Thursday, April 12, 2018

On Two Wheels...

21 Dec 2017
While in Utah we visited a couple of Harley-Davidson stores and investigated the idea of learning how to ride. My daughter and son-in-law are for it. My wife is for it. Most surprisingly, my father-in-law doesn't mind the idea of my riding his daughter around on the back of a Harley!
So is this The Next Thing? I'm not sure. I was wondering when The Next Thing would make itself apparent to me.
28 Dec 2017
Yesterday my son and I ventured into Fairfax and looked at electric guitars and Harleys. I was shown a really nice 2017 Street King - but, no. I need to learn to ride first. The salesman hopefully suggested that if I buy the bike first I'll have the motivation to learn to ride. Why, of course! But that's not going to happen. I don't do things that way.
1 Jan 2018
On Saturday Cari and I visited the nearby Harley-Davidson dealership in Fairfax; we looked at a nice $18,000 Road King. Both got on it, in fact. But you know what? I think I prefer the Indian Springfield. Hm. Anyway, I'm putting off making any decisions about taking a motorcycle class until I get over this miserable cold I have!
I read Sonny Barger's book Let's Ride: Sonny Barger's Guide to Motorcycling. It's an articulate, sober, honest and mature look at riding motorcycles. In fact, it is so honest it halfway convinces me not to take up riding motorcycles at all! Barger is a lot more intelligent than I have been led to believe. Either that or he's well ghost written or edited!
12 Jan 2018
Three day weekend! We have no plans. We may drive down to Fredericksburg to view the Indian Springfield motorcycle, but the more I think about it the more a Harley Trike makes sense. (And yes, I know there are trike conversion kits for the Indian Springfield.)
22 Jan 2018
My wife and I watched nearly three hours of motorcycling instructional videos by Matt Laidlaw, who works at a family-owned Harley dealership in California. As a result, Cari dreamed about riding motorcycles Saturday night! During the course I heard a number of reasons why to buy a Harley Trike rather than a two-wheeled bike, but we shall see.
24 Jan 2018
Me at age 4.
Well, I tried. I got to just past halfway with Hunter S. Thompson's 1966 book about the Hell's Angels and gave up. It just wasn't very interesting to me; I found it dull. Go figure. Back to the library for another book. I'm one of those people for whom a visit to the library to find a good book is one of life's simple little pleasures.
I mentioned that I'm interested in someday getting a Harley-Davidson Freewheeler Trike. (One possibility.) No wonder they appeal to me - I had a three wheeled motorcycle at age 4! I laughed when I saw this photo yesterday...
31 Jan 2018
My new book arrived on library hold last night: Ridin' High, Livin' Free - Hell-Raising Motorcycle Stories by Ralph "Sonny" Barger. A representative sentence: "And s--t like that." Reading it makes me feel rebellious. Perhaps I'll run the stop sign at the end of my street, not squeegee the shower stall after I'm done, throw my Diet Coke bottle in the trash rather than recycling it - or even neglect to thank the next veteran I meet for his service.
1 Feb 2018
Yesterday I scheduled myself and Cari for Basic Motorcycle Instruction at the Northern Virginia Community College, 3/23, 3/24 and 3/25. Upon successful completion of this class we are given paperwork which we can send to the DMV to get the 2-wheeled motorcycle endorsement added to our Virginia driver's licenses.
Thus it begins, The Next Thing.
2 Feb 2018
In some quarters this is sacrilege, but I think Hells Angels co-founder Sonny Barger is a better writer than Hunter S. Thompson. Well - a more interesting writer, anyway. His Let's Ride was a fun book and so is Ridin' High, Livin' Free. Both very readable; his prose is direct, colloquial and sometimes profane.
I can now distinguish between Harley-Davidson Flathead, Knucklehead, Panhead and Shovelhead engines. Except for the Flathead, the engines are named for the appearance of the valve covers at the top. The Flathead (manufactured from 1919 to 1936) was a horizontally-opposed engine. The Knucklehead (1936 to 1948) looks a bit like knuckles on a hand. The covers on a Panhead (1948 to 1965) look like pans, and the covers on a Shovelhead (1965 to 1984) look like shovels. Sort of. If you use some imagination. In 1984 the company introduced the Evolution engine - nobody came up with anything clever for that one. From wikipedia: "Most analysts consider the Evolution to be the engine that saved the reorganized Harley-Davidson company from certain bankruptcy."
5 Feb 2018
Wild Hogs (2007) - An entertaining film, this is a Disneyfied depiction of outlaw biker violence. That means there's a bunch of biker-looking extras standing around in crowd scenes looking menacing but performing nothing objectionable. At one point somebody mentions a Harley Panhead engine but shows what I think is a Shovelhead engine. But it's a Tim Allen film and I usually find those fun...
1 Mar 2018
The other day I mentioned All Quiet on the Western Front (1930); I am now watching the other great film from that period about World War I, Wings (1927), winner of the very first Oscar for Best Picture. It is epic in scale, but nowhere as good. It's very dated and I'm finding Clara Bow - the "It" Girl - annoying. All Quiet on the Western Front tells its story simply and unaffectedly, with a natural acting style - that makes it ageless. Wings is full of posturing and silliness. Future superstar Gary Cooper makes a brief appearance in this as a flying trainee who heads out to his plane to do a few figure eights - and kills himself.
As I am thinking a lot about motorcycle riding I'm drawing a comparison here. Just watch: I'll mount a bike and drive myself right into a rock wall or something. The more I think about it, the more I see the sense in the advice about getting a beginner bike before buying the dream bike. A 2008 Suzuki Boulevard can be had for just over $3,000. I can learn on that (and drop it) before getting a far more expensive Harley-Davidson. It's a V-Twin like a Harley and a cruiser style with an 800cc engine. (The most-often recommended beginner bike is a Honda Rebel 250; those can be had inexpensively, too.)
Well - I am deciding nothing at all until we take the motorcycle lessons at the end of this month. It may be that I don't like a motorcycle at all!
5 Mar 2018
On Friday I navigated myself through all the windstorm-created dead streetlights in Fairfax and Falls Church and visited Compton Motorsports (motorcycles) - they sell Hondas, Ducatis, Suzukis, Kawasakis and Can-Ams. I sat on a Can-Am... two wheels in front, one in back. No, I don't think so. (Fun fact: Can-Ams are built by the Bombardier company, founded by Joseph-Armand Bombardier, who invented the snowmobile. He's my ninth cousin.) I liked the Suzuki Boulevard... that bike appears in a list of "Best Used Beginner Bikes." So does the Honda Rebel 300 - you can buy one of those new for only $4,300! I was especially impressed by how much bang for the buck you get out of Japanese touring bikes. The Kawasaki Vulcan Vaquero was quite nice. I texted my Harley-Davidson-loving daughter and told her I liked it and she texted me back a photo of Conan O'Brian holding his face in his hands.
16 Mar 2018
Last night my wife and I went into a motorcycle shop in Springfield; we both bought gloves and she ordered a helmet. (She takes an extra small; I take a XXL.) Thus it begins! Our motorcycle class is next weekend.
19 Mar 2018
On Friday I took a run over to the Harley-Davidson dealership in Manassas. There I met a former Marine my age who sells bikes. (Are there a comparative lot of former Marines who work in Harley dealerships? That's the culture, I guess.) He enlisted in the Corps in 1974 - but unlike me, retired in 2005... WOW. Anyway, he showed me some older bikes - 2012, 2013 - with fairings. (People have been telling me that I'll want the fairings.) It causes me to question my desire to get a Road King, a cruising bike without fairings. But they have a very nice black Road King there, too. He pulled the bag off one side and showed me how the pre-load setting is adjusted. I also got a good look at the belt. So far I think the best advice is from my youngest daughter: Don't make any decisions until after the motorcycle class!
21 Mar 2018
I don't know how many inches of snow will fall, but I'm hoping it won't screw up motorcycle lessons this weekend - even though I think it will. Does NOVA Community College have a field house we can ride in, perhaps? I scheduled these lessons late enough in March thinking I would avoid snow... Grrrrr...
22 Mar 2018
No word yet from NOVA Community College as to whether or not our motorcycle class will be cancelled this weekend due to snow and/or ice on the lot where we're expected to ride. I guess in lieu of notification we simply show up for the classroom part tomorrow evening.
23 Mar 2018
I haven't gotten an e-mail from NOVA Community College telling me that our motorcycle class for tonight and this weekend has been canceled, and the weather forecast for today and tomorrow is mostly sunny and dry, so I guess it's on! I'll know for sure tonight.
26 Mar 2018
What a weekend! I am exhausted!
Friday evening from 6 to 10 PM Cari and I were at the classroom part of the motorcycle training which was indeed held, thanks to better weather and the great majority of the snow last week having melted. Hooray! We went over about 150 motorcycle-related questions: Where's the clutch? How does one enter and exit turns? Panic stops, swerving, counter-steering, etc. A ton of things to remember. It was a bit overwhelming.
The bikes of Northern Virginia's least intimidating biker gang. 
Saturday: Motorcycling training on a campus parking lot from 7:15 AM to about 1 PM. (YouTube video.) This was physically tiring... my hips were aching (I suppose partially because I was clutching the fuel tank with them). But it was the first time Cari and I had ever ridden motorcycles. The pace was fast, and Cari needed extra time with handling the motorcycle that she just didn't get. After a few motorcycle drops (one painful and scary - I don't think I'll ever get that image out of my head) she and the coaches decided to cease participation.
Anyway, I persevered and finished that day's exercises and activities. At a certain point, when it appeared that I had the basic function of cruising down the lot achieved, I smiled. It actually started to become fun!
Wow, I was tired Saturday night! I dreamed about motorcycles all night long.
Sunday: The final day of motorcycle class, 7:15 AM to 1 PM. I completed it successfully! Notes below. And, once again, I dreamed of motorcycles all night long.
My practice bike was a Suzuki DR200; I had the hardest time finding neutral in it! The shifter was absurdly small for my size 13 wide foot (the rear brake pedal was tiny, too) - but, as my mother used to say, "A poor craftsman always blames his tools." It was probably me. As a result I had to keep the clutch engaged a lot of the time. I probably built up some additional muscle in my already formidable grip. (Note: I require 3XL gloves.)
One guy zeroed his odometer at the beginning of the course and, at the end, reported that we had ridden about twenty miles. So that makes me an expert now, right? I can go out and buy that 1,700 cc Harley and merge right onto I-95? NO. As I don't have a death wish I wouldn't dream of it. I now know that I need a beginner bike for the first year, something to tool around on residential streets to build up skills and confidence.
I was by far the oldest person in the class. There was one young woman there, somewhat younger than my youngest daughter. During a break we chatted briefly and she asked, "Do you have grown kids?" I replied, "I have six grandchildren." She looked at me stunned and uttered a well-known swear word beginning with "f." I was about to say, "Yeah - that's how I got the grandchildren," but refrained, it being a Sunday and my being a Mormon.
At one point we had to do a lane-changing exercise using the turn signal, which, on my bike, did not reset itself as in a car. As a result the instructor had to tell me to cancel the signal. I replied in front of every one that as I'm a senior citizen it's my heritage to drive around town with a turn signal on all the time. Everyone laughed, and the instructor said, "Well - you'll be making that turn eventually, I guess."
The test for the DMV 2-wheeled motorcycle endorsement was partially on the lot and partially a written test. The lot part was tricky: everyone had problems with the two u-turns in a box maneuver. I got points taken off for momentarily touching my foot to the ground, but I passed. The panic stop test was my worst of the morning (I headed into it needlessly fast and so my stop was a little long), but I still passed. The experience was tense... I'm too old for tests and exams! Not everyone passed, by the way. One young fellow, who seemed to be having difficulty on the bike, failed.
I found the written exam to be pretty easy, and the Old Guy was - somewhat obnoxiously - the first one to hand it in.  
This whole motorcycle class experience reminded me of the Andy Griffith Show episode where Aunt Bee takes airplane lessons and solos. I was eleven when it was first broadcast. It made an impression on me because it suggested that just because one is older it doesn't mean that all the fun, exciting and interesting experiences are over.
I guess baking my first apple pie comes next.
27 Mar 2018
And did I mention that I eventually dropped my trainer motorcycle during that class? DRAT - yes, I did, after all of the exercises and about ten minutes before I started the riding test. This was a real confidence-builder. I was hoping to be able to state that I didn't drop my bike once, but no. The thing wouldn't stay running for some reason - that little 200cc engine gets cold fast - and with all the finagling I was doing with the throttle and clutch to keep it running, down it went. I was fine - I got up uninjured immediately. But, DRAT. I bent the clutch handle and had to take the test with the thing sticking out strangely at an angle. They didn't even give me bonus points.
Yesterday I signed my poor bruised bride and I up for another motorcycle class in late May - this time a 3-wheeler class that leads to an M3 Virginia endorsement. I explained the situation to the 68 year-old woman who runs the training and she assured me that this course is much less pressured and more fun. No way you can drop a three-wheeler. Even better, there's a promotional deal going on: training is normally $350/person - this is $75/person. Cheaper than a day at a Disney park!
We'll be learning on BRP Can-Ams, which is probably why the discount - they want to promote Can-Ams. Have you ever seen one of those? Two wheels in front, one in back. Weird-looking, but stable, technologically advanced and reportedly very easy and fun to ride. The "B" in BRP stands for Bombardier, the company founded by my French-Canadian ninth cousin Joseph-Armand Bombardier. (Years ago a snowmobile was known as a "Bombardier.") From wikipedia: "The idea to build a winter vehicle came to Bombardier after a blizzard in which his young son fell ill of peritonitis and died because he could not be brought to the nearest hospital."
From another source: "On New Year’s Eve 1922, when he was 15 years old, Bombardier tested his first full-scale invention. He strapped a Model T Ford engine he had refurbished to the top of two wooden sleds hitched in tandem. The engine drove a hand-made wooden propeller, which thrust the vehicle through the snow. Though it ran for over a kilometre, his father ordered the machine dismantled because its open propeller could cause considerable injury."
2 April 2018
What a weekend! I spent the entire day (3/31) buying a motorcycle and getting the M2 endorsement on my license at the local DMV office!
I bought a very clean 2008 Suzuki Boulevard M50 Special Edition (silver and black paint) with 16,000 miles on it. It has an 800cc V-Twin configuration engine; if the end goal is a Harley cruiser (and it is) then this is a sensible halfway point - and a well-liked bike in its own right. (I have seen a number of YouTube videos about this bike where the owners express satisfaction with it.)
Without saddlebags...
You can remove the bags if you like. I need a couple of Suzuki caps/nuts/fasteners to dress where the bag rail goes. I didn't really remove them - I used Photoshop. The bike looks good either way. I feel no need to customize it - but perhaps whitewall tires for a more classic look, maybe?
I bought it via craigslist from a fellow in Stafford, VA - about 22 miles south of me on Highway 1. In the morning I sat in I-95 traffic to get down there to look at it, and took it for a test drive in a little parking lot. Yes, it was as represented and a deal was made. (BTW, this fellow was one of the courtliest gentlemen I have ever encountered... I met his family and we discussed all sorts of things in addition to motorcycles. A delightful person.)
How to get it home? (I actually had a dream about this particular bike and the problem of how to get it home after my first day in motorcycle class, which suggests a thing or two about how thoroughly I plan using both my conscience and subconscious mind.) The owner agreed to deliver it to my garage, and, after a stop at a bank and burger joint for lunch, I agreed to drive him back home. I-95 south was jammed for some unfathomable reason, and the bailout traffic on US-1 was pretty intense, too. Add to that a fallen tree on the road and the result was that I spent a lot of Friday on the road.
On Saturday I took my first Yard Sale video (or, rather, a non-Yard Sale video). As much as I wanted to ride that thing, I didn't. I spent the day at my son's townhouse doing the world's most ridiculously complicated wiring job as part of his kitchen renovation. (When we removed a wall an outlet and a double-ganged switch had to be relocated. This took hours.) The father of a friend came by and hung new drywall, and Ethan and I started hanging cabinets. Lots of work.
I bought a helmet on Saturday - a Bell 3/4 style. But I'm not convinced that I like it yet. I have thirty days to return it.
On Sunday, I did a couple of "Are we going to be friends?" rides on the bike. I rode it over to the commuter lot near where I live, and repeated various exercises from last week's training, just getting used to the bike. As I was riding around in the parking lot a motorcyclist (who was on a bike that looked somewhat like mine) rode down the street. He was watching me riding in the lot, so he waved and I waved back. My very first motorcycle wave! I later took it on the residential streets around my neighborhood. My plans are, after I get it tagged and insured, to expand my circle as I build confidence with the bike and drive among cars on city streets. Perhaps a ride to Manassas battlefield along back streets this summer and a ride to Harpers Ferry in October - if I'm ready. Is there a hurry? No.
That 800cc engine (50 hp) is very smooth and powerful compared to the 200cc engine (13.3 hp) of the training bike I rode last week; lots of torque. You can almost start off in second. And look, I can get a Virginia USMC motorcycle plate by showing my DD-214. Yep. Want that.
I got the bike up to 40 mph at one point - lots of wind! I think I'm going to fit the windshield and try that. Also, in a month or so I'm going to put new tires on it, I think. There's tread on the present tires, but...
Fitting it into the garage is a challenge. I have to move things around - once we get my son's furniture back in his house. I think it'll fit in front of the VW.
Do males naturally like motorcycles? Case in point: When my fifteen month-old grandson Gunnar got his first look at the bike in the garage he dropped his jaw, pointed and said Wowwwwwwwwwww.
At one point the family was seated at the kitchen table and I humorously suggested naming the motorcycle. My son (not at all onboard with this new interest of mine) came up with something along the lines of The Grim Reaper - I forget what, exactly. My wife suggested naming it after the previous owner, Marvin. Hm. But it should be a female's name. How about Marva? Marva it is.
Marva the Motorcycle. 
3 April 2018
Well, all right. I sat in the DMV waiting area for an hour and 37 minutes to see a clerk about getting my motorcycle titled and registered and to buy my Marine Corps license plate. All that took about twenty minutes. The plate will arrive in the mail - the craftsmen at some Virginia correctional facility have to manufacture it. (Fun fact: Virginia offers no Navy or Air Force motorcycle plates.)
I was chatting merrily with the clerk, who was a grandmother. We were comparing notes; grandchildren are the great conversational topic of people of a certain age. She was a stickler for finding the word "Honorable" on my DD-214, good on her! She told me that someday she wants a pink Harley-Davidson; as she decorated her DMV nametag with rhinestones, this doesn't surprise me.
(Google images search: Are there pink Harleys? Yes. Lots of them.)
I also got the bike insured, so it's ready to go wherever I dare take it. Sonny Barger was right: All I want to do right now is ride that motorcycle around. But that's okay. The more time I spend in the saddle, the more skilled - and safer - I'll be. At some point I can put Cari in the passenger seat.
4 April 2018
It was starting to spit rain last night when I finished dinner - Grrrrr - but I really wanted to ride my motorcycle. So I crossed my fingers and went out into the dusk anyway, doing an exploratory ride down my street to check weather feasibility.
In general, the rain held off, so I ventured out onto the residential streets near where I live and visited the church lot and involved myself with car traffic. (Cars, of course, are the enemy.) I also tooled around in some local park and ride lots and went up and down some streets - just to get used to riding at 35-40 mph and not making a rolling roadblock out of myself. I'm also practicing shifts into 3rd and 4th gear and taking care to use my turn signals all the time. I stopped for all stop signs - no rolling car stops. I want the practice of making smooth starts in first gear and becoming fully acquainted with the clutch's friction zone.
Was it a bit cold? Yes. Did I care? Not at all. When it started getting dark and the little drops of rain began to accumulate on my visor, I went in. I am content for my triumphs to be small and sequential. Another successful beginner ride!
This is old news to every motorcyclist but it's new to me: When you are sitting in a car at an intersection you are in a car. When you're sitting on your bike at an intersection you are on the road. The pavement - with all its imperfection - is a much more real and immediate presence on a bike. You touch it with your feet. You make your front wheel avoid a patch of road salt left after the last snow, you avoid making a turn over a small pothole, you carefully note the curve of a turn. There's a certain hyper-awareness that takes place on a bike that you just don't have (or need) in a car. The trainer told us to constantly scan our surroundings and I'm doing that - I check my mirrors to see if there are cars behind me and don't let my gaze dwell on any one place.
At one point I sat for what seemed like forever at a red light, wanting to make a left turn and watching the signal cycle. Did my bike not trip the sensor wires? There were cars behind me - they should have done it if I didn't. Never mind... I turned right and re-negotiated the intersection a different way.
I stopped by my former Bishop's house to do a bit of motorcycle ministry (I learned that not too long ago he rode a Harley Fat Boy), but he wasn't in. Perhaps tonight. As he's in the Stake Presidency I imagine he and the two others are busy working out new callings based on the changes announced last weekend from Salt Lake City. They have eight Elders Quorum presidencies to re-organize!
Yesterday I bought a pair of proper zippered motorcycle boots from with the Christmas money my father-in-law gave me. These are black Dingos with straps and a ring on the side. 13 extra wide. Honest, I have wanted to wear a pair of these ever since I first saw somebody wearing them in junior high school! So I made do with a lesser strapped boot - in dorky brown. But I am delighted that I now have a rationale and need for these.
And it suddenly occurred to me why the straps and the ring are there: it's outboard ankle protection, isn't it? Duh. I thought it was simply a style thing.
I moved things around a bit in my garage to make it possible to house both the bike and my VW. The current configuration (bike sideways in front of the Bug) works, but Cari isn't really happy with it. Hmmmm. When we get my son's stuff back into his house I'll make a more concerted effort.
5 April 2018
Last night on a dusk ride I expanded my circle somewhat and took my motorcycle to the library, almost to my son's townhouse and to Baskin-Robbins. Funny thing: So I parked the bike and as I was walking towards B-R I thought, "Hm. It's starting to get dark. It'll take me a while to order and eat this ice cream. I could be riding some more while it's light." So I got back on the bike and rode around some more. A friend of mine calls this "The Suzuki Diet!"
I also briefly got the bike up to 50 mph on a longish patch of Pohick Road; I am becoming more comfortable with greater speeds - a necessary thing for freeway riding. I'm now glad I didn't get the Honda Rebel 300. I like the greater responsiveness of the 800cc engine on my Suzuki Boulevard. The low end torque is also useful - you don't always have to shift down at lower rpms. I wonder what a 1,700cc Harley Road-King feels like... the same but lots more of it?
9 April 2018
I ran over to the local cycle shop and exchanged my 3/4-faced motorcycle helmet for a full-faced one, a Bell Qualifier DLX in matte black. It offers more protection and it costs $130 extra - but it's a whole lot more comfortable. I'm not constantly adjusting my head to keep the thing from attempting to push my eyebrows onto my eyelids. And it has a cool Transitions (tm) visor that darkens like sunglasses in sunlight and turns clear at night. (As the man asked about how Thermos flasks keep hot liquids hot and cold liquids cold, How do it know?) The only problem I'm having now is minor visor fogging - but that can be fixed with some anti-fog spray. I used to use it on the windshield of my 1973 air-cooled VW because the defroster never worked very well.
It being a sunny, warmish day I also decided to take the bike to Springfield's custom bike shop to get an estimate on new tires - this was interesting. I pulled up to a small lot full of Harleys and some guys my age or older, all working on motorcycles. I had called before. "You're the fellow with the Suzuki Boulevard," said the owner. "Let's take a look." Then everyone dropped what they were doing to look at my bike... it was intimidating. Somebody asked me a question and I answered and said, "I'll be honest with you. I'm a beginning rider. I'm 61 and never rode a motorbike before in my life and I don't know a lot about it." This admission caused a great change in atmosphere and smiles and handshakes were exchanged. A few of the guys admired the bike, noting, as I did, how clean it was. "How many miles on it and how much did you pay for it?" I told him. Pause. "You got a really good deal on it." Hooray! The owner, after inspecting the tires, told me that a change wasn't needed yet and to come back in a year or so, but he gave me a written estimate anyway pricing out four different makes of tires.
At one point I was chatting with one guy and told him that I was also considering a Harley trike, and that a friend taunted me by asking if I would be buying a meter maid uniform to go with it. "I hate that %#%$! %#^%! him! You ride what you want!" Hahahahaha!
So, great! I found an honest mechanic and got a professional to inspect my tires. 
After church on Sunday, since it was sunny and pleasant, I decided to take an epic thirteen-mile motorcycle ride to where I work. (I had planned and mentally performed this trip earlier in the week.) This required that I merge into traffic and deal with cars on city streets, change lanes often, keep up with traffic, lead on green lights at intersections, etc. It was about half exhilaration and half terror, but I got to my destination uneventfully and took a can of lemon-spritzed soda water out of my saddlebag to celebrate. The empty can was left on the blocked off, unused section of road as a memento for me to note on lunchtime fitness walks.
I did a victory lap around the Eisenhower statue in Alexandria and sort of took a long way home, fully enjoying the ride. At one point there's a flyover section of roadway in Springfield where you look out and down onto my hometown... on a motorcycle it's a bit like the Peter Pan ride, where your ship floats over London at night. Very fun! I got home safely with a big smile on my face - this was a major confidence-builder of a ride. At some points on the parkway I was up to 65 mph. I'm getting more comfortable with freeway speeds on a motorcycle, an important milestone for when I take on I-95 or I-270, etc. (Did I mention that I fitted the windshield? That really helps control wind buffeting. I can see why guys my age are always talking up fairings now.)
I am so glad I got an 800cc bike and not a 300cc one; low RPM torque is wonderful. You don't have to necessarily change gears so often. Funny: When I told the custom shop guys I was considering a Honda Rebel 300, their heads all slowly shook "no." I see why now. You want a responsive bike.
10 April 2018
I wanted to ride my motorcycle last night but no go. A drywall guy turned up to work in the townhouse and I had to be there - and then it rained. Grrrr. The drywall guy returns tonight. I also have a church meeting and ice cream social.
On the way home today I'm stopping at the motorcycle shop to buy some anti-fog wipes for the visor on my helmet. One can drive a car with a somewhat dirty windshield, but impaired vision on a bike is B-A-D.
11 April 2018
Did I mention that my Marine Corps Semper Fidelis eagle, globe and anchor motorcycle license plate arrived? Well, it did. It dresses up the bike immensely.
In the evening, despite the fact that it was 48 degrees and 8:40, I threw on my stuff (All The Gear All The Time) and took a nighttime bike ride. This time I concentrated on staying on the Fairfax County Parkway and maintaining speed (50-55 mph). Cold but fun. And my visor didn't fog up thanks to the anti-fog wipes I bought.
Last night I again had what I have discovered is a common motorcycle problem: I sometimes can't find first from neutral at a stop. It appears to be the result of not downshifting through the gears coming to a halt. "It's very possible to line up the gears on the countershaft in a manner that the dogs on the sliding gears can't engage each other. You need to roll the bike forwards or backwards to spin the countershaft." (Didn't I see this on a Matt Laidlaw beginners video? I think I did.) Slipping the clutch a little also works, I've read. I'll practice this and not panicking!
I read somewhere that if you can pass by your motorcycle and not look at it admiringly, you own the wrong bike. Not my problem!
12 April 2018
I'm planning a long motorcycle ride to the Manassas battlefield tomorrow. Well - it's a long ride for me: just over a half hour, probably. It's about 20 miles along the Fairfax County Parkway and Route 28. Will I feel well enough to do it? I once tried playing a rugby match coming off a bad cold - wow, what a mistake that was! I was very slow getting up from the first ruck and eventually asked to be substituted. Riding a motorcycle is nowhere as pounding as a rugby match, but then again I'm almost twenty years older.
Well - if I don't feel up to it I'll just put it off.

13 April 2018

I did indeed take a bike ride out to Manassas, via the Fairfax County Parkway and Route 29. (VIDEO) Then I headed down the Sudley Road into downtown Manassas, where I had a burger at a joint next to the famous train station where Stephen Stills and company posed in 1972 for an album cover. Then I motored over to the Harley-Davidson dealership, chatted with a salesman and once again admired the black Road King I want. I am still not ready for a big ol' Harley, but the idea of riding one intimidates me far less than it did two or three weeks ago! (Also, as I looked at it I thought, "If I never get it - fine. I have a perfectly acceptable bike." As I get older I get easier to please.) Then I went home... a three hour warm weather (81 degrees or so) excursion mixing highway speed riding and city traffic with merges, red lights and lots of cornering. It was about one third anxiety and 2/3rds exhilaration, as opposed to half and half last Sunday. The ratio is improving!

Sadly, as I made my way home I lost the chrome end cap on my clutch side handlebar somewhere between Manassas and Springfield. The screw must have vibrated loose and the part dropped off.

On Saturday Cari and I did a partial re-trace of my ride hoping to see the chrome grip end in the street, but no luck. So we drove to the Suzuki parts guy at Coleman Power Motorsports in Falls Church, where I ordered a new assembly for $47. We also looked at Hondas, Kawasakis, Suzukis and Can-Ams. Cari would like a little scooter so she can be like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Later, I removed the aftermarket friction-style cruise control which didn't work, and then we dined out with some friends.

Saturday was very warm (89 degrees), and there were motorcyclists everywhere. So I did a nice but short night ride of my own. In the two weeks I've owned this bike I have put just over 200 miles on it! I'm still making mistakes: a missed shift here and there, taking a corner in the wrong gear, etc., but I'm improving and building confidence. Going 55-65 mph no longer freaks me out.

This Friday I think I'm doing another ride to Manassas, except this time I'm going to take little one lane country roads to get there instead of the parkway.

17 April 2018

Rain last night, so I couldn't ride my bike. Grrrr. I took one of the saddlebags off of it: it needs a bit of work involving a sewing machine that can punch through leather and thick vinyl (not my wife's Bernina), so I guess I bring it to a shoe repair guy. I bought some one inch wide black webbing to repair a handle.

18 April 2018

I was thinking about riding my bike into work today, but the 37 degree temp at 6:15 am talked me out of it. I'd like at least mid-40's. Starting out the work day thoroughly frozen is no way to do business. Hm. Tomorrow morning is supposed to be 51 degrees...

I did another one of my little night rides last night.

The Saga of the Lone West Springfield Biker

There's a lone biker roaming around the back streets of West Springfield at night.
Sometimes you can hear his pipes, loud as thunder, among the trees.
Folks round these parts know of him, but nobody knows why he does what he does.
He's tall in the saddle - but kind of porky.
Sometimes he rides with a turn signal left on.
He misses shifts sometimes, too.
You can't see his face - he wears a black full face helmet.
Word is, he was horribly disfigured when he slammed into Large Marge's truck one night.
He rides on, heedless of the low temperatures at night. He must.
The Lone Springfield Biker! Ride on, Brother.

Maybe this Christmas I'll figure out a way to festoon my bike with little LED Christmas lights.

19 April 2018

Milestone: I rode to work on my bike this morning! I had butterflies when I set out, but the actual trip proved to be... trivial. I was expecting traffic, but on my route there are very few cars on the road at 6:15 AM. And it's actually easier to get to work along the Springfield-Franconia Parkway, Beulah Street, Franconia Road, Telegraph Road and Eisenhower Avenue.

The 11.8 mile trip took me about 23 minutes, which is as good as it gets. And once I got over my anxiety (still a part of getting on a bike) it was actually fun. I'm going to do this again!

On a wholly unrelated theme: I'm scheduled to donate blood again today.

20 April 2018

Yesterday's return home from work on the motorcycle was a long ride. It rained a very little bit, so I needed to decide if the roads were unacceptably wet. They were not, so I headed up Route 7 from Alexandria through Bailey's Crossroads to Falls Church and to the motorsports store to pick up my Suzuki grip part. I'm far more used to dealing with cars in traffic now; it's now longer such a fearful thing. The winds turned very gusty and occasionally strong... I'm a 300 pound guy on a 600 pound bike, so I'm not going anywhere, but it's rather unpleasant. Knowing that a continuous route without intersections is safer for a motorcycle than city streets, from Route 29 I took the 495 and 95 Express lanes home. (Motorcycles ride for free.) Yikes! I was maintaining 60/65 mph but was getting passed all the time - and the wind buffeting didn't exactly instill a greater sense of confidence. I sometimes got the bike up to 70, but the wind gusts made for a nervous ride. I'll be on the Express lanes again some calmer day.

When I got home I blitzed around my neighborhoods on the bike because it was turning into a nice day. I got in another hour on the saddle. I must have put about 80 miles on the bike yesterday.

Later on I installed the grip end, which, I'm told, serves as a sort of counterweight. It's heavy chromed metal, so I suppose so. The bike's looks are restored!

23 April 2018

My Friday morning motorcycle ride down some of the local Virginia Byways to Manassas was really
great: twisty, turny, hilly roads through pretty woods... the dogwood and mock cherry trees are now blossoming. April in Virginia is unusually pretty. The weather was perfect and I had a blast! I guess I need a Go Pro camera mounted to my helmet in order to fully document it - mounting my iPhone onto the bike somewhere seems very ill-advised - but no. You shall just have to take my word for it. It was a lot of fun! I stopped in the Cabela's in Gainesville, and on the way back had a Coke in the little village of Clifton (where real estate is unusually overpriced, even for Fairfax County).

Another thing that was cool was riding along the edge of Virginia's man-made Grand Canyon along Route 29, the Luck Stone Quarry.

These little rides of mine are becoming less anxious things. I'm getting used to managing my way among car traffic and doing 60+ mph. I patrolled around my neighborhoods last night practicing smooth shifts, emergency acceleration, turning off the turn signal indicator, etc.

My birthday is this Friday. I think I'm going to do a ride down to Fredericksburg down Route 1 (or perhaps even try a stretch of I-95) to visit the Indian motorcycle dealership. I need to plan these rides... there's no taking out the iPhone and consulting Google Maps about turns when on a bike. You pretty much have to map it out and know where you are going beforehand. 
24 April 2018

Yesterday was not especially good.

I headed over to my wife's place of business to have lunch - the Alban Deli ("My food doesn't suck!"). To make things more fun I decided to take Marva the Motorcycle. I parked it carefully, backing it into a parking space and making sure that the front of the bike could be seen. A big truck on big tires was parked next to me. I went in to eat.

Through the window I then see the truck pulling forward and knocking over my 600 pound bike - BAM. When I walked out a young man is standing out of the truck, looking at my bike on the ground... "I didn't see it!" (As he also rides motorcycles, this is a bit ironic because a common excuse from motorists who cause motorcycle-related accidents is "I didn't see you.") We look over the damage: my front brake lever is broken, leaving a truncated length of lever - a safety concern. (Photo above.) There are some minor scrapes on the windshield and the front fender, and there's some tar on my exhaust. One of my saddlebags is scratched up. My bike, which made it through its first ten years without ever being dropped, has now been dropped.

The driver asked, "Would $1,000 take care of it without getting the insurance company involved?" A bit confused, I say "yes," and after I take a photo of his (commercial) driver's license and license plate, he heads home to get the money. Will he be back? My wife and I sit down to eat. I am dubious. As we finish, he returns! He hands over ten hundred-dollar bills, we chat, I commend him for his honesty, and he departs.

What next? Broken front brake lever... with Cari following me in the car, I rode the bike over a very short distance to the nearby Custom Cycle shop. Past experience suggests that they are honest mechanics; they could have sold me a pair of tires I didn't really need, but didn't. After the older fellow working there effusively complimented my wife on her dress he looks the bike over, and agrees to do the work of replacing the brake lever if I supply the part. I ordered it from a place in Falls Church that sells Suzukis (the place where I got the counterweight last week): $50. Should be in later this week. I figure the work will be about $125. New saddlebags: perhaps $400.

Yeah, I know, I have come out ahead and wasn't on the bike. I do know how to count my blessings. But, still...

The bike is ridable with the shorter front brake lever, by the way, but I'm taking no long trips until it's replaced. I rode to the townhouse last night and installed the ceiling fan in the living room. That room is done - we return to concentrate on finishing the kitchen.

25 April 2018

It's rainy/drizzly this morning; just wet enough to keep me from riding my bike into work. Well - that and the truncated brake lever.

26 April 2018

After work I ran out to Coleman Power Motorsports and picked up my new brake lever - that was fast! Ordered Monday, arrived from Pennsylvania on Wednesday. So this morning I need to bring the bike and the lever to the shop in Springfield for installation.

I ordered new saddlebags for my Suzuki: Vikings. They're about the same shape and size as the Saddlemen bags I have on it now, except I think they're of higher quality. They shipped yesterday. I got 15% off on a riding-season-begins sale!  

27 April 2018

Yesterday morning I took my bike over to the shop in Springfield to have the broken brake lever replaced with the new one I got. Hahahaha - why didn't I watch a video? The process: a long screw comes out, the old lever comes off, the new one goes on, the screw is re-installed! The whole operation took about five minutes! I could have done this myself easily (I've worked on my own cars for decades), but got spooked because... it's a motorcycle and I somehow expected that it would be more complicated. And, golly, I don't want to do this myself because everything on a bike is more safety-critical and I might mess it up, etc. Well, that was my thought process. So I gave the guy $20 for his time and my education.

It rained during the night, which means the roads are all wet. No motorcycling until things dry up. I think I'm headed down to Fredericksburg to check out Indian motorcycles at the dealership. 

28 April 2018

I drove down to Fredericksburg and had lunch with a friend on my birthday - and also took the opportunity to drool over a jade green and black Indian Springfield in the showroom. This is a beautiful bike - and the fit and finish are of a very high level. About $22,000! (But I get $1,000 off because I'm a vet.) Someday I want to test ride one of these...

I took a nice motorcycle ride down some Virginia Byways to Clifton and the environs before church on Sunday. I'm not sure the word "spiritual" described the experience, but it was nice.

2 May 2018

I rode my motorcycle to work this morning. Saw the sunrise and geese flying north in a vee formation. I like these morning rides - they are therapeutic. The afternoon ride will be less so as it's supposed to get to 90 degrees today. Will a 35-to-50 mph slipstream stave off heatstroke in a helmet and leather jacket? We shall see. But when I get home I shall have a thing that life offers in abundance: experience.

As a self-reward for enduring a tooth extraction I stopped by the Harley dealership in Fairfax, chatted with various members of the sales force and threw my leg over some bikes. I'm now pretty sure what I really want is a Street Glide, not a Road King (almost certainly used). The difference is the fairing and less freeway speed wind buffeting. I love the front end look of the Road King - to me it's what a motorcycle is supposed to look like - but dislike the buffeting.

Somehow in the process of throwing my leg over bikes I gave myself a muscle pain in my side that, every now and then, announces its presence. I've knocked it - and my jaw pain - back with 800 mg of ibuprofen. And what have I learned? 62 year-old bikers need to moderate throwing legs over bikes.

My new saddlebags arrived! I haven't put them on yet because, (1) Dentistry, (2) I had to remove the bolts and hardware from the old ones, and (3) The installation isn't especially easy. It involves drilling holes in the bags (you want to make sure this is done right) and watching an over-produced instruction video featuring a narrator who needs a throat lozenge and a distorted guitar used as background music. I know it's meant for the biker culture and all, but, geez. My son made fun of it: "After you've successfully mounted your first saddlebag to the frame using the included hardware go beat your woman and have a beer..."

3 May 2018

Motorcycle problems!

(1) Last night I worked on attaching my new saddlebags to my bike. I want and need saddlebags because I like the look of a bagger bike. Problem is, though, they can't be attached with the hardware the manufacturer sent me. The 70mm length metric hex bolts are too short. A trip to Home Depot ("You can do it - we can help - but we won't") turned up a couple of 80mm length screw head bolts that didn't work, either. Hmmmm. A call to the manufacturer's help line is suggested. There's an alternate "throw over" attachment scheme but I'm not sure I like it. I may be returning these things...

(2) I had a minor scare on the ride in to work this morning. At one point I noticed that the brake pedal (for the rear brakes) wasn't quite where it normally is! During a stop I reached down and ascertained that the pedal lever was in no danger of falling off, so I relied upon gentle riding, engine braking and the front brakes to get me to my parking spot at work. When I got there I used the mighty power of my right arm to bend the steel brake pedal lever back into place. I suspect it bent a little when the bike was knocked over and my use just shifted it more. Either that or I'm torquing the pedal wrong with my big right foot. But it's fixed for the ride back home.

(3) Another scare this morning: When I take the bike to work I lock the fork and use a beefy bike lock which attaches to the front brake disc. All well and good. When I emptied my pockets in my office I found that - oh no! - the lock key is missing. I can't get home without that! Retracing my steps to the bike I found it about five feet from my office door. When I fumbled around in my pockets to unlock the door I flipped the key out. Whew.

(4) Visor fogging has returned as a problem. I bought some anti-fog spray, but it doesn't work as well as the individual wipes I was using. I guess I return the bottle at the motorcycle store and get wipes. Either that or I ride around with a partially cracked open visor.

I watched episode three, season two of The Grand Tour. It's confirmed: I just don't have the enthusiasm for Clarkson, May and Hammond that I used to have. And those dual races around the track with two celebrities are talky and boring. I dozed off. (Which may be why I was awake at 2:30 AM. Thanks, Clarkson, May and Hammond.)

As expected, yesterday's ride home in 90 degree heat with helmet and leather jacket was... hot. But at least the humidity was low! I'll be repeating that today.

Tomorrow is Friday. I like to take a longish bike ride on Fridays. Where to? Along Route 29 from Manassas to Gainesville and pick up scenic route 55 to Marshall to Front Royal? Problem: It's going to be hot! Hmmmm. Maybe I'll save that epic ride for next week, when it's forecast to be cooler.

4 May 2018

Ah, Friday! My day off to...? Do what? A ride? It's going to be pretty hot again today. I'll get an earlier start...

Yesterday on my ride back home I learned what hell is: rush hour traffic on an uphill slant on Old Keene Mill Road in 90 degree heat wearing leather, gloves and a helmet on a motorcycle, in first gear, power walking about ten feet, then stopping, then moving ahead another ten feet, then stopping, then (repeat until green light). Ugh. I see why bikers hate and avoid traffic. What is an inconvenience in an air-conditioned car is a physical ordeal on a bike! Motorcycles want to be moving constantly over about 10 mph. Stop and go is awful.

I stopped at a Fastenal store in an industrial park on my way home and procured four M8 X 100mm 1.25 thread pitch hex head bolts (no finding those in a conventional hardware store - that's life with a metric cruiser). I spent a sweaty evening in my garage mounting the new saddlebags.  Photo one, photo two. One bolt refused to go in, but I persevered. Hooray, I have a bagger bike once again! These Vikings look nicer than the old Saddlemen bags - and they are of higher quality, I think. Best of all, I can cram my workplace laptop into one for transport to and from work!

7 May 2018

Friday: Best ride yet! I left at 9 AM to beat the heat and took the Fairfax County Parkway from West Springfield and Fairfax to Route 29 in Centreville and Manassas and then picked up scenic Route 55 through Gainesville, Haymarket, the Thoroughfare Gap, The Plains and Marshall to Front Royal. It took me an hour and 40 minutes to get there. (VIDEO) All told - including lunch at the Marshall Diner - I was out for 4 1/2 hours. The weather didn't start getting warm until the last hour, thanks to morning clouds. It was actually quite nice. On the way back I chose a route through cooler, tree-lined roads - more scenic Virginia Byways.

There was one long stretch of road coming into Front Royal that had a 55 mph speed limit, so I did about 55-60 mph. My Suzuki likes that pace. For a long period of time I was the only thing on the road. It was weird and glorious. At one point I looked down at the pavement passing by at 60 mph and considered that I was essentially sitting atop a powerful motor with no seatbelts, airbags or protective metal around me. In this litigious, fretful age how is it that motorcycles aren't completely forbidden? Which leads me to my next point...

Harley-Davidson's current sales slogan is "All for Freedom - Freedom for All," and I finally understood that. For a time along Route 55 I felt like the freest man on earth. It was... wonderful. When I am very old and infirm I will look back on that ride, along with Civil War reenacting, the rugby matches I have played, my time spent atop telephone poles in the Marines, scout activities with my son, high school drama and cheerleading stuff with my daughters, a honeymoon and married life, grandkids and recall, yes - I did that.

I need to figure out a way to mount my cell phone to get travelling-on-the-road and rider shots. Hmmm.

I wasn't the fattest guy on a bike in Front Royal. I was sitting on a porch of a general store enjoying a LaCroix soda water from my saddlebag (my tradition) when a guy who must have weighed close to 400 pounds hove into view; he was riding a big Harley and wearing only a tee shirt. His arrival was announced by a couple of rev blasts of loud engine noise through what I have come to learn are called "neighbor haters" exhaust pipes. A friend of mine observed, "He's probably more comfortable on the Harley than in a car." Yes.

When I got back home I ran a bunch of errands.

8 May 2018

Let me share with you how much I dislike the City of Alexandria, where I have to work. A few months back I found a stanchioned-off and unmarked street a few blocks from where I work where I could park for free, and for the past month or so I have been parking there. Even better, I've been taking my motorcycle into work and parking there. Can't have that! Alexandria - a money-grubbing jurisdiction run by the usual Northern Virginia tax-and-spend Democrats - has to exercise total control over every square inch and monetize every curb, so this morning I arrived to find No Parking/Tow Zone signs erected.


One thing I discovered on my long ride into Front Royal last week is that I wasn't totally happy with my right foot placement on the peg. Perching it on the peg while not touching the rear brake was a bit tricky. Bigger aftermarket pads came with the bike, and at first I fitted these on to the bike, but when I bought boots (in place of shoes) I couldn't use them anymore because they didn't feel right. My right boot didn't really fit under the shifter. So I removed them and replaced the OEM Suzuki pegs. I didn't notice, however, that the aftermarket pads could be adjusted in a number of ways. So yesterday I adjusted and refitted them and took a test ride - much better! My big old size 13 wide boots now have a nice, flat place to sit, safe from the pavement whizzing by underneath. And they look better on the bike.

The floor boards on a touring class Harley are much bigger, designed for comfort on long rides. A Road King or a Street Glide is a bike designed for guys my size...

18 May 2018

On a Road King in Utah
Back from Utah vacation! I test drove a Road King - My first Harley ride, 5/14, a milestone in my nascent motorcycle career. Wow. The difference between this bike and my Suzuki Boulevard is not unlike that between a VW Beetle and a Cadillac. The 250-pound heavier Harley is more stable, more powerful (I was easily doing 50 in third gear) and engenders confidence. I wouldn't hesitate to take it on I-95. I test rode my son-in-law's Street Glide, which was also impressive. I think I want a Street Glide because of the wind-reducing fairing - but I still like the Road King.

I was hoping to ride when I got back to Virginia, but it's raining. And it will continue to rain until Sunday or so. DRAT. My son tells me that it rained all during the time we were in Utah. The front and back lawns are overgrown.

My size 3X leather jacket arrived while I was in Utah. Hooray! It has space for two concealed carry weapons! Photo coming at some point.

21 May 2018

I was able to take my motorcycle out yesterday - the rain finally stopped. Earlier in the day I got caught in a bit of a pour, however, and made my way back home rather carefully. I don't really want to ride my motorcycle when it's wet, but it appears that there are times when I'll have to, so it's good to get some practice in. I think the rule of thumb is the same for cars: don't attempt to do anything quickly and give yourself some additional space away from other cars. Also, stay off the road's painted surfaces - they are more slippery.

Yesterday I found a guy selling a 2003 100th anniversary edition Harley Road King nearby via craigslist, so, after making arrangements I biked over to his place to look at it. It's a nice motorcycle at a fair price - but no. I'm pretty sure that I'll want a later model year one. And I still want to test ride a Kawasaki Vulcan Vaquero and an Indian Springfield...

Last night I did a dry road joy ride up the Fairfax County Parkway to a Civil War skirmish site near the Saint Mary's Catholic Church on Ox Road. (The 1864 skirmish which took place there is described here: it was a reprehensible affair in which Col. John S. Mosby's Rebs, armed only with pistols, whipped a numerically larger group of Union cavalrymen resulting in yet another Yank skedaddle.) It was a fun little ride...

22 May 2018

Last night I spent some quality time in my newly-cleared garage - my son moved his furniture back to the townhouse. I was trying to figure out how to fit a full size Hyundai Sonata, a smaller VW Beetle, a freezer and a Suzuki Boulevard into my 400-square foot, two-car garage. The solution is shown here, but I don't really like it. Getting my 600-pound bike wheeled into that position takes a lot of finicky back and forth motion. (One can't simply pick up the rear end and place it when one wants it.) I'd like it better if the freezer wasn't there and I could simply back it in where the freezer is. FIRST WORLD PROBLEM. Oh, well... my upper legs get a workout.

I never thought I'd say this, but I wish I had a three car garage!

Yesterday was a sunny, warm day so I managed to get some quality motorcycle time in meeting my wife for lunch and running errands. The All The Gear All The Time safety advice is a bother with that leather jacket on warm days, but it's better than having the upper layers of my skin peeled off in case of a tumble. And sweating is good for you, right? Or not?

There's a great story about "All The Gear All The Time" here. Leather motorcycle jacket? Check. Full-face helmet? Check. Riding gloves? Check. Sturdy motorcycle boots? Check. Kevlar-lined jeans? Hm. Right now I wear a sturdy pair of duck cotton Carhartts, but maybe I need to invest in a more protective pair of jeans at some point.

23 May 2018

I have grown tired of reading early period Michael Crichton mysteries, so I'm now reading Born to Be Wild: A History of the American Biker and Bikes 1947-2002 by Paul Garson and the editors of Easyriders. A pity the book is already sixteen years old. While it mentions the remarkable Harley-Davidson V-Rod it cannot include electric bikes like the Zero.

And why do I mention the Zero? Because yesterday I signed up for a test ride on a Zero S with the dealership near Dulles airport; they have to get back with me. As long as I'm evaluating what long term bike I want to buy eventually, I might as well check out an electric bike. I am fairly sure that I'm not going to buy an electric bike, but one of the pages on their web site seems attractive: Top 15 Things You’ll Never Do Again - Buy gas, Replace clutch, Sync throttle and idle speed, Change engine oil filter, Lubricate choke cables, Change engine oil, Check engine oil, Adjust valve clearance, Change air filter, Replace timing belt, Check external fuel hoses, Replace spark plugs, Change fuel filter, Adjust clutch cables, Check clutch fluid level.

What makes an electric motorcycle different? In addition to the stuff above, the total lack of engine noise and 100% available torque to the wheels at startup. In other words, slingshot performance. At age 62 do I want or should I even have slingshot performance? Probably not! I've already figured out that I'm a Cruiser Bro and not a Sportbike Bro. But I'd still like to try one - I'm an engineer, after all. Harley-Davidson, often considered to be a company not associated with aggressive technological advancement, will be introducing an electric bike.

24 May 2018

I rode my motorcycle into work this morning; I always like when I can do that - it's a pleasant 22 minute trip. This morning was refreshingly cool. I took the bike in today because I wanted to show it to a co-worker, but when I ride in I feel like I have thwarted the forces of workplace ennui and boredom. Ha! You don't have possession of me today, ye Minions of Drudgery! Another day, certainly, but not today!

I have tomorrow off. Will there be a Friday morning bike ride somewhere? Probably - I don't know. I don't have one planned. I was thinking... Fredericksburg and I-95. Or Quantico.

This weekend Cari and I take a three-wheeled motorcycle class (Friday night class, Saturday and Sunday mornings riding), so we'll be buzzing around on Can-Ams (two wheels in the front, one in the back). I prefer a Harley Trike - but we'll see.

May 24th - 28th

Thursday: I rode into work on the bike. It makes work less dreary, book-ending the work day with a little adventure. Riding back home I had to make my way around a traffic accident which apparently involved a car and a motorcycle. Nasty. Getting past it was stop and go, 2 mph, uphill. Not fun. I noticed a Ram truck behind me giving me plenty of space - which I appreciated. When the traffic cleared the truck pulled up next to me and he tapped the horn. The driver held up what appeared to be a hastily hand-written sign: “Thanks Marine!” (He saw my licence plate.) Awwwwww. I gave him a big thumbs up.

I think next time I take the bike to work I'm going to head down Van Dorn to the parkway and see if I can't bypass the really bad bumper-to-bumper traffic on the Springfield city streets.

Friday: A motorcycle ride into Fredericksburg on a hot day! (VIDEO.) On the way back home, desiring some cooling breezes, I took I-95 back home from Dale City to Springfield. It was... okay. It wasn't at all the nervous situation I thought it might be; I am clearly becoming more comfortable with highway speeds on a motorcycle. (There was some bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-95, too. At one point, on a halt, I actually stood in the middle of I-95 to stretch. The last time I placed my feet upon I-95 was when I was doing a household move in 1985 and lost a mattress and my wife's wedding dress from the back of a truck; I had to dash out to get them. Looking back on it I'm a little stunned that I did such a thing. But I digress.) In the evening my wife and I attended the classroom part of our three-day three-wheeled motorcycle training with Apex.

Saturday: We spent a good deal of the day - 7:45 AM to about 2 PM - on a hot parking lot learning how to ride BRP Can-Am trikes. (VIDEO.) Cari did great! She didn't think she did - she is very hard on herself - but she did. We were totally wiped out after the class and returned home to take long naps. We had dinner with my son, his wife and the grandsons.

Sunday: Another long, hot day on the parking lot with the Can-Ams. (VIDEO.) We both passed the practical and written tests, so we can now both apply for our M3 motorcycle endorsement on our Virginia driver's licenses. (I get an M, which is a combined M2 and M3.) I'd like to test ride a Harley trike. After I go to the DMV today I'll have the license to do it. You can see on the video that Cari and I rode a Can-Am together; it was fun and not a problem at all. The three wheels - even with two in the front - add a reassuring sense of stability with a passenger.

Those Can-Ams, having ABS, can stop on a dime (panic stops were a part of the training). They can also do low speed cornering like nobody's business. I had an semi-automatic transmission model (going up gears is a simple tap of a switch and the computer automatically downshifts); Cari had one with a clutch and manual transmission. At first we thought, "Meh. Can-Ams. They're weird-looking. Not interested." But once we got familiar with them we're much better disposed to them. They're fun, even though they do seem more like a sporty riding lawn mower than a motorcycle! They are also technologically sophisticated, with traction control, stability control and ABS. Engineers have spent years tweaking the software to keep people from getting themselves into trouble on the road on Can-Ams. I fit on the sleeker non-touring model much better than I did the full dress ones - it's a matter of seating and foot placement for the brake.

Last comment about the Can-Am: These are built by BRP, a Canadian company. The "B" in BRP stands for Bombardier. Joseph-Armand Bombardier, the inventor of the snowmobile, was my ninth cousin. Or did I mention this already?

Monday: Towards the evening, bored, I took a little ride, this time with the windshield removed. (VIDEO. See the Groveton Confederate Cemetery! See Virginia's Grand Canyon! See me interrupted by a passing Harley!) When I first started riding the 50+ mph wind annoyed me - it's not a big deal now.

And here we are, Tuesday. After work I head over the DMV office to have my driver's license updated. And then, in the fullness of time, I'll go to a Harley dealership, probably with my bride, and test ride a Harley Trike.

30 May 2018

Yesterday I went to the Virginia DMV to apply for my M endorsement (two and three-wheeled) on my driver's license. The clerk at the window very nearly changed my M2 (two-wheeled) endorsement to merely M3 (three-wheeled). Fortunately I caught her. Sheesh.

The guys at the local bike shop told me about Classic Iron, a dealership in Fredericksburg with a big inventory of used Harleys. Their slogan is interesting: "The bike you look at today, and want to think about tonight, before buying it tomorrow, will be bought today, by someone who looked at it yesterday, and thought about it last night!"

I need a motorcycle chock for my garage. This will buy me several inches more room for my Volkswagen to park. I see Harbor Freight sells one...

31 May 2018

Last night my wife and I made a motorcycle run to the grocery store and the post office; I am now much more comfortable with her riding on the back seat than I was some weeks ago when we last tried this.

1 June 2018

My current book: 6 Chambers, 1 Bullet by Sonny Barger with Keith and Kent Zimmerman. The plot: "Patch Kinkade, the notorious leader of the infamous and feared Infidelz motorcycle club, has faced down a wide array of bad guys in his day. But when three of his fellow club members show up dead in a meat locker––frozen stiff on their bikes, with counterfeit $100 bills stuffed in their mouths – and the funny money leads back to the Russian mob, Patch is ready to add some ex–Pinkos to his hit list." HAHAHAHA! Okay, I admit, it's intellectual slumming. But I can only read so much text about navigating motorcycles through turns and avoiding cars making left turns in intersections.

Speaking of motorcycles, I am mapping out a commuter route to work and back using the Express and HOV lanes up I-395. I'm pretty sure I have the morning commute worked out; it's the evening one back that I have some doubts about. At some point, if the weather ever clears, I'll try it.

4 June 2018

My GoPro Hero Session miniature video recorder arrived on Saturday and I started playing around with it: Motorcycle ride video. Expect more of the same. I think I'll mount it to my helmet for the motorcycle ride videos... that should work better than trying to strap it around the headlight housing, where it kept slipping.

5 June 2018

I did a couple more GoPro videos - just to play around with the device. A Visit to the Angels, Lunch at the Alban Deli.

Tomorrow, just to change things up, I'm going to take my motorcycle to work along a new route: The Springfield-Franconia Parkway east to the I-395 Express north and the HOV lane (where I ride for free), getting off at Seminary Road heading west in Alexandria. Then another 2.5 miles along lightly-traveled city streets into the parking garage at Shirlington. The speeds on the Express lanes are pretty brisk: While the posted speed limit is 65 mph I'll have to maintain that or better. Let's see how that goes. It's a piece of cake on a Harley-Davidson... Getting home is more or less the reverse.

I bought myself a Father's Day present yesterday: $80 motorcycle jeans. What makes this particular pair of denim jeans "motorcycle?" They have armored kneepads and Tyvek-reinforced seams and internal panels. In other words, it's just what you would want when your body is rolling on the pavement at a high rate of speed - assuming, of course, you would ever want that to happen. I don't think anyone ever intends to do that...

7 June 2018

I took the HOV and Express Lanes up and down I-395 yesterday, to and from work: GoPro Video. Yesterday morning I was riding almost into the sun, so, being cautious, I was only doing about 60-65 mph. But this morning was cloudy and so I maintained 70-75 mpg. At my level of experience this is still a little scary... and I was still getting passed! By other motorcycles! They must have been doing 80-85 mph (the posted speed limit is 65). Geez.

Hmmmm. Tomorrow's ride. I think I'm going to visit Classic Iron, in Fredericksburg (they sell Road Kings), and then head west a bit to visit some Battle of the Wilderness sites. I'll even take I-95! There will almost certainly be another GoPro video as a result.

11 June 2018

Friday's motorcycle ride to Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, the Wilderness and back to Fredericksburg was a lot of fun. (VIDEO.) At 8:50 AM I merged into traffic on I-95 south and had a perfectly serene ride doing 65 mph in the slow lane nearly all the way into Fredericksburg - an unusual thing for I-95.

I passed a wicked truck wreck at mile marker 130. I thought I was getting great GoPro footage of it, but - alas! - I had the thing angled too low on my helmet and got instead about footage of my hands holding the handlebars. I didn't get any GoPro footage of the really nice, pastoral roads in Spotsylvania or the Wilderness, either. DRAT. IDIOT! So what have I learned? Double-check the GoPro before hitting the record button!

I try again this Friday. A friend and I are planning a ride to the Antietam battlefield.

Last night, as it was cooling down at dusk, I decided to take a little refreshing motorcycle ride. So I merged onto I-95, intending to get off at the first exit, and POW, down came the rain. Fortunately, a few hours before I had listened to a podcast about riding a motorcycle in the rain which promised that, (1) You will get wet (I did), (2) People in cars will make fun of you (probably), (3) You will get cold (I did), (4) It will be memorable (it was), and (5) All will be well if you don't attempt any sudden maneuvers, ride smoothly, slow down a bit and stay off painted surfaces on the road. I got home safely.  I do not yet own any rain gear...

12 June 2018

I had a nice motorcycle ride into work today; it was 58 degrees. Very refreshing.

Today I'm parked in a new place on the street. My bike is near the Eisenhower Avenue circle just to the right of a sign that indicates no parking to the left of the sign. I asked an Alexandria cop who happened to be parked nearby last week if anyone would get a ticket for parking there, and he said, "I wouldn't ticket them. It's legal according to the sign." And on my afternoon walks I noticed cars parking there - none of them got tickets. Finally, this morning a cop drove right by my parked bike without stopping. There is space for three cars, first come, first served; I arrived at 6:30.

My guess is that once somebody official sees that people are parking on the street for free the apparatchik from the People's Republic of Alexandria will once again heavy-handedly dispatch the traffic control staff to put up restrictive signs. If the electorate wants more government we'll give them more government.

13 June 2018

My 25 minute bike ride into work was pleasant again this morning. This time an Alexandria cop was parked near where I parked. I greeted him and asked, "Any problem with my parking here?" He said "Nope," and so I bade him to be safe and went on my merry way.

I also went into the pool for the first time this season last night. The water was... brisk. I had a long chat with my pal Doug. His son is selling a 2006 custom Victory Hammer: 100 cid Twin-V engine, 650 pound bike. That's twice the engine size in a bike that weighs about as much as my 50 cid bike - yikes! I'm going to take it around the block tonight, I think. At a safe speed. (I checked and I have no sport bike rider in my DNA.)

14 June 2018

I had another pleasant ride into work this morning. Nothing to report save that when I walked into work wearing my leather jacket a black man greeted me with, "Now I know you own a Harley." Someday...

Last night I test rode my friend's son's Victory Hammer (it's for sale) and learned an important thing: motorcycles speak to me. During my ride this custom bobber was communicating to me loud and clear: I am not for you. The big fat tire in the back seemed to have a mind of its own, I was never sure when I was in neutral (the light's function was a little curious), there was a rear view mirror missing (I like to know what's behind me) and although I felt like my right boot was on the peg properly, the muffler burned some of my heel. I'm sure I could spend the time to come to terms with this bike, but, wow, last night I just wanted off of it! A very powerful bike, it weighs about as much as my Suzuki but the engine is twice as big. The owner, a sharp young man, asked me not to ride it or dog it - by which he meant ride it like an aggressive twentysomething. No problem!

When I test rode the Harley Road King in Utah I got an entirely opposite message: Yes. You will enjoy riding me. I am suitable and I will accommodate you. (I got about the same message on my son-in-law's Street Glide.) I suppose a comparison with cars is apt: I learned to drive on a big 1972 Chevy Caprice Classic, and my first two years driving was in a 1972 Ford LTD Brougham -  a land yacht. I like a big, luxurious ride and the Road King and Street Glide's touring frame and weight creates stability and balance and engenders confidence.

18 June 2018

What a great weekend!

Friday: The motorcycle trip to the Antietam battlefield was really fun! The weather was clear, sunny and perfect and it was just an excellent riding experience. Some videos:

Antietam Ride

Thoughts during a traffic jam

Battlefield raw GoPro footage

Riding down Main St., Boonsboro, MD

The only negative about the day is the seat on my Suzuki Boulevard. It's not really designed for touring, that is, spending all day in the saddle. After four hours or so my rear end begins to hurt. (I have read this comment about the Boulevard elsewhere on the Internet.) Were I to keep this bike permanently I'd buy a touring seat.

One of my planned major motorcycling milestones was an October ride to Harper's Ferry, but as I drove by the Route 340 interchange for it only two miles away, I've essentially done that. I'm four months ahead of schedule! 

20 June 2018

I had a very pleasant 21 minute motorcycle ride into work this morning; I left at 6:11 AM. I wasn't the only person on the roads, but by the usual Northern Virginia standards, I wasn't far from it. Back in February I talked to a friend of my mine who motorcycled to work, and he reported it to be therapeutic. Yes, it is.

21 June 2018

The Summer Solstice is here! It occurred this morning at 6:08 AM when the sun was directly over the Tropic of Cancer, or at 23.5° north latitude. At 6:08 I was putting on my helmet and preparing to motorcycle to work; I left at 6:11 AM. It was another pleasant 21 minute commuting ride made even more pleasant by a purchase I made yesterday.

On the way home from work I bought a mesh motorcycle jacket for the summer - this one has armor (pads) at the shoulders, elbows and back, and allows the air to flow through the garment much better than did my thick, protective leather jacket. (It looks nowhere as cool but feels much cooler, if you know what I mean.) It also has reflective piping which I tested last night - yep, it works. I got it on sale at the motorcycle shop in Springfield. It's almost like wearing a tee shirt, and will keep at bay the temptation to not wear all the gear all the time (ATGATT) because of summer heat. I see lots of guys wearing tee shirts on motorcycles but just cannot seem to do that myself. I watch too many crash videos on YouTube - skin rubbed onto the asphalt - "road rash" - is not pleasant.

Yesterday I also built myself a nice little three shelf storage place to put motorcycle helmets, gloves, etc. in the garage so I no longer have to pile stuff atop the freezer. Much better. Now all I need for the garage is a bunch of Harley-Davidson metal signage - and the Harley-Davidson - and I'll be set.

No ride tomorrow. (1) The forecast is for rain most of the day. (2) I'll be at a Scout Camp. Grrrr.

22 June 2018

Lately I've been watching moto vlogging videos by a fellow calling himself "The Georgia Ramblin' Man." (Introductory video.)  In these he rides past Georgia pines in his Suzuki Boulevard and talks in his pleasant southern voice about whatever he has a mind to discuss. Since nearly all southerners have the gift of gab to some extent, these are fun. As soon as I figure out how to incorporate a spoken voice from within my helmet to a GoPro camcorder I may try the same thing.

Because I need yet another creative outlet. Published books, family scrapbooks, YouTube videos, Google photo albums, photography, websites, a perfume review and a daily blog just aren't enough.

25 June 2018

I created a new YouTube playlist for all my motorcycle videos. More videos to come! Also, I've put 1,750 miles on my bike since the 31st of March!7

My wife has to work again Friday and I do not. The weather forecast is sunny and 90 degrees. Where do I ride Marva the Motorcycle to this week? Hm. Chancellorsville?

26 June 2018

Yesterday after lunch I gave myself a motorcycle skill test: Could I bring a Diet Coke home from BGR in a cup with lid in my saddlebag without spilling? I did, nary a drop.

I had a nice, brisk ride into work this morning. At speed it was actually a little bit chilly in my mesh jacket - which I find refreshing during the summer.

27 June 2018

The Japanese are in the space exploration business. The other day I read about their Hayabusa-2 space probe; it's set to land on an asteroid, Ryugu, and return to earth with samples. They've done this before with the original Hayabusa probe. Impressive. Of interest is the name Hayabusa, meaning "peregrine falcon." Sportbike motorcycle fans know the Suzuki Hayabusa as arguably the world's fastest production motorcycle - the thing can do 186 mph! You can find used ones at reasonable prices. You can also find bits of them littered along the roads as a result of amputation candidates exceeding their skills.

A friend of mine who is a biker doesn't know I now ride. I'm looking forward to my first conversation with him, when he asks what I bought as a starter bike. I plan to innocently reply, "I found a recent model Suzuki Hayabusa. It's tricky, but I'm learning. I'm planning to take it to freeway speeds on I-95 soon." (The joke, as any experienced motorcyclist knows, is that a Hayabusa is probably the world's worst starter bike.) The MSRP for a new Hayabusa is only $14,700. Not bad for something that claims the title "fastest."

I took a nice ride last evening (the sun was about to set) on Marva, my far slower Suzuki, along some local streets I don't explore much. The traffic was very light and I had many roads all to myself, which is always pleasant. Almost time for an oil change. I think that will have to happen next week.

28 June 2018

Another pleasant commute to work this morning on the back of my steed, Marva. (Or is it mare, Marva?) What do I know from horses? I'm from L.A. It'll be hot going home, however.

I'm off tomorrow, and the weather is expected to be sunny - and hot. That means a motorcycle ride. But to where? I was considering riding up to Motorcycles of Dulles to test ride a Zero electric bike and possibly an Indian. We shall see! And so shall you, as there will probably be videos...

2 July 2018

On Friday I motorcycled up to a dealership north of Dulles airport - Motorcycles of Dulles - and test rode a Zero electric motorcycle as well as an Indian Springfield. (Video of Zero test ride, video of Indian Springfield test ride.) The Zero was... kind of weird. Is anyone used to a perfectly silent motorcycle? I didn't care for the seating position - it felt like my upper body was too far forward, like I'd go over the handlebars in case of a heavy brake. Unlikely, but that's what it felt like. The salesman and I agreed that the bike wasn't really for a guy my size, age or disposition. But I suspect electric bikes will catch on. Harley-Davidson is supposed to introduce theirs next year.

The Indian Springfield was an entirely different thing! Now we're talkin' - what a gorgeous bike! I think I like it better than a Harley Road King. (The ride on both is similar, with the Springfield being possibly more agile and nimble.) The problem is that there are far more good used Road Kings on the market than used Springfields. The Springfield looks wonderful in jade green and black like the one I test rode, or even in simple red. They even look great in black! I'm a sucker for retro styling...

More video of my Friday ride is here. It isn't very often you see a Karmann-Ghia in that good a shape - and I can't recall the last time I saw a c. 1972 Ford Maverick! I was planning to ride to Goldvein to visit the Virginia Mining Museum there but the traffic on Route 29 was too heavy and, frankly, it was way too hot. So I turned around, eventually getting home via I-66. Freeways no longer intimidate me. I just do my 65-70 mph and confine myself to the slow lane.

So I'm riding down the main street in Manassas when a smallish car pulls in front of me, Robert E. Lee Virginia commemorative license plate and Confederate flags in the rear window. I honk and give him a thumb's up, me being a Civil War buff and all - besides, flying Confederate flags is a mark of bravery these days. At a light - I'm still behind him - I holler something, he looks at me and says, "I know you!" Turns out it's Bobby, a kid who used to live up the street from me when I lived in a townhouse in Springfield. My giving him a stack of my old Camp Chase Gazettes kind of turned him into a Civil War reenactor. (A Reb.) The last time I saw him was at an event in 2012. He was regaling us with special forces stories from Afghanistan. What were the odds of seeing him in Manassas?

Saturday afternoon Cari and I headed over to Coleman Powersports for their Can-Am Demo Day. (A Can-Am is a three wheeled vehicle - two wheels in the front, one in the back. We took a class riding them in late May.) We took a Can-Am out onto the street: I drove and Cari was the passenger, and Cari rode it around in the parking lot. They're fun and (relatively) safe: ABS, traction control, electronic stability program, semi-automatic transmission. I wouldn't have a problem at all with Cari taking one out for rides, etc. after building up confidence. They work fine with two passengers, too - I drove and Cari sat in the back. They are very easy to ride and stable.

(Do you live in Virginia? I have an offer from Can-Am for free three day training. Let me know if you are interested.)

This morning I saw a motorcyclist stranded near the local gas station, so I drove him the short distance to his home so he could get his wife to take him to work. Enter my Samaritan of the Road good deed into the Biker Books...

3 July 2018

I bought myself a cooler pair of gloves yesterday. I have been riding with a pair that are suitable for fall, winter and early spring - but not summer. My new ones are padded and "armored" (plastic bits over the knuckles), but are generally mesh and are somewhat shorter and much cooler.

Riding into work this morning I can feel the air flowing around my fingers. When I ride on warm days with my other gloves my hands sweat and the gloves get difficult to put on and get off - which is a problem because I'm generally doing this all day.

One of the things I do at night is watch motorcycle crash videos on YouTube. Whenever I admit this to other motorcyclists, they cringe. Why do this? Because, "Wise men learn from their mistakes. Wiser men learn from the mistakes of others." I'm watching these analytically and asking myself, "Would I find myself in this situation? If so, how would I react?" It must be admitted that the great majority of these videos are of young men on sport bikes doing foolish things: Wheelies, going into turns way too fast and otherwise just riding aggressively and running into (sometimes fatal) problems. That's not my ride.

According to the Hurt Report (yes, that's what it's actually called), the great majority of crashes with new motorcycle riders occur within the first six months of riding. I have now ridden 3 months; I'm halfway through this dire statistic.

A friend of mine suggested a ride to New Market, VA on Friday, but the current weather forecast is for 100% chance of thunderstorms. This pleases me not at all.

9 July 2018

I was expecting thunderstorms on Friday but they never really turned up. I took a little motorcycle ride to Manassas (using a woodlands route) and back (using I-95) in the morning, just as light rain drops started appearing on my visor. During this trip I found a Civil War site that I didn't know about - something of a surprise given that I've lived in Northern Virginia for over thirty years as a major Civil War buff! (VIDEO - I called it the "Better than Nothing Ride.")

The rain really didn't develop - so after vacuuming in the house in the afternoon I took another ride, this time towards Mount Vernon and up the George Washington Memorial Parkway into Alexandria. No video for that one, but there probably will be one someday when I repeat the ride...

Saturday! I found my GoPro! It was in one of the only places it could have been, in my VW, in the trunk. Apparently I must have laid it down in there for a moment when we went to the pool on July 4th. I only found it when I took out the tan convertible top cover and flipped it off. So I used it to take a video of Saturday's next adventure, test riding a Harley Trike at a Harley-Davidson dealership.

This was... a bit disappointing. In terms of three-wheeled motorcycles and overall ride experience, I found that I liked the BRP Can-Am better, mainly because steering one was a less twitchy experience. They look weird, but they ride better. Cari certainly found that the Can-Am (with the semi-automatic transmission) was a far more welcoming and straightforward experience than the Harley. I also like the safety features built into a Can-Am that a Harley Trike does not have: ABS, traction control and the electronic steering program. I suppose had I spent a couple of days in a class with a Harley Trike the way we did with the Can-Am I'd probably like it more - but there it is. It doesn't look like we'll be buying a Harley Trike after all.

Yesterday I took Cari on a motorcycle ride to where I park near work and back again, nearly an hour's ride and about 23 miles round trip. This was my longest two-person ride thus far. I'm becoming more comfortable with it - but while the 800cc Suzuki Boulevard will ride two, it would be a more stable and reassuring ride on a bike with a touring frame and big engine...

10 July 2018

I replaced the final gear oil in Marva the motorcycle yesterday. (The Suzuki Boulevard M50 is shaft-driven.) It wasn't hard or time-consuming to do and was probably needed. Next up: Flush and replace the coolant. That's harder; it requires that I lift and possibly remove the gas tank to access the radiator cap. I suppose I should also replace the spark plugs as long as I'm in there.

While I am indeed a beginner motorcyclist, I have twice demonstrated a valuable skill: bringing home a Burger Joint Diet Coke in a cup in my saddlebag without spilling any of it. I did that yesterday.

11 July 2018

It can't really be, but it seems my Suzuki Boulevard rides smoother now that I've changed the oil, the coolant and the final gear oil. I'm sure it's really just my imagination. Next up: spark plugs. I'll probably need to get the Denso X22EPR-U9 or NGK DPR7EA-9 plugs from the dealership. The local auto parts place doesn't carry them, or has an Autolite substitution. Japanese parts for a Japanese bike!

I found a place that has a Kawasaki Vulcan Voyager. I plan to stop by on Friday. I want to test ride one of these, or a Vulcan Vaquero... Thus far, I have ridden ten bikes: three Can-Ams, three Harleys, two Suzukis, a Zero, a Victory and an Indian. If I were Donald Trump and could buy anything regardless of cost I'd probably get the Indian Springfield right now...

Nice ride into work this morning - the sky was lit orange from the rising sun. Very pretty. I gave a thumb's up to an older dude passing by on a Harley Trike, flying a U.S. flag and a POW flag. The usual two fingers down "keep the shiny side up" gesture isn't really appropriate for a Trike as you can't (easily) drop those.

Last night I stopped for a guy on a chopper who was pulled over to the side with his seat removed; turns out he was having some kind of electrical problem and help was on the way. He didn't need a ride.

12 July 2018

Yesterday I confirmed something a Harley salesman told me on Saturday: Virginia motorcyclists and bicyclists can run red lights - sort of. Because motorcycles aren't always sensed by the strips at traffic lights, a biker can exit (with care!) after two minutes or two light cycles, whichever is shorter. I have personally observed this phenomena at a couple of intersections near where I live and, yes, applied the law to my own situation - ahem! -  without being aware of it.

13 July 2018

I took my bike over to Coleman Power Sports in Woodbridge to buy a couple of spark plugs but found they could replace my tires while I waited, so I did that. I put on Michelins... New shoes for Marva!

New motorcycle tires are somewhat slippery, and must be ridden on and scrubbed up for about 100 miles before they take on their long term grip and ride characteristics. (There were signs all over Coleman notifying service customers of this.) So, nervous, I ran the bike around in the parking lot a bit to see just how slippery they were. And then I warily rode out onto the streets of Woodbridge. As it turns out, it wasn't a problem. Not the way I ride, anyway. I got around just fine with nary a skid or slip.

By the way, while at Coleman I spoke with a sales guy who is a self-proclaimed Harley guy, and I asked him about a rumor I've been hearing from other Harley guys about Harley transmissions. It seems like they have transmissions where it can be a challenge to find neutral gear. He confirmed that, yes, they do have that reputation. This is a problem I had with my learner bike in my beginner's safety course, and represents a deal-breaker for me: I have to be able to reliably find neutral all the time. I don't want to be sitting at intersections screwing around with the transmission trying to find neutral when I should be paying attention to other things. Hm. If and when I do test ride another Harley this is an important test. (I have no problem with my Suzuki in this regard, and the Indian and Kawasaki were fine, too. I did notice this while test riding the Harley Trike last weekend.)

My second stop was a Kawasaki dealership up the street from Coleman to test ride a 2018 Kawasaki Vulcan Voyager, a big, heavy, full dress bike. (VIDEO.) It's a pretty bike with lots of features: only $17,400 out the door (that includes taxes, dealer prep, title, etc.)! (Late scratch: The sales guy contacted me via text. Now it's $16,750!) Wow. Price-wise it compares very favorably with a Harley or an Indian: Kawasaki - with the traditional Japanese build quality - gives you a lot of bang for the buck. And I like the way it rode. BUT. Do I really want or need a full dresser bike? I don't know. How many intercontinental trips am I planning to take, anyway? It's another thing to decide.

I left this second dealership and took a series of scenic country roads and byways through central Prince William county and Fauquier county to my next stop: Goldvein, Virginia, site of a Virginia gold mining museum. There was actually gold mining in Virginia? Yes... and it is explained here. (VIDEO.) I knew of Goldvein before as in the Nineties there used to be a small television station broadcasting from there; I used to watch the international films they aired. I never supposed that it was named Goldvein because of actual gold mining activity, but I should have known better. Virginia is a place with literal place names. If you come across a Gallows Road, yes, they used to hang people there. If you are on Old Keene Mill Road, yes, there was a mill there owned by the Keene family, etc.

I chatted with a patient and helpful county employee there for nearly an hour, then headed to a Bojangles on Route 17 for lunch, then merged onto I-95 north for home. By the time I got home I put nearly 100 miles on those fresh tires.

15 July 2018

I did another (far briefer) ride to further scrub up my tires. Went home when it started raining lightly. New tires + rain = no thanks.

17 July 2018

Wheeeeeee! I replaced the spark plugs in my Suzuki motorcycle last night, and took it for a little test ride. It is punchier. That and the new tires have improved the bike's ride characteristics. I had a nervous couple of minutes with the spark plugs; at one point I had a difficult time extracting one of them. I had to use a long flexible grabber tool to get the plug out of the deep housing.  I think next I'm going to adjust the clutch. I'd like the friction zone in a position to grab more readily, more like a hydraulic clutch.

18 July 2018

My motorcycle maintenance was continued yesterday when I adjusted the clutch and replaced the (expensive) air filter. In fact, it was the most expensive air filter I have ever purchased! This month I've done an oil and oil filter change, final drive oil change, coolant flush, new spark plugs, new tires, new air cleaner... I'm done for the time being. The parts guys didn't give me the right filter at first - Arrrgh! - I had to go back and get the right part.

How important is it to have a clean air filter? Well, engines have to breath and obviously you want the cleanest air going into the compression chambers you can provide (free of leaf particles, bugs, grease, etc.), but in reality there's a lot of tolerance. It's worth mentioning, however, that I once fixed a car that was having stalling problems by simply replacing the world's cruddiest air cleaner. It was so clogged it was actually starving the engine for oxygen! This was not my car, by the way.

I mentioned that installing new plugs made the bike zippier and more responsive. Changing out the spark plugs made a difference in the bike's top end, too. I was on I-95 yesterday and found I could more easily reach 70-75 mph. In fact yesterday I got to 77 mph, a new record for me on that bike. But it still wants a sixth gear. The 800cc Suzuki engine kind of runs out of breath at around 75 mph. (Well - with me on it, it does.)

Back to air cleaners: Like just about everything else associated with motorcycles, air cleaners come in a wide variety of custom styles and designs. Naturally, there are skulls. Here's one with red eyes, flames and vampire teeth. The only way he could be more terrifying is if he was also holding a ballot with the circles next to the Republican candidates filled in.

I'm pretty sure I have blogged before about my aversion to death's heads. No matter how bad I am, think I am or am destined to become, I just can't have this. I once saw a used Harley Road King in a showroom; skulls everywhere. I'd be spending hundreds of dollars removing all that stuff. For me, a skull signifies Golgotha - or the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.

19 July 2018

A brisk, cool and pleasant motorcycle ride into work this morning unaffected by the fact that the taillights of a Jaguar sedan were glaring at me almost the entire way. And it's hard to believe how much better that bike rides with the new tires and spark plugs. Sometimes, on smooth pavement, it almost feels like it's gliding. And the sky was spectacular as the sun was rising: red, orange, light blue... at one point I noticed the colors were reflected in the chrome of my headlight, making it look somewhat cosmic.

I might get to ride a friend's Harley Road King today at work. I'm still deciding if that's the long term bike for me; my initial impression of one in Utah was very positive. When I told my youngest daughter I was interested in that Kawasaki full dress bike she offered sage advice: Don't buy a motorcycle simply because it's a good deal. Buy the one you really want. I'm not sure what that is yet, but I've got the list narrowed down.

I was disappointed with the Harley Trike. I thought perhaps that was the ride for me (us), but I was unhappy with how twitchy the steering was in a one-wheel-at-front-two-wheels-in-back configuration. One quick swerve to avoid a pothole and the whole trike does an unnerving, convulsive shake to the left or right. They look weird, but I'm much more content with the ride with the Can-Am configuration (two wheels in front, one wheel in back). Can-Ams are fun!

20 July 2018

Checking weather... hmmm... mid-80s in the afternoon and partly sunny, no real chance of rain. Yep! Friday is again a motorcycle ride day! But where to go...?

Southern Maryland! I plan to ride out to the Indian Head Highway and head south onto Chicamuxen Road, and then south to Riverside Road and head back north. In other words, make a big circle around a place called Ironsides, Maryland. With lunch somewhere that looks like about a three or four hour local ride. Hm. I see there's a Harley-Davidson dealership just off of Indian Head Highway on Livingston Road. I may have to stop in. Test ride a new Road King with the Milwaukee 8 engine, maybe?

Doing a google search for the Harley dealership I found an exceptionally cool circa 1925 photo of a Harley dealership in Washington D.C. (Somebody colorized it.) The location of this place was on H Street, NW in D.C. - Chinatown.

There will certainly be a video posted on Monday.

Yesterday I rode a co-worker's Harley Road King a little. I had no shifting problems with it, and once again without knowing it I was up to 50 mpg. Those bikes are exactly like the cars with big engines from the Sixties - you get in them and without intending to you're speeding along because they have power to spare. That was my thirteenth motorcycle and my fourth Harley I've ridden.

23 July 2018

I did indeed take a ride in Southern Maryland on Friday; it was fun! (VIDEO - I forgot to bring my GoPro! Grrrrr.) My wife and I need to do that ride when the leaves start changing color in the fall, it ought to be spectacular!

I test rode a 2018 Harley-Davidson Road King, the one with the new Milwaukee 8 engine. The Mil-8 is indeed somewhat smoother than the 103 it replaced. It was very nice... I noticed no finding neutral issues at all with the transmission. However, the shifter was set a bit low and I had a tricky time getting my boot under the shifter between the lever and the foot pad, and so I gave up and simply started using the heel shifter for the first time. I can see why people say once you get used to a heel shifter you won't go back. Yes, this is easier. The dealership's price on it was very good, which suggests where my counter-offers can be if and when I ever negotiate a price for a new Road King.

24 July 2018

There's a Harley-Davidson plant in York, Pennsylvania about three hours north of us. They offer free plant tours. We ought to go...  but it isn't offered on weekends. Hm.

25 July 2018

Last night I watched the Georgia Ramblin' Man's assessment of the Indian Springfield after he rented one for a week in New England. (He normally rides a 800cc Suzuki Boulevard as I do.) If it came to buying a Harley Road King or an Indian Springfield, he'd take the Harley - mainly because, (1) The Indian seat is uncomfortable for long rides, (2) The engine puts out a lot of heat at stops and slow speeds, and (3) Harley has a superior dealer network to Indian. Okay, then... this is helpful information. The seat is a real deal-breaker for me. My Suzuki Boulevard has a cruiser seat, not a touring seat. After a little over an hour in it my lower back begins to hurt and I find myself shifting around. The usual remedy for Boulevard owners is to replace the seat with a $500 Mustang replacement seat, but I'm probably not going to do that. I'd rather move up to a bike with a larger frame and a more powerful engine.

26 July 2018

I had an interesting motorcycle ride into work this morning - it was foggy and humid, which meant that my visor kept fogging up. A lot of the time I had it partially open on the detent to clear the fog, but doing that directs wind into my eyes. I don't like it at speeds greater than about 30 miles per hour. It occurred to me that what I really needed was about a 1/4" gap. A flattened cigarette butt would probably work, but I don't have a supply of those. (Some biker I am!)

My new favorite motorcycle video: a beginning rider puts a GoPro on his helmet and gets a video of his very first experience out on the street. It alternates between being amusing and terrifying. I'd never do this. Being a mature, wary man and an engineer, I went about it differently.

I practiced in a parking lot well before I felt ready to take my bike out onto streets, and that was only after rush hour when I knew the residential streets near my house would be uncrowded. Looking back on it, I'm satisfied with the way I created a riding skills progression: Three day safety course, parking lot practice using increasing speeds, uncrowded residential street experience, city street experience, limited parkway speeds, lengthier rides, city streets in increasing amounts of traffic, commuting to and from work, test riding more powerful bikes, higher and more sustained parkway speeds, multi-hour rides, riding in rain, riding in heat, limited riding on gravel, interstate and higher freeway speeds, express lane merges and speeds. I've built up my abilities and confidence bit by bit in the past four months. I'm now at the point where I feel I'm ready for a touring class Harley-Davidson and longer rides.

In fact... I was listening to a podcast about a rider describing his "Big Stupid" - insanely long rides. (One notable one was around Iceland.) The idea of taking a motorcycle across the United States appeals to me now; I want to do this sometime.

Still - I wish I had self-canceling turn signals! I ride around with a turn signal on way too often! Being a car driver you don't appreciate how wonderful an invention self-cancelling turn signals are.

27 July 2018

The weather forecast: "Partly cloudy in the morning followed by scattered thunderstorms in the afternoon. High 89F. Chance of rain 15-35%." Hmmm.

After peering at Google Maps I have today's motorcycle destination: the Stafford Civil War Park in Stafford, VA - a place I have never visited.

From the website: "Opened in April 2013, the Stafford Civil War Park is the site of 1863 winter encampments and fortifications of the Union Army’s 11th Corps, 1st and 3rd Divisions, following the December 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg. Many of the soldiers referred to the site and that winter, then and afterwards, as their 'Valley Forge.' Over 3,500 soldiers died throughout Stafford County during that winter. Situated on 41 acres, park visitors can see and learn about Civil War era battery and winter hut site remains, a corduroy road, a late 18th and early 19th century sandstone quarry, and remnants of the 1660s Potomac Church Road bed."

Okay, I'm in! And this time I'll make sure to bring the GoPro camera. Video to be linked here later - or, you can go to my YouTube motorcycle videos playlist page to find it.

Afterwards, I think a visit to the Fredericksburg Indian dealership (only 17 miles away) is a good plan. Maybe test ride another Springfield... And then I'll head north on I-95 to get back to Springfield before the promised thunderstorms arrive.

30 July 2018

As promised, I did indeed venture down to the Stafford Civil War Park on Friday. It was interesting! (VIDEO - At fifteen minutes the video is a bit long, but I did it that way for people who probably wouldn't ever make it out to the park. I got one good comment right away: "Interesting video! Ever since you got your trusted motorcycle and started taking videos I have been able to see places like this civil war park that I didn't know existed." Yep. That's one reason why I take them.)

I was going to test ride an Indian Springfield at the dealership I visited, but, due to approaching thunderstorms, I decided not to. I spent my time instead heading out to the Spotsylvania battlefield to get the GoPro video I didn't before. That video is here. (If you object to the folky 1961 Wayfarers Trio music I used, turn the volume off!) Finally, the last part of my Friday ride (Harley dealership, I-95 and Route 1 traffic) is here.

It was a pleasant ride down I-95 to get there, but heading north in the afternoon was a little chancy. I thought I would be spending time underneath an overpass waiting out a thunderstorm, but that didn't happen. A fast-moving system dumped rain ahead of me. I never got a drop!

31 July 2018

Yesterday I had lunch with my rugby pal Kelly, who happens to be a longtime biker. You can imagine what most of the conversation consisted of. I am such an inept liar... just to see his reaction I was going to reveal to him that my beginner bike was a used Suzuki Hayabusa (a sportbike that can do 180+ mph), which I found "twitchy," but instead I blurted out that I ride a Boulevard. Dang!

1 August 2018

I rode my motorcycle to work this morning on wet pavement. It was no big deal. On fresh tires with plenty of tread I simply rode carefully, not doing anything extreme (my usual riding style) and avoiding painted surfaces, which tend to be slippery. I read somewhere that even in the pouring rain you still have about 80% of the traction you'd have on dry pavement, so I was fine. No fears - just some wariness.

2 August 2018

I didn't bike into work today because of the threat of thunderstorms during the rush hour home. But the sky was beautiful once again this morning; it would have been reflected attractively in the chrome headlight housing on my Suzuki. I was admiring the reflection of the sky and clouds on it as I rode home yesterday.

I have come to a conclusion: Any bike I own will have to have a heavily-chromed headlight nacelle. That's a part of the visual cues that say "motorcycle" to me. The Harley-Davidson Road King and the Indian Springfield both have this design feature. A few months ago I was concerned about wind blast and thought I'd want a fairing rather than a chrome nacelle, but I now think, for the riding I commonly do wearing a full face helmet, a removable windshield will be adequate. I've been riding without one since the end of May and I'm fine on the freeway doing 60+ mph. Now, were I to ride all day at freeway speeds for days at a time, that might be different. But I don't do that. (Yet.)

Fact is, I like the wind and breezes. A film set in a windy locale will always attract me, and my idea of a perfect place to live is a place that is often gusty. The wind blowing outside the house is like music to my ears.

A thing I often see on my motorcycle journeys in the Virginia countryside: high voltage lines and stanchions spread off into the distance. I find these very picturesque. I don't know why. Nothing says "country" to me more than a line of power stanchions going off into the distance. Some photographers make careers out of obsessively covering one visual topic - I suppose I could make this mine. High Powered Art. (The closest thing I have is a photo gallery of weathervanes, which I also find fascinating.) Next time I see this I really need to pull over and get an image.

The other day I mentioned having lunch with a rugby friend who also happens to be an avid motorcyclist. Turns out he owns a 1975 Harley-Davidson FLH. When I got back to my desk I started looking these up. Guess who also owned a 1975 Harley FLH? Elvis. I always knew Kelly was cool - this confirms it. My pal Avery once owned a 1973 Mazda 1600 Sport Truck; in high school we'd gather on the Astro-turfed flatbed to have our lunch. Because of this association the 1973 Mazda Sport Truck has always been esteemed by me as being the coolest of mini-trucks. The '75 Harley FLH joins that list, along with the 1965 Karmann-Ghia my father had and the 1972 Ford LTD Brougham I learned to drive in.

3 August 2018

So. Friday. Normally I head out on a motorcycle somewhere. From 9 AM to Noon the forecast is cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms anywhere from 0% to 20%. At 1 PM to 3 PM that chance increases from 40% to 50%. Do I chance it? I don't know. Maybe I'll do a short "Better Than Nothing" ride. There are some Civil War Trail stops in nearby Manassas I'm unfamiliar with. Maybe I'll ride to those.

6 August 2018

I did a "Better than Nothing" ride to Manassas on Friday; here's that video. I dodged the thunderstorms... I liked seeing the Quaker guns! (These are logs stripped of bark and painted black to resemble, at a distance, cannon. The purpose is to fake out Union observers.) As much tourism as I've done on Civil War sites in the past 34 years I've never seen one before. I also learned who the local Henderson Road is named for.

9 August 2018

I had a delightful ride in to work this morning, cool and brisk. Did I mention that I am now parking (for free) around a park that is a closer walk than my former spot? Well, I am. There are little slots to fit a motorcycle that a cop has "blessed"; he said he wouldn't issue a ticket and, probably, neither would anyone else. I've seen other bikes parking there - in addition to a heavily-traveled 1992 Suzuki VS 800 Intruder that is the model forerunner to the Suzuki I have. (It goes Intruder -> Volusia -> Boulevard.)

Hey! I've put almost 3,000 miles on my bike in four months! That's about 187 miles a week, "knees in the breeze." Tomorrow is Friday - and the forecast is great! Ambitious motorcycling plans underway.

10 August 2018

The weather forecast for the northern Shenandoah Valley is good! Partly cloudy from high 70s to mid 80s with at most a 15% chance of showers.

My plan for today: No longer intimidated by interstates and freeway speeds I'll take I-66 for about 70 or 80 minutes to Strasburg, Virginia at the north end of the Shenandoah Valley, stop briefly, then take Route 48 into West-By-God-Virginia along what is known as "Corridor H" for some distance. A West Virginian co-worker told me about it. He said he sees motorcycles there all the time, which tells me something. It looks scenic and pleasant, and I've never been there before. I might also visit the Warren Rifles Confederate Museum in Strasburg.

I'll take scenic Route 55 back home from Front Royal if not pressed for time.

13 August 2018

I had a SPLENDID biking day in great weather on Friday. As planned, I rode all the way out to Strasburg, VA then rode to West Virginia via route 48 and, after having lunch at the Kac-Ka-Pon in Wardensville, traveled upon a short length of Corridor H. That video is here. I rode 242 miles there and back...

I wanted to see what 250 miles on a bike was like in case I ever get to travel across the country. I'd do it in 250-300 mile increments. Yes, it's doable - especially on a big Harley. On my Suzuki cruiser my rear end hurt after about an hour, but that's because it doesn't have a touring seat like on a Harley touring class bike (Road King, Street Glide, Road Glide, Ultra).

I also wanted to see what difference a windshield or fairing would make. Since late May I've been riding without the windshield. On Friday morning I did sustained speeds of 65-75 mph on I-66 for a bit more than an hour... Yes, I'd want a windshield if I were to make a practice of that. Also, I'd want hearing protection! The wind noise on the helmet for that long is objectionable. At the end of the day I felt a little like I had been in a rock concert or something.

15 August 2018

A cool and enjoyable motorcycle ride into work this morning. I saw a huge flock of birds darting around in the sky, something I probably wouldn't have noticed in a car. It's true, when you're on a bike you are much more a part of the landscape and the road than when you're in a car.

The trick is, of course, to remain unsmeared upon the landscape.

16 August 2018

Wanderlust. I had a nice ride into work this morning on my bike, but was disappointed when I arrived at my destination, a little space around an oval-shaped urban park in Alexandria. What I really wanted to do was just keep going. Maybe north to Massachusetts or New Hampshire to visit first cousins on my mother's side I have never met, or west to Hannibal, Missouri to take the Mark Twain home tour, or south to Atlanta, Nashville or some other Civil War battlefield site place I've never seen. 

Tomorrow is Friday, and so I shall calculate the chances of thunderstorms and come up with a motorcycle excursion somewhere. Not an epic West Virginia ride again so soon... somewhere closer, I think. I'm growing fond of Manassas and Fredericksburg. The places have been there during the last 31 years I've been a Virginian, but they seem more fun traveled to on two wheels for some reason. Hm. Perhaps it's time I tried the Chancellorsville Stonewall Jackson flank march road. A good portion of that is gravel. It would be a good test/learning experience/confidence builder for me. Motorcycling on gravel is like riding in the rain: minimize lean and don't attempt anything sudden.

17 August 2018

The weather forecast is good, my bike is gassed up, the battery on the GoPro is charged, my ice water Thermos is filled and the roads beckon. I think the plan today is to head down to the Chancellorsville battlefield - but we'll see. I may venture off onto some other road based on whim.

20 August 2018

Thursday: Short motorcycle video about Fort Washington. I learned an important rule. After donating blood be sure to fully hydrate oneself before heading out into the heat. Whew.

Friday was great! I biked down to Chancellorsville Battlefield, and... well... here's the video. I successfully passed my Gravel Test and, at a light near Fredericksburg, saw a biker light a cigarette before merging onto I-95. How does one smoke a cigarette in the face of a 70+ mile per hour wind? Well - I was impressed. I got my Suzuki up to 87 mph (a new motorcycle speed record for me) on I-95. It is absolutely not comfortable! That bike, a cruiser, not a tourer, is happiest at between 60-70 mph.

Saturday: After some errands with my wife a friend and I made the scene (as Dad used to say) at the Fairfax Harley dealership. They had a basic black 2016 Road King (103 cubic inch engine) with ABS for $16,000 (but that price is negotiable). Tax, fee and other stuff adds another $1,000. Nice - excepting the minor scuff when the bike got dropped on the crash bar at some point in its history. BUT - I sat on a Honda Gold Wing and started the engine. No vibration at all. Before I pull the trigger on a Harley I really feel the necessity of trying a Honda Gold Wing, just to be complete. Guys that ride them love them. I need to call Coleman Powersports in Falls Church and arrange for a test ride.

There are Honda People and Harley People just as there are Chevy and Ford People. Which am I? My friend Avery: "Honda bikes have the annoying habit of always starting." "You know why guys on Gold Wings never wave back? They're looking for the button that does that." My son-in-law: "I'd rather see my sister in a whore house than a brother on a Honda." And so it goes... 

27 August 2018

My daughter and granddaughter are visiting, but on Friday my wife took them shopping at Tyson's Mall for the day. So on Friday I left them for a mother-daughter day and test rode a Honda Gold Wing - that video is here. A four cylinder motorcycle with a fully automatic transmission, wow. It was wonderful... very smooth and refined. I can't imagine a motorcycle more technologically advanced than this bike. (It's $28,000 out the door with tax, fees, etc. - somewhat more than my VW convertible car!) But is this what I want? No, not really. As good as this bike is - and it is very good - for me a motorcycle is more like a Harley Road King. I'm more a Harley guy than a Honda guy, I think.

Also on Friday I took a little jaunt out to The Plains, Virginia - Video.

28 August 2018

I'm told by a number of sources that the chopper scene (that is, radically customized motorcycles) is dead, and that these things are today worth only a fraction of the tens of thousands of dollars invested in them. I can't say that I lament the passing of choppers - I never thought they were cool. I remember they were all the rage when Easy Rider was released in 1969 (I was 13), and I saw a few episodes of that reality show about the guys who built these things for a living. But it seems that the new generation esteemeth them not, and that they are in the process of dying out like the people who can recite "The Ballad of the Minnow" from repeated childhood viewings of Gilligan's Island.

Which brings me to a really funny video by a guy named Sean who runs a business in Pennsylvania selling used motorcycles; he takes an especially ridiculous example of a chopper out on the road for a test ride. The thing has an open primary belt running from the (huge) engine to the transmission just waiting to suck up any loose bits of clothing or shoelaces - or fingers. For some inexplicable reason the bike has all kinds of machined metal pointy bits for impaling the rider during an accident, and the rider's view is pretty much limited to the gas tank - which has a dragon painted thereupon. It has no gauges so there's no telling how fast you're travelling, and there is no suspension. Potholes in the road are transmitted directly up the rider's spinal column. But it's stylish!

I've been reading motorcycle forums here and there as of late, and have become aware that a major division between bikers forms around Harleys and sportbikes. To what might be called the "Sportbike Community," Harleys are considered to be slow, low tech, underpowered and, basically, much like your grandfather's Oldsmobile: boring. I watch a lot of motorcycle crash videos on YouTube (I do it to learn from others' mistakes) and have seen countless young men rearing up on their Japanese bikes pulling wheelies - only to fall over backwards, flinging bits of broken plastic everywhere and removing great swaths of skin from their (often) unprotected arms. There is much swearing when this happens, and the helmet-mounted GoPro usually also contains video of another motorcyclist staring into the rider's helmet asking, "You okay, Bro?" I remain unconvinced that this is better quality motorcycling than can be found upon my grandfather's Harley.

But, hey, I'm 62.

The subject of horsepower comes up in biker forums frequently. Harley-Davidson is not in the habit of releasing horsepower specifications for their bikes, for good reason. By and large their engines are unimpressive in this regard. Harley emphasizes torque, which is what you want in the touring world. In the sportbike world horsepower is king, and when this is thrown in some Harley guy's face the response is something along the lines of, "Horsepower will get you into more trouble than horsepower will get you out of," which I find persuasive.

But, hey, I'm 62.

The 50 cubic inch V-twin engine on my 2008 Suzuki Boulevard produces about 50 horsepower. It propels my 544 pound bike with an acceleration and at a rate of speed which I can easily use to injure myself if I decide to become an idiot. The used 814 pound Harley Road King I might someday buy with its 103 cubic inch V-twin engine produces about... 76 horsepower. It doesn't seem like much of an improvement, but I have ridden one of these and compared to my Suzuki it rides like a Cadillac. I suppose the difference is torque. I also like the greater stability and centeredness in the larger frame; it engenders confidence at higher speeds, which is what you want in a touring bike. 

29 August 2018

AAUUUGGGHHHH! I dropped my bike! Well, actually, I leaned my bike. Into the car.

This morning shortly after 6 AM I pulled the Hyundai out of the garage and then wheeled my bike out to close the garage door. I set the kickstand - or I thought I set the kickstand - and started to walk away when I heard the heartbreaking sound of 544 pounds of metal and rubber crash into the side of my car, near the front tire.

I'm not sure why this happened. Either the kickstand was not fully forward and locked or the bike's position in the dip where the Aco drain is located was an uncertain footing (that's what I think). At any rate it broke off my left side mirror; I'll be buying another. Riding without it makes left lane merges trickier. As far as I can tell that's the only damage to bike, car or Aco drain. Pulling the bike upright wasn't difficult as it wasn't fully down. (And I'm a big guy.)

So what have I learned? Park the bike on flat pavement and avoid the Aco drain!

30 August 2018

That little morning drop incident yesterday with my bike cost me $100 for a new Suzuki mirror. It's on order and will arrive tomorrow or early next week. But the exercise had me thinking: How much would it have been had it been a Harley? 2X? 3X?

I've been reading about the Harley air-cooled engine's characteristic of producing ample amounts of heat at stops and in traffic on hot days - heat which is transmitted upwards for the rider to enjoy. (The Indian's air-cooled engine does it, too.) This is especially a problem with the Harley's exhaust system with a catalytic converter; many owners simply have the cats removed, because motorcycles don't get smog tested. But with Kawasaki's (lower cost) water-cooled Vulcan Voyager, there's a built in heat management system that directs the heat away from the rider. Hmmm. Water-cooled...

Frankly, I'm growing a bit tired of trying to decide upon what bike comes next. For about $760 I can get a comfortable seat and install a crash bar with highway pegs on my Boulevard. Maybe I should just do that and simply stay in the slow lane of the freeway.

Wanty wanty, want want want. I don't enjoy having the wants. I'm mature enough to realize that a Harley Road King will not make me a more content person - that only comes from within. Last night I watched an entertaining and thoughtful video from a biker on that very theme: Why Getting Your Dream Bike WON'T Make You Happy. My comment: "I'm 62 and life has taught me the truth of what you say. Contentment comes from within. The happiest man isn't the one who gets what he thinks he needs, but is content with what he has."

To be honest, I'm always a little nervous when I get what I want. Here's what runs through my head:

(1) This is a path to financial ruin.
(2) I don't really deserve this.
(3) It'll prove to be a disappointment and then I'll be unhappy.
(4) Did I strong-arm my poor wife into this?
(5) Is this really me? Or am I playing at something?
(6) What if I break it? Then I'll be unhappy.

And so on. One of the problems with the examined life is that one can over-think things.

You have to hand it to Harley-Davidson. Despite all their advertising tapping into a culture that seems to be about the working man and gritty industrial America, the fact is that, with their pricing, Harleys are luxury items. $38,000 for a new full dresser touring bike? Please. That's $10,000 more than I paid for my last car!

Back to the mirror: I rode in to work again this morning - the thunderstorm that was forecast held off - and noted the difference that a missing left mirror makes. Merging into a left lane requires me to turn my head and look. Not a bad practice, of course, but I'll be better off when that replacement mirror arrives.

It's not like I have a big ride planned for tomorrow. I don't. The forecast is for a good chance for scattered thunderstorms. I'll probably just do another one of my shorter "Better than Nothing" rides. (I have one in mind.) And that's fine. Fall will bring less rainy weather (it always does), and I'll head back out to West Virginia to try some of the roads northeast of Wardensville. When I was in the visitor's center there I got a "Ride the High 5" pamphlet extolling the sights of WV roads. Good work, WV.

31 August 2018

The weather is okay now but thunderstorms might move into the area at about 2 PM. So that means I do one of my Better Than Nothing rides for this particular Friday.

I think I'll go to Mount Vernon, and then take the George Washington Memorial Highway into and past Alexandria, then up along the west bank of the Potomac, past Fort Marcy, link up to the Beltway, take Connecticut Avenue north to the D.C. Mormon Temple, then head south along various roads and the Rock Creek Parkway through D.C. back into Virginia. After that... I'm not sure. Maybe into Quantico. I have a route I want to try down there. Depends upon the weather...

3 September 2018

My Friday motorcycle ride was an extended "Better than Nothing" ride because the rain and thunderstorms held off. The video is here. (Yes, I know, it's too long.) I did two things I had in my mind and wanted to do: (1) I took the George Washington Memorial Parkway its entire length from Mount Vernon to the beltway - 25 miles, and (2) I re-took the ride down Possum Point Road where we once test rode a Harley Trike. The Possum Point ride was fun because I accompanied a Harley salesman and a guy who was test riding a Heritage Classic. I also picked up my replacement mirror at Coleman Powersports - hooray!

5 September 2018

Having awakened somewhat in advance of when I normally get up, I left the house on my bike earlier, by about 15 minutes. Wow, it's getting darker these days! You can really tell that we're getting less daylight. And, on a motorcycle, this brings some challenges...

On darker mornings you can't see potholes or edge traps as well as you can when the sun is out. But I've ridden into work enough now that I know where the rough pavement is. Still... it's interesting. A feature of what one might call end-of-season or off-season motorcycling.

I plan to ride as long as I can. I have a thick leather jacket and heavy gloves to ward off the cold, but my legs will get cold. We'll see how long my riding season is!

7 September 2018

The weather forecast for today isn't promising: a 20% chance of scattered thundershowers again, with the rain beginning in earnest at about 2 PM. I guess I'll do yet another one of my trademark Better than Nothing rides. Ah, but where to?

Perhaps the Bristoe Station Battlefield Heritage Park, south and west of Manassas. That's not a long trip and I haven't been there since 2009. And then south to the historical little Prince William County hamlet of Brentsville - same comment.

10 September 2018

Despite concerns about rain I got a full day of motorcycling in on Friday. Here's that video - I rode to Brentsville, Bristow, Catlett and Brandy Station - 120 miles. Sadly, the Brandy Station Graffiti House wasn't open, but I visited there in 2009 and took photos...

11 September 2018

Yesterday I attached a wooden broomstick to my motorcycle, attached a GoPro to the broomstick, and came up with this. It was not an optimal mount as it somewhat interfered with my manipulation of the clutch. No bueno. My friend Bob said it looked kind of scary. It looked far worse than it was; I was perfectly safe.

Interesting news in the motorcycling world yesterday... BRP announced the new Can-Am Ryker, a 500 or 900cc three-wheeled bike that starts at only $8,500! It comes standard with traction control, ABS, stability control and fully automatic transmission - this might be just the thing for Cari someday! Can-Ams are fun... I have blogged about this before.  

12 September 2018

I hate the City of Alexandria.

For the past four months or so at work I have been parking my car on the road for free (on the occasions like this morning when rain is expected and I bring my car and not a motorcycle). There's an out of the way spot people park at - which was totally fine with the police and parking enforcement as long as you parked to the right of the no parking sign. Tax-hungry control freak Alexandra changed that; now you can't park there anymore. They re-signed it. They just can't stand to have people parking anywhere in the city for free. There is tax revenue to be gained, so that the city officials can spend it to demonstrate how virtuous they are - in order to get reelected.

I can still park my motorcycle for free on nearby city streets - so far. There are some little unsigned spaces I can fit into. But I suppose the weasels at parking enforcement will shut those down eventually, too. BIG GOVERNMENT.

13 September 2018

Hurricane Florence is in the news, but it appears that it is going be well south of the greater Washington D.C. area where I live. Still, we'll get some rain. Just enough to screw up the Shenandoah Valley ride I was planning with a friend for tomorrow. (Forecast: 65% - 75% chance of thunderstorms.)

I might try a little "Better Than Nothing" ride locally. 

I got an invitation to join a Marine Corps veteran's motorcycle riding club yesterday. This was unexpected. I need to fully ponder it. (There are major differences between a riding club and a motorcycle club.) My initial take is that, being a beginner, for the near future I need to remain a solo rider for various reasons, safety being one.  

Here's a good article about the new Can-Am Ryker - which I am convinced anyone can ride and have fun upon. A senior VP for Can-Am has an interesting quote: “We know our customers. We know why they buy a Spyder and why they don’t. We know who they are, which demographics they belong to. And we especially know we have a massive growth opportunity. Our regular customer is 62 years old, on average. Sure, that’s high, but isn’t 60 the new 50?" I'm 62, and no, 60 isn't the new 50. It's the same old 60.

An interesting thing about the Can-Am Ryker is that it was designed by French-Canadians. Here they are talking about it in French!

14 September 2018

Another Friday; another day off. It's supposed to start raining at around 1 PM, so I don't have time for a long motorcycle ride. I'll do another one of my shorter "Better than Nothing" rides - this time, I think, to relatively nearby Manassas. I've never seen the Liberia mansion site, so I'll try that.

17 September 2018

Yes, I did get out on my bike on Friday, that video is here. I rode to Manassas and Quantico; a 90 mile trip. "Better than Nothing." My friend Barry and I were planning a ride in the Shenandoah Valley, but canceled it due to rain forecasts. As it turned out, all we got locally was some drizzle which didn't even wet the pavement. There was no rain in the Valley, either. We could have done this. Grrrrrrr.

I've been invited to join a Marine Corps veterans riding club. (I met a member of it while wearing a USMC hat in a Harley dealership.) I'm not sure if I'm up for this or not, but it doesn't matter because we seem to have a problem with schedules. They have a ride this weekend that I can't do.

I'm a little sheepish about taking part in any such assemblage; I was a peacetime Marine. Don't get me wrong: I am "proud to claim the title" and all that, but the closest I ever got to combat was the time I fired a .22 LR on base at a metal pipe and had a small bit of the bullet ricochet back and hit me in the leg, scratching me a little. For any service member there is a credibility structure that might go something like this

Served in peacetime
Served overseas
Served overseas in combat
Served overseas in combat and was wounded
Served overseas in combat and was badly wounded
Served overseas in combat and was wounded (badly or not) and received a medal
Served overseas in combat and received the Congressional Medal of Honor
Was killed in overseas combat

I have heard lots of decorated veterans describing their service and they all seem to agree that the real heroes are the ones in the very last category.

24 September 2018

Friday "motorcycle" video. ("I Havta Grease Wheezer" - a reference that only Our Gang cognoscenti  will understand.) The weather has been crappy and I am suffering from motorcycle ride withdrawal.

The BMW automated motorcycle. Now, I'm sure that BMW motorcycles are decent machines and built with the usual German fanaticism regarding precision. BUT. I hate the way, on some models,  they simply bolt on squarish aluminum boxes for saddlebags instead of designing something that preserves the lines of the bike. My daughter correctly pointed out it looks like somebody got some makeup cases at an Ulta or Sephora and attached them to the bike. It looks so clunky and ungainly. (Not all BMW bikes look like this, to be fair, and on the automated bike the electronics are in those cases.)

Confederate motorcycles! ("The Art of Rebellion.") What unusual designs...  $125,000 for the P-51 Combat Fighter. Check out the video - it's a small price to pay to watch the gasoline shake about and the gears move. 

26 September 2018

This being autumn, I re-installed the windshield on my motorcycle. Only this time I raised it up about three inches. What a difference that made! Before, my helmet was still getting the slipstream and I wasn't really sure what the windshield was doing for me. The extra height gives me a more comfortable and (relatively) still pocket of air to sit in. I can even crack the visor and not feel an onrush of wind. Much better.

The other motorcycle maintenance item I need to take care of is to bleed the front brake and replace the fluid. The brake is starting to feel a bit spongy - I probably have some water or air in the system. It's an easy fix: one beard on the BDS, Beard Difficulty Scale. ("It's common motorcycle knowledge that the longer your beard, the more mechanical experience you have about bikes." - Peter Camburn.  Believe it or not the BDS seems to be a kind of standard with "how to" motorcycle videos - I've seen this before. Even Harley-Davidson uses it.) I watched a RevZilla YouTube video wherein a genial, pierced, bearded and tattooed guy named Lemmy shows how to bleed brakes properly.

...all of which causes me to wonder: will my lack of facial hair, piercings and tattoos make me look like a misfit astride a Harley? (A misfit among misfits?) Well, if it does... tough. If the Marine Corps had wanted me to have facial hair, piercings and tattoos they'd have issued them to me when I became a civilian again in 1978.

27 September 2018

I bled the brake line in my motorcycle last night. (My rear brake is a mechanical shoe.) New brake fluid = no spongy feel anymore. Nice. So I put on all my gear to go give it a road test and, after about 5 or 10 minutes, it starts raining again. Arrrrgghh! I am so sick of the rain!

The rain is holding off for tomorrow, however, and that's what matters most. Why? I'm headed out to Front Royal tomorrow morning to meet Barry, my Harley-riding friend, and then we're headed up (south) the Shenandoah Valley for a ride. 

Into My Third Year...

From this point on my motorcycle content will be in my usual blog .  It has become too clunky to type up text there and then re-post it here...