The Triumph of the…Passenger

The Triumph of the… Passenger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then… I made a couple of mistakes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021                              David Preston

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

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Triumph’s Steve McQueen Scrambler…ugh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021         David Preston

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The Saga of the Plants Named Bob

The Saga of the Plants Named Bob

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021              David Preston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ride safe, ride fast, and ride often!

Copyright 2021                           David Preston

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How to Con Yourself to Better Fitness

Hope to Con Yourself to Better Fitness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021                                                 David Preston

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Two Up on the Triumph Rocket 3

Two Up on the Triumph Rocket 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ride Safe, Ride Fast, and Ride Often

Copyright 2021                 David Preston

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Responding to Treason With Brains

Responding to Treason with Brains

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2021                 David Preston

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The Search for the Second Motorcycle

The Second Motorcycle Search

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued!

Ride Safe, Ride Fast, and Ride Often

Copyright 2021                 David Preston

Posted in Motorcycles | 1 Comment

The Insidious Nature of Gear Creep

The Insidious Nature of Gear Creep

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

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

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

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

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

So, I got one. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ride safe,  ride fast, and ride often!

Copyright 2020                        David Preston

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The Flat Learning Curve

The Flat Learning Curve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Somewhere, Darwin is smiling.

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

I can live with that.

Copyright 2020                      David Preston

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