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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hello Old Friend--Good Gear Lasts Forever

As a long time motorcyclist, I have acquired the gear I find to be most functional, through a very complex series of trials and errors. Make no mistake about it, when someone that has been riding for 20, 30 or 40 years offers you advice on gear, take it. Don't go out and try to prove them wrong, it won't end pretty.

Recently I have been riding a 2014 Kawasaki Z1000. Want to know what's most different about it versus my Kawasaki Concourse and Suzuki V-Strom Adventure? Storage. The Connie has wonderfully easy to use saddlebags that can hold the better part of a weeks worth of groceries. The Strom has saddlebags and a top case that can hold, well everything. The Z, well it has a bitchin' ability to roost out of corners and do wheelies--and carry whatever is in your pockets.

For this reason, I went into my garage cabinets and broke out my Aerostich Courier Bag. Perhaps the single best piece of gear I have ever owned. This bag has carried everything, including taking a kitten from Beverly Hills to Santa Monica, camera gear, a transmission for a Harley, books, clothing, groceries and about 2 dozen other weird items over its life span.


The bag just fits your upper body perfectly and seems to hang comfortably on your shoulder no matter what. I strongly suggest you check one out at www.aerostich.com and snag one for your daily commute. This is my second Courier bag, and this one is about 9 years old. They last and work. Just wish I would have bought one before the three backpacks I thought would be better 20 years ago.
 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

on being an individual

Way back when Harley rebounded and the Evo was a hot commodity, there was a "way to dress' for new Harley owners. I'm not saying it was a hard-fast rule, but it was quite a coincidence that so many people showed up at rallies and HOG meetings wearing Harley jeans, Harley chaps, Harley boots, Harley t-shirt, Harley jacket and a Harley hat/1/2 helmet--almost like a uniform. It simply had to be a coincidence.

Side note about those  Harley dealer T-shirts, there used to be a company that advertised in magazines that would deliver a new dealer shirt from a different state every month to you..... wow

Anyway, the funny thing about the coincidental attire, is each one of those guys thought he/she was an individual, dressing to say who they are--a Harley rider. So there they would be in packs of 5, 10 or 30 blasting around every state in America thinking they were individuals, that just happened to have many friends who were just as individual. The rest of the motorcycle community had quite they chuckle at their expense.

Fast forward to today. The "way to dress' has more corporate sponsors, but its still a uniform in my eyes--not being an individual. Today's Harley crowd rides a Dyna or Sportster, likely black, with 10-12" risers and drag bars peeking up over a 1/4 fairing. Their head is adorned with a flat black full face helmet, and then they wear a flannel over a hooded sweatshirt, Dickies pants, and high top Vans sneakers. Darn individual if you ask me. But likely its pure coincidence that I see so many people dressed that way.

Of the copycat uniforms I see, I have to say, at least the Harley guys of old thought about crash protection. Leather is way more road rash resistant than a Pendleton....

Anyway, my suggestion? Be yourself. Its one thing I can always be accused of is being me. For as long as I can remember I have worn the same things when I ride, a full face helmet--often colored to match my bike, a riding jacket, at one point I only wore leather, now its only synthetic fabrics, jeans--unless I was doing serious canyon racing which saw me in an Aerostich suit, leathers or synthetic over pants--and boots that covered my ankles. Except for a three year period where I had these bitching all white Nike leather high tops that were, leather, padded and covered my ankles. Took a ton of shit from the Harley crowd over them--but what does the most popular character on Sons of Anarchy wear? White leather high tops.....

anyway, dress for the ride and protection and be yourself. That's all for today


Monday, April 21, 2014

Experience motorcycles--all kinds

Over the many years I have been riding motorcycles I have seen a lot of prejudices. Dirt guys that hate street. Street guys that hate dirt. Harley guys that hate other brands. Other brands that hate Harleys. You get the idea.
Me, I love all bikes and love riding all bikes. While I was the editor of Hot Bike one of my favorite questions to ask radical custom bike owners--which coincidentally were not Harleys--was this: if a law came down and made air-cooled engines (Harley) instantly illegal and you could only ride water cooled bikes (Japanese) would you still ride? So many said no that it shocked me. They were not riders, but owners. That typos of prejudice exists all throughout motorcycling and it has to go. It hurts us.
For me, its about the ride. That blending of rider and machine into one entity, slicing through traffic, dodging cars, hitting the apex of every corner that approaches and launching off jumps and climbing hills. Cool how I worked street riding, canyons and dirt into one metaphor, huh?
That said, I encourage you to ride any bike you can for the experience. If you have spent the majority of your time on a Harley--or Ducati--ride an in-line four. There are very few things that equal the rush of a sporting in-line as it hits the last four thousand rpm in its power band. Only been on sport bikes? Ride a Harley--or Vulcan, Star or Boulevard. Try the slowed down pace of a rumbling V-twin. Its interesting what you might see running your favorite canyon at 40mph less in each corner--could be some great scenery.
Never rode dirt? Try hopping on a dual sport bike and run down a firewood. Its the ultimate adventure feeling.
Remember, no matter what you ride, you are part of a bigger thing: us versus them. Us--those that ride and represent motorcycling. Them--car drivers that don't care about us. By developing a better understanding and respect of us internally, its a lot easier to spread that thinking to them--and more of us will get to ride another year.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Naked Came the.....Sportbike Part 1

When Penelope Ashe penned Naked Came The Stranger in 1969, the storyline was about the depths of journalism and a challenge to get to a new low in tawdriness. This has absolutely nothing to do with the 2014 Kawasaki Z1000--except the Z is a naked bike that is the perfect, and I do mean perfect hooligan tool. Which sets the bar kind of low on the legal riding aspect and raises the bar quite high in tawdriness.
The Z1000 is not styling for everyone--its radical, edgy and sharp, but at its heart is a sportbike waiting to be thrashed through corners and bends. How this heart meets up with its nakedness is the reason I will be forcing myself to spend time on this bike--rather than a fully faired machine (my preference).
So, its controversial in style, but swing a leg over it, like a well known stuntman named Jason Britton... and well its back to the ultimate hooligan machine. Britton is one of, if not the best stunters around and he was on the Z for about 30 seconds when he told me he wanted one.
Just for giggles here is a quick look at Britton getting acquainted with the Z... sorry about the quality, they are iPhone pics...

I have put about 60 miles on the Z so far, so making any kind of statement about the bike would be a journalistic lie. Give me about a week or so and I will get back to you with Naked Came The Sportbike Part 2....

Thursday, April 17, 2014

...so there i was heading into this left hander...

While the process of riding a motorcycle is a very individual act, the sharing of experiences generated while riding is very much a social thing. Call it what you will, Bench Racing, lying, exaggeration BS-ing over coffee, reliving those harrowing moments of sheer terror (or glory) is as much a part of riding as putting your helmet on.
I had ridden to Newcomb's Ranch on Angeles Crest with my wife Sunday, and as we sat down to have coffee and a snack, I was telling her the stories of my Crest conquests on my GSXR (oh do I miss that bike, it enabled me to ride much like Kevin Schwartz--and as soon as I sold it, I slowed down about 40%, it was all the bike, you know?) and how back in those days we would get up to Newcomb's for breakfast and each table would be full of guys in varied amounts of riding gear, inevitable with one guy using his hands to gesticulate the position of his handlebars in relation to the road. If you could have mounted a ceiling camera it would have been fun too see all 26 miles of that hill explained table by table.
I love the social aspect of riding that comes when the ride is done. Reliving those exciting, scary or amazing moments with people who ride--and understand what you are trying to say--is great. It saves you trying to explain it at the dinner table that night to a crowd that just looks at you funny and wonders why you still own a motorcycle. Clearly when I go out riding with friends, I could get home 2-3 hours sooner if lunch and coffee stops didn't include reliving those corners where the back end stepped out, or that perfect left hand corner exit in second gear that results in a perfectly controlled power wheelie--but what fun would it be if that stuff couldn't be shared?
Did I ever tell you about that time I was on a ZX9R dropping onto Latino Canyon from PCH when.......?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

oh look, something shiny

Lets face it, you didn't buy a motorcycle because its ugly--ok my V-Strom 1000 adventure is ugly, but that's a separate story.
Something about your bike, a part or its whole package, inspired a desire in you. We are drawn to shiny things, which may also be matte finish or even hidden technology that we can only speak of, because they create a feeling inside. I could spend hours, and bore you to death, talking about all the reasons I am drawn to my bikes currently and in the past.
What is it about your bike that fires you up? Here is a list of just one thing I loved on the bikes I have owned in the last 15 years:
1992 Suzuki gsxr 750--- the dual headlight assembly. I loved looking at it
1994 Buell s2----- the billet footpeg plates. So intricate and gorgeous, explained the engineering in this bike
1997 dyna fxd--- the 107ci TP Engineering motor and the wheelies it produced
1999 custom built softball--I snuck dual headlights on it--like my gsxr
1998 Buell S3T--- the gas tank was a gorgeous shape
2001 FXDXT--the stance of the bike after I put an 18-inch PM wheel on the back. It sat level and suggested better cornering
2005 Honda XR650L--after the installation of 17-inch wheels, this had the look of a bulky supermoto
2009 Kawasaki Concourse--the feel of the engine when this 1400cc beast hits about 6500rpm--whoosh like a rocket
2012 Suzuki V-Strom 1000--ugliest bike I have ever owned, which draws me to it

Have you ever thought about what shiny thing drew you to your bike? Let me know

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I dont know what the hell happened..i used to love writing

So, I keep trying to commit to this blog. Write more, say more, share more. But I have been less than inspired. However, I have something to say and this seems a good place to do so.

Lets start being ambassadors for motorcycling instead of assholes when we ride. Each time you ride you have a chance to make car drivers like motorcycle riders--not hate them. That means respect the rules of the road--to an extent, still have fun on the bike--and give the cars a chance to react to you suddenly being there, as opposed to flying by them at ridiculous speeds and then acting all pussy because they didn't see you.
Don't blip your throttle as you roll through town or on slow streets. They see you, trust me. Anyone looking at the slow moving traffic will see your Ducati/Harley/Suzuki/Kawasaki/Indian/Yamaha among those 17 Prius (es?), Lexus and BMWs on the road. And trust me, as an ex NSF instructor, I can tell you, if they noticed you, they wish they were you, so save the loud pipe blasts.
Lane splitting? Cool. Flipping off cars because they re not letting you through when you come blasting up at them 40 mph over the flow of traffic. Stop it. I lane split every chance I get--don't pies someone off so they can take it out on me later in the day.
There are many other things I could gripe and complain about, but let's shift gears to something more positive. Ride more. Share More. Let others know how much fun we have being on a bike. Someone asks you if your bike is fast at a gas station, don't beau out on him and say "yeah" and walk away. Tell him why. "yeah, its fast, it has a 1400cc in line four with four valves per cylinder. But that's not even why I bought it, this thing handles so well, has quick detach saddlebags and an adjustable windscreen. Its the perfect bike to bring a passenger with while railing through canyons or a long freeway ride (yes, talking about my Concours)." Share a bit of your experience and before you know it, someone else will be riding, and that's one less car on the road.