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Sunday, June 28, 2015

The dog days of Summer

It's been hot.

Actually let me correct that.  IT'S BEEN FREAKING HOT!!!  With the heat index up at around 105 degrees (40.6 C) lately riding has not been that comfortable.  To make matters worse we have had at least a 40% chance of rain every night...and it seems that every night it rains on me when I'm leaving work.

Last year I would have ridden in anything below a 50% of rain and in all type of weather, as long as I felt safe to do it.  Now...while now it's just easier for me to jump in the car, crank the AC to winter cold and go to work.  Add in a summer cold and some meetings at work where I've been required to wear a suit two days out of the five the past couple weeks and you (hopefully) understand why I've not been riding.

Kimmie is in the back
I know..."Stop making excuses Robert and get out there and ride!"  This heat however has sucked all the fun out of riding for me, and even the daily commute, which has been traditionally done on the bike, is getting to me.  The parking lot at my job is full of scooters and motorcycles, so if they can do so can I.  I have lead a small and quiet one man campaign to try and get more bikers to commute, so in a way...I'm betraying what I believe in.   But the car is so cool!  I'm almost tempted to return my Rounders patch.

So Kimmie sits.  She runs well when I do take her out, the electrical issues she's been having are (hopefully) resolved.  Although I've played with the idea of replacing her, I still have her...I still enjoy riding her.

This will pass...these doldrums will ease.  Much like the sailors of old I'll wait it out.  In the coming week the temperature and humidity are scheduled to drop and I'll be able to ride in a bit more comfortably.

If all goes well I'll be moving into yet another position at work, my fourth department in ten months - they keep moving me because I'm good at what I do - and I'll be able to ride into work early in the morning...avoiding the worst of the heat.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Summertime...and the living is not that easy (an update).

I debated about what to write about this week.  A lot has been on my mind.  It's officially the first day of summer, riding season should be in full swing by now.  But truth be told I've not been in the mood to ride or been out on the bike that much.

I've had a bit of a summer cold and the heat index has pushed it's way into the low 100+ degree range each and every day.  It's made taking the car, with it's air conditioned glory, all that more easier to justify.  I considered writing a post about riding in hot weather...but I've been off the bike - so I can't justify it.  Summer is also the rainy season in Tampa, and every night when I get off of rains.  It rains on me.  It rains on me hard.

Plus, truth be told, I'm a little weary of riding Kimmie due to the issues I've been having.  The recent issues I've had with her electrical system have showed me how much I need to learn mechanically.  I also want to go further, and I'm not sure if Kimmie is the bike for me.  Touring is a dream right now...but one I wish to pursue.

Jacksonville is not that far, only three hours, and Daytona about the same.  Key West is a bit further.  I have friends that are a day away in places like South Carolina and Georgia.  Having a slightly larger machine, a more comfortable bike might make trips to those places a bit more feasible.  Having some knowledge in case of a breakdown only makes sense, and I've looked into where to get that knowledge.  The nearest "garage night" to me is in Orlando and by the time I get off to work (normally about 6:30 PM), drive the 90 or so minutes to Orlando and get back it late at night.  It's not worth it for me to do.

So...I ended up at a local dealership with stars in my eyes.  I have been looking at the Honda CTX DCT 700.  It offers the dual clutch option (DCT) which means it can be switched into automatic easily, and after being on a scooter for a while I like that idea.  I also liked that I was able to swing a leg easily onto the bike and sit on the bike flat footed with no issues.  The seat height is only about 28 inches.  Their was a used CTX (not with the DCT option) that had the bags already attached and a large Giva top box there as well.  All this is optional and more pricey of course on the new model.   I could get aftermarket bags, of course, to help keep the costs down.

And in the end that is what it comes down to.  While I would be looking at anywhere from a $70 to $250 dollar payment depending on what I wanted to put down, Kimmie's trade in value and my credit (good but could be better).  I'm still not sure if I want another payment - no matter how low it could be.

I've also read that the CTX has no "soul" - which is hard to define anyway.  I've also read it's a game changer in some respects.  I like the fairing which would make a ride in rain or cold that much more enjoyable (although my days of riding in "cold" seem to be behind me for now).  Sitting on it, I can say I felt comfortable, but not in love.

It's also not a trike or Can-Am, which I know Susan wants me to consider.  Of course the cost for a new fully loaded CTX DCT is about 11K.  The price for a new Can-Am is starts at $19,900.  It only gets more pricey as things like windshields and luggage is added.  Of course the Can-AM is also a bigger, more powerful bike.  Going used just makes a bit more sense.

While I've driven quads and similar machines, I've never been a fan.  So for now...I still have my beloved Kimmie...and questions that I need to find the answers to.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

What ever happened to Civility?

When I ride I try, try to obey the rules of the road.  I'm in my gear, I'm scanning and hopefully doing everything I need to do to make it home safely.  I've shook my head of some things that I've seen; people cutting across three or four lanes of traffic, idiots pulling off NASCAR moves during rush hour.  Frankly I'm surprised I've not seen more accidents than I have.

Sadly I've also seen my fellow bikers do some really, really stupid things.  Lane splitting (which is illegal in Florida), speeding in traffic or other wise unsafe conditions, stunting on the freeways...again, frankly I'm surprised I've not seen more accidents.  

This article which promoted this weeks rant was entitled "Motorcyclists:  Please Stop Being Sanctimonious Assholes" by Damon Lavrinc.  With National ride to work day being this Monday I thought it was worth a share.  If I would have been able to format the article to blogger correctly (including the You Tube video's), I would have reprinted the entire article here.

Illustration by Sam Woolley
To summarize the piece, he gives examples of where we bikers are being less than the best we can be.  He gets it however.  We are riding, invisible and dealing with not only traffic but drivers not paying attention to begin with.  Roads that are less then stellar in some cases and where our frustration can come from.  I was left with the impression that Lavrinc rides himself.

He then gives us examples via You Tube video's of bikers being...pardon the language but it fits.   "Assholes."  The video's are not easy to watch (warning - course language and one shows a car going after a biker....and the results of that collision).  

The situations the bikers find themselves in frankly could have been avoided.  I understand the desire to tell someone to please turn off the phone and pay attention to the road.  I understand the anger that occurs when someone does something stupid.  Sadly, I've been that asshole in the car with his phone to his ear!  Although I would never act like the driver did in the first video

The discussion afterword is interesting to me.  At the time I wrote this there were over 1045 comments.  While I can understand the riders anger, while I can sympathize with the end the ride we choose to have is of our own doing.  

Did the driver in the first video act badly?  Yes, and frankly he should be in jail.  However the biker should not have dropped a series of F-bombs at him in the first place.   A friendly "Hello, would you mind putting down your phone till you arrive safely at your destination" should have sufficed.  If the diver was an ass after that....well ignore it.  Frankly we don't know what that person is capable of...and I for one would rather have them in front of me than behind me.

Video number two?  While it's just wrong on so many levels.  

The truth of the matter is that we can't change behaviors until we change perceptions.  Video's like this don't help either party.  What is that old saying about engaging your mind before your mouth?  Maybe engaging your mind before the clutch would work here too.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Roadside crosses

The Monday morning news spoke of an accident at Water's and Handy blvd.

"I know that area." I thought.   "I hope it doesn't affect me on the way to work."

Then they mentioned the motorcycle...and how they were not cleaning up the wreck immediately.  Which meant a investigation.  Which meant that, most likely the motorcyclist was killed.

I did not personally know Alex Cross.  I had a couple meals at his restaurant, Alex's BBQ, but I was more familiar with his charity work.   Every Christmas he held a bike drive, and had been doing it for the last 15 years.  Starting in September or October it was not uncommon to see a couple bikes in the store, not used...but brand new ones.

The number grew as it got closer and closer to Christmas.  From what I understand due to his generosity and that of his regular patrons at least 180 bikes were given out that first year.  Last year it was over 9,000.  Not only did they give bikes away, but the helmets to go with them.

The local business in the area hope to keep up that tradition.

When I ride I know I take my life into my own hands.  I have on all my gear yet physics always wins.  Alex, according to reports, had his gear on as well.

I've passed enough road side crosses, some are for motorcyclists...others for teens going to fast or drunk drivers or just someone unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  It happens.

Susan always gets a call when I reach my destination safely, either going to work or elsewhere.  Another call before I head home.

Another friend, lost to me due to time and how our lives drifted apart posted something on the internet that frankly sounded like a call for help.  Somehow, someone got to her before it was to late.  I had not talked to her in a long time but I reached out to her tonight.

We are never alone, we all have our moments when we feel alone.  We all touch each others lives in so many ways.  I've been thinking about those connections lately....every time I pass a road side cross or deal with some idiot driver or when I work with one of my clients, and we talk about their plans for the future...and what they want to leave behind.

The National Ride to Work day is coming up at the end of the week.  I will be participating once again, now that the cable has be replaced on Kimmie and the battery has been fully recharged.

While it was a easy fix and did not require much, the front of the battery was not the issue but the back of the cable was acting intermittently.  I hope...perhaps against hope itself...that this problem is now resolved and we can get back to the day to day grind of the commute.

Still though, I will be concerned with the idiots, the smart drivers, other bikers....those roadside crosses can pop up anywhere, any time.

And I'll be a little more concerned about the connections I make, to be a positive force.  To be a little more like a big heart'd guy I never met...and maybe, just maybe I'll drop a twenty dollar bill in the donation bin the next time I have a good BBQ.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Gremlins - Part of the learning curve.

I was hoping for a simple solution.

In the Kymco Xciting 500 the fuse box is located next to the battery.  The battery is enclosed in the tail end of the bike, almost directly below my top box, so two screws is all I need to remove the battery and check the fuses.

Kimme has a "trunk" under her seat for a better word, there is a light in that trunk.  I take off the battery cover and the light comes on....bright and powerful.  Okay....weird.  Maybe it's not a fuse.  I tighten the battery cable connection.  I replace the cover.

Nada.  No power, no turning over.

Well there is no metal for it to short against unless it's touching the screw.  It's not.  Which means either a bad connector or a bad cable.  I have had issues in the past but they have been intermittent, and often in cold weather.  Could it be that simple?

It's not the best photo but you can see some wear and tear on the end of the cable...could the battery, which was recently replaced, be the wrong size and be causing the cable to rub against something?  Therefore causing an intermittent connection?

Could I be overthinking this?

I replaced the protective plastic piece and started her up again.  Nothing.   Take it off or adjust it somewhat and she fire up with out issue.

I considered riding without the cover, but frankly didn't like the idea of the battery bouncing around in the back.  Since it sits above the rear tire the cover also serves a protective function, preventing water from possibly being sprayed up onto it.  

Now it's decision time.  I became aware of this problem last Saturday.  I had every intention of getting it fixed myself.  Certainly I could order the part, or replace it myself.

I made sure I tossed a Phillips screwdriver into my trunk just to be sure I had one if I got stuck at work or on the side of the road.

Then I didn't ride it for a week, or do anything to it at all.  Now I'm temped to ride up to my mechanic and go over the issue with them, to see if they agree, or make sure I'm not insane.
I don't like that idea, feeling that this is something simple, something that I should be capable of.  something that I should be able to do on my own.  Maintenance that I should know how to do.

If I want to ride to Jacksonville, or to Charleston, hell: if I want to ride anywhere I should know how to fix simple issues like this.  I need to find a place that does "Wrench nights" locally.