Music in your head on a motorcycle

What’s In Your Head on a Long Motorcycle Ride?

I’m getting ready to launch off on another long solo motorcycle ride. This one will be about 2500-3000 miles in length, to Los Gatos via back roads in eastern Oregon and back up the coast on Highway 1 and 101, with some freeway slabbing at the beginning and end. Should take ten days, with three or four days in Los Gatos for family and friends.

The first thing you need for a long ride like this is a positive feeling about yourself and your life. You’ll be spending many, many, hours cruising along, and your head will wander where it will – especially in areas where the roads are not challenging you to the max.

“When the helmet drops the bullshit stops,” The concept of this is to eliminate all of the frustrations and worries from your life when you get on the motorcycle.  They can wait for later.  Ironically, you will discover the solution to problems eating away at you by going for a ride and NOT thinking about them.  When you return, refreshed and relaxed, the solution is often obvious. 

I’m not actually sure I’m the creator of this line, although Wikipedia says I am, but you simply cannot be 100% focused for 12 hours a day when you are all by yourself and there is no traffic, no deer or other critters wanting to dispute right of way, and nothing but passive scenery rolling by.

I love time spent like that. 

Although I’m always paying attention, the mind does tend to wander, and that is usually OK. Sometimes I halt this by doing a “play by play” out loud in my helmet, describing the road, the conditions, and any threats I can see. A few seconds of that yanks me back to attention.

Then there is music. Everyone loves music!  I’ve written frequently and at (probably too much) length about the lack of wisdom of using headphones to listen to music. I also don’t want phone call connectivity or any other intrusions coming into my head.

I’m not that great an athlete, and I cannot afford to “give away” any of my rider assets, such as concentration on the task at hand and visual focus.  It stuns me that so many riders think there’s nothing wrong with adding such intrusions into their skulls, so perhaps I am… wrong. 

Nah – can’t be.

There is a better way. Actually, several of them.  Forty five years ago when I first began to take long solo rides, there were no small portable music players, cell phones, or any other of the techno-ephemera we take for granted.  People who wanted to listen to music mounted speakers on their two wheeled land yachts and cranked up the volume to overcome wind roar and engine noise.  This had the effect of blaring your musical taste to anyone within 100 yards or so, which seemed to me rude and stupid. Still does.

Instead, I would play a few of my favorite records over and over again in the weeks before the ride. Some of you young whippersnappers may have to Google “records” to learn what these antiquated objects were.  I would “seal in” several songs, and on my trip I could play them back in my head whenever.

A favorite album (now on a CD) is “Alive” by the Kenny Loggins band, recorded in 1979 or so. I’ve listened to it so often I can play back most of the two CD set any time I want.  Your taste and choices will differ, I am sure.

The advantage of this is that when something occurs to grab your attention, the “music” shuts off immediately. There is no switch to locate or volume control to turn down.  Such inner music is also less likely to take over your ride to where you’re riding to the song and not to the road.   Case in point:  my friend who holed the crankcase on his BWW GS in a crash. He was riding faster and faster on a winding dirt road while listening on headphones to “Highway to Hell.”

Last summer I picked up a new technique on my ride to Minnesota. I learned that I could sort of hum and growl at the same time in my throat and make a sound in my head remarkably similar to a French horn!  For some reason I latched onto “Back Home in Indiana,” which has never sounded better than inside my helmet with my inner French horn, with all due respect to Jim Nabors. Then I branched out to other songs, and even began “composing” with my new instrument.

There’s a line in the movie “Dead Poet’s Society” where the boys have gathered in their secret cave to read poetry, and one of them brings a saxophone and rips off a not very talented solo.  One of the others asks “Why the saxophone?” and he replies “Because it is sonorous.”

“Sonorous” is exactly the tone you can create in your head with guttural humming of this sort, and your helmet becomes a concert arena, but not an intrusive one.

This year I’ll employ a new concept, and I’m laughing about it already. The evening before I leave we will attend a free concert in the park in Kirkland to listen to an “ABBA tribute band.”   Once that is set in my head I’m going to “Mamma Mia” all the way to California with my “Dancing Queen”!

 

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

 

 

Copyright 2015                      David Preston

 

 

 

 

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Lies, Distortions, and Fuzzy Facts – the Legislature and the Seattle Times

Lies, Distortions, and Fuzzy Facts – the Legislature and the Seattle Times

So today we have an approved state budget, less than 24 hours from a shut-down of the state government. Since this issue has been at the forefront of the news for at least two months, you might imagine such an event would be front page news for the Seattle Times. 

Not so.   It made it only as far as above the fold in Section B.

What do we find?  All comments following should be mentally preceded by “according to the Times” as a precaution, as the Times is not a credible source unless you apply a filter for bias in favor of the wealthy and corporate interests.

“raises pay for teachers.”  Here a couple of factoids many people are not aware of, or choose to ignore. Unlike most Boeing workers and many others, teachers do not receive a “holiday bonus” or a bonus at any other time of the year. Unlike many employees and all Social Security recipients, teachers do not receive a cost of living adjustment.  This one surprised even our financial planner, who had assumed such a thing in his computer projections for our future. When I corrected him he was shocked.

The legislature was supposed to provide a COL adjustment under an initiative passed several years ago, but dealt with this initiative in the same fashion they often do with initiatives for teacher issues they find uncomfortable. They have ignored it,

“It’s a great budget,” according to Republican Senator Andy Hill.  Of course it is, if your goal is to create public education for the poor slobs who cannot afford to put their children in expensive private schools, as Senator Hill has.

The budget does not reduce class sizes in grades 4-12, as required by yet another initiative passed by the public.  This is another initiative the legislature chooses to ignore. According to Frank Ordway of the League of Education Voters, the legislature is expected to “suspend” the initiative, How can that be legal?

And the raises?  3% over the next two years.  That would be 1.5% a year, plus an additional 1.8% that will expire in 2017!  The spokesperson for WEA referred to people who are describing this as not a raise, but a tip.  When was the last time you gave your waiter a 1.5% tip?  Or, at most, a 3.3% tip?

It remains to be seen if the State Supreme Court will decide if this farce complies with the constitutional mandate that the legislature fully fund basic education. Nobody with a tenuous grasp of the law and language can possibly do so, and then what?

Either they will tell the legislature what to do and put them all in jail until they comply with the law, or come up with a definition of “fully fund” that will turn your head inside out.

Keep in mind that all of this has been done by people elected by their constituents. Thus the race to the bottom for education funding in this state (Slogan: “We’re almost there!”) continues.

Some day we will have legislators who understand the need for full funding of education, and that definition can easily be based on what other states are doing.  Washington now ranks perilously close to 50th in some statistical categories for funding, which is appalling given that most of our major industries rely on a highly educated work force. 

 

It would be nice to have a real newspaper too,

 

 

Copyright 2015                David Preston

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2015 Motorcycle Adventure #1 – Final plan

2015 Motorcycle Adventure #1 –  Final

 And the excitement builds. As it turns out, I will be doing this one solo, as all 6 of the people who expressed interest in joining me had life events  (like jobs) get in the way. As this trip will be ten days long, that is hardly surprising.  Adventure #2 will be in September and will probably be a group of 5 or 6, as it is a shorter  ride in both days  (6) and miles.

Departure day is July 10th, and I am so excited

Leaving July 10th:

#1:     Seattle to Enumclaw to 410 to Yakima                 150 miles

          Yakima to 97 to Bend                                                220 miles

          Bend to La Pine                                                            32 miles

                                                                                                  402 miles

#2:     LaPine to Klamath Falls on 97                              110 miles

          Klamath Falls to Canby on 139                             75 miles

          Canby to Burney on 299                                        70 miles

          Burney to Grass Valley                                          120 miles

          Grass Valley to Auburn                                          20 miles

                                                                                    395 miles

#3:     Auburn to Los Gatos                                               160 miles

Day trips in California

  1. Getting lost between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz
  2. Visit to Irene at Preston’s Chocolates in Burlingame
  3. Tour of the Monterey Peninsula
  4. Possible day of rest

 Return:

#1.     Santa Cruz to Fort Bragg on 101                      320 miles

#2      Fort Bragg to Willits on 20 

          101 to Gold Beach                                                330 miles

3.   Gold Beach to Reedsport on 101

      38 to I-5 to home                                                    460 miles

 

Copyright 2015                                     David Preston

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The Re-Evolution of Fatherhood

The Re-Evolution of Fatherhood

As we approach the annual celebration of Father’s Day things are a bit different. If you note media and advertising images you’ll detect a swing in our societal attitudes toward what it is to be a father.  And a welcome one.

When I was a lad in the 50’s and 60’s being a father was something one simply expected to be in due time.  The images portrayed on tiny black and white TVs tended to show the father as a kindly person who led his family forward with wise decisions based on the needs of the group.  The best example of this was probably Ozzie Nelson of the Nelson family on TV. 

I was quite surprised just a few years ago to see the “Ozzie and Harriet Show” labeled as a comedy.  Of course it was, but at the time I thought of it more as a documentary. Just like the show I lived in a home with a mother and a father and three sons. The three boys got into various situations that were resolved with humor and logic, as the boys never did anything that could have dire consequences. I never reacted to the show as a fictionalized version of the family life I was used to.  I probably pegged the naiveté meter for all time.

In a teacher staff development session one year the topic was communication among children and parents. Participants shared what expectations they were taught in their homes as children.

When my turn came I explained that in my family my parents often had couples over for dinner. The guests were almost entirely engineers or physicists or university professors. I was expected to stick around after dinner and take part in conversations that ranged from science to politics to sports to whatever else came along. I was encouraged to speak to the issues and state my position, with no regard to the status, education, or economic level of the adults. I don’t recall any of the guests every seeing anything odd in having a teen debate ethics in science with them, for example. From these experiences I learned to be unafraid of speaking my mind to anyone, and this served me very well as an adult.

As I summed up, a colleague in front of me turned around. He’d been raised in a home where after dinner he was encouraged to disappear. He was expected to never speak to an adult unless he was spoken to first.  He said to me “You have no idea how much I hate you right now.”

I was lucky.

In the 80’s and 90’s and up until recently there came a mass media swing toward portraying a father figure as the village idiot of the family. He was usually the butt of the jokes, and often portrayed as sort of sweet but really not all that smart.  At the same time, single men were super heroes or international spies, did all of the winning, and reaped most of the spoils and acclaim for their heroic efforts.

Of course this is a gross generality.  Bill Cosby at Dr. Huxtable was a warm and intelligent father figure, and the ironic horror is that now we realize what a monster he’s been for decades.

I used to rail about this unfairness, but mostly to myself, as in my own home I received a lot of love and respect. Still, it rankled me that young boys were growing up bombarded with images and themes that indicated that to become a father meant saying good-bye to adventure, accomplishment, respect, and a goodly portion of your IQ.

But now the latest trend in TV commercials, and to some extent TV shows, is the portrayal of fathers in at least a positive fashion, and often as heroes to their children and spouses.  And about time, too.

So this Father’s Day, take a minute to be thankful for any positive examples of fathers you have had in your own life, and see what can be learned from the negative examples you may have experienced.

I’ve had the benefit of two father figures, and they left me with three significant impressions.

Both my father and father-in-law were war heroes in a quiet way. My father was pulled off a train on the way to boot camp by the MPs, as his boss had argued up the chain of command until his position that Al Preston would better serve the war effort by working at home won the day. My father earned six patents during the war, none of which earned him a dime since they were all part of the war effort. His work on high altitude breathing systems for B-17 and B-29 pilots saved a lot of lives, and that is more important.

My father-in-law lied about his age to enter the Navy at… 16. Years later he was drafted out of college to serve in the Army in the Korean War, sailing away immediately following the birth of his first child.  I cannot imagine myself in either scenario.

My father did pretty much everything right for me.  Until 1967. In that year my mother died in a very short period of time from ovarian cancer, and to a large extent my father never recovered.  As engineers, my parents had planned out their lives with great care. They sacrificed in many ways to take care of their three sons. 

For example, I did not get through college on a scholarship. I got through college with money from summer jobs and my parents paying for all the rest of it with money they could have spent on themselves.  I thought this was unfair, and when I suggested I get a part-time job during the school year my father turned the proposal down flat. His reasoning was that he had worked at three jobs to put himself through college, and all he wanted me to do was go to class and get the grades. Which I did, once I got into the program I needed.

After my mother’s death he was a changed man.  For the rest of his life he tended to be judgmental, critical, and bitter.  I’ve not had to face the horror he did – his wife taken just as they were about to (finally!) have time and money for themselves, but their experiences changed mine.

We purchased a bit of a rambling wreck of a 1958 Corvette two months after our marriage and performed a rolling restoration over the next two years. I was determined not to put the things we wanted off for decades only to see them all vanish in a puff of smoke. 

I also intend to live my life without the bitterness that comes to many men in old age. We’ll see how I do with that one.

A few years after the tragedy of my mother’s death my father was fading from my life as a guiding light, but I had the good fortune to inherit John, who came along as an added extra to marrying Susan.

Like me, John was an English teacher, but my scholarship and intellectual vigor were a comedic opposite to his.  I’m sure he had to think of me as an intellectual lightweight and later, in my years as the president of the local teachers union, as a name-dropper and a pompous ass.   I was both of those things, but he never criticized and never offered his opinions of what I was doing as a teacher or husband and father. He was always there if I had a question, but he never intruded.  Now that I have both a son and daughter in law, I have a lot of work to do to live up to his example.

On Father’s Day I think of these two fine men who were fathers in my life. I hope you have positive examples in your own life to celebrate.

Happy Father’s Day.

 

 

Copyright 2015              David Preston

 

 

 

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The Air Horn People

The Air Horn People

I’ve been to more graduations than the average bear. There were my own of course, plus our children’s high school (2) and college graduations (1 and counting), my wife’s from Seattle U, and many others.

When I taught at Kamiakin Junior High I had my 9th graders write an essay meant for themselves on graduation night. I kept them for three years and then on graduation night roamed the halls finding the kids in their various robe-application rooms. As I handed them out it was amazing how many of them remembered the essay, and at times burst into tears. I remember one boy who read each paragraph and said “Did that” as he finished each one, his eyes glowing with triumph.

I also attended all eleven of the graduations at Juanita when I taught there, and spoke at two of them.

Last weekend I had the good fortune to attend graduation at Los Gatos High School in (duh!) Los Gatos to honor my nephew Sam Lewis. While there I had the chance to do a small research project that’s always interested me.

Every graduation has messages sent out by the school beforehand and signs on site asking people to not use air horns or other devices to make a lot of noise when their graduate’s name is announced. The cacophony can deter the next student’s family from full enjoyment of the moment. And of course, at every graduation there are people who ignore the requests and let loose with a blare of whatever noise they can make. I’ve always wondered, “Who are these people and why is this so important to them?”  I now have a possible answer.

Sam’s graduation was held outdoors on the front lawn of a gorgeous school that looks like a film set for a teen movie set in California.  People show up at 7am to claim their preferred seats, and then friends and family “chair sit” for the rest of the day until the ceremony at 6pm.  I was one of the early crew, and enjoyed myself watching the work of the set-up gang and also the seating preferences of the audience. What you wanted were seats on the left side, as they would be in the shade in the evening and offer a better view of the podium.

In the evening large paper programs were available. After the list of speakers was a large box with the names of those students with a GPA of 4.0 (or higher!).  On the facing page, in smaller print, were the names of all of the graduates. On the back of that, two lengthy columns of names of students and the honors and scholarships they had earned.  This meant a student like Sam would have his or her name in the program three times.

If a class officer and/or a speaker – maybe four or five times! Los Gatos is a very accomplished school, and reading over the awards and scholarships gave confidence in the future.

The graduates filed out the front door of the school in groups of four. This was a nice touch as a book-end ceremony, as I’m told that in a ceremony on the first day of school in the fall new students go marching up the stairs and into the school. The orchestra did a fine job with “Pomp and Circumstance,” which took me back to playing it ad nausea my sophomore and junior years in band, and then a young woman absolutely nailed a solo rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. After well-done and blissfully short speeches the names were announced. First thing I noticed was that most of the graduates applauded and cheered pretty much all of their colleagues, which indicated a school mostly devoid of cliques – a great sign.

Soon I could hear the occasional blast of an air horn. As Sam was the only graduate I know well, I spent my time scanning as rapidly as I could for the name of the person greeted thusly by family members in the audience.  My research was not perfect, as the students cheering made it hard for me to catch a name or two.

However, a pattern emerged immediately, and it was perilously close to 100% consistent.  It also supported something I’ve always suspected.

If an air horn could be heard, that student was not one with a 4.0 or greater GPA, and not one who had earned a scholarship award.  It seems that for students who maximized their high school opportunities and their own talents, this was a lovely evening ceremony that was a step toward their ultimate goal. For “air horn” students, it was the end of youth and the beginning of adulthood.  I suppose that merits an air horn blast.  I suspect there are socio-economic and cultural factors in play as well.

All of which proves nothing. But, the next time you are attending a graduation, now you have something to do. The research must continue!

 

 

Copyright 2015                        David Preston

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Bruce Jenner

Sex Changes and More – Oh My!

Why the enormous hubbub over Bruce Jenner undergoing sex-change surgery?  For sure, he/she is a media star and has been for years, and this story hits all the journo-trash buttons of fame, money, and sex.  But there’s more to it than that. 

You have to wonder at the vitriol people expend over something like this. In the case of the (now) Ms. Jenner, hardly any of the people expounding their rage have ever met her, or Bruce formerly, and never will.  Their lives will never interact in any way, other than in various TV reality shows which nobody is forced to watch.  There is more going on here. 

Can it be that people are so unsure of their own sexual identity that they’re forced to lash out at anyone who does anything at all related to the topic?  I’ve noticed over the years that the most virulent anti-gay propagandists (see Dennis Hastert) usually turn out to be deeply closeted gay people, or pedophiles. Not the same thing, by the way.

I doubt that is the connection here, but there be a causal rational that is somehow related. There is no logical reason to expend this much hate on someone you do not know, have never spoken with, and will never meet.

None of this is new. Back in the 1960’s one of my early motorcycle heroes was Mike Duff, who finished 2nd in the world championship 250cc class in 1965, and had a successful racing career for quite some time. Years later he was one of the first people of any fame who underwent sex change therapy, becoming Michelle Duff.   If Bruce Jenner receives hate mail now, imagine what it was like to be Mike Duff three decades ago. Of course, he did not have to deal with the Internet then.

Have you ever received a piece of hate mail from someone in another state who has never met you and is referring to incidents they do not understand with “facts” that are simply not there?  I have, and it is a very uncomfortable experience that sticks with you for quite a while. It is bewildering to be hated by people you do not know when you have no chance of defending yourself.

Sex change therapy, which goes by many names, is not new.   In fact, it is not all that rare.  The distinction here is that of a public person who chooses to do this in a public way with a photo shoot in Vanity Fair by the most famous photographer of our time, and a reality show to follow. 

Some will say he is doing this for publicity and money, but that is naïve at best.  His whole life has been about publicity since his days as an Olympic Decathlon Champion. Thanks to a questionable decision of who to marry, everything he or she does has been and will be documented on all sides by all forms of media for the foreseeable future.  There is no escape.  What he is doing is an attempt to get in front of the media coverage by making everything public. I doubt the money is a factor, as it cannot possibly be needed. 

I think he has undergone a long and painful journey for the same reasons others do – it is this or living a life that is a lie. Sometimes the hell you select is better than the hell you’ve been saddled with.

The former Bruce Jenner is one of the most courageous people in this country today, and I wish her well. She understands the road she has taken, and most of the rest of us cannot even conceive of the start of the journey.

It does seem unfair in a way.  When Bruce Jenner won the decathlon event at the Olympics he was heralded as the best athlete in the world, and surely one of the most handsome of all men.  Almost 40 years later he emerges as a much older woman, but a woman far more attractive than most of a similar age. Most of us never get to experience what it is to be truly gorgeous in the eyes of others as either a man or a woman, and he/she gets to experience both! 

That’s the only thing to complain about, and that with tongue firmly planted in cheek.

 

David Preston                                         Copyright 2015

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How I almost made a product demo video

How I almost made a product demo video

My friend Pat Doran invited me to lunch last month to talk over his latest invention.  Using a lot of brain power, research, and most of his potential retirement fund, he’s come up with a much better way to lubricate the drive chain of both motorcycles and bicycles. We discussed the applications and marketing of his product, and I volunteered to make a product demo video for him.

I’ve done a fair amount of both TV and radio work, so I was not too concerned about this. On the day we set for taping, I spent some time turning my garage into a “studio.” I maneuvered my Triumph Speed Triple around until the angle was just right, and in the video you can see that my garage looks like a place where work on cars and motorcycles might take place. This is a bit ironic, since 99% of the “work” I do on cars and motorcycles involves soap, water, wax, Armorall, and… a credit card.  Maybe WD 40 or a small screwdriver if I’m adventurous.

Pat showed up and went through the steps to use the Velocity system. We made the video in two or three takes, explaining what it does and how it works.  We were ready for the final shot, where I was to put the device on the chain of my bike and clean it. I struggled to get it around the chain, and immediately assumed that this was but another in a long line of simple mechanical tasks, like installing a light bulb, that would frustrate the heck out of me.

While I was struggling, I heard a low moan and an “Oh no,” from Pat. He sounded like a man who had just discovered that his pet dog had been run over by a bus. I knew we had a big problem.

Turns out that he did the research on various types of chains and designed the device to fit all of them – almost.  There are some high horsepower bikes that use a 530 chain, and a Triumph Speed Triple is one of them. At 135hp, it is actually not all that out there in terms of horsepower, but perhaps the Triumph design boffins wanted to over-design in this area. That may be why I get 24,000 miles out of a chain that is entirely exposed to road dirt and grit and rain. I ride it in the rain enough that every time my friends at Triumph of Seattle go to change the plugs, they remark on how difficult they are to get out, as they have rusted in place.  It seems I am the only Speed Triple rider to have this problem.

Fortunately, almost all motorcycles use a chain narrower than a 530, and the device will fit them. A panel slides in to make the channel narrower so it can be used on all bicycles.  My bike and others big bangers will need to wait for an addition to the line somewhere down the line with a slightly wider body to accommodate humongous chains.

Pat has now made his web site live, and “early adopters” get a price cut on the cost.  It is well made, cleverly designed, and just the thing for someone who wants to treat their chain well and extend its life.  I think dirt bike nuts would especially appreciate Pat’s work.

Later he made a second video for his web site that is much simpler and better than my effort – and complete!

You can learn all about the product and order it on his site at:

http://www.chainlubersystems.com/

You can watch my video at:  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LbVYkX8r5vA

 

Copyright 2015       David Preston

 

 

 

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 1 Comment

2015 Summer Motorcycle Trip #1 – the 6th and final (?) draft

2015 Motorcycle Adventure –  Draft #6

Leaving July 10th:

#1:     Seattle to Enumclaw to 410 to Yakima                 150 miles

Yakima to 97 to Bend                                               220 miles

Bend to La Pine                                                         32 miles

                                                                                                   402 miles

#2:     LaPine to Klamath Falls on 97                              110 miles

Klamath Falls to Canby on 139                             75 miles

Canby to Burney on 299                                        70 miles

Burney to Grass Valley                                          120 miles

Grass Valley to Auburn                                          20 miles

                                                                                                   395 miles

#3:     Auburn to Los Gatos/ Santa Cruz                         160 miles

———————————————————————————-

Note:  I have a place to stay in Los Gatos  (daughter) but do not have accommodations for anyone else

My day trips in California

  1. Getting lost between Los Gatos and Santa Cruz
  2. Visit to Irene at Preston’s Chocolates in Burlingame
  3. Tour of the Monterey Peninsula
  4. Possible day of rest

———————————————————————————–

Return:

#1.     Santa Cruz to Fort Bragg on 101                          320 miles

#2      Fort Bragg to Willits on 20

101 to Gold Beach                                               330 miles

#3.     Gold Beach to Reedsport on 101

38 to I-5 – I-5 to home                                      460 miles

 

  • Copyright 2015                            David Preston
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Nelson-Rigg E-mail ad blitz

Here is the piece I wrote for Nelson-Rigg last month. Now out in an e-mail ad blitz, but I could not figure out how to transfer the pictures!

Preparing for Riding Season

Depending on where you reside, winter may FINALLY be abating.

Or not.

Or you don’t have to deal with it.

Or you ride all year, no matter the conditions. Many Nelson-Rigg customers ascribe to the adage that “There is no bad weather – just bad gear.”  And Nelson-Rigg is here for you!

However, many motorcyclists prefer to wait for what they term the “riding season.” This can vary all over the place as to dates but generally includes mild temperatures and a relative lack of wet stuff.

If you’ve not ridden for some time, it’s a good idea to prepare for the ecstasy to come.  After all, perfect preparation prevents poor motorcycle performance.  And by performance, I mean you, your bike, and your gear. Let’s take a look at these three areas.

Body Maintenance:

Not to lecture about physical fitness, because irony will bite me in my butt, but a couple of items should be obvious.  Then again, perhaps they’re not, which is why I’m going to cover them.

If you’ve led a sedentary winter life with few opportunities for bear wrestling, mountain climbing, or running marathons, you need to pay some attention to your body. Not so much overall weight, but flexibility. It’s appalling how most of us can go through a work day and never turn our heads or stretch our arms and legs.  If you begin to simply spend some time each morning and evening doing basic stretching exercises, you will find your rides to be much more enjoyable.

Try this for an experiment. See how long you can stand on one foot. If that is too easy, close your eyes. I was advised to do this a few years ago and I was horrified at my ineptitude. Where did that come from?  Aging. Practice will take care of this and strengthen your core. It’s all good.

An even better idea, of course, is to get your saggy butt to the local Y or gym, or sign up for yoga or other classes. Anything to get your body moving and flexing.  Just taking a brisk walk each evening will bring positive results.

Getting off your bike after a ride all sore and aching is not fun. Nor is it safe. Fortunately, it is not required.

Head maintenance:

The same concepts that apply to your bod can also be used on your “brain muscles.”  If you’ve not been riding in the alternating monsoons and snow storms of the recent past your skills are now a tad rusty. Your bike handles differently than the car you’ve been droning to work in. Take the time to take a “test” ride and perhaps some low speed practice in a nearby school parking lot (hint – pick a time when the school is closed).  Can you do a tight circle with both feet up comfortably? When was the last time you tried to stop as efficiently as possible?  Even some practice backing the bike up with your feet would not go amiss. You need to re-train your brain to work with your muscles and sinews on the actions they will be asked to perform.

A better option would be to sign up for one or more of the offerings from the menu of training classes offered by the safe riding schools in your area. Most now offer several classes, and the basics class you took once upon a time could be revisited as an intermediate class or advanced. Some offer “cornering clinics,” which are track days with much of the testosterone drained off. A day spent focusing on cornering lines and body positioning will pay dividends all year.

Bike maintenance:

This can or should be easy.  Your motorcycle has an owner’s manual with maintenance schedules. Check and see where you are in the maintenance scheme of things.  If you are not adept mechanically  (the ineptitude rankings start here, with me pretty much unchallenged as #1), a local dealer or independent service outlet can take care of what your bike needs, whether a simple safety check-over, a service, or something more exotic. They will charge you for their expertise, as they should, but the season of riding peace of mind results is extremely worthwhile.

Gear check:

Where do you intend to ride this year? What will you need? With experience you’ll find that the list of what you want for your bike and on your bike will grow.

Several decades ago I took off on cross-country trips with virtually no thought at all.  I did not have a tire repair kit or a compressor or a first aid kit or a selection of tools or… pretty much anything. With this appalling lack of capability I rode between Minneapolis and Seattle twice, once to San Francisco and back (in late December!), and once from Seattle to Florida.

I was both stupid and very, very lucky, as I never had a serious problem. Now that I’m older and possibly wiser, I always carry a tire repair kit, a compressor, and a first aid kit.

Good news here. Murphy’s Law seems to work in reverse in addition to the usual. Because I have these things I have never had to use them.

I’ve made excellent use of Nelson-Rigg gear for several years.

Nelson-Rigg tank bag.  My latest one has been on my Triumph Speed Triple for over a year and has covered about 6,000 miles in sun and wind and rain and temperatures from the low 30’s to well over 100 degrees.  It looks brand new. The clear plastic map pocket is still clear, and the tank remains unmarked.

Nelson-Rigg tail bag. I use a magnetic Nelson-Rigg tank bag as a tail bag. It is at least ten years old. It has been used as a tank bag on bikes with steel fuel tanks and as a tail bag on many others. Even after a decade of use it looks brand new. This is especially remarkable on the Triumph, which has little in the way of a rear fender. The poor Nelson-Rigg is bombarded with a constant rooster tail of rain and mud and grit, and yet shows no wear. I live in the Northwest, where if you do not choose to ride in the rain you pretty much choose not to ride.

Nelson-Rigg rain suit:  On long trips I roll up an inexpensive Nelson-Rigg rain suit and stash it, just in case.   Nelson Rigg offers a wide variety of styles and suits for your selection.

Security:

So your bike is parked at a motel in a state far away. It looks so lovely sitting there as the evening gathers.  But – to miscreant locals it looks like opportunity.  While you sleep, a quick snatch and grab with a pick-up truck and you will probably never see it again.  Thieves rarely target a bike with a cover on it, figuring (probably correctly) that it is also equipped with a disk lock and an alarm. All of these things are available from Nelson-Rigg.

Other Stuff:

We can assume you already have “the basics,” – a jacket, boots, riding pants, and helmet.  Or not?  Time for some quality time perusing the catalogue!

Here’s a tip. I usually carry three pairs of gloves with me on any ride.  Warmer ones for the morning, a sturdy but light weight pair for high heat conditions, and a third pair for rain.

You will also find that once you invest in heated grips, or jacket or vest or gloves or socks, you will never again ride without them.  Even in the heat of summer, a ride over a mountain pass can get chilly, or much, much, worse.

How old is your helmet?  Is the liner capable of emanating odors that can be fatal to small animals?  It may be time to replace.

Always check the condition of your tires before the riding season, and often during it.  I have a friend who rides a lot, and he has two complete sets of wheels and tires for his bike. He puts on a fresh set of tires before any long trip.

If you’ve never had a pair of “real” riding boots you are in for a treat. The last three pair I have used were all completely and utterly waterproof.

Now for the most fun:

Break out the calendar and maps!  The roads beckon!  I used summer time trips to my advantage all year long. In the winter they are the “carrot” that gets me to the gym with some frequency. As spring arrives, the frequency tends to ramp up in anticipation.

Two months before I ride I let my local riding pals know of my intent. You may prefer to ride alone, but there are also advantages to traveling as a small group of two or three.  Even if none of your buds can get the time off to match your trip, you’ll all have fun yakking about your plans at length.

As a final note, the experienced rider will notice a subtle change in the Nelson-Rigg catalog over ten years or so ago.  There are now hundreds of products on offer designed by and for women riders. It’s all good.

David Preston

For more of David’s stuff, visit his web site at www.davidpreston.biz

 

Posted in Equipment, Marketing, Motorcycles | Leave a comment

How Biker Gangs Reduce Risk for the Rest of Us

How 1%ers Make Motorcycling Safer

First, some terms to differentiate. We have “motorcyclists,”  “bikers,” and “1%ers.”

The 1% actually number far less than 1% of the motorcycle population, due to the deft marketing savvy of Hell’s Angels long term president Sonny Barger four decades ago. 

As an aside, Mr. Barger has written several books in recent years.  Some are motorcycle how to books and some are novels, and all of them outsell mine by several magnitudes.

In any case, motorcycles are, for 1%ers, essentially props. They are not really all that interested in riding. They are all about drug sales, prostitution, extortion, and the ever-present threat of violence. The motorcycles deliver this message very forcefully, but in every gathering of 1%ers I have witnessed the motorcycles were merely parked while the members all stood around in intimidating groups.  They are very effective in that manner.

“Bikers” are people who, almost to a person, ride large air-cooled V-twin cruiser motorcycles. Virtually all of them are Harleys or other brands designed and styled to be virtual clones of Harleys. Many of these people are the nicest folks you could ever meet, but the preferred outfit strives for the “bad ass” look. Lots of black leather, black helmets, and perhaps decals on the helmet expressing mostly rude “humorous” statements.

“Motorcyclists” ride all sorts of motorcycles, from dual sport to sport bikes to sport tourers to tourers and even cruisers.  Their look is usually slanted toward “ATGATT” as a philosophy – all the gear, all the time. 

All of these groups share one attribute – costuming.  The 1%ers try to look as threatening as possible, the bikers are bad-ass, and the motorcyclists are adorned with gear to the maximum for their choice.  There is no harm in this, and we all do it.

Fashion is not necessarily logical. The “chaps” favored by 1%ers and bikers are really not suited for motorcycle use.  They were originally designed as leather coverings for the legs to protect cowboys from the thorns of chaparral bushes. The correct pronunciation is actually “shaps,” although that is now changing by mass usage to “chaps.”  The cowboys usually wore a long coat or serape over them in case of rain, which bikers do not use, so in the event of rain the water goes straight to the biker’s unprotected crotch area.

The all-black “rule” can have amusing consequences. I used to ride with the Great Northwest HOG chapter, some of the nicest people ever. On one of my first rides a member said to me, “You cannot ride a Harley wearing a yellow helmet.”  He was not entirely serious, but mostly.

I replied, “Watch me!” as I pulled on my bright yellow Arai.

Later, the dealership asked me to devote more of my time to HOG events. As it was time for a new helmet, I purchased a black Arai.  Then came the comment, “Oh no!  We liked the yellow helmet, because we always knew where you were.”

But all of these genres have their silliness. At one time I owned a Muzzy Raptor, a barely street legal superbike. I wore my full “race leathers” and a pair of extremely expensive race boots that were incredibly uncomfortable when walking.  I used this bike to go to events, where I spent my time standing and walking. I never raced it or did a track day. But golly, I looked fast!

In like manner, many sport bike riders endure wrist and back pain by riding bikes designed to look like road race winners in jammed traffic conditions.  Most such motorcycles are not comfortable at all until you’re riding well over the posted speed limit. At the extreme, the suspension on my Muzzy worked very well – at speeds above 80mph.

Many dual sport riders both in their personal dress and with farkles for the bike, appear to be off on a dirt road journey of several months and multiple countries. All suited up, they ride to a local hang out, and are often termed “Starbucks Adventure riders.”

There is nothing wrong with any of this. We all go to some effort every day to look like we want to look.  The cosmetics industry thrives on this.

But the combined effects of the 1%ers and the bikers is that people who do not know anything about motorcycles react with fear whenever they see any motorcycle, no matter what type.  They do not differentiate by type of bike or the attire of the rider. We’ve all seen that look on the face of a car driver, a mixture of loathing and concern.

I used to feel awful about this, but in time the advantages have become apparent.  When someone is afraid of you, they want to move further away.  They may change lanes, fall back on purpose, or wave you by on a winding country road. All of these are good things, and enhance your safety.

“Loud pipes save lives” is one of the biggest lies ever concocted. Loud pipes offend and irritate, but do not save lives.

1%ers and the biker image, however, do save lives, or at least decrease risk.

Next time a car moves out of your way, you can be grateful for the branding campaign of the 1%ers.  Irony lives.

 

Copyright 2015                            David Preston

 

Posted in Motorcycles | 6 Comments