Monday, March 20, 2006
When journalists attack
Several months ago, Myrtle Beach mayor Mark McBride came under fire for saying he had contemplated running into a biker with his car because he considered the motorcyclist’s shirt to be offensive. It amazes me that, while McBride found a mere shirt to be vulgar, he apparently saw nothing profane in committing a potentially deadly act of violence against another person.
McBride was subsequently ousted at the poles during a bid for re-election, thanks in part to efforts by several South Carolina motorcycle rights organizations and the American Motorcyclist Association.
So with the McBride story so brightly illuminating the average person's ignorance toward motorcycling, I shouldn't be shocked when I see op-ed pieces by sad, angry little journalists like Douglas Simpson of the Lake Cities Sun. Check out these outrageous quotes by Simpson:
"Why are these things street legal?"
Ummm...err...well for starters, Doug, because they're economical, environmentally friendly, alleviate traffic congestion, and reduce road wear. And those are just a few ancillary reason off the top of my head.
Simpson's attitude is typical of the average SUV-land-barge-owning, cell-using-while-driving, irresponsible American driver. He apparently doesn't think he holds any responsibilities or obligations toward other road users unless they happen to stay within the remaining peripheral vision on each side of his onboard DVD player's video monitor. This guy would freak out if he ever took a trip to Italy or Germany, where motorcyclists outnumber cagers in some areas.
"Nothing irks me more than sitting in dense 5 p.m. or Friday traffic, only to see a motorcycle driving between the rows of cars, going about 40 mph. I want so badly to open my car door just before they reach me."
Thank you, Mayor McBride...er...I mean, Doug. The fact that you get the urge to kill a complete stranger just because he takes advantage of the benefits of motorcycling makes you evil in my book, Mr. Simpson. Intolerant, ignorant, and evil.
This willingness to commit violence exemplifies another typical flaw in the average American cager's attitude: Entitlement Mentality. Mr. Simpson apparently thinks that just because he and his 8,000-pound Ford Excursion are forced to sit in a traffic jam, the rest of us should be, too. Furthermore, he's seemingly not deep enough a thinker to realize the dangers a motorcyclist faces by getting sandwiched in-between two cages in heavy traffic. Lanesplitting is not optional. In heavy, urban traffic situations, it is 100 percent necessary. That's why Texas is currently considering legislation to legalize it.
"I remember a few years back, I think after Gary Busey had his bad motorcycle wreck, there was a public service announcement asking motorists to 'keep an eye open for motorcyclists,' like they are being abused by us car and truck drivers."
Because we are being abused. In almost 75 percent of all car/motorcycle accidents in the United States, the oblivious cager is found to be at fault. We're regularly tailgated, crowded, and flat-out ignored by others. And with attitudes like Simpson's seemingly the norm, it's no surprise.
"I remember telling the TV, 'I’ll look out for them as soon as they start obeying traffic laws.' I’m still waiting, so in my eyes, they are fair game."
Evil emeffer. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Cagers don't want to be bothered with any condition more than 5 feet in front of their hood ornaments while driving these days. Every driver should adopt as a personal issue that motorcyclists are to be given, not the same amount of attention and care as other motorists, but ten times as much. And until motorists are willing to adopt that mentality and attitude, bikers will continue to be creamed in silly ways.
Granted, there is a certain segment of motorcyclists out there who are determined to go 175 mph on congested expressways, weave in and out of traffic wildly, and stunt on the street. Those idiots will take Darwinian care of themselves eventually, and with likely no harm to anyone else. But a few hooligans on sportbikes is no excuse for Simpson's Auschwitzesque attitude toward bikers and how they deserve to die.
You can bet that Simpson would be appalled if the same mentality were taken toward, fat, lazy, out-of-shape lard asses like himself. Were I to advocate that such people should be harmed or killed because of the social and healthcare burdens they create, I'd be called a monster. Meanwhile, Jagoffs like Simpson can spew their uneducated, equally offensive white-trash opinions and get published.
Welcome to wackyland.
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Sunday, March 12, 2006
And just when you thought the AMA couldn't disgrace itself any more severely...
...it does this.
Great jumping holy flying shit, Batman! This is far beyond unbelievable. I'm...I'm...I'm frickin' speechless, man. I'm not kidding. I'm literally so dumbfounded that I can't find the proper words to accurately describe my shock, disbelief, and...and...and...
See what I mean?
Let me be the first to motion that the AMA be officially disbanded and that a competent, professional organization with the basic ability to understand -- not only how to read its own rulebook -- but the painfully simple concept of how a pace car works.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Thank you, Speed Channel
I have a tendency to give Speed Channel a hard time now and then, what with their constant overload of NASCAR nonsense and non-race related programming. So, in turn, I feel like it's the right thing to do in offering them my heartfelt thanks for all the Daytona Bike Week coverage they're broadcasting right now. I watched a replay of the roadrace qualifying sessions last night, and it was like being in heaven.
Thank you, Speed Channel. Please consider broadcasting the qualifying sessions of all AMA roadraces.
Monday, March 06, 2006
The mental aspects of crash recovery
Article #2 in the Tips for New Riders series which appears at OdessaSportbikes.com
By Tim Kreitz
A friend of mine who lives in California was involved in a motorcycle accident several years ago, and found that she had become deathly afraid of her bike when the time came to climb back on. She subsequently asked for advice on whether or not she should ever ride again, since she had become so petrified by the experience.
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers with regard to this topic. There are no absolutes in motorcycling, just like there are no absolutes in driving, flying, or -- for that matter -- walking down the street. It's a risky world and we are imperfect beings who will, at times, make mistakes.
Labor day weekend 1998, my friend Cliff died on his bike, hit by a drunk driver. In the subsequent investigation, I found out things about him that I never knew. He was almost blind in his right eye, he had no motorcycle license (in fact, he had failed the written test), he had less than 500 miles riding experience, and had never received formal rider training. Additionally, we later found out that he had turned into the drunkard's path. And although the accident could've been avoided had the drunk cager been able to react correctly, the whole incident ended up being the amalgamation of lots of bad decisions and mistakes on the part of both parties. Most motorcycle accidents, with regard to their varied circumstances, tend to follow this same outline. Rarely does a single factor cause a crash. In only a fraction of all motorcycle mishaps does a situation occur where the rider is absolutely powerless to either avoid the accident or at least make it less severe.
That said, none of us are untouchable by any means as motorcyclists, and we must all realize this fact. Granted, most of us do. That is why I will literally cuss myself out if I find myself daydreaming while going down the road on my bike. Doing so can get you hurt or killed, so you must strive with great effort to stay focused all the time. Riding a motorcycle is 90 percent mental, and strategies accommodating that dynamic simply must be a part of your daily riding ritual. Every intersection must be viewed as a potential ambush. Every curve must be seen as an angry dragon's tail, waiting to slap you down. As I said, this doesn't make you immune to mishap, but it will at least improve your chances out there. This is part of where I find my strength and authority when I ride.
This brings me to my last philosophical point on this issue. As Yin is to Yang, so must your authority be to your fear. Like the spinning of your cogs and sprockets, you must find a balanced harmony between a healthy fear of the bike and your authority over it. Too much fear results in a lack of confidence, which can cause mishap. Too much authority results in overconfidence, which can also cause mishap.
“If you're scared of your bike right now, stay off of it for a while,” I offered my friend. “Park it and wait.” Eventually, retrospect helped her arrange her emotions and the desire to ride returned. It is also my personal belief that a little prayer here and there never hurt anybody, either.
In such situations, only you can know enough about yourself to determine if you should continue riding after a traumatic episode. I’ve known guys like Crazy Dave Alders who almost died in a crash, but couldn’t wait to heal up so he could ride again. On the other hand, I’ve seen guys like Brandon Kelly, who decided to quit riding forever after a relatively minor accident. There is no shame in either decision. We each weigh the risks of riding against the reward we glean, which is unique unto each of us. For some, the reward is golden and we ride our whole lives. For others, a crash can be a wake-up call that, “Hey, this isn’t so important to me after all. Maybe I should try something else.”
Regardless, I also believe there are things happening just outside the window of our comprehension that help us shape our destinies. It is my belief that this becomes manifest in what we might call our "instincts" or "intuition." Especially with regard to motorcycling, should you always listen to your instincts. Knowledge, riding skill, and good street strategy combined with listening to your instincts will almost never guide you astray, and can result in a lifetime of accident-free motorcycling.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Spring has sprung in West Texas
We went from highs in the low 50s last week here in West Texas to a balmy 88 degrees today. It was an absolutely perfect day for riding. No wind, plenty of warm sunshine, and not a single cop did we see all day. We met around lunch at the Odessa Starbucks and waited for the rest of the group to show:
It didn't take long:
Once a group of 15 or so bikes had assembled, we took our first ride of 2006 to the Buckhorn Grill in Goldsmith, Texas:
There were a million bikes there. Seriously, everyone in West Texas who owns a motorcycle had to've been on the roads today. These pics don't even come close to doing the total number of bikes justice:
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Fellow MC member Mike Williams posing, like always:
A very clean Ducati ST3 parked at the Buckhorn:
Here's a rare bike; the fully automatic Ridley cruiser. I was told that the owner of this bike is a 78 year-old grandmother. Go get 'em, Granny:
In the afternoon, we reassembled back in Odessa for a ride into the Barrio, where we stopped at the greatest dive on the south side, Taqueria Guadalajara. Be sure to get the nachos if you ever eat there:
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After Taqueria, we rode the south loop and made one last stop at 'home base' before everyone broke up for the evening.
Here's Rodger Gertson's GSXR1000, with Rodger in the background saying something to the effect of, "Tim, what on earth are you doing laying on your back?":
Obligatory shot of the Grean Meanie:
Our friend Tommy Biffle was there on his 1980 XL500, which is but one of what seems like about 100 motorcycles he owns:
A tired group of riders prepares to depart each other's company as the sun sets:
All in all, a wonderous day. Now, if you'll all excuse me, I'm off to bed.
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Wednesday, March 01, 2006
High-octane fuel: What is it? When do you need it?
Article #1 in the Tips for New Riders series which appears at OdessaSportbikes.com
By Tim Kreitz
One Saturday back in the summer of 1999, a friend of mine and I rode to the annual motorcycle rally at the state park in Andrews, Texas. After hanging out and looking at bikes all afternoon, we eventually met a group of guys who were riding mostly sportbikes. They seemed pretty cool, so we accepted an invitation to ride back to Midland with them.
As one of the guys started his bike and let it idle, I could hear the top end of his engine making loud, very pronounced pinging sounds. I could tell immediately that the fuel-air mixture in his cylinders was pre-igniting. For those of you who may not know, pre-ignition is the characteristic of a given fuel-air mixture to combust before it’s supposed to (without a spark from the spark plugs), and is sometimes caused by running the wrong kind of fuel in a high-compression engine.
I didn’t initially say anything about it to him, but when we stopped for fuel on our way out of town, I noticed that he was putting 87 octane gasoline in his tank. When I asked him why he was using that particular grade of fuel, his response was something along the lines of,”I don’t care what the manual says, my dad told me buying high-octane fuel is just a waste of money.” He went on to explain that his manual called for a minimum octane rating of something like 91, but that his bike ran “just perfect” on 87. When I explained that the reason his engine was pinging could likely be blamed on his choice of fuel, he looked at me like I was out of my mind. “What do you mean, ‘pinging’?” he replied. I pretty much dropped the conversation at that point.
I never saw that guy again, because he probably ruined his bike’s engine and never rode again.
So Tim, why are higher octane fuels less prone to pre-ignition?
In short, because they are less volatile than lower octane fuels. I know that sounds backwards, but it's true. For the sake of simplicity, you can think of octane rating as a measure of the gasoline’s chemical stability: The higher the octane rating, the more stable the fuel actually is. For some sportbikes, this is important because engine compression ratios are so high as to cause more volatile, low-octane fuel mixtures to ignite without spark -- as aforementioned -- which will eventually damage the engine.
Does that mean all sportbikes need high-octane fuel?
Not necessarily. Aside from manufacturer recommendations, temperature, altitude, oxygen density, and climate issues all play a part in how your motorcycle converts fuel and air into power. If your bike runs properly on lower grades of gasoline, don’t worry about it. You’re fine. But if your engine is pinging, you should go to a higher grade.
If you prefer running higher octane fuels than necessary, that’s okay too, but be aware that in some cases, variants of the octane molecules can cause carbon to build up on your valves and pistons. Pulling your carbs or throttle bodies during regular valve clearance checks and shining a flashlight into your intake ports will usually show some minor backside buildup if this is occurring.
I'm fortunate to live in a geographical area that has a dry climate and about 3,000 to 4,000 feet of climatic altitude value most of the year. We make decent horsepower out here and our bikes run cleanly if kept in a proper state of tune. Selecting the proper fuel grade as part of that equation is another tool we have at our disposal for going fast while prolonging the lives of our bikes at the same time.
More must-read material on the Buell/AMA fiasco
"I suspect an ugly legal situation down the road if the Buell wins the Daytona 200 and is later stripped of the win by the appeals board. Erik Buell will probably become incandescent with the AMA when the amended race results show that all of his bikes were disqualified. I'm sure it is not the way he wants to be remembered in the history books. Sad."
Read the whole thing by Tracy Hagen here. Do it now.
Well, what are you waiting for. Go!