This Is Who They Are

Mostly, I keep my political opinions on another location and, yep, I am a “libtard” as are all of the intelligent people I have ever known in my life. If there were ever going to be a moment where my mission, "Warning: If you’re looking for a pleasant conversation about motorcycling from a frozen-north Minnesota Nice perspective, good luck with your search. As Bobby Dylan once said, ‘it ain’t me, babe,‘" might skip a beat, “Keep moving buddy. “Nothing to see here.” Today, like all of this damn month, I’m pissed off.

Capitol Police Chief Sund resigns just hours after he DEFENDED his  department's response to DC riots | Daily Mail OnlineWe all know who “both sides” of this crowd are, don’t we? Motorcyclists have been grouped with “bikers” for at least 70 years, to our huge disadvantage and outright physical hazard. The helmet-less, muffler-free, skill-less biker crowd have made noise on the streets and in our legislatures to the total disadvantage of the actual 1-10% of motorcycle owners who use their vehicle as a goddamn vehicle. Every noisy-ass biker blubbering down a freeway, on a country road, or through neighborhoods is pissing off every cager and homeowner they pass and making enemies for the few of us who believe a motorcycle is a transportation vehicle with the same rights and responsibilities (that is the most unpopular word in the wingnut world) as every other vehicle on the road.

These rioting “protestors” are same people who think being asked to wear a mask to protect themselves and their community from a life-threatening virus pretend that being required to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle on public roads or paying a health/life insurance premium for the privilege of risking their lives pointlessly is a “freedumb” issue. We know these people. Like the maskless fruitcakes, these butt-ugly jackasses think the rest of us want and need to see their scroungy (male or female) ponytails, weird-assed inbred faces (quoting Larry McMurtry, “One could have laid a rule from forehead to chin without touching either his [or her] lips or his nose.”),  faux-ZZ Top beards (apologies to Frank), and hear their mistuned, unmaintained junk-twin hippobikes for miles around. The rioters were the same arrogant, entitled, lazy-ass incompetents that motorcycle has been plagued with since a pack of misfit WWII “vets” decided to bring home the hell they supposedly opposed in Germany and the Pacific. Based on the number of German helmets, swastika tattoos, and white supremist paraphernalia you see decorating bikers and their rides, it’s pretty obvious that if they fought at all, they were on the wrong side.

Black Lives Matter Activist Sues Baton Rouge Police Over Mass ArrestsLikewise we, unfortunately, know the cops who coddle and cringe from the biker gangsters, their illegal exhaust systems, and their traffic-snarling pirate parades. Those DC cops who were so courageous, when it came to piling on a 120 pound female BLM protestor or charging an unarmed kid with military weapons at a Occupy Wall Street protest, will just watch as a pack of bikers waddle through town making more noise than a Boeing 737 on take-off or attack the United States Capitol Building in an effort to overthrow an election. Worse, they’ll not only ignore the peace-disturbing noise-makers, they’ll direct traffic to accommodate the gangbangers or fascist, racist rioters. In the case of 1/6/2021 (we will remember this date like 9/11/2001), off-duty cops participated in rioting and attacking the police who defended the Capitol Building. Some even had the gall to claim “we’re doing this for you” while they attacked the police defending the Capitol.

There is also the fact that, usually, the biker gangbangers are white and look exactly like the goobers who overran the DC capitol police. Occasionally, the bikers will be Hispanic or black and, oddly, they will get pretty much the same treatment as their inbred white “brethren.” Huh? Imagine that. So, even when the police are not on the same side as the lawbreakers, they are terrified of them and, probably, their fellow collaborating officers. In the meantime, the taxpaying public is screwed coming and going.

As Hudson, Wisconsin residents discovered and I noted in “Running from the Outlaws,” when the biker gangbangers show up, the cops vanish. Like many of the DC rioters, the bikers usually have long criminal records which, for no good reason, never seems to prevent them from possessing firearms, threatening the peace and quiet of cities large and small, and appears to make them immune to the laws of the country. Why is that? Two reasons, the cops are terrified of anyone who might fight back in numbers even close to the force the cops might bring and the cops and the bikers/rioters are on the same side of most political arguments.

Bikers & Cops

Two of Trump’s big support groups were (and are) bikers and cops. In a rational world, you’d think that would be totally impossible relationship. We don’t live in that world and I am fast becoming convinced we aren’t an animal capable of rational thought.

I became painfully aware of this odd cohabitation when I taught an “Experienced Rider Course” somewhere in the 2006 time-period. The “students” were 13 Hennepin County Sheriff’s deputies and I was under the delusion that this might be one of the rare ERC classes that wouldn’t be deafening. Usually, ERC groups were biker “clubs” trying to skate through training to obtain insurance discounts for their gang members. Turns out, that’s the deal for training cops, too. Like the Iron Brotherhood gangbangers I wrote about back in 2013, these badged goobers were all-but-one on geeked-up Hardlys with illegal exhausts and more chrome crap than a 1960’s American car. The one exception was a very competent deputy on a Goldwing. The class was deafening, full of attempts to get on to the range without a helmet (against the state and MSF rules), and there were lots of the usual attempts to skip over or ride through the mildly complicated exercises. Maybe 2 of the 13 cops in the class were competent riders, with the Goldwing rider being more skilled by octaves above the other cops. I learned something in that class too, “Don’t expect cops to enforce laws on other biker gangbangers.”

Human history might be no more on the side of the MAGA goons than it will be on the Trump Republicans or the police who have The Long, Painful History of Police Brutality in the U.S. | At the  Smithsonian | Smithsonian Magazinefermented and inspired the white supremist and domestic terrorists that the biker culture best represents or the historically racist and anti-labor police actions of the recent past. Or not. If Hitler and Nazi Germany had won WWII, history would be on their side and we’d all be hearing and telling stories of how brilliant 1940’s Germany was in exterminating non-white people the world over. History is a story told by the winners and we have no idea who the winners will be, yet. Eventually, of course, it won’t matter. We’ll flip the world’s environment into a climate that won’t support human life or the planet will get clobbered by another asteroid extinction level event and none of this will matter. Humans will be gone and whatever life that comes next might not even know we ever existed.

Right now, honestly, that is a kind of comfort. I am so disgusted with my country, with 74 million American citizens who not only voted for fascism twice in 4 years but who so rabidly worship their “great and fearless leader” that they would rather see the nation’s fragile attempt at democracy fail than see their cult leader waddle off into the disgraced sunset (likely to see jail time and his seventh and final bankruptcy).

Posted in biker culture, noise, police, rider training | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Anybody Can Ride One”

My wife is a morning television addict. We live in a rural area with no over-the-air television available and I’m too cheap for cable, so she watches the late night talk shows in the morning. The irritating noises coming from our living room inspired a hunt for the best noise-cancelling, Bluetooth, in-ear monitors so that I could avoid the morning squawking noise of Seth Myers and Jimmy Kimmel’s dry sarcasm that makes the awful seem even worse. Sometimes she is so inspired by what she sees that she is compelled to “share” it with me. This morning that interruption was inspired by a Kimmel interview with David Letterman. Apparently, Letterman bought Regis Philbin a Vespa scooter under the assumption that “everybody knows how to ride a motor scooter.” Like so many folks on Harleys every summer weekend around the nation, it turns out that assumption is idiotic. Of course, Philbin crashed after traveling a few feet on the scooter. “He could have been killed. He actually could have been killed. The last night before he retires he comes over, and I kill him,” Letterman said with a laugh. “… Nobody checked him out on it, because the assumption was, A, anybody can ride a scooter. And B, certainly Regis will ride a scooter.

Back when I was still teaching the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety classes, in 2011, I wrote a Geezer rant I titled “#101 It’s Not A #&^%#@ Wheelchair.” I summed up my irritation in that essay with, “My generation seems to have created a lot of people who think the laws of physics can be influenced by money, the legal system, and by a heartfelt ‘I wanna.’ Velocity and acceleration (up or down) are ruthless. Gravity is insensitive to your brittle bones and inflexible joints. You don’t get special consideration on the highway simply because traffic is moving ‘too fast’ or you can’t muster up the courage to make the bike stop or turn (or keep up with the flow of traffic). Other highway users expect you to ‘drive it or park it.’ Being handicapped on a motorcycle is often fatal.” Almost always, in fact. I don’t know where “anybody can ride a scooter” comes from. Sure, they have small flat wheels that almost balance themselves, but that doesn’t help at all with turning, stopping, or being aware of traffic and hazards and figuring out what to do about those hazards in an emergency.

While my wife was taking a break from her morning television routine, she was reminded of my father and his “scooter experience,” which actually was an electric wheelchair. He’d been house-bound for several years by the symptoms of progressive myasthenia gravis, failing eyesight, and CHF. My step-sister thought it would be good for him to get out of the house and she, Medicare, and the VA bought him an electric wheelchair. For a couple of days, he was like a kid with a brand new motorcycle. He rode that thing around his neighborhood, to the local grocery store, and had a great time. My step-sister, on the other hand, almost had heart failure watching him blindly (literally) barrel through busy intersections and head-on into traffic without a clue that people were dodging him and freaking out at the sight of an overweight old man in an electric wheelchair in the middle of the road. Eventually, some technical issue came up with the wheelchair and he went back to watching his big screen television and 14-hours-a-day of Fox News propaganda. It could have been as simple as the battery being run down, my father was that technically inept, and nobody showed him how to use the charger. When he died, a couple of years later, the wheelchair looked brand new. He proved that it isn’t true that “anybody can ride a wheelchair.”

In the late 1970s, we were living in a small Nebraska town and a friend, the drummer in a band I’d been in, decided he wanted to buy a motorcycle so he could ride with his friends. I was a dirt-only motorcyclist at the time and had been for 15 years, but I helped him find a good buy on a barely-used Honda CX500 Deluxe, gave him a little instruction about how to ride the bike, convinced him to buy a helmet, a decent leather jacket, some boots, and gloves. And off he went. The friends he wanted to ride with were an assortment of cruiser wannabe-biker types with a couple of actual hardcore bikers—prison tats and criminal records and all. None of the be’s and wannabes wore any actual motorcycle gear and they quickly convinced him to dump the helmet, boots, gloves, but he could keep the jacket for cool days. They also “helped” him install ape-hangers and disable the front brake, partly because the stock brake line wasn’t long enough. Not even a whole month into this experience, he flew off of the road in a mild turn, plowed through a barbed-wire fence, and tumbled almost 100’ before he ended up in a tangled heap in a corn field.

His head injury left him with a speech impediment for the rest of his life and other neurological damage that left him pretty much a very young stroke victim. His legs were broken so badly that there was talk about amputating one or both, but they ended up reassembling him with pins and rods so that he could hobble around on his own. Of course, he was no longer a musician. You have to be able to flex everything in your legs and feet to operate a high hat and kick drum and the rest of his coordination and strength wasn’t up to handling the sticks. So, he’s mostly just been a barfly for the last 40 years, luckily he had a significant inheritance to cover his expenses and to provide him with shelter. Like Regis and my father, my friend (and several of his friends over the next few years) proved that it isn’t true that “anybody can ride a motorcycle.”

The industry, of course, has a vested interest in convincing as many people as possible that they belong on an expensive motorcycle that will enhance their lifestyle and self-image. Unfortunately, the so-called “motorcycle safety” industry is usually directly connected to the manufacturers (MIC/MSF, for example) and their vested interests are all about “putting butts on seats” with minimal interference from actual safety concerns. Thanks to them and their efforts, goofballs like David Letterman are deluded into believing the hype and imagining “that anybody can ride a scooter.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Diapers to Trikes and Back Again

I live in an old fart’s town in southeastern Minnesota. If you visit one of our remaining mid-Covid plague restaurants on a weekday you’d assume the average age here must be close to 100. On summer weekends, the old fart Minnesota biker crowd might bring that median down to 75 or 80, but it’s pretty much the same people wearing leather and gangster patches. Sans motors, we have some fairly popular bicycle trails and, likewise, the typical person on our bike trails is only slightly younger than the biker crowd. There are few things more scary looking that a trio of old spandex-clad bicyclists attempting to draft each other without clue how to stop, steer, or maneuver around the occasional trail obstacle. The worst of that bunch are on three-wheeled recumbents. Not only do they take up 2/3 of the trail, but they are usually riding those speedy wheelchairs because they are incompetent, demented, or both.

Earlier this summer, I was coming back from a bicycle ride downtown when I rolled up behind a bearded old fart on a Hardly three-wheeler trying to pull away from a stop sign on an uphill grade. Not much of an uphill grade, mind you, but it was more of a challenge than this oldster could manage. While I waited for him to move his hippotrike out of the intersection, it struck me that this was a perfect example of life: we start out in diapers, progress to tricycles, wander around a while, and end up on trikes and back in Depends.

imageWith that in mind, the ads from Polaris, Can-Am, HD, Kymco, and the rest of the three-wheeled power wheelchairs are pretty funny. Like Coke and McDonald’s and Budweiser, the manufacturers want their customers/suckers to imagine ourselves to be young, hip, and fast while the real customer base is about a half-step away from being Medicare-provided Hoveround candidates or electrically powered adjustable hospital beds. [Before I committed to using Hoveround as a baseline, I check that company’s website and found no pictures of young, vital, active people fitted to electric wheelchairs. I have to suspect Hoveround is missing an obvious marketing ploy; selling lifestyle over reality is an American marketing tradition.]

imageDepends for Men (or women), on the other hand, isn’t missing any part of that bet. Like Viagra or Cialis, the people pictured in the adult diaper ads appear to be barely old enough to be worrying about boxers or briefs. If you are as young as this guy and you’re worried about crapping or pissing your pants, you shouldn’t be grinning like an idiot. You should be seriously rethinking your life’s choices and/or cursing your flawed genetics. Also, you might be a good candidate for AA or a friendly intervention.

The rush to dump cars and concentrate SUVs has been all about auto manufacturers looking for a way around EPA emissions regulations. Likewise, the Polaris Slingshot and Can-Am’s Spyder are a lame attempt to make a car without the nasty safety, noise, and emissions regulations that encumber actual vehicle manufacturers. If you’ve driven (not ridden) either of these goofy hippotrikes, you know how incredibly lame they are. The upside is that, like those low-slung, noisy cars from The Marching Morons future, they really feel like they are clipping right along when they are barely keeping up with traffic on a rural road. Go-carts have the same effect as does not looking where you are going on a regular motorcycle. When you are sitting right next to the pavement (or looking down at it), a fast walking pace seems like rocketing at near-death speeds. Cruisers provide the same false sense of power and speed, but not nearly so dramatically as when your butt is actually a few inches from the pavement on a trike. They are a long ways from safe, though. I’ve had both of these vehicles tailgating me on our rural county road and they are absolutely invisible in a Nissan Frontier pickup’s rearview mirror. Worse, the drivers appear to have the same entitled opinion of their position in society as the pirate bikers. The only “effort” they seem to be able to make to contribute to their own safety is to illegally mangle their vehicles’ exhaust noise. Hate to break it to you, kiddies, but I can’t hear you inside my pickup with the air conditioning or heater going and the stereo at a comfortable volume. Sound doesn’t work the way you think it works.

Harley Davidson Trike High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - AlamySo it goes that we begin life pooping and pissing in our pants and we end that way. We move from four-wheel baby strollers and being tucked and strapped into car seats (although not when I was a baby). We stop fouling our diapers and progress to our first Radio Flyer tricycle to a bicycle with training wheels to an actual bicycle. After what feels like a few years, we start leaking again. Around the same time, some of us get the urge to abandon the demands of balancing on two wheels and we buy a $30,000 tricycle. That is a huge red flag, because not long after that comes the four-wheel old fart stroller/Hooveround and being strapped into a wheelchair waiting for a nurse to move us to the crapper and back to bed. I recommend not rushing that chain of events. Stay away from the trike as long as possible.

Posted in aging, biker culture, cruiser, geezer with a grudge | Leave a comment

December 2020: Geezer with A Grudge on Fast Lane Biker Magazine

Geezer-1220

A piece of my ancient history and a not-so-original (from me) sentiment.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

1,000,000 Hits!

Thanks you for reading my blog for the last decade. It seemed like this benchmark might not ever arrive. The Geezer with A Grudge blog jumped to 500,000 hits pretty quickly, it seemed from my vantage point, and sort of crawled the rest of the the way to one million. That mark on the Google Blogger site arrived in late November and I wasn’t even paying attention.

There must be a thousand articles on the web with titles something like “Blogging is Dead.” For sure, at least from where I live, attracting readers to a blog is a lot harder without a print magazine (like Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly) to help draw traffic. I don’t get near the hate mail I was used to when the magazine was out there drawing fire. I’ve been a columnist for Fast Lane Biker mag for about a year and that venture has pretty much been a bust. Neither of the location where you can find my Geezer columns—GeezerwithAGrudge.com, Geezer on WordPress, or Geezer on Blogger—have seen any sort of hit increase from my association with Fast Lane Biker. Probably no surprise. Fast Lane is pretty much a hard-core cruiser magazine and I’m still trying to figure out what I’m contributing to that readership.

The 1,000,000 hits were all on Blogger. The WordPress site is still slowly approaching 100,000 hits, but I get almost no Russians and Chinese spammers and a lot higher percentage of Brits and Canadians on WordPress. That is a plus on several levels. Unless something miraculous happens with my eyesight and the associated myasthenia gravis symptoms, I’m probably not going to be a motorcyclist again. However, I have 55 years of motorcycling experiences that has barely been tapped in this blog and I’m collecting a lot of insights into many things that affect motorcyclists and bicyclists by putting 3,000 miles on my eBike this past 2 years. I’m not done yet. Thanks for being here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Good and Bad Old Memories

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where Could I Go on That?

My wife is worried about me, post-motorcycle ownership. We’ve been together for 53 years and out of 52 those first years I was sans-motorcycle for about five years total. We were young, poor as the servants of church mice, and generally vehicle-less altogether for most of those five years. She still, occasionally, calls me her “motorcycle man.” But I’m not anymore and, likely, won’t ever be again.

On a May weekend this spring, one that was finally seasonably nice, our southeastern Minnesota small town was cursed by the pirates out in their full ear-shattering, trajectory-unstable gory glory (7 motorcycle deaths for the weekend). Even before the coronavirus lock-down began, more motorcyclists had died in 2020 on Minnesota roads than last year, which had the most motorcycle deaths in 24 years. The difference between this year and last is that motorcyclists—responsible riders who do the AGAT thing, can ride competently, and give a damn about their neighbors and communities—are staying off of the roads to avoid becoming a unnecessary load on the already stressed local healthcare systems.

That leaves the highways clear for the bikers and other posers who have none of those socially responsible qualities and couldn’t pass a comprehensive motorcycle license test on a tricycle. Those idiots are falling down and getting run over, riding off of remedial curves over cliffs and into ditches and trees, and even failing to manage competent stops and rolling through stop lights and signs into intersections where they get squashed like bugs. After doing pretty much everything wrong and ending up in a hospital and a wheelchair, the typical biker response is to start whining about “right of way” law enforcement.

Obviously, any complication created by other road users will entangle these idiots, Consistently, the worst drivers/riders/whatever are the goobers on trikes of any sort. The overwhelmingly worst of the trike bunch are on three-wheeled Harleys and the next worst are on three-wheeled Goldwings conversions. The Polaris Slingshot and Can-Am Spyder big spenders are slightly down from that first bunch in overall incompetence and, sometimes, even wear helmets and other gear, but those trike pilots are still are just hopped-up wheelchair trawlers and they generally ride accordingly. There was a perfectly good reason why three-wheeled ATVs were banned in 1988.

When I sold my Yamaha WR250X this spring, the kid who bought the bike commented on a parade of noise-makers going by our house as he loaded up the WR. “My neighbor has one of those Harley trike-things. She had a stroke a couple of years ago and it seems like a good fit for her. She’s pretty brain-damaged.”

“From the mouths of babes,” this 17-year-old pretty much summed up my attitude about three-wheelers and their riders. So, when my wife asked me, “Have you ever thought of one of those things?” My answer was, “Not while I’m still able to think for myself.” After that, who cares?

The reason, of many, for my distain for 3/4 of a cage is “Where could I go on that?” Seriously, what can you do on a three-wheeler that you can’t do on every compact car ever made? Worse, the Slingshot gets 18mpg and the Spyder is in the 30s territory.

Contemplating the current state of decline in both motorcycling and the United States in general, for a brief moment, I thought about Cyril Kornblulth’s The Marching Morons novelette for the zillion-th time since reading that story sometime in the late 50’s:

“The motor started like lighting a blowtorch as big as a silo. Wallowing around in the cushions, Barlow saw through a rear-view mirror a tremendous exhaust filled with brilliant white sparkles.

“Do you like it?” yelled the psychist.

“It’s terrific!” Barlow yelled back. “It’s—”

He was shut up as the car pulled out from the bay into the road with a great voo-ooo-ooom! A gale roared past Barlow’s head, though the windows seemed to be closed; the impression of speed was terrific. He located the speedometer on the dashboard and saw it climb past 90, 100, 150, 200.

. . . Watching them, Barlow began to wonder if he knew what a kilometer was, exactly. They seemed to be traveling so slowly, if you ignored the roaring air past your ears and didn’t let the speedy lines of the dreamboats fool you. He would have sworn they were really crawling along at twenty-five, with occasional spurts up to thirty. How much was a kilometer, anyway?

We’ve arrived, long before schedule, to Cyril’s predicted future. At least he did ‘t predict flying cars as compensation for being surrounded by the Marching Morons.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Anybody Can Ride One”

My wife is a morning television addict. We live in a rural area with no over-the-air television available and I’m too cheap for cable, so she watches the late night talk shows in the morning. The irritating noises coming from our living room inspired a hunt for the best noise-cancelling, Bluetooth, in-ear monitors so that I could avoid the morning squawking noise of Seth Myers and Jimmy Kimmel’s dry sarcasm that makes the awful seem even worse. Sometimes she is so inspired by what she sees that she is compelled to “share” it with me. This morning that interruption was inspired by a Kimmel interview with David Letterman. Apparently, Letterman bought Regis Philbin a Vespa scooter under the assumption that “everybody knows how to ride a motor scooter.” Like so many folks on Harleys every summer weekend in the country, it turns out that assumption is idiotic. Of course, Philbin crashed after traveling a few feet on the scoooter. “He could have been killed. He actually could have been killed. The last night before he retires he comes over, and I kill him,” Letterman said with a laugh. “… Nobody checked him out on it, because the assumption was, A, anybody can ride a scooter. And B, certainly Regis will ride a scooter.

Back when I was still teaching the Minnesota Motorcycle Safety classes, in 2011, I wrote a Geezer rant I titled “#101 It’s Not A #&^%#@ Wheelchair.” I summed up my irritation in that essay with, “My generation seems to have created a lot of people who think the laws of physics can be influenced by money, the legal system, and by a heartfelt ‘I wanna.’ Velocity and acceleration (up or down) are ruthless. Gravity is insensitive to your brittle bones and inflexible joints. You don’t get special consideration on the highway simply because traffic is moving ‘too fast’ or you can’t muster up the courage to make the bike stop or turn. Other highway users expect you to ‘drive it or park it.’ Being handicapped on a motorcycle is often fatal.” Almost always, in fact. I don’t know where “anybody can ride a scooter” comes from. Sure, they have small flat wheels that almost balance themselves, but that doesn’t help at all with turning, stopping, or being aware of traffic and hazards and figuring out what to do about those hazards in a second or two.

While my wife was taking a break from her morning television routine, she was reminded of my father and his “scooter experience,” which actually was an electric wheelchair. He’d been house-bound for several years by the symptoms of progressive myasthenia gravis, failing eyesight, and CHF. My step-sister thought it would be good for him to get out of the house and she, Medicare, and the VA bought him an electric wheelchair. For a couple of days, he was like a kid with a brand new motorcycle. He rode that thing around his neighborhood, to the local grocery store, and had a great time. My step-sister, on the other hand, almost had heart failure watching him blindly (literally) barrel through busy intersections and head-on into traffic without a clue that people were dodging him and freaking out at the sight of an overweight old man in an electric wheelchair in the middle of the road. Eventually, some issue came up with the wheelchair and he went back to watching his big screen television. It could have been as simple as the battery being run down, my father was that technically inept, and nobody showed him how to use the charger. When he died, a couple of years later, the wheelchair looked brand new. He proved that it isn’t true that “anybody can ride a wheelchair.”

In the late 1970s, we were living in a small Nebraska town and a friend, the drummer in a band I’d been in, decided he wanted to buy a motorcycle so he could ride with his friends. I was a dirt-only motorcyclist at the time and had been for 15 years, but I helped him pick a Honda CX500 Deluxe, gave him a little instruction about how to ride the bike, convinced him to buy a helmet, a decent leather jacket, some boots, and gloves. And off he went. The friends he wanted to ride with were, obviously, all cruiser wannabe biker types with a couple of actual hardcore bikers—prison tats and records and all. None of them wore any actual motorcycle gear and they quickly convinced him to dump the helmet, boots, gloves, but he could keep the jacket for cool days. They also “helped” him install ape-hangers and dump the front brake, since the cable wouldn’t reach. Not even a whole month into this experience, he went off of the road in a mild turn, plowed through a barbed-wire fence, and flew almost 100’ before he ended up in a heap in someone’s corn field.

His head injury left him with a speech impediment for the rest of his life and other damage that always made him seem like he’d had a stroke. His legs were broken so badly that there was talk about amputating one or both, but they ended up pinning him together so that he could get around on his own. Of course, that was the end of his music life. You have to be able to flex everything in your legs and feet to operate a hat and kick drum and the rest of his coordination and strength weren’t up to swinging the sticks, either. So, he’s mostly just been a barfly for the last 40 years, luckily he had a significant inheritance to cover his expenses and to provide him with a home. Like Regis and my father, my friend (and several of his friends over the next few years) proved that it isn’t true that “anybody can ride a motorcycle.”

The industry, of course, has a vested interest in convincing as many people as possible that they belong on an expensive motorcycle that will enhance their lifestyle and self-image. Unfortunately, the so-called “motorcycle safety” industry is usually directly connected to the manufacturers (MIC/MSF, for example) and their vested interests are all about “putting butts on seats” with minimal interference from actual safety concerns. Thanks to them and their efforts, goofballs like David Letterman are deluded into believing the hype and imagining “that anybody can ride a scooter.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How Do You Know I “Can’t Ride?”

bikerlardass

One of the local gangbangers was justifying his noise maker on the grounds of “safety,” and I recommended, as always, that he invest some time in learning how to ride competently. His response was, “How do you know I can’t ride?” A quick look at his social media page had turned up a picture of him on his goober-mobile and it was pretty much what you see in the drawing above. So, how do I know he can’t ride?

  1. In this drawing, the “rider”1 is wearing a jacket, boots, and jeans. No helmet, of course. While that isn’t even close to decent protective gear, the real gooberboy’s picture showed him in a wifebeater, lowtop tennis shoes, and a scraggly pony tail. I know he can’t ride because if he could he’d know how fast shit can go bad and how much blood, skin, and mobility he is going to lose when he hits the asphalt.
  2. The bike the dude in the conversation rides is just as disabled as the mechanical junk depicted in this picture. Everything from the feet-forward rolling-gynecologists’-chair riding position to the extended forks to the low ground clearance screams “this is a crash waiting to happen.” Obviously, the rider and the bike are overweight and under-equipped to cope with any emergency. Actions like stopping quickly, swerving to avoid an obstacle, getting up on the pegs to add stability and reduce suspension-load (as if this thing has a suspension), or even turning sharply without running out of ground clearance because of the exhaust parts or hard-mounted foot pegs are all out of this “rider’s” reach because the “design” of the motorcycle is non-functional. I’m not an emergency nurse, but I’d join them in calling this a “murdercycle.” It’s a stage prop, at best, but a completely disabled and incompetent vehicle to the point that it might as well be a trike. You know that “closed course use only” stamp that’s on your illegal exhaust pipe? This vehicle should have “for garage candy use only” written on the tank.
  3. What other clues did I have that led me to assume the character in this story can’t ride? My favorite reason of all, we got into this conversation from one of those “I had to lay’er down” stories. If you know much about me, you know I have no respect for that claim. I don’t care if it is made by some newbie or a motorcycle cop, if you fall down in your attempt to stop, you screwed up. You panicked, screamed, and fell over and tried to sell that as an intentional evasion tactic. Likewise, this goober couldn’t intentionally lay down a motorcycle with help in his garage. Just like the fruitcake in the drawing, he never uses his front brake for ordinary stops, but rides with a finger or three resting on the brake lever and when an emergency happened, he grabbed it and discovered that he had no idea how that brake works. In my character’s situation, that extended fork collapsed with the stress (Surprise!) and his already limited ground clearance vanished and he was instantly metal-on-metal. Then he “laid ‘er down.” Right.
  4. Finally, this ain’t my first rodeo. In my 18 years of teaching MSF courses for the state of Minnesota I taught about 40 of the old ERC (Experienced Rider Course) and a dozen of the renamed version of the same course, the IRC (Intermediate Rider Course). I have suffered the abuse of loud Harley exhausts and spectacular rider incompetence and seen these characters ride straight through obstacle ranges because “my bike can’t do stuff like that” or stop about 20’ beyond the minimum exercise distance because “I’m afraid of the front brake.” There are exceptions, for sure, and they are exceptional. One of the Minnesota Expert Rider instructors is a Minneapolis motorcycle cop and he does amazing things on his huge Harley. Of course, his bike is pretty much bone stock (which makes it the most unusual of all Harley’s on the road). It isn’t loud, it has a functional suspension, and he is a spectacular rider. Otherwise, 99.999% of the time, I can safely assume if you are on a Harley, especially a chopper, you are not a competent rider because you are not riding a competent motorcycle. You might think the stereotype is unfair, but so is life. I love it when someone proves me wrong, but you will be going against the grain when you try.

1 I keep putting “rider” in quotes because I don’t consider these characters in any way in charge of the direction of travel or speed their motorcycle takes. A more accurate description of these characters would be “handlebar streamers.” They are just dangling from the handlebars waiting for a crash to happen after which they’ll whine about how their “right of way” was violated or someone didn’t property sweep the street for debris or some other excuse that no actual motorcyclist would ever claim. When they crash, and they crash a lot, it’s never their fault and someone else is always supposed to get the blame and responsibility.

Posted in biker culture, cruiser, engineering, Fast Lane Biker Column, geezer with a grudge, https://www.fastlanebikerdelmarva.com/, technology | Leave a comment

What Really Signals the End?

Selling your last and only motorcycle is pretty traumatic. From experience, I can say that it doesn’t feel final. You can always buy another motorcycle. And I could, even if nothing I ever own will never be as tricked-out and personalized as my last two bikes. I owned my 2004 V-Strom 650 and 2008 Yamaha WR250X longer than any other motorcycles in my life. I put more miles on a few other bikes, but those two were as close to being “friends” as inanimate objects can be for me; even more so than my guitars or my favorite microphones. Still, if I found myself recovering from this MG thing and felt confident in my ability to go places and return reasonably safely and reliability, I could find a satisfactory motorcycle, saddle up, and ride off into the sunset. It could happen, but it likely won’t.

If you’ve followed the train of my thoughts over the years, you know I’m not fond of being owned by stuff. I own a lot of motorcycle stuff, not even close to the least are my two Aerostich Darien suits. Sandwiched between the two Dariens is a non-descript black armored nylon jacket that my wife liked a lot and a Cortech DSX jacket with the now-extinct Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly logo embroidered on the back. I’ve had the grey Darien suit and the Cortech jacket since 2006, the black nylon jacket for at least 30 years, and the HiViz Darien AD1 prototype and off-the-shelf Darien AD1 pants since 2011. I have put more than 100,000 miles on the pair of Dariens, crashed in sharp gravel and survived in the grey suit, had my lack of attention to traffic rescued by the HiViz suit (more than once), and had hundreds of wonderful conversations started in coffee shops and motorcycle events by the embroidery on the Cortech jacket. (Don’t minimize that last one. I am, by nature, a loner and an introverted  wallflower. Possessing a conversation starter is no small thing for me.) 

Behind those jackets are the last of 3 full coverage helmets in their storage bags. That small group is left over from a pile of on and off-road helmets I gave away when we left Little Canada in 2015. On the bottom of that shelf is a large plastic storage box that houses spare gloves, cold weather gear, storage bags, tank bags, camping gear, and stwo sets of MC boots: my Gaerne Goretex road boots, and a pair of barely-used Icon Patrol Boots.

On the other pole, is the Giant Loop saddle bags for the WR, a couple of Camelback water storage packs, an Aerostich courier bag, and a couple other shoulder bags. In the garage is a toolbox full of special motorcycle tools, an Aerostich wheel balancer, a bead breaker, and a box full of farkles, parts, and stuff I never got around to putting on my bikes before I sold them.

This kind of gear will be hard to get rid of because, as I always told my motorcycle safety students, “Buy the best gear you can afford and buy a motorcycle with whatever money is left.” I did that. So, if I sell or give away my gear, going back to motorcycling will be at least a $2,000 entry fee; before I even look for a motorcycle. At my age, fixed income, and overall motivation level, that resembles an insurmountable obstacle.

Back in the 70s, my riding gear was pretty basic: a 3/4 helmet, lineman’s boots, very lightly armored coveralls, Justin roper gloves, and a set of hockey shoulder pads I wore under my nylon jersey and canvas jacket (in cool weather). In the mid-70s, I blew it out and bought a pair of $100 Malcom Smith ISDT boots and within a month, I’d high-sided and crashed practicing for the weekend motocross and, when the bike landed on my heel as I slid face-first toward a pile of busted-up concrete, I ended up with all of the toes on my left foot broken and had to have that boot cut off. I did not spend big money on gear again until I moved to California in 1983 and, thanks to a wet, cold spring I mail-ordered a brand new Aerostich Roadcrafter and ventured into a life in real motorcycle gear; mostly. I admit, during those early years I occasionally went for comfort and just a simple leather jacket and jeans instead of the ‘Stich, but I have been very lucky for most of my life. By the time I left Colorado in 1995, I was a committed AGAT guy and there have been more than a few times when that habit saved my skin, skull, bones, and life.

I have discovered a different kind of emotional attachment to the riding gear than I had for my actual motorcycles. Obviously, I was closer to the gear, pun intended. I never slept on the bike, but there were more than a few sub-freezing nights that I slept in my Darien suits and a few where the Darien backpad and my gloves provided a picnic table sleeping mattress. Through my gear, I got to meet and become friends with Andy Goldfine, Aerostich’s owner and chief designer, and the crew of that great American company. Over the years, I’ve spent at least $3,000 with Aerostich, attended 3 of their Very Boring Rallies, and used RiderWearHouse as an excuse for an afternoon or weekend ride to Duluth too many times to remember. I bought the Gaerne Goretex boots from Ryan Young, in person, at one of the US Trials Championship rounds at Spirt Mountain in Duluth. At least three of the coolest camping trips I ever enjoyed was done on my Yamaha WR250X with the gear stored in my Giant Loop Coyote Saddlebag. I took my grandson for a 3,300 mile motorcycle trip to, through, and back through the Rocky Mountains—and home again—wearing my Darien. I wore that same suit to Alaska and back, for 13,000 miles in 26 days, in 2007. Again, in 2009 I wore that gray Darien across Canada from Sault Ste. Marie to Quebec City to Halifax where I picked up my wife wearing that black nylon jacket, her luggage, and we slogged 100 miles through the worst rainstorm I’ve ever experienced.

Damn, I have some attachments to this stuff, but someone else will get use out of it and my kids won’t have the slightest idea how to find it a home. I’m gonna have to do it.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment