Planning A Motorcycle Ride in Cold Weather

Planning a Motorcycle Ride in Cold Weather

Two words to keep in mind when planning a ride in cold weather.  “Discretion” and “Adjustment.”

Let’s define our terms.  By “cold” I refer to temperatures at or just above 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Or about 7 for Celsius friends.  The issue here is not so much the temperature on you but the road surface on the tires.  At 40 degrees where you it is just fine, but out on the back roads where you like to ride it can be a few degrees colder, and there is shade, and wet leaves, and run-off and potential frost. Or ice.  If you hit a patch of ice on your motorcycle while turning or braking you are either going to crash or you are incredibly skilled. Or lucky.

By “ride” I mean a meander for fun, not commuting. Commuting is different, in that the distance is usually defined, may be fairly short, and is probably used by a lot of cars, which can be your friend in terms of warming drying the road surface. I commuted to teach school for a few years when we could afford two cars or one car and one nice motorcycle.  Well duh!  Easy choice. The deal was I would take the bike each day unless it was snowing.  If snowing, we would talk…  This was made easier the first two winters by two separate friends who each had a circumstance where each had a car they did not want to sell until spring, but wanted them driven once in a while. I was happy to help out. The 3rd year I was dismayed when nobody I knew had that odd problem, but even then, the ride was about two miles each way – easy to survive, and a small price to pay for having a nice motorcycle.

In the 14 years I worked in the motorcycle industry I was usually commuting, but hear again, my job required motorcycle gear rather than a suit and tie, so I arrived dressed for work anyway. For a couple of years I was charged with the break-in of a series of brand new Harleys destined for the rental fleet.  Harley had decreed that each one had to have 500 miles before it could be rented. I would take a brand new bike, ride it for a couple of weeks, and then turn it over to the lot techs in a muddy and sorry state, and take the keys for the next one!   Tough duty. I also did the break-in of the first BMW 1000RR that would become a demonstrator, and I was so impressed with the suspension.  The rain did put paid to the video camera on my helmet, because I forgot it was “water resistant.”  There was a lot of water.

For a fun ride in cold temps, you need some preparation, both physical and mental.   I presume the bike is in fine fettle. You amass whatever cold weather gear you have. I do not have heated gear, but I do have heated grips, some good long johns, and some serious waterproof and padded jeans  (Triumph), a warm jacket and liner (Fieldsheer), and additional liner (Vanson), motorcycle boots (Rev’It), warm socks (BMW), a throat sock, and several sets of gloves.

The mental aspect of preparation is more important. You must be ready to adjust your expectations before and during the ride.  In the Seattle suburbs, you may have heavy freezing fog in the morning, and it will get dark before 5pm, so a good day’s ride will start later and end earlier than the fondly remembered rides of the summer months just past.

Today looked promising, with highs FORECAST in the high 40’s – perhaps even 50!   That will do!  I arranged to meet some friends at Adventure Motorsports in Monroe, just 15 miles from my house and near to the roads we want to ride.  I set the time at 10:30am – time for the fog to dissipate.

First adjustment. Backing out of my garage the driveway was slippery.  Riding up the street there were patches of frost and near ice. And it was colder than forecast.   About 35 or so.  Hmmmm. The turn at the end of the block was almost iced over. Hmmmm.  Perhaps it will be better on the main highway to Monroe.

Well yes, but near Monroe I ran into freezing fog, heavy enough to form a layer of ice on my visor.  You know it will be a cold ride when you leave the sunglasses at home to better see ice in shaded corners…

I rode along, using my left glove, heated by the grip, to wipe the accumulated ice off the visor.   Second adjustment. I eliminated the first back road I had planned to use, and then the second.  Maybe just a short ride on main roads to Granite Falls?  Hmmmm…  Wait; there really are no main roads to Granite Falls…

Once at the dealership, my friends showed up and displayed varying degrees of discretion. Walt had looked at the weather and drove his van – just to say hello!  Marv lives near my house but had taken a different route. He’d already decided that this day was not going to get warm enough for safety, and planned to bail and ride back home.  Rick had ridden his Ducati from inner Seattle, and he too was having misgivings, while Tim had ridden from Renton (almost 50 miles).  Even with heated gear, grips, and seat, he also was having 2nd thoughts.   None of the electrics heat the tires or the road surface.

So we adjusted. We spent about 45 minutes in the dealership talking motorcycles.  Still too cold. So Marv rode home, Walt drove home, and the three of us remaining adjourned four blocks to a café.  The café had extremely slow service, which was just fine.  Rick ordered French toast and eggs, and when he asked why there was only one egg instead of the advertised three; the waitress brought him a complete second order.  To be polite, he ate all of both orders.

At the end our long lunch the temperature had reached all of 40 degrees, in the middle of the sun in  downtown Monroe.  What would it be on the back roads?  Still too cold.

So Tim took off back home, staying on back roads but roads that had a lot of traffic.   Rick and I headed West on a small back road that I thought would be clear (and it was) and enjoyed a few miles of what we sought. Once in Snohomish I was contemplating interesting routes for the rest of the ride, but decided I’d been fortunate enough for one day.

So we took the most obvious routes to our respective homes.  It got pleasant two miles before I reached my driveway. Coming down my street I noticed a car parked around the corner I’d been through that morning. Someone had lost it on the ice and deranged the door, front fender, and front bumper of the car.

At the end of the ride I’d covered a tad less than 40 miles. I’d also used adjustment and discretion, which is why the Triumph is sitting in the garage unscathed and awaiting the next adventure.

Riding in the cold can be great fun, and I did have fun today.  But discretion and the ability to adjust are required.

 Until next time!

Copyright 2017                                David Preston

Posted in Motorcycles | 1 Comment

Motorcycle Holiday Gifts Across 50 Years

Motorcycle Holiday Gifts Across 50 Years

I purchased my first motorcycle just over 50 years ago. I learned to ride the pristine blue and white 1965 Yamaha 250 one minute after the first owner handed me the key. After only 850 miles, he was selling it because someone had turned left in front of him. The near miss frightened him so much he chose to sell the bike.  Too bad for him, but wonderful for me.

There were no riding classes in existence at that time, and all I knew about motorcycles had been gleaned from five years of intense study of every motorcycle magazine I could get my eager little eyes on. That and two or three rides on the back of the motorcycles of friends.

I “learned” to ride it on the way home, my father in his car laughing in my rear view mirror as I killed the engine attempting to leave every stop sign.

Motorcycle “stuff” became my first choice for Christmas gifts from that day forward, and continues today.  By the way, at that time, in Minnesota, all I’d ever heard of was “Christmas.”  I chose “Holiday” for today’s title to honor all the cultures I’ve learned of in the past half a century.  I think we’re all better off to celebrate whatever fits each person.

In the beginning, there was a beginning before the beginning.  I’d been nagging my parents for permission to purchase a motorcycle for five long years, since a first back seat ride at the age of fifteen.  As engineers aware of the risks of motorcycles and the rampant and mostly undisciplined enthusiasm of their son, they wisely said “no,” …over and over again. 

However, in the fall of 1964 I hatched a plan to go go-kart racing with a friend who already had a race kart. We’d form a two car team and race the summers away.  This made sense to my parents (!), and so for Christmas of 1965 I received the best helmet available at the time.  The open face Bell 500 in gleaming white was an object of art to me. I would have worn it every day given the merest pretense of an excuse.

Alas, by spring my knowledgeable friend chose to enter water ski tournaments and retire from racing, so my plan was dashed.  The helmet sat for two years, waiting…

In 1967 my mother was dying of cancer. This altered my parents’ perception of life, so now when I wanted to purchase a motorcycle, at the ripe age of 20, the answer was “sure, why not?”  Or perhaps they reasoned this would take my mind off the looming death in the near future.

So I had a helmet.  And now a motorcycle. Time for “stuff.” 

Here is a brief compilation of the differences between stuff then and stuff today.

GLOVES:  In 1967 gloves designed for motorcycle use were rare, in the sense that I did not know of any.  Fortunately, in Minnesota everybody has ski gloves, even those intelligent enough to never venture onto a ski slope.  Because really, skiing is dangerous!   Ski gloves worked pretty well, but they all had these irritating little clips designed to hold them together when not in use.   The little clips were scissored off and away you go.  For summer use I had a pair of white handball gloves.   Why white?  Because many motorcycles, including mine, did not have turn signals, and the white showed up better at night when using arm signals for a turn.  Of course, handball gloves are about the thickness of plastic wrap, and in a crash would be nigh on useless.  My solution to this was to not crash.

Today – wow – spoiled for choice aren’t we?  You have motorcycle specific gloves designed for pavement, or dirt.  With armor or not. For rain or shine or both. With varying degrees of cold protection.  Or even heated. I think I own about ten pair of gloves now. As they age and look a little down at the heel, (get the pun?) I can’t bear to throw them away. They sit in a drawer until I find a new rider to give them to.

If purchasing a gift, make sure you know what kind of motorcycle and type of riding is enjoyed by the rider who is to receive your gift.  Size can be guessed (think larger), but keep the receipt.  Every motorcyclist wants more gloves.

HELMETS:  Again, technology has moved so far in 50 years.  My last helmet cost more than my first motorcycle.  And is worth it.  If you’re going to purchase one as a gift, it’s best to do your research and/or take the recipient with you. I recommend a known brand from a dealer with a salesperson who knows what she or he is doing.  Helmet fit is critical for long term safety and comfort, and the proper fit may be a little different from what you would think.  For lesser (or more reasonable) sums, a new face shield would go well.  Everyone wants a new tinted or clear shield, but again, know exactly what model of helmet it will be going on.

WARMTH:  Here we find a treasure trove of items that will be welcomed with glee.  In the beginning I used a bandana wrapped around my throat and chin and up over my mouth and nose. Part of this was ego. In those days, Formula One drivers and motorcycle racers covered themselves for protection with a bandana, and it looked racey. There were no full-face helmets at the time, or Nomex driving suits. When full face helmets came in toward the end of the 1970’s there was less need to cover your chin and mouth and nose.

Later I moved to a woven throat “tube” which I still have. I hardly use it these days because it’s been replaced by the same item in a light and stretchy fabric. Best accessory ever, as it keeps me warm and snug down to temps where the question is “Why am I doing this?” There are scads of them for sale and they are cheap – great gift idea.

To stay warm I originally used some sort of long johns under my jeans and a sweater, which was sort of OK. Unless it rained. Now your local REI or other outdoor store will offer all sorts of high technology tops and bottoms in fabrics of materials you’ve never heard of. They are light, easily washable, and vastly superior.  Mine top and bottom set came from REI and is magnificent.

JACKETS:  Back then the item of choice was a ski parka, which again, everyone in Minnesota owns.  Fine for warmth, a bit less so in a driving rain, and utterly useless in a crash, where you would leave behind you an exploding and expanding plume of feathers or synthetic fillers – a plume that would begin to turn red toward the end of the crash. Don’t go there.

My first “real” motorcycle jacket came from a treasured “WEBCO” catalogue, and was black Naugahyde with while leather stripes down the sleeves.  Cool? Oh my yes.  Warmth?  Not so much.  Crash padding had not been invented at that time.  Not sure how it would have done in a crash.  Not well would be a guess.

Now you have choices, and all of them are exponentially better. Leather is stylish, while textile jackets and pants have caught up and surpassed leather in most ways. Except style. As gifts, you must again be sure you’re purchasing a product designed for use on motorcycles.  A thin leather jacket with fabric cuffs will look snazzy until the first rain experience. Or crash.

Jackets are sort of like gloves. I occasionally purchase a new one, but seldom get rid of the old.  I now have the “summer” textile jacket and the “winter” textile jacket.  And a third textile jacket and two leather jackets that are waiting for me to do something.

If you are new to motorcycles and on a budget, you might check around your area for a store that sells “lightly” used gear.  If you can find the right size in a jacket you like, you will have a lot of money left over for the other things on this list!

BOOTS:  Back then; hiking boots of some sort.  Not so swell in the rain, and lacking protection from the ankles up, but much better than tennis shoes.  Gold Wing riders, you know who you are!  Wearing tennis shoes for Gold Wing riders goes along with the stuffed teddy bear on the rear rack as an attempt to appear friendly.  It doesn’t work, and it’s just silly.  Dropping an 800 pound motorcycle on your ankle is not friendly.

I moved on from that to some sort of tall black boots, and then, in 1978, I ordered custom boots from Frank Thomas in England. The exchange rare was very favorable at that time.   As directed, I sent tracings of both my right and left feet along with a check for about $85, and received in return exquisite boots that rose almost to my knees and were incredibly comfy.  I wrote a letter to the company extolling them and got a lovely note in return thanking me and telling me my letter had been posted in the tea room for “the lads to enjoy.”  Wonderful.

When I eventually replaced them I gave them to a dear friend who admired them, and they looked even better on her.

By 2000 you could get boots that actually were waterproof, although false claims to this had been made for 50 years prior. My first pair was worn to watch a road race, riding to the track in a pouring rain on a Triumph 600 sport bike.  Bone dry.  I walked around the spectator section stomping through 6 inch deep puddles, testing the boots. Still bone dry. I have not had wet feet for the past many years.

Again, if purchasing, I would go for a name brand and a good guess as to the correct size, and I would keep the receipt.

It is possible to go too far. When I owned a couple of superbikes (Muzzy Raptor and Kawasaki ZX 12R) I splurged and went all the way to a pair of top shelf racing boots. Looked the business and had protection all over for toes and ankles and shins and all.  But off the bike, total agony to walk in.  So unless you’re purchasing for a racer, stay away from pure race boots. 

SOCKS:   Well, everyone owns white athletic socks, right?  But now you can get even such a mundane item as socks in a motorcycle specific product. I have some “BMW” socks that are impregnated with charcoal and are supposed to be “odor free” for – four days!  I have never tested that claim, but they’re comfy and warm.  Same goes for underwear, although simple jockey shorts do for me.

KIDNEY BELT:  Here’s how far we have come. Back then these were common, a sort of girdle that went around your guts and lower back and held your innards in place on the motorcycles of the day, which tended to vibrate like an exercise machine.  I ordered mine out of the “WEBCO” catalogue and wore it with pride, feeling like a “real” motorcyclist.  I doubt it was necessary on a 250cc two stroke. Today I had to Google the item to make sure they are still available. I have not seen one in a dealership in 20 years, but if your person does a lot of severe off-road riding one might be a treat.

ELECTRONICS:  Here’s a product area that did not exist at all in 1967.  Electronics had all they could do to keep the motorcycle running.  Ignition was by points, and filaments in head lights and tail lights and turn signals, if you had them, failed with monotonous regularity.  In 1967 any English motorcycle owner knew all the “Electrics by Lucas” jokes, and had experienced many of them.  A Zener diode was a weird name for a weird electrical system component.

My 2016 Triumph Bonneville now has, and this just astonishes me, a charging port for your smart phone under the seat!

A word of caution applies. You can now equip your bike, or a friends, with intercom systems, radar detectors, GPS, phone connections, radio, and on and on.  But – is that a good idea?

Two cases in point. Ten years ago I wrote a piece of an on-line mag about why you should not have GPS on your motorcycle.  I had several reasons for this, including that I knew two people who had crashed while looking at the display that was showing the corner they were about to miss. I also felt that you were better off to keep your wits about you and figure out where you were.  And last, most of the great riding roads I know I found by getting lost!

I got a great response from a US Army combat helicopter pilot who was e-mailing me from somewhere far away. He agreed with me. He had begun his career with Cobra gunships, which did not have GPS. He was proud of his ability to fly a complex flight plan and arrive “on station” at the appointed time.  Now he was in Apache helicopters, with all the latest mod cons.   He said the younger pilots were in the habit of flying along at 160mph about 20 feet off the ground and never looking outside!  Worse, he felt that his inner navigational system was being eroded.

I have a friend who has worked for Google for many years, to the point that he cannot tell me exactly what he is currently working on. He carries on his person a phone with all the latest.   On a motorcycle trip – he leaves it off.

Speaking of maps – on my first long motorcycle trip I rode from Minneapolis to Seattle to see my father.   On a spare day here, I decided I should go see this Space Needle I had heard about. I wrote the address down on a piece of paper.   The third time I pulled over and stopped and pulled out the piece of paper to check the address again it occurred to me to… look up.   GPS does not provide stories like that!

When you are riding a motorcycle, do you want music, or phone calls, or e-mails or Facebook postings or Tweets or whatever?  I choose to have none of it at all.  If I want to check on things I have a good excuse to find a small park and pull over and take a break.

Caveat Emptor. Sometimes a great product is one you may not want.

CLEANING:   Back then, soap and water and whatever car wax my Dad had on the shelf.  Today, again, a wonderland of pastes, dissolvers, unguents, creams, waxes, and more.  Consulting with your local dealer parts person will help a lot. Good for gifts, as none of them are all that costly, and they are sure to be used.  Also chain lube is handy, as long as the person has a motorcycle with a drive chain and not a shaft or belt drive!

RIDER EDUCATION: As mentioned, in 1967 there was no such thing.  Now there are (in most areas) over a dozen courses on offer, from multiple providers.  A beginner rider course, or intermediate, or advanced, on up to off-road riding courses, advanced cornering clinics on race tracks, track days, and race instruction.  In fact, I think the best gift you could provide for someone  (or for yourself) would be a gift certificate from a provider.

All in all, the golden days of motorcycles AND stuff are…right now.

Happy Holiday Shopping!


Copyright 2017                                David Preston

Posted in Education, Equipment, Motorcycles | Leave a comment

Thou Shalt Not Be a Curmudgeon

Do Not Be a Motorcycle Curmudgeon

As we age we tend to become more rigid in our beliefs. Doesn’t matter if the subject is morality, politics, or even motorcycles. After a myriad of life experiences, we “know what is right,” and assume that any other way of proceeding is “wrong.” Thus forms the foundation of incipient curmudgeonhood.

So here’s your handy dandy guide to avoidance, because who wants to be known as a curmudgeon?

Tenet #1: It is not always about you.

Tenet #2: The market changes even if you don’t.

Despite our tendencies toward denial, we are all aging. This is preferable to the alternative. Aging also applies to the motorcycle market. In the motorcycle business, as in any other, you can adapt to a changing market. Or you can keep on doing what you have always done. And die a slow death.

Currently the market for sport bikes is shrinking, for a few obvious reasons. One is that almost all current sport bikes grotesquely exceed the capabilities of the roads infrastructure they are designed to be ridden on. Even worse, they exceed the capabilities of most of their riders. The best place to experience the design wonders of any large displacement sport motorcycle is at a race track for a day of chasing limits. Probably your own. They can, of course, be ridden on the street, but they are uncomfortable at legal speeds, and also tend to be expensive.

As riders age, and I include me, the cramped posture dictated by the low bars and elevated feet posture of a sports bike becomes more and more uncomfortable, and in many cases, impossible.

This is true of many genres of motorcycles. A BMW R 1200 GS Adventure is a fantastic machine, if you are tall of stature and reasonable strong, and have knees and legs in fine working order. I felt uncomfortable on them when my job necessitated riding one from time to time, and now I’d be completely intimidated. My right knee has been operated on twice, and is not completely to be relied on in a stressful situation. Worst case example: I was asked to ride a new GS 1200 Adventure for an entire day (oh, the horrors of the job) to break it in. The owner was flying in from a foreign country and wanted to have the first oil change done before he took off on a cross the country trip. I was pretty stoked to be asked to ride a new motorcycle on a fine day as part of my job, and didn’t think this through very clearly. It wasn’t so bad at the dealership. The bike was parked at the curb on its side stand, and I could throw a leg over pretty easily and stand it up. Once underway, I became aware of how tall the bike was. And that it was brand new. And that it did not belong to the dealership, but a customer. And it had been paid for.

I had a friend who also needed to ride that day to take some scenic pictures for his business, so I led us on a merry ride to scenic spots for about 250 miles. The problem was that every time I found a good place for a picture, we would be on a steep slope, on uneven dirt, or both. I came close to dumping it once when I put the side stand down in a rut, and only a spurt of panic adrenaline allowed me to haul it upright. Probably my scariest motorcycle ride ever.

Because of situations like this, motorcyclists fond of both sport bikes and adventure bikes have welcomed a slew of new models that are smaller and lighter and more accessible to a wider range of riders. And less expensive.

Many of the old guard sneer in derision at these upstarts that are slower (many of them less so than you might think) and are not “real” sport bikes or adventure bikes.

For manufacturers, the result is greater sales. That trumps all.

Tenet #3: The number of wheels is not etched in stone.

The Can-Am Spyder line is probably the best known of the small trend toward “motorcycles” with three wheels, opening up motorcycle adventures to thousands of people who want the security of a motorcycle that does not fall over left to its own devices, like all two wheeled motorcycles do. Curmudgeons sputter, while Can-Am riders cruise by with big smiles on their faces.

I had a chance to ride one and was very impressed. The engine has such lovely stonk I thought I might be pulling the front wheels off the ground. That was several years ago, and the new ones are presumably even better in every regard.

Yamaha just released a teaser video regarding an about to be offered new model. It’s a fairly sporty mount with – gasp – two front wheels. Oh the hue and cry!

“It’s ugly.”

“I would never be seen on one.”

“What are they thinking?” And on and on.

I think I know what they’re thinking. They’re thinking of profit.

The massive negative response to Yamaha’s video was curious. Surely almost all of the respondents have never ridden a three wheel motorcycle. I have ridden four of them, and they offer a different solution to a problem many people have. And as the riding population ages, more will have. Soon.

The Piaggio three wheel scooter was a concept new to scooters that looked odd and performed very well. I rode one home in a pouring rain. As happens at times, someone did something stupid right in front of me and an emergency stop was required. The Piaggio stopped, right now, with no fuss or drama at all. On a standard scooter with a small wheel I’m sure I would have been on the ground.

The reason the Piaggio was traded in with few miles for a standard scooter was also related to the two front wheels. Because the two wheels are close together, and because roads are not perfectly flat, as you rode along each wheel would find small bumps or dents in the pavement. This created sort of a mild rocking sensation. The first owner hated it and it scared her, perhaps not understanding what was really going on. I thought it was kind of fun in a mildly quirky way.

In Snohomish, Washington, near my home, resides Tilting Wheel Motor Works. They create conversions for Harleys and Gold Wings and other motorcycles that place two wheels on the front. I had the good fortune to ride the prototype about ten years ago. The proof of concept bike was made from a little Honda Rebel, and the prototype that followed was made from a Yamaha V-Max. The astonishing thing about the Tilting Wheel V-Max was that from the saddle you could not see or tell that it had three wheels. It felt and handled exactly like the normal V-Max. The only thing I noticed on my short ride was that in slow and very tight turns, like turning around in a parking lot, it felt like it was about to fall over, which the logic side of my brain knew was not possible. The creator explained that he was still messing with the geometry to cure that.

That same bike later set a speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats. Twice. The first year it went in the form I had experienced, and the second year it returned with the largest nitrous oxide bottle I have ever seen attached! That must have been amazing.

With their creations you get nearly twice as much front end grip. A clever device locks the wheels in place at a stop, so you don’t need to put a foot down. There are all sorts of advantages for people who have balance or strength issues. If you are not one of those people, just wait a few years. You will be.

The last time I visited they were putting the finishing touches on a Harley V-Rod conversion, and this looked like a wonderful idea to me. The V-Rod engine is a fantastic design developed with input from Porsche, and it has never gotten the credit it deserves. Partly because many of the people who purchased V-Rods rode them as they would a Harley. In other words, they shifted at about 3,000rpm. A V-Rod engine will run like that until the last cockroach rolls over, but if you let the engine sing to 5,000rpm and up, wow – serious power and a wonderful sound! The only disadvantage to it as a sport bike engine was that Harley priced it far too high to attract sport bike enthusiasts who could get the same or better performance from Japan for about 50% of the cost.

It was also a heavy engine, but that would be less of a problem for a Tilting Wheel conversion. I loved it, and I could see one in my future – but not yet.

And of course, Harleys and Gold Wings and some others have been around for years as trike conversions. One of the legitimate complaints about them is that they use a solid rear axle which can be prone to flipping the bike into a ditch if cornered with verve. Which most of them aren’t.

Funny story. About ten years ago the state of Washington decided to add a motorcycle license category “7,” which would include all motorcycles as well as three wheel vehicles. There would be a new test for this, of course, but they offered a couple of months where you could take your current license in and have it upgraded to the “7” without any paperwork or testing – or knowledge. I took advantage of this and had my license changed.

Later a customer came to me and asked for a test ride on a Honda trike we had for sale. He did not have a license for it, and neither did any of the sales staff, but they had told him I did, so would I take him for a ride? Gulp. “Sure!” So my first ever ride on a trike was with a customer as passenger.

This particular Gold Wing trike had been fitted with a true independent rear suspension, which would work much better than the solid axle versions that were common. The disadvantage was that it was very wide. The back end had tail lights similar to a Corvette, and the trike was almost as wide as a Corvette. This proved a problem for one customer, who kept hitting the side of the garage door when she returned home, forgetting that the bike behind was about two feet wider than what she could see in front of her.

And then there are “standard” side cars, the most plentiful of which are Urals. I have no experience of any of them other than as a passenger, but the tales of woe from friends who purchased Urals and have been on a slalom of mechanical woes ever since does give one pause.

The point – not all motorcycles have two wheels. And for many, three wheels in any one of a number of combinations is a good solution to a situation they did not bother to share with you. Get over it.

Tenet #4: Wave. Or Don’t. Some people (like me) wave at all other motorcycle riders. And scooters. And trikes. Some don’t. Either is fine with me. What you must not do is discriminate, as is “I only wave at other sport bikes,” or “I only wave at other Harleys.” If you do, you are a curmudgeon.

Tenet #5: There is a butt for every seat. I know, not a new thought. But really, people have different tastes and choose to express their taste with their own wallets.

I was not impressed with the Harley Ultra-Classic. I found it hard to understand how anyone could pay such a considerable sum for a bike that was heavy, slow, and did not handle very well. I rode one in a parade and gave myself second degree burns on the inside of my right thigh. Note: an Ultra Classic is not the best choice for 5mph for an hour on an 85 degree day.

Then a couple came in to take delivery of their new Ultra Classic in pearl white. I don’t like white either. As the bike was wheeled outside the sun hit the white pearl and it was spectacular. Talking with the couple, I learned that they were long haul truckers, and they’d been saving for this bike and dreaming about it and talking endlessly about it… for years. As they saw it resplendent in the sun there were tears in their eyes, and I learned a lesson. Your dream is not everyone elses.

The same dealership also sold “Thunder Mountain” choppers. I took the demo home one night and my wife was appalled. Riding it gave me impressions to reinforce her opinion. The bike was so off-center to the left, necessary to clear the monster rear tire, that it went down the road with a permanent lean. Going left was easy, except there was no ground clearance. Arcing to the right while accelerating on a freeway entrance ramp was a wrestling match I was not sure I would win.

But then I talked to a customer who loved his. The next weekend he passed me on the freeway with a large bag strapped to the back. He was on his way from Seattle to Reno. In a pouring rain. Respect.

So if someone has a different look to their motorcycle, or a different purpose, or brand, or style of gear, or whatever – celebrate diversity!

How boring would it be if everyone rode the same brand and model of motorcycle you do!

Tenet #1: It’s not about you.

Copyright 2017 David Preston

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 3 Comments

Silly Things I / We / You (?) Do With Motorcycles

Silly Things I / We/ (You?) Do With Motorcycles

The article I wrote on inexpensive or free accessories for your motorcycle ride got some excellent additions in response (see the comments section).  Perhaps this one will have the same happy result. Whatcha’ got?

Many of us spend time and money modifying our motorcycles for better performance or to look better (in our eyes).  We also learn riding techniques and good maintenance practices to keep ourselves and our bikes in good working order.  All to the good, but…

Some of the things we do are just silly.

Silly is not all bad, as sometimes a silly thing can have great meaning and be useful for a balanced life.  For example:

Saying thanks:   I know a motorcycle is an inanimate object, but even so, at the end of the ride when the motorcycle is put away, I often say “thank you.”  This will not be a problem until the motorcycle talks back to me.

Naming: Some people give their motorcycle a name or refer to it as “he” or “she.”  I’ve never done this, but I can see the appeal.

Coverage: At one time I owned a cover that I put over the bike, even though I’m fortunate enough to keep it in the garage. Eventually I removed it and gave it away, because with it on… I could not enjoy looking at the bike!

A simple touch:  Sometimes when I walk by my motorcycle in the garage, I pause and lay a hand on it for a second or two, as you would any cherished object.

Key fob:  Your motorcycle probably came with a fob from the dealer.  Many of us go further. Best case was a fellow I knew who owned a Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic and a Kawasaki Ninja 12R – so he’s already a member of a very small demographic.  He rode both of them with skill and vigor.  It pleased him to have a Harley key fob for the Kawasaki key and a Kawasaki key fob for the Harley. He usually went further and wore an “opposite” t-shirt under his jacket.  I thought that was great.

In my own case I was fortunate enough to lead some customers on a ride in 2010 from Seattle to Salt Lake City and back to spectate at a World Superbike Race.  At the (then) Miller Motorsports Park the Christian Motorcyclists Association ran a gear check, where you could leave your riding gear and helmet with them and stroll around the massive facility with greater ease and comfort.  The woman who waited on me had a name tag that was upside down. I mentioned this and she explained that she did this on purpose to force people to talk to her.  I replied that her Australian accent would probably do that anyway. We had a nice chat and then she said she had a gift for me. It was a key fob that was a small leather string with colored beads attached.  She explained the biblical meaning of each colored bead, and there was a small card with the explanation of each attached.  I did not share her beliefs, but I was touched by her friendly manner and overwhelming sincerity.  I used that key fob for several years to honor her.  Eventually it came apart and the beads escaped for a new life, but I still have the small leather cord on my key.

Gremlin bell:  (also known as a Guardian bell).  The story behind this one is either inspiring or an example of brilliant marketing (if you are a cynic like me).   The idea is a small bell attached to the lowest part of the frame of your motorcycle.  The concept is that the subtle tinkling of the bell wards off evil spirits or gremlins that could cause a crash or mechanical issue. The marketing part is that the “instructions” that come with each one state that it only works if it is given to you. Thus, these were (and probably still are) impulse purchases at dealerships as gifts for friends.  The irony is that most of them are put on Harleys. Most Harleys are sufficiently loud that the little bell has no chance of being heard. 

Waxing:  Have you ever waxed your bike when there was no real need?

Dirty:  The corollary to this is people who brag that their bike has never been washed and never will be.  I fail to see the upside of this.

Staring:  Ever sat in a chair and just looked at your bike while your mind roamed?

Mohawks and others:  These seem to have gone out of style, but you used to see them a lot.  A fake Mohawk hair style attached to the helmet.  In this state they are actually illegal, which is silly in itself. I think the State Patrol wanted that just for an excuse to pull people over to look for other potential sins.  You can also get dog ears, bunny ears, etc.  All of them are illegal!

Shield covers: You can get overlays for your visor that have a great many small holes you can see through, but the shield will be covered with a design.  A flag, a face, all sorts of things.  You can combine them with helmet wraps and become Spiderman or a Mutant Ninja Turtle or whatever. Silly, but fun.

Tinted face shield:  There are sound reasons for this. On sunny days my sunglasses at times do not play well with a clear visor.  But really – it’s because I think it looks cool. 

Pause for two anecdotes.

I was returning to the dealership from somewhere on my gorgeous new Triumph Sprint in dark “British Racing Green.”  I was wearing my custom-made Vanson suit – black leather pants and a blue and black Vanson leather jacket. Black leather boots and gloves, and an Arai Corsair helmet in bright yellow with a dark tinted shield.  Looking as good as is possible for me, on a motorcycle or off. At a stoplight there was a car full of attractive young women in the next lane. I could see that they were talking about me.  I had the thought that I could prop open the visor so they could see I was over 50, but decided not to lest the driver scream and drive into a telephone pole in her horror.

On another occasion I was doing a video shoot with some customers and with famed pro race car driver Dominic Dobson. We were being filmed by a TV crew from Australia shooting a program on the heads-up display product Dominic was heading.

All of the customers had the heads-up units on their helmets.  Some of them were functional like mine, while the rest were empty units taped in place.

Dominic is a very nice guy, at least off the track, and I enjoyed working with him to test the product. He also appeared as a guest on my radio show. I was very proud that I’d helped the product development, at one point having an engineer in my garage talking by expensive phone with a colleague in China trying to find a glitch I’d discovered. The bike used in development was a Suzuki 650 and the unit had worked fine.  Turns out there was a bug in the program at 7,000 rpm, which the Suzuki had never reached. I did on occasion.

Anyway, it was a cold and damp fall day, and at one point we pulled over on the road I’d selected so Dominic and I could ride ahead and scout locations for the shoot. Dominic was new to riding, and as we headed down the winding road it occurred to me that I could late- brake Dominic on the way into a corner and pass him up the inside on the wet road. How many times would I have the chance to pass a guy who had raced for the Porsche factory at LeMans and raced at the Indy 500 for 11 years?  Fortunately, sanity intruded and I stayed back.

Later that day during a break (there are always tons of breaks for a video shoot) I was chatting with Dominic, and I mentioned that although it was a very dark day I was wearing the tinted shield because I thought it looked cooler.  Dominic replied that he had worn a tinted visor for his entire racing career for the same reason. Well then!

At the end of the day the last shoot featured a tall Aussie cameraman sitting backwards (!) on my Sprint, with his legs behind the saddlebags and his spine pressed against mine – held on by nothing. I was to accelerate up to 50 mph or so and have the group ride as close as possible behind me.  Gulp. As we were rolling along a corner loomed, and now I had to slow down fairly quickly, not get rammed from behind, and make the corner.  The next morning I woke up in a cold sweat as it dawned on me how truly nuts that was.  And of course, as is usually the case, that footage never made the final cut for the show.

Meanwhile, back at the topic, what silly things do you do on or with or for your motorcycle?

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 2 Comments

Cheap (or free) motorcycle accessories

Cheap (or free) accessories for every motorcycle ride

I enjoy motorcycle magazine reports detailing new equipment and accessories for motorcycles. Every month new products emerge that make your ride more comfortable or safer or faster or some combination of those.  And of course the prices asked keep going up. Better products cost more money. 

It is a little daunting to ponder the fact that my most recent helmet cost more than my first motorcycle.

Very seldom do magazines spend valuable inkage on products that are inexpensive or even free. But they do exist.  Here are some items I carry with me that are either very inexpensive or free – presented in no particular order.

Neck sock:  These go by various names, but are essentially a tube of fabric that covers your throat area.  On a benefit to price ratio they are hard to beat.  The first one I purchased is a heavy knit item that provides a lot of warmth, but I hardly use it any more. That is because I received a door prize at an event a few years ago that is a similar item of a much lighter fabric.  It makes an amazing difference on a chill day, and works well even down to temperatures where you might be asking yourself “Whose idea was it to go for a ride today?”  Even better, on super hot days you can get the tube wet and add an amazing degree of air conditioning, so much so that you need to make sure it is really, really hot.

Attorney’s business card:  A few years ago when I was working at a dealership I met a local attorney who was giving away a simple book that detailed all the ways you could screw up a legal claim after a motorcycle accident. He would bring me these books by the case, and I would put them out on the table that held other free items.  He also gave presentations on the topic, and the second time I listened to one (I can be a bit slow) I had a great idea.  It seemed to me that the time you need to contact your attorney is as soon as possible after the incident.  While you’re waiting for help, if you’re able. 

When you’ve suffered a monetary or physical or emotional loss on a motorcycle at the hands of others you probably need an attorney. Not next week.


Ever since then I have carried his business card in my wallet.  So far I have not used it, but I have referred a great many people to his book and services.  He specializes in these sorts of cases, and he seems to harbor an intense hatred for insurance companies. This is the type of person you want on your side.   I urge you to find someone similar in your area and carry his or her card with you at all times.

AMA membership card:  Not required, but over the 50 years of my riding experience and for decades before that, motorcycles have come under legislative threats of all kinds from time to time.  The AMA is your voice in lobbying, and also offers a magazine, discounts on various services, and so on and so forth.

Insurance card:  Some elect not to put collision insurance on their motorcycle, and if the motorcycle is not worth a whole lot this can make sense.   Some also ask “How much damage can I do on a motorcycle?” and do not carry liability insurance either. The answer to their intended rhetorical question is “Quite a lot.”  Let’s say you are riding on one of your favorite winding roads and you come around a corner. There is a marked pedestrian crossing that was not there last week.  There is a woman pushing a baby strolled in the crosswalk.  You hit the woman and she is injured, and the baby is killed.  This was entirely your fault.  How high will the damages go?  High enough you will have a debt over your head, both psychological and actual, for the rest of your life.  One way to lower the cost of insurance is what is called “bundling.”  We have two cars, a motorcycle, and our home with one company, and the savings for having all of our loss risks in one basket it substantial.

In some areas insurance is mandatory, and some riders opt for their wild side and choose to ignore this.  Can you spell “folly”?

Spare key:   This never occurred to me for the first 40 years of riding (I did mention I can be slow at times), but after hearing a couple of horror stories from other riders the penny finally dropped.  Again, I have not needed this safety back-up – yet.

Spare gloves: You can ride for quite some time if you are caught out in the rain or if the temperature changes significantly, both events that happen with regularity in the Northwest United States.  Your jacket will repel water for quite some time, no matter what it is, and even jeans will get sodden and wet but not utterly miserable for a reasonable period. Not so your hands. Hands that are wet and or extremely cold can put you in peril very quickly.  A spare set of gloves can save the day.   (An assumption here, of course, is that you are wearing a jacket and gloves at all times.  If not – insert a long lecture here that you would probably ignore)

Sunglasses and hat:  You never can tell what you will find on a ride. Oh look, a hot rod show!  Must stop!  Sunglasses and hat will make your stroll around luscious pieces of automotive art that you cannot afford so much more pleasant.

Spare visor: Clear or tinted – your choice.  Again – stuff happens.

First aid kit:  If you carry one on the bike you will never have to use it, in my experience.  If you don’t…

Tire repair kit:  See first aid kit.

Tank bag:  To carry the stuff mentioned above.   Or back pack or saddle bags or…

The total cost of all of these items is surely less than $1 a day.

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

Posted in Education, Equipment, Motorcycles | 5 Comments

Possibly the most boring motorcycle video ever posted!

You have been warned! 

This was shot last Saturday and shows a motorcycle ride from north to south over Blewitt Pass. 

If you are thinking of purchasing a Triumph T 120 motorcycle of the current generation and want to hear how it sounds for 14 minutes of reasonably high speeds, this might have some interest.

Or if you want to see how Blewitt Pass looks.

Or if you are having a hard time getting to sleep. 

It was a lot of fun and I am pleased to have it to look back on, but that’s about it.  There was a delay in posting because it has been so long I forgot how to get it off the Go Pro camera!  Fortunately my brother in law Rich was at our home last night and solved the problem for me.  So here it is:



Posted in Motorcycles | Leave a comment

Fun with Forest Fires

Fun with Forest Fires

In these troubling times, when it seems like the entirety of the northwest United States is struggling with forest fires, perhaps an incident that was sort of fun will be appropriate.  It will take a bit of reading to get to it, however.

In 1970 I was 23 years old and embarking on my 3rd long distance motorcycle ride.  My steed was a pristine 1969 Honda 450 Street Scrambler.  Purchased with 843 miles on the odometer, it showed off a few improvements made by the first owner.  He had chromed both the side and center stands, and maintained the bike in a manner that would make an obsessive compulsive proud. With silver paint and gold flashes on the tank, it was one of the most beautiful bikes I’ve ever owned.

The plan was to ride from Seattle to Minneapolis to see old friends from high school and college, and then return. I had a large duffel bag on the back with my camping gear and some clothes.  That was about it. 

This turned out to be the most fraught trip I ever took, but it all ended well.

The first night I was looking for a campsite in southern Idaho, and they were all full. As afternoon segued inexorably toward evening, I was getting very worried. At last I found a campground with a big sign warning that bears had been a problem recently.  But – there was an open site!  I set up my tent, organized my stuff, and went for a stroll. I spotted an old man leaning over a water fountain, wearing a full length fur coat. This seemed odd, but as I grew closer the “old man” stood up, and it was, in fact, a bear! Everyone around me was scrambling away, and it seemed that all of them had a pickup truck with a camper shell on the back. 

Except me.

I had a tent.

I crawled into my tent, telling myself that both my bike and I probably smelled like gasoline and oil and therefore I would be OK.  This made no sense at all, as it was not true, but the bear wandered off.

A big truck soon arrived full of park rangers and dogs. The rangers, bearing rifles armed with tranquilizer darts, walked carefully through the campground, the dogs straining at their leashes.  The dogs soon found the scent of the bear, and they were off. I fell asleep to the baying of the hounds far up the hillside.

The next morning I stopped at a small town that had a motorcycle dealership, because the bike needed an oil change.  I have no idea why I did not take care of this before I left.  I purchased the oil and filter, and set to work in the hot sun.  While removing the filter I managed to pretty much weld my forearm to an exhaust pipe, raising a really impressive blister. The next day it broke and I could feel the fluid running down my arm inside my ski jacket, which is what I wore while riding in those innocent days.

After that I was streaming across Montana at about 85mph, which was legal in those days, and a bee struck me in the throat and stung me in his death throes, which seems fair.  I’d read in a magazine the previous month a letter from a woman who was arguing against the use of helmets.  While riding behind her husband, a bee had flown into his open face helmet and around to the base of this neck, where he was stung. The sting at the base of his skull paralyzed him, according to her.  The bike crashed and alas, he was killed.

So while pondering this I continued at high speed, flexing my fingers from time to time to see if paralysis was setting in!  I may not have been all that bright back then.  

Or now…

That night I found a lovely park next to a small lake.  A ranger was coming around, warning people of a possible tornado. Across the lake you could see a serious weather incident coming directly toward us.  I moved my bike up to a sidewalk behind a brick building that housed the bathrooms and showers, and put my tent up right next to it. Now on the lee side of the wind and the approaching storm, I went to sleep.  A sleep profound enough to last through the night, the storm, AND the tornado!  I woke up as the only person in the campground. There were trees blown down all over the place, and I rode across the grass and anywhere else I could find a clear path to get out.

I had departed very early, as was my habit in those days, and it was about the most beautiful Montana morning ever seen. So much so that I actually parked on the side of the deserted freeway, just to watch the sun come up.  Spectacular.

Later I stopped for breakfast. As I got off the bike and removed my helmet, an older woman came out. Obviously on her way to church, she wore a spotless blue dress with white lace trim, a hat, and gloves.  She walked toward me, her lips pursed, and I braced myself for the lecture on the idiocy of riding motorcycles many people liked to deliver back then.  She took a long look at my bike and then said “My, what a pretty motorcycle!”  Absolutely made my day.

In Minnesota I was giving a ride to a friend on the freeway. A white Ford van changed lanes straight into the left side of the bike, knocking me to the right. The ARMCO barrier was right there, and I remember the handlebar jamming into my stomach as I corrected for the slide.  The bike then went into a slide the other way, and I slewed and sashayed and swayed to the left across four lanes of busy traffic, coming to a stop on the left hand verge.  The van driver stopped and was almost crying with relief that we were not dead, and promised to pay for any damages.  (Later he changed his mind).

The damage to my bike was a clutch lever that had bent around my fingers, a white mark on the front tire where the painted bumper of the van had hit, and a grotesque swelling of the ankle of my friend David, who had been hit by the side of the van.

The state trooper could not believe it.

“Let me get this straight Mr. Preston.  He hit you back there, and you slid back and forth across all of these lanes, as we can clearly see from the skid marks (I think I had the rear tire locked up), came to a stop here, two up, and you did not crash?  How is that possible?”

“I have no idea.”

A visit to the hospital showed that my friend’s ankle was not broken, and we lived to ride another day.

The shock from this trauma did not really sink in until I was heading back to Seattle. I chose to ride up into Canada and head west, and early on I noticed that I was in a near panic if any vehicle appeared on my left.  Fortunately, Canada was pretty open back then, and this did not occur often.

While in Minneapolis and I’d spent an evening with Joel, who’d grown up next door to me in Minnetonka. He was now teaching English in New Haven, having graduated from Yale, and was touring the country with a VW van with a Kawasaki 90 that would fit, just barely, in the van.  We decided to meet, two weeks later, at a campground in Banff.

As I rode into the campground I realized our folly. There were no campsites to be had at all. What had we been thinking?  As my heart fell, I rolled around a corner, and there was Joel, all set up in a nice spot.  He was sitting at the picnic table wearing a jaunty cowboy hat and strumming a guitar, a bottle of scotch at the ready. Wow!

Toward the end of my trip I was heading south for the US border when I came upon an active forest fire.  Nobody told me to stop, and so I kept on keeping on.  Soon I was rolling along through the middle of the battle against the fire.  There were people in hard hats on both side of the road, beating down flames on bushes and shoveling dirt here and there. 

Thoughts raced through my mind.   How was I allowed to ride on this road?  Shouldn’t someone have stopped me?  How can this be?

Then I felt guilty, and wondered if I should stop to help.  Parking a motorcycle in the middle of a fire did not seem like a good plan, and the fire fighters probably would have laughed at me and urged me to keep going.

I believe things are more casual in Canada, but I’m sure that would not happen today.

When I got to the US border the Canadian customs folks were friendly, as usual, and the US people not so much. As usual. I was directed to the side and told they would need to go through the duffel bag on the back of my bike.  

In their defense, I did not look like a guy most likely to succeed. I had not shaved in a couple of days, and had just ridden through a forest fire.  It was over 90 degrees, and my long hair was plastered all over my head.  And I probably smelled like smoke.  Or worse.

As the guard was pulling stuff out of my bag he interrogated me.

“Where do you live?”

“Kirkland, Washington, Sir.”

“And what do you do for a living?”

“I’m a junior high school English teacher, Sir.”

“Oh. Well then, have a nice day.”  Without further ado he walked away, leaving me agog, with the task of repacking my bag.

So there you have it.  If you want to smuggle drugs or whatever and wish to breeze through US customs, tell them you’re a junior high English teacher!”


Copyright 2017                      David Preston

Posted in Motorcycles, Travel | Leave a comment

A Triumph T 120 Bonneville at 10,000 miles

The Triumph Bonneville T120 at 10,000 miles

The odometer clicked over to 10,000 miles last week, a good chance to look back on 16 months of ownership of my 2016 cranberry red and silver Bonneville.

Cut to the chase – a fantastic design, and one of those machines that does exactly what you imagine it will do while you stare at it on the showroom floor.  It is not a sport bike, although it can be ridden in a “lively manner.”  It is not a long haul luxo tourer, yet I have taken three multi-thousand rides on it so far, with the next one a week away. It is not the fastest or most powerful bike I’ve ever ridden – by quite a long shot, but I did not expect it to be.  It has been reliable and comfy and beautiful.  Always beautiful.

To the details.  When I first saw one I was smitten by the appearance.  I immediately started thinking of the reasons I should not purchase, while chatting with Andy the amiable salesman.

“Well, I would want heated grips.”

“They come standard.”

“I would want those kneepads on the tank.”

“Also standard.”

“And ABS brakes with triple discs.”


And a few more comments like that.

To his credit Andy did not laugh at me.  Everything I would want in a new bike.  Aha!  Spoke chrome wheels mean no tubeless tires. Oh well.

Maintenance has been minor, to put it mildly. Not only compared to Triumphs of old, but to almost any other product that is used hard and (occasionally) put away wet.  The oil change interval is 10,000 miles, which seemed absurd to me. I had the oil changed at 8,000 miles, because I had a long ride coming up, and because I could not stand it any longer.  I also had a “chain service” at that time, which meant a good cleaning and possibly a small adjustment.  This dealer service shows that I am old and lazy and have more money than I did back in the day. 

On the same day, as I rode to the dealer, the low beam failed in the headlight, so I had that changed as well.   That one bulb is the only mechanical issue to date.

There have been two factory recall notices, both of them minor, that mainly sufficed as excuses to go hang around the dealership for a bit and spend more money!

Additions.  I have a Nelson-Rigg magnetic tank bag that is on the bike almost all of the time. In a fit of hubris, I wrote on this site a month or so ago that I have been using tank bags for over 40 years and have never seen a scratch in the paint.  No surprise that one appeared two days later. I believe the Triumph tank has a coat or three of clear over the color, and that clear coat now has a micro-scratch or two that shows if you cock your head at the correct angle in bright sunlight. Serves me right, but not a huge bother.

A friend loaned me a pair of Cortech saddlebags for my first long ride, and I added a black “jock bag” to the top.  This worked so well that I ordered my own set of Cortechs and added the Cortech top bag that plugs into the saddlebags.   This gives me all the space for luggage I need, although the right hand bag now had some abrasion where I overstuffed it and it chafed on the tire a bit. Must be careful of that.

I also ordered the Triumph “fly screen” in the cranberry metallic color, and while this does take some wind of your chest and arms, it is 98% cosmetic in practice. Which is what I expected. 

Oh yes, a pair of Triumph valves stems I transferred over from the Speed Triple before I sold it.

Riding the bike is a total pleasure.  Not many motorcycles can be fun to ride just puttering around your local area, and also on the freeway and also on winding roads far from home.   The Triumph seems happy and capable of anything I ask of it, and also returns 50 mpg or more on regular fuel.  The Speed Triple I owned previously struggled to top 33mpg on mid-grade.

That said, the Speed Triple would turn into a corner RIGHT NOW, whereas the Bonneville is much slower to react.   This takes some adjustment, but is in keeping with the overall nature of the bike.

All motorcycles have a personality, and the Bonneville personality is friendly and laid back.  It sort of says to you “We can go much faster if you want, but is it worth the effort?  Why not just relax and enjoy?”  Sound advice. The clutch pull is light enough that I think a ten year old child could handle it.  The brakes are progressive and easy to modulate.

Every butt will tell a different tale about a motorcycle seat, but for me the Bonneville is comfy.  On my last trip, I was determined to drone up I-5 from somewhere in Oregon to Chehalis, because I knew Chehalis to home would be a one-shot deal.  To my surprise, my three friends shot by me on the right and raced to a rest area exit.  I swerved right to join them.  They felt forced to stop because they were in butt agony, while I was fine.  They were on a Ducati Multistrada, a BMW R1200RS, and a Honda cruiser.  Your results may vary.

Tire wear seems excellent, but then most of my previous bikes had much more horsepower. The BMW K 1300 S needed at new rear tire at 6,000 miles, as did my Kawasaki ZX1200R.    The Bonneville looks like the rear tire will go 13-15,000 miles and the front 18-20.  Again, your results will vary.

Improvements?  Sure, we all want to make improvements.  Two Bonnevilles with aftermarket pipes joined us at a motel in Oregon, and they both sounded terrific.   I could replace mine, and may at some point, but at times I also enjoy the peaceful thrum.  A better set of rear shocks might help both the ride and the turn-in.  I don’t know if the high zoot shocks on the Thruxton would be a bolt-on, and perhaps the Thruxton front forks as well?   Again, on my mind but not imperative.   Perhaps some boffin at Triumph will ideate putting the Thruxton “high power” engine and the suspension on the T 120 and call it the T 120R – THAT would be tempting.

Last thing to note:  with this bike you will have conversations with people. A lot of them. People who know nothing of motorcycles will tell you your bike is beautiful.  People who think they know a bit will ask what year it is and when you had it restored, which gives you a chance to point out the small radiator and the fuel injection components disguised as carburetors.  The truly knowledgeable will ask questions and pore over the bike, because they may have never seen one up close. I’ve had people give me a thumbs up, and even take pictures of the bike.  In America, if you are away from a big city, a Triumph, almost any Triumph, is a rare sight.

Fantastic design, and I think Triumph has earned all the praise they have received for the entire Bonneville line.

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles, Rants and Raves | 1 Comment

A Hope for the End of Racial Prejudice

A Hope for the End of Racial Prejudice

These days there’s a lot going on that can bend you toward a depressed mood.  Almost every Facebook thread, for example, if it has any relevance to race relations, rapidly devolves into name calling and profanities. An alarming number of the negative comments also show a casual or purposeful disregard for the rudiments of our language. I mean really, if you can’t be bothered to spell swear words correctly, what hope is there that anyone will be swayed by your comments?

But I don’t think these people care. They are so pleased to have a venue where, at last, they can vent their venom and spew their bile all over a limitless audience.

“The arc of history is long but it tends toward justice” is a quote created by clergyman Theodore Parker in the 19th century, and then used by both Martin Luther King and Barack Obama.  I think it would be more complete to add “and it varies in a sort of three steps forward and two back sort of rhythm.”  Which is course, would make it unwieldy as a quote.

In some regards I’m in a weak position to write about racism.  I’m sort of a poster boy for the history of white male privilege. I grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis in a home full of books and music and conversations about chemistry and physics.  Occasionally my parents and older brothers would allow a few moments for discussion of topics of focus for me – cars, motorcycles, and sports.  I was given an excellent education in some of the finest public schools anywhere – both then and now.

I had little direct experience with racism in any form.  I knew all the black kids in my junior high. Her name was Alice, and she was a fine trombone player.   Still, even a naïve young lad can look at the TV news showing black marchers in the South being attacked by attack dogs and mounted police with clubs and know that this is wrong. 

I recall one of the issues of the day. Should patients in hospitals be told the race of the blood donor who was saving their lives?  My parents were so disgusted with the utter stupidity of it all. As my mother said, with a sad shake of her head, “Blood is blood. Period.”

I did have contact with other forms of bias.  My mother was a mechanical engineer, and one evening I listened as she chatted with a friend who was a professor of anthropology. Both women had been pretty much ostracized by all the women in their respective neighborhoods because  a.) they were educated and b.) they had jobs. I think that was my first experience of moral outrage, and I was 14.  I had been pampered and sheltered from a lot of real world issues for 14 years, in other words.

My brother married Irene in 1967. Irene was second generation Japanese American.  My grandmother, of North Dakota farming stock, was not pleased.  When she saw the pictures I brought home from the California wedding,  as far as she could go was to say “Well, I understand they are a clean people.”   I left the room.

On their honeymoon in Utah, George and Irene were stopped by the police during a train stop in Salt Lake City and queried about why they were there and why they were together.  George assured the officers that they would be gone in ten minutes, choosing not to share with them that Irene had been born just a few miles away in an internment camp during WWII.  And the subtlety of sexism is wrapped up in the fact that the officers did not question Irene at all.

Today, in addition to the overt racism of the new-Nazis and their ilk, we also can experience so many of the subtler forms that have always been there.  Would all the strident calls for NFL players who choose not to stand for the national anthem be as vehement if almost all of them were not black?  I really doubt it.

Racism and other forms of bias are hardly new, whether overt or covert, and it seems like they have been here forever. Because they have. In the last few months the haters have come out in force, both in demonstrations and in political conventions and all over social media. When will it end?  Where can we look for a ray of hope, much like the sun that peeked out again from behind the moon after today’s eclipse event?  Will there be light?    I think so. Maybe.

Consider smoking. Really.  In my youth it seemed that almost everyone (except my parents) smoked cigarettes. People smoked in their homes, in their cars, in their workplace, restaurants, trains, planes, and everywhere else.   The tobacco industry was huge and had enormous political clout and a PR war chest overflowing with hundreds of millions of dollars.  Surely nothing would ever change.

This was in relatively recent times. I can recall having dinner in a fancy restaurant before the prom in 1965.   My friend John, resplendent in his tux, showed us that you could even smoke a breadstick! One of the funniest things I ever saw. Nobody in the restaurant noticed because people were smoking everywhere.

I was in the hospital in 1969 recovering from surgery to repair the shoulder that my exuberance and lack of talent had damaged with a really stupid motorcycle accident. With my usual good luck, I had managed to stuff my motorcycle into a ditch at about 50 miles an hour – in the back yard of a very kind nurse.  

She came by to see me each day I was in the hospital. She brought me a milkshake, drew the curtain around my bed, and sat down to enjoy the real reason for her visit.  A cigarette!   In a hospital room.  This was perfectly OK at that time.

When I was president of our local teacher’s union from 1976- 1978 I had an office, and on my desk were two jars of pipe tobacco. I smoked my pipe several times a day. One of my two secretaries smoked – a lot.  Nobody thought this was unusual.

And then, so slowly at first, the worm began to turn.  Do you remember the furor that erupted when airlines began to ban smoking in planes?  For decades it was common to sit in a long aluminum tube with hundreds of people you did not know and spend hours inhaling their smoke.  When the idea was mooted that this would end, oh the hue and cry!  Many cited their fear of flying, and felt that they simply could not survive the stress of a flight without a soothing hit of nicotine.

And at the same time, restaurants began to offer no smoking areas.  And legislation followed.  It was not a pretty or easy process.

Despite the massive push back from the tobacco industry and millions of addicted smokers, the trend toward elimination of smoking where it would affect others continued.

It did not come all at once. For years airports had glassed in “cages” where smokers could gather. Ironically, this was the last gasp of conversation in airports.  Smokers would light up and talk to their fellow pariahs about where they were from and the affairs of the day, whereas now airport interiors tend to be human parking lots with everyone focused on their phones.

And now, just a short time later in historical terms, we take it for granted that people do not smoke in planes or restaurants or any other enclosed public space.

People still smoke, to be sure. I have members of my extended family that smoke. I smoke a pipe. But none of us indoors, and I do not smoke in my car any more.

All of this came about in a matter of a couple of decades, through concerted political action and the willingness of some politicians to stand up to the political clout and cash reserves of big tobacco.

I wonder if there was a “tipping point,” where the idea of eliminating the inhalation of tobacco smoke as a part of everyone’s life took hold and slowly began to advance.  And then faster. And then – here we are.

Could the same thing happen with racism?  Like tobacco once was, racism is everywhere. Its adherents are well funded, organized, and politically powerful.  Racism, in one form or another, has been around for centuries, and is embedded in the core of many cultures.  So was tobacco.

Could the rise of blatant racist rhetoric in the past couple of years and the ugly demonstrations we see today actually be the final death rattle of racism?  Will the massive crowds now turning out in peaceful denunciation of racist beliefs sway public opinion to where racism becomes a memory in two or three decades?

Seems unlikely, I know, but as I sit out on my deck and enjoy my pipe – I have hope!


Copyright 2017                      David Preston

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | Leave a comment

How To Gain Internet Fame in Three Easy Steps

How to Gain Internet Fame in Three Easy Steps

  1. Make sure your video camera is on.
  2. Do something really stupid.
  3. Blame it on something implausible.

This will gain you a lot of sympathetic responses from people who are not familiar with what you were doing, as well as a lot of scorn from people who know exactly what you did and are dismissive of your explanation.  Both of these groups will forward and share until the cows come home, and your 15 minutes of fame will be established.

Today’s example:  an unfortunate young man in Minnesota crashed his motorcycle at speed over a cliff and then, from his hospital bed, “explained” that his “steering locked up.”

The steering on a motorcycle cannot “lock up.”  In the old days many motorcycles had steering dampers that could be adjusted to alter the steering response, and if the damper was screwed all the way down the motorcycle would be reluctant to turn.  I rode a Harley XCLR café racer with this circumstance, but it would still turn.

The Internet is twittering with experienced riders viewing the video and then offering an explanation.  He was on the brakes not hard enough or too hard (either will work), and then as impending doom loomed in his brain he stared at where he did not want the motorcycle to go – and the motorcycle followed his gaze.

Others who think they know about motorcycles have offered up the old favorite.  “He should have laid it down.”

Gack!  This drives me crazy!  How long will this myth survive? A motorcycle can stop so much faster on it wheels and on the brakes than sliding on its side.   Creating a crash on purpose is not the solution in any case.

A class or two in motorcycle safety might have prevented this accident, or it might not have.  Excessive speed into a corner is an easy mistake to make, even for experienced riders, and most have come close to this sort of accident a time or two. Hopefully a long time ago when under the influence of enthusiasm and testosterone and inexperience, and it will not be repeated.

But – motorcycle steering does not lock up.

At least he has fame, however brief, to prop up his ego in recovery. He states that he will not ride a motorcycle again, and I think that is a good choice.   I wish him well.


Copyright 2017                      David A. Preston

Posted in Motorcycles, Rants and Raves | 1 Comment