The Start of the Northwest Motorcycle Season

The Northwest Motorcycle Events Season Starts!

This weekend seems to be the unofficial start of the motorcycle “events” season for 2017. You’ll have an excellent excuse to blow off chores, work, and family commitments pretty much every weekend from now to October.  (Your decisions may vary)  This weekend offers: 

Saturday, April 23rd

The annual Washington Vintage Motorcycle club’s annual motorcycle and car show and swap meet.  This is an excellent opportunity to ride to Mt. Vernon, pay a few bucks, and wander about looking at fully restored vintage motorcycles, unrestored “projects,” and piles upon piles of parts and various oddities of petroliana. Most items are for sale.  Riding a motorcycle there reduces your chances of making a purchase. Both motorcycles and cars and their iterations of completion and wholeness are present.  Polish it all off with a cheeseburger and you’re good.

Alas, I cannot attend this one this year due to a family party in Tacoma with relatives I really enjoy!

Sunday, April 23rd – two choices!

Sunday offers The Tulip Ride, a large charity ride that focuses on, (surprise) the rambunctious glory of the vast tulip fields around LaConner.  Mostly a Harley event, but not entirely, and you will be welcome on anything with an engine and two or three wheels. Google the event name for registration details.

OR…

The annual RAT Pack luncheon in Chehalis.  RAT is the “Riders Association of Triumph,” an enthusiast group sponsored and supported by Triumph rather sporadically until about 10 years ago, when a change of marketing focus led to its demise. At least officially.  Triumph types being the independent sorts they are, RAT soldiers on all over the world through the efforts of a devoted few.  

In the Northwest that would be Portlander Soren Winslow, who organizes an annual meet up and lunch deal somewhere between Portland and Seattle.   This one will be held at Ramblin’ Jacks in Chehalis, at around 1pm, although the time is really not important.   You end up with a huge parking lot with dozens and perhaps hundreds of motorcycles, most of them Triumphs, and you wander about and make wise comments about other people’s choices.   Again, most of the motorcycles will be Triumphs, but I have found in the past that most Triumph riders are open to anything anyone chooses to ride.

I get to go to this one!  I intended to go last year, when my Bonneville was one day old, but the weather was so awful that all of the sane friends who were going to ride with me opted out, and after waiting for them for a while in a torrential downpour with high winds I had to agree with them.  Hoping for a better day this year.

I’ll be at the Park ‘N Ride at the 160th exit off I-405 (just South of Bothell) at 10:30am, with a hoped for leave time of 10:45 or so.  My intent is to freeway slog it there, and then take a more interesting route I will make up on the fly for the ride home – weather permitting.

Care to join me?

 

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

 

 

 

David Preston                        Copyright 2017

Posted in Motorcycles | Leave a comment

The Stupid Price Triumph, and Other Failed Dreams

The Stupid Price Triumph, and Other Failed Dreams

I rode in to Triumph of Seattle today to have the “fly screen” installed on my Triumph T 120. It’s always a fun experience for me because I used to work for this dealer (in a different location) and I know most of the staff. 

The first bit of conversation involved a 2014 Triumph 800 Tiger dual sport model, one that salesman Andy described as having a “stupid” price – industry slang for a deal that is just amazing. Very low miles, and modified extensively with side cases, a huge top case at the rear, and a neat tank bag that clips into a bracket on the fuel cap.  Plus an Akrapovic exhaust system. All of which would have added mightily to the stock price, and today, three years later – $8,000.

Later my friend Toni took me back by her office to show me something even more astonishing. A 2010 Suzuki 650 V-Strom – also known as the “wee strom” to distinguish from it 1,000cc sibling. Also loaded to the max with side cases and a rear case, plus this and that other mod – and 216 miles! That would be 31 miles a year, or about the distance from my house to the dealer. And back. Once. I think the price was $6,000, or it could have been $5,000.

Either of these bikes could be used for commuting, touring, middling difficulty off-road work (which is all but the lunatic fringe ever attempt) or pretty much anything else you would want, for many many years.  They both appeared to be brand spanking new, with no evidence of ever being on the ground.

Both of these models are still in production, more or less unchanged, and both of them, equipped as these are, would cost about double the price for the used example with hardly any miles. I would urge any of my friends who wanted to get into a wonderful dual sport bike to hie themselves with alacrity to Triumph of Seattle and purchase either of them immediately.

Triumph of Seattle has a store policy that a used bike on the floor cannot be purchased by an employee for 30 days, so the clock is running on both of these.  The asking prices are too “stupid” to ignore. If I had the desire for a dual sport bike, my fly screen birthday gift would have become a few magnitudes more expensive.

How are prices like this possible?

I entered the motorcycle business in 2000, brought in as the fun guy who would be nice to customers, do e-mails and newsletters, represent the dealership at events, and lead customers on rides. I think most of the sales staff thought this was just another flight of fancy of the owner’s, and I was the idiot chosen to give it wings.  I added to this impression the first day, when I expressed astonishment to several sales staff that we had a lovely used Triumph for sale with less than 500 miles on it. How could such a thing be?  Someone finally explained that it was fairly common, as others walked away shaking their heads.  

Here are some of the reasons why this can occur.

Reason #1    In a few cases, you have a very wealthy customer who trades in one or more of his or her bikes every once in a while just for fun.  Sounds unlikely, but I purchased a bike of my own this way.  The customer traded in a Kawasaki ZX-12R, which at that time was either the fastest or second-fastest bike you could purchase, depending on whether the editors of the magazine you were reading like it better or less than the Suzuki Hayabusa.  The one I purchased had 535 miles on the odometer. It had been treated to a smoked windscreen, a titanium Akrapovic full exhaust system,  a power commander to smooth delivery of the over 160hp it delivered to the rear wheel, and mods to the tail to tidy it up a bit.   The first day it appeared on the sales floor it was priced at $8,295, which I thought was ridiculously low.  It almost sold that day, but the deal fell through.

Then I walked by it every day on my way to and from my desk, several times a day.   After two weeks I popped in to the sales managers office to ask what he would charge me if I wanted to but it.

“What would you think is fair?” he asked.

“8,000.”

“OK.”

Really?  A brand new one with all of this stuff would have been about $16,000, and here I was getting the same thing for 50% off 535 miles later.  The bike had been ridden so few miles that the owner never realized it had a bad relay that did not allow the cooling fan to turn on, covered by warranty, of course. He’d never ridden it far enough at one time for it to get fully warm!

Turns out the original owner was extremely wealthy, owned about 5 bikes, and traded them whenever a whim struck.   I enjoyed the bike for two years and several thousand miles, during which it terrified me a time or two, and then sold it – for $8300.

Better yet, the last time I saw the bike it had 96,000 miles on an engine that had never been apart. The exhaust system had been replaced at no charge by Akrapovic after the owner ran so much nitrous oxide through the bike drag racing it that he burned through the downpipes!

Reason #2     Hubby likes to ride motorcycles.   I am not being sexist here, because women are not enthusiastic/stupid enough to do what follows.   Wife says she likes riding on the back.  Hubby reasons that if she likes riding on the back, she would like riding her own even more.  I may have exaggerated with the term “reasons.”   Hubby runs out and purchases a brand new Harley Sportster for his wife as a surprise.  Well, yes, she is surprised. They are intelligent people, so they sign up wife for a rider safety course.

While taking the course the wife learns one of the most valuable lessons the courses teach, although it is not listed in the description.  Not everyone is meant to ride a motorcycle.  And, there are many people who actually (I know, it strains credulity), do not even like to ride a motorcycle.

What happens next, depending on the level of honest communication in the marriage, is that the bike is sold back to the dealer immediately, for a few thousand less than it cost to purchase, or it sits in the garage for about a year, is ridden twice, and then is returned to the dealer for even less money.

In the ten years I worked at that dealership there was always a used Harley Sportster on the floor with almost no miles, and usually one or two other makes and models as well.

Reason #3           When the dream fades. You have a customer who has always loved the concept of riding a motorcycle.  He or she has no experience, and often does not bother to do any research with friends or relatives who ride.  If the person has money, the salespeople are so happy to deal with them.  Instead of purchasing a mid-size used bike and riding it for a year to see what direction they want to go in (as in sport bike, off-road, cruiser, touring, commuter, etc.), which is what I or many other experienced riders would recommend, our enthusiast walks into the dealership and rides out with a beautiful brand new motorcycle of some sort that happened to be in stock.   The sales person recommends they take a safety course ASAP, and the dealership may offer a discount or even pay for it as a purchase incentive.

Then the customer learns that, once in a while, it rains.  Sometimes it’s cold.  Wearing all the gear everyone keeps yammering about takes time to put on and off, and it is expensive.  Maybe there is gravel in a corner.  And hey, that ski boat looks fun!  And the bike is brought back with very few miles.

Reason #4           Divorce.  Woman has little choice but to sell the bike back to the dealer to get out from under the monthly payments, because the alimony she has to pay her husband after her affair with her secretary is killing her.

Reason #5           Life happens. I watched a woman come in late one Saturday afternoon on a Honda cruiser with few miles.   She had just flown back from a trip to Atlanta, where she had been offered, and accepted, a new job. She was moving Monday, and wanted to sell the bike to the dealership in the next 30 minutes.   Which she did.  For cash. I hope her new job did not require negotiation skills.

Reason #6           One marital partner, let’s say the wife, decides to purchase a new motorcycle, without discussing this beforehand with the husband.  An argument starts, and then escalates, culminating in a choice being offered. It is either the marriage or the motorcycle.

The marriage remains intact when the motorcycle is returned,  but I always wondered how those situations morphed over time.

And of course there are other reasons as well.

So why is the price so low?   Motorcycles have a very short shelf life.  In this country most motorcycles are used as toys, and who wants to buy a used toy for themselves? The dealer does not want to offer much for a trade-in because he or she knows the bike may sit on the floor for a while.  The seller does not want to endure the lengthy agony of selling a used bike to a market that diminishes every month.   The dealer has more floor space than the owner, and that allows the dealer some time to be patient for the sale.

Point being, if you have the itch for a motorcycle, I would go against all the advice to check the want-ads and the Internet.  I would first go to a couple of dealers and look for extremely low mileage gems the dealer wants to sell.

What sort of rider wants a three to seven year old bike?  With very low miles?  With most of the extras you’d add anyway to a model that is still in production and essentially unchanged?

A smart one.

Happy hunting!

 

Copyright 2016                      David Preston

Posted in Equipment, Marketing, Motorcycles | Leave a comment

Microphones And The Wonder That Is Sean Spicer

I first got into announcing in my first year of teaching.   Our Rose Hill Junior High wrestling and basketball games were full house affairs  (life was different back then) and the coaches were two of my best friends. I did not have to be very good, and I am sure I wasn’t,  but I did learn that I had no fear of speaking into a microphone. In fact, I’m more confident speaking with a microphone than without – which seems weird, doesn’t it?

When I moved to Juanita High in 1989 they needed a new announcer for the football games. I had not attended a high school football game since 1965, my senior year of high school, but what the heck?  Famed coach Chuck Tarbox had listened to me speak at various events when I was the president of the local teachers union, and he thought I would be great for the job. 

The reason WHY they needed a new announcer was not mentioned, nor did I ask, but turns out my predecessor had been arrested before school started and charged with the rape of one of my former students!   Just as well I did not know that. To be fair, one whole year and two hung juries later, nothing happened. 

Anyway, with no example to follow, and with an extremely limited wage, I did what I wanted to do, and it worked out very well. 

Tarbox always told me that my announcing was worth about 7 points a game.  He was a great promoter, and not above grotesque exaggeration, but I learned that the voice and enthusiasm you employed for a first down or touch down or whatever for the home team could be toned back to placid calm for the other team. It did have an effect on the crowd, and a small one on the field of play. Tarbox was sure of it, and I would never argue with him about football strategy.

I did have fun from time to time. On one occasion all the lights failed, which could be a disaster in a crowded stadium. I urged the crowd to remain where they were, and explained that the lights needed to be recycled and would come on gradually over the next few minutes.  While we were waiting, I noticed that the scoreboard lights were still on.  I asked the scorekeeper next to me to add a touchdown for Juanita.  When the lights were back on and play ready to resume, the official on the field looked at the scoreboard, and then cast a steely glare up at the press box – but he was smiling as we re-set the score correctly. 

My absolute favorite trick relied on the design of the press box. The scorekeeper and I sat in the middle.  To our right were assistant coaches from the opposing team. The Juanita assistants were through a doorway to the left. The Juanita coaches heard what I said over the PA, but the opposing coaches heard it from my mouth.

After a failed Juanita play, I would sometimes turn off the mike and then say in a loud voice “And we’d sure like to know who called that dumb ass play!”  The opposing coaches heads would swivel toward me in horror, and we would all laugh as I turned the microphone back on.  It occurred to me that this would end in disaster if I forgot to turn the microphone off at the right time, but I never did.  I announced all but two of the football games and most of the boys and girls basketball games for 11 years.  I made some mistakes along the way, like the time a basketball ref came to the bench and said “One more remark like that and I will kick you out of the gym.”  Oops.  He was correct to reprimand me, of course, but it was really a bad call!

 In my second career as a motorsports maven I got to announce several motorcycle events and charity auctions and so forth, but the most interesting were three weekends of announcing kart races.  The first one was a three day event in Denton, Texas  (just North of Dallas) and consisted of the national championship races for the Rotax Max spec kart series.  Each day the owner of Cycle Barn would drop me off at the track and go off to visit friends.  I would walk into the pits and be handed a microphone and start talking. 

One limitation was that I had driven a kart, once, 35 years earlier, and had never raced one! 

However, I had edited the user’s manual and the rule book for the Rotax Max series, so I sounded like I knew about chassis set-up, weight jacking and other things. 

I had a wonderful time, highlighted by walking to the men’s room and realizing, as I was relieving myself, than the microphone was still on!  I thought that was pretty funny, but I was topped by one of the pros doing the videotaping of the event.  He told me he had done the same thing once, but had a video camera on his shoulder, and of course he looked down, and of course it was on

 I also hosted a call-in motorsports radio talk show for three years. Talking into a live microphone can be challenging, and I occasionally muffed a word or a sentence (Susan would term these “word boogers). And then once in a while I would say something I should not have said.

Highlight for me was a caller who responded to a request for trivia who relayed that he used to own a Ferrari Daytona, and wondered if I knew what the owner’s manual listed as the top speed of the car – in 5th gear.  And reverse.   I guessed 192 and 168 and he got very quiet. I think I was off by 1 mph on each end. Of course I was just tossing off a wild stab of a guess. 

This was a live show, and a CD was made of it while I was on the air. I would listen to my own show in my car on the way home.  I noticed that, during the show, I was so intent on what the guest was saying, what the next question should be, (we did not have questions sent in ahead of time) and when the next commercial break was coming up, that I often had no recollection of anything I had said myself. Often I would be surprised on the way home by something I had said, but not remembered, that was really funny. To me. Or something that I wished I could do over. I wonder if Sean Spicer, who is under several tons or pressure more than I have ever been, ever actually hears his own words.

My point  (oh, you were wondering if there would be one of those?)  is that talking into a microphone can be a lot of fun, for some people. An utter horror for most. Even for people who enjoy it, mistakes will happen, and unlike a modern computer, you can’t simply backspace to delete your gaffe and start over. 

Stuff happens.  It’s out there.

But – but – but – Sean Spicer. Are you kidding me?  He issued three printed statements today, in 19 minutes, each of them trying to explain his latest episode of foot in mouth, and it was a whopper. So offensive I won’t repeat it. This guy is essentially a Saturday Night Live skit, and does not need to worry about writers. He is absolutely stunning in his idiocy, totally ill-suited to have a microphone in his face, and ironically  … the perfect spokesperson for this train wreck of an administration. 

Speak it loud, my friends!   Resist!

 

Copyright 2017  David Preston

 

 

 

 

Posted in Marketing, Rants and Raves | Leave a comment

Motorcycle Windshields and Screens

On Motorcycle Windshields

Ah, the wind in your face. Perhaps bugs in your teeth if you are wearing an open face helmet. Or none.  And dust, and sand, and mud. And rain?  Hail?

I was once following a friend on our motorcycles. He was wearing a full face helmet and glasses, but had left the visor at home. All of a trice I saw twin streams of yellow goo streaming around the sides of his helmet. He slowed and stopped at the edge of the road. When I pulled up next to him he was laughing so hard he was crying.  He had hit some sort of very juicy bug right on the bridge of his nose. The resulting bug death had left his entire face and glasses covered in glorious yellow slime. Oh, I wish I’d taken a picture.

A number of years ago I was bombing along at an illegal rate of speed when suddenly a rock appeared in the air, right in front of me. It bounced off the Lexan face shield on my Arai helmet.  I never figured out where it could have come from, and I reflected on what would have happened decades ago with my first full face helmet. That was an early Bell Star model, and the visor was some sort of thin and clear plastic. Such a rock would have gone right through it.

Then there was the bee that hit me in the throat at a good speed, and stung me in his death throes. That hurt, although he more than me.

So yes, there are arguments to be made in favor of having some sort of windshield on your motorcycle.  But what kind?  Your selection will be based on your perceived needs combined with your model and style of bike, and probably your sense of what looks “right.”    You have several types to choose from, and we will go from small to large in order.

None at all.   To me, a lot of bikes look best when they are simplest.  Think of classic designs such as the Harley Sportster, any of the British bikes, most Ducatis, and early BMWs, at least as delivered.  They are cooler on hot days, and cooler looking on any day.

Flyscreen.  This is the smallest, and is almost entirely non-functional. It came to fame, I think, back in the late 1950s and early 1960’s, as they were attached to many British sporting models, particularly the “café racers” of the day. This is simply a clear or painted small shield of two to six inches high that sticks up from the upper edge of the windshield.  Some are merely a three or four inch “lip” added to the top of the headlight. Having said they are useless, they do make a noticeable difference in wind blast, much more than you would expect.  If you also have a tank bag on your bag, the combo provides some protection.

But not much.

Of course, this is my favorite.  I had one on my Speed Triple, that was sort of a cross between a fly screen and a bikini fairing (next section) and I felt that with the bug eye headlights of the Speed Triple it was an absolute necessity.  I just ordered a fly screen for my new Bonneville, in the same killer cranberry metallic color that is on the fuel tank.

At times a manufacturer will put a fly screen on to give the bike a racier appearance. One example is the Harley-Davidson XLCR of 1977.

Every once in a while Harley produces a “sports bike” and they usually miss the mark. 

By a lot. 

It seems that the finer minds in Milwaukee just cannot wrap their minds around the concept of cornering and a forward lean position.  They made a sporting version of the V-Rod a few years ago and it was a very nice bike, but too heavy and much too expensive compared to the competition.  We had one at Cycle Barn that had been crashed very early on, and the custom shop recreated it with some Aprilia and other parts, and it was what Harley should have been aiming for. Still too expensive, although I was tempted. In any case, Harley customers never buy these forays in large numbers anyway.

Harley even went so far as to produce a drag racing bike that came from the factory with wheelie bars and a drag slick. It was not street legal, and the intent was that thousands of loyal customers would purchase them as a way to get into drag racing at a reasonable cost. Can you imagine that customers did not define $42,000 as a “reasonable” cost?  I recall that the sales manager at the time ordered one and nearly had his head removed. It was there for a long time before disappearing without a murmur.

Back to the XLCR. It looked the business, with a very small screen, blacked out mufflers, and other accoutrements. To my surprise, a customer at the aftermarket shop where I was working in 1978 offered it to me for a ride.  I was on the bike in a flash before he could change his mind. First thing I noticed was that Harley had reached into the Honda parts bin for the instruments, which was disappointing.   I got to the first corner and leaned in, and nothing happened.  As the pavement began to run out I eventually wrestled the bike around the corner. I had not been going all that fast, but I rode the bike back to the shop at a sedate rate.  I gave the key back to the owner and told him I was surprised that it did not want to turn – at all.  His laconic comment:  “Yeah. I should have mentioned that.”

Bikini fairing. Next up in order is the bikini, which is about half of a race fairing. It wraps around the headlight and usually but not always has sides that extend back toward the tank.   These will usually require clip-on handlebars, or at least lower ones. You can find them on several Ducatis of the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Best known is probably the BMW fairing used on the R90S. A masterpiece of minimalist design, and sold as aftermarket copies even today. 

I purchased one from a fellow who had installed it on his Ducati Darmah for a mad dash to New York and back for his sister’s wedding.  He installed the fairing and an air bladder seat pad, rode almost non-stop to New York, put on a tux for the wedding, and rode back.  Then he sold it to me for $100, with 6,000 miles of bugs added for free.  With small brackets made by a handy friend, it served my Yamaha 750 triple very well for over 20 years, and was still in place the last time I saw it.

Full race fairing.  This stretches the concept of “fairing” a bit, as these are used on road racers where aerodynamics is a key factor.  They do provide a little bit of protection if the rider is in a full racing crouch. Of course, when so positioned, the racer has little forward vision at all, but hey, it’s all about the speed. Far more often, it’s all about the look of speed. Certainly for me when I owned a very rare Muzzy 750 Raptor. To see at all I had to change from a Shoei helmet to an Arai, because the viewing port is higher in an Arai.  I also had to avoid a lot of clothing at the back of my neck, to allow me to bend my head back far enough to see where I was going. Not practical at all, but wow – did I LOOK fast!

Anorak note: Craig Vetter is usually credited with creating the touring market with his “Windjammer” large fairing, back in the 1970’s. What few recall was that this was not his first product.  The initial batch was essentially full race fairings with an extended windscreen that rose up several inches higher. I thought it was terrific, and as an impecunious college student I spent $140 of my meager funds on, if I recall, Vetter fairing #43.  I mounted it on my Yamaha 250 YD-S 3. 

I also purchased a small diamond engagement ring at the same time for almost the same cost. The engagement lasted two weeks, which in retrospect turned out to be a very good thing.

The fairing contacted the brace on the back of the front fender, so I simply took off the fender. Even racier!   In white, it matched the white on the fuel tank. To pick up on the blue on the tank, I mounted two large blue decals, one to each side, which displayed the Yamaha crossed tuning forks logo – the original company logo. Gorgeous! 

A proud moment in my life came when I was outside of the house where I rented a room, waxing the bike for the 43rd time. A fellow on a BSA roared up and stopped. He asked me if I was entering the road race that weekend and I think my ego swelled my head to twice its size.  

After two years and several thousand miles, including a memorable ride from Minneapolis to Seattle and back in 1968, I moved all of my meager possessions, and the Yamaha, to Seattle, using a two axle Hertz enclosed trailer.

Once in Seattle, I removed the fairing for (another) thorough cleaning.

Then I took my pristine machine out for a test ride and promptly threw it into a ditch at about 60 mph, my only serious crash in 50 years. 

So far.

I sold the remains of the bike and the still pristine fairing to a guy who lived next door and promptly lost track of the guy, the bike, and the fairing. A pity, as that fairing is now probably worth some serious bucks to a collector of the odd and unusual.

Bar mounted fairings.  By far the most well-known is the Harley-Davidson “bat wing” fairing, in use for far more than a half a century. I’ve always thought them ugly, but what do I know? People keep buying them, and you can tell what kind of bike it is immediately.

Twenty or so years ago I was romping up Lolo Pass in Idaho, riding behind my friend on his Norton. In the bar end mirror of my Yamaha triple I could see a bat wing fairing far behind us. Knowing how fast we were going (Lolo Pass was less patrolled by the Idaho State Patrol than it is today) I was shocked to see that the bat wing was gaining on us. I had never seen a Harley ridden at speed before – ever.   Eventually the bike caught us, and then swept around both of us on the outside of a sweeping curve. No helmet, no shirt, and sparks coming off the floorboards. At the top of the pass there was a long wait for a construction project.  We pulled up next to the shirtless speedster and nodded hello. He reached down, flipped up a saddlebag lid, and said “Want a beer?”

“Er, no thank you.” 

I have no idea how many beers he had consumed, but that dude could ride!

Windshields.  Here is a conundrum.  Many of my friends swear by these, but more often I swear at them. In my experience, almost all of them trade protection from wind and rain and cold for snapping and turbulence and a lot of noise.  This is an improvement?

Really notable exceptions are the windshields on Harleys.  A Road King offers all the benefits of the windshield with no downsides. I do not know why Harley seemingly alone can figure out the ergonomic requirements for a screen that offers protection with no drawbacks, but they obviously know something others don’t.

I’m always amused by people who dump all over Harleys as slow bikes with antiquated technology.  Most of them have never ridden a Harley, and my guess is that many have never ridden a motorcycle. A Road King on a winding back road is a sublime experience. Harleys also had smooth and simple cruise controls long before others offered them, as well as other little techno goodies.

Touring fairings.  Sport touring bikes such as the Yamaha FJR and Kawasaki Concours now offer a windscreen that is adjustable, either manually or electrically.  The BMW version is pretty trick in that when the ignition is turned off the windscreen comes down and provides protection and security for the navigation system.   Others, such as the Honda Goldwing, offer a windshield that is adjustable only by hand, which seems odd until you see how simple it is.

In today’s market there are a myriad of variants on all of these themes.  Odd ball takes, variants, outliers, taller, shorter, and that is before you check the aftermarket suppliers.

So there you have it.  How much coverage do you need? Or, how much do you want?   Me personally, the visor of my Arai is about it. I always know where the wind is coming from.

Forward!

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

 

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 3 Comments

A Relaxing Break from Bad News and Stress

A Relaxing Break from Bad News and Stress

In these troubled times for our country it is all too easy to get stressed/upset/depressed by the constant onslaught of news that varies from bad to bizarre to you’ve got to be kidding me.  I have a solution:  the small town paper.

When I was a lad living just outside Minneapolis, my parents had a subscription to a small town paper. The town of Preston was located in southern Minnesota (and I presume still is) and my parents subscribed to the local newspaper on a whim because of our shared name.  There is no connection between my family and the town that I know of.

I delighted myself each week with a scan of what was happening in Preston.   If you had company for dinner, it would be in the paper, including the first and last names of all present. The same for people who had guests for cribbage, welcomed relatives from other states,  and other issues of local import.

I have a similar treat today, over a half a century later. My brother in law is the prosecuting attorney for Whitman County in southeast Washington.  He provided a subscription to the Whitman County Gazette for his mother, who lived a mile away from us.  It was always fun to look through it, particularly when Denis was featured in the reportage of a felony trial.  When Dorine passed away the subscription came to us, and now every Friday I have a break from the dreary news of the week, whether it be the latest atrocity committed by Trump or one of his minions, the receipt of the bill for a license plate tab for my motorcycle reflecting the astonishing increase in cost, and other financial and political detritus of our lives. 

Pause with me now for a review of the news from Whitman County this week.  Just the headlines make me smile.

“Endicott Residents Petition to Allow Chickens.”  Now that gets my attention!  It seems that it is illegal in the small town of Endicott to keep chickens, and that demands change, and 115 good souls signed a petition as such.  To allay concerns over noise, no roosters would be allowed.   Left untouched were the bans on geese and turkeys. The matter is under consideration.

“St. Ignatius Hospital Building Officially Deemed Unsafe.”  This seems alarming, but it turns out that this Colfax building has not been used as a hospital for years.  The issue is that the building has been used for the past two years for Haunted Halloween tours and has generated “substantial income” for the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Association.  What piques my interest is that the town of Colfax, know to me previously primarily as a speed trap, has both a Chamber of Commerce and a Downtown Association.  For the record, I have never received a speeding ticket in Colfax.

“Garfield Town Council Surpluses Three Vehicles.”   Your chance for a deal, after the town determines a fair minimum bid. If no bids are received the town council can negotiate with any interested buyer. So what is on offer?  A police car that has not been used on patrol for 13 years, being parked as a decoy at the entrance to the town instead. They did not give little details such as the make and model and year of the car, but I would bet it is a Ford Crown Victoria from about 1990 or so.  Or, a John Deere “Gator” which “has problems running.”  Last, a 1970’s International diesel truck (size not given) originally purchased as surplus from the state.   The mayor is quoted as saying “Our current guys can’t seem to get it to run.”

“Dusty Reunion Produces 400 Pounds of Sausage.”  If you are not from the area, it is helpful to know that Dusty is the name of a town. The Riedner family hosts a family reunion each year where all who attend take part in sausage making.  What a fun idea! This year the group, all of whom are listed in the paper with their home town of origin, created 400 pounds of sausage in a family and comradely atmosphere. I’m impressed. …and hungry.

I’ve also been following the trend of the editorial pages in the Gazette since last summer. Eastern Washington is a very conservative area. If you’re running for elected office you can choose to run as a Republican, or you can lose.  Last fall the editorials were hammering away at the real or imagined faults of Hillary Clinton, and hailing the potential of Trump as President.  Things began to change a bit after the election, and now the reversal is complete. This issue featured three scathing editorials regarding the infinite number of fallacies, bungles, broken promises, and other horrors of the new administration.  

Feel better?

I do.

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

 

Posted in Rants and Raves | 1 Comment

The First Motorcycle Ride of the Year

That First Ride of the Year

Let us pause for a moment to consider those who ride motorcycles all twelve months of the year. I think they can be grouped into four classes.  

The largest group consists of those who live in warm climates, such as California, Hawaii, etc. Even there it is not as glorious as you might think. Years ago I was cruising up Highway 1 in California just north of Santa Cruz, with family members in a car.  About 60 degrees on a beautiful weekend sunny day. I’ve ridden this road many times and was enjoying a reverie of past delights in my head.  Suddenly we were passed by a fellow on a Yamaha R1, and it dawned on me that I’d not seen any other motorcyclists. I asked my sister in law, a local resident, where they all were on such a beautiful day and she replied “It’s too cold.”  Amazing. Sixty degrees and sunny? Here in Seattle there would be motorcycles all over the place.

The second largest group is made up of those who simply enjoy riding motorcycles – a lot.  These fine folks subscribe to the mantra of “there is no bad weather, only bad gear.  There’s a fellow who works out at the local YMCA at 7am, as we do, and last week his bike was there again, awaiting him in the snow in the parking lot. Bonus point to you for guessing the make and model.

A much smaller group, at least in this country, are the brave souls who have little choice. Some can only afford a small and usually high mileage used bike that get used every day – weather be damned.

The smallest number of all-weather motorcyclists are those who actually get paid to ride every day. Factory test riders, magazine staffers, gear developers, etc.  I used to be one of them, in fact.  For the 14 years I toiled in the motorsports trenches I was usually riding a used bike, breaking in a new Harley for a rental fleet or a new BMW to be used as a demo.  For three of those years the dealership purchased a new BMW each year for my use.  This was not part of the demo fleet, but if I was at work it was available for that purpose. This allowed the dealer to have an “extra” demo, but if I left it at home it could not be ridden by a customer that day. I wasn’t actually paid to ride the bike to work, per se, but it was definitely part of the job, and I enjoyed it for that reason.

All of this may all be changing. Ironically the engine for change is…congestion. As more and more urban areas institute multiple vehicle lanes (which include motorcycles) and/or instigate toll lanes, motorcycles begin to make economic sense no matter the weather. If I were still working, I could sit in my car for over an hour to get to work, or I could pay $10 to drive – each way – in a toll lane, or I could ride my motorcycle for free.   At $20 a day and a saving of almost two hours in time, I would surely choose to put on my gear. With the rise of electric motorcycles, you could purchase such a device and add excellent rain gear and ride back and forth saving $20 a day toward the purchases you made, and several hours of time a week.

But for now, for the vast majority, the motorcycle is put away for the winter; however that term is defined in your area.  It will be brought out for a first ride when the itch to ride overcomes the inertia of the motorcycle sitting in the garage. For many people, this is the most dangerous ride of the year.  Here is why and how to do it, at least in my not very humble opinion.

Athletes are familiar with the term “muscle memory.” If you shoot 150 jump shots a day, with some coaching as to form, your body will lock in on how to do it. If you quit playing for 6 months it will take time to get your “touch” back. The same is true for the athleticism required to ride a motorcycle with competence.

In other words, the first ride of the year is not the time to return to your favorite winding back road and attempt to ride it at the same pace you did toward the end of last summer, when you’d been riding several days a week for a few months.

Instead;

Clean the bike. Maybe you put the bike away clean, and all it needs is a light dusting.  The intent here has little to do with the bike, which probably does not care if it is clean or dirty. You need to spend time with your hands on the bike, checking over all the parts and reminding yourself of the details.

Case in point. I went out to the garage last week to hook up the trickle charger, as I’d not ridden the bike for three months. In my case, this was due to a two month unintended break due to an infection in my spine (!), cause unknown. Restored to rude health, I removed the seat to put on the charger, forgetting that the good folks at Triumph of Seattle had installed a pig tail before purchase, deleting the need to remove the seat for charging. In my defense, they did such a subtle job of installation that the location is not obvious. I’d owned the bike for two months before I noticed it was there.

Fuel.  A bit of a conundrum for me here. I’ve read dire articles in magazines for three decades about the horrid state of “modern” gasoline, and how a stabilizer is needed, or draining of the tank, etc. I’ve never done this, and never had a problem.  Years ago I had a Yamaha 750 which often sat for three months in the garage and always started right up.   My Bonneville now has fuel with ethanol added, and it has not caused a problem at all.  I did not even bother to make sure it was full up when parked; as I did not know at that time I was not going to ride it for two months.   Your experience may differ.

Gear.  Might be a good time to put your jacket and such through the wash. Again, the intent is to spend some time going over what you have and how it works, weird as that may sound.  In my case, I have the luxury of owning several riding jackets, which I select depending on weather, etc.  There are various liners for them, and I need to remember which liner goes with which jacket.

Weather.  Not really a factor, but when reintroducing your mind and body to riding, a dry day might make it a little easier.

The ride.  Finally!  I like to start the bike and let it idle a little bit. A modern bike with fuel injection does not need to be warmed up, but it has been some time since last aroused, and letting the oil get warm and circulating is not a bad idea.  You can use the time to walk around and check for leaks and anything that does not look right.

Select a short ride route on easy roads you know well.  You are not out for a grand adventure; you’re in training for grand adventures. For my first ride since last December I rode a few miles on the freeway to get used to things, and then cruised through a small town and back home.  Took about an hour.

The next day I rode to a breakfast meeting at 7am in the dark.  Everything felt much more familiar. On the way home I peeled off the freeway for my exit, rifled off a few snappy downshifts, and arced through the turn on a green light to the street that leads to my home.

It was wonderful to feel again that I was riding the motorcycle, as opposed to merely sitting on it while in motion.

I’m now ready, and so is the bike. Let the adventures begin!

 

 

Copyright 2017            David Preston

Posted in Equipment, Motorcycles | Leave a comment

Things to Do in Your Crash Helmet

Things to Do In Your Crash Helmet

This is written for motorcyclists who wear a full face helmet. If you choose to wear an open-face helmet, you would not like the rest of this anyway. If you choose to not wear a helmet, even more so.

“When the helmet drops the bullshit stops.”  This little mantra I began to use decades ago.  I am not all that sure I invented it, although Wikipedia gives me credit for it. The underlying tenet is that riding a motorcycle trumps everything else you may have going on in your life at that time. Riding a motorcycle does not require all of your mental and physical abilities… until the moment it does.

When the helmet drops you stop thinking about the myriad problems you are working on right now. You stop fretting about bills, work, a problem with a child, that upcoming performance review, a spat with a loved one, concerns for the future.  If you stop thinking about all of that while riding you will be a safer rider.  An added benefit is that sometimes the solution to a nettlesome problem will magically appear, after you have spent some time away from it.

For me, this means that there is nothing going on in my helmet other than what my brain can provide.  No music from an ear bud or two, for instance.  No GPS voice prompts.  No phone calls.  The last has always amazed me. One of the joys of riding for me is the absence of outside voices.  Anyone who needs to talk to me can wait for the next time I pull over for a break.  I am not sure about having your helmet connected to another rider. I can see the advantages, but I have no experience.

And ear buds for music? For one detail, minor do some, the use of two ear buds is illegal in most places.  More importantly, music from an outside source can have unintended negative consequences.

When you are rocketing along, bopping along to a favorite song, it is possible for the song to become sort of a movie soundtrack for your adventure. I have known several people who suffered crashes because the engineers who designed the highway were not listening to that song!  Sad, but true. 

Same thing with GPS, even without the voice prompts. I have chatted with at least two people who crashed because they were studying the GPS on the handlebars for a second too long before a corner.

Look at it this way.   Riding a motorcycle is not dangerous, but it does entail risk. The difference, to my mind, is that danger is danger, whereas risk can be reduced by the application of training, equipment, experience, and mental focus.  There are some areas of the world where if you are strolling around at night, by yourself, you are in danger, period, no matter how much experience and preparation and gear you have with you.

Most of us know that riding a motorcycle may require your instant response to a threat, either natural (deer!), or human (see that car that is about to turn left?), or weather.  I know what my physical and mental abilities are, and I do not feel I can “give away” any of them on a motorcycle.  That means no drugs or alcohol, enough food and hydration, a brain focused on what I am doing, and fairly frequent breaks to rest and recharge.

I once had a conversation with a motorcycle salesman I worked with who liked to listen to music piped into his ears while riding. In his former life he’d been an up and coming professional baseball player, before a catastrophic knee injury ended his career.  I asked him if he ever listened to ear buds when he was at bat.  Of course not, he replied. Hitting a major league fast ball or curve ball required his complete attention. I argued that riding a motorcycle required the same attention to the task at hand, and actually more. Why would you concede any degree of attention? 

A second example.  I have a friend who is an excellent rider and a motorcycle safety instructor of many years’ experience. He mentioned on one occasion that he listened to music while riding. I immediately clambered atop my soap box and gave him chapter and verse.

I saw him again about six months later when I was invited to be the guest speaker at an instructors’ meeting.  When he saw me walk in he said “Daaaavvve Presstton!  Boy am I mad at you!”

I was taken aback, because I think quite highly of him and wondered what I had done to offend.  (this time)

He referred back to my lecture. He had thought about it and decided I might have a point.  (Might? Harrumph!)  He decided to go a week without the ear bud.  During that week he noticed that he was paying more attention and was more aware.  So now, thanks to me (he said with an ironic grin), he could no longer listen to music!

One for my side.

So if you’re not going to listen to music or take calls or watch the GPS, what are you to do?  If you’re on a long ride on challenging and winding roads, especially if you are riding at “efficient” speeds, this may not be a problem.  One of my favorite times is to be in a motel in the evening totally spent from the effort of maintaining focus for 8 to 10 hours of exhilarating riding.

But there are times when you are simply cruising for a long time on roads that are mostly straight, with little traffic and no obvious risks at hand for minutes at a time.  The mind is a restless critter, and it will wander given half a chance.  Here are some techniques I have used over the years.

Pre-loading music. Before a long trip, I may spend time at home listening to some of my favorite songs over and over and over again. The album “Alive” by Kenny Loggins was a favorite for many years. I would essentially “load” the entire album into my brain before the ride. (Your taste in music will undoubtedly be different) While riding I could “listen” to the songs in a way that does not intrude on your thought process to any discernible degree compared to an ear bud, and unlike an external source, the music will instantly “mute” when your eyes or ears or nose detect something of interest.

Helmet trombone.  This one is more recent, and is now my favorite.  I discovered that I could hum in such a way that, inside my helmet, it sounds exactly like a trombone or French horn solo!  For some reason, I can hum the music to “Back Home In Indiana” and enjoy a spectacularly musical sound.  More recently I discovered a four trombone group called the “Maniacal Four.”  They have two pieces on You Tube, and their rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is in some ways better than the Queen classic.  I cannot wait to try “my” version on my next long ride in the comfort of my Arai.

Play By Play.  If I sense that my attention is wandering, I call on many years of announcing high school football and basketball games and start talking out loud. Everything I am seeing, where I am, what lies ahead, all the potential risks I can spot ahead, what speed, what gear, and so on. A couple minutes of this and I am back to full function.  If this does not work, it’s time to find a rest area and pull off and get off the bike for a bit.

Deer!  In high risk deer areas, of which there are many these days, I occasionally belt out “deer!” in a loud voice, which causes me to scan the road verge ahead for as far as I can see. It used to be that if you avoided riding at dawn or dusk or at night the deer were seldom seen, but the deer seem to have ignored that concept of late.

You may have your own little tricks. Care to share?

 

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

 

 

Posted in Education, Motorcycles | 2 Comments

The Murder of My Friend Arpana

The  Murder of My Friend Arpana 

The murder trial of the monster who murdered my friend Arpana begins today.

Arpana was one of the most fascinating people it was my good fortune to get to know. She grew up in India, received her college degree in computer engineering there, and then a Masters from a prestigious east coast university. I don’t recall which one.  By the time she graduated she was of the top people in the field of security for large company data base systems, and landed a job here to pursue that.  If I recall correctly, one of her clients was Toyota. There were few people in the world who could carry on a conversation with her about her work with any degree of comprehension.  Certainly not me.

First thing she did was purchase a motorcycle, her sole mode of transportation.  She rode it everywhere, rain or shine or snow notwithstanding.

In addition to her work, she threw herself into a dizzying array of adventures and charity work.  She rode on many of the group rides I led at Cycle Barn, including three day jaunts, and also rode with other groups.  She lacked experience and advanced training, and learned rapidly by crashing her motorcycle several times. Many of my friends and those in other riding groups tried to help with riding tips, which did some good over time, but each time she had an incident she leapt to her feet unhurt and carried on with enthusiasm.

On the rides I led she endeared herself to everyone she met, and she never really cared what the intent of the ride was. We spent a day at the drag races in Bremerton, and a weekend in Bend, Oregon. It was such fun to listen to her many intelligent questions and also discuss her childhood in a vastly different culture.

She was incredibly active in charity work, volunteering at all sorts of events. She agreed to help out at a Seattle 100 charity track day. There she met pro racers Josh and Melissa Herrin, and got a ride around the track on the back of Josh’s AMA Pro Superbike Yamaha. She became good friends with them, as she did with everyone she met.

I can recall many conversations with male and female rider friends about her. We were worried that her entirely open and trusting nature would cause her to be taken advantage of by someone. 

On one occasion she rode with me in my car to a weekend kart race in Centralia. I was the announcer, and Arpana went along just to help out wherever needed.  That bothered me a bit. Here she was climbing into a car with a much older man she hardly knew, and by the end of the weekend I knew where she worked and where she lived.  She had no pretense about her at all, just a warm smile and obvious incredible intelligence.

 

I have never met anyone with such a zest for life and adventure.

She was murdered at a Halloween party at her apartment complex, where revelers evidently roamed from unit to unit as the party continued. The man who brutally murdered her (allegedly) was a convicted sex criminal staying with a friend.

Her funeral was sad, but also remarkable. The turnout of mourners was enormous. She had moved to this area knowing absolutely nobody, less than one year earlier, and had attracted a wide array of friends from all sorts of contacts.

And so the trial begins, years later.  It is easy to have a personal philosophy opposed to capital punishment.   But not so easy today.

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

 

 

Posted in Motorcycles | 1 Comment

What Happens to the Motorcycles You Sell?

What Happens to Your Used Motorcycles?

Had a nice visit yesterday from the fine fellow who purchased my beloved Triumph Speed Triple. He enjoys astonishing people who cannot believe it has covered 50,000 miles.  Triumph of Seattle was wise to hang onto the thick folder with every receipt over the 11 years I owned it. Said receipts showed all the maintenance that was done on time (most of it by the same person, one of the finest Triumph techs in the country), all of the options and tire changes, and all sorts of other details.

That got me to thinking about what happened to all the other bikes I’ve owned.  Although I’ve had the rare good fortune to cover hundreds of thousands of miles while riding over 500 different motorcycles, I’ve actually owned a paltry percentage of that total. I found that riding motorcycles owned by the dealership where the fuel was paid for and I was getting paid to ride them was a pretty good deal!  But! What happened to the bikes I had purchased with my own money and then sold? What has happened to the motorcycles you have owned?  It’s a mental ride that makes an interesting muse down memory lane.

1965 Yamaha YDS-3. My first bike, and one I cherished. I rode it for two years in Minnesota, every chance I got. It was one of the reasons I chose to move to Seattle, as storing a motorcycle for 5 or 6 months of serious winter weather was just not going to work for me. For the Yamaha I purchased a semi-road race fairing from Craig Vetter, the 43rd fairing he sold, if I recall, in 1968.  I think it cost $143.  Later that summer I rode my little two stroke demon from Minneapolis to Seattle and back on a camping trip.

Sadly, I did not cherish it enough. With youth and testosterone in full bloom, I thought I was a riding god. Alas, physics did not agree, and two days after arriving here I threw it into a ditch at 60 mph. Once home from the surgery for my separated shoulder, the bike somehow ended up with a young man who lived next door to my Dad’s house in Bellevue, where I was recuperating. Said fellow was also recovering from a motorcycle crash, in his case resulting in a ruined knee. The crash was not his fault, and he spent some of the settlement on a new Pontiac Trans Am convertible.  If he held on to it (which I doubt), that car is now worth a ton of money.  He was kind enough to take me on many outings to Alki Beach that summer, where we trolled in vain for hot babes.  Of course, my arm in a sling and his limp did not work wonders with the women. Actually, I would have not done well sans sling, either.

He also purchased the remains of my bike. The fairing was mounted when I crashed, and how I wish I knew where it was – it would also be worth real money today. My new friend purchased a set of front forks from a motorcycle wrecking yard, and for some reason mounted a solo seat.  The bike looked ugly and sad, and when I moved to my own place in September I lost touch with my friend and the bike.

Of course I went out and purchased another bike – a 1969 Honda 450 Street Scrambler with about 850 miles. The owner had been smitten with the new Yamaha 650 twin, and as I recall he sold me his Honda for $850.  He had removed the center and side stands, smoothed all the rough edges with a grinder, and then had them chromed.  It was magnificent. I rode my Honda all over for three years, including trips to San Francisco, Minneapolis, and Minneapolis again on the way to St. Petersburg Florida.  Alas, I did not know that the central timing chain on a Honda 450 engine stretches as it wears.  Two miles into my planned return from Florida the chain snapped, and I heard the innards of the engine self-destructing as I slowed to the side of the road.   A local dealer purchased it for precisely the same sum as the air fare back to Seattle, and I arrived back home with no bike.   I remember leaving the dealership and seeing my bike sitting behind a chain link fence. It was raining, and I was crying.

With the kind indulgence of the teacher’s credit union, I purchased a new for 1972 Honda 500 4 – the 3rd one sold in this state.  Such technical innovation!  Disc brakes! So smooth! Perfect performance.  And, to me – dull as the thud of a spoon on a rubber pail full of water.  It was actually boring.  To me.  Fortunately, my freshly minted wife loved old Corvettes, so we purchased a rolling wreck of a 1958 Corvette, with the Honda sold to pay for it.   I don’t remember who bought it, but he got a fine bike.  Just not for me.

Then came the “dark time.” I did not own a bike for three years. In 1976, as the freshly elected president of the teacher’s union, I decided I needed a motorcycle to commute to the office on nice days. I purchased another 450, but this one was nowhere near as nice as my Street Scrambler. I told myself I would get used to the badly sun-faded paint on the fuel tank and the incredibly ugly welded exhaust pipes. I never did.  It went away in 1977, and I don’t remember that sale either.   So far the trend is that I do not remember who purchased the bikes I was not all that in love with.

In 1977 we sold our first home and purchased the one we live in to this day. I peeled off $2,000 of the profits we made on the sale of that first home and purchased a brand new 1977 Yamaha XS 750 D.  First time I ever paid cash for a new bike.  I spent 6 months before the purchase researching every print road test I could find, because I knew I could not afford to make a mistake. I’d promised Susan that my new bike would last me at least ten years.

In fact I rode it for 22 years and almost 50,000 miles. Along the way it gained a copy of a BMW R90S fairing, narrower handle bars from a Norton,  S&W shocks,  K&N filters, and a replacement three into one exhaust when the first one rusted out.  Eventually the engine cried enough, and was replaced with an 850cc unit from Bent Bike, installed with the help of a friend.  That friend eventually purchased the bike from the guy who bought it from me. My friend knew the bike well, as he had done all the mechanical maintenance on it for 22 years.  Last I knew, and this was in about 2003, it was still going strong.

I sold the Yamaha along with a very sad Porsche 911S Targa I had purchased in a fit of enthusiasm/madness. Doing a rolling restoration on a 911 that was tired when we purchased it was folly.  After 8 years of pouring money down its six throats I gave up.  Susan was eager for my new plan: sell both the bike and the Porsche and replace them with a small elderly pick-up truck I would not mind parking at the curb and a new motorcycle that would luxuriate in one half of our two car garage.

I really wanted the new Kawasaki ZRX1100, but I feared Susan would rebel at the rather lurid green, white, and purple paint scheme. I took her to Cycle Barn and first showed several alternative bikes I was considering, such as a Honda VFR or an early Triumph triple. She turned and saw the new ZRX and said “Wow – what’s that?”  She loved it!

That buying experience also gave me my first insight into how dealerships are rated.  I had worked for Cycle Barn almost twenty years earlier for a couple of summers behind the parts counter, the sort of part time job I had almost every year of my teaching career. During that time I got to know owner Jim Boltz well, so when I wanted to purchase a new motorcycle he passed me on to Sales Manager Scott McMillan – allowing me to bypass the sales staff. While we were negotiating with Scott he left the room for a bit, and I mentioned to Susan that if we did not like the price we could go to another Kawasaki dealer.

“Oh no,” she said, “We have to buy it here.”  She had two reasons for this statement. The first was that I had worked there 18 years earlier, so it was “my” dealership.  The second, and this really stuck with me, was that the bathrooms were clean.   Seemingly minor details are crucial!

That was an awesome bike. As fate would have it, a year later I was hired for a position with Cycle Barn that I had invented and proposed to the owner, and the fact that I had been less than a jerk when we had purchased the ZRX helped me in gaining the trust of the Sales Manager.  I rode the ZRX 18,000 miles in two years, many of them work-related, as I was now leading customers on rides.

Here is how awesome a ZRX is. I was leading a group up Highway 9 in November, and it was bitter cold. I noticed that they were all dropping back and eventually far behind me. I pulled over in Acme and waited for the group to join me.  Riders came up and asked if I had lost my mind.  It seems they had been following my tire tracks through the frost that covered the road!

Making a joke, I said “Aw heck – you should not be impressed unless there were two tire tracks.”  They all responded “There were!”

A ZRX is such a stable and lardy bus that you can ride in on frozen roads and it will move around a bit, but never alarm you.

In 2001 came the oddest purchase ever. In 1997 Muzzy performance, building on their national and international road racing success, built a run of Muzzy Raptors. These were ZX7Rs taken to the edge of legality. Flat slide carbs, Marchesini mag wheels, full titanium exhaust, and much more.  The Raptor was the only street legal bike to ever podium at an AMA Superbike race.  It came in two flavors. The “mild” street version for 14k and the comp edition at 18k. That was a lot of money for 1997.  Originally the plan was to make 30 of them, and Cycle Barn agreed to purchase all of them. Then Muzzy got greedy and decided to build more, and Cycle Barn trimmed its order back to ten of them.  In the end, 53 of them were built.  When I went to work for Cycle Barn in 2000 they had two left – basically showroom jewelry.  I came up with a whacky plan where Cycle Barn would see me one of them at a killer price. I would then use it to lead sport bike rides until someone just had to have it, and then I would sell it and split the profits with Cycle Barn.  Incredibly, this went through.

The bike was sold to me for $6000 on in-house financing.  At the same time my salary was raised $200 a month, so all I was paying was the insurance.  What a deal!

While I was purchasing, a guy called from Salt Lake City. He and his wife were flying in the next day to look at the other one. I asked the finance person to finish the paperwork before the Sales Department squashed my good idea.

That evening a salesperson called to ask me to make sure I rode it to work the next day, as the other one had not been prepped and the customer would want to hear it run. I explained that the bike now had four coats of wax on it, and that it was raining. Instead, I would drive my car to work the next day and then ferry the couple to my house to hear it run.  (There were no test rides for a Raptor, for me or anyone else)  In my garage the three of us watched in fascination as the bike warmed up, the titanium pipes flitting through a kaleidoscope of colors. Once it was warmed up, blipping the throttle sent a two foot long sheaf of blue and yellow flame out the exhaust. I drove them back to Cycle Barn and they purchased the bike and had it shipped to Salt Lake City.  When I returned home that night, Susan asked me to never do that again, as I had managed to fill the entire house with the strong smell of unburned fuel.

Problems arose immediately. Riding it was such an intense experience that I did not want to have anyone near me. In addition, the mirrors were useless, so it was less than ideal for leading rides. The suspension was hard as a rock unless you were traveling at over 80 mph, where it smoothed out quite a bit.  If you gave it too much fuel at a “normal” rpm the flat slide carbs would drown themselves, and you had to wait for the plugs to clean themselves.  In addition, the riding position was so radical that I could not see out of my Shoei helmet, so I switched to an Arai, which had a higher viewing port. After a ride I would be so adrenalin jacked that I had to walk around my garage for a while to calm down before coming in to the house

By 2002 the Muzzy Raptor had only 11000 miles on it, and by this time was one of the only Raptors that had not been raced.  I sold it to a guy in the Midwest, and I made a serious mistake.  When you do this you should make sure the new buyer accepts delivery at the point of origin. In this case I got a few wonderful e-mails from the guy about what a wonderful bike it was. Then the tone changed, and he began to complain about “shipping damage.”  The shipper paid him the maximum amount available under the standard coverage, and then the guy began hounding me for more. He eventually sued me (and Cycle Barn) for $5000 in small claims court – in Illinois. I had to fly back for the trial, which took a few hours.  Cycle Barn and I were exonerated, and the guy never showed me any evidence of shipping damage. At the end of the day I split about $6,000 of profit with Cycle Barn. 

In 2002 I decided I should have a new bike.  I don’t recall why.  My ZRX was traded in for a Triumph Sprint ST.   The guy who purchased the ZRX dropped by to say hello and reported that he was ecstatic with the bike. He commuted from Marysville to Redmond every day and reported that even when he rode only on nice days the fuel savings over his 4X4 truck were more than the monthly payment. A free motorcycle!

Alas, a month or so later he came over a hill to find a dog right in front of the bike, and the resulting carnage destroyed both the dog and the bike. I was so upset, as I really liked that bike.

The Sprint ST was sold to a fellow who was 78 years old. A very nice man, he came in a couple of weeks later to tell me that I had never told him how smooth the bike was cruising at 120mph!  I had never told him that because, while I did ride fast, I never cruised at such a speed!

I also purchased a 2000 Kawasaki ZX12R in red. It was traded in with only 538 miles on the odometer in two years. The first owner had done everything you would to such a bike – a Power Commander, Akropovich exhaust, tinted screen, tail tidy, et al. It almost sold the first day on the floor, but the deal fell through. I walked by it each day several times going two and from my desk, which at that time was in the used bikes building.  Finally I went to see the Sales Manager and asked how much he would charge me for it. He surprised me by asking me how much I thought it was worth.  “$8,000.”  

“OK.”

Really?

I soon discovered by close inspection that it had never been ridden in the rain and never had the chain lubed. It had a faulty switch that never turned on the radiator fan, and the first owner had never ridden it far enough to be noticed!  With that fixed I rode it in earnest for two years, and it was the fastest accelerating motorcycle I had ever ridden. In 2nd and 3rd gear when urged, the data coming in through my face port was faster than I could process. It was like the Millennium Falcon – stuff was streaming at me like bullets.  I actually slowed down long before a corner several times because by the time I got to it I would be going so fast any attempt to turn would be a disaster.  I entered it in the Cycle Barn dyno tests, and it usually turned in 164hp or so at the rear wheel. Amazing.

Eventually I had the scariest event of my riding career. Accelerating in 2nd gear through a mild corner on a cold and damp evening, I hit a manhole cover and a bump. The rear wheel spun up and the bike turned sideways. I was launched off the seat and had enough time to think “Susan is going to kill me.”  By luck, I fell back onto the seat, and the bike straightened out. I continued down the road trying to catch my breath. At the next stop sign my friend Sid rode up next to me, put his arm around me, and said “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”

“I don’t think I’ll do that again.”

I never trusted the bike after that, even though it had done nothing wrong.  I eventually put it up for sale on the floor at $8200.  One guy talked to the sales person for quite some time and then came to me and said “You know you’re asking too much for that bike.”

“Yeah, I know, but try to find another one that is in that condition.”

He bought it a month later, and then rode the wheels off it.  He drag raced it, did a bunch of dyno shootouts, and then mounted a nitrous oxide bottle on it.  He ran nitrous through it until he burned through the down pipes on the exhaust. Akropovich was so impressed that they gave him a new system for free.

He dropped by to chat once in a while over the years.  By 2012 the bike had been repainted twice. It had over 96,000 miles and the engine had never been apart. Full marks to Kawasaki.

The last bike I purchased for myself at Cycle Barn was a 2006 Triumph Speed Triple.  I rode it almost 50,000 miles in eleven years, and had so many adventures and great times.   When I went to work for Ride West BMW in 2010, part of the deal was that I got to order a new BMW of my choice each year.  The Speed Triple sat in my garage for the next three years, and was ridden only a couple of times a year.

I thought about selling it a few times, especially when someone would offer to purchase it. Susan refused to consider such a move, reasoning that I loved the bike, it was paid for, and that I would not be working for Ride West forever. Wise woman.  When I retired for good at the end of 2013 I took it back to Cycle Barn and spent about $1,000 on new tires, a tune-up, and the resolution of some minor glitches that had cropped up, such as the failure of the Oxford heated grips. Then it was back to full enjoyment for the next two years and a bit.

Last spring I traded it in for the 2016 Triumph Bonneville that sits in my garage on this rainy and cold day.  How long will I own it, and will the 2nd owner adore it as much as I do.

All motorcycles have stories. What of yours?

 

Copyright 2017                                David Preston

 

 

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 1 Comment

So Off We Went to the Hospital

A Year of Living Medically – the Saga Continues

First of all, it needs to be mentioned that I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate with my health for several decades.  I rarely took a sick day in my 44 years in the labor force.  I had a physical every few years, aced it, and went on with my life.  At times I wondered when my luck would run out.

About now, it would seem.

No feeling sorry for me here.  I am merely dealing with the statistically likely consequences of living well for almost 70 years.

When last we left my drama, I’d been set up to see a cardiologist over concerns with possible hardening of the arteries. I would also be seeing a spine specialist on the 19th to determine what had caused the severe pain that had brought about the “event” that sent me to the emergency room on the 10th

The cardiologist did some tests, and then fitted me with this cool little heart monitor taped to my chest. The plan was that I would wear it for seven days and then the info would be downloaded. 

So much for plans.

The next day I checked in with my usual doctor to see how I was doing.  He opined that the incident on the 10th made it obvious that something had happened with my lower back, and that another MRI was needed – now.  He wanted me to get an MRI done the next day, so the info would be available on the 19th.  Fat chance, methought.

 Incredibly, the MRI folks had a cancellation, and at 6pm on Wednesday I went in for another MRI. Had to remove the heart monitor for an hour.

Thursday morning I showed up before 8am for the spine doc appointment. After we chatted a bit, he booted up the MRI.  There was this look that flashed across his face, the look doctors are trained to try not to ever reveal.  A look that said to me, as clearly as if he’d spoken aloud: “Holy shit!”  I thought this was amusing, even though it did not bode well.  He excused himself to call in a neurosurgeon.  Hmmm.

With the neurosurgeon present we looked at the MRI. It showed a white band running down the spine and then around one of the lower discs.  Two possibilities were mentioned. It was either an infection, or possibly what is called an insufficiency fracture, where the disc partially collapses.  The first could be treated with antibiotics, and the second would self-heal with 6 weeks of wearing sort of a girdle around my lower back. Surgery would not be necessary for either.

Terrific!  

IF that is what it was. 

…oh.

In either case, I needed to be admitted to the hospital – right now. Next problem – the hospital was full!  So I was admitted to the Emergency ward, again.

Next problem.  The Emergency doc had never heard of EITHER the neurosurgeon or the infectious diseases doc who had been added to the growing roster of highly skilled people interested in my case.  Turns out that both of them are not new to doctoring in their specialist areas, but both had been added to Evergreen so recently they were not in the computer system. 

Once that was straightened out I was eventually moved to a room in the “Silver” section on the 7th floor.  One thing I was glad to hear was that I would stop taking the pain meds immediately, which meant I would be able to drive again.

If and when I got out.

Another MRI, which meant the heart monitor had to be removed and was essentially useless for the purpose of the test. Priorities. That can be saved for a later trial, but many other indicators showed that I am probably fine anyway.

I spent the next 5 days in the hospital. Every 12 hours I would be hooked up to a bag of antibiotics that would take about two hours to drain into the doodad sticking out of my arm.  The pain had subsided to a dull ache, and seemed to be mostly from sitting on my butt or lying on bed all day.  I also had a heart beat monitor thingie on my finger, which I had to remove each time I wanted to go to the bathroom, which was yet another minor bother.

A major bother for everyone else except me was that the exact nature of the suspected infection was not known. This meant that anyone entering my room for any reason had to “gown up.”  Any nurse coming in to check my blood pressure or draw blood or hook up the IV, Susan, any technician doing whatever, the nice fellow who brought the food, and so on – all of them needed to pause and put on a gown, which was then discarded into a large hamper when they left.

I noticed that some of the doctors dodged this by saying “I am not going to gown up because I am not going to touch you.” Seems to me that would apply to most of the visitors, but rank does have its privileges.

I discovered over the course of a few days that when your blood pressure is taken several times a day you can learn to predict what the numbers are going to be.  I got to be pretty good at it.

After the first day I was allowed to get out of bed and do hot laps of the section I was in, which helped my mood a lot.  I was visited by an amazing array of doctors, specialists, technicians, nurses, and so on, and ALL of them were caring and kind and extremely interested in my situation.  I was just blown away by the level of care provided.

One of the treatments ordered was a needle biopsy of my spine, which terrified me. It sounds horrendous!   Again, it proved to be no big deal.  I also had blood drawn twice a day, and either the technology of needles has improved greatly over the years, or the training of the nurses who do it.  It was ridiculous.  The standard got to be that if I can feel it you did not do well.  I was not on any pain meds now except for Tylenol twice late at night that helped me get to sleep.

I had great fun finding things that were curious and asking the nurses questions.  They seemed to enjoy this, as I was not in pain, nor was I being a pain.  The most fun one was when I noticed the seat in my bathroom placed there in case the patient needed to sit down while taking a shower.   Lots of equipment had a stenciled code for where it belonged.   Most said “ 7 Silver OSN.”  The seat in my bathroom said “7 Siver OSN.”  Evidently nobody had ever noticed the missing letter.

So now the questions were  1.) Was there a reason for this?  2.) Was this the only one with the spelling error?   3.)  What about other floors?  Eventually we decided that mine was the only one.

I also noticed signs on some rooms that read “NPO.”  I knew that meant that nothing was to be administered to the patient orally, but what did the letters actually mean?  Most of the nurses had known this at one time, and knew it was Latin. One had sufficient time to look it up, as there is often not much going on at 2am.   It is Latin and stands for “nil per os.”  You may need to know that some day.

About hospital food.  It is excellent, at least at Evergreen.  Unfortunately one of the side effects of the antibiotics is a loss of appetite, so I was not able to take full advantage. I did lose about 4 pounds, and I am still losing weight, so every cloud does have a silver lining.  Maybe that is why I was in the “silver” section…

I was visited by three doctors, and they were all wonderful.  Dr. Lopez bears an incredible likeness to Antonio Banderas!  In appearance and accent, but younger and with an incredible aura of kindness.

Saturday was the Women’s March we had intended to go to.  Susan and I did our own version, walking around the unit wearing our matching pink hats.  That went over very well.

I told people I was protesting Trump’s election in the most creative way possible – by spending about $100,000 of Medicare funds while they still exist.

One of the things that interested the staff was that I was unusual.  Almost all of the procedures used can have side effects, some of them quite serious.  I did not develop any of them.  It seemed that I was also reporting remarkably little pain, a circumstance I was quite happy about.  I do not have a high pain threshold, I don’t believe, and I am certainly not stoic or likely to hide any pain to look more brave.

Essentially I was now for the most part relaxing in a high end resort. Little pain, good food, and people to wait on me hand and foot. I spent four hours a day with antibiotics draining into my body, and twenty hours doing whatever I wanted.

Of course it was boring at times.  I was appalled to see how awful TV really is.  All night long there are movies with the same plot, involving the male hero who kills dozens of people to get to the happy ending.  Blah. 

I did a lot of crossword puzzles, and went for frequent walks around “my” block.  Occasionally a nurse or doctor would have time for some conversation, which was so comforting.  Almost a normal circumstance for a while, at least. One of the nurses used to ride motorcycles years ago, and I really enjoyed swapping tales with her, and of course urging her to get back into it. A divorce and then the death of a second husband had taken her away from two wheels.

And what a United Nations you will find in a hospital. I learned a great deal from people from all over the world, and each had a great story, when there was time to tell it, about how their life’s journey had ended up in Kirkland.  My experiences hosting a call-in radio show for three years helped here.  You just ask a polite question and sit back and enjoy the ride to places and experiences that are new.

Time to go home, but the adventure is nowhere near conclusion. At home I would need to continue the “infusion” treatments, every 12 hours – for 6 weeks.   Not fun, but better than so many alternatives.  If I were still working this would be a real drag.  To make this easier, a PICC was installed in my arm – a line extending into my arm and directly into a vein.  Having that installed was not fun, but hardly something to whine about.

Again, more amazing technology. At home we have a display of devices on the dining room table.  Twice a day I sit down and lay out the materials on a mat with a template of what is needed and in what order.   First you wash your hands with fancy hand soap, and then apply a dab of further goo that smells quite “medical.” Then you open an alcohol swab and clean the fitting for 15 seconds. Then you screw in a syringe and flush the tube, and then install the infusion device, which looks like a softball and contains the antibiotics in a pressurized form.  Then you open that valve in the line and do whatever you want. Two hours later it is empty, and you take it off, clean some more, and then flush the system with two different syringes, in the correct order.

This was really intimidating when the home nurse explained it, and we lived in fear that first night. We needed to get up a midnight to do this. Actually, it is one of those things that’s pretty easy after the first or second time.   You do need to follow the instructions  and do everything in the correct order, because screwing it up could lead to an infection, other dire circumstances or, in rare cases,  death. Gulp.

One nice thing about the PICC port in my arm is that when the visiting nurse comes once a week for a blood draw, it can be taken from there – no more needles.

Supplies are delivered by FedEx as needed

So there we are.  Today we will tweak the timing so the infusions can be done at 10am and 10pm rather than midnight and noon. I am getting better each day, and it is possible the infusions will be reduced to once a day in time.  In addition, if the cultures taken at the hospital show specifics, the antibiotics mixture can be modified into a more specific cocktail.

Again, without Susan by my side I would now be reduced to a psychological and emotional mess, a quivering blob of a person with all optimism squashed.  It would not be a pretty sight.

All in all, I am one fortunate dude.

 

 

Copyright 2017                                David Preston

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments