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Saturday, March 31, 2012

For the want of a bolt

A few days ago I took the bike to have the rear wheel replaced.  Some young guys did it and I have had maintenance done by this shop before.  What could go wrong?
Answer:  Something simple, something that could have been overlooked but should not of been.  When riding a motorcycle of any sort a simple mistake can quickly become a disaster.

To make matters worse, when I was riding away from the shop something just didn't fee right.  I gripped the left hand brake lever to give it a squeeze and it just felt off, if felt "soft".  I shook my head, thinking it was just the new tire, a figment of my imagination.  On the way home the ride was beautiful, wonderful, joyful.  The new tire seemed to be working wonders on the twisty roads I followed home, so I put the brake issue behind me.  Thinking it was just me breaking in a new tire.

Then another day goes by, it feels right as I commute on the mostly straight roads home.  Then today I worked early meaning I would have to ride in rush hour traffic.  I didn't bother with the T-clock inspection.  I wish I had.  I may have caught the problem, or it may have been overlooked.  I don't know.   I knew I had good oil and tire pressure.  My light worked, my kickstand was solid.
So I left, feeling good and entered traffic for my thirty plus mile ride to work.  When I had gone about twenty miles I reached for the was not there.  Nothing.   I had no rear brake at all.

I was within ten miles of work, I could make it with just the front brake.  I rode on running through possible problems in my head.  Did I have enough brake fluid?  Did something happen that caused the brake fluid to leak or bleed?  Were the brake pads that worn?
With five miles I heard the sound of metal rubbing on metal when I applied the rear break for a test.  I made it to work, looked and then looked again.  A bolt was missing on the rear brake caliper.  This in turn lowered the caliper OFF the rotor.  By pushing the brake the piston pushes the brake pads out and since the rotor was not stopping the pad, it pushed the piston all the way out.  Since the pads did not push back the handle did not have pressure.  Since the caliper if off the rotor, it was rubbing on the rotor making the grinding noise I heard.

In other words...for want of a bolt I could have really fucked up my bike and myself.

Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good.

What happened next was a series of phone call, to the shop that did the original work.  They told me they couldn't send anyone out to pick it up or even fix it for me as it sat in the parking lot of work.  It was my only ride home at the time, and I was not going to risk riding home without 1/2 of my I feared what would happen if something came loose and got caught up in the back wheel.  A high side fall would not be good.
Towing was covered by my insurance company so I had the bike flat-bedded to the shop.  At this time I don't even know if the shop has a bot to fix the problem although I think they do.

Funny thing is that even though I feel it's the shop's fault, they should have caught something so simple...they should have done the job right the first time.  I'm madder at myself.  I learned a few things.  One thing is that I'm confident enough in my ability as a rider to handle what could have been a very bad situation and that confidence is not always a good thing.  I also learned that T-CLOCK is there for a reason and needs to be done every time.  No exceptions.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Sales Challenge - or how many butts can you get on a bike?

Challenges.  It seems that the blogs I like to read are full of challenges.  Take so many pictures in so many days.  Drive to X and find Y.  Is the "Hokey Pokey" actually truly what it's all about?  

To paraphrase an ancient Chinese proverb "A crisis is an opportunity."  Every challenge provides an opportunity as well, to expand our horizons and, in the case of a cup cake challenge, my waistline.  I can also think of no greater crisis than the raising cost of oil and gas (and all that is associated with it) and global warming.  So when a friend of mine mentioned on Facebook that he was interested in buying a scooter I took notice.  A few people at work and elsewhere have asked me about what it takes to get a license, a scooter or what type of motorcycle might be best for them.

Have I got a challenge for you!
This challenge came to me a few days earlier when I stood outside my local scooter dealership soaking up the warm late March sun.  A gentleman came up to me and started asking me questions about the merchandise.  I quickly and clearly identified myself as not working for the dealership and was just getting my bike worked on.  Then I proceeded to give him a little advice about the art of scootering.  Hey, I was bored.

After he actually bought the scooter, the salesman teased me a little bit about me trying to take over his job.

That's my challenge to you.  Convince someone to join the two wheeled community.  Your friends, your relations or coworkers, anyone in fact that you think might be interested in riding or commuting on two wheels.  What I'm curious about is how you would convince them to buy into the two wheeled world.  Are you going to rely on simple economics - gas is only going to go up after all.   Appeal to their "Green" side by talking about carbon footprints or will it be a combination of both?   Or will it be more about the "WHEE!!!" factor about how fun riding a scoot or motorcycle will be.  Will you talk about the sense of adventure?  The history and culture of scooting?

So that is my challenge to you gentle reader.  How do you "sell" a motorcycle or a scooter to your friends?  Your Spouse and loved ones?  Or just some random people off the street?

No prize money will be given away.  no statues will be raised in your honor but you will have the satisfaction of converting another cager over to the dark side.  I'm looking forward to see what you come up with.  Feel free to link your blog to this post.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Updates, I do updates.

Finally got a chance to sit down and discuss the activities of the last few weeks.  I've been busy with work, projects and other odds and ends.  It's feels good to get behind the keys of the old computer and write a little.
A few things to discuss.  I like my new rear Pirelli Diablo tire.  I can see why it's the unofficial favorite of riders on the Burgman forums.  I've never really noticed how great a difference in tires can make.  Change a tire or two in a car and frankly I don't see any improvement in performance.  Changing the back tire really did make a difference.  Maybe it's just in my mind but the bike seemed to grip the road more.  The lean angles seemed more stable.   
While the bike was up on the rack the mechanic mentioned that the exhaust gasket was going to need replaced.  Which started me thinking, what else can I get fixed.  The CVT belt has been on for 15K, the owner's manual states it needs replaced at 14K or so.  So they ordered that for me as well.  The late Gary B and I discussed Dr Pulley sliding roller weights.  He suggested upgrading from the factory model to a higher weight as they reduced the RPM's.   Lower RPM's of course increase fuel mileage...and since I ordered the CVT belt I figure "what the hell."   Just don't tell the GF I'm sinking $100 dollars or more at once into the bike.  I've not ordered the parts yet...but giving it some thought.  
Sadly Gary also borrowed by owner's manual before his untimely death.  With the holidays and with everything else I never bothered to ask for it back.  I was able to order one via the local Suzuki dealership.

I've been kicking myself over last Saturday's Scooters 4 Hooters ride in Orlando.  My girlfriend is a survivor of Ovarian cancer and any group that helps find a cure to any cancer is near to our hearts.  I had a rare Saturday night off and learned about this rally to late to do anything about it.

Team Scooter Trash is entering the soon to be famous 2012 Scooter Cannonball.  These are locals from the Tampa area and I certainly hope they finish the race and do it in a grand manner.  You can follow their progress on their website and I believe they will be making updates to the St. Petersburg Scooter club website as well.
Another Burgman rider and his wonderful wife will also be riding in the Cannonball.   Considering how this just might be his last great adventure - he was diagnosed with two serious life threatening forms of cancer.   He's bit it so far, but in the end we all know who will win.   I would love to give out more information about this but he has asked me not to for privacy reasons and I respect that.  

So here's hoping all 60 plus riders return safely and with stories to tell.

Monday, March 19, 2012

The rear tire and a lesson.

It was just a random check on my tire that brought the bald spot to my attention.  That spot effectivally stopped any riding till I got the tire replaced. 

You can see the bald spot clearly.
I had planned on replacing the rear tire about 2 or 3 weeks ago, but life reared it's ugly head and things got complicated quickly.  A combination of rain, odd work schedules (for example at the time of this writing I've managed to work 24 hours in the last 48) and just my own putting off the inevitable resulted in me having to get a new tire rather quickly.  I ended up buying a Pirelli Diablo tire from Bike  As it so happened this seems to be the preferred tire of Burgman owners anyway.

There is a lesson to be learned in this of course,  any new rider should get in the habit of doing a T-CLOCK inspection.   It's not something I do very often but I need to.   In a nutshell T-CLOCK is Tires and Wheels, Controls, Lights, oil, Chassis and finally Kickstand.  A nice little acronym created and used by the MSF.  For some odd reason, I decided to do one before getting on my bike about a week ago. I'm glad I did.
Close up side view.

I'm sure that I could have driven a bit further without a problem. When my new tire arrives (which it just did a moment ago) I've got to ride the bike to where I'm getting the tire put on and balanced. Of course I could have also been motoring down the road and then woke up in a nice hospital bed going "Ow that hurts" as well. And really what is more important? Taking 5 minutes out of day to at least give a cursory once over to the bike or missing 5 months of work as they stitch me back together?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Turtle

Living in Florida it's easy to forget the fact we live in Paradise.  Nature literally is right outside our door - I have identified at least 15 species of bird at my bird feeder including feral chickens.  Rabbits, an armadillo, and at least two turtles have made an appearance outside my door much to my cat's annoyance.

Just a little guy, the one in the story was twice this size
I'm a nature lover.  So when I was early going to work the other day I decided to take a brief side trip and ride one of my favorite roads.   It's not a very long ride, in fact you just start to enjoy it and it's over, but it has 16 fun turns in that very short distance.   Normally I turn around and go back the way I came.

I saw the turtle on the side of the road, it was as huge as a dinner plate.  He was facing away from the road just minding his own business.  Normally I try to stop and help keep them off the road after all I've seen burly truck drivers stop short to allow turtles across the road.  But he wasn't going anywhere.

So I did my quick turns, grinning in the sunlight and was heading back up the road, thinking that I would stop if the turtle was still there.   Some moron had hit the turtle.  It's body lay broken on the side of the road, and you could tell from the way the blood and innards were scattered that the son of bitch had purposely driven off the road to hit the poor beast.

It put me into a foul mood all day.

I was reminded of an old Rod McKuen poem:

Thoughts on Capital Punishment

There ought to be capital punishment for cars.
that run over rabbits and drive into dogs
and commit the unspeakable, unpardonable crime
of killing a kitty cat still in it's prime.

Purgatory, at the very least
                       should await the driver
driving over the beast.

Those hurrying headlights coming out of the dark
that scatter the scampering squirrels in the park
should await the best jury that one might compose 
of fatherless chipmunks and husbandless does. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The van

You never know what is going to happen when you ride.  You can prepare, you can anticapate and do your best not to put yourself into a bad position.

I was coming up to the red light, already starting to slow when the mini van cut right out in front of me. 

I didn't even have to think.  Brakes on, turned the bike sidways and looked for a way out.   There was none. 

I didn't hit the van, I didn't put the bike down.   I did look at the driver with a "WTF???" face long and hard.

Thank you motorcycle safety course. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Thinking of buying a scooter? Want advice?

May 1, 2014 - UPDATE:  A lot of you are looking for information on Scooters.  A few of you may even buy one, so I'm going to recommend you read not only my article but also this piece on Cheapskate Scooters.  You want to buy the bike that's best for you, but also one that is best for your situation.

I write this blog because I am still new to the joy and the art of motorcycling.  I have questions and concerns and hopefully someone just as new or newer than me stumbles across my pitiful attempt at being helpful.  If they gain some new knowledge or somehow avoid making a mistake that I made then wonderful.  

So with gas getting close to and, as your reading this, probably over $4 a gallon I thought it best to give a little run down on what to look for if your thinking about life on two wheels.  I’m not going to say Brand X is better than Brand Y, that’s not my job nor the purpose of this entry.

Basically, if you were to come up to me on the street and ask me for advice on buying a scooter my answer might surprise you.

1)         Do not buy a scooter based on gas mileage alone.

Buddy's all in a row.
Okay, so you want to get somewhere between 50 - 100 miles per gallon.  You want to save money -  I understand that.  But do a little research first.  For example, what is the speed limit on the majority of roads you drive on?  Is that speed limit more wishful thinking or is it accurate?  If you’re driving a little 50CC over 50 miles round trip down the highway with cars zipping past you at 75 miles per hour…it may be time to reconsider your choice of scoot.

That being said, buy a motorcycle or scooter based on what you want to do.  Don't buy something that is to powerful for you either.  You don't need 1200cc between your legs to make you a man if your not comfortable with that type of power.

What do you plan to use your Scooter for?  Commuting?  Touring?  Errands?  I was very surprised to find that, over time, my riding needs changed.  I started as a simple commuter, and now I would rather take the bike out than the car.  Your mileage may vary.

2)         Get endorsed and Gear Up

To make it as simple as possible, this might save your life.  The endorsement class will also break you of some bad habit and teach you to be a better, and safer, rider.  Well motorcycles and scoots are great fun and a form of cheap transportation the truth is that jackets, helmets and other things are not.  A good “cheap” armored jacket might run you $125.  A really good helmet about the same.  Gloves vary in price and frankly I'm not sure why.  Find a pair that fit and your comfortable with.  Boots can be found cheaply (for example I got mine at Wal-mart), just make sure they are waterproof and have oil resistant soles.

These are a one time expense.  Wear them all the time.  Hence the term "ATGATT" which stands for All The Gear, All The Time.

Scooters and motorcycles are dangerous, have a lower profile than your car and don't react like a car does.  Preparing for that moment when something goes wrong, and it will go wrong, just makes common sense.

3)         Are you a gearhead?

I’m not a gear head but I learned a few things because motorcycles and scooters can be expensive to work on.  For example an oil change in your car can be done by your local mechanic for roughly $20 US dollars.  An oil change on your bike might be twice that.
You can go through life not ever learning how to do something, learning to change the oil and other basic maintenance is just part of owning a bike and might save you some money.  Motorcycles and scooters are not that common (yet) and frankly your local mechanic may not be qualified to work on your ride despite the fact he's worked on your car for 20 years.  Learning how to do basic maintenance is a requirement of owning a bike.  If your not willing to do that consider public transportation.  

4)  Are you willing to suffer?

You will be hot.  You will be cold.  You will be wet.  You are exposed to the environment and have to make a choice to accept that.  

5)  Are you willing to have a smile on your face for the rest of your days?

Because you will.  

If your willing to take some advice, then I think your going to not only save money but have a hell of a good time doing it.