Permit me a word about the value of rear window defrosters, and of the automotive engineers who designed them back in the 60s or 70s. I'm talking about those thin lines of reddish material that, when 12 volts is applied to them, defrost the rear windows.
I rode the Harley into work this morning and noted a car pulling in front of me whose rear window was entirely frosted over. "Is there any need for me to see out the back? Nawww," I thought. The driver must have received my mental rebuke (I issue lots of them when I'm on a motorcycle) because, as I sat at a light in back, I watched the rear window magically clear. By the time the light had turned green he could see me.
Is there a more indispensable creature to modern civilization than an engineer? I think not.
It was 35 degrees this morning - balmy. No, seriously! I'm used to the cold weather now, and heated gloves, a thick leather jacket, long johns and a scarf under my full face helmet makes cold weather riding unremarkable. (That is, as long as there are no icy spots on the road, and there weren't). And now, when work is through, I have a pleasantly adventuresome ride back home to look forward to.
27 March 2019
I did an oil change on the Harley yesterday - it went fine, excepting for the fact that, try as I do to not make a mess, oil changes are messy. (It reminds me of a white thermal paste I used to use in college engineering labs to attach transistors to heat sinks. It wouldn't wipe off easily. No matter how hard I tried to be neat, the stuff got everywhere.) At one point - plunk! - the bolt fell into the oil pan. I replaced the 20W-50W mineral oil the Classic Iron dealership put into it with 3.5 quarts of Harley-Davidson's Syn3 20W-50W synthetic. I think the opinion of the Classic Iron mechanic is, if you change out the oil every 5,000 miles then mineral oil is fine. But, I... well... Harley-Davidson, ya know?
My son-in-law finds working on his motorcycle to be recreational and pleasant. Not me. I can do without the crawling around and hunching over. But oil changes aren't hard and I expect to do the 5,000 mile maintenance work between major maintenance points every 10,000 miles. When the Harley hits 10,000 miles I'll bring it in to the dealership. They have a big checklist that I want professionals to do.
26 March 2019
I tried taking out the Harley yesterday but as soon as I got it out of the garage it started raining. Drat.
My oil-change-in-a-box arrived from Harley-Davidson via UPS. Now I have to do the oil change. But when?
25 March 2019
On Friday I took the Harley out for a short ride, only 85 miles. I wasn't feeling especially good and was watching an adverse weather forecast. I rode out to the Harley dealership in Fairfax and chatted with the parts guys about fitment of a tour pak from a 2012 Road King somebody wants to give me. Unfortunately, it won't fit on my bike. In 2014 Harley redesigned the mounting system and brackets; I have the newer system and the older tour pak won't attach to it - and really can't be made to work, either. Dang.
Then I rode up to a motorcycle place in Falls Church and looked at the new Can-Am Ryker, and popped by a record store there and bought a few records. I rode home on the express lanes and was enjoying it so much - steady speed, little traffic, feet up on the pegs - that I passed Springfield and had lunch at the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico. I got home just in time for the rain drops to fall - then thunder, more rain, clearing, rain, more thunder. I washed the bike in the garage.
21 March 2019
If I do take my usual Friday motorcycle ride tomorrow it'll be short: the forecast is for high winds with the temps in the low 50s with a possibility of showers. A 300 pound man on an 814 pound Harley doesn't get blown about easily, but... well... we'll see.
20 March 2019
For some reason when I thought about riding the bike into work this morning I kept feeling apprehensive. So I drove the VW. There didn't seem to be any road conditions to worry about - I saw no frost or ice - but I have learned to always listen to the little voice in my head. Well, nearly always.
It's time to change the oil in the Harley. I was looking at what I assumed was the oil filter but is really the butt end of the starter motor, with a chrome trim piece at the end. But I got that figured out. I think I'll order Harley's oil change in a box. When I get to the 10,000 mile mark, however, I'll bring it into a dealership. There's a good check list they run through in addition to changing the three fluids (oil, transmission, primary).
19 March 2019
Yesterday I put gas in the Harley. As this was a short half-mile trip to the gas station I did not wear my boots, leather jacket or motorcycling pants. Just Timberlands shoes (with no ankle protection), khakis and a long-sleeved shirt. I did wear gloves and the helmet, but it felt so wrong. The advisory is ATGATT - All The Gear All The Time - and I normally do this. Dress for the slide, not the ride. On the way up and back I kept thinking, "Great. The one time I don't wear all my stuff, just watch, I'll run into a car or something." This is a time when being superstitious is a good thing. Anyway - I made the trip unscathed.
18 March 2019
My motorcycle ride on Friday was to Front Royal to visit a Confederate museum that I have passed by a number of times but have never seen. Sadly, I did not double check its operating schedule. They don't open until April! But it wasn't a wasted trip - the ride down there and back was very pleasant. VIDEO. Route 55 - aka the John Marshall Highway - is a great ride. Some day I'll have to ride it from beginning (Gainesville) to end (Front Royal).
Sunday: Church and then a short ride with my Suzuki Boulevard-riding friend Geoff a ways up the George Washington Memorial Parkway from Mount Vernon. We returned home when the shadows were getting long and it was becoming cool. (I removed the windshield on the Road King - bad call.) Best part: At one point I was riding down an uncrowded Route 1, feet up on the highways pegs, into the sunset. Very cool feeling.
14 March 2019
Motorcycling to work is something of an adventure. I merge onto the HOV and express lanes to get to Shirlington, and the traffic on these is very brisk. At one point I got passed by a car when I was doing 80! Some Type A politician/lawyer is hurrying into D.C. in order to make life somehow miserable for the rest of the Republic, I guess. The lanes need to be repaved; the painted lines are sometimes confusing (in some areas old lines show as well as the correct ones), and the pavement is often scratchy and rough. It feels like an edge trap for motorcycle tires sometimes. Once again, stuff you'd never concern yourself about in a car becomes a big deal on a motorcycle.
As usual I have tomorrow off, but it doesn't look like a good motorcycle ride day: the forecast is calling for scattered thunderstorms developing during the afternoon, chance of rain 40%.
11 March 2019
I suppose I could have searched for yard sales Saturday morning, but it was a gray and depressing morning. What I did instead was a take pleasant motorcycle ride to Clifton for lunch with my friend Geoff. (VIDEO.) I wanted to see his new Suzuki Street Glide, with fairing and stereo. Since this was just after having doughnuts with the boys at Giant, I just had a peanut butter sandwich.
After church I took a splendid motorcycle ride to Thoroughfare Gap and back. The weather was in the 60s and other bikers were out everywhere. I removed the windshield on my Harley and used the highway pegs... what fun! Ahhhh... I am glad that winter is ending and spring is here.
8 March 2019
The motorcycle word for the day is pegs - highway pegs. While in Utah my Harley-loving son-in-law gave me a pair of genuine Harley-Davidson highway pegs (3 photos here), and after getting them home (without TSA stealing them out of my checked-in baggage) I installed them onto my bike. I took a short test ride to test 'em out.
At first they felt odd because I like the assurance of having my feet sit flatly upon the big floorboards of the Road King; I kept wondering if my feet would slip off the pegs and I'd find myself with boots on pavement like the Flintstones. Not having immediate access to the shift lever and rear brake was a bit scary, too. And I had to develop a smooth motion to get my boots off the pegs and back onto the floorboards. But I soon got used to them on the freeway... you can't really use these when you have frequent shifts and lights to deal with, like on the Fairfax County Parkway. They're for long stretches with static road and speed conditions, like I-95 (sometimes). However, by the end of my test ride I was blasting down the super slab, feet up, looking cool, Harley V-twin purring and feeling like, well, a Road King.
Of course my buzzkill friend Bob suggested that this pose is also that of the patient during a gynecological exam.
7 March 2019
Back from Utah and California!
Ruby at Timp Harley in Utah - Her little Harley. Start 'em young.
Timp Harley in Utah - Properly Timpanogos Harley (named after a local mountain landmark), along I-15. It's my favorite Harley dealership. This place is amazing! It's where, in December 2017, I was turned onto the world of Harley-Davidson via my daughter and son-in-law.
25 February 2019
Motorcycle video for Friday - I rode to Garrisonville, Aquia Church and Orange. Despite the fact that the entire day was gray and depressing it was a good ride.
22 February 2019
I have posted a video describing my Harley Road King in detail.
19 February 2019
I ended up riding to Culpeper yesterday - VIDEO. Very nice. There are all sorts of interesting little places in Virginia to visit along back roads. The temps started out in the 40s with wettish pavement but when the sun broke out the temps were in the low 50s. Then it got breezy and colder. A 300 pound guy on an 800+ pound Road King isn't going anywhere with the breezes I had yesterday. That Harley is much more settled on the road than was my Suzuki Bully.
I was mostly comfortable yesterday, but... I removed the liner from my leather jacket on the day a week or so ago when it was in the high 60s and forgot to put it back in. I needed it yesterday! I can be comfortable in that leather jacket all the way down into the 20s - but the lining has to be in place. Lesson learned! That leather jacket was a great buy, by the way. It looks good, feels good, protects me and is available at a great price.
A note about leather motorcycle jackets... the one everyone thinks of (and the one I wear) is a "Perfecto" styled jacket. It was originally fitted together by Irving Schott in his NYC business all the way back in 1928. He named it after a Cuban cigar! Marlon Brando introduced it to America in his 1953 film The Wild One, which also introduced juvenile delinquents as a film sub-genre. (By the way, everyone supposes that he rides a Harley in this movie. He doesn't. That's a Triumph.)
When I stopped in the Harley dealership yesterday I investigated the fit and installation/removal of the passenger backrest they sell. I think I'll buy one next month. That way, when the weather warms to the standards required by my wife, she can come along.
Smart helmets. Hm. Let's see what catches on. I am not a technology early adopter!
14 February 2019
A brisk ride into work this morning; 28 degrees. But I've gotten used to it. I just wear my base layer long johns and heated gloves and I'm fine - except for the whole visor fogging thing. I think the next helmet I buy is going to have pinlock technology. This morning I wore the blaze orange pinafore I got at the Harley Factory Tour; it has highly reflective bars on it. Good thing to wear when it's dark.
And I am very happy to report that the road crew fixed the leaky water line on Franconia Road near Telegraph. This was a problem for most of last year. At least I think they did; I didn't see any ice and the usual cones. (It certainly would have been ice this morning.)
I cleaned the road crud off the Harley yesterday. I've got just over 4,000 miles on it. There's maintenance needed at 5,000 miles. Do I do it myself or take it in? I haven't decided.
I rode my Harley to the Ball's Bluff battlefield, Leesburg and Harpers Ferry on Friday, VIDEO. The day started out gray and gloomy but quickly turned sunny and breezy - my favorite kind of day. In the evening we had Chinese food with friends and worked out the logistics for our next Viking Cruise in Fall, 2020. Rome, Barcelona, etc. I can't wait!
This was unexpected: At one point towards the end of the day I stopped at a Starbucks and got a look at my reflection in the big window while seated on the Harley, wearing my leather jacket and chaps. "Dang! I look good on that bike!" I thought. Hahahaha!
On Saturday my wife headed to Philadelphia with a friend and I had doughnuts with my grandsons. That's always fun. Then I attended the D.C. Motorcycle Show in the convention center. VIDEO.
Funny patches seen for sale at the show: "15 grand and 15 miles doesn't make you a biker," "49% biker 51% trash," "Attitude adjustment while you wait," "Beer is Food," "Are you stoned or just stupid?" "Being a jerk is just part of my manly charm," "American boys like American toys," "Crashing sucks," "Do I look like a people person?" "Born to ride - forced to work," "Despite the look on my face... you're still talking," "Chaos, panic and disorder - my work here is done," "Doesn't expecting the unexpected make the unexpected the expected?" "Enjoy me - I may never pass this way again," "Ever stop to think and forget to start again?" "Dear Karma: I have a list of people you missed," "Fat people are harder to kidnap," "Forgive and forget - but keep a list of the names," "Horn broken, watch for finger," "I like you - I'll kill you last," "Haters are my motivators," and my favorite, "I bring nothing to the table."
There were many, many more which I can't repeat here. Freeze the video at the 5:43 point.
Yesterday, after church, I took a ride to test the new custom-fit earplugs I bought at the show. They work great! Much better than the off the rack ones that tend to work their way down my ear canal, requiring a set of tweezers to recover. The custom ones can't do that and they provide a more consistent and better blocking (30 dB) of exhaust and wind noise.
I've put 1,906 miles on the Harley since I got it on 12/11. Not bad for the winter months! That plus the 5,451 miles I put on the Suzuki means I've ridden 7,357 miles since March 31st.
4 February 2019
Yesterday morning, the weather improving somewhat, I took a little two hour motorcycle ride with Geoff, the fellow who bought my Suzuki. In Clifton we came across this interesting Ural Russian bike with sidecar.
1 February 2019
Right now it's 21 degrees with a very light snow; the forecast for today is not at all motorcycle-friendly. Obviously, I'm not taking the Harley out into that! And, besides, I have to go into work for a couple of hours. So it's a different kind of Friday.
My leather chaps arrived in the mail yesterday. Geez, they're weird; it took me some time to figure out how to get them on and off. Given that I did historical reenacting for decades it's not the first time I wore oddball clothing, but I'll have to see how I like them while on the bike.
When it comes to the Harley-Davidson , here's how I see myself. I'm a Fifties sort of guy.
29 January 2019
I got to ride my motorcycle a bit yesterday in meeting my wife for lunch. It was cold but sunny. On the way home I stopped off at the local custom cycle shop to see if they had a passenger backrest to attach to the bracket on the back of my seat. They did not. The Harley-Davidson part is $200 for the sissy bar and $100 for the pad. $300. Yikes! Everything H-D sells comes at a premium price.
28 January 2019
I did take a ride on Friday - and not a short one. I went north to Columbia and Laurel, Maryland, places where I used to live. (VIDEO.) The roads were fine! (Except for the beltway between the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and I-95 north which had really annoying joints in the tarmac that gave my bike a little periodic hop. I wasn't sure if it was in all lanes or just the one I was in. You don't really notice it in a car.)
On Saturday morning me and Geoff - the fellow who bought my Suzuki last month - took a little ride to Clifton to have lunch. (Photo.) That was fun! More of that as the weather gets better...
25 January 2019
I'm in the office for a couple of hours, letting things warm up a bit outside. And then I go home and ride the Harley! Except... I've seen some concerning bits of ice and black pavement on the roads. Hmmmm. I think any ride I take will be a short one and confined to major roads. The forecast for today is sunny with a high of 39 degrees. That'll work - with heated gloves.
21 January 2019
I got out for a ride on Friday and gave my battery-powered heated gloves a good test. They work great! VIDEO. Thirty plus years in this state and I've never been to Belmont in Falmouth. When the weather turns nice Cari and I will ride down there for a visit.
In the morning I cleaned up my Harley - polished the chrome bits with Wenol, a German paste. That stuff works great! Black and chrome... that's the look I wanted for my bike.
Speaking of my bike, those of you who have read my past blog entries know that I am not a big fan of death's heads (skulls) used as insignia. First of all, I think they're a bit childish, and, secondly, I am not about death, grimness or badness. I'm about hope, light, knowledge and, when I can manage it, goodness. It's just not my aesthetic, okay? Obviously, the skull is a longtime major insignia motif for Harley-Davidson. Stepping into a Harley dealership is a bit like visiting the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at a Disney park - skulls everywhere. Skulls are also favored among the outlaw biker set. So when I bought my Road King FLHP police bike I was pleased that there were no skull insignia that I would have to remove. It's a police bike, after all. No sane police agency would allow their officers to ride about in a bike covered in skulls. It totally defeats community outreach efforts, right? But look what Harley did...
When I did a detailed cleaning of my bike I took a good look at the Harley insignia on my fuel tank. When I first saw this bike I was pleased with the plate - it's attractive. The Harley decals and plates on fuel tanks vary widely from year to year and model to model, and it's a bit of a crap shoot as to the one you get. Mine is above. Attractive, no? But look at the triangular spaces above and below the lettered part. Little skulls: charcoal on black, barely noticeable! (You can't see it too well in the upper part, but I assure you it matches the lower.) ARRRAUGH! I guess I'll leave it alone because it's so subtle, but, really, Harley, did you have to?
Oh, well - it becomes a conversational thing.
18 January 2019
The roads are wet but it's 39 degrees outside. The forecast is for a high of 45 degrees with a PM sun - and that's when I'll do a shorter "Better than Nothing" ride. I want to test my heated gloves!
17 January 2019
16 January 2019
Arruughhh! The Dead of Winter! I have little enthusiasm for anything other than napping or eating, and all sorts of negative thoughts are floating around in my head. I need more sunlight. I need more sunlight while sitting on my Harley. My Harley at speed. That's what I require. The Friday forecast is hopeful.
15 January 2019
Last week I mentioned that this August Harley-Davidson is releasing a production electric bike called the Livewire - for nearly $30,000. The reception of this price in the media has been overwhelmingly negative; most reviewers are calling it a sales disaster in the making. Harley also released some information on their lower-cost electric scooters/mopeds/bicycles/e-bikes/I'm not sure what to call them. The one with the skateboard floorboards looks decidedly odd.
Friday was fun. Despite the cold I still got a ride in, knowing that snow was on the way. After much discussion about heated grips, heated gloves and heated glove liners with the parts guy at Classic Iron Motorcycles in Fredericksburg, I bought some Highway 21 battery-powered heated gloves! I used them shoveling snow - details below. They work great! (VIDEO.)
On Saturday my wife and I did errands and I returned the Harley-Davidson gloves I bought on 12/26. They were good - just not good enough. Me and the fellow who bought my Suzuki were trying to organize a pre-snow ride for Saturday afternoon but we were too late - the snow started coming down before we could get ourselves sorted out and on the road.
11 January 2019
It's a Friday and I have the day off. Am I going for a motorcycle ride? Yes. When? Right now it's 29 degrees... when it warms up a bit! The high today is supposed to be 37 and sunny, which is still riding weather. (With the proper gear, of course.)
The other day I mentioned that the details of Harley-Davidson's much-anticipated Livewire electric bike were released (110 miles range on a charge, 0 to 60 in under 3.5 seconds, nearly $30,000). Since then the comments in the motorcycling media have been overwhelmingly negative regarding that price - and no wonder. The slogan they came up with was "More roads to Harley-Davidson" - in other words, this is one way they intended to attract new, younger riders. But not at that price! Harley guy Matt Laidlaw rides an electric Zero bike and compares it with the Livewire and makes a case for that price point, but, whew. I can't help but feel that a $30K Harley electric bike was a serious miscalculation by somebody in Milwaukee.
9 January 2019
The Top Three Oddest Things I Have Seen While Riding a Motorcycle (So Far)
(3) As I was riding down I-95 one day I noticed something odd in my peripheral vision. Looking to my right I noticed a rider on a Japanese sports bike of some kind, standing on his pegs, doing about 60 mph or so. Why was this fellow being the Human Sail? I cannot say.
(2) On another occasion I was in Fredericksburg, preparing to get on the ramp for I-95. A guy on an old school, 1960s-style chopper was sitting in front of me. He was wearing a "brain bucket," or one of those half-helmets. To my amazement he pulled out a cigarette and a Zippo lighter, lit up, and when the light changed, merged onto the freeway, cig clenched between his lips. How does anybody sustain smoking in the face of a 70 mph gale (that's how fast he was going)?
(3) So I'm stopped at a light on the Fairfax County Parkway with a guy on a Harley Street Glide in front of me about eight feet away. He's got one of those devices that grip a smartphone onto the handlebars, and he's idly flipping though photos on the phone. It doesn't take much long distance vision to realize that he's looking at photos of nude women. At a stop light. I laughed loudly (I do that a lot), and he turned to look at me and then shrugged, as if to say, "Hey, I was bored, okay?" The light changed and he rode out of my life.
Yesterday I was on the Parkway on my Harley when I saw my church pal (of 31 years) John, driving his 1982 Toyota Supra; it has over 270,000 miles on it and John proudly does his own engine work to keep it alive. He'll never sell it. I honked, but he appeared to not recognize me. An email confirmed that he did not; I was in the glare of the sun.
I rode to the Harley dealership in Fairfax to buy a touring suspension pump. Yep, it works just fine. The air shocks need to be kept to about 27-30 psi to support my Homeric frame. While there I also noted the Road King Classic chrome passenger pad covers. Mine are black and a little too minimalist. Some chrome is needed. A possible birthday present!
While there a crusty old sales guy favored me with a lecture about the difference between an FLHR, a standard Road King, and an FLHP, the police model Road King I have. The FLHP has an heavy duty stator to produce the extra electrical energy needed to power flashing lights, a siren, radio and other cop accessories. It also has a different stainless steel cam that produces a bit more torque, "kinda sorta" like a Stage 2 Screaming Eagle cam improvement. COOL! I didn't know this.
And, finally, this:
What is it? A painting of Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention as a motorcycle gang from Guy Peellaert's Rock Dreams, a pictorial book I bought on the occasion towards the end of boot camp (December 1974) when the USMC Drill Instructors let us use the Base PX. They insisted upon inspecting our purchased goods; I was asked, "What in the hell did you buy that for?!?" I paid about five bucks; I see copies on e-bay for anywhere from $40 to $75.
I need to get the gear to look like the guy on the left. I bet I can manage the facial expression.
The big news in the world of motorcycling is that last night Harley-Davidson announced the specifics about their new electric bike, the Livewire, which goes on sale this year. You can now pre-order one. And if I had Donald Trump's money, why, I suppose I'd do just that.
In a nutshell: (1) An electrical bike represents heresy for HD, as the traditional Harley is powered by a celebrated big, noisy, gas-powered V-twin engine. An electrical bike represents a new business and target customer for the 115 year-old company. (2) The Livewire goes about 110 miles per charge. (3) It comes in three colors (orange, yellow and black), (4) It'll do 0 to 60 in under 3.5 seconds (that's supercar territory), and (5) It starts at $29,799. That last one is surprising, because you can buy a base Zero electric bike for $11,000. I'm not sure how Harley is going to compete there, but I'm reasonably sure the comparison rationale "But it's a Harley!" isn't going to work with the impoverished Millennials (who aren't inclined to ride motorcycles) that Harley is supposed to be targeting with the Livewire.
One thing's for sure: I want to test ride one!
On Friday I did a Harley ride: VIDEO.
And yesterday morning I did another: VIDEO. I was told there's a Sunday morning motorcycle "scene" in Clifton, VA in good weather. So there seems to be. The star of yesterday's show as far as I was concerned was an old kick start Royal Enflield kitted up to look like a British service bike. That as cool.
3 January 2019
45 degrees this morning - I didn't even need my usual long johns (aka L.L.Bean "base layer") for the bike ride into work this morning. It only took me about 15 minutes to commute; I think that may be a new record. I like commuting on the Harley; I get a fun bike ride to look forward to at the end of the day.
2 January 2019
T'was a warm ride into work this morning; it was a balmy 44 degrees. That's a whole lot better than the high twenties! I took the I-395 Express Lanes into Shirlington (zipping past stalled traffic on the normal lanes) and parked in the free parking structure - it's only a 18 minute commute that way.
I rode around some yesterday after finishing up the Christmas decorations put away effort. The weather was in the sixties/high fifties. That being the case, Cari rode as a passenger. We both agree that a passenger backrest is needed for two-up riding. The seat is too slippery and the Harley accelerates too well!
Yesterday while exiting the gas station I saw the elusive orange and black CVO Ultra Limited Harley ridden by a guy in my neighborhood. I've heard his bike before but haven't had a chance to talk to him until I followed him home yesterday. Turns out he's one of the original homeowners in the area and grew up there. We chatted for a while. Nice guy. And he works on his own Harley so he's a valuable source of information and advice.
31 December 2018
Motorcycling: Every clear day I did some riding. Here's a Quantico National Cemetery video taken 12/26. This is actually a repeat of a ride I did on the day before, on Christmas day. I saw one fellow who apparently dismounted from his wheelchair and sat between a row of stones, obviously grief-stricken. It was a very sad thing to see on a Christmas day...
On the 26th I went to the nearby Harley dealership and bought a new pair of (hopefully) warmer gloves. We shall see! I also rode to nearby Rippon Lodge - a place I had never heard of despite being a Virginia resident for over thirty years.
During the break I sold the Suzuki for about what I paid for it via craigslist - goodbye Marva. My first three "interested parties" were Internet scams. But the fellow who bought it lives only a little over a mile from me, so now I have an occasional riding partner!
21 December 2018
Hey - what's the difference between a Hoover and a Harley? The location of the dirt bag. Ha! Got that one from a BHS classmate on Facebook. (But then, he "races" a stock 1961 VW Beetle...)
I put Marva up for sale yesterday on craigslist. After a iPhone message scam I got two promising leads. This bike might just be sold during the weekend!
20 December 2018
On a motorcycle, tire pressure is important. After all, there are half as many tires as on a car. And the way the road is handled via those two bits of rubber is critical, so last night after work I rode over to the air pump at the big Shell station in West Springfield to check my tire pressure.
Problem is, getting to the stems on the wheels of the Harley are difficult: the disk brakes get in the way. And, worse, while the stiff attachment on the end of the hose presents no issue for car tires, it's a major production to get it in place on the bike. I need a fitting that is manipulated from the side. So after much crawling around on the ground and finagling around brake units I did a suspect job of checking the tire and, fearful that the pressure was all wrong, I rode to the custom cycle shop in Springfield to get the air checked properly there. As I guessed, they had an air fitting adapted for use, and after some sport at my utter newness, checked my air. It appears that in order to properly get to the rear tire stem a saddlebag has to come off. (Not a big deal.)
I need a compressor of my own with a fitting that will work! I may be heading over to Harbor Freight to find one this weekend. I can't have checking tire pressure be this much of a production... I have to do it too often. Without becoming lecturesome, I will state that responsible and safe motorcyclists check their tire pressures often.
And, by the way, I am a motorcyclist, not a biker.
19 December 2018
My porch thermometer read 27 degrees this morning... but I rode into work anyway. And yes, my fingers were icy when I got in. Doesn't matter! I got my big V-Twin to keep me warm! I agreed to show my Harley to a guy at work and now it's sitting in the parking structure, awaiting its debut.
18 December 2018
I took another Getting To Know You Ride yesterday... I have put 395 miles on the Harley already! That Harley is so good on interstates. Smooth and powerful. And while yesterday was gusty it wasn't much of a big deal with that heavier bike. I noticed it's not going to get the same gas mileage that my Suzuki did. But then, a Cadillac burned more gas than did a VW.
At one point I was in stop and go traffic because of road work; this required a lot of first gear and friction zone manipulation with the clutch, which is somewhat stiff and new. An experience like this is like using one of those grip strengtheners! My son-in-law's mother rides a Road King. When I was on the road I reflected that she must have a grip like iron.
All I want to do is ride that Road King - which will be a challenge in the next few months. I will take it out in the cold, but I will not take it out when there's ice on the road!
Fun fact: 2018, my first motorcycle year, has been the wettest on record in the D.C. area. Oddly enough, however, there weren't many occasions when I got caught out on the road when it began to rain.
17 December 2018
On Friday I took a Getting To Know You Ride (these used to be known as Better Than Nothing Rides). It's supposed to be sunny, dry and in the fifties today. Hmmmm. Hmmmmmmmmmm.
I'm more confident with the Harley than I was when I rode it home... I think the unfamiliarity with the handlebar type and placement has gone away. Over the weekend I put the Suzuki under a cover and fitted the Harley in its parking spot in the garage, in front of the VW. After a good cleaning I took a bunch of photos of the Suzuki in order to sell it - album here. It goes in craigslist soon.
14 December 2018
Yesterday after donating blood I rode over to my local independent bike shop to show the guys my Road King and ask advice. The best response to my issues regarding the handlebar is, "Don't change a thing until you put about 1,000 miles on the bike," which I planned to do anyway. So I spent the next three hours simply riding around.
I rode to Clifton along the usual wooded and twisty road. I rode out to a gigantic unused parking lot alongside Eisenhower Avenue in Alexandria to do turns and panic stops at various speeds - those Brembo brakes are good. Two wheel ABS disk is a real improvement over the front disk/rear drum arrangement on the Suzuki.
By the time I got back home I was much more comfortable with ordinary non-interstate riding on that bike. It's just taking some muscle memory training. So I plan to do more of that as soon as I shower and the temps rise to at least 40 degrees. (I have discovered that while temps in the high twenties and thirties feels cold, anything over that is perfectly reasonable biking weather and I don't become objectionably cold. My biggest problem is cold fingers.)
13 December 2018
I rode into work today on the Harley... the short I-395 high speed Express Lane ride gave me no problems at all. I can easily keep up with traffic. What was tricky was low speed riding on city streets and, especially, activating turn signals in the dark! I haven't gotten used to the turn signal button placement on the handlebars yet. My Suzuki had a big red switch that stuck out - the Harley's are black and flat. Clearly, I need many hours of practice on this new bike.
I'll get some more of that later today. I donate blood at work, and when I do I get a few hours off. The temps are reasonable - mid-40s - so I think I'll just buzz around town and come to terms with the min-ape hanger handlebars on that Road King. I'm still trying to figure out exactly how my hands fit comfortably on the grips. (By the way, the temps were in the mid-30s on the ride into work. I didn't even notice any cold. I guess I'm becoming motorcycle weather acclimatized.)
12 December 2018
After some logistical arrangement getting to Fredericksburg and the Classic Iron dealership via VRE train and Uber, I did it! I bought my 2016 Harley-Davidson FLHP Road King!
VIDEO - If I sound unconvinced about the soundness of my decision it's because I'm unused to the bike. It's very different from my Suzuki Boulevard... the handlebars are higher and narrower, the bike is heavier, there's the big shaky engine at idle, the clutch and brakes, getting my feet on the foot boards, etc. In fact, my very first action on the bike in the parking lot was to stall it! (I had the same issue with the Harley Trike I test rode.) The clutch's pull and friction zone take some getting used to. The turn signals on a Harley are different, too: the left one is on the left grip, the right on the right grip. On my Suzuki they're both on the left grip. And on a Harley they're self-cancelling, which is a real blessing.
When I first went down Route 1 to get on I-95 north back home I had a constant refrain of OH MY GOSH HAVE I JUST MADE A COLOSSAL EXPENSIVE MISTAKE?!? running through my head. I'm sure it's just initial nerves; I had the same sorts of thoughts running through my head when I got the Suzuki...
One fact was immediately apparent: This bike loves the freeway in a way that my Suzuki did not. It'll do 80 without breaking a sweat. 70-75 is achieved at a stately 2,500 RPM and feels very smooth in 6th gear. And the cruise control! Wow. It works fine and is very nice. (We took the LDS missionaries out for dinner last night; one is a motorcyclist. When I mentioned the cruise control he said, "Whhhaaaat? Is that a thing?" The poor lad rides sport bikes.)
Popping off and replacing the windshield is very simple compared to my Suzuki. No tools required. (Of course, that windshield will be staying on for a few months more. Baby, It's Cold Outside.)
Saddlebags - Note the smoked turn signals and brake lights. They all glow the appropriate colors when lit, but I do like the grayed variation. The brake lights are LEDs which do a sort of stroboscopic HEY LOOK AT ME effect when activated. Those pipes are perfect: louder and deeper than stock but not obnoxious and not what are called "neighbor-haters." Once again, the idea there is HEY BE AWARE I'M HERE.
Instruments - It's a police model bike (FLHP), which means that Harley installs a separate speedometer so officers don't have to look down at the tank. The tank gets a tachometer. I prefer this. Lots of chrome. I like chrome.
|Safely in the garage...|
Front end - This, to me, is what a proper motorcycle looks like. That windshield, three lights, chrome, crash bars. I guess I've been programmed by cop bikes from my youth. Note the smoky turn signals in front, too. When deployed by police departments the side lamps are equipped with red and blue lens and can flash. Clear lights are installed for civilian use. (Fun fact: Using a red light will get you into trouble. I know. Go here and read the first paragraph under "Some Cruise Highlights.")
Back fender - To seal the deal they threw in a chrome four point attachment bracket for a passenger backrest (to be purchased later). That went in where you see the slots. The cool thing about a Road King is versatility: if you want nothing you add nothing. Take off the windshield for simple trips around town or put it back on for highway cruising. If you want a passenger backrest and/or a flat luggage rack you can add that via the attachment brackets, or if you want a full-blown lockable upper storage case with an integral passenger backrest you can add that, too. With a Road King you get everything you need and nothing you don't need.
I'm going to be starting over with this Road King, taking it to an empty parking lot to practice ABS panic stops, riding on city streets using turn signals, stopping and consistently finding neutral, in and out of parking spaces, etc. The freeway stuff is easy - it's the low speed stuff that takes practice.
But there it is... I'm one of them Harley guys now.