Saturday, October 22, 2016

First Impressions of the Sena 20S bluetooth system

Susan told me she wanted to get me an early Christmas gift.  For the last couple of months I've been looking at buying a new helmet, and I was thinking that if I was going to get a new helmet...then I might as well get one that was Bluetooth ready.  That would be my early Christmas gift!

I've been riding for a bit over five years now, and I keep thinking that their is no reason for me not to ride to the other coast or other places.   I've been lost on the bike before and to quote my ex-wife.  "Every road goes somewhere, and once your somewhere you can always find your way home."   Still though, I've grown to depend on the technology and understand it better than most.  I don't care for the idea of being totally without it now.

Susan and I stopped over at Cycle Gear with the intent of buying a Bilt modular helmet with the Bluetooth built in.  As it so happened the sizes ran small.  Even the XXL large helmet was to small for my fat head.  They did have a few other helmets, most without Bluetooth, but nothing in the price range we were trying to stay within. 

That's when the debate started.  "Do we just buy the unit by itself?" 

One of the reasons that I've been wanting a Bluetooth is because of the GPS function.  That has been my primary concern, I just feel I would be more willing to travel to other places if I felt secure in getting there.  I don't really like the idea of using the phone or listening to music on the phone.  However having that voice in my ear telling me I was going the right way appeals to me. 

The option to buy a Bluetooth and install it in my current helmet was suggested.  I'm not very happy with the old helmet but the idea of being able to move it to another helmet later was just to good to pass up.  So just like that I became the proud owner of a Sena 20S motorcycle Bluetooth communication system.

So they installed it.  It cost a bit more than I would have liked, although I did get the two year extended warranty on the unit.  I now have access to the phone, music, FM radio, Pandora and can use either a one-to-one or group intercom (with up to eight people).  It will link up with other Bluetooth systems and there are even voice prompts.   Yes, even a smartphone application. 

Susan called me on the Bluetooth on the way home twice.  I was able to hear her clearly with the visor down and traveling about 50 MPH.  It was when I was on the highway and at a much higher speed that I had trouble making out what she was saying. In fact, that was one of the reasons I didn't do this before.  I've read reviews of the Sena headsets that have told me the same thing.

I kept losing GPS on the way home, mostly because my smartphone was in my pants pocket.  I think if I tucked into my jacket or a shirt pocket I would not have an issue with it.  Although now I wonder if a cell phone mount might be in my future (as shown in a picture taken from somewhere).  At least that way I would have GPS and be able to view the route as I approach it.  Although I would have to have a small hole drilled into the dash to have a charging cable added . 

About half way home I switched to the music function on my phone and tuned in the Billy Bragg station on Pandora.   Bragg is a singer/songwriter with a strong voice and generally just guitar to accompany him.  I figured he be a good test of the speakers.  Again, I was able to hear clearly as long as I stayed below certain speeds. 

Generally speaking I'm happy with the whole setup and will have to play around with the unit some to figure out how to get the most of it.  This may be the only Christmas gift I get this year but I'm happy with it.  I'm looking forward to those days when Sue will behind me and were chatting as we ride. 

I'm looking forward to getting out more.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

AIME impressions

I have to be honest, one of the reasons that I wanted to attend the AIME expo (American International Motorcycle expo) was the opportunity to ride bikes that I would not normally get the opportunity to ride.  As it so happened I only was able to ride one bike.  The Can-Am RT.

As much as I hate to admit it, I've always took issue with the Can-Am.  It's not exactly a motorcycle and people have told me they steer like sleds or lawnmowers.  The price has always been a little daunting and the size made me question if I would be able to handle one.

I can honestly say that starting today, they are on the list to replace Kimmie.  The ride was smooth, and although I had a little issue with low speed turns, in that I kept wanting to counter steer or lean when I could not - that would be corrected with time, I was impressed.   The bike is semi-automatic meaning it has a thumb shift to climb gears but the computer handles downshifting.  It took me about five minutes to get used to shifting that way but once I did it was seamless.  The bike had solid, but not stellar, acceleration and handled very well.  A few rough patches on the roads around the Convention center were handled without issue by the bike I rode.

Susan was also able to get on and off without much issue and that was another plus in the bikes corner.

I could have rode Kymco scooters, a few off road vehicles, the Beamers, the Suzuki's and others.  However we were alternatives to ride the Can-Am and waited over an hour in the hot Florida sun to do that.  Each demo ride out lasted anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.  Some dealers required you to supply your full gear (helmet, jacket, boots at minimum) where others were OK with you in long pants and a helmet (Can-am supplied Nolan helmets in various sizes for examples).

Inside the convention hall was a variety of dealers.  Most of which frankly didn't interest me.  I don't go off road riding, I'm not really that interested in the mechanical side of things.  Yes, I want the best performance out of my bike for the longest time possible...but I've not desire to go to your booth unless you have some nice swag.  So that left me looking at bikes and oh what a selection there were!

I showed Susan the Honda NCX 700 that is on the short list of "new bikes" when its time to buy a replacement.  I ended up have to defend a Suzuki Burgman 650 from a few people that were putting it down, but the woman there kept looking at it wistfully and I think I convinced her it was a good touring bike.."A lounge chair on wheels" is how I described it.

Vespa and Piaggio was both represented well and truthfully I didn't spend much time looking at their products.  While I love scooters I'm probably moving away from them and going towards a semi-automatic or fully automatic motorcycle.

I did however want to look at helmets and fell in love with a new Shark helmet.  It will not be able till March of next year in the US and will probably sell for $700 dollars.   However it was amazing, a full sun shield at a touch of a button, good venting and most amazing to me...I put it on and the ambient noise around me was reduced to zero.  I mean, nothing.  I could still hear, still focus on what was around but it was a several decimals lower than before.

For a cheap bastard like me to want one right then and there, and probably would have paid full price, told me I was going to take a closer look at Shark in the future.  Somehow I missed the Bell Helmet display even though I wanted to stop in.

one of the more interesting bikes on display

Overall I enjoyed myself and would love to go a second day.  Just to ride some of the bikes I am considering in the future.  To compare the smaller Kymco's to my beloved Kimmie (Kymco is discontinuing anything bigger than a 400 in the US for 2017).  To ride the BMW's and others that were there.

To take in some of the lesser know companies and display's.  To just look.

I've posted additional photo's to the Scooter Revolution Facebook page

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A post in several parts

1) - Hurricane Matthew - Oct 2016.

He skirted up the coast line on the Eastern side of Florida and caused no damage in the center and western parts of the state where I live.  It was however a bit scary to be that close to a "loaded gun."  We had a few overcast and rainy days, but the damage on our side was nominal.

The damage caused by him in North Carolina will run into the billions and it would not have taken much for him to have shifted just a bit  to the left and run rampant over Florida.  Well the hurricane season is not officially over (that's on November 1) it seems that is the last big storm of the season.  It's been an interesting year, and it's driven home the fact that it's only a matter of time before the "big one" hits us.

2)  Nickles and Dimes -

Lately I've seen to have been dying from 1001 small financial cuts.  It's nothing to be concerned about in the long run, as we have small family issues and friends coming into town.  Which means eating out, drinks, rides to the beach and everything else.

 A little need for something here, a little need for something here.  My bonus being about half of it normally is did not help matters either.

One such little need was the gas gauge on Kimmy.  I pulled in for gas the way I normally do, filling the tank to the brim and knowing that I would have at least 156 miles till my next fill up.  Generally I get gas around the 150 mark, no need to push the bike further than she needs to go.

I must have traveled a few miles before I realized the gauge was stuck at 1/8 of a tank.

This is not something that needs fixed right away and I'm pretty good at remembering to reset my tripometer. Kimmy is getting older and although she runs well, I was reminded that eventually she's going to start nickle and dime'ing me to death.  

I've discussed getting a newer model bike in the past and what I would like to buy.  However I'm not their financially yet and probably am about two years away from any new toys.

Things like a new helmet and jacket however can not be put off for to long.  I'm "expanding" in all the wrong places and will need a new jacket soon.  My mesh jacket recently lost it's shoulder pad, as it came apart in three places.  It's an easy fix, just order a new shoulder pad, but again I have two jackets.  Why not buy one very good three or four season jacket and be done with it?

The same thing applies to my helmet.  I would like to have one with access to a Bluetooth phone and GPS.  It's not necessary at this time, it's not needed at this time...but I want to plan for the future.  The helmet I buy today will last me for at least five years.  I am not the same rider I was five years ago, I doubt I'll be the same rider I am five years from now.  Why not prepare for it.

It is for these reasons that I am planning to go to the Aime Expo this coming weekend. 

Which brings me to part three.

3) Time may change me, but I can't trace time

For the past 10 years or so I've run my own so successful part time business.   It started because I needed a job and the only one I could find was delivering papers.  I hated it but it helped pay the bills, then I realized that I could also deliver a few magazines in addition to the papers that were on my route.  So I picked that up.

Then we started with a weekly paper.  It grew, slowly at first.  At one time it was bringing me in another $15000 a year on top of my "regular job."  It wasn't hard, I would say approximately 16 to 20 hours extra a week in a car spread over 3 days.

It was the mileage that was the killer but thanks to a very weird American tax code,  I was making money even though it appeared I was losing money.  Frankly that's how Trump can report a huge loss of income but still be making millions.  In addition I could put my "losses" in to Roth IRA's and other tax advantage plans and make additional income.  I can't support the man but I understand how he's successful while still reporting losses.

Like everything however the business environment changes.  I was at a point last year where I lost money.  This year looks to be less of a loss but it still hurts the bottom line of the company.

Sue and I have discussed different options in the past.  From rentals to restaurants and each time we seem to hit a roadblock not of our making.  We have been outbid, we've had a scary illness scare, we were unable to get the loan because the property was leased, etc.

I've been involved in the financial and insurance fields most of my life.  I've been involved in sales most of my life (what ever happened to the simple guy that wanted to teach biology?).  With the exception of  about seven years where I wanted to do anything BUT financial stuff - this was after the great crash and I wanted nothing to do with it - I've always been involved in Banking and Finances and Insurance.

It's been a long time for me to get to this point but I've decided to open my own office.  I'm starting small, part time and with "simple: stuff - I'm still not ready to leave my full time job, but it's time.  I'm licensed in all states, I've been bonded, licensed and insured.

It's the project that has taken up most of my time these last two or three weeks and kept me off of Kimmie. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

October plans

September has always been a bittersweet month.  September has always been a harbinger of change.  September found me riding a bit more and a bit longer but also found me being off my bike for the last two weeks or so.

The threat of Hurricane Matthew may, or may not, keep me off the bike for a few days as well.  Even though it appears that I am on the "dry" side and far enough to the west that damage in my area will, hopefully, be minimal.  The last one that came through the area caused minimum damage.  It's not scheduled to make landfall to Thursday in the early morning...but it should be interesting to say the least.  I'm hoping this one, which will hit the shore as a Category 4, will stay far enough east to not be a problem for me. 

I've spent most of the last two weeks or so changing departments at work, gearing up for our busiest time of the year...all the while considering an offer to supplement my income with an independent option on the side.   I was going to turn it down, but retirement is coming quicker than I would like and the possibility of building my 401K's and annuities is tempting.

I've spent much of the past month working towards goals: at work and raising what funds I could for the Distinguished Gentleman's ride.  Tampa raised about $21,500 for the cause and had approx. 150 riders in the event itself.

I have ridden to work where I could, I have rode here and there when and where I could.  The boring non-exciting day to day stuff that fills in most of our lives.   Now suddenly it's October and once again I'm faced with change, some of it is my own making.  Some of it has, like a inevitable change of seasons, been forced upon me.

It will be a busy month, as I attempt to once again take part in the Scooters for Hooters event.  This is an event I've been trying to attend for the last three years it seems, only to have something prevent me from attending.  I'm not fundraising for this, I'm intending to just pay my riding fee of $30 and riding with Kimmie covered in pink to support those that have had, or are currently fighting breast cancer.

Yes, Ladies you can talk me into buying a helmet
Later on in the month Tim Zbell, a old friend and drinking partner - and former amateur motorcycle racer, will be in town for wine, woman, song and the AIMExpo 2016.  This is another event that I've been wanting to attend for the past several years, but have been unable to for a variety of reasons.  This is the last year it will be in Orlando, as the 2017 show will be in Columbus, Ohio.    I am in need of not only a new helmet, but possibly a new jacket as well, and I can think of no better place then the AIME to pick up one or the other.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Distingished Gentlemans Ride - Tampa 2016

152 bikes.

Over $20 thousand dollars raised for a good and worthy charity.

Over 170 miles (including the ride itself, getting to the ride and making my way home) ridden through some of the prettiest country in all of America.  It's easy to forget that I live in paradise at times, and I took a moment or two to glance over my shoulder at some of the calmest and bluest water in the world just to remind myself of that fact.

It was worth riding in 90+ degree (32.2 C) heat just to see the smiling faces and bemused looks of wonders of pedestrians and cagers alike.  More than a few filmed us going by, in our dresses and suits.  Sometimes I just needed to look ahead and see nothing by bikes.  Sometimes I needed to glance in the mirror and smile at all the bikes that were behind me.  Bikes of all shapes, sizes and color.  BUT only one scooter and it's happy though very hot rider.

Kimmie held her own against various Trimuph's, Harleys, Ural's Honda's, Moto Guzi's and at least three or four Royal Endfields, Vincent's and even a Norton.  Let's not forget the BMW's, Suzuki's and an odd Kawasaki's or two.  Both new and classic bikes were represented.

The ride itself wove its way through downtown St Petersburg, where more than one person pulled out a camera and filmed us going by.  We zipped through this town and again I feel the need to spend the day just looking for, and taking photo's of the various murals.  I actually was able to take more than a few photo's of nearby murals as we stopped en mass at Green Bench Brewing for a hour long beer and food stop.  I have to be honest, I'm not sure what beer I had but it was quenching!

We worked our way down the city and across the Gandy Bridge, where people enjoying a day out on the sand waved and pointed.  Then up and on to the bridge itself, the dark blue water looking so refreshing well a light ocean breeze cooled us down.

Into Tampa proper now, around the bend and onto Bayshore Blvd.  This is one of my favorite rides in the city as we cruise along the Bay moving effortlessly towards the city, then into the downtown itself were a cute little girl of no more than two or three bounced up and down and waved by closing her fingers as only little kids do.  More than one biker waved back to her, which only made her more excited to see us go by.

Onto the highway now, opening Kimmie up a bit to stretch her legs as we head towards Ybor City and the last stop, Coppertail Brewing.  Although I did make a brief stop after the ride at my favorite watering hole, Cigar City Cider and Mead since I told them I would.

This ride was a first in a lot of ways for me.  It's also the biggest group of riders I've ever had the pleasure to ride with.  It was my first charity run, and I raised just about 625 dollars for fighting prostate cancer.  Thank you all who donated.  I am rather proud that I finished in the top 10 fundraisers  If you have yet, and would still like to give something you can donate here.  Just be sure to do so before October 3rd.  That's the last day donations can be accepted and it is tax free.

Sadly a friend of mine that was going to ride with us had last minute bike problems and was unable to make it, meaning that I don't have any Go-Pro footage to share.   However at times we had a jeep with what I assume was a professional photographer following us, and even a drone above us at time.  Once I have access to that footage, I'll be sure to share.  I'll also share more on my Facebook page

In the meantime:

How's that for vintage, an exposed belt drive with chain linkage shifting.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

A wash, a wax, a haircut and shave....dapper is as dapper does

The "honey do" list is rather extensive today.  I'm going to be gone most of the day tomorrow if not the whole day participating in the the 2016 Distinguished Gentleman's ride for prostate cancer research and men's health in general.  I have my outfit ready, although I decided against the bright orange 1970's tux for several reasons.

Their are, currently at last count, approximately 150 riders taking part in the ride.  Out of all those riders I finished in 6th place with nearly $625 dollars raised.  Thank you to everyone that supported me.  I'm honored and happy to call each and everyone of you my friend. 

Today I try to complete the "honey do" list.  My beloved Kimmy is going to get a wash and wax.  I might as well do the cars as well right?  I need a haircut and a shave.

Sadly I don't think I'll be able to post any pics or do a write up till Monday morning or later.  A friend of mine who's also riding in the event will be shooting Go-Pro video as well and we should have that posted soon as well.

 Overall I'm excited about the whole thing.  With only one day left I feel it's ok to share the route.