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This pic doesn’t make sense given the subject “Changing Directions” but the roads in Oklahoma are all straight.

This blog was originally conceived as a blog for first time motorcycle riders. Getting a bike for the first time as a newly-divorced 42 year old was a transformational life experience for me. I wanted to help others find their way, provide some (hopefully) helpful advice, and establish a voice in the motorcycle industry. I hated my job at the time, so in the back of my mind I thought I might be able to get a job with a motorcycle company as a result of it. At least I held out the hope.

I also had a work-related mandate to get more experienced with social media, as I was working for a PR firm at the time and all the cool kids knew how to build blogs and use Twitter and Facebook and Pinterest and all these other websites du jour to help our clients build audience. My boss pulled me aside one day and said, “If you don’t learn social media, you’re going to get left behind.” I figured if I had to learn it, I better do it with a topic I’m passionate about.

Time went on, and I learned what I needed to learn and eventually trained one of my young lieutenants to run social media for my team. The mandate became less important. And I lost interest in keeping the blog going – as 15 months since writing a post will attest. It takes a lot of work to conceive posts, write them, hyperlink them to the right keywords to goose your SEO and have the right images to keep readers, sometimes with short attention span, interested; and promote the blog on Reddit and other social bookmarking sites. Doing social media right is a full time job, even for a blog that’s just a hobby.

I kept the blog alive but haven’t written anything in a while. I’ve changed jobs so I don’t even work for a PR firm anymore, I’m now in-house at a big midwestern bank, I’ve moved to a different area of the country (Tulsa, OK), moved in with my girlfriend, I’ve sold a bike (my Triumph America) and had a bike stolen (my Suzuki V-Strom, right out of my backyard), and I bought a brand new BMW R1200GS (the most complete, do-everything bike imaginable).

And I have a lot more to write about now. So I want to use the blog as an outlet for some of those other topics. I don’t know if it will stick. I tend to get all fired up about projects, get them started, and run out of steam – NoBaffles being a good example. My 1/3 of a book being a good example. 1/3 of a screenplay being another example.

Anyway, going forward, I’ll be writing periodically about things that are important to me. Manhood, divorce, women, career, fitness, sex, travel, parenting, politics. And of course, I’ll still write the periodic post about motorcycles. I still love them. I could sit in the garage and stare at my bike for hours. Just stare. It’s a work of art. And I think all motorcycles are works of art. Every time I see a bike parked on the side of the road, I slow down to ogle. Every time a bike passes me, I check it out. They turn me on like a pretty girl.

I’m not going to worry about traffic to the blog. This time, it’s for me. I know that “if you build it they will come” is a fallacy but I am not that concerned about it. I like to write. This will be my outlet. Twitter – that social media platform can go screw itself. I never got it. Never will. I love Reddit – discovered it as part of this blog-creation process and still visit every day. But the folks at the motorcycles subeddit never liked when I linked to my own posts, even though that was the single best source of traffic for the blog. If I linked a post on Reddit, I’d get hundreds of uniques from all over the globe within hours – sometimes minutes.

My first post under the new format has been percolating for some time. It’s about the fallacy of the American dream – the wife, the house in the ‘burbs, the kids. I’ve come to realize that once *they* have you married, mortgaged, and squeezing out puppies, *they* have you locked in. Your freedom is history.You will work, and earn, and pay taxes, until you’re dead or almost dead. And that’s why the little bit of freedom I got back when I got divorced is so precious to me. More to come.

Just back from my annual motocamping trip with Ernie and Al, and one of the roads we wanted to ride this year was NC 226A, also known as “The Diamondback”, which runs from Marion, NC to the Little Switzerland Inn on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Last year when we had dinner at Little Switzerland late in the day, we noticed that they are trying to merchandise this road and capitalize on the motorcycle traffic that visits that area of North Carolina to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Dragon’s Tail. We never seem to have enough time on these trips to make it down to the Dragon (part of that is the leisurely pace and frequent breaks that mark rides led by Al) so we made a mental note to ride “The Diamondback” when we returned to the region this year. From what we read of it at Little Switzerland, it sounded like a reasonable alternative to the Dragon, boasting 190 curves in 12 miles, compared to the Dragon’s 318 curves in 11 miles.

Let me make this clear. Save yourself the trouble. There are a lot of reasons to go to Little Switzerland – the prime rib, which is one of the finest I’ve tasted, is one. The Blue Ridge Parkway itself is another. The breathtaking views and local charm of the mountain town, still others. But NC 226A is not worth the trip. In fact, I would avoid it, period.

The problem is that for every one of those 190 curves, there are dozens of tar snakes which wreak havoc with your selection of a path through the curve. If you hit the tar snakes the wrong way, it sends your front wheel skittering sideways, with the potential to take you and your bike off the road.

Tar snakes on NC 226A.

Tar snakes on NC 226A.

Three minutes into my ride on The Diamondback, I had a “time to change the shorts” kind of moment when I leaned into a turn and in the split second before I hit the gas to accelerate through, hit a tar snake that made my front wheel go haywire. I skidded to a near stop just before leaving the road, and proceeded to the nearest parking space where we had a consult that went something like this:

Me: “This road sucks.”

Al: “Yeah, there are tar snakes everywhere.”

Me: “This is bullshit. I’m out of here. I have zero desire to ride this road.”

Al and Ernie: “Yep. Let’s go.”

With that we carefully U-turned and made our way back up the road, and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.

That little exchange spawned a catchphrase that will probably ride with us for the balance of our days: “I have zero desire to ride this road.” We laughed together and repeated that phrase a number of times throughout our trip. So the brief descent down 226A wasn’t a total loss because we’ll be telling stories about that crappy road for years to come.

We were able to laugh but I was legit pissed off. The good people of Little Switzerland, NC have every right to capitalize on the attributes of the local roads to lure riders to their establishments and sell tee shirts and hats. But should they given the fact that the road is unsafe? I vote no. Al summed it up best later that night at dinner:”Call me back when you repave the road.” Ernie added, “Some of those areas it looked like the road crew was dropping acid.”

Had I skidded off the road, it would have likely ended my vacation and led to a world of hassle. In the middle of the mountains, far from a Triumph dealer with the parts to fix the bike, and a deadline to be home within a few days. At best! At worst, dealing with injuries, maybe even life threatening ones. To me, NC 226A is a road that you don’t merchandise to capitalize on tourist trade. Let the bikers enjoy their stay in your village while they continue down the Blue Ridge Parkway. But don’t tempt them to get sidetracked on an unsafe and poorly maintained road. To tout the merits of your road is, at best, false advertising and at worst, downright negligent.

It’s a trend that seems to be taking on, this business of naming motorcycle roads. In fact Backroads Magazine did a brief article about the trend in the May issue. But after riding “The Diamondback” it reminded me a bit of the trend to name holes on golf courses, which started with Augusta and its colorfully-named holes like “Firethorn” and “Redbud”. But I knew the trend had gone too far when a dogpatch muni near my hometown named it’s holes. That’s what riding The Diamondback was like. Don’t waste your time, until, as Al said, they repave the road.

Don’t take my word for it though. Here’s a video I created documenting the aborted trip down The Diamondback.

Last year I was wowed by the Martin Motorsports “Modern Classics” motorcycle show. I couldn’t believe that a dealer would (1) shut down for an entire day at the start of the season, and (2) attract such a first rate collection of motorcycles for a show. This event simply blows away any other I’ve seen.

And just like last year, I was shutter happy. I wish I had more talent for taking pictures because my point and shoots just don’t do justice to the beauty of some of these machines.

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The show started even before we got in the door, with this beautiful example of a Ural Patrol with sidecar parked next to us in the lot.

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Another shot at the Ural.

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Beautiful Moto Guzzi. Some lucky person’s daily rider.

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Another beautiful ‘Guzzi in the parking lot.

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1957 Moto Rumi Competizione 124cc owned by David Markel, who also basically owns Skippack, PA

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1957 Moto Islo Carrera 175cc. One of only 2 surviving examples. Only 4 were produced.

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1972 MV Agusta 350 Electronica

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1985 Ducati MHR Mille

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1957 Moto Morini 175 Setto Bello, also owned by David Markel.

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1970 Moto Guzzi v750 Ambassador LAPD Model

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1936 Indian Sport Scout, which is still a working race bike that has won the AMA National Championship for its class three years running. This model was also made famous as the donor bike for Burt Munro’s land speed racer in the movie “The World’s Fastest Indian.”

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Suicide shifter on the Indian.

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1975 Harley Davidson Aermacchi RR250, owned by master mechanic Bill Himmelsbach of Eurosports Coopersburg.

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My friend Scott gushed over this bike. I didn’t catch what it was.

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1967 Triumph 8V Roadracer, which once held a land speed record at Bonneville.

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Another nice Triumph road racer

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I saw this Honda Trail 90 at Lansdale Bike Night too. It’s sweet.

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1948 Norton Manx Roadracer. Makes my heart go pitter pat.Yet another from the Dave Markel collection. I have to figure out a way to meet this guy.

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Just some pretty bikes

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The Jawa dirt tracker

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1972 Montessa 250 VE Capra.

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1971 Ossa 250 Stiletto Scrambler.

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1973 Rickman Zundapp R125MX.

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1978 Harley Davidson AMF SX175. Yes, 175.

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1978 Harley Davidson MX250. Only one model year, only 1,000 made, several hundred reportedly were scrapped at the end of the model year. Still a cool bike.

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1960-1970 Jawa 890 Speedway. I’m guessing the 10 year range on the model year is because the owner doesn’t know how old it is.

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1973 Triumph X75 Hurricane. Oh my…

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1972 Norton Commando Combat. Again, oh my…

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1969 BSA A65 Lightning Special.

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1955 MV Agusta Disco Volante. Guess who owns it? That’s right. Dave Markel.

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1956 MV Agusta 175 CSTL. Owner: oh nevermind.

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1964 Ducati Monza, described by the owner as a “bitsa bike” (bitsa this, bitsa that.)

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Look at those slim sexy lines on the MVA Disco Volante.

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One of my favorites. 1954 MV Agusta Squalo owned by my new best friend, David Markel.

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Another angle of the MVA Squalo

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Can you tell I liked this one?

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1949 Gilera Saturno. Markel collection.

I’ve said it before. Martin Motorsports just gets it. They understand the way motorcycles get into the soul of those of us who love them. They realize we’re all suffering from cabin fever and needed to get out today and ride a bit, and ogle some bikes, and think about the season ahead. Dennis Martin has done a wonderful job building his dealership and according to one of his colleagues who I chatted up today, he’s one of the most successful Triumph dealers in the country.

Later this week, I’ll share some other things I discovered Dennis is up to that will further differentiate his dealership as the best in the business. Stay tuned.

I was rooting around in some old photo albums recently, and came across this picture, which is me on my very first motorcycle ride…

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The picture was taken around 1970, most likely on a family trip to the Sandy Hook boardwalk (the same one that was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy last fall.) As far as I can tell, this was my first experience riding a motorcycle. The haircut is unfortunate (a DIY bowl cut courtesy of my mom). The sweater isn’t the most stylin’ one out there, but it was lovingly hand-knitted by my nonna, who was ALWAYS knitting.

I was fascinated with motorcycles from the beginning. I remember gazing out the window of my grade school in third grade and seeing a rider go by on a Honda CB 750. I remember thinking, “When I’m a grownup, that’ll be me.”

Several years later my father bought me a mini bike with a Tecumseh pull-start engine. I had a blast running that thing through the woods behind my house. That was my first real experience on a two-wheeled machine with a real engine.

My next ride was a Puch Magnum moped that I bought from a classmate in high school for $300. That machine gave me my freedom. I rode it all over northern New Jersey, visiting friends who lived in towns like Teaneck and Nutley, I found a way to the Willowbrook Mall from my home in Clifton without using any highways. I logged thousands of miles on it.

Until the day that a 1980’s version of a soccer mom made a left turn in front of me on Grove Street in Montclair. I smashed into the front right quarterpanel of her car, went face first into her windshield, flew through the air somersault-style and landed on my back in the grass beside the road. I immediately jumped up and shouted, “MY MOPED!!!” and tried to run over to it until some others who were on the scene convinced me to lie back down. The rest was a blur. My guardian angel must have been watching over me that day, because my only injuries were a gash on my shin where my leg hit the kickstand, and a popped zit on my forehead right at the point of impact between my forehead and the windshield. No joke. I walked out of the hospital that night, was sore for a few days, and generally got back to life without incident. But also without my moped.

It would be almost 30 years before my next bike, when at age 42 I got a divorce, my M-class license, and a 2008 Triumph America.

Me and my daughter. Just posing. No, we did not go riding without protective gear!

Me and my daughter. Just posing on the first weekend I owned my America. No, we did not go riding without protective gear!

Since that time, riding has been my passion.I can’t imagine life without motorcycles and I can’t remember how I went from age 16 to age 42 without one in my life.  I’m currently struggling to get through a cold winter with motorcycles wintering in my foyer. But March is just a few weeks away, and I know very soon on a warmish Saturday next month I’ll be pushing them back outside and firing them up. Hope to see you on the road then!

The America and the V-Strom, keepin' it classy and cooling their heels in the foyer until that first warm weekend in March.

The America and the V-Strom, keepin’ it classy and cooling their heels in the foyer until that first warm weekend in March.

Everyone’s doing it. So why not me. A lot of the gift lists I see are really bad. Here’s a good list of stuff you can get for the motorcycle rider in your life. Maybe even me.

1. Something to make the buns more comfortable on long rides. 

This inexpensive bead rider knock-off kept my backside happy on some long rides this year. Need another one for the second bike I bought.

This inexpensive bead rider knock-off kept my backside happy on some long rides this year. Need another one for the second bike I bought.

There are a lot of different varieties of things you can throw on a motorcycle seat to extend saddle time and delay monkey butt. Inflatable, gel-filled, lambskin. You can even get an entire new custom seat to try and crack this problem. I’ve tried a number of them, and the one I find works best is a simple wooden bead seat cover from Whitehorse Gear.  The best thing about this particular seat cover is it is simple to install and will fit on just about every bike. For $25 it’s affordable and the biker in your life will definitely appreciate it. Whitehorse Gear even throws in a free kickstand support with every purchase. I have the beaded cover for my V-Strom, but haven’t picked up a second one yet for the Triumph America that I acquired in August.

2. Branded motorcycle gear. 

Your biker will always appreciate something that helps them advertise the make of their bike, regardless of the brand they ride. For example, I practically have a lifetime supply of Triumph tee shirts, jackets, and sweat shirts. But the newly-opened online Triumph store has a nice selection of other Triumph-branded gear that my kids could get me if they weren’t sure what I’d like for Christmas (hint, hint). Like the Triumph mug or pen or even this mouse pad.

In addition, even though I bought a Suzuki V-Strom at the beginning of the year, I don’t have any Suzuki-branded merch, so that would be nice.

3. GoPro.

My GoPro HD Hero is downright ancient, nerdy, and loser-ish already. Just like my Apple iPhone 3.

My GoPro HD Hero is downright ancient, nerdy, and loser-ish already. Just like my Apple iPhone 3.

At $300 this is on the “pricey” end of the gift spectrum, but just about every biker wants one of these doohickeys. GoPro is based in Silly Con Valley, right down the road from Apple, so they know how to market and they know how to sell. Accordingly, they do a nice job of adding features and functionality every year, and about a month after I bought my first GoPro they were onto version 2 and now they’ve just announced version 3 (just in time for Christmas!!) So even if you’re biker already has a GoPro, they need a new one because the old one is just so last month.

There are lots of accessories for the GoPro, too, so if you don’t have $300 to drop there are a few that would be on any motorcyclist’s wish list if they already have a GoPro, such as the tripod mount, the wall charger, the LCD backpack (I’ve always found it extremely frustrating that I can’t see what I’m filming while I’m filming or even THAT I’m filming with the GoPro. This caused me to lose some of the best footage I ever thought I was getting on a ride this fall) and extra batteries (GoPros have notoriously low battery life – at least in my experience.)

4. Heated handgrips.

I don’t have these on my bike. If I was to put heated handgrips on one of my bikes, it would be the V-Strom, which I ride most often and frequently in the early morning chill on my commute to work. There are a couple of aftermarket kits but the Oxford Grips seem to get good reviews from bikers and they’re easy to install and under $100. They are available on a number of gear sites such as Twisted Throttle.

Another alternative along these lines would be the BarkBusters handguards. They don’t heat the grips but they do protect the hands from the wind.

5. Cruise Control.

The Kaoko throttle lock system is a nice cost-effective aftermarket upgrade to just about any bike.

6. A six-pack from the “sure I can dream” category.

  1. A new bike. If I had my druthers, a 2013 Triumph Street Triple R is the one I’d like to add to my stable.
  2. A new used bike. It doesn’t even have to be new, a good quality used bike will float their boat just as well. There is a beautiful Bandit 1250 with low miles available at a dealership near me. If you want your biker to love you forever, get him (or her) a new bike.
  3. A full complement of Gerbings heated gear. Heated gear will extend the riding season by a month in either direction, and it will come in handy on really long tours. The whole enchilada of Gerbings will set you back about a grand.
  4. Icon 1000 Elsinore boots. I think these are some of the coolest looking motorcycle boots out there. I’d like a pair in each color, please. Size 10.5.
  5. A leather track suit. Budget about a grand for these. I did my first track day last summer, and would like to do more. And since you’re getting me a trackable bike in 1 or 2 above, I’m going to need this. I’m a size 46.
  6. Manayunk Triumph. If I could have any job in the world, it would be owner of this dealership. So since this is from the ‘dream’ category in an alternate universe where my significant other is a millionaire (heck, billionaire) sugar momma, I might as well think big and put this on the list.

OK so this started out with the intention to make a really useful and helpful list of things that my readers (or their significant others) could put on their Christmas shopping list, and ended up getting rather silly with me crossing one of the biggest items off my bucket list (to work in the motorcycle industry and perhaps own a dealership.) But hey, this is the season for dreaming, so deal with it!

Happy holidays to all.

How to properly winterize your motorbike is an ongoing question for first time riders. I know for me, the first winter I put my bike away for the year, I didn’t even think there were things I had to do. I just stopped riding it and parked it on the front porch. Boy was I surprised when I went to ride it a few weeks later on an unseasonably warm day and it wouldn’t start.

As a bachelor, I have a very convenient and dry place to store my motorcycle for the winter – my foyer!

So when I got the offer of a guest blog post from Bobby Cleveland, the Gold Eagle Engine Answerman and spokesman for the STA-BIL® folks, I jumped at the opportunity to publish it as a service to my readers.

After getting my bike running again that first year when I didn’t winterize, my mechanic suggested I use STA-BIL® in my fuel tank during the winter to preserve the gasoline and make sure the bike started in the spring. I’ve been using it ever since; it’s good stuff that works. I’ve seen some debate whether it’s really necessary but for a couple of bucks, it’s well worth the investment.

And here are Bobby’s suggestions for proper winter storage.

Five Steps to Proper Winter Storage of Your Motorcycle

 By Bobby Cleveland, Gold Eagle Engine Answerman

With winter rapidly approaching, most of us are bidding farewell to our joyous motorcycle rides in the warm summer breeze and getting them ready to store for the colder months ahead.

But, what most aren’t looking forward to is the process of getting this completed. In fact, a national survey conducted by Gold Eagle® Co., an industry pioneer of aftermarket fluids and additives, found that 97 percent of consumers know that properly storing their motorcycles in the offseason will actually help them run at optimal performance come springtime. However, almost 75 percent of people encounter issues when taking their motorcycles out of storage—which means they likely missed some important steps when storing them in the first place.

To help prepare for winter storage, Gold Eagle Engine Answerman®, Bobby Cleveland, has some helpful time-and money-saving tips to help ensure you properly prep your motorcycles for storage, so they are ready to rev up come springtime.

 Step One: Block off a few hours in your schedule to ensure you have time to complete the process. It can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours, and it’s well worth the time, as you’ll be helping protect your motorcycle from corrosion, rust and other damaging elements and avoid repair costs in the spring.

 Step Two: Clean your bike thoroughly to remove all residue and dirt from surfaces, so it doesn’t sit all winter long. Using a cleaner like 303® Fabric & Vinyl Cleaner to remove residue that could cause stains if it sat through the cold winter months. Also, using a protectant like 303® Aerospace Protectant will help keep vinyl and leather from cracking in lower temperatures.

 Step Three: Clean beyond the surface, taking care to clean the INSIDES of your bike too. Fuel problems are a top issue that motorcycle owners run into during storage and it’s important that you complete this step properly, or you’ll face consequences come spring. With this in mind, when winterizing your bike, leave your gas tank full of fuel and add STA-BIL®Fuel Stabilizer. If you’re fuel is fresh, you do not need to drain it, but if you’ve had it more than a month, you should drain it completely and refill with fresh fuel.

Once you’ve filled your tank and added a stabilizer (use 2 oz to every 5 gallons of gasoline for storage), you should run your engine for a few minutes to make sure the fuel stabilizer gets into the carburetor and injectors. By filling the tank with fuel and stabilizer, you clean the carburetors and fuel injectors and ensure there is less air in the tank to prevent corrosion. If you leave air in the tank, it creates condensation, which can cause corrosion, so the more you eliminate water in your tank the better.

Here’s a video explaining why this is an important step in the winterizing process:

It is also a good idea to use a fogger to coat the inside of the engine when it is stored. You can use STA-BIL® Fogging Oil that you spray into your carburetor to coat the inner lining and prevent corrosion.

Step Four: Make sure your battery is properly charged, so you don’t end up with a dead battery come spring. You’ll want to make sure it has at least a trickle charge. Check your engine manual to make sure you are doing this correctly.

Step Five: Cover the bike properly and store it in a cool, dry place. This will help to keep any eroding elements away from the surface and keep it in the best shape until you are ready to take it out next spring.

Written by Bobby Cleveland – Bobby Cleveland shares his engine knowledge as Gold Eagle’s Engine Answerman. As a former technician, he shares his experience and advice with consumers on how they can obtain greater performance out of all things motor—from power sport vehicles and classic cars to household power equipment such as string trimmers and lawnmowers. Learn more from Bobby at his blog – On the Road with the Engine Answerman.

The 2012 Lansdale Bike Night was earlier this month, and I have been sitting on a number of cool bike pics that I wanted to post. (And some not so cool.) Here’s a few:

 

Love this Piaggio scooter. I like creative machines like this, not just the most chromed-out Harley (of which there are too many at Lansdale Bike Night.)

 

Another shot of the Piaggio with the sidecar. Clever custom paint job!

 

One more angle of the Piaggio

 

Sweet 1973 Honda Trail 90

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every single component of this 1968 Triumph TR6C is bone stock. The bike has been in the owner’s family since it left the showroom floor.

 

The original showroom tag from the Triumph TR6C

 

Another classic and all-original Triumph, this 1958 Triumph Cub 200cc was originally purchased by the owner’s father who’s name (Myles Lewis) is on the front fender.

 

 

Had me one of these back in the day :-)

 

 

I love analog motorcycles. My friend Scott just bought one of these babies. Calls it a wheelie machine.

 

 

Beautiful 1980 Suzuki GS1100.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honda Valkyrie Rune

 

 

This thing is there every year. “A” for effort, but not my cuppa tea.

 

Just two years removed from the company’s demise, seeing fewer and fewer of these Buellies on the road.

 

 

 

There was something very charming about this AMF-era ratbike Harley.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choppers do absolutely nothing for me. If I can’t strap my camping gear to the bike and take it to California – or at least Central Pennsylvania – I’m not interested.

 

Nice example of the venerable Kawasaki ZRX1200R

 

Of all the Harleys entered into the show, this one really caught my eye.

 

Best of this bunch, saved for last. A 1965 Honda CB77 Superhawk.

 

 

Another nice shot of the Superhawk.

 

 

 

Just a quick post to clarify something from my previous post on California Superbike School. I clearly misunderstood the instruction, because Keith Code, the man himself, wrote me after seeing the writeup to clarify a couple of points:

Joe

I just got back from our September dates at NJMP and got your note. Nice write up and thank you.

Just one thing, in your write up you mention not getting back to the gas until apex. If you will recall, the
mantra on WHEN is, “As soon as possible after the bike is turned in and on its lean angle”, there is never
any mention of waiting till the apex because there are so many corners where you can be back to the
throttle much, much earlier. That was covered in briefing/track session #3.

Also, if you recall the Quick Turn briefing, the quicker you can flick the bike into the turn, the earlier you
can get back to gas. That is all predicated on having a good Turn Point, which was the second briefing.

I just wanted to make sure you were clear on that because I think you’ve still got some big, and good,
surprises in store for yourself if you weren’t working on those points.

All the best,

Keith

I definitely misunderstood this point and I’m glad Keith wrote to clarify. I’ve been practicing these techniques and I can definitely see a difference.

On another note, next weekend I’m taking the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Foundation‘s Basic Rider Course 2. (Formerly known as “Experienced Rider Course”.) I’ll let you all know what I learn about and write about it next week.

 

 

 

Last Sunday was the rain date for Lansdale Bike Night, an annual event in one of the local burghs here in Southeastern PA. The motorcycle show is “ok”, heavily weighted toward Harleys and custom choppers, which do nothing for me. There’s usually a small collection of classic bikes – Triumphs Nortons and the like – and some really weird ones too (like the year there was a chopper with body molding to make it look like a fighter jet.)

This year the date was changed at the last minute due to weather, so there was a lighter than usual crowd and fewer bikes than normal. I walked around for 45 minutes and left. Not much to do.

As I was heading out of town, though, something caught my eye. A black classic bike parked along one of the side streets. I pulled over. Here are some pics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a beautiful machine and a piece of motorcycle history, but the owner was sitting on the curb near the bike visibly distressed. To hear him tell his story, he had just ridden the bike back from Colorado where he attended a Vincent owners’ rally. He had arrived at Lansdale Bike Night too late for the judging, and the organizers wouldn’t even let him park his bike in the area where all the show bikes were. Apparently one of the people directing bikes through the Main Street area cursed at him and told him to get his bike off the &$^# street.

Whether this was truth, exaggeration, or not, it’s a real shame that The Vincent never made it into the show.

 

 

 

One of my motorcycling new years resolutions was to get additional training this year. I fulfilled this resolution a few weeks ago when my friend Pete and I took a one-day class at California Superbike School at New Jersey Motorsports Park. It wasn’t a small investment – about $500 for the day including rental of a track suit – but it was well worth it. The class changed my riding style and made me 100% more confident in the corners.

Post-session consultation with my rider coach.

The format of the class was solid: 15 minutes or so of classroom instruction; followed by track time to practice on the techniques learned during the class; followed by a brief meeting with a rider coach who spends some time watching your technique on the track. Over the course of the day, we repeated this cycle five times for five different instructions.

Right from the start, I learned something new. And I’m embarrassed to say that this was a new concept for me: cut the throttle heading into a corner, and when you hit the apex of the corner, smoothly accelerate out. (NOTE: See this post for a correction. I got this point wrong.) I either missed it when they talked about it in the Motorcycle Safety Course or just never learned it. Once I started practicing this technique, everything changed. My most common cornering mistake is coming into a corner too fast. Then I need to use the brakes, then I need to change direction. If the turn is a right-hand turn and there’s oncoming traffic, margin of error is decreased and it’s all that more difficult to get through the corner – and all that more dicey. Make it a hairpin turn on a mountain pass with a sheer drop off, and uh oh…

By controlling the throttle actively, I’m now able to modulate my speed, and rolling on the throttle as I exit the corner helps me maintain my line and get through the curve quickly. You can really see Pikes Peak Hill Climbing champion Greg Tracy using this technique in his video.

Another important learning for me was the notion of countersteering – pressing on the right side of the motorcycle handlebar and pulling on the left side of the motorcycle handlebar to turn right. This was taught in a one-on-one sidebar session and it was really, umm…counterintuitive for me. As the instructor explained the concept (which I’d heard of, but never really understood), I was still incredulous that pressing on the right side of the bars will initiate a right turn. When I’m standing still on the bike, straight up and down, and I press right, it looks like I will turn left.

By the end of the day, I was leading packs of S1000RR’s around the track. ;-)

But here’s the thing – I’m on a rounded tire, and riding at a good clip, and I’m also leaning the bike over. In this case, counter steering works. Nobody really does a good job explaining counter steering:

Example 1 (Love how he waves at some other bikers at the 40 second mark and says, “Nobody waves. Assholes.”)

Example 2 (This one’s a little bit better.)

Example 3 (ummmmm……..)

It’s one of those things that I just had to accept on faith. And once I tried it, I was amazed by the results. Now when I really focus on and exaggerate countersteering in my turns, pushing harder on the left handlebar to make a left hand turn and on the right to go right, my turns get a whole lot snappier.

I paid an extra $20 to have my lap times recorded, and I’m glad I did because I could really see my progress:

Average lap times:

Session 1:              3.03

Session 2:              3.04

Session 3:             2.38

Session 4:             2.39

Session 5:             2.32


My fastest lap was 2:30.6, which was the second lap of the final session:


I did NOT pay extra to rent one of the school’s BMW S1000RR‘s, and I’m sorry I didn’t. This was an extra $250 and both Pete and I decided to bank the savings and ride our own bikes, which was an option. Pete rides a Triumph America and I was riding my V-Strom. We both felt silly. Not everyone rode the beemers, but everyone else on the track had a sport bike of some ilk. And the tech inspector had a visible smirk on his face when we checked in our bikes.

I got some bad information when I asked someone at the BMW booth at the NYC Motorcycle Show about this. I had asked if we would be out of place on non-sportbikes, and the rep replied “Not at all. We had a guy riding an ElectraGlide last year, and we had to tell him to turn his radio off during the sessions.”

If I had it to do over again, I’d suck it up and pay the $250 to rent the beemer.

Given the quantum leaps the class made in my riding confidence, I’m planning to go back for the Level 2 class next year. I’m also planning to take the Pennsylvania Motorcycle Safety Program‘s RiderCourse 2 in October. You can never have enough training or instruction with motorcycle riding, and the fact that I didn’t know some very basic riding and cornering techniques even after four seasons of riding really emphasize this. I spend thousands every year on farkles and gear, now I’m going to make sure I set aside a bit of that cash for training on an annual basis.

A few more pics from the day…

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