Socially Acceptable Ways to Get F****d-Up

Now that I am occasionally back on a motorcycle, I am getting the regular reminders from friends and acquaintances of how dangerous motorcycling is and v Always, these brilliant and insightful comments come from people who either have never ridden a motorcycle or, worse, have had a friend or relative who crashed and died or was maimed for life. I am, of course, totally happy to receive these ill-formed anecdotes of death and destruction and enlightened by their low opinion of my judgement and skills.

If you know me at all, you might know I’ve been struggling with a basement bathroom installation all winter and some of last fall. Plumbing and me are in no way on friendly terms. I’m not that fond of construction carpentry, either. I am, more than anything cheap and picky about how things are done on my property, so I generally turn everything into a DIY project that I will hate before, during, and after the project is completed. It is just who I am. The point of bringing up this piece of recent and on-going history is that I have smashed and nearly sawn or clipped off fingers, bunged-up my knees and shoulders and back, and experienced a collection of minor and near-disastrous injuries during this damn construction project and not one person has commented on how I could maim various parts of my marginally repairable body working on my damn house. Maybe one out of ten of these people will say something about my working on the roof of my house, even. Dying to keep a roof from leaking or to stop a spouse from bitching is socially acceptable and, probably, even expected. But riding a motorcycle is just an unreasonably dangerous risk. .

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Back from the Dead

In early 2017, I first experienced ocular symptoms of myasthenia gravis and by the end of that summer I felt that not only my motorcycling days were over but my driving days might be too. Double-vision is a show-stopper and not being able to even keep my eyes open reliably put the icing on that cake. Four years later, my Mayo Clinic neurologist has fine-tuned my medications (with prednisone being the real driver in my situation) so that those symptoms are vanishingly insignificant.

Last week, I took the bold and completely irrational step of buying another motorcycle, after pretty much reassuring my wife that I was “done with that.” Monday, I took the even bigger step of riding the damn thing. In fact, based on this motorcycle’s history and odometer, I might have ridden it for its first 75 mile, highway speeds trip. I needed to go the the Minnesota License Center in Hastings to change the title and get new tags, so I had a good excuse. I took the “scenic route,” past the Casino and through a moderately hilly and twisty county road between Red Wing and Hastings.

On the way out, I had the weird thought that this is the newest bike I’ve owned since the 70s with my Rickman ISDT 125 and Suzuki RL250 trials bike (the only new motorcycles I have ever owned). Not long afterwards, I realized that all of my street motorcycles (2008 WR250X, 2004 650 V-Strom, 1999 Suzuki SV650, two different 1992 Yamaha TDM 850s, 1986 Yamaha XT350, 1984 Kawasaki KLR600, 1982 and 1983 Yamaha 550 Vision, & 1979 Honda CX500 Deluxe) have had less than 1,000 miles on the odometer when I bought them from the original owners. Some, like the V-Strom (dropped in the driveway and totaled by the insurance company) and the WR250X (mangled by the original owner with a hacked pipe and intake), were in less-than-pristine shape but all of those motorcycles were barely broken in when the original owners handed them off to me for a fraction of their original cost. The TU is probably the newest looking of the lot, though. All of the scratches and dents it will have when It leaves my hands will have been put there by me.

Mostly, I think it is fair to say that whatever skills I once had aren’t spectacularly deteriorated, even after a two-and-a-half year layoff. Red Wing no longer has a MMSC training range, so I detoured through Rosemount to the Dakota Tech School parking lot where the ranges are nicely marked off. I made a few passes through the more difficult exercises, rode all of the BRC endorsement exercises, and left feeling pretty good about myself. I even drug both pegs riding through the 135 degree testing curve. I wasn’t even trying to be fast. So, my dreaded “baseline test” turned out to be no big thing, so far.

I did have to get used to some new stuff, though. First, for the last 37,000 250cc miles, I’ve been on a 6-speed. The TU250X is a five-speed and I constantly kept trying to fine that non-existent last gear. Two, the TU’s wheels are steel and so is the frame and the ground clearance is substantially lower than the WR. That means I don’t have to run stoplights or get off and press the pedestrian crossing button. That was a pleasant surprise, to say the least. Three, for the first time since the 1970s, I can stand flatfooted (both feet) when I stop. Swinging a leg over the TU is easy, off and on. Four, the downside to that low seat height is the lack of suspension travel. Twice I was in the middle of a turn at an intersection and hit a pothole that I wouldn’t have even noticed on the WR and got my bell rung pretty good with the impact. That will take some getting used to. My WR and V-Strom had high-end rear shocks and terrific front suspensions and I have more than a cumulative 100,000 miles under my belt on those two bikes. All of those good things and a couple of mediocre issues added up to a really great ride this morning. Of course, being me I had to screw something up. So, when I rolled into my (slight downhill) driveway leading o the garage, I mindlessly put the bike in neutral, put the sidestand down, and swung my leg off pulling the bike slightly forward and off of the sidestand and ending up sitting on a landscaping log with a TU250X in my lap.

I must have some genetic connection to whatever Native American group it is that always puts a defect into everything they make so not to offend their gods. No damage done, not even a bent lever, and my already pretty beat-down pride barely noticed the latest hit.

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Customization and Me

It was pretty close to a year ago when I sold my Yamaha WR250X, my last motorcycle. The WR might not be my “last motorcycle,” depending on health and eyesight, but when it left I no longer had a motorcycle in my garage for the first time in 45 years. (I also had a little pause in motorcycle ownership between my last dirt bike and my first street bike.) During those 45 years, there were extended periods when I drove a car so infrequently that friends wondered if I owned one. (I did, but it was my wife’s primary transportation.) I commuted to work every day, to school most evenings, did most of the family business by motorcycle, and took what vacations I could afford on a motorcycle. I really did expect to die as a motorcyclist, not necessarily in a crash but at least with a bike in the garage ready to go somewhere if I survived the next day. But I hate owning stuff I don’t use and in early 2019 I sold my Suzuki DL-650 and in 2020 I sold the WR250X. Both motorcycles had barely been ridden the previous year and great machines need to be used and enjoyed.

IMG_20180626_201217_646When the V-Strom rolled on to the new owner’s trailer, I felt like I was watching my last great customization job fade into my past. I know, if you are a chopper guy or a thousand-points-of-LEDs guy, my V-Strom does not look customized at all. I customize my motorcycles the same way I used to customize my guitars or my home. Everything I do is purely to make me more comfortable. Loud pipes make me miserable, especially after a few hundred miles of that noise. Awkward gynecologist chair seating (feet-forward and reclining) makes me both uncomfortable and nervous, since it is insanely unsafe and incompetent. Fancy paint jobs are pointless, since I’m going eventually end up on some degenerating backroad and, probably, on my ass at some point in every trip. All those decals on the right front of my V-Strom cover up a nasty piece of Dempster Highway road rash. They also remind me of the places I went on that motorcycle and some of the great relationships I made as a motorcycle journalist; especially Aerostich and Andy Goldfine and Harold and Giant Loop. But there were many others who were not only friends and advisors, but who made everything about my adventure on a motorcycle special. 

The V-Strom and WR had custom seats, one from Sargent and one from Seat Concepts, my favorite handgrips (Oury Single Compound Street), and extra large and aggressive foot pegs since that’s where 99% of my body contacted the bike. Riding the V-Strom was the most comfortable, familiar, dependable, and enjoyable experience I have ever had traveling by any means. I would put my time on the V-Strom above first class airline travel, a suite on an ocean cruise, or a stateroom on a trail; and I’ve done all three of those for comparison.

Both bikes had customized suspensions, with an Elka rear shock first on the V-Strom and later on the WR being the best investment I ever made on a motorcycle upgrade of any sort. I did minor fork upgrades on both bikes, too, but the rear shock was overwhelmingly the biggest improvement. Maybe not obviously, but I spent a lot of time optimizing the suspension for my weight and riding style and that made a ton of difference, especially when the terrain was extreme and I was less than at my best.

Like most adventure touring folks, I had great luggage (GIVI on the V-Strom and Giant Loop on the WR250X) and had hidden at least a half-dozen places on both bikes for emergency cash and credit cards, identification, and a backup cell phone. I had power connections for 12VDC heated gear and 5V USB ports for GPS and device charging on both bikes (ports were scattered across the front and back end of the V-Strom including a laptop charger port in the rear case). My “house of choice” for the 12 years I owned the V-Strom was a Lawson Blue Ridge Camping Hammock, which I still think is the ultimate way to swing if you are camping any place that has fence posts, trees, or anything you can attach a rope to at points around 10-12’ apart. I have never slept better than in that tent after a 1,000 mile day on the road. The hammock took up about 1/2 of one of my GIVI side cases or most of one side of the WR’s Giant Loop Coyote Bag and it was worth every inch of storage space it used. I bought and tried out a bivi tent for one local trip on the WR and that tent has sat unused in my garage ever since. For almost a decade, I kept the Coyote Bag partially loaded for a fast weekend getaway and I was unable to give that bag away with the WR when I sold the bike.

The V-Strom had 4 tool storage locations and the WR had two and I always carried a tire patch kit and the Aerostich Compact Tire Repair Kit with Mini Compressor anytime I traveled more than 100 miles from home. That kit lives in my wife’s Honda CR-V now. I’ve done tire repairs in the middle of nowhere, swapped out a gravel-drilled oil filter on a South Dakota country dirt road, repaired drive chains practically everywhere, and done basic maintenance at practically every filling station and campground between Nova Scotia and Baja, Mexico with my tool and repair kits. Literally, that bit of bike customization has saved my life a bunch of times.

When the WR rolled away, the saddest thought I had was “I will never put that much work into personalizing a motorcycle again. That might be true, but I do have a half-dozen watches out for a Suzuki TU250X and as long as my eyes keep working half-reliably I could end up back on a bike again. However, the last couple of years has put a guitar back in my hands more than since I was actively a working musician in the late-70s and I’ve done some customizing. A friend gave me this old Ibanez in a pile of pieces a couple of years ago and I spent a good bit of this past winter making it mine. I, literally, have nothing invested in this guitar but the cost of paint, strings, a strap, and lots of time. This is the best picture I’ve managed of the guitar, that damn high gloss paint job really makes getting a good picture tough, and it is all me all of the time. I totally redesigned the neck, added two pickups and some trick wiring (every trick I know, in fact), and spent hours getting it setup for my “style” (or lack of) playing. So, until I have a motorcycle to fiddle with, my customizing jones is going to be directed at guitars and that damn basement whirlpool tub my wife insisted on.

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Maybe Not the End?

Early Wednesday morning, I got an email from Andy Goldfine with the subject line, “certain I am a geezer now.” Andy was mostly commenting on how modern motorcycles are “too pointy” and not cosmetically to his tastes. My reply was that not only are the cosmetically weird looking, but they are too tall and wide, too heavy, insanely powerful, incredibly fuel inefficient, too cluttered, and not particularly fun to ride. I whined that now that my eyesight seems to be somewhat stabilized I’ve been looking for a Suzuki TU250X for the last two-and-a-half years without any luck. Even the state’s MSF program can’t get them and used bikes often list for pretty much what a new bike sells for.

Not an hour from writing that response, my Craig’s List search sent me an email notifying me that a 2012 TU250X was available for $2600 “practically brand new with 700 miles on it and not a scratch on it.” Suddenly, it was put up or shut up time. I emailed the seller, got a little more information, loaded up my ramps and tie-downs, collected my gear and $2600 cash, and with an address somewhere west of Rochester I was headed south just after noon. On the way to the buyer’s location, I thought of all the things I did NOT want to suffer again in a used motorcycle: #1 no damn kids, #2 check for the existence of an air filter, #3 no modified or aftermarket exhaust or intake systems, look at the drive sprocket to be sure it hasn’t been mangled or the countershaft retaining nut, and crash damage. I made a mental list during my hour drive and checked it a dozen times. Any one of those items and I planned on thanking the seller for his time and driving back home without a quibble. I’ve dealt with all of that shit before and I don’t have the patience or tolerance to do it ever again.

You’ve probably heard the used car salesman line “it was driven by a little old lady only on Sundays to and from church?” This motorcycle was owned by a 60-something Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist who (seriously) only used the TU250X to drive from his house down his very long driveway to get his mail. His “real motorcycle” is a very new Goldwing. There are 700 miles on the TU’s odometer: brand new looking everything and not a scratch on it. It even has a heated vest Quiconnect2 12VDC cable already hooked up for my heated vests. The owner generously let me look for all of the fatal flaws on my list and even helped me push the bike up my ramp on to my pickup. The whole transaction probably took 20 minutes from when I drove into his driveway until I rolled back out on to the street.

My wife is sort of, let’s say, neutral about my new bike. When myasthenia gravis took away my vision three years ago, she was of two minds: #1 at least I won’t have to worry about you when you are one one of your long motorcycle trips and #2 just when you are getting comfortable with retirement you can’t do the things you love anymore. So, now that the vision thing appears to be under control and the bike I’ve been looking for suddenly appeared, #1 is suddenly back in her life again. The Honda CR-V in the picture above is her new vehicle (new to us, anyway) as of a couple of weeks ago. She has big plans for us to travel and even “camp” in that little SUV and I know she worries that the motorcycle could put a damper on those dreams. I will try not to disappoint her . . . too severely.

A little while back, I wrote “What Really Signals the End?” That essay mostly moaned about the trauma of making the decision to sell my Aerostich and Giant Loop gear. It was premature. I’ve waffled about putting that stuff up for sale since last fall and it is all still hanging in my closet. I did give away some stuff to friends and had plans on giving away a lot more stuff. But the two Darien suits are still there, my HGC and Shoei helmets are still hanging from the rack, and my beloved Gaerne boots are still in the closet. Hell, I didn’t even get around to putting my barely-used ICON Patrol boots up for sale, although I did try fairly hard to give them to someone locally.

So, we’ll see where this all takes me this summer. I’m old, so all of my systems are on the verge of failing and I’ve already experienced a pretty severe system crash. It won’t break my heart if I can’t pass my own baseline test. I haven’t taught an MSF class in two years and the last time I tried to ride my WR250X through the BRC course I couldn’t see the lines or stay inside the box, thanks to double-vision and myasthenia gravis. So, the first thing I’m going to do, once I get the bike insured, is ride over to the local college parking lot and run myself through that series of exercises. If I don’t ace it, this experiment will come to an abrupt end. Stay tuned.

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“They Love Us!” turns into “Why Don’t They Like Us?”

If you are any kind of observer of the hilarious “human condition,” watching self-delusions dissolve into disappointment is particularly entertaining. The little tourist town where I live is a biker destination, mostly because the roads are straight and wide, traffic is moderate and generally at the local speed limits, there are lots of bars in Wisconsin and Minnesota small towns, and local cops on both sides of the state lines are terrified of bikers. It is a fact that pretty much the whole “economy” in these places are biker bars and filling stations. We get pirate parades from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Wisconsin, Iowa, and we’re on the parade path from all points east to the Sturgis gangbang. From May to September, the roar of poorly-tuned, oversized, and underpowered twins with straight-pipes completely obliterate the sound of Amtrak and freight trains that regularly pass through our village. It’s a “feature” our town’s tourist literature never mentions, but become immediately obvious to anyone foolish enough to visit Red Wing on a summer weekend. (During the Corona shutdown, the entire summer was filled with that pointless noise every day of the week, since Harley owners are, apparently, unlikely to be employed in essential occupations.)

On an eBike forum a while back, one of the odder characters who frequents that group was bragging about his Harley and how he’d “customized” it as insanely as he had mangled his eBike (installing at least $2,500 worth of “upgrades” on a $1,500 Rad Power eBike). Being a sucker for troll-bait, I foolishly replied with a comment on how much his neighbors must hate him (because of the Harley, not the eBike). Like the usual character of this sort who we all know and suffer, he came back with “No, they love me and everyone always comments on how great my Harley sounds.”

I know a lot of motorcyclists and non-motorcyclists. I have never heard any of them even mention exhaust noise when they are admiring a vehicle of any sort. I have, however, heard almost all of them curse a noisy vehicle when it interrupts their lives. Maybe that’s what the loud pipes folks call “love?” If so, that explains their typical bachelor in a swamp of beer cans lifestyle.

Late last fall, I was on my usual ebike run for groceries when I got passed on the uphill section of my ride by a couple of goobers on illegally loud hippobikes wobbling down a straight section of county road. I could hear them coming a mile away, so I had a hand over my left ear when they passed. I got a one-finger salute from the biker broad when she passed me. I suppose she imagined I would be upset at not being her friend.

This pair usually runs with a pack of four or five other noise makers. They blubber and roar through our neighborhood several times every warm day and you can hear them for miles in all directions. The local cops are terrified of bikers, but they are especially blind to gangs of bikers. So, as a neighborhood and town we’re pretty much torn about on-coming nice weather. At least when it’s raining or snowing, we don’t have to listen to goobers on Harleys.

When I got to the stoplight at Highway 61, they were waiting for the signal to change and yelling at each other about some menial bullshit when the old fat guy started to lose control of his bike and fell over, knocking the broad and her bike into a tangled heap of black leather, crappy mechanical engineering, and fat people. Of course, neither one of them knew how to shut off their bike, so there was some flesh tangled in the spinning rear wheels and lots of squalling and shouting before the blubbering (human and mechanical) stopped. I watched the Laugh-In tricycle action and did my best not to laugh out loud.

The goobers were in the left hand lane when they tipped over, so traffic had two lanes in which to pass up the mess and until the light changed three cars made a right turn without doing much more than gawking at the bikers. Two pickups pulled up to wait for the light to change to either make a left turn from the center lane or go straight. Nobody made any effort to help the bikers untangle themselves. I was on the sidewalk where the pedestrian crossing button lives, so the trucks provided me with a nice bit of insulation from the biker pile. The light changed and three of us went on our way while the bikers struggled to untangle and pick up their oversized hardware and do whatever those folks do when they aren’t falling down or occupying bar stools.

I did my grocery run and came back the same route, about 15 minutes later. The bikers were on their feet by then, but the bikes were still down and tangled up. Now, I’m on the opposite side of the road and there is no traffic coming my direction, so the light is going to run against me for a lot longer than it does when there is car traffic triggering the intersection controller. I thought it might be entertaining to see how a fat old Santa Claus biker and a bar bimbo pick up their 900 pound hippobikes, so I waited a while before I pressed the pedestrian call button. I was right.

Santa Gangbanger’s full dresser hippobike was on top of the pile and he clearly had never picked up his motorcycle, let alone from on top of another equally oversized, overweight pile of junk. The two of them were high side of his bike tugging helplessly at the handlebars or trying to drag the bike by the front or rear wheel and I really regretted not carrying something with which I could film the action. At least a half-dozen cars and pickups and a couple of delivery trucks rolled past them, but nobody stopped to help and the goobers did pretty much everything but step in front of traffic trying to enlist some assistance. Biker bimbo discovered, for the nteenth time in her life, that outside of biker bars she wasn’t attractive enough to draw flies let alone human assistance. Santa Gangbanger probably wondered why his biker glare didn’t intimidate anyone into helping. Finally, the two managed to drag Santa’s bike off of the bimbo’s ride, leaving paint and chrome and plastic on the road. The two of them together finally righted both bikes.

When the light changed, we all crossed 61 and went on our merry ways. Me with a cool story to tell anyone I know (since most everyone in Red Wing hates motorcycles) and them with a sob story of how nasty people are to old, fat, noisy, incompetent bikers. “I thought they loved us.” Whenever this dichotomy rears its head in small towns, the bikers threaten not to spend their money in our bars and we mostly wouldn’t mind seeing the damn bars go broke and the bikers gone. If it were possible to get small town cops to do their jobs, this problem wouldn’t exist.

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Harley’s Last Ditch Effort to Make A Motorcycle

HD Adventure Pan American 2020 Spec_08Harley Davidson is really putting on a marketing push for the “Adventure Pan America 2021” (although it was originally called the “Pan America 2020,” Thanks Donny). Harley’s marketeers have been talking about this bike as long as they talked about the Livewire before it actually “arrived.” And, like their electric bike, Pan America sightings are a lot like flying saucer reports. Some folks in the media have been allowed to see and even ride the prototypes over the last year, but they haven’t come up with any interesting specifications for the mythical ADV Harley: like weight, ground clearance, suspension travel, or even fuel capacity. All reports on the bike indicate it has a low seat height: which means it also has a low ground clearance, which hardly means the Pan American is a serious off-pavement vehicle.

Concept-wise, the new bike is nearly all non-USA-all-the-time with Brembo (Italy) front brakes styled specifically for HD, Harley branded tires by Michelin (France), Showa (Hitachi, Japan) forks, lots of Japanese and Chinese EFI, ABS, and EIS electronics, and a new liquid-cooled 1250cc “Revolution Max” engine that actually produces 21st Century power (143bhp and 90lb-ft of torque). Pointing out the many made-somewhere-not-America parts isn’t news to anyone these days. Pretty much, the only things most US companies are able to make are 1950’s technology bits, like bike frames and, hopefully, the gas tanks.

Revit-Harley Darien There isn’t much about this “news” that changes my mind about HD or it’s products, except that picture in their ad. At first, I thought, “Damn, HD finally hooked up with Aerostich to sell some good motorcycle gear?” A little research and I learned that is not the case. Aerostich is American-made in Minnesota, a few miles down the road from HD and Milwaukee, WI. Harley’s marketing folks decided to keep up the foreign sourcing of their crap by going to made-in-Pakistan and Holland-owned brand, RevIt. So, what little respect I had for HD’s made-in-the-USA self-delusion went out the door forever.

Real DarienIf you don’t see the similarities between HD’s promotional photo and my 2006 Aerostich Darien jacket and pants (at right), you’re just not trying. Everything about the HD ADV riding gear is ripped straight from the Aerostich drawing board. Everything, except the high quality materials, the real-rider design details, and the American-made quality that Aerostich has always provided.

The picture of me and my Darien suit has some context that might explain my frustration with HD and their lazy, cheap-ass marketing goobers. Moments before that picture was taken, I was sailing down the Canadian Yukon’s infamous Dempster Highway—bucking a 50-70mph side-wind, skating across a recently poured gravel road—when that wind got a grip on my luggage and flipped the bike backwards, dumping me in the gravel at 50+-mph. One second, I was “havin’ fun” (as my wife would say) and, the next, I was on my back sliding toward the edge of the highway and a permafrost swamp. Lucky for me, I was wearing real Aerostich gear (and several layers of insulation and clothing, since it was barely above freezing that day). The Darien’s well-placed TF6 armor and “Mil-spec 500 Denier Cordura®” kept my skin in place and most of my bones intact. (I broke a small bone in my right hand and re-cracked some ribs.) My Shoei helmet was trashed, with a small hole ground into the back of the helmet by that vicious, pointy Dempster gravel.

I still have that suit, probably a dozen or more cleanings later. I have a second Darien Hi-Viz jacket that I bought about ten years ago. I admit that I’m an Aerostich homer. I have owned and advocated for Aerostich gear and the Darien or Roadcrafter riding suits since the mid-1980s when I moved to Southern California and began a couple decades of spending almost all of my commuting and travel time on a motorcycle. Since my first Roadcrafter, I’ve seen dozens of Aerostich imitators and, through experiments by friends and acquaintances, watched people try to save a few up-front-bucks on made-in-China or Pakistan or where ever riding jackets and pants result in disappointment and/or injury. Some things just can’t be made well and cheaply.

Somehow, Harley and the motorcycle press are calling the Pan America a “middleweight bike.” I have to ask, in what world is a 1250cc hippobike “middleweight?” I guess, in this world. [Which means, I’m no longer obese. Yea Me! I might even be lightweight in this brave new, screwball world.] The Pan American’s weight and marginal off-pavement capabilities aside, Harley is taking a hard road in trying to catch up with and attract a motorcycle community that the Company has alienated with both its products and its gangbanger marketing tactics for decades. My guess would be “too little, too late,” but in copying and under-cutting the design of an actual American company that is near-and-dear to many of ADV and long distance motorcyclists with slightly cheaper made-in-Pakistan gear, Harley is making a statement (intended or not) that it is still either their way or no way and it won’t be hard to simply ignore the Pan America and the Company for a lot of people who have been in this market since the 80s or before. Harley is just another US company that can’t make a good decision even when it is staring them in the face from their own backyard.

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Way Better than Potato-Potato

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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.

whotheyareTwo 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).

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“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 Custom, 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.”

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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.

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