all heights. The twin-section seat puts the rider in sort of a neutral-cafe-racer posture. The independent passenger seat is reasonably large and comfortable, for a 250. Your feet are mildly bent, but the 27″ wide straight bars put most riders in a slightly aggressive riding position. It works for a variety of riders, from 6′ and a little over (see photo on right) to the rest of us (a 5’8″ rider is pictured at left). A bar-mounted windshield would be a useful addition to the bike’s aerodynamics and comfort.

The 249cc, 4-stroke, single-cylinder, air-cooled, SOHC, wet-sump engine is mostly straightforward. The cylinder is SCEM-plated (nickel-silicon-phosphorous) to reduce weight and increase heat transfer, just like most of Suzuki’s competition off-road bikes. The motor is tied to a wide-ratio 5-speed transmission linked to the rear wheel by chain drive. The air filter is washable foam and is easily removed for service. The plug, oil filter, screw-and-locknut valve adjustments, and battery access are readily available and straightforward. The bike has a 3,000 mile service interval, including valves, so it’s a good thing that it is reasonably easy to service. Well cared for, it ought to last tens-of-thousands miles. Suzuki puts a “12 month unlimited warranty” on the TU250X, to give buyers a bit of confidence in the model.

The bad news is that the TU250X is hard to find. My local dealer was given one for the season. One. More than 80 buyers signed up for first shot at the bike, but it vanished as it hit the floor when a walk-in customer snagged it. That’s it for 2009’s stock from that substantial Suzuki dealer. I know of one buyer who drove from Minnesota to Georgia to buy one.

The TU250X is, obviously, fitting a niche. In the rest of the world, it has been such a hit that Suzuki has been overwhelmed by the demand, which means the paltry small-bike US market is going to be even more starved for attention and inventory. The good news is, if you are really a vintage Brit bike fan, you’ll miss the puddle of oil in your garage. Take that as a consolation for not being able to see, ride, or buy this cool little bike.

Posted in motorcycle review, my motorcycles, suzuki, tu250x | Leave a comment

The Louder the Bike the Worse the Rider

On GeezerwithAGrudge.com, I just revived an old column from my MMM days. “#61 What Loud Pipes Say.” I was on a roll back then and that column rolled up more dumbasses per word than anything I’d written in the previous five years. Hell, I got more hate mail from Hardly goobers from that one column than the whole magazine had received in the previous five years. Our advertising rates went up accordingly.

I no longer live on a curve, so the biker goobers are no longer announcing to my neighborhood the upcoming comedy of their lame attempts at turning a motorcycle competently. Now, they’re just making noise to be making noise because, apparently, their mothers didn’t pay enough attention to them in the first few weeks of their pitiful little lives. A few weeks ago, I wrote about watching a pair of these goobers fumbling a stop, falling over, and putting on a Laurel and Hardy show trying to figure out how to pick up their hippomobiles and fumble off to the nearest bar to whine about “how mean everyone is.” Needless to say, those two fools were on a pair of mindlessly and needlessly noisy Harleys.

There is, of course, no evidence at all that “loud pipes save lives” and crash statistics point to the exact opposite fact. I don’t suspect the loud pipes are the problem, though. That would be and error of mistaking correlation for causation. It’s not that loud pipes substantially increase the likelihood of crashing, it’s that all of the most incompetent riders rely on loud pipes to make up for their lack of skill, judgement, and basic intelligence. So, it might stand to reason that the louder the bike, the less skill the rider possesses.

Loud Pipes Are My Right! (Or Are They...) - BikeBandit.comYears of long and careful, if cynical, observation has established this theory as a fact, in my mind. In dozens of MSF “Experienced Rider” courses, (ERC) the most incompetent people on the range were consistently mounted on the loudest motorcycles. Male and female, if the bike was loud I could set my watch on the moments the rider would dropout, fail to negotiate a section, fall down, or all three (not necessarily at the same time) during a 4-hour course. They always had the same motley excuses, too. Usually something along the lines of “the course is laid out for small motorcycles” or “nobody ever has to ride this slow and this is unrealistic.” Not that these goobers did any better on the faster exercises or on the sections where every other equally large (but not as loud) motorcyclists did fine.

The funniest example of this syndrome I ever experienced was in a 13 bike ERC full of Hennepin County Sheriff Deputies. I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth repeating that these “law enforcement officers” were about as legal as a pickup load of cocaine with a meth chaser. Except for one very competent Goldwing rider in the group, 12 of 13 cops had no more business on motorcycles than they had performing in a tight rope act. Their “plan” for incompetence compensating was to be illegally noisy and wear lots of “biker face” whenever possible. A bunch of middle-aged fat guys on Harleys wearing law enforcement patches is intimidating in a bar, but in traffic it is just as useless as the loud pipes.

HD noiseThe local bars here are stuffed with the loud pipe crowd and when one of those groups decides they’ve drunk enough and pull out of the parking lots, it looks like pure random motion; or a flock of chickens after someone has tossed a firecracker into the pen. You have never seen worse riding skills or more unpredictable behavior and all they have with which to defend themselves is noise. And it never works.A giant “Look out! I’m an idiot on a motorcycle!” sign would probably make more sense. Sort of like those bicycle flags recumbent riders sport, except big screen television size.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments