Thursday, October 19, 2006
"We believe in selling idealistic lifestyles"
I'm hesitant to go on an intentional anti-Harley rant, but this is the most ridiculous corporate sales video I've ever seen. Just watch and you'll see what I mean. We believe in sticking it to the man, the video (produced by HD) touts.
Very few people want to be true non-conformists, and those who do are rarely in a resulting financial position to be able to buy a 20,000-dollar bike. Furthermore, HD is the bike for CONFORMISTS in this day and age, not the opposite. The vast majority of Harley riders I see these days are 50-something and 60-something business professionals who play the American capitalist game everyday, paying their taxes and obeying willingly the government and the law, precious few of them actually willing to "stick it to the man," as the video suggests.
The whole concept of the video perpetuates an idea that HD is more concerned with selling an idealized lifestyle than their bikes. Buy a Harley and it'll always be a clear, warm day, perfect for wearing tanktop shirts and other inappropriate riding apparel. Buy a Harley and you'll be a "badass" biker, not a pudgy dentist or lawyer with two out-of-control kids and a wife who won't have sex with you anymore. Buy a Harley and you'll be unique, despite the millions of other Harley riders out there who look, ride, and act exactly like you.
Gimme' a break. No motorcycle makes a person unique. No lifestyle makes a person unique. In fact, we are more similar than most of us are comfortable admitting. So ride for the joy of riding, not to be a poser.
Monday, October 09, 2006
As we approach the next paradigm shift in GP racing, a look back seems appropriate
My first lasting mental impression of bigtime motorcycle roadracing harkens from the summer of 1979 when I took a trip to see family on the Gulf Coast of Texas. On a balmy, lazy afternoon of that visit, as I rummaged through a pile of old periodicals in my uncle's ham radio room, I happened upon one of the popular motorcycle magazines of the day. I can't remember if it was Motorcycle or Bike or what, but I do remember that within its pages was the first place I ever saw a fully faired, race-ready GP bike: Kenny Roberts' bright yellow Yamaha YZR500.
The bike looked like some sort of alien spacecraft to my young eyes, seeming so imposing and fantastic as to possibly have it's own sentience. I imagined that it might even be able to fly like a jet had its rider required it to do so. I brought that magazine home to West Texas a few days later and showed it to my friends. We all agreed, in our highly developed 8 year-old wisdom, that nothing on wheels would ever be able to surpass its speed.
Some 27 years later, technology has proven that gaggle of wide-eyed youngsters quite wrong. Over the past three decades, GP engineering reached the pinnacle of two-stroke design, eventually abandoning its violent power delivery and oily fuel mixtures for four-stroke powerplants that, despite their critics, soon surpassed anything previously raced. In recent years, the faster the bikes went, the more the sanctioning bodies tried to slow them down through redesigns and displacement reductions. So far it hasn't worked. GP bikes are quicker than ever, and next year's bikes -- even with their smaller 800cc engines -- will likely show once again that you can't keep a good engineer down. The initial test results reported by Honda alone seem to bolster that prediction. It is on historical cusps such as these that I most enjoy looking back on the history of GP racing through young memories and wonder how we might view the current era of racing in the distant future. Time will tell.
I kept that magazine within my immediate reach for the rest of the summer and into the fall of 1979. That school year -- its pages by then tattered and worn -- my sacred tome of treasured two-wheeled images was stolen from my homeroom desk, never to be seen again. I was very angry at the time, but I think the frustration of having it taken away is one of the reasons I have never forgotten about it. Nor did I lose the amped-up fascination it supplied, which undoubtedly helped fuel my passion for motorcycles as an adult. That, dear friends, is a true blessing.
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The knucklehead-biker video that won't go away
If I see this tired video posted to Usenet one more time, as it was again last week, I'm going postal. For those of you who may not be familiar, the link goes to a clip of a motorcyclist (and I use that word loosely in this case) making an uwise pass on Deal's Gap and going over a small cliff. It has subsequently become fodder for the anti-motorcycling crowd in recent months under the false conclusion that excessive speed caused the crash. Not so. Just watch the video for youself and then read some more.
The crash was plainly caused by panicking and failing to turn the motorcycle, not by excessive speed. Crossing the double-yellow was a bad idea, as well. Sure, that biker made an amazingly dumbass move, but speed had little, perhaps nothing to do with him crashing. Target fixation, panic, and a lack of skill are what caused the crash. Look closely and notice that the rider didn't even brake properly. He locked the rear wheel while at the same time under-utulizing the front brake. Typical of an untrained, unskilled rider. He had plenty of time, ground clearance, and room to turn back in -- he just fixated on the drop-off and choked.
It frustrates me to see things like this used as political fodder. Gimme' a break. One knucklehead biker in a Google video does not a demographic make.
Another round of thanks to the MRT!
Awesome! Another quote from this blog was in this morning's Midland Reporter-Telegram. Thanks, guys! I think I speak for all the local (Midland, TX) bloggers when I say that we greatly appreciate the attention you give us. All the best!
Monday, October 02, 2006
Smoky burnouts and big wheelies to our friends at the Midland Reporter-Telegram
It was great to see a quote from the Superbike Blog printed in this morning's Midland Reporter-Telegram newspaper. Thanks very much, guys. I really appreciate it. I only wish you hadn't misspelled my name! Oh, well:
Sunday, October 01, 2006
Risk acceptance is only half of the equation
We motorcycling lot have always been comprised of risk takers. It’s admittedly part of the territory to a degree. As a biker, one must accept that he/she will be inherently exposed to a higher level of risk while on the roads than, say, a car driver. That acceptance, however, should not be viewed as a license to amp up the danger under the false pretense that, “Anything goes because motorcycling is risky.” As the title of this article states, risk acceptance is only half of the equation. The other (and arguably more important) half of the equation is subsequent risk management.
Those riders who have made the wise decision to take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation RiderCourse or attend a racing school have heard this concept before, because is it one of the major tenants we teach, and for good reason. After all, what real purpose does accepting those higher risks serve if you’re not going to do anything pro-active about them thereafter?
My motivation for writing on this subject comes from a conversation I had a few weeks ago with a cruiser rider I was talking to in the parking lot of a bike shop. His head protection consisted of a black bandana and pair of store-bought shades. His body armor was comprised of a sleeveless T-shirt. His footwear was a pair of slick-soled cowboy boots. You get the idea. But what really got me was the fact that he had the nerve to make comments about my gear.
“Sure is a hot day to be wearing all that racer stuff,” he said. “Aren’t you miserable?”
“Far from it,” I replied. “My riding jacket and gloves are perforated, and breath nicely when I’m in motion.”
“That’s a fancy lid you got there,” he remarked next, gazing with a smirk at the graphics on my full-face helmet. “You’re not gonna tell me that thing isn’t hot.”
That’s when it started to hit me. This guy thought I was wearing a riding jacket, pants, leather gloves, proper riding boots, and full-face helmet simply for the look.
“You’ll never catch me on the street without a full-face helmet on,” I said politely, my patience now becoming strained. “In fact, I think it’s pretty stupid to ride without one.”
That was pretty much the end of the conversation. He got the message that I didn’t appreciate being patronized, and I also think he got the message that I gear up for safety, not looks. If I had really wanted to be a dick, I suppose I could’ve flown of into a big tirade about how risk acceptance doesn’t equal risk management, and that he was an imbecile for dressing like something out of a Peter Fonda movie, but it would’ve been a wasted effort. The guy’s focus was on all the wrong things. He dressed to look 'cool', not for function, and probably had no idea there was any other way to approach it. Pretty sad.
If you choose to ride without proper training, riding gear, etc., that’s your right, but an unarguably irresponsible choice. Successful risk management includes a lot of factors: street strategy, bike maintenance, skill building, the ability to properly evaluate your riding environment, and yes, safety gear. The more things you choose to take active control over, the better your chances are, and I hate to see something so important being sacrificed for the sake of perpetuating lame, outdated biker mantras.
Manage the risks, people. You owe it to yourselves, to your loved ones, and to motorcycling.