Light Touring on the Triumph Rocket 3

Light Touring on the Triumph Rocket 3

As every video or published review indicates, as well as sales data, the Triumph Rocket 3 introduced in 2020 is an extremely capable motorcycle.

Which is odd in and of itself, because at first, or so at least it seemed to me, it looks like it would not be good for much but stunning onlookers with its totally outlandish appearance and specifications.

I bought it because the video reviews of the press launch impressed, because I liked it when I sat on it, and because its very outlandishness appealed.

But since purchase, almost 10,000 miles and 17 months or so ago, it has surprised me on a frequent basis.

Is it good for everything? No.  After a year, I purchased a new 2020 Bonneville T 120 to replace the 2016 version I traded in for the Rocket, and now I have all the motorcycle bases covered that my 74-year-old frame desires.  I have been riding for 54 years, and thanks to working in the business in my second career, I have ridden 510 (!) different motorcycles. I have gone as fast as I wanted and faster than I should have, too many times to count. I have ridden or owned sport bikes from 250-1200cc, humongous tourers, adventure and dirt bikes, electric bikes, large and small scooters, trikes and reverse trikes, etc. Been there and done that, and not done with riding for hopefully many more years.

Although I was greatly surprised by the handling of the Rocket, which is far better than I expected, and have been consistently delighted by the massive torque and power, and how great it is for riding two up, it turns out it is also great fun for touring. Sort of.

Depends on what the term means to you. I have ridden from Seattle to Florida on a motorcycle, Seattle to Minnesota and back and Seattle to San Francisco and back several times. I think of touring as any multi-day ride.  Your dictionary may differ.

Years ago, my friend Pat explained his theory of the four-day ride, and it goes like this.  Day 1:  you are excited to be off on an adventure, and the day is terrific.  Day 2: An awesome ride, as you are no well and truly into the trip.  Day 3:  Still great fun, but thoughts of home start to creep in.  The responsibilities you left behind start to nibble at your brain.  You begin to miss loved ones, etc.  Day 4: It has been a great trip, but your own bed beckons at the end of the day. The ride home is pleasant in anticipation.

This concept works very well for me.  Although I live alone, there is a lady in my life I start to miss, and I am concerned for, of all things – my cat!  Daphne is blind and needs eye drops twice a day. Although my wonderful duplex neighbor Peggy spends time with Daphne mornings and evenings while I am gone, and administers the eye drops, we have learned by experience that Daphne will eat very little when I am not home.

So, rather than the one-to-three-week trips of decades ago, “touring” on the Rocket 3 is mostly 4 days at a time.  Ironic, since it would be more comfortable and capable for the longer trips than any of the bikes I rode back then.

My most recent trip was actually much shorter than planned, but still great fun.  Mine is the GT model, with the factory semi-hard saddle bags, plus a magnetic tank bag and an extra bag strapped to the passenger seat.  Here is what I pack:

WEAR:           

Triumph pants/bandana        Boots / socks

Gloves                                    Underwear

Underarmor top                     t-neck

neck scarf                              t-shirt     

Rev’It jacket                           Helmet           

SADDLEBAGS:

Socks               2                     Jeans             

Undies            3                      Rain jacket

Tee-shirts       3                      Eddie Bauer top

Tire repair kit                         First Aid kit

T-neck            1                      Spare gloves         

Tobacco stuff                         Compressor                  

TOP BAG:

Toiletries kit/ charger            Water

Vans shoes                            Swim suit              

Tank Bag:

Registration                           Owner’s manual

Sunglasses                            maps, route sheets

Phone                                     Visor cleaner

Hearing aids                           Hat

Sunblock                               

About money.  I took $400 in cash on two four day rides this summer, and did not spend a penny on either one. The cashless society has arrived, but I like the security of just in case funds.

This trip would be challenging because of two random threats: The Covid virus, and forest fires.  The original plan was to ride into Canada and repeat a fantastic trip from two years ago, but entry across the border appeared iffy at best, and I changed the entire route to stay in Washington state two days before we left.  That proved prescient, as Canada shut the gates again the morning we left.

What we usually do is romp over the North Cascades Highway to Twisp, which is highly recommended, but the late-breaking news of fires and smoke and long lines of traffic behind a pilot car in sketchy areas caused us to change course the morning of the ride.  We took the easier route of Highway 2 to Leavenworth and on to Cashmere for a fine pulled pork sandwich lunch, and then up 97 and Alt 97 all the way to the Camaray motel in Oroville, where we have stayed often.

On the road the Rocket is mostly humming along, barely delving at all into its prodigious abilities.  Yes, there is some wind noise and wind pressure, but I prefer that to huge windshields.  The price for this can be bicep fatigue at the end of the day, but not much. Increased weights and reps at my local YMCA workouts have now removed even that.

The seat is comfy all day, although I am not sure why.  I do not even bother with padded riding shorts these days.  Because of the forward pegs, standing up for periods, as I have done for years, is not really practical, but just scrunching around from time to time seems to help. 

Again, I think the thrice a week workout at the YMCA help.  My little opinion, supported by almost no evidence, is that a lot of seat discomfort on many motorcycles can be alleviated or eliminated by getting the seat of the rider, not the motorcycle, toned up.

One trait of the Rocket 3 is of note.  You may find yourself on a winding back road out away from everything on a beautiful day, the ride marred only by someone in a 40-foot-long mega-motorcoach trolling along as fast as he or she can go, which is not very.  When an opportunity to pass appears, you do not want to waste it, and you also want to make room for your buddy or buddies behind you to pass as well, so you shift down to 5th and give the beast its head.  When you get to 90mph or so, still accelerating at an exciting pace, you may find that the wind wants to blow your boots off the pegs.

Clamping your legs firmly against the tank before you hit the launch button will help this.

After dinner, we pondered our Saturday ride. There was surprisingly little intel on the state of the forest fires. The original plan was to head East on wonderful winding roads to Molson, Chesaw, and on to Curlew, before heading South to our destination in the small town of Wilbur. We asked everyone who might know, and the consensus (which proved to be incorrect) was that the road to Chesaw was OK, but nobody knew if we could get to Curlew.

Reluctantly, I changed the route. Good news, South and Southeast would get us away from the fires, and would include a road I had never ridden. Bad news – it would be a very short day – only 130 miles.

South to Omak and then Southeast on 155, and what a great road!  However, we came across a big neon pink fabric sign that warned of fire activity ahead. And then one that warned of fire crews ahead, and then one warning of fire equipment entering the road. Several of each of these, but by the time we reached Nespelem we had seen none of any of the sights we had been warned of.  A quick break at a tiny store in Nespelem, and the nice woman explained the several signs of flash flooding we had also seen.  The land had been so dry for so long that when rain came the water would not sink in but run rampant. But it had not rained. Yet.

From Nespelem East there is a little road you have to know where to find, and it romps up and over the hills to reach 27, and that takes you South to the Keller ferry and on to Wilbur.

Once across the Keller ferry we paused at a park, since we had all day to go not very far.  As we left, it began to ran. First a little, and then a lot. The road rises out of Keller into a series of steep switchback corners that are marked at 15 mph.  A Rocket 3 is not fond of 15 mile an hour corners, or to be fair – I am not.  This is really true when there are actual WAVES of water cascading across the apex.  Fortunately, no traffic, so I just let the Rocket meander to the left-hand lane on right corners.

Of course, we got to the motel in Wilbur before the room was ready, so we ate at the “famous” Billy Burger next door, and then spent a very lazy afternoon.


For Sunday, I determined, based on almost no data, that the intended route for Saturday would be doable in the opposite direction.  A slight yaw to the left to stop at the always impressive Grand Coulee Dam, and then North to Nespelem and East on the same road we had enjoyed the previous day, and North to Republic. North of Republic I really wanted Pat to experience a fantastic car and saw mill museum. Alas, it was closed, and I think permanently.

We paused at the Ranold MacDonald Memorial and no, not Ronald. Ranold was a man who lived a life that was so exciting and important that he crammed about 140 years of adventures and accomplishments into the three score and ten years he was allotted.  It will make you wonder what you have done lately.

The Rocket was in its element, rolling along in the sun and riding waves of torque, with ample acceleration on demand and amazing brakes when needed, such as when we would come across deer, or cows, or whatever.

We stopped at Molson, my favorite almost ghost town.  The sign says 36 residents, but the lady in the excellent museum told me they have nowhere near that many.

Back to Oroville and the Camaray Motel, to prepare for the run to home on Monday.

Looked to me like we could do the reverse of the planned Friday route and make it across the North Cascades Highway.  Since we were going home and had already stopped at every scenic vista on previous trips, we pretty much just rode. Three hundred miles with two stops. I told you the seat was comfy.

Ironically, I found out later that my route choices were perfect.  We were never delayed by fires and rarely smelled smoke, although we did see lots of damage from this year and years past.  It turns out that the routes I picked worked on the day selected, and none of them would have worked on any of the other days.

Better lucky than good.

If you like these missives, send me a note at dapreston1947@gmail.com.  Also, www.davidpreston.biz has years of other reports and meanderings on all sorts of topics, some of them not about motorcycles!  Oh, and links to m books available from Amazon.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

Copyright 2021                              David Preston

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The New and Improved August 20-23rd Ride!

4 Day Motorcycle Ride: August 20-23, 2021

Friday, August 20th:

7:00am – Brekkie at the Crystal Creek Café. (optional)

8:15ish – on the road

  1. I-405 to Smokey Point rest area                               38 miles
  2. RIGHT on SR 530 to SR 20                                        47 miles
  3. RIGHT to Marblemount  (fuel)                                  8 miles
  4. SR 20 to Winthrop with two rest stops
  5. SR 20 to Twisp  (lunch, fuel)                                    95 miles
  6. EAST on 20, LEFT in a few miles to Tonasket      85 miles
  7. NORTH on 97 to Oroville                                           22 miles 

285 miles

Camaray Motel   $79

1320 Main St.  Oroville

1 (509) 476-3684

frontdesk@camaraymotel.com 

Saturday, August 21st

  1. 7:00am  Breakfast and fuel in Oroville
  2. EAST  and NORTH to Molson
  3. Reverse SOUTH and EAST to Curlew           75 miles
  4. EAST to SOUTH (right) n 395                         45 miles
  5. Right (SOUTH on 395 to 20 (fuel)                   30 miles                      
  6. RIGHT (WEST) on 20                                        5 miles
  7. SOUTH on ? to Inchelium                               25 miles
  8. Right (WEST) to 21                                           30 miles
  9. LEFT (South) on 21 to Wilbur                         30 miles

                                      VERY approximate 250 miles

                   Eight Bar B Motel 718 Main Ave

                   Wilbur   (509) 647 2400                 $82

Sunday, August 23rd

  1. 7:00am – breakfast in Wilbur
  2. WEST on 2 to Coulee City
  3. NORTH on 155 to Grand Coulee
  4. NORTH on 155 to Nespelem
  5. RIGHT on ? to 21
  6. LEFT and NORTH on 21 to Republic
  7. NORTH on 21 to Curlew
  8. WEST from Curlew – various routes
  9. NORTH on 97 to Oroville

240- 280 miles – maybe

Camary Motel                       $79

1320 Main St.  Oroville

1 (509) 476-3684

frontdesk@camaraymotel.com 

Monday, August 23rd

  1. Repeat Friday in reverse

Notice: daily distances are intentionally kept short to

encourage lots of stops for scenery and chatting and

pictures, etc.

Copyright 2021                                        David Preston

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The Best Four Day Ride Ever in my experience

4 Day Motorcycle Ride: August 20-23, 2021

Please note:

  1. You need a valid passport and proof of Covid vaccination to enter Canada.
  2. You will also (at this time) need to get a PCR test within 72 hours of the 20th.
  3. What is listed below is what I intend to do. Some like to get up later in the morning, or use an alternate route, or camp out instead of a motel, etc. All other ideas are fine, but I will stick to my own plan and if others want to ride with me that would be fine.  Other choices are also fine.
  4. If you want in, you need to act now.  Motels in Nakusp seem to be almost full.

Friday, August 20th:

7:00am – Brekkie at the Crystal Creek Café. (optional)

8:15ish – on the road

  1. I-405 to Smokey Point rest area                               38 miles
  2. RIGHT on SR 530 to SR 20                                        47 miles
  3. RIGHT to Marblemount  (fuel)                                  8 miles
  4. SR 20 to Winthrop with two rest stops
  5. SR 20 to Twisp  (lunch, fuel)                                    95 miles
  6. EAST on 20, LEFT in a few miles to Tonasket      85 miles
  7. NORTH on 97 to Oroville                                           22 miles 

285 miles

Camaray Motel   $79

1320 Main St.  Oroville

1 (509) 476-3684

frontdesk@camaraymotel.com 

Saturday, August 21st

  1. 7:00am  Breakfast and fuel on Oroville
  2. 8:15ish – NORTH to Canadian border                    10 miles
  3. To Osoyoos and RIGHT (EAST) on Canada 3                 40 miles
  4. LEFT (NORTH) on 33 to Kelowna (fuel)                  75 miles
  5. RIGHT on 97 to Vernon, RIGHT on 6 to Needles   78 miles
  6. Free Ferry
  7. NORTH to Nakusp                                                     20 miles

                   233 miles

                   Selkirk Inn                   $138

                   210 6th Avenue West, Nakusp

                   1 (250) 265 3666

Sunday, August 23rd

  1. 7:00am – breakfast in Nakusp
  2. 8:15ish – decision time – depending on weather
  3. EITHER repeat yesterday in reverse OR
  4. From the gas station north of the motel, RIGHT on 6
  5. 6 to 3 – RIGHT to Osoyoos
  6. Back to the border and on to Oroville

230 or fewer miles

Camary Motel                       $79

1320 Main St.  Oroville

1 (509) 476-3684

frontdesk@camaraymotel.com 

Monday, August 23rd

  1. Repeat Friday in reverse

Notice: daily distances are intentionally kept short to

encourage lots of stops for scenery and chatting and

pictures, etc.

Copyright 2021                                        David Preston

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On the Road Again Ride 2021 Final – probably

On the Road Again #1   2021        July 23rd to July 26th

This one is more complicated than most, both in route and accommodations. Please read carefully, and then send me an e-mail at dapreston1947@gmail.com if you have questions, want to join in, or want to get a roomie for a night or two. If you want to go you will need to move rapidly, as motel rooms are going fast this summer.

Day #1 to LaPine.  8:30am start   Friday,  July 23r

1.      I-405 and I-90 past Issaquah to 18                                    48 miles

2.      18 over Tiger Mountain- exit to Issy-Hobart Road          15 miles

3.      LEFT – RIGHT- RIGHT to Enumclaw    (fuel)                   32 miles

4.      410 to Yakima                                                                      60 miles

5.      97 to Goldendale                           (lunch, fuel)                 80 miles

6.      97 to Shaniko    (rest break)                                              50 miles

7.      South from Shaniko to Alpine, RIGHT to 97                     19 miles   

8.      SOUTH to Redmond           (fuel)                                       25 miles

9.      97 to LaPine                          (fuel)                                      81 miles

Highlander Motel in LaPine                                       410 miles

51511 Highway 97   541-536-2131    $101.00

NOTE! The Highlander only have 9 rooms, and I love to stay there. Alas, I got the last room available, so you will need to find a room at another motel in LaPine (there are several) or in Bend. I may have a second bed available in my room or not – will know in a couple of days

Day #2  LaPine to Crater Lake to Florence    Saturday, 7/24

  1. SOUTH to  Diamond Lake Junction                         46 miles
  2. WEST on 138                                                                15 miles
  3. SOUTH (left) into Crater Lake Park                           23 miles
  4. WEST on 62 to 230                                                      17 miles
  5. NORTH (right) on 230 to Toketee Falls (fuel)           46 miles  
  6. WEST on 138 Idleyd Park                                            34 miles
  7. WEST to Roseburg                                                       25 miles
  8. NORTH on I-5 to Sutherlin                                           12 miles
  9. WEST on 138 to Elkton                          (fuel)            24 miles 

10.WEST on 38 to Reedsport                                           36 miles

11. NORTH on 101 to Florence                                        21 miles

                        Economy Inn Florence                                     299 miles

                        3829 Highway 101  541-997-7115    $154.70

Day #3                 Lakeside to Aberdeen         Sunday, 7/25

1. Florence to Astoria on 101 (fuel somewhere)             180 miles

2, Astoria to Raymond                                                          50 miles

3. Raymond to Aberdeen/Hoquiam                                    30 miles

Best Western Plus Aberdeen                        260 miles

701 E. Heron St   360-537-7460  

$178.00   ($150 deposit)

Note! Brian Hardy and brother Cam will be on this ride, and Cam owns a vacation home in Ocean Shores that sleeps 8 (!) that will be available.

Day #4                 Motel to Home            Monday, 7/26

1. 101 to Forks , Port Angeles, Hood Canal. Ferry home       

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On the (motorcycle) road again – twice

Two motorcycle rides for this summer.  At last!

I’m planning for (at least) two different rides for this summer.  The first will take place July 23rd to 26th, and the second in early September.  The order will be determined by when Canada chooses to let us in again.

For the first one listed, I could use some help from other motorcyclists.  I would like some ideas of what to see and where to stop in Crater Lake National Park, and ideas for a reasonable and not very fancy motel in Aberdeen or Hoquiam.  Thank you in advance for your ideas sent to dapreston1947@gmail.com

On the Road Again #1   2021        July 23rd to July 26th

Day #1 to LaPine.  8:30am start   Friday,  July 23rd

1.      I-405 and I-5 to Portland (fuel) to South  I 205       200 miles

2.      I 205 South to LEFT (East) on 224                             15 miles

3.      224 to Eagle Creek to Estacada                                 20 miles

4.      224 becomes NFS 46 to Detroit  (fuel / lunch?)       83 miles

5.      SOUTH on 22                                                                56 miles

6.      LEFT at T to Sisters                                                     60 miles

7.      SOUTH to LaPine       (fuel)                                         62 miles

Highlander Motel  in LaPine                  495 miles

Day #2  LaPine to Crater Lake to Lakeside    Saturday, 7/24

  1. South Diamond Lake Junction                                 44 miles
  2. WEST on 138        (fuel?)                                             15 miles
  3. SOUTH (left) into Crater Lake Park                           23 miles
  4. WEST 62 to 230                                                            17 miles
  5. North (right) on 230 to Toketee Falls (fuel)              46 miles
  6. West on 138 Idleyd Park                                             34 miles
  7. West to Roseburg                                                        25 miles
  8. SOUTH on I-5 to Green                                                  5 miles
  9. WEST on 42 to Coos Bay   (fuel)                               74 miles

10.NORTH to Lakeside                                                     20 miles

                        Motel in Lakeside       310 miles

Day #3                 Lakeside to Aberdeen         Sunday, 7/25

1. Lakeside to Astoria on 101 (fuel somewhere)            210 miles

2, Astoria to Raymond                                                          50 miles

3. Raymond to Aberdeen/Hoquiam                                    30 miles

Motel in Aberdeen or Hoquiam             290 miles           

Day #4                 Motel to Home            Monday, 7/26

  1. To Forks                                                             110 miles
  2. To Port Angeles                                                55 miles
  3. Port Angeles to Hood Canal                           60 miles
  4. Hood Canal to ferry                                          20 miles
  5. Home                                               260 miles or so

OR…

The Best 4 Day Motorcycle Ride July 23rd-26th

Friday breakfast.

  1. I-405 to Smokey Point Rest Area and then north
  2. RIGHT on SR 530 and on to Darrington
  3. North to SR 20, and East 12 miles to Marblemount.  Fuel
  4. Highway 20 to Twisp (lunch, fuel)
  5. East again on Highway 20, left a few miles out of town.  20 to the Camaray Motel in Oroville.

Saturday

  1. Fuel then North to the border
  2. East on Canada 3 in Osoyoos
  3. LEFT on 33 in about 50 miles
  4. 33 to Kelowna – fuel and lunch?
  5. Through Kelowna to RIGHT on 97
  6. A few miles to RIGHT on 6 at Vernon
  7. Free ferry to Naksup – Canyon Court Motel

Sunday

  1. From the gas station North of the motel, right on 6
  2. 6 to 3 – then RIGHT back to Osoyoos
  3. Back to the US, and the Camaray Motel    fuel

Monday

  1. Repeat Friday in reverse

Copyright 2021                                      David Preston

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The Triumph of the…Passenger

The Triumph of the… Passenger

Do you enjoy giving a passenger a ride on your Triumph? It has always surprised me how few riders do. After all, that was how my own motorcycle story began, with a very carefully done passenger experience crafted by a friend of my older brother’s.

I grew attracted to the idea of a passenger from the moment I purchased my first motorcycle in 1967.  To a young man looking for a girlfriend, this seemed to be a fine idea.  What better way to start a relationship than with the woman’s arms around you?

The girlfriend in college was a frequent passenger.  Almost married her, and thank my lucky stars she broke our wedding engagement. Sometimes what seems tragic is actually an unrealized gift.

Out of college and starting my teaching career, I often carried a spare helmet with me, just in case.  It took two years, but it worked…sort of.

Years later I wrote Motorcycle 101, (now Motorcycle 201 and available from Amazon has a paperback or e-book – gratuitous plug). I included a chapter on how to give someone a ride on your motorcycle. I was astonished when a good friend who was an MSF instructor and one of the most skilled riders I’ve ever witnessed told me she really enjoyed that chapter, as she had never had the nerve to offer a ride to anyone.

In 2007 or so I had a call at Cycle Barn from a Seattle Times reporter. She wanted to do an article on the rising trend of women riding motorcycles.  She had never been on a motorcycle.

I had just the thing for her: a ride put on by our Harley-Davidson HOG chapter being organized and led by women. Perfect.

For the occasion I procured one of our Harley rental bikes. They all had backrests installed, which is nice for those on their first ride.  I also got her outfitted with helmet and jacket and gloves, and she had remembered to wear sturdy boots.

At the rider’s meeting I introduced her to the twenty or thirty HOG members, several of them passengers, explained why she was there, and asked if anyone wanted to have the reporter as a passenger. Since she was attractive and single, I thought one of the men might leap at the idea, but most of them were older and married, so nobody did, which was not too surprising. So – up to me then.

I followed my own advice from my book and spent time explaining how a motorcycle operates, how the controls work, and how a motorcycle turns by leaning. She should lean as much as I do.  And a few more tidbits.

I made sure the passenger pegs were down, unzipped the side pockets of my jacket if she wanted to use them for her hands, and made sure her helmet fit and was all snugged up.  Then I got on and braced my feet firmly on the ground and had her climb aboard.  So far, so good.

Then… I made a couple of mistakes.

I forgot that all HOG rides start with a single file line of bikes in the parking lot.  Engines running and maybe being revved. A lot. Most of them with aftermarket exhausts.  The result is music to a motorcyclist, and incipient terror for the reporter.

We left the parking lot, and at the first stop sign a woman rolled up next to us dressed all in black, with an open face helmet and one of those death-skull masks.  I explained that this was Jane, one of our service department techs.  At the second stop a chopper rolled up next to us and I explained that this was Shirley, and she had built the bike herself.  I figured this would be great for her article.


Alas, the cumulative effect of all this was that the woman was terrified.  As the roads opened up and the speeds increased (although HOG rides were never very fast in my experience), I noticed that my passenger had her arms clenched around my middle in silent desperation and legs clamped against mine in a death grip.

I became concerned that the next thing that would happen would be muscle cramps.  Nobody but a pro wrestler could keep up that grip for long.  Fortunately, she eventually realized it was all okey.  I could feel her legs and arms release back down to normal, and she really enjoyed the rest of the day.

The result was a fine article in the Times with several interviews and pictures of the women, references to HOG and Cycle Barn, and almost no mention of me – as intended.  Job done.

All of this came back to me last weekend on a six-hour motorcycle day with the lovely Nancy behind me on my 2020 Triumph Rocket 3.  I realized that although I had given many people rides and written about how to do it, I had not spent enough time appreciating what a great passenger goes through on a ride.

Our ride was almost five hours of riding, with a break for lunch and one fuel stop.  For that five hours Nancy was perched on the rather small Rocket 3 passenger seat, with the small back rest in the low position, because I had not thought to raise it.  Fortunately, Nancy is runway-model slim, and claims she was perfectly comfy. Another advantage is that decades ago in an earlier chapter of her life she had ridden her own motorcycle to work for a couple of years, so she knows a lot about motorcycles.  She may ride her own motorcycle again in the future…

But, on the other hand, and is this true of your passenger?  Nancy had never been on the roads I used on this 200-mile day.  She did not know where we were or where we were going. She did not know where the next stop for food or bathroom would be.  I don’t have helmet to helmet communication because I don’t like it, so all she had was basic signals.  One poke in my side means she would like me to stop at some point, two means she would like me to stop soon, and three means she needs me to stop immediately.

Occasionally I would pat her knee, and a responding hug meant she was fine. That is it for communication, and seems to be all we need.

On the more “interesting” sections of road, she could peer over my shoulder at an approaching corner and had to trust I was paying attention, would brake appropriately, and would be able to respond to frost heaves, sand, a rogue dog – whatever.

At the end of the day, she said she’d had a wonderful time and can’t wait to do it again.

I realized that my response would be far different if our roles were reversed.

Adding a passenger can add a lot to your motorcycle adventure, if you have the right passenger.  But do spare a thought to what they experience.   You owe them.

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often… with a passenger.

Copyright 2021                              David Preston

Links to all nine of my books are on www.davidpreston.biz on the right side of the page, although you may not be able to see them if using a phone.

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Triumph’s Steve McQueen Scrambler…ugh!

Fair warning!  What follows is a rant, but a well-reasoned one. …I hope.

Triumph has announced a “Steve McQueen Special Edition Scrambler 1200X” and it is a management and marketing error of epic proportions.  Just when I thought Harley-Davidson had cornered the market on corporate bungles, along comes Triumph with an attempt to tarnish their own image, and the effort will succeed.

The bike in question is the 1200X scrambler, which is the scrambler model that comes equipped and prepared to go on dirt roads and rugged terrain. It is a very capable machine.  The SMSES is what my first boss in the motorcycle business called a “BNG,” a model that features “bold new graphics” when the manufacturer does not have the gusto or ability to improve last year’s model.

In this case, what you get for (considerably) more money is all of the available options, special paint (green), and a high mounted front fender.

Oh, but there’s more!  On the steering head, an engraved plaque of Steve McQueen’s signature!  Oh boy!  And on the title will appear the signatures of Nick Bloor, Triumph CEO, and Chad McQueen, son of Steve.

There is so much wrong here.  First of all, the “scrambler” used for the famous jump in the movie The Great Escape was nowhere near a standard Triumph model, but one highly modified for the task of looking like a German army bike that can soar over a tall fence.  More importantly, although McQueen was a highly capable rider, raced successfully, and rode several motorcycles in the movie, he was not riding the bike for the famous jump.  That was Bud Ekins, and Triumph already did a quite lovely special edition with his name on it last year.

On the title will appear the name of Nick Bloor, CEO of Triumph.  It was John Bloor who rescued the Triumph brand from the dust and made a successful company out of it.  Nick Bloor is his son.  He is famous and noteworthy for… I don’t know what.  Chad McQueen is Steve’s son, and seems to have made a life career out of promoting his father’s legacy and selling off things he owned, or touched.  Chad may have done many other noteworthy things that I am not aware of.

So, we have a motorcycle that commemorates nothing that was ever sold by Triumph, extolling the fame of someone who did not ride it to glory, and endorsed by the sons of the CEO of Triumph and the son of the guy who did not ride it.  Am I missing something here?

Not that Triumph are alone in this. The Ford Mustang has been available in a “special edition” of one sort

or another for almost every year of its existence, sometimes several in the same year.  The CS (California Special), the Twister Edition, three (!) different versions of the “Bullitt” Mustang (at least McQueen did drive that one), and on and on. Corvette has celebrated every anniversary imaginable for decades.  Some of these models had improvements over the base model, such as the Bullitt cars, but most were paint and graphics packages to boost sales and create profit.

Nothing wrong with profit, but the ice is thin.  Remember in the 1990’s when Harley marketed their motorcycles to upwardly mobile types as the must have new thing.  I worked at a dealership where every weekend attorneys and bankers rode in wearing their “tough biker guy” regalia, with leather jackets and boots and do rags.  The ironed creases in their jeans gave them away, and I think the overall effect weakened Harley’s image.

In the early 2,000s BMW adventure bikes became the in thing (still are) and dealers sold all sorts of accessories to better prepare your BMW GS for that around the world trip hardly anyone would ever take. That gave birth to the “Starbucks Adventure Rider” label.

I do not want Triumph to become the next “cool guy” thing.  Think of all the famous movie stars and celebrities of all sorts who have had their picture taken on a Triumph. After all, everyone looks better on a Triumph.  Will we see the “Bob Dylan” Triumph (he did ride them), or the “Ann Margret” Special Edition (ditto), or any of another 100 or so?

I like Triumphs.  I’ve purchased seven of them in the past 14 years, so I do have “skin in the game.”  I’ve enjoyed a 2004 Sprint ST, a 2006 Speed Triple, a 2016 Bonneville T 120, a 2016 Thruxton 1200, a 2020 Rocket 3, (current), and a 2011 900 Thruxton I am about to trade for another new Bonneville T 120.  I have enjoyed them all for their looks and their essential honesty.  They have all performed as you would expect them too, with excellent design and reliability, and have been blissfully devoid of needless glitz and pomp.

I will be so disappointed if they try too hard to be “cool.”

Copyright 2021         David Preston

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

The Saga of the Plants Named Bob

The Saga of the Plants Named Bob

I taught various English courses at Juanita High School from the fall of 1989 to the spring of 2000, when I retired from teaching to enter the exciting world of the motorcycle business.

Even with twenty years of teaching experience I was a first- year teacher at JHS, and thus was assigned a portable for my classroom. It took very little time to become convinced that my portable was a much better setting for teaching.  Every year after that I had the opportunity to move in to the main building, and every year I turned it down.

My portable had so many advantages! On nice days I could leave the door open.  When it was wet and/or cold I could control the heat, whereas the temperature in the main building could not be controlled by individuals and varied widely due to hundreds of students entering and leaving multiple access points thousands of times a day. The portable was quieter.  It was far enough away from the main office that administrators usually eschewed walking all that way to interrupt with something. My parking spot was right behind the portable, where I could keep tabs on my car or motorcycle.  That was handy when a side job called for me to drive a full-size Hummer to school. Too big for the parking space, so I merely drove over the curb and parked it on the grass.  If I needed to talk to a student, after class I had about 20 yards of walking to the building for a short chat. Perfect.

At some point I added a small plant to my desk.  I used “Bob” in all sorts of ways. I could use him for a prompt for a creative writing assignment or for ideas for my science fiction students – all kinds of uses. Every once in a while, Bob would pass over the chlorophyll bridge and be replaced. Bob I, Bob II, III, IV, etc.

Usually, by third period the coffee cup I had started the day with was almost empty and the contents cold, so I would empty the dregs into Bob’s pot. One day a student paused after class to say “You really have no idea what you’re doing, do you?”  This was not a comment I’d heard before, so I looked puzzled.  The student was in the JHS horticulture program, which was very well run and taught, and popular with students. He explained to his clueless teacher that caffeine is poisonous to most plants.

Oh.  After that I gave only water to Bob and did much better.

On nice days I would sometimes place Bob on the railing so he (or she) could enjoy the fresh air.

One fine spring Friday I put Bob outside and forgot about it when I left at the end of the day.  When I returned on Monday morning, I was dismayed that miscreants unknown had cruelly thrown Bob against the wall of the building, apparently several times, and all that remained were small shards of plastic plant pot, little bits of dirt, and green shreds of Bob.  Students in all of my classes were furious beyond imagination the someone had “murdered” Bob.

In the spring of 2000, I came up with a mostly good idea.  My classroom walls were extensively decorated, another asset to a classroom in a portable that was not used by other teachers. The decorations were mostly large posters of cars and motorcycles.  When students asked, I explained that they were there for my enjoyment, as students were supposed to be looking at me. Besides, most English classrooms were decorated with posters of white men who had died centuries ago – meh.  But I also had other posters and other things.

My mostly great idea was that on June 1st I would begin to give away all the décor items to students who wanted them, in the order of their grade average in my class.  The downside of this was that many students really liked the idea, to the extent that they now wanted any assignment or test graded immediately so they could discern their rank.  Since the assignments and tests were almost entirely essays, I had to up my grading game.

On June 1st, the student with the highest GPA was in fourth period, and to the shock of many, he did not select the 2 foot by 3-foot poster of a 427 Ford Cobra, which most had assumed would go first.  As the days went by the decor disappeared at a gradual rate. 

One day I was asked if the gift offer applied only to what was on the walls.  I had to think, but decided that anything that did not belong to the district or was my personal property would be fine.  In that fashion, Bob VIII went on to a new and no doubt exciting existence living in a sorority at USC!

This past Christmas, Nancy, the Lady of the Manor in Absentia, gifted me a “Whoville tree.”  Yesterday we planted it in my front yard, and of course I named the plant Bob IX.

Looks like Bob IX’s life will also be perilous.  This morning it appears that a rabbit nibbled on him during the night.  This evening I will cover him with a large inverted bucket to try and preserve his life. Here’s to Bob IX- live long and blossom!

Copyright 2021              David Preston

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How to replace the Battery in the Key Fob of your Rocket 3

How to Replace the Battery in the Key Fob of your Rocket 3

This was a new one for me.  Fifty-four years of riding and I’ve never needed a new battery for the key fob of a motorcycle.  Of course, I’ve never had a motorcycle with a key fob, either.

It is alarming when the instrument panel turns orange and tells you something is amiss.  It used to tell me it could not locate the key fob, but changing its position in the pocket of my riding pants fixed that.  Last week it told me the battery in the key fob was weak.  I was off for a ride with an intended stop or two, so instead I went for a ride with no stops.

Back in the garage, I took out the owner’s manual and it looked like a pretty simple task.  Remove the key fob cover, remove and replace the battery, and replace. With a long history of screwing up almost any mechanical task, this looked easy even for me.     Wrong.

First of all, the key fob battery cover can be removed by taking out one small fastener. A really small fastener.  Go ahead and look through all of your Allen keys. You do not have one that small.  A trip to your nearest auto parts store will get you the correct one, although with my history I took the manual with me so I could read the correct size off for the guy at the counter.  0.06 inch or 1.5mm AF Allen key.  Don’t know what “AF” refers to, do you? *

The grocery store next door will have the correct battery.  Buy two.

Back at home, I removed the fastener, very carefully.  If you drop it, it will fly away to the land of lost 10mm sockets and you will never see it again.  Managed that without peril.

Now remove the CR2032 lithium battery.  Oops!  The battery is held in place by three tabs. It does not slide out.  It does not shake out.  A little work with a screw driver, combined with decades of experience, let me know I was probably about to spend a lot of money.  With the lessons learned from lots of sad experiences, I quit.

Drove into Seattle in my car to Triumph of Seattle, with the pieces in a bag and the owner’s manual.  Not really a waste, as I could go for a walk around Green Lake and also look at Triumphs, because my birthday is coming up and who deserves a second Triumph more than me?  Exactly.

Talked to John, a massively experienced tech and parts guy. He could not figure it out, and helpfully called his contact at Triumph USA.  That person had no clue. In fact, nobody knew what to do, as this was evidently the first time the issue had come up.  My bike is ten months old and closing in on 6,000 miles, so if this has not happened to yours yet, it will.

Went to see salesman Andy, who I have purchased three Triumphs from and possibly a fourth soon.  Had to wait for a free moment, because Andy sells a lot of motorcycles – because he does a fantastic job.

When he had a moment free, he took a look, fiddled a bit, and then devised the answer.   With one finger you press down firmly on the edge of the battery furthest from the tangs holding it in place.   With a small screw driver or, in Andy’s case, a serious knife that Crocodile Dundee would respect, you pry up on the other side and the rubber tangs have enough give that the battery can slide out.  Then you do the reverse with the new battery, being careful to get it in the right way up.

Back home, I very carefully put the cover back on and managed not to drop and lose the fastener.  Done!

If you do not happen to be near Seattle, you can probably now do this yourself!

        * I could not stand it, and looked it up.  AF stands for “across flats” which is how the size is measured

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

Copyright 2021                           David Preston

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How to Con Yourself to Better Fitness

Hope to Con Yourself to Better Fitness

We all want to be fit and healthy.  Unfortunately, the rigors of life often conspire to make that difficult, due to work and family and other factors leading to the constant search for more time.

Motivation helps.  If you’re a professional athlete, your income and career longevity can be drastically affected by your physical fitness.  But most of us are not professional athletes.  Same is true for models, and for actors hired for their looks. I am none of the above, alas.

I’ve known several women who were motivated by an upcoming wedding day, where they wanted to look their absolute best.  I don’t know if it is sexism, or me just not paying attention, but I’ve not seen that happen with men. I do remember the honor of being invited to a couple of weddings that featured young women I had taught and coached about ten years earlier.  Both of them had been attractive young women, but on their wedding day – oh my.  They were both absolutely stunning.

The problem with a motivation like that is that it is targeted to a specific event.  As life continues, that motivation recedes.

However, it is possible to “con” yourself into better fitness that lasts for a much longer time.  My personal goal is not to become the next movie idol, or even to look like a god, unless it is Bacchus.  I merely want to feel and look better and be able to enjoy everything I want to do for as long as possible.  I have used this self-con technique twice with good results, and my most recent con might be of use to you.

Any good con, even for nefarious purposes, needs to be mostly true to be effective.   You can lie to yourself for noble reasons, but the lies need to be mere shadings of the truth, not utter whoppers

My first con came in 2000, when I transitioned from 31 years of teaching and coaching to a new position in the motorcycle business, a job I pretty much invented and pitched successfully to Jim Boltz, the owner of Cycle Barn.  He was one of the very few I met in the motorcycle business who enjoyed thinking “outside the box,” and some of his ideas that I heard about later were really out there.  Wiser heads on his staff talked him out of some of them, and they probably tried to talk him out of hiring me as well.  Keith and Ann Thye at Ride West were also able to look beyond the edge of the dealership pavement.

In any case, I knew I’d be riding a lot of different motorcycles in my new career. Sometimes several a day. At times I would be asked, often with little warning, to clamber on to a motorcycle I had never ridden previously and motor off to take part in a club event with others who had ridden that make and model for years. I was supposed to look competent doing it, or at least not be embarrassing to the dealership.

The con consisted of convincing myself that I needed to be in better shape to do this, which was more or less true.  And it worked, for fourteen years.  I rode more than 500 motorcycles in that time at speeds from a parking lot lap to don’t ask don’t tell, and crashed none of them.  Not crashing is a measure of job security when riding company motorcycles.

Along the way I picked up a secondary motivation. Cycle Barn ordered for me a totally custom set of Vanson leathers. I remember there were 47 different measurements taken.  Now I feared gaining any weight, as it would be so embarrassing if I could no longer fit into the black leather pants.

Ironically, in 2018 a divorce I did not see coming and did not want caused me to lose so much weight on what a friend called the “divorce diet” (where you pretty much do not eat food for months), that eventually I could not wear the pants because I was too thin!  Fortunately, I guess, that is no longer the case, and those pants, now 20 years old, still fit.

My motivation has also been affected by age, which is never a con. I will be 74 in 5 weeks. I ride a motorcycle that weighs 700 pounds.  I have a truly wonderful woman in my life who loves to put in seat time as my passenger.  All up in our gear, there is a need to control over 1100 pounds of a two-wheeled vehicle that offers 165 hp and 163 foot-pounds of torque.  So, stay in shape, find a new joy in life, or face the consequences.  That is strong motivation.

Now for my most recent con, the one that you might find useful, and that you have slogged through everything above to get to. Thank you for your patience!

Like many but not all people my age, I am not that interested in technology, and slow as molasses to adopt new stuff. I held on to my treasured flip phone until life circumstances taught me that I needed a “smart” phone with Internet access.  That was over four years ago.

Recently, I was idly playing with the apps, because that is what you do when you are virus-bored, and I meandered through the “Health” app. Your phone probably has one, and you probably know that. I noticed that my phone tracks how many steps I walk each day, and can also show the data in miles, per day, per week, and per year.  Hmmmmmm.

Scrolling further, I managed to see what my average walk length was for the previous days, weeks, months, and year.  The number was too embarrassing to reveal, but let us describe it as appalling.

An obvious goal was to improve, so I decided a 10% improvement was a reasonable goal. No reason to get carried away.

This reminded me of the last 15 years or so of my teaching career, where we were always asked to put down a goal for the school year. I always chose one that looked really impressive but that I would accomplish easily.  A frequent flier was the goal of developing an entirely new curriculum for a course I would teach that was not offered by anyone else. I developed one new curriculum pretty much every year, so that took care of itself.

Anyway, the goal of increasing your average daily walk distance by 10% is a brilliant con.  Why?  Because I did not realize that I was setting myself up to compete with – myself. Very soon I was not concerned with my health or fitness, but with beating my previous efforts. Who wants to lose to him or herself?

Now my phone is a silent coach, urging me to do more, and more often.  Rather than an increase of 10%, I am at about 40% for this month! 

For this con to work for you, it helps a great deal if you are retired, virus-activity impaired, and lack other life factors that could get in the way. You also need to be skilled at self-criticism.

It is also true that as the virus is defeated, life returns to more or less normal, and the weather improves, I’ll have to make choices. For example, given a sunny day, do I walk or go for a motorcycle ride?  Well, duh! With my riding gear on I am comfy over about a 60-degree range, but motorcycle gear and boots are not designed to be great for walking.


Still, a massive gain so far, and even more than that compared to a year ago.  Check your phone. Examine the data.  Want to con yourself into better fitness by competing with yourself?

PS: Do you have any self-cons that help you maintain or increase fitness?  Please leave a comment and I will add it to this essay, with or without your name as you request.  After my walk…

PPS: Probably obvious, but I do not mean to imply that merely increasing the time you spend walking will make you fit!  You need other things as well.

Ride Safe, Ride Fast, and Ride Often.  And walk more!

Copyright 2021                                                 David Preston

Posted in Education, Rants and Raves | Leave a comment