Motorcycles and Hot Rods in Canada in late June

Motorcycles and Canadian Hot Rods in Late June – a 4 day adventure.

This will be a lovely ride starting Friday, June 22nd, and ending on Monday, June 25th.  You might note that the distances are pretty reasonable for a motorcycle ride. This is because I plan to stop frequently to soak in the beauty of Canada and the pleasant people.  In addition, there will be an indefinite amount of time spent at the Peach City hot rod show and at each of the two border crossings.  

At present, two of the friends who would go cannot make it this particular weekend, and it needs to be on this weekend because that it when the hot rod show is. I noticed last year’s version on a “My Classic Car” TV show and the quality and quantity of the cars on display impressed, as did the venue. Long rows of lustworthy vehicles of all descriptions on a winding road at the shore of Lake Penticton.  Lovely.

I can do this trip alone, of course, but having two or three people along would be even better.  I will make motel reservations in a couple of months when I have an idea of what friends are going. Could one of them be you? 

Friday, June 22nd

7am Brekkie (Crystal Creek Café) and then leave at 8:15am

I-405 to I-5 to Smokey Point Rest stop                                               30 miles

I-5 to 530 to Arlington to Rockport                                                     70 miles

SR 20 to Marblemount (fuel)                                                                15 miles

SR 20 to Winthrop, Twisp, (fuel, lunch)                                        100 miles

SR 20 to Okanagon                                                                                   39 miles

To Oroville        (fuel)                                                                                54 miles     

                                                                    total:308 miles

 Motel in Oroville

Saturday, June 23rd

US 97 to border                                                                                      8 miles

97 Osoyoos to Peachland                                                                 53 miles

A few hours at a Hot Rod Show

To Kelowna on 97                                                                              10 miles

South on 33 to Hiway 3                (fuel) `                                       76 miles

East on 3 to Castlegar                                                                    100 miles

South to 26 to the US Border                                                      26 miles

South on 25 to Kettle Falls                   (fuel)                             36 miles            

total:   303 miles

          Motel in Kettle Falls                                                           



Sunday, June 24th

West to Republic on US 20  `                                                      43 miles

South on 21 from Republic for about                                       50 miles

West (right) on Cache Creek Road                                             25 miles    (fuel)

South (left) on 155 to Grand Coulee                                          20 miles

WEST on 174  (then 17) to Pateros                                             58 miles

NORTH on 153 to Twisp                                                                31 miles   

total:    226 miles

 Motel in Twisp

Monday, June 25th

To     Winthrop                      (brekkie, fuel)                              15 miles

To     Marblemount (fuel)                                                          130 miles

To home                                                                                           115 miles 

Total:  260 miles


Posted in Motorcycles, Travel | 7 Comments

The Retro Mod Motorcyclist

The Retro Mod Motorcyclist

This essay takes several disparate jumps, so those looking for smooth segues between paragraphs will be disappointed. However, it will all come together at the end.

I think.

I’m a motorcycle enthusiast, but also a car nut. My passions have always run far ahead of my budget, alas, but I have fun imagining what I’d purchase, if only…

One of my side interests, pursued through print media and televised car auctions, is the field of “retro-mod” cars.  The general idea here is to take a classic car (however you chose to define that nebulous term) and retain the overall body shape while updating everything underneath. For a long time I lusted after a retro-mod ’67 to ’69 Chevrolet Camaro. With a modern LS3 or other engine, new suspension and much better brakes, a 5 or 6 speed transmission, and modern semi-racing seats, you end up with the performance of a modern Corvette, or much more, and the fantastic looks of the original Camaro.

However, there’ve been so many of them in recent years that I’ve become jaded, and my wandering eyes have turned to unusual retro-mods instead.  At a recent auction there was a ’54 Nash Rambler station wagon that had been resto-modded with all the bells and whistles. It was a delight, and sold for $29,000, which had to be a pittance compared to the likely build cost.

I was attracted to it because my mother drove my two brothers and me from Buffalo, New York to our new home in Minneapolis (Dad had gone ahead). Imagine the courage of a woman driving alone for two days with three boys aged 11, 10, and 6 (me) in 1953!

I had my first ride on a motorcycle in 1962, at the age of 15. My older brother’s friend gave me a very intelligent introduction to motorcycles. He explained how they turned and told me what I was to do before we got on.  We set off on his Yamaha 250 and went for about a 15 minute ride, and my life was changed forever. Without even holding the controls sitting on the front seat, I knew that riding motorcycles was what I was supposed to do.  I announced this startling epiphany to my parents, who were notably unimpressed. In high school, copies of early Cycle World magazines were passed from one goggled-eyed friend to another, treated as if they were precious religious texts.

What first grabbed my eager eyes were pictures of café racers from England.  Triumphs, Nortons, “Norvins,” and others with lowered handlebars and loud exhausts. The riders wore black leather jackets with long socks peeking out over the top of their tall black boots. Oh my – that was what I wanted!

I lacked a few things, like a motorcycle, any experience, any gear, and the permission of my parents, but my enthusiasm burned – for several years.

Eventually salvation arrived when I was 20, in the form of a 1965 Yamaha TDS 3.

In college I came across a friend’s rental house.  Jerry had been my lab partner in high school chemistry, the starting guard on the basketball team that won the state championship (that I was cut from and deservedly so) and had married the best looking cheerleader.  There in the driveway sat a brand new yellow and white Bonneville, and I’ve never been so consumed by raw jealousy. Forty years later I learned that the bike had been stolen after two weeks of ownership and never recovered.  He had divorced the woman a few years later.  Life is odd.

I rode the Yamaha every chance I got, including a ride to Seattle and back. Remember Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig? He did his ride in 1969, and I had taken the very same route to Seattle a year earlier, including the exact same campgrounds.  Motorcycles provided the impetus to seek a teaching job far from the snows of Minneapolis. 

I moved to the Seattle area in the spring of 1969 to begin my teaching career, and threw the Yamaha into a ditch at 60mph three days after I arrived!  That was the first and only serious crash I’ve suffered in 50 years and several hundred thousand miles.

The separated shoulder healed, and I purchased a 1969 Honda 450 Street Scrambler. That fall the TV show “Then Came Bronson” debuted, and every week all of my serious life choices were confirmed. A lone guy out on the road on his bike. I had done that, despite a lot of people telling me it was nutso, and I would do it again. And again.

By 1973 I was married and had a brand new Honda 500 4.  Susan purchased a gift for my birthday. The book was titled Café Racers (still have it), and I read it and pored over the pictures repeatedly.

In 1977 I purchased a new Yamaha 750 triple, which I rode for the next 22 years. I “café’d” it a bit, with lower and narrower bars off a Norton, a BMW R90s clone mini fairing,  K&N filters, and such.  Sort of a “gentleman’s express.”

Fast forward to today, where retro-mods are the current fashion among motorcycle manufacturers and, to a lesser degree, car manufacturers.  Cars are more restricted by ever changing safety and emissions standards, so the current offerings, such as the Camaro, Mustang, and Challenger, pay homage to the originals while not coming all that close to them. Except in performance, where they are vastly superior.

As motorcycle sales have plummeted in the past decade (insert your analysis of why here), motorcycle manufacturers have begun to turn to the past to try and mine sales from their heritage.  Harley-Davidson has been doing this for decades or course, but Triumph has probably been the most successful in recreating almost exactly “the look” from 50 or 60 years ago. The “new” Triumph Bonneville of 2001 was a good attempt and sold well for years, but an upward kink in the exhaust pipes drove the true believers to distraction.

I purchased the re-designed Triumph Bonneville T 120, now with a 1200cc engine, in 2016.  It was so similar to the Bonnevilles of the late 1960s that when I first saw one on the dealer floor I was not sure it was not a recent restoration of an original. This thought was shared by my friend standing next to me, who had actually owned a restored 1969 model for years. It was amazing.  When I parked it next to a friend’s 1973 a few weeks later we were stunned to see how closely they resembled each other.  His was an air-cooled 650cc.   The 1200 has water cooled cylinder heads, which means the cooling fins can be made much smaller, so the engine appear to be the same size, even though mine cranks out almost twice the power.

Then, as you read previously, I came into possession of a 2016 Triumph 1200 Thruxton, sold just two months after I purchased mine, from the same dealer.  Now I had two Triumphs, and life was excellent. 

One day I noticed a classic “Marlon Brando” style black leather jacket hanging on the gear rack in the garage. It had been given to me by a friend who had picked it up at a garage sale. He already had an identical jacket, and was unable to find anyone in his vintage motorcycle club who wanted or needed one.  His instructions to me were to use my contacts to try and sell it, and then donate the money to Riders for Health. I tried several times without success. On this day I took it down and noticed that if you folded the “bat wings” back it made a perfect 1960’s era café racer jacket.  I wore it last weekend for a ride on the Thruxton that turned out to be much colder than anticipated, and it worked a treat.  I’d already taken care of donating money to the charity, so I asked my friend if I could repay him for his initial cost. This morning I bought his breakfast, so we’re good!

Now I have two motorcycles that are retro-mods.  Both have much more power, better brakes, and better handling than their progenitors from the 1960’s, and vastly improved reliability.

In addition, I’m sort of a “retro-mod” myself. A scary medical situation due to an infection in my spine (! Source never identified) took 8 weeks of almost equally scary medications to cure – 4 hours a day of mysterious and almost as dangerous antibiotics drained into my arm through a port installed for the purpose. During this trauma I was tested for everything under the sun, and emerged with a clean bill of health. With renewed motivation, the frequency and rigor of gym workouts increased, and I’m now stronger and in better shape than at any point in about 40 years.  True, I no longer have the rugged good looks of youth, but I didn’t have them in my youth either.

I can now go for a long ride to the past of several days duration on the Bonneville, summoning the mind set of Bronson, or a day ride on the Thruxton – and I am a “rocker” from the 1960’s.  Except for the helmet, as I am wedded to the comfort and protection of my modern Arai.

I recently learned that Michael Parkes (Bronson) had evidently asked the producers if the character could ride a Triumph Bonneville rather than the Harley Sportster used, and was denied. Perfect!

This is actually a lot better than a mental return to a youthful past. It is a functioning return to a youthful past that I yearned for that never existed!

As Bronson said, “Hang in there.”

This picture – the Retro Mod Motorcyclist

We site header picture –  the motorcyclist emulates Bronson

Copyright 2018            David Preston

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

Triumph Bonneville vs. Triumph Thruxton

Bonneville vs. Thruxton

If you read the last post, you know that I recently became the owner of a 2016 Triumph Thruxton that now cozies up to the 2016 Triumph T120 Bonneville in my garage.  It was a strange series of unlikely events that landed me this wonderful way to begin 2018. Since that post I have also, through the extra mile effort of the car dealer that sold me the bike, obtained the initial purchase documents, the owner’s manual, the spare ignition key, and even the nifty little fabric documents case from Triumph. This was significant because the keys are chipped and a second key would be pricey. A six pack of quality beer to the car dealer squared that favor.

When I went to pick up the bike from Triumph of Seattle last week, after an extensive warranty repair for a faulty cylinder head, I assumed the riding experience would be similar to my Bonneville. After all, both bikes have the same engine architecture and displacement, although the Thruxton is in a higher state of tune.  They have the same front forks and rear shocks, although I’d added a set of shocks from the Thruxton R to mine.  Very similar instruments and identical fuel tank capacity, and take the same fuel.  Both have ABS brakes; twin front discs and a single rear, although the rear disc on the Thruxton is smaller.

So I assumed I would find a more café’ riding posture and perhaps a bit more sound, but an essentially similar ride.  You know what they say about assuming…

I was wrong. Not just a little bit wrong. Totally and completely “what were you thinking?” wrong.  Within the first 6 city blocks it became obvious that the Thruxton was a totally different animal.

A clue came to me the night before when I was lolling through the spec catalogue for the 2018 models and noticed that a Thruxton weighs 40 pounds less than a Bonneville. On a sub-500 pound bike, 40 pounds is a lot – like 8% or so.  Had I read further, I would have noticed that the Thruxton pounds out 97 horsepower and 82.6 pound feet of torque compared to 80hp and 77 pound feet of torque for the Bonneville. Factory published statistics of all sorts can be suspect, but even if gently fudged by the sleight of hand of the marketing boffins, the differences are probably relatively accurate.  Actually, I think the numbers are accurate.

That means the Thruxton weighs 8% less and has a smidge over 20% more power!  Imagine that you enjoy a sport other than motorcycles.  (It does happen).  Doesn’t matter if you like running, tennis, basketball, ping pong, water skiing, whatever.  Imagine a day enjoying your sport. Now imagine a day if you weighed 8% less and had 20% more strength.  You would notice the difference.

So I rode along marveling at the eager nature of the Thruxton. It wanted to go go go all the time, and the shorter mufflers made themselves known with a lovely symphonic throb – I don’t think aftermarket stuff will be needed.

The handlebars ape clip-ons (note the subtle pun, sort of) but are merely lower than the Bonneville bars.  They were not that bad, even in city traffic, and could be raised with aftermarket items if needed. I think they will be fine for me.

The car dealer I purchased the bike from had asked for an additional copy of the work order from Triumph of Seattle, just to lob into the folder of paperwork for this unusual deal.  As we looked over my new bike I fiddled with the “mode” switch and found another difference.

The Bonneville T 120 has two modes – rain and road.  The Thruxton has – tada! – a third.  Sport!  This merely speeds up the throttle reaction but does not affect power.  I think it would mostly be useful for a track day, as it resets to road when the ignition is off.

Once home I dove into the spec sheets to find more differences.  The Thruxton has a one inch smaller front wheel and a more aggressive fork angle, which is why it wants to turn right now, all the time.  The painted wheels save weight over the chrome wheels of the Bonneville, and the rear chrome passenger grab rail and passenger pegs are not there.  The lack of a center stand, which cannot be fitted to a Thruxton because of a different swing arm and the placement of the catalytic converter, is a significant weight saving. Last, I am pretty sure the Thruxton has single wall exhausts  (which turn an attractive dark blue in use) whereas the Bonneville has double walled pipes that retain at least most of there chrome glory.   That is probably another couple of pounds at least. I began to sense where the 40 pounds came from. 

I rode the Bonneville a couple of days later to confirm my impressions. It felt like a cross between a Goldwing and the recliner chair in my den!  Much more comfortable, much quieter, and the handling is just fine but far more relaxed.  The Thruxton dives for a corner, while the Bonneville waits for an invitation.  The Thruxton wants to go fast all the time, while the Bonneville can go fast but sends you messages like “Really?  What a nice day!  Look at the scenery?  Why rush?  Enjoy the ride.”

My riding consists of a lot of rides of a few hours up to a day, plus several longer adventures of 4 to 9 days a year. Yes, retirement is all it is cracked up to be. So here we are – the Thruxton for short and the Bonneville for long. Perfect.

What if you combined the best features of both for a super Bonneville?  Opinions differ, but my druthers would be to keep the Bonneville frame and center stand, use both the steeper front fork and the rear shocks from the R, use painted wheels and the shorter Thruxton mufflers, and keep the Bonneville handlebars with the heated grips, etc.  I would use the Thruxton engine as well.  It could be called the “Bonneville XTR” and would be a “halo” model to get people into show rooms. Possible produce one per dealer worldwide and see what happens?

That would be an awesome motorcycle methinks, and the most expensive in the Bonneville line.  Dear Triumph – I will accept one as payment for this fantastic idea. 

Possibly only bettered by the fortunate few who can have a Bonneville AND a Thruxton. 

Like me.

Triumph Bonneville T 120 “touring mode”






Triumph Thruxton with R model rear shocks. 


Copyright 2018                          David Preston



Posted in Equipment, Marketing, Motorcycles | 3 Comments

The Thruxton Saga – the Bike That Almost Wasn’t

The Thruxton Saga – or how I got a second bike by surprise

I purchased a new Triumph Bonneville T 120 in the spring of 2016. At the time I was also attracted to the 1200 Thruxton, but since I intended to take longer trips I passed on the Thruxton, which is more in the “café racer” mode. The Bonneville I purchased is now 2.5 years old has been everything I’d hoped for.  I added a “flyscreen” (mostly for looks), a tank bag, and some Cortech bags and top bag for longer trips.  It’s been a boon companion on several 4 to 9 day trips, as well as local rides, and now has almost 12,000 miles on the odometer.

But still… a Thruxton would be nice addition if I had unlimited funds…

So a nice fellow I knew as a customer when I worked at two motorcycle dealerships years ago e-mailed me.   He knew I was a “Triumph guy” and explained that he had a friend who worked for a car dealership.  The dealership had just taken in a 2016 Thruxton with only 617 miles on it, and wanted to sell it quickly.  After all, a motorcycle is not a quick sell at a car dealer in the winter in Washington.  The price looked very tempting, but why so low?  And which Thruxton?  The 900?  1200?  1200R?  \

I called his friend at the car dealer, and thus began a convoluted and amazing story. The first owner, who I’ll call “Bob” because I am so clever (and because I don’t know his real name), had purchased the bike at Triumph of Seattle in 2016.  Bob rode it for about 600 miles, and then performed a first oil change by himself.  Not sure why, since the factory recommendation is 10,000 miles.  Somehow, Bob managed to screw something up, and the bike began to run poorly.  He had it picked up by the dealership, and Triumph of America gave the OK for a strip down.  The result was the discovery of a damaged cylinder head. Time was spent going back and forth with T of A to see if this would be a warranty repair.  Often, when an owner does his own work it can void the warranty. Situations like this precisely the reason why warranties are written that way. What did Bob do?  A pretty good guess would be that even Bob does not know.

Bob decided, during this process, to trade the bike in for a car!  At some point Triumph of America gave the okay for a new cylinder head and all associated repairs to be performed.  The car dealer was now the owner of a damaged bike they had never seen.

Time for a new twist to the story. My brother in law Richard lives in California. He’s a project manager for a very large construction company on a several hundred million dollar project in Bellevue that will take years and be followed by other projects. In short, Richard and his wife need to move here. Because they have a son who will graduate from high school in June of 2018, it was decided that he would work here about three days a week for almost a year before moving in the summer of 2018.  

He’s been staying in our spare bedroom for two to four nights a week since September.  I realize that, for many families, having the brother in law in the house for three days a week for ten months or more would be a real drag, but it has been delightful.

Richard and I were enjoying a beer one evening two weeks ago and I told him about the Thruxton.  He reminded me that he had previously told me that he wanted to have a bike to ride here while his Ducati Multistrada languished in California.  Then he said, “Let’s buy the Thruxton and share it!”

I replied that Susan would not think that was such a hot idea.

“Don’t tell her!  She never looks at your bank balance and neither does Meghan. Just tell her it’s mine and I’ll tell Meghan it’s yours!” We both laughed.  I knew he was  jesting because neither one of us is capable of that sort of deception with our wives.

Then Susan walked into the room and I repeated the story.  She also laughed and said “Actually, I don’t think that is entirely a bad idea.”

So which Thruxton was it?  In 2016 Triumph offered a 900cc air cooled version, and the 1200, which offered partial water cooling, more power, and the twin front disc brakes I prefer for esthetics if nothing else.  Given the price I assumed it was a 900, which I was really not that excited about.  I was also pretty sure it would not be a Thruxton R, the top end model with better suspension. Of course, it might be a 1200!

Fortuitously, (there’s a lot of fortuitously in this tale) Triumph of Seattle was having a dealer event that Saturday night.  Of course I went, and had the chance to chat with the owner. He told me what he had bid to the car dealer for the bike, but he did not mind if I offered more. He knew I’d be spending additional money at his store anyway.  Then the service manager told me that lo and behold, the bike was a 1200!

Now I was very interested!

The next week Richard suggested we meet at T of Seattle between a couple of meetings to check it out. This would also give him a chance to sit on a new Thruxton to make sure he liked the ergonomics, etc.

The service manager led us back to the shop and there it was.  I was impressed it was already in the shop and not stuck in a back corner of a shed outside. Gloss black, totally stock, just missing about 70% of the engine.  “The parts are in the mail.”  This could work!

So I think we’re done.  Then Richard asked “What would it cost to give it the suspension of the R?”  

Gulp.  The service manager opined that such a plan would not be economically feasible, but you could come pretty close by purchasing much better rear shocks and maybe having the front fork internals stiffened a bit. So how much would that be?

Turns out a good set of Fox shocks for a Thruxton would be about $1100, plus tax.  Ouch. 

Then the Parts Manager piped up. It’s really handy to have worked with all of these people for years.  John had a set of rear shocks for the R that a customer had ordered and then had suffered a change of mind. He’d had them for a while on the shelf and could give me a great deal – a savings of about $400 over the Fox units!

Since the weather is foul and Richard will not be riding much with his limited time in the winter months, we could buy the bike, have the shocks and a center stand added, and when it was ready it would be ready.

The time of year also worked to our advantage. Motorcycle shops want to keep all of their employees busy in the winter, and a major repair paid for by T of A would be done as soon as the parts arrived. If this were happening in May or June it would be a much different story.

My next task was to slow Richard down a bit, since he was also interested in custom paint and a slip-on exhaust, and more.  He pointed out that any changes we wanted to make would be cheaper while the bike was in pieces, which is true, but really…

Fortunately, for the moment, there does not seem to be a highly regarded custom painter in Seattle, so that can wait.  I like the gloss black, but later on we may visit that topic again.

Time for another twist. I called the car dealer the next day and did some bargaining, and then asked where the title was.  Ummm – he was not sure!  He’d have to get back to me.

It turns out that Bob had a loan against the bike. The dealer had sent a check to pay off the loan, and had not received the title yet.  No worries, as I could pay for the bike and the title would be sent to me …soon. 

As the bike is still in pieces and who knows where the cylinder head and other parts are, what the heck?  I did want to make the purchase before word of this bike got out, because I think we were still about three thousand or more under likely retail cost at this point.   So I concluded my negotiations and get ready to drive to the dealer to buy the bike he had never seen.

Another twist!   I texted Richard to say I was on my way and got an immediate response. He wanted me to hold off a bit, because in all the excitement of Christmas and him being out of town and so forth… he had never mentioned this to Meghan!   Egads!

This filled me with dread, as we were about to fly to Tahoe to spend Christmas with Richard and Meghan, their two sons, and a close family friend.  Now this could be awkward, methinks.  In the meantime I called the car dealer and both of my contacts at T of S to alert them.   The shocks would be held for me for a few days at least.

The Christmas vacation was wonderful. The problem with the bike purchase was not the money. The problem was that when a spouse is about to do something significant (in both of our houses, the expenditure of $4000 or so is significant – your situation may vary), there needs to be a marital conversation.  That is how it is done. Richard and I both know this, and he had not meant to be deceptive. There are so many balls in the air in their lives this year that things like this can happen.

Over Christmas day while Richard was out skiing with his sons and the rest of us were relaxing, Meghan brought up the topic of the bike, and I was able to give her the long version of the story and fill in some of the blanks.

Two days later I was sitting in the Reno airport waiting for our flight home and Richard texted me that we’re good to go.  I called the car dealer, flew home, and drove to the dealership to do the paperwork.  I paid for the bike with a charge card, and the F&I person did all the paperwork for a bike he didnot have and had never seen.  Weird.  Then I called T of S to order the center stand and have the R model shocks put on.

The next day I called the Service Manager and asked, in a mock angry tone, “When will MY Thruxton be ready?”

“Should be this afternoon.”


“Yup. Parts came in yesterday.  We should have it done by this evening.”

I doubted that time frame, which was indeed optimistic.  Now they are closed for a few days for New Years, so I get to work on the character skill of patience.   Not a strong suit of mine, alas.

I’ve also learned that you cannot put a center stand on a 1200 Thruxton, because it has a different swing arm from a Bonneville and there is insufficient room. Oh well. Rich did not want one anyway.

So in a few days my Bonneville will be sharing garage space with a cousin.  Amazing.

We’re researching aftermarket exhausts – just for fun. And paint.

Pictures to come once the Thruxton has shouldered up next to the Bonneville in the garage.

Happy New Year to all!


Copyright 2017                      David Preston

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 1 Comment

Planning A Motorcycle Ride in Cold Weather

Planning a Motorcycle Ride in Cold Weather

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Until next time!

Copyright 2017                                David Preston

Posted in Motorcycles | 1 Comment

Motorcycle Holiday Gifts Across 50 Years

Motorcycle Holiday Gifts Across 50 Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Holiday Shopping!


Copyright 2017                                David Preston

Posted in Education, Equipment, Motorcycles | Leave a comment

Thou Shalt Not Be a Curmudgeon

Do Not Be a Motorcycle Curmudgeon

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

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

Tenet #1: It is not always about you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s ugly.”

“I would never be seen on one.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tenet #1: It’s not about you.

Copyright 2017 David Preston

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 3 Comments

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

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

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

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

Some of the things we do are just silly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pause for two anecdotes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

Posted in Marketing, Motorcycles | 2 Comments

Cheap (or free) motorcycle accessories

Cheap (or free) accessories for every motorcycle ride

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tire repair kit:  See first aid kit.

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

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

Copyright 2017                      David Preston

Posted in Education, Equipment, Motorcycles | 5 Comments

Possibly the most boring motorcycle video ever posted!

You have been warned! 

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

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

Or if you want to see how Blewitt Pass looks.

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

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



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