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Friday, December 27, 2013

Cold Weather Challenges - Part two

I have to be honest, I was not sure if I wanted to return to this topic.  After all, I live in Florida and our "cold" is completely different from the "cold" of my home state of Pennsylvania or even the "cold" of Virginia.  But I was looking through the stats of the site and searches for "cold weather" and "cold weather riding" seem to be one of the driving forces for generating traffic to this blog right now.  That means many of you are reading this old post, which sadly does not contain much, if any, useful information.

So frankly, gentle reader if your looking for information about riding your motorcycle in the snow, or what tires are best suited for winter traction, your in the wrong place.  There are way better blogs and forums to get that information from.

All that I can do is pass on my little tidbits of knowledge that I've learned.  So read on, you might learn something.

What I will talk about is wind chill and preparation for those cold days.  We do have cold snaps here in Tampa that can be in the low 30 to high 20's (0 to - 6 C).  First thing that we as motorcyclists need to remember is this.  It's not the cold that will get you.  But the wind chill! 

All that graph shows is a loss of heat.  So if your traveling along at a nice clip of 50 mph (80.5 KPH) and the air temperature is 40 F (4.4C) your body is thinking that it is actually 26 F (-3.3 C).  The faster you go, the colder it's going to seem.  The cold can affect your reaction times, your judgement and finally your body.  This is called Hypothermia and is the rapid, progressive mental and physical collapse accompanying the chilling of the inner core of the body.  It's caused by the exposure to cold and is aggravated by being wet, the wind and exhaustion.  In fact, the state with the most reported cases of Hypothermia is Florida.  We are simply not used to the cold or understand how it can affect us.

BUT understanding some things and doing things right can extend your riding season into the cooler months and into into the winter.  PLEASE remember, for information about riding in snow or ice you need to go elsewhere.  I can not be held responsible for your decision to ride in that type of conditions.

What I can do is this.

STEP ONE - LAYERS (pay attention to the base layer!) -  For me the base layer is often just a pair of long johns (sometimes called thermal underwear) or a pair of fleece underwear.  It should be tight against the body but comfortable at the same time.  The snugger the fit means that less air will flow between your body and the clothing.  This retains your body heat for a longer period of time.

If your commuting like I do I would recommend the fleece underwear.  It breaths a bit more than the thermal underwear and that will make you a bit more comfortable at work.

An excellent example of layers
After that layers can be added or subtracted as needed.  I might wear a long sleeve shirt over my base, then a sweater over that.  If its colder still, I will throw on a hooded sweatshirt under my jacket (the hold fits under my helmet and keeps my head and back of the neck warm) and to protect my legs - a pair of sweat pants.  No, I don't look sexy but I am warm.  Yes, I've pulled over to put on a pair of sweat pants over my jeans.  I've even heard of riders slipping on their rain gear to help them stay warm.

My jacket is waterproof and I zip up the vents to keep the cold air out as much as possible.  Remember that air can act as a barrier, so when you layer your actually trapping warmer air close to your body and that helps protect you.

STEP TWO - AVOID THE WIND - Or in other words, make sure there are no gaps where the wind can get in and start to cool you down.  Gauntlet style gloves fit over the sleeves of your jacket and protect you that way.  "Hippo Hands" do the same thing.

An example of "Hippo hands"
Things like wearing a full face helmet and heaving a good windshield help as well.   You want to direct the wind around you if at all possible.

A Scarf or Balaclava (or even a ski mask) will help protect the face and neck; the neck actually has two large veins that bring blood back to the heart.  Keeping these veins warm will help keep you warm.

STEP THREE - KEEP YOUR HANDS AND FEET WARM - You should already be wearing waterproof and slip resistant sole boots.  If not, buy some.  I'll wait.

Back so soon?  Good!  The reason why is simple.  Your body will want to keep the core warm and your brain functioning.  Keeping your hands and feet warm is low on your body's list, plus there are lots of small blood vessels that can transfer your body's heat to the outside air if exposed.  Wearing wool socks in your boots or two or three pair of socks will help.

Find a good pair of windproof riding gloves.  If possible the gloves should have some sort of clasp or elastic to tighten it against your riding jacket.  The gloves should also be insulated.  Heated grips and electric gloves may be a solution as well.

A simple and rather elegant solution believe it or not is to wear a simple pair of latex gloves under your gloves.  The latex does not breath so the air trapped between the glove and your skin serves as another insulating barrier from the outside cold.

STEP FOUR - EAT! - You want to eat to keep your energy up.  You want to eat to healthy of course, for your body is producing a lot of heat.  Heat which you now have trapped in layers of waterproof and warm clothing.  There is a reason why we humans generally gain weight during the winter months and no it's not because fat is a insulation.  Your body produces more heat on a full stomach than it does an empty one.

So there you have it.  Remember these are just tips that I picked up.  Your mileage may vary and the smartest thing you can do is know your limits.  If your feeling cold, then stop.  Have a cup of coffee and a few donuts in a nice warm place.  Know the symptoms of Hypothermia and never ever be afraid to ask for help or go get help.

I want to see you out on that road.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

My personal Top 10 list for 2013

First off - we here at the Scooter Revolution want to wish you and yours a happy Holiday season.  May the upcoming year be joyful and safe for you and your loved ones!

The end of the year is a time for us to reflect on what really matters.  At the end of the day, it's not about how many miles fell under our wheels, about the number of posts or even if how many people read this blog.  What matters to me is...did I grow as a person?  As a biker?

So here is my top 10 posts pulled from the posts that I have made (or will make - more on that in a bit) this year.  Links are included in case you wish to read that post for the first time or for the 100th time.

#10 - the "end of the year mileage" post

How could one of the top 10 posts be something I've not even made yet?  Because at the beginning of 2013 I had a vague goal in mind.  To ride further and more than I did in the previous year.  I started off badly, having no bike at all till early or mid February.  The fact that I will probably put close to 13 thousand miles on Kimmie in that time frame means something to me.  I accomplished that vague goal.

#9 - Moments

A short throw away post of sorts.  I tried to capture the wonder and joy of riding that I experienced coming home from a rare day shift.  The ride continued well after the work day was over.

#8 - Americana

This was not an long ride, maybe 25 to 30 miles total, but it was a wonder day out with Susan riding on back.  We attended a small town event, found a great twisty road and somehow managed to get some wonderful photographs.  It was a beautiful day.

#7 - Frustration leads to Serendipity

What I loved about this post, and I purposelessly didn't go into to much detail about this part; is that Sue and I had a fight early in the morning.  My mood was horrible and it just got worse as the morning wore on.  Till I got on the bike.  This post is about the trans-formative power of riding.

#6 - Now back to the Real World Grind.

Back in January I was still recovering from a indecent that I had.  At this time I didn't have a bike, although there was no doubt in my mind that I would ride again.  If there was any doubt in my mind they were dissipated the second I saw the wonderful hilly and twisty terrain of Roatan, Honduras.  As the tourist bus creaked along all I could think about was riding these same streets on a motorbike.  To lean into the curves and top a crest with nothing but ocean before me.  I realized that riding was part of "who I am."  

I am still raving about the cashew wine too!

#5 - Tarpon Springs   

A wonderful 110 mile round trip with Susan on back.  This was really the first time that we rode for extended periods at highway speeds and at night with her on back.  A good day, a good time and some really...really fantastic food...and wonderful memories.

#4 - Buddha and Me.

The trip to the actual temple was a short one and I spent maybe an hour or an hour and a half total there.  Afterwords I rode with two destinations in mind.  I took the long way around, riding back roads and cross streets and slowly making my way towards those destinations.  At the end of the day, my tire went "POP" and I had to replace it.  But again, I was OK with it.  The day was warm and lovely and the miles I put on the bike were good ones.  I could live with a bad tire.  

#3 - Well it seemed like a good idea at the time.  

I have to admit that I was a bit surprised at the amount of interest this "throw away" post generated.  However it did point something out to me that I had missed.  I was using the bike for nearly everything anymore.  I jumped on it at all times of the day or night to run to the store.  To go to the doctor.  To live my life.  

#2 - The Equinox to Equinox Rally

When I entered the rally I did so with one goal in mind.  To get out more, to ride more.  I accomplished that goal and finished a very respectable 13th out of 200 + contestants.  I also proved something else to myself.  That even though I was on a scooter, I was still racking up points and miles.  I think I needed to prove to myself that I could ride further, ride harder than many on a "real motorcycle."  I accomplished that goal.  

I also got to go places and see things that I would not of otherwise been to.  Isn't that the goal of riding?  Of travel?  I think so anyway.


#1 - Earning my Rounder Stripes

I have to admit, at times earlier in my "biking career", I was feeling like a poser.  I rode a scooter.  I don't have a tattoo(s) nor do I fit what ever it is a "biker" is supposed to look like.  Well, I guess I got the making of a good beer belly.

Then with this post I realized something.  I was out there every day, in all types of weather riding.  I was out at night, I was out in the heat and the cold.  I choose to do that.  I choose a two wheeled life originally because I wanted to save money...but then it became something more.  I became a biker.

So why was I worried about what I rode or what that moron on the 30K Harley (you know the one with under 3,000 miles on it) thought.  I was doing more than most ever did....and I wanted more.

I still want more.

So there you have it!  My top 10 posts for the year of 2013.  What are yours?

Monday, December 16, 2013

To Modulate or not Modulate, that is the question

For the coming Christmas Holiday my lovely girlfriend bought me a Kisan Path Blazer Headlight modulator kit.  What this does is "flash" the headlight at oncoming traffic...the idea is that it makes the oncoming motorcycle that much more visible.  They certainly do catch the eye, and frankly when I've been riding or in my car, I've always found them to be a little annoying than anything.  You notice them however, which is the point.

I suppose that the best safety gear is the stuff that you never think about.  A fire alarm goes off when there is a fire, but you never really think of it till it screams in the middle of the night.  A steel toed boot is forgotten on the foot of the construction worker till a hammer falls on it.

The picture above shows my full "battle gear" (the woman on the back is my mother getting a photo op).  Each piece of gear serves a purpose, and I no longer think about putting my gloves on or wearing a jacket.  It's become habit, it's became part of who I am when I ride.  Sure at times it's been hot and uncomfortable, but I know it only takes a second for something to happen, and my gear has proven it's worth to me once already.  I will not ride without a helmet, and the few times I've gone somewhere without my jacket have felt weird.  ATGATT or nothing.

So I will be honest, to review the Path Blazer would be a tricky job for me.  Riding the bike, I'm not seeing it.  I will never know if a car was going to pull out in front of me only to see the flashing light and go "Oh, how annoying.  I better stop."  If it helps keep me safe when I ride that is worth the money.  The light only moderates during the day, it has a sensor that shuts it off at night, which I understand is the law.  Plus, would I really want a strobe light effect driving home at night?

Nor did I install the device, having neither the tools or the knowledge to install it.  So I can't tell you how easy or not it was.  However considering the mechanics told me it take about 90 minutes to install it and it took closer to 3 hours...I'm going to go with pain in the ass.

So why write about it at all?

Simply because more cars are using daylight running lights.  Motorcycles, since 1978 at least, have been designed voluntarily to burn the headlight during daylight hours as a way of making them more discernible.  Now, due to more and more cars using running lights, it's became even easier to lose a motorcyclist in the mix.  Will modulated headlights be a standard on motorcycles one day?

Sadly most motorcycles accidents happen either because a car did not see the cyclist or because the cyclist was being unsafe in some way.

At the end of the day...I want to come safe.  So I practice ATTGATT, I (more or less) obey the traffic laws.  I don't lane split.  I am on my bike nearly every day by if the modulator helps get me home in some small way I recommend it.

I'll recommend it to you too.  Next on the to do list.  Rear brake modulators.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Color the Season - a blog challenge.

Every now and again you have to take up a Challenge.  In this case the wonderful Wisconsinland blog posted a challenge about "Color the Season."  I supposed if I continued to live up north I would need some sort of color to break up the bleak whiteness.  

So I thought I would share a few photo's that, for what ever reason, did not make the cut on the blog.  And a few photo's of things found outside my door.

From the Buddhist Temple I visited.
Sometimes the best flowers are the ones you find on the roadside.

My back yard, the bench will be painted a antique white.

A stained glass window from a Abby.

I have two orange trees in the back yard.

I hope that brought a little color into your day!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Just Go.

All roads lead somewhere, and once your somewhere... you can always find your way home. - Teri McDonough Wilson

It's nearly the middle of December already and I've not written much.  Nor have I ridden that much.  Life, the holiday's, work...these are all excuses.

So it's good to get out.  I went out the other day, sans jacket and with my visor up, letting the cool air blow around me.  The winter sun is weak but it's a warm day - cool by Florida standards - and I dip over hills, through curves.  I lean right, left, turn the throttle up as I hit a straight away....a hours ride turns to two.

It's odd to just go with no destination in mind.  I really don't care where I am.  I turn left because the traffic is heading to the right.  I turn right because the road sign has an odd name.  I am not yet lost, but I don't know these roads.  I don't know this part of town.  It's okay, I don't need to know.
I ride through a swamp which stinks of rotting flesh and I startle some carrion birds, their black masses raising quickly, and they bitch at me for interrupting their meal of armadillo.  I wave at them absentmindedly.

Suddenly I know where I am, as I turn towards home.  I pass the entrance way to the park, I'm not done yet.  I need to go, to ride for a bit.   I feel the weight and the responsibility of maintenance, jobs, bills and being a adult slip away.  I'm a kid again, I swerve the bike running between imaginary cones on an empty street.  I consider popping a wheelie...but the adult in me frowns at that idea.  Some times the adult needs to be listened to.

The opportunity to go.  To get out.  To ride with no destination or time restraints does not offer itself willingly to me.  Sometimes I let it pass me by; after all there are books to read, food to eat and wine to drink.  I find myself yearning for some of Belize's Cashew Wine.

I think of trips, places I've been...the epic adventures I've had and know that at this moment I am happy.  At this moment I am free.  At this moment I am living an adventure.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A glimpse of the past, a glimpse of the future.

I saw the younger version of me today.

He was riding a little 250 Honda Rebel traveling the same route I take day in and out.  He was wearing a new helmet, a heavy jacket which was not designed to protect him in case of a fall...but it kept him warm.  He gripped the bars in a death grip, looking about.  I noticed his tentativeness in taking a turn.

I sat behind him in my full "official" safety gear.  My hands loose on the bars and I don't even think about the turn as I make it.  I've rode this stretch of road hundreds of time now, the lean angle is part of my muscle memory now.  Its curious how far I've come.

Will this young man fall in love with riding the way I did?  Will he put thousands of miles on his bike with the hope of putting tens of thousands on it?  I know the little Honda Rebel is a "starter bike" for many.  That within a year or so he'll desire more power, more speed.  I wonder if he'll end up with a closet full of helmets and jackets like I have.  I hope he does and like me, wonders how the hell he ended up with all that gear.  I hope he commutes on the bike, I hope he tours...I hope he falls in love with the road.

A lot of my friends on Google +, Facebook and blogs like this one have talked about being Thankful for various things.  It's the end of the year, the time I generally crawl into my brain and look back over the year...seeing where I was and where I hope to go. I don't make resolutions, I set goals.  I set goals of what I want to accomplish.  This coming year is simple.  I want to figure out how to buy that restaurant that Sue and I have been talking about for some time (10% off your final bill if you mention my blog).

I want to ride to the other side of Florida.  I want to take Sue on the back of the bike and head off somewhere for the weekend.  We have talked about taking a few days next year and go to Key West.  I'm hoping to get some secrets on good places to eat and see from Conchscooter.    I will be home in Pittsburgh in April for at least a week and a half.  I don't know how yet but I want to go riding in the hills.

We are slowly becoming friends with another couple that rides, and we may end up riding with them a bit more.  Only time will tell.

I want to ride the Green Swamp trail again, taking the more Northern route this time.  I hope to do that this Saturday if time and tides align.  I need to make the time, I must make the time.  I must ride.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The tire(d) post

Sometimes you need to get a thought out.  No matter what day, what calls to you, demanding to be let out.  It's 1:36 AM when I started this post.

I try to post a new entry to this blog about once a week.  Sometimes if something is stuck in the back of my mind demanding to be let out I'll update a bit early.

Sometimes I got nothing to say.  It's been one of those weeks where nothing has happened.  No epic rides off to places unknown.  No interesting stories; but I will write something anyway to keep the two or three people that read this regularly happy (Thanks Mom!).

Tonight it's tires.  A few weeks ago I rode down to a Buddhist temple for something to do.  I also had to check on a friends house and decided to do a bit of joyful riding as well.  Towards the end I heard a "POP" and pulled over to the side.  My bike tire had blown.

I was able to pull over quickly and realized that I had gone flat.  The good news was that I was able to keep the bike upright, it happened in a safe area (I had been riding on the highway before that), and that no one was on the bike with me.  Kimmie is good bike, she and what ever Guardian Angels I have kept me safe.  The bad news was it was on a Sunday, my mechanic could not look at it till Tuesday and the tire would arrive on Thursday.  So I missed out on a week of riding basically.

Tonight on the way home I pulled up to a red light and put down my foot...and slipped.  I run my foot along the surface looking for someplace solid.  The roadway felt like glass.  It could not have been cold enough for black ice?  No, I was in my regular jacket nice and warm in the high 60's (18 C)!  It had to be road wear, somewhere where the traction had worn to nothing.

Gingerly I moved the bike ahead and made the turn carefully.  Curious now to know what was going on.  Another spot at another light.  Now I was concerned.  Hitting a slick spot at any speed would not be a good thing.

Recently I replaced the rear tire with a Shinko product.  I was not that familiar with them, but at the time of the blow out due to some unforeseen expenses I went with a cheaper product.  Now I have my doubts if that was a good idea.  The tire is only rated for about 4,000 miles (6437 KM) and frankly I should wear through that tire pretty quickly.

Now I've a bit of a pickle.  Kimmie just doesn't "feel right" with the Shinko's on.  I know it's a perfectly good tire and I'm not experienced enough or an expert enough to say..."Hey this tire is good because".  I also understand that the tire needs to wear in a little as well.  I feel safe on it...but the tire does not "feel right" for what ever reason.

Which brings up a good question.  I replaced the tires on my Burgman three times (2 rear and 1 front) and used Pirelli Diablo's exclusively.  They came highly recommend by the good people on the Burgman USA forum and I figured they would know.    Yet what highly recommend for the 400 model was universally dismissed on the 650 model.  When I visited the Kymco forums asking for advice on tires the Michelin City Grip model was the preferred one to use on the Xciting.  Not so much on other models.

So...does it really matter?

Are certain brands of tires better for certain bikes?  Is it just a matter of personal choice?

Or does cost, quality of the materials used, tread design actually matter?  How does a new motorcyclist choose the tire that is best for them?  Is the all weather radial the best option?  How about the mysterious "Dark Side" where a motorcyclist actually uses a car tire?

How does one determine what tire is best for them?  I use my bike for my daily commute, so I need a tire that will perform well at highway speeds and in traffic.  Living in Florida means dealing with the heat and I need a tire that will stand up to that.  Also, do to the high amount of sand used in our asphalt and concrete mixes...slick spots will and do develop.  Should I invest my money in a tire designed for touring?  Tires designed for the rain?

In the end I suppose it's up to the individual rider what tire will work best for them.  Where there confidence, ability and yes, even their pocketbook will bear.  I know enough about materials science and engineering to know that tread design does matter.  That rigorous testing is done and done again.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Winter comes like a thief in the night.

Friends of mine up north post pictures of the first snowfall of the season on Facebook and other social media sites, a few of them put the bikes up for the year tucking them away in garages and sheds.  A few more hang on waiting for one more weekend, one more day to ride.

It's mid November.

I used to dread the coming of winter, the dying of the light.  The snow, the shush, the endless days of darkness.  Christmas provide some respite against the dread.  New Years and the Super Bowl a bit of joy to hold off the depression.  Still though, I felt my soul deaden during the winter months.

In Florida, winter is a different beast.  The days are still shorter, the air cooler...but the dread is gone.  Winter is the time I open up the house, get the yard work done that was put off all summer due to the heat and rain.  The seasons are flipped here.  Riding, which during the heat of summer can be a miserable affair, is easier and more enjoyable.

Sadly this weekend and last my riding has been confined to the usual commute, the odd meeting and a rather fun though cold jaunt with Susan on the back to a place called the Abby, where we were meeting some friends for lunch.

It was actually part of the golf course next to St Leo University and the Benedictine Abby.  I wanted to go down a bit early to get pictures of the place, Roadside America for example mentioned the unusual statue of Lady Liberty being carried by soldiers located on the campus of St Leo, and being someone who is attracted to the odd and unusual I wanted to see it.  The nearby Abby proved to be much more beautiful than I expected.

Other than that however I didn't do much riding.  Over the weekend I needed to catch up on my yard work and personal business efforts.  We are still looking into a new business venture and due diligence had to paid there.What I did do however was a lot of thinking as I put down weed barriers and mulch against the back fence to create a little sanctum.

Still a work in progress but looking better then it did.
This thinking was brought on by an interview I heard with author Allie Brosh who writes the Hyperbole and a Half blog.  In the interview she mentioned that as a 10 year girl she wrote a letter to the 25 year old woman she would become.  

It is an interesting idea, this idea of wondering who you will become.  Would the 32 year old me have believed that I would be living in Florida and riding a motorcycle? That I own my own business and considering starting a second?  Considering at the time I was working in Charlotte, NC and making good money as an engineering tech.  At that time I was happily married. Would that person would have guessed that at 47 he would live in Tampa, Florida.  Been divorced, remarried and seperated in that 15 year time frame?  That he will live in 3 different cities since then, undergo a bankruptcy, depression and nearly crippling loss?  What changes will happen in the next 15 years?

Will I still be riding?  Will the joy be the same when I find an unmarked road that takes me to places unknown.  Will I have stretched my proverbial legs and traveled out of state?  Will this business venture pay off?  Will I still be with Susan?  Still in my home?  

Some things are constant.  In one form or another I have always wrote.  Always dated woman that love to cook.  I have always had that wanderlust.  These things help define me.  No matter what the future's going to be interesting.

Friday, November 8, 2013

A ball of yarn (the revolution continues)

Before I begin this little article I need to explain how I view life.  Right now as I sit and write this my two cats, Tipper and Sparky, are playing with a ball of yarn.  They are having the time of there lives chasing it about, getting tangled in the loose threads and unraveling the yarn.   Some strings come apart; others are frayed and tangled, so much so your not sure where they begin and end.

What is more important?  The individual threads or the ball of yarn?  The ball of yarn represents society, the threads are all the various pieces that make up this crazy world.  Deep huh?  I bring that up because of the revolution what is going on right now in the motorcycling world.  While, that may be to strong of a word.  The forces that are acting on the motorcycling manufacturers are varied.  They have reacted in various ways, and for someone like me that likes to connect the various threads into a's been a joy to watch.

The mid range motorcycle market heats up with the introduction of the Harley Davidson "Street" group of bikes.  A 500cc and 750cc model which - despite much bitching from more traditional Harley riders - was a move Harley had to make to stay relevant in the market place.
Kawasaki enters the maxi scoot market with their J300 model, although at this time no US distribution is planned although I think that will change soon enough.  Honda is making a grab for a major chunk of the young urban professional market with there Grom, Forza and (highly modifiable) Ruckus models.  BMW exceed there projected sales of their "Urban Mobility" scooters by over 70% although no one expects that to last.  The Suzuki Burgman may not be the leader it once was in the maxi-scooter market and that is something Suzuki will need to address, and the reviews of the Kymco MyRoad are promising.

Suddenly it seems, there is a demand for mid size bikes.  Scooters seem to be leading the charge.  The question is why?

For one thing the traditional motorcycle audience is growing older, that much is obvious to all involved.  Sales have been falling over the last several years and  the industry needed to attract new riders.  Obvious again right?  There are other forces of course.  Crippling student debt for those under 30...lack of public transportation in most cities...the high cost of owning a car...people having to work 2 jobs just to make a decent wage.  More people than ever before are living with their parents, sometimes into the late 20's.

You contact the first two pieces of yarn and start to add the other threads.  You have to take into account other issues like the existing American highway system - your going to need some power to get from point A to B.  Your going to have to take into account gas prices and American sensibilities...the "Bigger is always Better" thought process that seems to define who we are.  Suddenly you have a large ball of yarn that leads you to one conclusion.

Any businessman will tell you that the group you want to advertise to is the 18 - 35 year old.  This is the age where, in the past, most of the disposable money was.  This is also the age where you establish brand loyalty.  If you start using product A at this age your most likely to use product A the rest of your life.  If your going to get someone on a bike this is the time to do it.

Advertisers and marketers are still singing the praises of the "You meet the nicest people on a Honda" commercials from the late 60's and early 70's.  Those ads probably did more to introduce the idea of a Japanese motorcycle to the to the states; they created an image.  An image the average joe could see themselves part of.   Items today like the Grom are seen as hip, fun and at a little under $3,000...very affordable!

The problem however is that this age group just does not have the same resources as it did ten or twenty, thirty years ago.  They have more options for what little disposable income they have.  A lot of smaller scooter companies realized this and took advantage of it.  That's one of the reasons if you look around in any city today you see a lot of little Chinese 50cc scoots.  The major motorcycle companies are jumping in into a market they believe will grow in the future, the mid sized range.  A lot of scooters are already there.

What's next may cause a heart attack in many traditional bikers, but the manual transmission is a dinosaur.  Expect to see more automatic motorcycles in the next five years or so.  A lot of people have cut their teeth on the automatic scooters, I don't expect them to change gears so to speak.

Personally I think it's a good thing.  I still don't think we will see the streets full of scooters like you do in Asia, but I do think the motorcycling segment of our population will grow.  The ball of yarn doesn't lie.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Buddha and me (and updates make 3)

**NOTE** At the end of my day the bike tire went BOOM!  You can read about that here.

When you’re traveling, it’s easier to let go of a beautiful moment because you know the adventure continues. No matter what rolls by outside your window, there will inevitably be more to appreciate when you get off the [bike]. - Ehren Prudhel from Tiny Buddha

When a friend of mine posted her photo's of a recent trip to a Buddhist Temple in nearby Palm River, Florida I knew I had to take the bike down.  I don't consider myself a religious person to any extent, but I've always had a affinity for Eastern Religious practices.  If anything I consider myself to be a lapsed philosophical Taoist.  Perhaps a Pastafarian Deist?

The chance to walk along the gardens and mediate, even for a few moments appealed to me.  I also enjoy Thai food which is a rarity for me, and they offered this for sale on Sunday mornings (sadly nothing offered peaked my interest).  

What attracts me to the Eastern Religions is the idea of wholeness.  At the risk of getting to philosophical, there is no separation between the mind and the body.  Diet and exercise (such as Yoga and Tai Chi)  are considered part of the everyday religious practice.  Sex is not viewed as a negative.  In fact, there seems to be very few negatives in the Eastern World view in my opinion.  Life may be full of pain and suffering, but it is just an illusion.  A wonderful, crazy, mind blowing illusion.

As I sit here and write this I can not help but think that is one of the reasons I enjoy riding so much.  The bike is not something I climb into and surround by, but rather something that I am part of.  A flick, a lean, a push or a pull and Kimmie obeys.  My scientific mind understands the control is just a illusion, physics will always win - I have faith that a cager will not cross the double yellow line or pull out in front of me.  There is a wholeness to riding.

I decided not to enter the temple proper due to the fact that I was in full riding gear, and I overhead a young man stating he wanted to say a few prayers for his deceased mother.  He did not need to have me walking about snapping pictures like a fool.

The grounds were rather small but there was a variety of exotic flowers and the riverfront was peaceful, I found myself wanting to come back during the weekday's and just sit and be quiet.  I also considered asking several monks to bless my bike.  Perhaps I should have.

The ride itself only took about 30 min and cover about as many miles on roads that I more or less understood and knew well.  I had been wanting to stretch Kimmie legs on roads I did not know, lately I've been feeling like all I ever do is ride to work.  While being a "scooter commuter" is all well and good it really does not challenge me as a rider.  Muscle memory tends to take over riding the same paths day in and day out.  While repetition may be good for Tai Chi, it is (in my humble opinion) not good for a motorcyclist.  While our attention will naturally fade on the back of a bike from time to time (just as it does in a car), I feel that our attention is sharpened on roads we don't know or ride often.  It's good to keep the mind active and awake when riding.  I'm glad my mind was active.  If you don't know what happened read here.

The ride would also give me a chance to try out the new "My Tracks" app for the smart phone.  I have been wanting a way to track and then review my ride to parts unknown.  You never know when your going to find that special road or roads that need to be explored further.  Or in my case a neat little winery or milk shake place via pinpoints!  This ride can be imported to Google Earth and then shared, which hopefully I did correctly at the end of this entry.

While I've not adopted the idea shown in the photo, I think that is going to be the next project.  Lately I've been meaning to go further and I could use my GPS and speedometer applications on my phone with ease in this set up.  Part of me likes the idea of seeing where I've been, the other part does not want to look back.  The camera on my phone could also take video if I mounted it correctly.  While not a fan of ride videos (which I find boring) I could see it use in some cases.

I'm not sure if I like the slow but steady move I'm making to an all Google platform.  I enabled Google + comments once before and it seemed that although my blog reached a wider audience, I received little to no feedback.  I would rather have the feedback, so if your unable to leave a comment PLEASE contact me via my email.  It's important for me to hear from you to determine what path I take.

Here is the URL to the ride.

Sunday, November 3, 2013


More to follow.  Don't worry I am fine.

The day started off beautifully.  I had been planning to ride down to a Buddhist temple a friend of mine told me about.  I rode down without issue, my GPS and new I-track application for my phone where syncing up. The sun was shining and all was right with the world.

A girl I work with asked me to stop by her house since I live close by and check on her home since she was on vacation.  Sure!  

I felt something give...a POP!  Then a wiggle.  Luckily I was at a low speed and on a road that was pretty empty.  I pulled over and found my back tire had gone flat.  

Funny thing is that when I was down at the Temple I considered having a monk bless my bike.  After all I thought, she is Korean and most likely Buddhist.    I decided not to, I was not sure how they would feel about that and was not sure if it was part of the tradition to bless an object.  It seems that I should have listened to her and had it done.

Lesson learned:  Always listen to your woman.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

The winter months brings it's own challenges.

Autumn has arrived in officially in Florida.

The humidity broke, the temperature has settled into the what I used to think of as "summer" weather when I lived up north.  My mesh jacket has been confined to the closet and I slip into my heavier "winter" jacket welcoming the extra weight and warmth of it for the cold ride home at 1 AM.  I start to get my head around the fact that soon it will be very cold on the way home.

The temp gauge on my beloved Burgman (RIP)
I know that the words "cold" and "Florida" don't exactly make logical sense.  I do admit to feeling some pangs of regret that my Northern friends don't have a year round riding season like I do and always feel a little bad bringing up the topic of "cold weather riding."

Well snow is as rare as a truthful politician it can get cold here.  I have photographic proof of it.  For me it's a challenge, I have to dress warmly yet still manage to look professional and competent.  Dressing in layers is not always possible...I have to work in an area we refer to as the "fish bowl" - a glass enclosed small space full of computers.  Sweaters and hoodies can only go so far and I don't want to do a strip tease just yet.  My boots are good at keeping my feet warm but my legs?  Oh that is a different story!  In the past I've gone so far as to wear thermal underwear under my dress pants or place a pair of old sweatpants under the seat and pull those over my dress pants.

Winters are dry here, but we do get a nasty wind off the land and sea at various times of day and wind chill becomes a issue.   Layering is all well and good, but again how much gear can I wear in to work to stay warm on my 37 mile (60 KM) ride home without sweating off my skinny little butt?

The simplest solutions are always the best.

Kimmie at work.
The migration of the snowbirds also brings heavier traffic and a greater number of bikes on the road.  With that comes new dangers and challenges. I'm not knocking older drivers, who on the whole tend to be safer drivers, but they do need to remember the old adage "look twice, save a life."   Yesterday for example I had cars pull out in front of me twice, neither time was I ever in danger but that's not the point.  I have to be more vigilant in the winter months.  For example, in my little town of Zephyrhills the ave population is a little over 13,000 people.  During the winter months that number climbs to something like three or four times that.  More people equals more problems equals more danger.  That is just a sad fact.

UPDATE - In a bizarre twist, I was meeting my girlfriend at a friends about 4 PM.  They live off a rather busy road that is hard to cross during rush hours.  I decided to head down a rough washboard road and meet them at a Italian restaurant.  I too,k my helmet out of my top case and road the 3 miles or so to the bar.  By the time I got there my top case was gone.  We went back to look for it and traveled that road back and forth at least 3 times.  There was no sign of it anywhere.  Not even plastic on the road.  So I need a new top case and a new pair of gauntlet gloves (which were in the case).  Also new reflective stickers.

Robert is not happy.

Monday, October 21, 2013


In my life I've had the opportunity to travel to the Bahama's, Canada, Honduras,  Kazakhstan, Mexico, The Netherlands, Russia and several states here in the USA.  Each place has it's own distant people, customs and heartbeat.  Each place is unique, wonderful, scary and beautiful.

Each place is magical.  In the end though....I love my home country.  It's got issues, warts and problems...but it is still home.  I've been thinking a bit lately about travel.  Partially because of a possible new position at work that would require me to travel (assuming I get it) around Florida.  Part of it being the anniversary of Jack Kerouac's death (one of my favorite writers).

Partially because of some the the blogs I read and their adventures.  How you can give up nearly everything to discover that you have all you need (Road Pickle).  About traveling down the Eastern Coast of the the US (Which is what Motorcycle Addiction did this summer), or across the US and Canada (Riding the Wet Coast).  The insanity that will be the 2014 Scooter Cannonball.  

Do to circumstances I was not able to attend the AIM Expo like I had hoped.  So plan B was engaged which was a little jaunt over to the San Antonio Rattlesnake festival.  I don't know what it is about these small town festivals.  They all share some of the same things...face painting, usually bad and overpriced food and drinks, craft shows.  Low mileage and heavily chromed out Harley's taken out for show.  Pony rides and petting zoo's.  Beyond that however is the stuff that really matters; kids running about playing and smiling faces, the unexpected find in a merchants' booth that you know your someone special would love.  That "insert your favorite food that you know is not good for you here" that makes you feel like a kid again.

This is why I travel.  To experience that joy.  To have that connection and maybe see something I've not seen before, or something I need to see in a new light.
 To have that wonderful human experience.  Sometimes it's easy to forget that I live in paradise.  It's to easy to be caught up in the day to day grind and we tend to forget that the world is full of endless wonder.  I know, I sound like a new age hippy.

I have a deep and profound respect for life, history and the natural world.  I want to share that love with others which is why I write.

So I thought I would share a few things with you gentle reader from the most recent adventure.  Funny thing, for a rattlesnake festival I didn't see one snake!
I liked this little road sign we found at a mutlt-family barn sale.  Some amazing old furniture, auto's and various odds and ends.  It was also at the end of a neat little twisty road that demanded further attention at a later date.

I'm not sure of the make or year on this but loved the look of the machine.  I sometimes wonder if the cars and trucks today will be looked at as works of art in 30,40, 50 years.

Kids lining up for the "Gopher Turtle" races.  The turtles were actually wood and your pulled on the strings to get them to move forward.  

A closer look at the "Turtle"  The head moved side to side and each kid got some sort of prize even if the turtle didn't finish the race.  I am glad I did not try the turtle soup they had for sale. 

Finally a old band from Pittsburgh known as the Gathering Field.  Back about 20 years ago they had a minor hit nationally with this song.  I understand they have reformed and are starting to tour again.  I just think it suits my mood right now.  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

“Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry.” much of a good thing(s)

This coming weekend was going to be busy.  There was a lot going on that demand my attention.  First was the AIM Expo in Orlando.  Like I mentioned in my last post; I really had no desire to go in the beginning but as the event approached the seeds of excitement grew.  The idea of looking at new farkles and trying out
Copyright TB Rowdies
new bikes appealed to me.  The event certainly peaked my interest and I had was certainly tempted to go.  I will also admit the interest in the expo would drive up my blog numbers and I want some neat swag.

My Tampa Bay Rowdies were also playing on Saturday night.  They are currently in second place in the standings and are pushing hard to defend their championship from last year.  There is frankly no room for error in the last three games and the reborn New York Cosmo's would have to collapse.  The odds are stacked against the Rowdies but soccer is a funny old sport.  I've not been able to attend as many games this year as I would have liked but with only two home games left I am running out of time!

Saturday is also the Rattlesnake Festival in nearby San Antonio, FL.  Just another of those goofy little festivals celebrated all over the United States to boost the local economy for a day or two.  I enjoy going to these little things simply because where else can I see Gopher Tortoise race?

This Saturday is also Sweethearts day and Sue and I had not been on any romantic adventures in some time.   The Bahama's cruise was more about my wanting to ride in a another country.  What romantic thing could I do that involved us riding on the bike?  Could we create our own Roman Holiday?  Two weeks ago we traveled to Tarpon Springs by bike and it had been a wonderful trip.  The last weekend we visited Strong Tower Vineyards and overall had a disappointing trip.  We drove up in the car and was disappointed in the wine and their fall festival overall.  The event was to small, there was nothing to do other than sample a rather poorly made wine.

As I write this I have a few things in my mind.  A few ideas forming.  The first was taking her down to a glass blowing workshop where she would learn to make her own pumpkin, to complete her love of Halloween.  I even went as far as ordering tickets...only to realize that the workshop I ordered the tickets for was in Corning, New York.  A red faced call to them got the issue resolved, much to their amusement.  So much for the world wide web!

Glass blowing example via the web.
At this moment I am not sure what I will do.  I know I seek adventure, but a little bit of romance is never a bad thing.  Getting out of the house to do something...anything is never a bad thing.  Even just having her wrap her arms about me and saying "Lets go." is a good thing.  A picnic on the beach, watching the sun set into the Gulf while reading poetry.  Trying new food at Veg Fest.  I want whatever life has to offer me.

Working six days a week like I do, staying at home is good too.  In the words of the immortal Jack Kerouac, who died some 44 years ago this week:  Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry.”  Speaking of Jack, another venture starts to form in my head.

Ah endless possibilities.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Moving forward.

Starting this week is the American International Motorcycle Expo (or AIMExpo).  It is being held in Orlando, Florida which is a mere 62 miles from my front door.  I have to be honest, I really had no intention of going.  After all I have been to Expositions before, both as a participant and a consumer.  Frankly I had no interest in looking at a bunch of stuff that may not apply to me.    I am a scooterist after all.

Now I'm thinking of going.   What changed my mind was a few things.  First was that a local scooter group I belong to was planning a ride, and although I would not be able to ride with them to the event (work) the seed was planted.  I am curious to see the new Kymco MyRoad 700i, which given the fact that I enjoy riding Kimmie (a Xciting 500 sans ABS) as much as I do just might be the bike for me in the future.  I'm also interested in looking at some of the automatic motorcycles and, what I feel will be the next step in the evolution of motorcycle safety, lighted jackets.

I am also looking at some interesting choices in my personal and business life which will affect my ability to ride.  I work for 3M and recently applied for a new position which would require me to travel about Florida to places like Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee and Jacksonville.  While I am certainly qualified for the position, there are no guarantees of course, although I like the idea of traveling to meetings via my mean motor scooter and traveling new roads.  The endless possibilities of movement.

Given this new job possibility I would need to look into either a bike better built for highway travel and bluetooth technology.  I really like this helmet for example.  This expo gives me options to consider.

The second option that will affect my riding, and probably decreasing it, is the possible expansion of my personal business.  I have successfully owned and operated a small distribution company for a few years now, and while it's never made me a mad amount of money, it's always supplemented my income by several thousand dollars a years (10 to 15K profit generally after taxes and expenses).  Less than seven years ago I was looking into a possibility of opening a bar and restaurant with my partner Sue, who has over twenty five years of experience in that business as a chef and manager.  However due to circumstances I will not go into here she was unable to pursue that dream.
That may have changed as we found a small turn key restaurant that is completely within our budget and literally is less than five miles from my front door.  At this time we are doing the research and putting our ducks in a row!  It needs to make sense for us to do it.  If we were to buy this property then my riding schedule is shot.  Any and all free time would be drastically cut in order to make this business work.  I would have to give up my route work as well.  I would not be leaving 3M  anytime soon since I receive some nice benefits from that company.

So much for trying to simplify my life.  The wheels are turning and are always moving forward.  There is no reverse on a motorcycle, you have to put effort into it to make it go backward.  It's much easier to always move forward.

Moving Forward always is an adventure.  Unknown roads are exciting because of the possibilities of what you will see and experience.  There is always risk, always danger...but that journey must always be taken.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tarpon Springs and Anclote Island

I've been meaning to ride over to Tarpon Springs for some time.  It has a almost European charm to it, with its brick streets and buildings dating back to the 1800's.  At one time it also supported the highest number of Greek-Americans in the United States and it's not uncommon to hear Greek still spoken on the streets.  The sponge docks are probably the best known part of Tarpon Springs, and at one time this was the "Sponge Capital of the world."  In addition the Epiphany celebration brings Greek Orthodox Christians from around the world to Tarpon Springs, literally tripling the population for the 1st week in January.

If you have been reading my little attempt of literary brilliance for any time, then you know I have a deep love and respect for history.  A place like Tarpon Springs just breaths it.  I wanted to explore the downtown a bit more, but Sue and I decided to head into town and explore the sponge docks proper.  

For some reason, and I blame the old people and tourists who never want to try something new, it's nearly impossible to get good seafood in Florida.  Sure, Talapia and Salmon are common - neither of which is native to Florida - but native and fresh finds are a rarity.  So when we decided to eat lunch at Rusty Bellies I had to order fresh fish.  Its literally caught by their own fleet of fishing vessels and then brought to the kitchens.  The shrimp I had may have been the best I ever tasted.

Tarpon Springs is full of funky little shops of course, selling natural sponges and lots of little tourist knick-knacks.  Also a insane amount of belly dancing outfits.  It was a nice day to wander around on foot or on the bike taking in the sites, including a little dog in a sidecar.  Sadly we were unable to get a pic even though we kept seeing him driving about.  The timing just never worked out.  What is it about a dog in a sidecar?

We decided to take a little boat trip out to Anclote Island, which is a state park and has a lighthouse dating back to the 1880's.  Jose Gaspar, Tampa Bay area's almost mythical pirate, supposedly buried all or part of his loot there. What's truly interesting about the island to me is the various species of birds that call it home.  We were both a little disappointed in the tour boat that took us over to the island.  We were thinking it would include a sponge diver demonstration but the ship simply took a two hour tour out to the island.  The tour guide was knowledgeable and fun but over all I didn't think it was worth the money.

Not the best pic, but the only one where they jumped
We were not even five minutes from the dock when we came across a small pod of dolphins which were in a very playful mood.  There were three or four of them (I learned that pods of dolphins are almost exclusively female) that enjoyed putting on a show, leaping and jumping just a few feet from the boat.  They also enjoyed teasing a dog on the docks.

The ride over was uneventful but noteworthy for the fact that this was the first time Sue and I have rode two up at highway speeds for extended periods of time.  Kimmie handled it very well and was able to handle the extra weight well.  It was also the first time I've handled 2-up at night, as we did come home as the day faded.  All told we put about 110 miles on Kimmie...and she even handled a sea gull pooping on her with dignity and class.  She really is a good scoot.

Overall it was a wonderful day indeed.  Working six days a week like I normally do any time I get to take off for a bit and get out into the world I'll do. This coming Saturday we hope to ride up to a Fall Festival in Spring Hill with two new friends of ours (despite the fact that they ride a Harley).    Some additional pictures follow:

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Brother's Keeper.- the incident in New York

By now we should have seen the video of the attack on an SUV driver in New York by a gang of motorcyclists.  As of my writing this one of them has been charged, another had the charges dropped against him and the investigation is ongoing.  One of them claimed that the SUV driver was acting like a manic.  In the end we have three hurt motorcyclists - one of them critically - and a badly beaten SUV driver.

The truth of the matter is that we may never know exactly what happened.  News reports state there is a 9-11 call to dispatchers to report motorcyclists driving erratically.  One of them in the video does clearly cut in front of the SUV and appear to slow down dangerously.  What happened before that I don't know.  Why would he act that way?

The driver supposedly did stop after accidentally hitting one of them but then feared for his life afterward, being surround as he was by pissed off bikers.  Many of whom supposedly slashed the tires and attacked the SUV.  Frankly I don't blame him for being afraid.  Nor do I blame many of the bikers for chasing after the diver after he clearly run over a bike badly injuring another biker (who is still in the hospital at the time of this article).  Truthfully if I felt threatened and my wife and 2-year old child where in the car...I might have done the same thing.

Sadly by the time all this comes to a conclusion the public will have moved on and all that will be left is the video of "crazy bikers."

Images matter.  I have to be honest I was unsure if I was going to comment on this.  I am unsure if I should.  I am not part of the greater motorcycling community.  I'm just a guy that enjoys riding over 10K to 15K a year.  I don't particularly like group rides but if given the chance I'll go.  I'm still new to riding (roughly 3 years now) and I don't think I'll ever stop learning something about it.

Hell, I'm scared just looking at the picture
For the most part bikers don't look like we are out of the Sons Of Anarchy casting dept.  We don't all belong to Hells Angels or rape and pillage our way across America either.  Yet why do we have that image when the term "biker" is used.

We have done it ourselves.  I understand why leather and denim became part of our "uniform".  I get that loud pipes can save a life.  I understand how the "outlaw" image is attractive.  I get that.  I even understand how Hollywood and the media will play something up.  It's given us an image that is hard to shake...that of the "badass."  But we do lots of stupid things too.  Things that make the general public question "bikers" and reinforce that image of a sex and drug crazed manic.

Not that I am without sin.  I've done stupid stuff too.  I've pushed the bike at higher speeds than I probably should and have done some lane splitting when stuck in traffic on the way to work due to construction.  But when I see morons (yes, that's the term) doing twice or three times the speed limit in traffic I have to shake my head.  One of the people I work with even carries a gun on him when he rides!

When I see lane splitting done when there is no reason for it and wheelies in traffic.   You have to wonder why?  What is the purpose?  What is the reason?  What does Mr and Mrs Jones in the mini-van think?  What do you think they will say when little Johnny wants a motorcycle?

I get it...I really do.

Motorcyclists do a ton of good deeds.  From toy runs at Christmas to poker runs for sick kids to the Patriot Guard.  Good deeds are always so much subtler than evil ones.  The video of the bikers attacking the SUV is forever out there.  Forever tainting the majority of bikers that ride safely and well.  That will reach out to help someone when they can.  The 1001 good deeds bikers do simply don't matter because of a six minute video.

fuzzy rider
So what can we can do to to change that image?  Simple.  Don't be a dick.  Ride safe.  Ride within the law, traveling at or near the speed limit.  Learn to be more accepting of others and what they ride.  There is no reason the sports bike can't ride with a scooter and a Harley.  Give a hand to that stranded motorist and smile well doing so.  In other words we need more of the fuzzy guy and less the raging psycho.  There was no need for any of that to happen in New York if the gang of motorcyclists (which supposedly have had issues with the police before) had been riding in a tight formation and as safe as possible.  If the driver of the SUV would have been paying more attention (I do truly believe something happened before the video that started that caused the incident to begin with).

At the end of the day most bikers are good people.  Most people are good people, and I would hope that this incident in New York was an abomination.  We are all tainted with it now.