A Climate of Anxiety?

French censors sent this ad back to the lab because “discredit[s] the automobile sector […]
while creating a climate of anxiety.” Those snowflake car owners (or dealers and manufacturers?) get nervous seeing the effects of their products on television?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cycling Is Bad for the Economy?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Spam Magnet

I admit, I don’t know what the purpose of spam attached to blog comments could be. Call me “stupid,” I’m used to it, but one rant I’ve written rises above all others as a spam magnet, “Start Seeing Corners and Road Signs.” China, Russia, Hong Kong, and the Philippines spammers (in that order) are attracted to that one essay to the point that I once turned off “anonymous” comment access and, now, I automatically route anonymous comments to my spam holding pen. Typically, I will delete 50-75 anonymous comments due to their spammy nature every week. Often, every one of those comments will have been attached to that one rant.

Maybe I should be flattered? I have a mirror, so that never works. I am entertained to the point that I have left a bunch of those comments in the blog as some sort of reminder that I’m shipping out my thoughts to a autonomous world of non-readers . . . or something. If I were more trusting (could I be less trusting?) I’d have let them all go and I could brag about having written something that received 1,000s of comments. I keep suspecting one of those “anonymous” comments will have an attachment that could do harm to actual readers, but most don’t and I can’t figure out what their purpose is.

On another level, I am sort of proud of “Start Seeing Corners and Road Signs.” It drew a little attention when it was published in Minnesota Motorcycle Monthly (even though the magazine didn’t like it enough to post it on their website afterwards). “Attention,” to my column always meant pissed off bikers posing as real motorcyclists. In that column, I wrote this, “A newbie rider, Harley-shopping guy, Roger Holmes, 59, said it all with his Trib article quote, ‘It makes you feel good. It makes you feel younger.’ Holy crap. One more sucker buying into the marketing bullshit. Dude, you need to have someone take a picture of you and your wife on your hippobike. Put it on your mirror and stare at it every day until you wise up and realize that you not only don’t look younger, you look downright silly wallowing around the road on that porker. Exercise will make you feel younger. Eating smart, giving up smoking, drinking less (way less, for you cruiser characters), and reducing the stress in your lives by avoiding stupid impulse buying and idiotic debt will all make you feel younger (and look younger than your dumber Boomer friends).”It probably says a lot about me, but I am damn proud of that writing and I’ll stick with the content until my bones are incinerated.

Posted in economics, geezer with a grudge, minnesota motorcycle monthly | Leave a comment

A Funny Story about Harley and the Future

Some of this is blatantly schmaltzy. Some is slow. Much of it, I suspect, is right. Harley the corporate welfare queen may be one of the big losers from the pandemic and Trump’s Recession. It is really hard to feel sorry for them.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Self-Delusion at Its Finest

I don’t know much about “Business Insider,” but this article “The rise and fall of Harley-Davidson” is flat-out entertaining. Mostly, it is a collection of nonsense masquerading as economic, social, and business commentary. Some of the biker and commentator quotes are hilarious, though:

  • Irene Kim: “You don’t have to be a biker to know about Harley-Davidson. Harleys are big, loud, fast, and inherently American.”
  • Jake Holth: “You get some of that instant respect just riding one alone.”

Of course, motorcyclists know that a Harley Davidson is the last bike you want if you want to go fast. Hardlys are so slow they have to have their own brand-specific racing class to be “competitive.” In other words, “That’s a pretty fast bike for a Harley” is the best compliment a Harley owner can hope for.

“Respect” means fear to this crowd. It’s true that cops, citizens, and the government are terrified of the domestic terrorism that Harley’s demographic represents. You wouldn’t be far from being right in saying “nobody respects these assholes” though. You earn respect and all that the gangbanger crowd have earned is the regular “faggot” epithet muttered and shouted as they blubber their way through our towns and countryside. Bikers are the ONLY people who waste two seconds of thought of the news that one to a dozen bikers were killed on the highway. That is how much “respect” bikers and Harley have earned.

  • Matthew DeBord: “In decades, they could wind up just disappearing. We’ll all still associate Harley-Davidson with being the greatest motorcycle brand in the world, but there won’t be any motorcycles. You won’t be able to buy one.”

It’s hard to imagine anyone clueless enough to consider “Harley-Davidson with being the greatest motorcycle brand in the world,” but if I remember there are people who don’t laugh when Trump claims to be the “greatest President in history” I guess it’s possible. It is also possible that someday in the not-so-distant future “there won’t be any motorcycles” on public roads; just like there aren’t any horses on those roads today. If that happens, Harley’s marketing and politics will deserve a large part of the blame. The company has defended rider incompetency, illegal motorcycle noise, hooliganism and gangsterism at the worst levels,

  • DeBord: “America is a very conservative place at the time, and a lot of guys came back from that, and they said: ‘Uh-uh, I’m not interested in that. I’m gonna get me a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and I’m gonna go live on the road. I’m gonna live my life on my terms with freedom, mobility, attitude.’”

As The Rolling Stones discovered at Altamont, nobody is more “conservative,” racist, violent, mindless, lawless, or less committed to the concept of freedom than bikers. These characters line up like cows heading back to the barn behind every fascist asshole who has appeared in American history since the 1940s. They were Vietnam cheerleaders, Afghanistan and Irag Invasion cheerleaders, and they are Trump’s brownshirts. They are certainly fans of chaos and lawless disorder, but that’s because they are too lazy to be useful.

  • Billy: “All we represent to them, man, is somebody who needs a haircut.”
  • George: “Oh, no. What you represent to them is freedom.”

No, all you represent is old men with ponytails and bald domes pretending to be something you’ll never be: decent Americans. Yeah, this half-witted shit pisses me off.

Posted in biker culture, cruiser, harley davidson | Leave a comment

RIP: Marty Smith

At the tail end of what passed for a “motocross career,” I rode 125 support class at the Herman, NE track in 1978 or ‘79. As usual, I ended up in the middle of the pack. No bad luck, no bike failure (I was riding a friend’s RM125 that he and I had spent a week prepping), just not nearly enough talent to be anywhere else but in the middle of the pack. My friend’s one-year-newer RM125 put him in the top 5, not high enough to trophy, but high enough to make him feel good about himself. I was happy not to have crashed and to have managed to pass a couple of guys; and get passed by a few including getting lapped in a 20 minute moto by the winner.

A real upside to being there was getting to hang out in the pits for the main events. We amateurs were pretty much relegated to a section of the pits, to keep us out of the way for the pros, but we were close enough to talk to some of the racers and mechanics and watch the real guys do their jobs. One of those guys was “Mighty Mouse,” Marty Smith. Marty and his wife, Nancy, were killed in a dune buggy crash not far from their home in the California desert this past Monday. Marty was 63, which really makes me feel old because I remember him being a “kid” when I was in my late-20s and early-30s.

marty-smithThis picture is how I will always remember Marty. He was always a serious looking guy before the race and had a big grin on his face afterwards; even when he didn’t win. The year I saw him upclose was the year Bob Hannah started winning . . . everything. It was very much like the changing of the guard. Marty’s style was like the European TransAM guys we’d been seeing for the past decade, wiping up the US guys on our own tracks and hauling off the trophies and prize money. Bob changed all that and within a few years, the Euro-riders quit coming to the US because they were working for free.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Music and Motorcycles

Years ago, I sold my 1979 Honda CX500 to a good friend who used the bike to move from LA back home to Idaho. At the time, I thought I was doing him a favor because good old LA was killing him and he needed to cut free of all of the crap that held him in place. Moving by motorcycle is one of the best ways to give up crap that you don’t need. He made it to Idaho, restarted his music career there, cut some records, toured with some big name acts, and quit riding the motorcycle because he was afraid he’d fuck up and damage his hands. After one winter in storage, mice chewed through the bike’s wiring and started a fire that burned down his garage, turned the CX and a car into ashes and scrap metal, and convinced my friend that motorcycles were in his past.

My wife saw James Taylor on Late Night with Seth Myers and we had an argument about Taylor’s age. (I thought he is my age. She thought he is 5-8 years older.) I looked up his stats on Wikipedia and I was right, he is three months older than me. However, while I was browsing his history, I hit this bit, “On July 20, he performed at the Newport Folk Festival as the last act and was cheered by thousands of fans who stayed in the rain to hear him. Shortly thereafter, he broke both hands and both feet in a motorcycle accident on Martha’s Vineyard and was forced to stop playing for several months.” I did not know that Taylor lost six months of his career between his first Apple Records release and his first Warner Brothers record, Sweet Baby James.

dylan on a motorcycleA more well-known motorcycle career alteration was Bob Dylan’s 1966 motorcycle crash that occurred the month Blonde on Blonde was released. When Dylan reappeared, he was dramatically lower energy, with the country-music-influenced John Westly Hardin in ‘67 and Nashville Skyline in ‘69. By all accounts, Dylan’s crash was more of an ego bruising than a serious injury, since he mostly moped around in a neck brace for a few weeks and was never hospitalized for injuries. Dylan was a notoriously awful motorcyclist. As Joan Baez recalled in her biography, “He used to hang on that thing like a sack of flour. I always had the feeling it was driving him, and if we were lucky we’d lean the right way and the motorcycle would turn the corner. If not, it would be the end of both of us.”​ Lucky for Bob and his Nobel Prize future, he quit riding motorcycles before they finished him. Although I recently read an interview with Mark Howard, a record producer, who claims to sell an occasional cobbled-up cruiser to Dylan. Hopefully, Bobby just collects them.

joel collectionPiano Man Billy Joel got whacked on his Harley in ‘82 by a cager running a red light and, for a time, had concerns that he might not play piano again. Billy still rides and even has a Leno-style collection of motorcycles. Mostly, he’s a Moto Guzzi fan, but he owns 70’s and modern Japanese bikes, Harley collector bikes, and some customs. He still rides, although not particularly well.

Duane Allman famously ended his career and life crashing into a stopped flatbed truck hauling a crane; hardly a hard-to-see or avoid obstacle. Allman was, like Dylan, a notoriously mediocre rider and, worse, he had a fondness for disabled, strung-out choppers which played a prominent part in his demise. Berry Oakley, the Allman’s bass player, rode his Triumph into a bus 14 months later. The trajectory of that fabled rock and blues band was forever altered and mangled by the loss of those two key members.

tyler motorcycleA more typical Rock and Roll motorcyclist even was Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler’s 1981 crash, mostly caused by his drugged-to-oblivion state of mind when a tree jumped in front of him. Lucky he crashed on the way to pick up his daughter from a babysitting gig, rather than afterwards with her on the bike.

Billy Idol, a classic rock nitwit, wandered through a stop sign in 1990 and met a car at moderate hippobike speeds. He broke an arm and a leg badly enough doctors almost had to amputate. In 2010, Idol crashed again. Big surprise.

Some of the rest of rock and roll’s biker mistakes are Dire Straights’ Mark Knopfler, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Anthony Kiedis and Chad Smith, Richard Fariña, and, of course, Bono managed to mangle himself (fractured shoulder blade, humerus, eye socket, (orbit), and pinky finger on a bicycle.
Waiting in the wings is Justin Beiber. If you’ve seen him demonstrate his “skills” on YouTube, you know that goofball is going to tear up a bunch of tattoos any day now.

As best I can tell, music and motorcycles are a bad mix. But motorcycles and most things don’t mix well, so that’s not news either.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Anger Issues

In a post on a Facebook motorcycle group (Yamaha WR250X & WR250R), a new owner’s asked what sorts of farkles and upgrades he should buy for his new bike and someone suggested, “If you add an exhaust, power commander, air filter, sprocket, and tires it’s a whole new bike.”

And I agreed, “Yep, way louder and worth at least $1,000 less” and referred the original poster to my “Seat of the Pants Performance Comparisons” essay. Oddly, several of the wannabes and hooligans from the group commented that I must have some “anger issues,” apparently based on either the content of that Geezer article or the fact that doing all of that expensive crap to a decent motorcycle makes it worth less and that bit of reality pissed them off.

And I’m confused. The whole point of putting a loud pipe on a motorcycle is to piss off as many people as possible, it is also obviously evidence of “anger issues.” While those noisy bikes are a cute expression of a passive aggressive personality disorder, it’s entertaining to hear the accusation of my anger issues when I point out their anger issues (an example of “gaslighting” if there ever was one) Psychology Today has some good stuff about identifying gaslighting and putting in its proper place; for example, “11 Warning Signs of Gaslighting.” These days, we’re so used to hearing that kind of irrational argument on the nightly news that it almost sounds “normal.” Those comments did, however, start me to thinking about the many reasons motorcycling in the United States is becoming a vanishing act.

It’s pretty obvious from the riding posts and comments these guys put up on this Facebook page, being a good rider, especially a racer, isn’t in the cards for them; regardless of their age. Their claim to riding fame is repeatedly straight line wheelies, usually in completely inappropriate places. I grant you the fact that doing a wheelie is a cool trick, but it’s even cooler (and harder) on a bicycle than a motorcycle and just as pointless a “skill,” unless you are getting that front wheel light in order to get over an obstacle. Mostly, though, street wheelies are a hooligan act of juvenile rebellion. Anger, in other words.

And, if I sucked that bad I’d be pissed off, too.

Years ago, I belonged to a sport bike group that, occasionally, rented a closed course and provided racing training. The guys who taught the classes were all intermediate-to-Expert local racers and some had serious skills. The “trainers” were all on liter bikes and when a retired pro racer from Wisconsin showed up with his bone stock 1980’s Honda 250 two-stroke race biker a bunch of the instructors decided to turn a few laps unencumbered by students, rookies, and novices. The 250 owner went out with them.

All of the liter bike guys had “exhaust, power commander, air filter, sprocket, and tires” and some had even spent dyno money trying to make all of that aftermarket crap work together. Regardless, they got their asses handed to them by the old pro. They could make lots of noise in the straights, but when they puttered (by his standards) through the many curves in the track he ate them alive. Often passing 4-5 bikes in a single tight corner. After lapping the whole pack one or two times, he came in followed by some of his victims.

Before packing up and heading back home, he was generous enough to let a couple of the faster guys ride his 250 and they were foolish enough to loan him their liter bikes. Then he tore them up on the corners and the straights, lapping everyone on the track in less than three laps. With modern big horsepower and sticky tires under him, he spent most of the course sideways, playing with traction and front wheel levitation. At least one of the guys who’d loaned out his bike borrowed a friend’s pickup to haul his bike home because his street tires were melted down to the belts.

There is a lesson here. The overwhelming bulk of characters wasting money on “exhaust, power commander, air filter, sprocket, and tires are people who would be better served signing up for a few dozen track days. When you watch those YouTube packs of street hooligans, you see a lot of no-talent nitwits flaunting the law, expressing their teenage anger issues. Mostly, the aftermarket industry is catering to suckers who hope some add-on part will be the magic bullet that will hide their inabilities. The problem is that it’s not the bike that slows you down, it is your skills. It’s not the bike that makes you fast. It’s being fast that makes you fast.

Posted in Fast Lane Biker Column, geezer with a grudge | 2 Comments

Motorcycle Bingo

Here’s the card, in case you want to play.

Some of these statements are really interesting; to me. The “Have more than 200,000 lifetime miles” question, for example. Several times in the last 20 years I’ve tried to add up my lifetime miles and mostly I come away baffled that someone would keep track of that. Fifty years ago, I worked with a salesman who quit his job and bought a Chevy dealership. He was probably 45-50 at the time (really old) and said he’d just past 200,000 lifetime driving miles and since the average American in the 70’s drove ab out 100,000 miles between fatal accidents (according to him) he figured his days were numbered. So, he bought a car dealership and quit pounding the miles. About 5 years later, I passed 1,000.000 miles just from that job. Ten years of 100,000 miles per year and I still wasn’t dead. Pure luck, I know. Around that same time, I estimated that I had somewhere around 100,000 off-road miles and I had tested my luck severely and it hadn’t been all that great: a dozen  busted ribs, five broken toes, both clavicles broke, both shoulders separated, broken thumb and index finger, and enough other stuff to entertain every x-ray tech who has ever scanned my body. About then, I bought my first street bike and the rest has been mostly uneventful, but I really haven’t kept track of the miles I’ve ridden, ever. Mostly, my count comes from recollections of the miles the bikes had on the odometer when I bought and sold them. With some bikes, that wasn’t particularly accurate because the odometers either failed and were replaced or never existed.

Here’s my score, keeping in mind that some of these points came from a while ago, some a long while ago. The IBA stuff and the intercom system boxed me out of a couple lines. The IBA has always just seemed like conspicuous consumption to me and everything about an intercom system would ruin motorcycling for me.

I have at least 2/3 of a million miles in the saddle, probably closer to 3/4. I racked up 136,000 miles on my poor Honda CX500 before selling it to a friend. My 1st TDM also had 100k on the odometer when I sold it. I put 30k in a year on 3 bikes, the CX500 in 1983, a Yamaha 550 Vision in 1988 and ’89, and my ’92 Vision in 1993. I will be sorry for as long as I live that I didn’t put that many miles on my V-Strom, my all time favorite road bike. Every bike I’ve owned since my first Yamaha Vision has had a custom seat, including my WR250X. It’s cheating, I suspect, to have ridden 12 months a year in California, but I did for 10 years. I also rode 12 months a year in Denver for 5, and 3 or 4 times when I lived in the Twin Cities. I could almost claim “Don’t own a car,” because the car I did own was my wife’s for 5 of the 10 years I lived in southern California. I all but forgot how to drive until I bought a 1973 Toyota Hilux for hauling my kayak.

My Motorcycle MapI’d hoped to tag all 50 states before I quit riding, but that may turn out to be a pipedream. There are just a few southeastern states in which I have not burned fuel: 8 plus Hawaii.

The other spaces are just boring “doesn’t everybody do that?” stuff.

Posted in dual purpose, economics, my motorcycles, V-Strom, yamaha | Tagged | Leave a comment

Assigning Blame, Taking Responsibility

A blast from my past called this weekend, wanting to talk about his summer’s misfortunes. We’ll call him “P” to protect his ego and our relationship. In early August (2019), P was sailing down a country two-lane, minding his own business, and assuming that Minnesota country roads are, somehow, safer than urban freeways and byways. (Statistics consistently demonstrate that this is a motorcyclists’ delusion. In 2018, for example,31 of 57 or 54% of the state’s motorcycle fatalities were in areas with populations under 10,000 and the majority, 22, were in rural, unpopulated areas. 913 motorcyclists were injured that year and 49% of that total were injured on those same low population roads.) 2 motorcyclists were killed and 102 were injured in the state’s over-250,000 cities; the Twin Cities, in fact. P, oblivious to the hazard of country roads, was riding somewhere between 55 and 65mph on a sparsely-populated stretch of the road, when a pickup pulled into his lane, partially shielded by a downed tree next to the driveway the pickup was exiting from. Mayhem resulted and P ended up with a multitudinous-fractured femur, a broken back, and a separated shoulder.

Fortunately for P, he was wearing actual motorcycle gear including a full-face helmet and armored jacket. As he said, “I didn’t spill a drop of blood.” Unfortunately for P, he has a long recovery ahead of him and he is not fond of physical therapy. He’s been here before. Several year ago, he was riding in fairly congested traffic and, bored with the pace of movement, he was occupied trying to read the call sign of a passing small airplane when he struck the stopped car in front of him. He flew over the car and, while he was airborne, he decided, “I don’t want to hear Tom lecturing me about not wearing a helmet while I recover from this” and he shielded his head with his arms just before tumbling into a ditch. The end result of that crash was a severely massacred pelvis from which he has yet to fully recover. To his credit, P took total responsibility for both that crash and his less-than-complete recovery. He also started wearing a full-face helmet and, at least, an armored jacket when he rode. A life-long Harley guy with a long history of spectacular crashes, the bike he crashed on the last two times was a big BMW touring bike.

I’ve ridden with P, maybe twice, but definitely once. We met at a small town a few miles from his place, for a Fourth of July fireworks show. Afterwards, for whatever reason, we decided to go back to his house before I headed back home. Both of our spouses were riding passenger on that trip. P immediately took off in the dark, on familiar country roads, putting some distance between us. I made a half-hearted effort to keep him in sight, but I do not ride fast, ever, with a passenger and since I knew where we were going I was not particularly upset to make most of the trip “unguided.” Since then, he’s often reminded me of that incident and of the fact that he was a “lot faster” than me on those mostly-gravel country roads. I do my racing, when I do it, on closed courses and I am never impressed with people who imagine racing on public roads is something to brag about. My wife would make short work of me if I ever play-raced with her on the bike.

Like many motorcyclists and bikers, P’s problem is that he imagines that he is seen, because he is a big guy riding a “big bike.”  While P’s BMW didn’t have loud pipes, P has ridden bikes with minimal muffling for most of his life and always deluded himself into thinking physics is his friend when it comes to sound and defensive riding, he suffers the false idea that people are looking for motorcycles. Even in a fairly motorcycle-friendly state like Minnesota, there aren’t enough motorcycles on the road any given day for a typical cager to have any reason to be watching for them. When we don’t amount to 0.001% of the total traffic on good days, asking drivers to “Start Looking for Motorcycles” is as silly as asking them to watch out for unicorns. Bicycles, pedestrians, old men on power wheelchairs, and kids on tricycles are far more likely things to be looking out for than motorcycles; especially motorcycles approaching a blind intersection (or driveway) at 60-65mph.

This is exactly the kind of situation where motorcyclists have to be watching out for everyone else. Even if, as in P’s case, the cager gets the blame for the crash, P might still be crippled-for-life or dead . . . but in the right. The price for being right is higher than I want to pay. To be clear, I am not afraid of being dead, but I practically terrified of being maimed and crippled. During the brief period when the MSF’s Basic Rider Course actually talked about risk management, I used to tell my motorcycle students that any crash short of a tree falling on you or a tornado blowing you to Kansas was the motorcyclist’s fault for not anticipating and avoiding the situation. If you think everyone else is looking out for, or responsible for, your safety, you will be disappointed and, probably, hurt or killed.

Posted in crash data, Fast Lane Biker Column, geezer with a grudge, motorcycle safety training | Leave a comment