Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Winter of My Discontent

Well, the snow that was predicted on Thanksgiving failed to materialize. But, we already have had our first snowfall so the fact they were wrong this time doesn't mean they will be wrong many more times as we march headlong into winter. There has been a noticeable drop in the number of motorcycles for sale in this area. I am still looking, and if the weather works I will be test riding as well. However, it appears that for me at least the 2009 riding season is over.

My final tally for this year was just over 130 miles. Considering I don't own a motorcycle and that those miles were done five different models of motorcycle, I don't think I did that badly. As I stated in my original plan, getting the bike now or waiting until winter was over doesn't matter one way or the other -- -- what is important is that I get the kind of bike that I identified in my plan. The right bike is out there, I just haven't found it yet. In fact, I came across a Honda Shadow that had been modified to have the controls forward -- -- the way they are on a Silverwing. Called the guy, but it had already been sold.

So, does that mean that I will longer be posting to this blog? Not at all. I have had many thoughts about different aspects of riding and the ways that I plan on using the months between now and next spring to prepare myself both mentally and physically to take on the open road once the temperature cracks 50 again. Even though the primary focus of the blog up until now has been motorcycles and becoming a rider; that was not really the overall focus of the blog. It was to be a place where I would share my thoughts and mental ramblings about various topics that happen to come to my middle-aged mind.

I think that those wanderings should at least make the winter a little more interesting for those of you who are reading this blog on a regular basis. By the way, thanks to those of you have sent supportive e-mails and other comments; it is nice to know that someone is paying attention out there.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

War, Meaning, Greasers, & Zen

When I was in seventh grade or so, I became a reader. That doesn't mean I didn't read before seventh grade, just that I didn't read for the sole pleasure of reading or to learn something I wanted to from it. Seventh grade was when I discovered The Outsiders by SE Hinton. It was one of the first books I could ever really relate to and one of the first that gave me a point of view that was different than my own but similar enough that I could identify with. From there I went on to the book's sequel, That Was Then, This Is Now, and eventually ended with My Darling My Hamburger -- not a sequel but it had some of the same characters. After completing all of Hinton's works, I moved on to other fare. (NOTE: When my youngest son was in Middle School, his English teacher made a  to study turned The Outsiders into a semester-long project.  He loved the book, but in a way, I wish he had discovered it on his own.)

Having seen many of Edgar Alan Poe's works as movies starring Vincent Price (whose voice still gives me chills), I read every short story Poe had written. It was my love of Poe's macabre works that eventually led me to read Stephen King, Saki, and others. When one of my teachers mentioned that we could not read the best of Mark Twain's works until college because of the adult content; I was inspired by puberty and curiosity to attempt to find those works at the local library, I also discovered that adult didn't necessarily mean sexual but controversial. During my search, I managed to read most of Twain's writings. Also, something called the Scholastic Book Club introduced me to books and titles I had never heard of and to a large degree don't recall now.

The point is that the reading itself formed a large part of who I am because I learned to mentally defend my own beliefs while discovering those of others and found curiosities that drove me to seek more knowledge. However, as I went on to college and a career, all the while being a citizen of the world, I found that there were many important books that I had missed. So, I've spent time seeking these books out and reading them. This includes works like The Art of War by Sun Tzu, Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning, and others with each of them providing me with differing points of view and giving me things to think about.

When I started on my journey into motorcycles the searches kept including a book by Robert M. Pirsig titled Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Most of you have heard of it, but I knew of it only peripherally. Wikipedia (and later the book's foreword ) told me that the book really had nothing to do with Zen or motorcycle maintenance but was more about one man's search for meaning while traveling cross-country motorcycle with his son. So I ordered it.

I started reading the book while at Walt Disney World, but only managed read the first chapter. That was enough to convince me that the book was one that I should read, all because of one line in the first chapter: "Plans are deliberately indefinite, more to travel than to arrive anywhere." That is my idea of the perfect journey. I love to travel and discover, and I have always found that in the traveling some discoveries are more significant than reaching the destination.

At this point in my life, I am usually reading two to three books at the same time. Usually, one is of a factual or historical nature, one is light and doesn't require much concentration, and one is for entertainment something to escape into. For now, the last category is being filled by Pirsig's work.

NOTE: As I proof-read this before publishing it, it occurred to me that the actual first book I ever read was Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. Upon contemplation, I realize that I did walk away with a piece philosophy that can be found in Seuss' words. Throughout life, I have found that I do like them here or there, in fact, I like them most anywhere. Yes, Sam I Am, -- I do like green eggs and ham.


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

What Would Walt Say?

I have been off line for a week or so because I was at a family reunion at Walt Disney World (had a great time,  thanks for asking).  As the chief organizer I acted as taxi between the airport and the hotel on arrival day.  On one of my trips, my ears detected the sound of a Harley and I looked around to find a lady riding a beautiful Softail.

It was a deep, indigo blue metal flake and the sun was making the chrome sparkle like a field of stars.  To my surprise the rider was wearing a full face helmet,  very unusual given that Florida is a helmet optional state.   Also, even though it was about 80 she even had on leather riding gloves.  Wow,  she was concerned for her safety.  Well not so much: The rest of her riding outfit consisted of a bikini that matched the bike's blue and sandals.  The view was nice,  but the safety angle was shot.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Do You Understand The Words That Are Coming Out of My Mouth?

Me:  So,  the bike is in good shape?

Seller:  Great shape couldn’t be better.    Won’t need anything until the end of next riding season.

Me:  Does everything work?

Seller:  Sure does, 100% functional.

Me:  And no rust or dents?

Seller:  Nope no rust at all,  and except for some minor scratches it has no marks.

Me:  Super,  I will see you in an hour to take a look and quick test ride.

I drove the hour to get there and from the second I pulled up,  I started to get the feeling I  was misunderstood .

Me:  The back tire looks a little low,  have you been riding it?

Seller:  Um no, the tire needs to be replaced so I haven’t been riding it at all that much this season to preserve it.

Me:  Uh-huh.  What is this dripping on the front tire?

Seller:  Oh,  that’s just suspension fluid the seals broke out last winter I guess,  and I was going to replace them this winter.

Me:  The rust on the chrome looks pretty bad over on this side,  accident?

Seller:  Uh,  no my brother had the bike at his house stored on his porch over the winter and the tarp blew off and he didn’t put it back on so that part was exposed all winter.

Me:  Um, why is there a hose clamp holding the brake fluid reservoir on the handlebar?

Seller:  Well, to keep it from falling off,  the original bracket is broke.

Me:  Okay,  let me get my helmet and take it for a spin. 

I have to admit there was no way at this point I was buying this bike but it was almost 70 degrees and I spent an hour getting there.  I deserved at least a quick spin on it for my troubles.  I mounted the bike and started it.

Me:  Sounds pretty rough,  when was the last time it ran?

Seller:  Oh I ran it for about 30 minutes or so before you got here.  It needs a tune up,  one cylinder is missing about half the time.

As I went to turn on the radio.

Seller:  Oh yeah,  if you have that on while you are riding it sometimes shorts out the electrics if  you hit a hard bump.

Skipped the radio and took off and the bumpiest, shakiest ride of my life.  Returned the bike 15 minutes later.

Me:  Um,  thanks for the look I will be in touch.

Seller:  Okay,  no problem. By the way I just remembered the cruise control doesn’t work so I would be willing to take of $25 for that.

Me:  I will keep that in mind,  thanks.

It is obvious he did not understand me,  when I asked if everything worked,  I meant all the stuff on the bike that was supposed to perform a particular task.  Of course,  when he said nothing needed to be done to the bike for the next riding season,  I thought that nothing needed to be done -- obviously he meant nothing bu mechanical stuff.

I thought I spoke and understood English fairly well, I guess not.  Oh well, wenigstens kann ich Deutsch sprechen.


Friday, November 6, 2009

I Like My Nose & Other Facial Features

Pictures like this convince me that wearing a full face helmet is the only way to go.

I understand the wearer not only survived he got back on the bike and rode home.

Nuff said.


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Picking the Right Motorsickle Part II

The Shadow...

By all rights the Shadow should have been a lock.  There was too many things that were too right from the get go.  It was red, it was a 500cc and a Honda,  it was well maintained and had only one minor ding on the tank with no rust and shiny chrome.  Best of all it only had 5K miles on it.  But as it often is in life:  Should’ve and was were two very different things.

The seller was proud of what he had and he should have been, it was in great shape.  He concluded with “The only thing the bike needs is to be ridden”.  Looking at it,  I had to agree.    So I jumped on it and took off.

Making a left out of his driveway I took off back towards the town.  Wide curves and slight hills.  It was noisier than the Silverwing and due to lack of fairings a little windier.  The Shadow did have a windshield but it did not seem to help much.    The ride was also a little bumpier,  but the acceleration was smooth and powerful.  When I got to the town I took a lap around the towne hall and turned to head back.  On the way back I saw the county fairgrounds which had a large parking lot.  Perfect.

Pulled in the lot and started to put the bike through a serious of turns and other maneuvers.  That was when I discovered that a hard right or left turn ended with the hand grip bumping against my leg.    Also because the seat had me so far forward, I had no way to adjust so it was not in the way.  Not good,  but I know handlebars can be adjusted.

On the rest of the ride back the sitting position started to bother me.  On the Silverwing, my leg angle from my knee to foot was more or less straight; like sitting in a chair.  On this bike,  my feet were further back so my knees were bent and it felt like I was sitting almost like a jockey on a horse.  When I got back to the seller’s house I looked closely at the handlebars which could be adjusted and the seat which could not.  I also saw no way to add highway pegs to the bike, so I could not work around it that way.  He and I were the same height and he confirmed the turn issue and the feel of sitting forward on the bike.

I was disappointed, I had a lot of hope for this bike. 

In the end, one was a cruiser and one was a touring bike.   I liked the touring bike better and felt more comfortable on it.   So,  I just need to find the right Silverwing.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Picking the Right Motorsickle Part I

There is no 2 seat trainer for the Air Force A-10 Thunderbolt. So, one day after spending weeks flying a T-38 trainer a new pilot walks out and jumps into an A-10 and takes his first flight. To me that has to be a little nerve wracking. I felt a lot of the same apprehension as I took off for a day of looking at and test riding bikes I had never been on. Easing myself onto the saddle of each bike was part thrill and part anxiety. Both bikes I rode were bigger and heavier than the Buells I rode in class and in both cases I took them from a short driveway straight on to a state highway with a speed limit of 55.

The Silverwing Interstate.

The first thought that ran through my mind as I walked up to it was that it was a monster. It just looked huge. As I walked around the bike the current owner pointed out minor issues and needed repairs. There were numerous. A tip for sellers: Don't point out an issue and in the same breath say that it is only a quick turn of a screwdriver to repair. If that is so, you should turn the screwdriver then it wouldn't need to be mentioned.

The bike had a seat back on the saddle which I had never ridden with before, so I had to figure out how to mount the bike because I could not use my customary way of throwing my leg around the back side of the bike with the seat back in the way. I finally my leg straight over the saddle and lowered myself onto it but doing it this way meant I could not hold the brake as I mounted. I flipped up the kick stand and took control of the weight. Heavier than what I was used to but controllable. Started the bike and got a feel for the friction zone, then took off down the gravel driveway.

A quick left turn took me back toward a small neighborhood I saw on the way in where I thought I could try some moves. In those first few minutes I decided I didn't like the bike. The fairings felt odd because they did not move when I was turning handlebars -- it felt disjointed. The bike felt heavy, bulky and ungraceful. So I decided to just turn around in the neighborhood and go right back. I turned around (in a small space actually) and headed back. Since I was not real familiar with where the seller's house was, I overshot it. Taking the first right, I had planned to just hook a quick U Turn but something told me to keep going.

I found myself on two lane hilly and curvy country road by a lake. It was a beautiful Michigan fall afternoon, a little crisp (about 50) but sunny and clear. The leaves were all sorts of colours and sun light off the lake pretty too. Soon I hit a series of S curves and the leviathan turned into a ballerina.

The handling was fantastic through all 5 gears. Not only that, the road that was chip and seal and very rough but I wasn't getting beat to death (found out later the GL650 has some sort of air suspension system). I took turns here and there at will to explore the roads and the bike. Then on a long straightaway I dropped the highway pegs, put my feet up and leaned into the seat and cruised. Awesome.

Took the bike back, but it had made an impression. Lots of fun and a comfortable ride. Let me say here that I liked the model, but not necessarily this bike. It needs work, and had some rust on the fuel tank and issues from a prior fall over where a prior owner's wife got off of the wrong side of the bike (how does that happen?). For the price it was not worth it. But I was real impressed with the ride of the Silverwing.
Sent from my Android phone