Thursday, June 24, 2010

Across America on a Motorcycle - Then and Now

No idea how I missed the post on Lucky's blog Monday, but IF you like motorcycles, you have got to check this out.

In 1919, following World War I, a British Royal Air Force Captain by the name of R. K. Shepherd decided to ride a brand new Henderson 4-cylinder motorcycle (Henderson Motorcycle Co. of Detroit, Michigan) from New York City to San Fransico. Consider that there was no interstate system at this point in time and in fact, roads were not the greatest in that time period. The trip ended up amounting to 4,950 miles in three months. He had numerous engine overhauls and noted that he fell off 142 times.

He published a book documenting the trip, Across America by Motor-cycle which seems like a worthy read.

Fast forward to May of this year, and a fellow named Chris set out to roughly ride the approximately same trip on a 2007 KLR 650 and document it on blogger! You can read Chris' documentary of his experience to date at:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Commute on Two Wheels

Monday was Ride to Work Day(tm). I thought I would give kudos to the folks that work in my building that commute on two wheels(not tm) all the other days without prompting. On some days this area is even fuller with half a dozen more scooters in the 50cc range. I always enjoy walking down after work and seeing what a menagerie of two wheel transportation has collected for the day.

In the picture above you see a Kawasaki Vulcan 900, a scooter, and a Harley-Davidson Road King. The Vulcan has been there everyday I have ridden since going to work here, though I have not had the opportunity to meet the owner/rider.

The scooter belongs to a lady in the 40-50 age range who seems to be as regular a two wheel commuter as the Vulcan rider. We have spoken severl times. She seems to be an avid scooter fan. You quickly sense that she loves riding when you talk to her.

This BMW seems to be a pretty regular two wheel commuter as well. And older model but sitting here almost everyday, so it must be providing good service. I have to wonder if they could make those mirrors sit any higher.

This BMW shows up at times, other times there is another model BMW sitting in this space. So, I am guessing it is the same guy with a collection going on of sorts. These particular side boxes are the ones I call chemistry experiment boxes. The German engineers do not care much for looks it seems. They just designed a storage box, boom, done. I cannot help but think they should be transporting a high priced microscope everytime I see these boxes.

In any event, Kudos to the owners/riders of these machines and everyone else who commutes on two wheels as much as the weather in their area of the world allows. Enjoy and watch out for oblivious cage drivers making left hand turns.

I was thinking maybe we should make this Ride to Work Week(not tm) or Ride to Work Month(not tm) or even Ride to Work Quarter(not tm).

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Hard Hat

I ride into the parking deck just before 7am another headache starting. I get off the bike and see a hard hat making a beeline toward me. My head hurts, its too early, and I just don't feel like it but here it comes anyhow.

"You know what the ugliest thing in the world is?", he asks.

I can feel the dig coming.

"Honda Goldwing?", I reply.

Without missing a beat he finishes his punchline, "a Harley rider without his helmet."

"Oh", I say, "BMW RS1000 would a been my second guess."

His face twists and he responds, "Don't be ugly now. Don't be ugly." Then he shows me a cell phone pic of his BMW RS1200.

My bad. Its the headache. I meant 1200.

Had to drive the truck today for the air conditioner I guess.

Have a good one!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Summer Time, Summer Time

OK so Summer is here. 94f and humidity so high that it feels like walking through a vat of hot tapioca pudding. The temptation is to ride motorcycles in the least amount of protective gear as possible. I see lots of riders in a t-shirt, gym shorts, and tennis shoes or flip flops with a full face helmet.

I find this bewildering. So it is hot enough to forgo hand, arm, chest, leg and foot protection, but they still are going to protect that face? Someone explain this to me. They are really intent on the safest helmet but the rest is elective? +1 for wearing a helmet. +1 for a full face helmet. -5 for omitting the rest of the gear.

photo by author, all rights reserved

I followed this guy on my commute home in his summer "riding gear" the other afternoon. As we approached 65mph, his t-shirt amounted to a scarf flapping from his neck in the breeze. At the same time, I observed many distracted drivers on the crowded highway. One lady was filing her nails driving with her knee. While several were lost in cellphone and text message conversations. One errant move by one of these distracted drivers could cause a bad situation. Such a situation would be acerbated by his lack of gear.

Yes, I still believe All the Gear All the Time (AGATT) even during Georgia Summer heat. "But leathers are hot!" True that, so maybe its time to look at textile riding gear designed for this weather.

Several manufacturers offer Textile chap, pants, and jackets with built in armor while also providing vents. Some will argue that textile gear with mesh sleeves provide little protection. I would argue it is significantly better than a t-shirt. I have slid across asphalt in a mesh jacket with armor and walked away with no bodily scars under the jacket. So tell me about the success of a t-shirt opposed to mesh riding jackets.

My point is simple. Do not completely disregard protective riding gear due to the heat. Find suitable hot weather gear. Because you cannot prepare for everything you might encounter out there - uneven asphalt in the dark, flying aluminum ladders, fuel spilled in the roadway, deer or dogs running across the road, distracted cage drivers, etc.

Today, in 94f weather, I dodged a fiberglass ladder in the highway and observed more distracted drivers that I care to think about. So, be prepared.

Gear up!

Monday, June 07, 2010

More Aluminum Ladders

It was another gorgeous afternoon as I walked out of work and into the parking garage. I pulled on my leather chaps and my textile riding jacket, strapped my helmet on my head, pulled my gloves on tight. I was soon in the multilane commuter traffic of downtown traffic trying to sneak North out of the city.

My route takes me on a two lane highway with a concrete divider wall, narrow shoulders, and traffic merging into the right lane. I am in the left hand lane running highway speeds 3-4 car lengths behind a car positioned to the passenger side of the car I am behind so that I can see the brake lights of the cas further ahead. A few miles into the ride, I see the right hand lane suddenly braking hard, smoke rolling off tires, and cars darting to the narrow shoulder on the right hand side. I begin to squeeze some brake to provide more space between Rosie and the cars ahead in my lane of traffic. Soon my lane is slowing as well.

And then I see it, an aluminum omlete stretching across from the edge of the right hand shoulder, across the entire right hand lane, and just protruding into the left lane. I point my left knee towards the left side shoulder and push on the left grip on the handlebars. Rosie makes a nice smooth lean as we point towards the dew line on the left side of the road. As we approach the line, I stand her back up straight and continue to ease by the pile of debris leaving a safe distance to avoid any aluminum shards that might puncture a tire or fly up and cause a scar to exposed flesh.

We escape without issue, no harm, no foul.

I ride another couple of miles and take a off ramp to the left and pull up to a stop light. I am in the right hand lane of two lanes turning left monitoring approaching traffic to the rear in my mirrors when I notice a pickup truck pull up on my right.

I glance over at the truck, back to the mirrors, back to the traffic crossing in front of me, back to the stop light and then back to the truck. In the back of a pickup is a walk-behind lawn mower and an aluminum step ladder. The mower has a web cargo strap running thru the handles securing it to the bed of the truck. The ladder - nothing.

So, someone loaded up the pickup and had a choice to make. What to secure? The 30lb lawnmower with the low center of gravity or the 10lb aluminum ladder with a propensity for flight. Delbert chose the mower. Genius!

My mind begins to process what I have just seen in the last five miles as I merge onto one of Atlanta's busiest highways.

What happens to a motorcylists following the pickup if the ladder becomes airborne?

What happens if the ladder becomes airborne and a car hits it?

What happens if a motorcyclist is riding behind a car that hits an aluminum ladder?

None of the scenarios sound like they have a happy ending.

I made sure the pickup did not get in front of me. I encountered a couple of pickups on the remainder of the ride home that were carrying vast assundry of building materials and tools, and I elected to not ride behind them. And, I found means to pass them when safely possible.

As I think about it further, we need an aluminum ladder safety advocay group. Since the general population cannot figure it out on their own, aluminum ladders need to carry labels warning of their propensity for flight and their need to be secured when carried in pickup trucks.

Watch out when you are riding. Nobody else is!