Two Up on the Triumph Rocket 3

Two Up on the Triumph Rocket 3

I purchased my 2020 Triumph Rocket 3 in March, with no thought given to carrying a passenger.  At the time I had nobody in my life who would fill that role.  I was captivated by the videos of the model’s release party on Tenerife, and thought it was the most captivating and ridiculous bike ever. In a good way. I sat on one at Triumph of Seattle and the extensive improvements over the previous Rocket III were immediately obvious.  I had ridden the Rocket III several years ago, and the new one addressed everything that had given me pause about the previous model – impressively lighter, narrower, and lower, and yet still massive in power and torque. In fact, even more of those.

And so, I traded in my lovely 2016 Triumph Bonneville T 120, accompanied by a very large check, for the 2020 Rocket 3 GT model with the optional bags. The first year has been a terrific customer experience, even with the cursed virus restricting my adventures.  Still, 5,000 miles has passed in bliss on local rides and pretty much all around the state of Washington.

There was one recall for an issue with the evidently tricky bleeding of the rear brake, which on mine had not been an issue, and that was handled with free pickup and delivery in two business days by Triumph of Seattle.

Complaints compiled from the Internet have been few.  There’ve been issues with the combination locks on the saddlebags, for instance. I have never used them, reasoning that any deplorable looking to loot the bags probably comes equipped for the job with an impressive knife. Some say the zippers on the bags are weak, but I have not had a problem.  Some are upset that the bags are water resistant rather than waterproof, but I keep everything in plastic garbage bags so that is not a problem.

I was well pleased.  Then, Nancy entered my life and the prospect of two up rides became apparent.  Nancy is both short and light, fine assets in a potential passenger on a motorcycle. Even better, she had ridden her own motorcycle for several years in a previous life a couple of decades ago.

If you have never ridden with a passenger, there are several things to keep in mind on any motorcycle, and most of them are moot with a Rocket 3.

Shameless plug: a good guide to riding with a passenger is to be found in one of the chapters of Motorcycle 201, a book I wrote that is for sale as an e-book or paperback on Amazon and a couple of other outlets. I read that chapter again before our first ride to make sure I had not forgotten anything.

If your passenger has never been on a motorcycle, think about what they are about to experience. Odds are high that they have never been on or in a machine with the power of a Rocket 3.  They have never leaned into a corner.  They may have never operated a vehicle with a clutch and manual shift. They have probably never experienced the braking potential of a Rocket 3.  They are not used to not having a seat belt, and holding on by putting their arms around you.  Good thing though that can be.

Thus, before the ride even starts, spend some time explaining the parts of the motorcycle.  What each lever does, what each foot lever does, where the pegs are, how a motorcycle turns, everything you can think of. It is especially important, and in fact crucial to explain that a motorcycle turns by leaning, and they are to lean as much as you do. Several people have ridden into a ditch because the rider was leaning left while the panicked passenger countered by leaning to the right until the motorcycle lurched to an unfortunate end to the ride.

Show the passenger how the pegs unfold, and they will agree with you that the passenger peg design on the Rocket 3 is the most brilliant design of any in history. They are so well disguised that you may have to refresh your memory of where they are and how they are deployed, as I did.  After you fold the carriers out, and then fold the pegs down, you are almost ready to ride.

Gear.  Your passenger is about to have an exciting experience. Make sure they are comfortable. Sturdy boots, at least jeans, a jacket, gloves, and a helmet.  Dress them in layers so if they are too warm later you can stash a layer or two in the saddle bags.  You may need to assist them with the D-rings on the helmet, which can be confusing to someone not used to them. If they are geared up and comfy, it is time to get on the bike.

You might first start the bike in neutral while standing next to it. A Rocket 3 sounds like a WWII fighter plane when first started (which is why I named mine Merlin, after the famed engine), and can be alarming to your passenger.  In two seconds, it will calm down to a low burble.

This might be a good time to tell your passenger that if there is a problem at any time, a couple of thumps on your side or leg will tell you to pull over.

Now then, shut off the engine and get on by yourself.  Stand the bike up and have your feet flat on the ground and legs braced.  I recommend that you ask the passenger to place her (or his) hands on your shoulders, and tell them it is like a canoe, in that the closer to the center of the bike they can keep their weight the better.

Your passenger can now place a foot on the left peg and then swing a leg up and over to find the peg on the other side and plump down behind you. The first few times this may be a bit clumsy, as almost everything the passenger is doing and experiencing is brand new, exciting, and a tad intimidating. They might miss the right-hand foot peg for instance, and lurch about a bit.  That is why you had your feet firmly on the ground and your legs braced.

The Rocket 3 experience:  I did not have to cover some of the issues above, as Nancy had ridden her own motorcycle previously.  However, she had never been a passenger before, so over-reviewing was not a bad idea.

The first leg of our ride was about .5 of a mile, because the bike needed fuel. The first positive was that a very sharp 190 degree turn into the gas station was actually easier with Nancy on the back.  Low speed turns had been one of my concerns, and I was surprised at how easy it was.

Then we were off.  Every time we came to a stop sign on our way to the “good roads” I would check to see that she was OK. Comfy? Warm enough? Etc.

As we cruised, I could tell that the rear suspension was now a bit softer and more compliant, which was perfect, as I was not intending to attain any thrilling speeds.  Giving a passenger a first ride is absolutely the worst time to try and impress them with the capabilities of your motorcycle, or your Moto GP skills as a rider. A great many people have been so scared by their first passenger experience because of this that they never got on a motorcycle again.

The rear suspension was, for this ride, ideal.  There was no need to adjust it, although your results may vary.  Nancy is about 5’4” and weighs less than 130 pounds all geared up, after all.  The Rocket 3 was the first motorcycle I have ever used where the addition of a passenger changed pretty much…nothing.

When I carried a newspaper reporter on a Harley HOG club ride, the brakes seemed to me to be approaching unsafe, and she was also small.  On my Kawasaki ZRX 1100 the handling and braking capabilities were both diminished.  On the Rocket 3 everything remained the same, which was weird.

As our ride progressed on a 39-degree morning, I realized the error of my route planning. Fog. Lots of fog.  I changed the route and rode toward higher elevations, and sun, and a Starbucks.

A good idea on a first passenger ride is to stop for coffee, get off the bike, remove the helmets, and let the passenger process the experience.  They may now be able to play the game called “Roses and Thorns.”  What did you like, and what did you not like?

After coffee we headed out again. Now it was a little warmer, and the fog was gone. I was used to having Nancy on the back, and she was used to the experience, so I headed to a favorite winding road and let the Rocket 3 run free a bit.  Same brakes as one up, same handling, same everything!

Later, Nancy told me she could tell we were going much faster, and that she loved it.  Good sign!

Overall, the Rocket 3 is the finest two-up motorcycle I’ve ever experienced.  By far.

Oh yes, the back rest.  I usually keep it all the way down to make clambering aboard easier, and as Nancy is short, the lowest position was perfect for her.

It was an exciting day.  We had a great time, and when the weather warms and the sun is out for most of the day, we will enjoy longer rides.  Until she buys her own motorcycle… and that will be awesome as well.

Ride Safe, Ride Fast, and Ride Often

Copyright 2021                 David Preston

Posted in Equipment, Motorcycles, Rants and Raves | Leave a comment

Responding to Treason With Brains

Responding to Treason with Brains

I do not know who’s in charge of today’s response to the invasion of our capital by Trumpist zealots, but I’d wager that he or she plays a lot of chess.

Many are insisting that these invaders should have been met with violent force.  What then?  If you simply shot these people dead, which I would agree is tempting, each of them would be considered a martyr by the same sort of intellects who thought the invasion was a good idea.  Martyrs inspire idealogues, with the possible (likely) outcome of violent attacks on government institutions and police and etc. all over the country.  Violence begets violence.  If violence was used to suppress today’s army of thugs, it is likely that there would be casualties among those trying to defend their capitol.  Multiply that many times over by the violence that would have ensued later all across the country.

Instead, the rioters were allowed to walk into a trap they set themselves.  Tons of video from different angles.  Witnesses all over the place.  Some damage, yes, but most of it easily repaired in less time than it will take for Trump to find safe harbor somewhere in the world.

The rioters were able to break in to Speaker Pelosi’s office, and she was “coincidentally” not there.  Brilliant.

Instead, the chess master(s) can wait a few days, until President Biden is in office, and then turn loose the restored power of law in this country.  Quietly.

Each of the rioters can be charged, individually, with a variety of crimes.  The prosecution can take as long as needed.  Quietly.  Who will defend the rioters?  Not an army of high-priced lawyers experienced in this sort of litigation.  Those cost a lot of money, and the rioters do not have that kind of money.  Trump?  Surely you jest (and don’t call me Shirley).

With videos and eye witnesses and DNA samples and on and on, the first-year law graduates hired by the Department of Justice for this task will win every case, and the rioters will end up bankrupted and in jail for a considerable length of time.   Quietly.

They will very quickly become yesterday’s news, abandoned with haste by the “leadership” of the Trump movement, as we are already seeing with self-centered oratory from shameless cowards like Senators Ted Cruz and Mitch McConnell.  The Republican party, hastily trying to reform itself, will want nothing to do with them.  Even foreign enemies who would like to damage America in any way they can will shun these people as the literal and figurative losers they are.

To whomever devised this strategy – well played.  Proud of you.

Copyright 2021                 David Preston

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The Search for the Second Motorcycle

The Second Motorcycle Search

Here’s the situation:  for several years I had the pleasure of owning two motorcycles.  It was a subtle joy to enter the garage each day and decide which one to ride, depending on the distance, type of ride, and my mood. But beyond that, I enjoyed merely seeing them. So much so that I gave away a motorcycle cover so both bikes would be on display.

Life and circumstances changed, and I ended up living happily alone in a duplex with a one car garage. Since the garage is long and narrow, with shelving and cabinets, a mower, and various stuff on both sides, the garage is not really suitable for my one car, but lovely for my 2020 Triumph Rocket 3.  Half way through 2020, stuck at home most of the time due to the cursed virus, I began scheming to put a second bike in with Merlin the Beast – something smaller and lighter and more tossable for daily rides.

Then life got more complicated.  Nancy came into my life. A wonderful woman who lives with her young adult grandson and two dogs in an apartment.  An apartment with no garage. Decades ago, Nancy spent a few years riding a motorcycle to work nearly every day. She was eager to spend time as my passenger, but also wants to take a refresher riding class and eventually return to riding her own.

Living together with two dogs and her grandson and my cat is not a workable fantasy, (until I win a humongous lottery) so my plan has been altered to find a motorcycle that I can enjoy riding that is also a motorcycle Nancy can fit on and handle.

Thus begins the quest for motorcycle #2 in my garage. We have considered and rejected many ideas.

The good news: although short and light, Nancy does have long legs, sporting a 32-inch inseam. I commented on Facebook that we were off for a look but not buy expedition to a nearby Cycle Gear store, where I purchased a great textile riding jacket for her (thus violating the stated intent of the trip), because it fit her, looked great, and the price was too good to pass up. And Christmas was coming up, after all.  Then two women I rode with years ago chimed in. Both of them have had to retire from motorcycle riding due to medical issues, and against all odds, one of them was virtually the same size as Nancy.  She and her husband dropped by on their way to relatives just before Christmas, and in short order Nancy had a black Alpinestars leather riding jacket to go along with the textile jacket I’d purchased, two pairs of black leather riding pants, and a virtually new helmet.  With an old pair of boots I quit wearing because they were a tad small and one of my many pairs of gloves, Nancy now has more riding gear than I do.   Some of the items my friend had offered did not fit Nancy, and I sold them all in a day and I sent my friend a check with the results. 

The bad news:  I cannot fit three motorcycles in my garage, so what I want to find is a motorcycle that Nancy can ride when she visits, and I can ride when she is not here.  That is where it gets tricky.

Humans often want what does not exist, and I am no different. If Triumph made a sport touring version of the Speed Triple, with low pipes and perhaps the same semi-hard bags I have on the Rocket 3, I would make the trade in a minute.  I owned a Speed Triple for eleven years and 50,000 miles and loved it. Then I would purchase a used Triumph Thunderbird.  I rode one in 2008 and it was the first cruiser I’d ridden that I could see owning. Ample power, comfy, good brakes, and reasonable ground clearance. I loved it.  Then I would have a sport tourer and a cruiser I would enjoy either by myself or two up, or both bikes ridden by the two of us.  But Triumph has not seen the genius of my plan…

A good friend argued strenuously, and with logic, in favor of getting a small and light bike that Nancy could handle easily, arguing that if she dropped a larger bike that I owned she would be stricken with grief and guilt.  Sound reasoning, except I would not ride such a bike. He recommended the BMW 650, but as the owner of 6 BMWs (!), he is biased.  I have ridden several of the BMW 650’s, and with apologies to my former employer, I thought it was a terrible motorcycle.

A Ducati 660 Monster appeals, as it is light and small and packs a lot of performance.  I loved the one I rode on a test ride at work, but it is physically too small for me and the maintenance costs would be a consideration.

A Honda 250 Rebel would do, but again, it would take up space and I would not ride it.

There are a lot of mid-size cruisers for sale at reasonable prices, and they have low seat heights, but again, I own the best cruiser made, so when would I ride the other?

Another consideration is that Nancy and I are not married, and not planning to change that status.  I doubt we will break up, but what if we did?  I need to be sure the bike purchased is one I want to own and ride.

So, let us think about me, me, me!  I’m going to be the owner, after all. Although I’ve ridden over 500 motorcycles, most of them in my second career in the motorcycle business, the last four motorcycles I have purchased with my own money have been Triumphs.  A Sprint, a Speed Triple, a Bonneville T 120, and now the Rocket 3.  All have been purchased from Triumph of Seattle, the first two when they were part of the Cycle Barn empire and I worked for them. I know many of the employees, and they have an excellent reputation that is well deserved. I also sold them a 5th Triumph, a Thruxton 1200 I owned for five months that is a bizarre story in and of itself.  Another time, perhaps.

When I first started scheming to obtain a second motorcycle, my thoughts turned to another Thruxton. As I began searching online, as Nancy did at her place, I recalled that with the Bonneville, Triumph has done what Ford has done with the Mustang – release a special edition of some sort every year or so.  There are a ton of them!  I do not need this second bike to be the 1200cc model, but would not mind of course, but we are spoiled for choice.  Street Cup, Newchurch, various models labeled SE; it goes on and on.

What are your thoughts?  Are you, or do you know a woman who rides a Bonneville?  What has the experience been for you?

Nancy and I will drive to Triumph of Seattle on Tuesday with her boots and jacket and helmet, and try on several different Bonneville iterations.  The results of that will guide us to the next step.

To be continued!

Ride Safe, Ride Fast, and Ride Often

Copyright 2021                 David Preston

Posted in Motorcycles | 1 Comment

The Insidious Nature of Gear Creep

The Insidious Nature of Gear Creep

Have you noticed how much “stuff” you carry with you each day?  Of course, we now have the moral and logical obligation to carry and wear mask to slow the spread of this awful virus.  I have two masks in my car, one in the tank bag of the motorcycle, and three in the house.

But beyond that…have you had your day altered because you left your “smart” phone at home and can’t stop worrying about it, even though you know where it is and do not need it?  I went for a motorcycle ride last summer that began at my house. My two friends were both a little early, and after we left, I realized I’d left my phone in the garage. This bothered me for the entire ride, which is stupid, since both of my friends had better phones than mine if one was needed.

If you are like me, you have to wonder how this happened.  In 1968 I rode a Yamaha 250cc motorcycle from Minneapolis to Seattle and back – camping.  I had no charge card, no cell phone (did not exist), no tools, no tire repair kit, no first aid kit, and of course I had no problems.  Did the same thing in 1971 on a Honda 450 SS from Seattle to Florida. In both cases the entirety of my “gear” consisted of what I could fit in a surplus army back pack.

By 1977 I had moved up in the world and added – a tank bag.  Then the pace accelerated.  In 2000 I went to work in the motorcycle business, and part of my job involved leading customers on rides of one (most of them) to three to nine days in length.  Over time I added a first aid kit, a tire repair kit, an air compressor, and of course by now I always carried a charge card and a cell phone.

I was rather proud of the “flip phone” I had that reduced my friends to laughter.  Until 2016, when on a motorcycle trip to California I got into a series of difficulties that would have been solved much more easily if I had a “modern” phone with internet access and other bells and whistles.

So, I got one. 

This year I purchased a Triumph Rocket 3 with the optional saddle bags.  Many folks on the enthusiast web sites bemoan the size of the bags, which seem cavernous to me.  What do they want? I added a bag that goes across the seat for longer trips, and I am set.  I think.

I would love to add a Triumph Thruxton to my stable, but would I be able to be comfortable with just a tank bag and my phone and charge cards in my pocket? A Thruxton with added luggage would look – to me – just wrong.

Does this happen to people in whatever area they aim their enthusiasms”?  If you are a snow or water skier, do you add bits of gear and doodads and all sorts of things that begin as luxuries or gifts from indulgent friends and now you can’t go skiing without all of your clobber?

In high school I spent many idyllic summer days on Lake Minnetonka water skiing. My friend had an awesome ski boat, and I had a terrific slalom ski, and we would head out for the day with a full fuel tank and the one ski. Maybe some sun tan lotion. And sunglasses. And on occasion, two girls. I don’t recall that we carried any water or pop or food, but maybe I’ve forgotten.  Today we would probably have food, water, pop, beer, a first aid kit, cell phones…

My latest add-on is a RoadID.  This is a bracelet on your wrist that has your name, the phone numbers of two emergency contacts, and any medical info an EMT might need in the event of a disaster if you were unconscious.  After the first day it occurred to me that a disaster could occur at any time, so now I wear it whenever I leave the house.

The irony is that in my 20s I could launch across the country without a care in the world and virtually no recourse in the event of a disaster.  These days I have a clean charge card, a charged cell phone, insurance, the business card of my attorney and cash in my wallet, and money in the bank.  …And I worry.  You?

Ride safe,  ride fast, and ride often!

Copyright 2020                        David Preston

Posted in Equipment, Motorcycles | Leave a comment

The Flat Learning Curve

The Flat Learning Curve

Are you familiar with the concept of the learning curve?  It is an inexact measurement of how quickly a subject is accepted and internalized.

If you sign up for a class you want to take, whether it be square dancing or snow skiing or riding a motorcycle, the learning curve will likely be steep.

With motorcycles, you can enroll in a basic rider class, and in one evening plus a weekend you will be considered, at least legally, competent to ride a motorcycle on public roads.  That is a pretty steep learning curve.

Now look at the virus pandemic, and the curve flattens quite a bit. The Sturgis motorcycle rally takes place and a surge in virus cases ensues.  Trump holds a large rally where people eschew masks and a virus surge ensues.  Many times. Several state governors decline advice to close things down, and a virus surge ensues.  Yesterday it was reported than one in every thousand residents of North Dakota has now died from the virus.  There are hundreds of examples like this.

Today, millions of Americans are ignoring lots of expert advice in order to fly somewhere for Thanksgiving to enjoy the holiday with relatives.  Guess what will happen?

One definition of insanity is repeating a behavior with disastrous results with the hope it will be different this time. Spoiler alert – it won’t.

It is often stated that “Freedom is not free,” usually referring to the sacrifices of women and men, and their families, who serve in the armed forces.  Now we have a new application.

Americans enjoy the freedom to think for themselves.  I would never want to obstruct that, but there can be costs associated with freedom of thought, and in this case the cost can and does include hundreds of thousands of deaths of people who are innocent victims of those who choose to believe they do not need to mask up or stay a safe distance away.  There are still many who choose to believe the entire pandemic is some sort of hoax that benefits…somebody.  There are reports of people who still believe it is a hoax, even as they lay dying in a hospital.

It gets worse.  Many people are boarding planes today to fly “home,” where they will enjoy Thanksgiving with relatives, who are usually parents and/or grandparents, who are older and therefore more at risk.

This is a combination of a flat learning curve and a willing suspension of logic and facts.  We all have things we believe in that cannot be sustained by logic or facts, but most of them do not endanger others, and certainly not the members of your family you presumably want to keep safe.

What is to come? In two weeks, there will be a further surge of new cases.  Two weeks after that we will be heavily into the holiday season. Almost every religion or philosophy has a celebration near the winter solstice, usually involving celebrations with others.  Then you add in end of the year parties for many workplaces.  Then you add New Year’s celebrations.  Thus, another surge in cases should arrive in mid-January.

Pretty grim, I am sorry to say.  But the flat learning curve of others does not have to apply to you.  Mask up, keep your distance, and postpone group celebrations until it is safe.

Somewhere, Darwin is smiling.

I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving.  I will be holed up at home, enjoying a feast prepared by my neighbors, with my portion delivered to my door.

I can live with that.

Copyright 2020                      David Preston

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | 1 Comment

The Next Big Thing – Motorcycle Bagger Road Racing!

The Next Big Thing – Bagger Road Racing!

Did you see the bagger motorcycle road race held at Laguna Seca a while ago?  What a hoot!

This was for sure a “gimmick race” dreamed up by a bunch of aftermarket product mavens, and featured a field of lightly modified Harley and Indian “bagger” motorcycles with front fairings and hard saddlebags, and a lot of weight compared to motorcycles ordinarily used for road racing. I think alcohol consumption may have been involved in the planning stages.

I thought it was fabulous, especially because I proposed the idea in an article I wrote that was published (somewhere) about 15 years ago.

Professionals riding 700-pound bikes on a road course – brilliant!

Not everyone agreed. I saw comments ranging from “gimmick” to complaints that such a race takes time away from “real” races.  Fair comments, but then…

What is a “real” road race? NASCAR “stock car” racing where all of the cars are custom built and do not resemble anything you will ever buy? Sport car racing where “BOP” (balance of performance) rules allow Mustangs to go head to head with Lamborghinis?  World superbikes and Moto GP bikes have very little in common with the sport bike you might own, advertising hype aside.

The best racing I’ve ever witnessed was Trans Am car racing from 1967 to 1972 and Superbike racing in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  In both cases the vehicles were at least close to what you could drive or ride, at least in technology. More importantly to me, you could see the drivers/riders at work, and get a very clear idea of the differences between pros and the common folk.

Superbike racers back then had far more power than the technology available in chassis and brake designs. They twisted, they shook, they slid the rear tires and sometimes the front tires, and it was an amazing spectacle – one I gladly spent time and money to see in person, or glued my eyeballs to TV presentations.

What does it take to put on a successful racing series? Money.  Great steaming piles of money.  Where does the money come from?  Sponsors and TV revenue, especially the latter.

Moto GP and Superbike races and Trans Am races (what is left of them) do not get much TV time because the ratings are too low.  Why is that?  Because the cars and motorcycles are so advanced that on TV it is hard to see how very difficult it is to go fast.   Very few humans can operate a Moto GP bike or Superbike to its full capacity, and yet in person it is hard to see the complexity.  They look more like the “light cycles” (do I have that right?) in the movie Tron. Trans Am racers the same.

But – with a bagger road racing series you could clearly see the effort required, on TV or (even better) in person.

The one at Laguna Seca had a small field and they were all Harleys and Indians. Good start, but Honda and BMW also sell “baggers.”  My Triumph Rocket 3 can be made into a bagger with a fairing and hard bags from Corbin.  Yes, you would need some sort of Balance of Performance intrusion here and there. A Harley makes 92 horsepower or so, and the Indian 102, if memory serves – probably more for each with open exhausts, etc.  But the Honda and BMW both make appreciably more than that, and the Triumph Rocket 3 has 163 horsepower and 165-foot pounds of torque, with the stock pipes and no tuning, chips, etc.

But imagine seeing a pro “back it in” on a Rocket 3 with a rear tire that looks like it belongs on a paving machine. Would you spend time and money to see that?  I would!

Look at sales. Cruisers sell more than sport bikes, by a wide margin, and have for a decade or two.  If you were a manufacturer, would it make more sense to sponsor a sport bike race team or a bagger team that is using a bike you sell probably at ten times the rate of your sport bike?

Why do sport bikes sell in such small numbers?  I think it is because they are too good. In this era, any sport bike from 600cc up has more performance potential than 95% of the people who buy them.  Even if you are one of the golden children who can get all there is out of the machine, there is nowhere on public roads you can let yourself go for it with any degree of safety, not to mention the go to jail now risk.  Many large sport bikes can reach 100mph in a few seconds, in second gear – with four more ready to be clicked into place.  As a result, many sport bikes are used as track day toys, and they are magnificent for that, but that does severely impact sales.

So, let your mind imagine – a field of 20 to 30 bagger road racers with pro or semi-pro riders, machines from Harley, Indian, Triumph, Honda, BMW, and probably more.  No wheelie control (stock bikes do not have that in the bagger class), so the start will be – interesting.  Slamming corners will be a challenge with the weight and limited ground clearance, and the width of the bags might make “rubbing is racing” a reality.   Riders would probably purposely slide the rear end into corners to facilitate the turn, and they would be crawling all over the machine to place their weight where it would do the most good. The racing would be spectacular, which would make it a good fit for both manufacturers and sponsors, and as it gained in popularity, the “trickle down” effect would allow more races and more entrants for “pure” racers in various classes.

Look at college sport.  If you like women’s basketball or fastpitch softball, or wrestling, or soccer, or track, or any one of a number of other sports, the money to operate their programs usually comes from football, which you may or may not care about.  I see bagger racing as the possible tide to raise all ships, which is apt as the motorcycles do resemble boats compared to others.

Let’s go further.  Add a “doubles” class, with a rider and passenger, and a minimum weight for the two of them in full gear.

There are so many possibilities!

Oddly enough, I got a sneak peek at what this might be like just the other day.  Coming back from a ride with six friends, I went to turn on a favorite local twisty road that leads almost to my home. I could see something definitely exotic ahead, and sped up so I could see what it was. As I closed in, I could see the Lamborghini Script on the rear and spotted the air intakes jutting up on the sides. Murcielago. Cool!  When the driver noticed my bulk in his rear-view mirror he came out of a corner and nailed it, treating me to the scream of a V-12.  I accelerated harder than I normally do, which was thrilling, but not as rapidly he did.  Inexplicably, he slowed down very early for the next corner, and not all that hard on the brakes. I don’t know if he was just cautious, or not that good, or wanted to allow me to catch up. A Rocket 3 is very good on the brakes, and I made up all the space and a bit more. We did this dance for several corners, and it was exhilarating.  Racing? No, but it was such fun. A pro racer would be much faster than me, of course, and a pro’s cornering speeds would make me look like a turtle, but it would be a show to enjoy for sure.

Here’s the deal. If I want to attend a race in person, I have to drive 80, 110, or 220 miles each way to attend the closest road race tracks to me. I will need a motel room for one or two nights, plus fuel and food, plus the cost of the tickets.  Attending a race in person is going to shrivel my wallet and time budget.  But for baggers road races, and others on the schedule, I would be there.   You?

Copyright 2020     David Preston

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Thanks for reading!

Posted in Cars, Marketing, Motorcycles | 1 Comment

ABTOR for 2020

The ABTOR for 2020

In about 2002 I invented an event called the ABTOR.  This came about through requests from Cycle Barn customers (where I worked at the time), regarding the annual “Oyster Run.”

The “Oyster Run” is held on the last Sunday of September every year, (except this year) and is a mass migration of some 15,000 motorcycles to Anacortes. It is sort of a shorter and milder Washington version of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.  I had some customers who had been there and done that and wondered if we could not do something else that involved more riding.

The Oyster Run does appeal, at least at first. The first time I went it was a wondrous spectacle of more motorcycles than you will see at any other event in this state, I’m pretty sure.  There are bikes of every possible brand, vintage, style, and description, plus a few contraptions that pretty well defy description. There is no organization outside of the town of Anacortes, and you get there pretty much by any route you choose.  The first year I went I set off with a customer and just rode in a meandering manner north, until we ran into a large group of motorcycles, and then simply followed them.  A lot of the attendees tend to stop often at a bar and have a beer and some, (no points for guessing) oysters. I don’t drink on a motorcycle, and don’t care for oysters, so my riding partner for the day and I hop-scotched from group to group until we reached the spectacle.  The first dark cloud was that I don’t enjoy riding with people who have been drinking much of any amount of alcohol.   The second was that I saw four crashes on the way into Anacortes, which was more than I had seen in my 35 years or riding to that point.  The second year I went with a small group of three or four, all of us with wives on the back. As Susan rarely rode with me, that made it special.

By the 3rd year I was ready for something else, and eagerly accepted the requests of the customers.  My Cycle Barn Sport Bike Club was growing by leaps and bounds, and sport bike riders are usually not fond of large masses of metal moving relatively slowly. What I created was named the ABTOR, which was an acronym for “Anywhere But The Oyster Run.”  The initial route was conceived by Mark Ramirez, at that time stationed at the submarine base on Hood Canal. He knew the roads well, and come up with a route so spectacular I never actually knew where I was for most of the day. Over the next decade I made small adjustments to the route until it was pretty much perfect.  It was always one of the highlight rides of the year.

Ironically, this one route and one event brought about virtually all of the crashes I ever had to deal with in 14 years of leading customer rides. There were, if memory serves, five of them.   Four of them occurred when a group of “fast guys” passed me (which was OK) to go off and play. What was happening was that someone who was new to riding but thought they were highly skilled would follow a group made up of those who actually were highly skilled, and pain and financial suffering resulted. Fortunately, the injuries from these incidents were not disastrous. A broken forearm was the worst.  After a few years I started telling riders they were welcome to pass me, but if they did not, they were more likely to not crash. The other crash was a gentleman riding two up on a Triumph Rocket III who hit the brakes a little too hard in a corner, and that one resulted in a broken rib and a collapsed lung.

All of these incidents happened within two miles of each other on one particular road – DeWatto Road. I began to have a phobia about that road. Eventually a customer mentioned that if I reversed one looped section, the most problematic corner would change from a decreasing radius downhill corner to an increasing radius uphill corner.  Brilliant!    Never had a problem after that.

We will gather at 9am and a bit on Saturday at the Edmonds Ferry terminal for the next sailing and be off for a grand ride.  You are invited to join, but you might want to copy the route directions below.  Sometimes a lot of people show up for these things and the usual line is “I’ll just follow Dave.”   That works for a group of up to ten or so (with some tricks I have developed) but once past 15 it becomes impossible, even with someone volunteering to ride sweep at the end.

On the other hand, it is a peninsula. Getting lost is sometimes the way to have a better adventure!

True, this year it will be on a Saturday, and actually on October 3rd rather than at the end of September, but let us not quibble.

ABTOR Route Directions

Edmonds ferry

  1.       104 off the ferry                    (Becomes BOND RD)
  2.       RIGHT           on                    NW LINDVIG WAY
  3.       LEFT              on                    VIKING WAY
  4.       RIGHT           on                    SHERMAN HILL RD.
  5.       LEFT              on                    CLEAR CREEK RD.
  6.       RIGHT           at                     HALF MILE RD (flashing yellow light)
  7.       LEFT              at                     OLD FRONTIER ROAD
  8.       RIGHT           at                     WESTGATE RD (white fence with flags)
  9.       LEFT              at                     OLYMPIC VIEW
  10.       RIGHT           at                     ANDERSON HILL RD
  11.       RIGHT           at                     SEABECK HWY  –   Seabeck-Holly Rd

Pause at Seabeck

  1.       LEFT              at                     DEWATTO RD W

19.       RIGHT           at                     BELFAIR-TAHUYA ROAD

20.       LEFT              onto                 North Shore Road

21.       RIGHT           at                     LIGHT on SR 3 to fuel– Belfair

22.       RETURN       on                    SR 3 to LIGHT 

23.       STRAIGHT   onto                 OLD BELFAIR HIGHWAY

24.       LEFT             at                     DEWATTO ROAD

25.       RIGHT           at  T                DEWATTO ROAD

26.       RIGHT           at                     SEABECK HOLLY RD

                        Lunch at Seabeck

27.       LEFT             at                     ANDERSON HILL RD

28.       LEFT              at                     OLYMPIC VIEW

29.       RIGHT           at                     WESTGATE RD

30.       LEFT             at                     OLD FRONTIER RD

31.       RIGHT           at                     HALF MILE RD

32.       LEFT             at                     CLEAR CREEK RD

33.       RIGHT           at                     SHERMAN HILL RD

34.       LEFT              at                     VIKING WAY

35.       RIGHT           at                     NW LINDVIG WAY

36.       LEFT             at                     BOND ROAD to ferry

100 miles – ferry to ferry

Copyright 2020   David Preston

Posted in Motorcycles | 1 Comment

The Triumph Rocket 3 at 5,000 miles

The Triumph Rocket 3 at 5,000 miles

Actually 4,943 miles, but we’ll take the last 57 miles on faith. It has been deluging lately, with even more rain than the Seattle area is justifiably known for. Now retired, I tend to ride in the rain only when on a trip. Besides, rainy days are good for writing. I’ll add the other 57 next week.

Some background: I purchased my first motorcycle, a 1965 Yamaha YDS-3, in 1967. I was 20 years old. Since then I’ve owned over a dozen motorcycles, but also worked for two different motorcycle dealers from 2000-2013, and as the customer support and enthusiasm guy, was encouraged to ride every different motorcycle I could – of all brands. The current total is over 500.

I’ve owned two Yamahas, three Hondas, three Kawasakis, and a Norton (!), but the last four purchased with my own money have all been new Triumphs.  A 2002 Sprint ST, a 2006 Speed Triple, a 2016 Bonneville T120, and now the Rocket 3.  I’m not necessarily a Triumph zealot, but each of these was the bike of my choice when I bought it.  All have been terrific. And now a Rocket 3, purchased in May of this year. 

Here is a Q and A session of sorts:

Why the Rocket 3? 

I had the chance to ride a Rocket III, the previous model, some years ago and it was certainly impressive.  The roll-on power was addictive, but it also gave the impression that if you lost control you would probably take out some trees and a house. Not for me. At first glance, the new model looked like more of the same.  The fateful moment for me was an hour or so viewing a batch of You Tube rider reviews from various moto-journalists who attended the factory product launch on Tenerife.  I recommend them to you, because they are all a little different, but they give you a great idea of the Rocket 3’s strengths (many), and flaws (few).

Then I happened to be at Triumph of Seattle for a killer deal on some cold weather gloves and oh – they had a Rocket 3 on the floor. First impression was that it is considerably lighter, lower, and narrower than the preceding model.   Because it is.  Now I began to think seriously about what is, in many ways, a ridiculous bike. 

But which one?  The R model has a more “sport” riding position, and I assumed I would want that one, since most of my favorite rides have been sport bikes. To Triumph’s credit, you can swap many items between the R and the GT models to get exactly the configuration you want. At least you could. The bike has been such a sales success and supplies so short I don’t know if that is true today.  You’ll have to check with your local dealer.

Back to the videos.  One of them was done by a sport bike guy who “knew” he would prefer the R model, but after a day of riding he changed his mind.  He had not dragged anything anywhere in any corner, and enjoyed the greater technology toys of the GT model, which has just about everything anyone ever thought of.

OK – so I would throw caution (and a lot of money) to the wind.  Purchasing was a bit weird, since customers were not actually allowed inside the dealership at that time because of the pandemic. Instead, I spent three hours in the alley behind the dealership while salesman Andy, all masked up, (as was I) ran back and forth getting my Bonneville evaluated for the trade-in, etc.

Test Ride?

Did not think I needed one.  I knew the riding experience would be totally different from anything ridden in the past five years, so why bother?  I knew it “fit” me because I had sat on one pre-pandemic.  For most of the motorcycles I’ve owned, I’ve changed my posture and riding technique more to fit the bike rather than expecting the bike to “fit me” perfectly.  On a “good day” at work I would ride four or five different motorcycles in a day, so adapting quickly and an open mind are learnable skills.

Does it turn?

I know!  When you first glance at the front tire, which is wider than most of the rear tires of most motorcycles, you might think it would turn with the grace and alacrity of an aircraft carrier.  But not the case! It actually dips into turns more readily than the Bonneville that preceded it. For some perspective, a Speed Triple will begin to turn when the first thought of cornering enters your brain. It is immediate.  The Bonneville was a bit lazy. In rapid corners I learned to lean forward to load the front end a bit and then it was okay.  The Rocket 3 is closer to the Speed Triple, thanks to the wonders of modern suspension design and clever offsets and trail adjustments and other things I do not understand but the boffins at Triumph clearly do.  One of the most impressive features.

And the rear tire?

This is why I referred to the bike as ridiculous. I almost laugh every time I look at it. Looks like it belongs on a road paving machine.  This guarantees a smile every time you got to ride the bike.

I am sure replacing it will not be a pleasant experience for my credit card, but at 5,000 miles it still looks fine.  This is puzzling, because the BMW K1300S I rode for two years (two different bikes) would eat a rear tire in 6,000 miles.  It had similar power and weighed less.  I assume this is because the rear tire was much narrower and probably a much softer compound, due to the expected use of the bike.

Does that little rear fender work?

In a word – no.  Fortunately, I find washing the bike a form of pleasant relaxation.

Mechanical issues?

Only one, and that was not really mechanical.  The front fender is held on with 6 bolts, and it appears that two of them were not installed!  They are deeply recessed, and I only noticed their absence at 1,000 miles, and two days from home.  The other four were fine, so the absent pair were installed in two minutes when I returned, at no cost.

What about the saddlebags?

A $1,500 option, and I am glad to have them. The enthusiast forums are full of complaints about three issues with the bags, and I have answers for all three.  1. They are not wide enough to hold a full-face helmet. True, but I never leave my expensive Arai with the bike anyway.  I want it with me at all times. 2. They are not waterproof.  True. They are water resistant, but plastic garbage bags are handy and cheap and work perfectly.  3. The combination locks fail.  I am sure this is true, but I have never used them. Any thief that determined probably carries a knife, so…  On a trip, valuables are in the tank bag or the Viking rear seat bag, and secure in the motel room. The saddlebags hold the tire repair kit, compressor, spare this and that, etc.

What do you like best?

Every ride is an adventure. The seat is comfortable for at least 100 miles, which is about my bladder mileage. The brakes are fantastic, and I have yet to need the ABS brakes. The suspension – suspends, and very well. Every stop brings a fun interview with someone who is gawking at it. And of course, the power, or more correctly the torque, is there all the time and never ceases to amaze.

What is the most amusing part?

The low fuel warning!  I have triggered this three times, always when a fuel stop was just a few miles ahead, but what a show!  The instrument panel changes, showing a big orange full tank logo. Most the display is eliminated, replaced with a display of your current real-time mpg and a miles remaining gauge counting down to you doom.  You can make that go away with the push of a button, but you still have a little yellow low fuel light.  If you run out of fuel, which would be disastrous, you will not be able to whine that you were not warned.

Most confusing?

Learning the multiple configurations of the dashboard, and how they can be changed, takes a lot of quality time with the owner’s manual and a lot of practice.  In time you learn what set up you like, and probably leave it alone.

Awkward moments?

Two of them, one immediate and one on-going but lessening. The ride home was embarrassing, as I had not ridden a cruiser with forward controls in years.  Every time I had to pause in traffic I would get going again and then wave my left foot around in the air as I tried to find the shift pedal.  Not good for the ego.

The other problem is adapting to the weight and mass of the beast in low-speed situations.  Full of fuel, with tank bag and saddlebags loaded and me in full gear, we are probably crushing the road at about 1,000 pounds.  Low speed turns on uneven pavement or tight U-turns were a challenge. For me, not the bike.  I know the techniques, and the Rocket 3 is far more capable than I trust it to be, so the problem is me, not the bike. I am getting much better as time and miles elapse, but I am still not entirely comfortable, as I am in all other situations.  Might be best if I never get too comfortable.

Any surprises?

I was pleased and surprised that an engine that makes that much power and torque requires only regular fuel, and returns pretty decent mileage.  MPG varies wildly depending on how frisky you are allowing the bike to be, of course. 

The ongoing amazement is the completeness of the specification. I think the design department was given free reign to throw everything on the Rocket they could think of, and I have not added or modified anything.  Steel braided brake lines, heated grips, tire pressure monitors, riding modes, dual trip meters, and on and on. I am still finding new little cool tidbits that impress, six months in.

Compare this to the brand-new BMW R18 – another stab by BMW at the cruiser market.  Similar weight and cost, but half the horsepower (!), no fuel gauge, no heated grips, and very little of the electronics wizardry of the Rocket.  Imagine the new world, where a BMW is lacking technology and a Triumph is bristling with it.  We live in strange times.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

If you would like to read more of my musings, please go to www.davidpreston.biz for all sorts of things over the past ten years, plus links to all 9 of my books available from Amazon.com

Copyright 2020      David Preston

Posted in Equipment, Marketing, Motorcycles | 1 Comment

reading pickup trucks on the road

Reading Pickup Trucks on the road

Pickup trucks used to be simple. When I was first starting to drive cars or (better yet), ride motorcycles, if you were enjoying a sporting day on a winding back road and came upon such a truck, you knew what to expect.  A basic and utilitarian vehicle meant for work in an agricultural enterprise or as a work vehicle for some sort of labor. It would usually have an in-line six engine with little horsepower designed to run for decades with little or no maintenance. If something did go awry it could be repaired with basic tools – a few wrenches, a screwdriver or two, and perhaps a hammer.

When you caught up to it, and you would, there would be a hopefully short pause before you zoomed by on your much faster motorcycle or car. Almost any motorcycle or car.

That was in a straight line. In corners such a pickup would heel over like a frigate in a gale, the narrow tires offering not much grip, so cornering speeds would be low.

For a visual, review in your mind the final scene of Easy Rider. In the movie, the two anti-heroes approach an old pickup truck on their Harley choppers, which were no great shakes in a straight line or a corner themselves. Ahead of them are two men, partially hidden by the gun rack in the rear window of the truck.  A disagreement ensues caused by the raised finger of one of the riders, and he, and then the other, are made very dead by shotgun blasts. Remember that scene?

Picture this. The movie came out in the fall of 1969.  I saw it in November. On December 19th I rode south from Seattle on my pristine 1969 Honda 450 Street Scrambler, headed for the Bay area. This was a very ill-advised idea. In fact, one of my teaching colleagues told me this could not be done, and that I would die in the Siskiyou mountains.  I had never heard of them, so how bad could it be?

Very. They closed the pass 30 minutes after I rode over it, soaked and shivering with the onset of hypothermia, with snow beginning to fall.

But the return trip continued what many have termed “Preston luck.”  I chose to ride up the coast on Highway 101, and the weather was sunny and clear and close to 50 degrees.

In a twisty section, I came upon…an old pickup truck. Two guys, and a gun rack in the rear window.  The movie was still fresh in my head, and I was alarmed. Then the driver waved his hand out the window, motioning me to pass!  I felt that I was about to die.

I passed them all right, and continued at unwise speeds for about half an hour. They probably wondered what was up with the nut case on the motorcycle.

But today it has all changed.  When was the last time you could purchase a new pickup truck that was small?  Almost twenty years ago?  For a time in the early 2000’s I had an ancient little Ford Courier pickup that was perfect. I drove it for errands and such every two weeks.  Sometimes I left it parked at the motorcycle dealership where I worked at for weeks at a time. It was cheap and cost nothing to operate. I once left the keys in the door lock overnight at the dealership and nobody touched it!

Somewhere in those years the draw of luxury and power and size began to infiltrate the pickup truck market, much to my dismay but much more to the delight of customers and the financial status of the manufacturers.

This became evident to me in 2016 on Highway 20, which runs from Fort Bragg, California to the little town of Willits. I was having a great time exercising my Fiat 500 Sport.  That car had an optimistically claimed 104 horsepower, but the Sport version also had bigger wheels and fatter tires and did not weigh much.  I was driving it with “con brio,” as the Italians say, which was also proclaimed on the vanity plate. Such a fun car. Endless hairpins and sweepers and curlicues; more sorts of corners than there are words to describe, and both of us were in our element. Then… I noticed something in my rear-view mirror.  It was a pickup truck. A big one.  And it was getting closer.

When he got to tail-gating range I pulled over to let him by, because I am aggressive but try to avoid stupid. It was a big pickup for sure. A Dodge.  As he zoomed by, I discovered he was hauling a trailer.  And on the trailer – a huge backhoe!

With my ego in tatters I followed him meekly. I found I could keep up with him easily.  Pretty sure it was a local who knew the road well and drove it often and had been using my brake lights as cornering reminders.  Worked well in reverse, and by the time we got to Willits I wanted to thank him for the guidance.

Fact is that new pickups vary from too big to grotesquely large, and can have as many luxury features and tech toys as cars – or more.  They also have engines that run from powerful to grotesque as well, (you need 600hp in a truck?), as well as much larger wheels and tires about three times wider than those back in the day.

End result – if you are enjoying a spirited romp on a back road in your car or on a motorcycle and have a modern truck catch up to you, it is a good idea to let them by.  Now you have someone in front of you that will be a “rabbit” to be snared by any law enforcement minions eager to present a performance driving award, lowered risk from deer strikes, and also a handy brake light guide to corners, especially on roads you may not know well.

Caveat:  this for certain varies on what you are operating. On the Kawasaki ZX12R I owned, or the two BMW K1300S models I was assigned to ride for two years, progress would not be impeded for long by – pretty much anything on two wheels or four.

I was on a road trip in my Ford Focus ST three weeks ago, to Fort Bragg coincidentally, and I used this technique between Grants Pass and Fort Bragg in both directions.  Going West early in the morning a hot shot truck made me more at ease at 5am from deer, and enhanced my enjoyment. I would let him charge ahead on the straight sections and then enjoy the brakes and handling of my Ford Focus ST as I hauled him back in on the curving sections.

On the way back there was heavy fog and a winding road with cliffs to the right and the ocean to the left- a long way down.   A big pickup served as my guide, and I appreciated it.

Times have changed.   But I still want a small pickup…

Copyright 2020                             David Preston

Posted in Cars, Equipment, Motorcycles, Travel | 2 Comments

A different perspective on Covid-19

A Different Perspective on Covid – 19

By now, almost everyone in the world has heard of, and been affected by in some way, the virus pandemic. Tragedies abound, from those who have lost their lives to the millions who have been put out of work or seen a business built for decades turn to nothing. There are people at high risk, brave souls who work every day in the face of grave danger, and family members unable to offer help to their own relatives, or neighbors or community. The list of demographic groups affected in dire ways seems endless, and any attempt to list them all would be futile.  

Even people relatively unaffected, like me, can suffer, although certainly much less so. I worry about friends and family at risk.  I care about friends and former students I love who work in medicine and are doing so much.  I want to help, but how?  If you are older, (I’m 73), hands-on volunteer work is probably not a good idea. It all makes you feel helpless.

In my case, the local YMCA did a great job of providing options. I was able to leave the automatic dues deductions that come out of my checking account in place, and the Y has used that money to offer food and support in many ways to the wider community. That is some help for sure, but it still leaves you with a sort of Covid-19 survivor guilt. At least survivor so far.


Pretty much everyone is suffering, from the worst outcome possible to lesser degrees for the fortunate. However, today I came up, by accident, with a great way to yank your mind off the daily barrage of bad news and concern.


Go for a walk in a cemetery, and the older the better. It will change your thinking, at least for a while.


Bear Creek cemetery is about a mile from my house. I have been curious about it for decades, but never taken the time for a stroll. Until today.


It’s a very small cemetery, much less than the size of a football field. Most of the grave markers are from the 1850’s to 1880’s, with a smattering of more recent installations up to the early 1990’s. It is obvious that the cemetery has not been kept up for decades. Everything is overgrown with long grass, bushes, and even trees that were not there initially.


I was told that the cemetery was sold a few years ago to an eastern religion church of some sort. Those folks have begun to use a previously empty section that is perfectly maintained and shows the flowers and flags of recent visits. The headstones are not stones at all, but pillars of some white synthetic material about 6’ tall, inscribed with names etched in a language I could not read. Very close together, so my assumption is that they mark the resting places of deceased loved ones. I did not get too close, lest I offend someone.


The older and original majority of the cemetery was fascinating. The grass and weeds and trees are on very soft ground, and some of the headstones and markers are sinking into the earth. Some headstones are so old and weatherworn I could not read them.


If you spend some time, you will be sobered by the obvious evidence of how life expectancy has grown. There were only a handful of people whose lives had lasted past 70 years. The majority seem to have passed away between 45 and 60.
The headstones were very simple, usually listing only the name and the years of birth and death. They still have stories to tell.

Men and women who lived together from marriage until the death of one, and then the other sometimes years later. One showed the birth and death of the wife, but only the birth year of the man. He would have been 62 when his wife died in 1982. He would be 100 today. Is he still alive or was he buried elsewhere?


Many tragic stories are revealed, particularly of children. One headstone honored a child who lived… for one day. Another listed the names of four children with the same last name. None of them lived past the age of five.


When you leave you will be very quiet, your mind filled with somber thoughts of sorrow, but also gratitude for the years you and your family have been given to enjoy.

And maybe that will make returning to the day’s virus news easier to bear and renew your hope that this will soon be over.

For more thought-provoking time, I highly recommend my second-most favorite book of poetry:  Spoon River Anthology, by Edgar Lee Masters.

May you live in peace and good health.

David Preston Copyright 2020

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