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Thursday, July 28, 2016

I got your app right here!!! - must have applications for your motorcycle

With the heat and the weather being what it is, I've been sort of self limiting on the time I spend on my bike.  However I've been playing around with a few phone apps lately and thought I should write a bit about technology and how it affects the biker. 

Lets be honest, our phones are part of our lives (like it or not) and although I do not recommend staring at your phone while on the bike - there are various applications that a biker can use.  These are a few that I've used and highly recommend.

I've already wrote about the Crash Detection and Response application (CRADAR) here.  A crash application is something I highly recommend for every biker.  While I have that application installed, I have to admit that I rarely use it.  This application, indeed every phone application I'll be writing about, requires the GPS function of your phone to be turned on.  This in turn, eats into your battery life. 

Since nearly all of my riding is commuting, Susan knows where I'm at since she knows the (general) route I take.  I'll admit to mixing it up sometimes just for something different.  

I also used to use Waze as well, which I found to be much better than my phone's built in Google Maps function.  I loved that the application could be updated in real time for things like construction, letting you know where a speed trap was or a broken down car.  Although I ended up deleting this function since I could not delete the built in Google Maps.  Frankly I saw no use to having two navigational functions in my phone. 

Plus, when your on the bike it's best not to look at the screen.

Gas Buddy is another one of those applications that everyone should have downloaded into their phones.  Once again it uses crowd sourcing to provide you with the location and prices of the gas stations around you.  It even allows you to get directions to that gas station. 

If your budget conscious like I am (OK, I'm a cheap bastard) it even has a trip cost calculator.  It even gives you which gas stations you should stop at. 

Recently I've been playing around with the Pirella Diablo SBK application.  Let me state that this has absolutely nothing to do with Pirella tires (which I highly recommend by the way).  This application is designed more for the serious sport bike rider or sport bikes in general. 

It has both road and track factions (including lap times) and allows for the calculation of lean angles....even G forces.  Each route is saved to the website, in case you find that special road, and it also records mileage, time and speed.  It even has a function to allow you to send your results to friends or share it on social media. 

That being has no way to download a route that you wish to take or send a crash notification to your loved ones.   At least not that I'm aware of. 

I'm still playing around with this application to a great extent and the more I learn about it the more I like it.  Although for what ever reason you have to go to the companies website to log in, which means everything is in Kilometers.  If your using English units, your data is record on the application in miles. It's not a major issue, I know how to convert from KM to miles, but it is annoying.

Really how hard is it to have that option on the website?   I can share the data to my Facebook account, but I can't login via Facebook even though that is an option?  Am I doing something wrong?  Again, more annoying than anything.   

If only there was that magical phone application that would let you do all these things and more, all in one convenient place.   You would need something like five applications in one. 

Along comes the Eat Sleep Ride application which supposedly does everything we've talked about.  In the interest of full disclosure I've not used this application yet but it seems to be getting rave reviews in the various forums I visit and on various motorcycling sites. 

In addition to everything the Pirella application does, it also allows you to track your mileage and discover routes that other bikers share with the application (I'm still not telling you where my secret road is).  For an additional cost you can by their "Crashlight" function which will send a text and voice message after 3 minutes if you go down.  It also allows you to instantly share photos. 

This application supposedly is great for setting up group rides and keeping track of everyone in said group ride.

For what ever reason however, I can not get that application to work in my android phone.  It's probably a memory issue and I'll try downloading it later once I play around with my phone.  

So I'm curious, anyone use any of these applications?   Any reviews you would like to add? 

All these applications are available via Google Play or your Apple Store. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Three questions asked and answered.

I rode to work today, traveling nice and cool in my car.  It was a lovely Saturday morning and I expected to see at least a dozen or so bikers out and about.  After all, we were not expecting rain in the Tampa area till after 3 PM.  There should have been bikers everywhere!

Only their were none.  I saw a grand total of three bikers out enjoying the ride on my 30+ mile trip to work...the reason was simple.  The oppressive "Heat Dome" that was covering most of the United States was causing higher than normal humidity in Florida.  That higher humidity meant that we had 85 degree (29 C) weather at 9 AM.  By 3 PM it felt like 105 degrees (40.6 C).

When I got off of work at 3 PM, the storm started and dropped the temperatures down but also caused steam to raise off the concrete and asphalt.  Not exactly ideal riding by any definition.

To get in some sort of riding related fix I've been listening to the Motorcycles and Misfits podcast.  I was introduced to this show by Norman Reedus.  It's entertaining and downright funny at times and often interesting show at least.

They also challenged me personally by asking three simple questions:

  1. How has motorcycling changed you?
  2. What was your favorite ride? 
  3. What makes an accomplished rider? 

Out of those three questions, I find the first to be the hardest answer to actually answer and explain.  I enjoy riding more than I ever thought I would, because it opens me up to nature a bit more then traveling in a car does.  I'm not talking about the wind on my face, or the fact that we are hot, cold, wet, sunburned, bug spattered bikers.'s much more subtle.

I find myself watching the sky as I ride.  The other day I looked up and saw a deep blue azure that reminded me of the ocean of my youth.  The cloud's appeared to break against the sky like waves on a shore, creating a foamy froth that diluted the sun into pinks, oranges, greys, blues, much much beauty.

When I'm on my bike, I notice cows.  Each one has a unique mark.  Or how the shadows interplay with the road.   The cows are still there with the markings, the shadows still dance on the pavement.  Why don't I seem to notice them or care when I'm surround by glass with the radio blaring?

While I always loved travel and seeing what was around the bend, on the bike I'm likely to go around that bend.  In the carNot so much.    

What is my favorite ride?

I'm going to have to say the one in the Bahama's is up there.  Although Sue and her mother, who traveled with us somehow managed to get lost in their rented vehicle.  They were supposed to follow us...and by us I mean her daughter (who had never ridden a motorcycle before) and me.  

I spent a lot of time worrying about her daughter and Sue....probably more than I should have, and that prevented me from truly enjoying the trip.  Although it would have been nice to have stopped here and there at some of the more interesting sites.   

It does make me desire to go back to the Bahama's however and spend more time there.   Or better yet, go scootering in other countries.     

Although my favorite ride was, and still is my little secret road.  Even though I've traveled it several times I still have yet to see another biker on it, and it still challenges me.    

I like to think though that my favorite ride is always the next one I take.  That one of these days I will have that epic adventure and end up someplace new, wondrous and beautiful.  You can do worse.

What makes an accomplished rider?  

Making it home alive on a day by day basis.   No, I'm not joking.  Nor am I completely serious.   Sure, you can travel the world, have 3 or 4 or 5 different bikes.  Ride in every type of foreseeable condition.

Are you being safe?  Are you making it home to those that love you every time?  

Miles traveled and epic adventures are one thing...but if recent history has taught me anything.  It's making it home to be with the ones that you love that make the difference.   Every other accomplishment pails in comparison to that one.    


Thursday, July 14, 2016

In praise of rain gear.

It occurred to me the other night that I've written a bit about riding in the rain.  I've praised the gear that I have but I've never really done a full review of it.   It's about time I did.  When you ride your going to be hot, cold, wet, dry, sunburned.   Your going to be miserable at times....that's what riding does to you.  But your miserable for a moment and smiling the greater part of the day.  That's biking.

That being said I have to give credit where it is due.  Susan picked up my rain gear from someone for a few bucks.  It's actually large on me, being XXL.  I often feel like that guy in the picture when I first put this gear on.

Rain gear should be larger of course, your pulling it over your jacket.  Your pulling it over your boots and pants, often on the side of the road just before or shortly after the rain starts to fall.

Rain gear is not really designed for fashion.  It's designed to keep you dry.  I've used two different rain suits in my time on a bike.  The first I got from Target and it was really a cheap plastic suit designed more to just keep you dry if you had to work or walk around outside.  It was good for a stadium during a rainy baseball game.

I don't miss it.  That being said, the second and most current rain suit I have is designed by Frogg Toggs.  I've not sure what the model number or anything like that.  I will say this.  I LOVE MY FROGG TOGGS!!!

The last few days have been kind of nasty in Florida.  Raining just late enough to catch me out in it on my way home from work.  I carry my rain gear everywhere, it's an "unofficial" requirement in Florida.  It's yet to fail me when I've needed it most.

I've also learned a few things:  1)  It's best to pull up the pants as high as you can on your waist.  Sure it makes you look and feel stupid, but the water is going to run down off your helmet and jacket and pool somewhere.  Your crotch makes a perfect spot for that water to accumulate.   You want to avoid that.  2)  Your helmet is going to fog up unless you spent the money on a helmet with a pin lock.  There are a few anti fog agents on the market but I've found a little bit of denatured ethanol works best.  I use Fogtech DX from

Here is what I love about my rain gear.   I'm comfy, dry and warm in it.


Frogg Toggs are 100% polypropylene.  Which basically means it's made to repel water.  Being relatively thick means that it is better designed than a cheap plastic rain suit, even if it's made from the same material.  Your going to stay dryer, and warmer, because of the layering of levels (at least 3) in a Frogg Togg.  In fact, I've slipped into rain gear on cooler nights just to keep myself that much warmer.

They also design suits made specifically for the motorcycle rider.   That means reflective material is woven into the suit itself.  Remember that we're invisible in broad daylight.  Rain is going to just make it that much harder to see you.  I still wear my yellow reflective vest over the rain jacket to be on the safe side.

Pants showing the boot zipper

The zipper is solid, and to help protect you from water getting in behind the zipper, there is a button flap that folds over the zipper.   I don't use it often, but the jacket also has a thin hood that slips up and over your head to prevent water from running down your neck and back.  I've found this collar is snug enough against the back of my helmet to prevent that anyway.  Both the pants and jacket can be folded tightly into a carry sack as well.  It can be compressed even smaller depending on how you pack the sack.
My hand in an effort to show size.

If I have an issue, it's there are no drawstrings in the pants or jackets to adjust the fit.  Although other models of the suit have that feature.  Nor is there a way to access my pockets in the rain suit.  I only bring that up because of a bit of an adventure the other night where I came across a three alarm fire, sadly I had no way to dig out my camera phone quickly, and I wasn't going to go fishing for it on the side of the road.

The other thing I bought specifically for rain and colder days was a pair of BILT waterproof gloves.  These are chemically treated to repel water and are a blend of nylon and polyester.   Again I don't remember exactly what model I ended up buying from Cyclegear.

Again I went with bright yellow to provide some visibility in low visibility circumstances, for me it's more about safety and function than looking like a fashion plate model.  I also highly recommend gauntlet style gloves for one big reason.  They slip over the jacket sleeve prevent wind and water from getting in.

These are very thick and solid gloves with 100% polyester lining.  Traveling along in the rain I'm not feeling my hands getting wet, and more importantly, cold. 

I can still feel the bike's controls with these gloves on and they have a reinforced palm to help save on wear and tear.  BILT sometimes gets knocked for shoddy workmanship.  Now I admit that these are not my everyday gloves and I only use them while riding in the rain but they have stood the test of time for me over the last year or so.  The stitching seems solid and tight.  If I have one very minor issue it that I wish they provided a bit more Velcro to the strap.

I like a tight fit against my arm and I've noticed that sometimes the Velcro comes loose when I'm riding.   This can allow water running down my arm into the glove.   It's a minor thing really.

So if your a new rider, or even an old pro, I'm going to highly recommend picking up a pair of Frogg Toggs.  It's going to add a whole other level to your riding experience.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Summer Doldrums

I woke up this morning about 7:40 AM with the intention to get some yard work done (the never ending job of weeding) and my phone was showing the temperature was 77 F (25 C).  By the time 11 AM rolled around the local temperature was 85 F (29 C).

When you consider the heat index, it feels more like 103 F (39 C).

Or in other words, it's to hot to ride.  Nor does this pattern show any signs of breaking anytime soon.  Florida is not currently in a drought situation, but we are under our normal rainfall pattern by a significant amount.

I hope to get back on the bike this week.  I've written about hot weather riding before, I know how to handle it.  The problem of course is that it's much to easy to ride sans jacket or pants in an effort to stay cool.  Wearing shorts, flip - flops or other things is generally a bad idea.  All you need to do is type in "motorcycle crashes" into YouTube to see some of the horror riding without the right gear provides.  

This last week has been tough, as three day weekends always seem to throw me for a loop.  I want to get back on the bike for one reason and one reason only.


I've a goal to beat last year's mileage.  I did not put much mileage on last year, only about 5,000 miles.  My goal is to beat that mileage this year.  While I'm on a good pace to beat that (currently I have a little over 3,000 miles on Kimmie) I'm not happy with myself.   I understand it's not the mileage one puts on the bike, but the quality of those miles.  This year I've not done many quality miles.  While becoming a "Scooter commuter" (with apologies to David's fine blog) is all well and good.  He's moved beyond that.  Sometimes I wonder if I ever will.

I'll be celebrating five years of motorcycling soon.  I still have not ridden over to the Atlantic coast or down to the Keys.  Or even up to Ocala.  Which is only about 72 Miles (or 116 KM) from me.  A good day trip away.  I have only ridden over to St Pete twice. 

Orlando, home of various scooter clubs and events, is about the same distance away.  Although I've found a home in the Scooter Crew, I would have like to haven taken care of my recent electrical issues myself, learning something on the way.

That, my friends, is the summer doldrums.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Roadside attractions and swamp buggies

Susan and I wanted to get away during the July 4th weekend.  We were not sure what we would do or where we would go, but she wanted to do something different and I am always up for an adventure.   After all, experiences are what create memories.

When our local news station did a little show on Swamp Buggies we both said "done."  These are often found in the Everglades and at one time were considered essential in the state of Florida since they were they only means of transportation in areas were there were no roads. 

Ochopee, Florida (pronounced exactly like it sounds) is home to the worlds smallest post office, the skunk ape research center and Wooten's swamp buggies and air boat tours which we decided would be our destination.  As it so happened we were the only two people on our particular buggy.

Our ride was actually pretty sedate, you enter one section and plow through about 3 to 4 feet of water before getting onto to dry land.  Where your exposed to the nature of the area, some local wildlife and a bit of local history.  Ochopee it seems was a moonshiners paradise at one time, as Al Capone had a casino in Miami at the time.

Two female deer showed no fear of the buggy and since Sue and I were the only ones on the Buggy, we were within 10 feet of them at times.  A curious raccoon also seemed interested in visiting us as he walked in front of the slow moving buggy at times.

A friendly grasshopper.

Of course if I'm this close to a national monument I had to go and see it.   Up the road a few miles was the world's smallest post office.

Legend has it that the swampland around Ochopee is home to a giant ape like creature, who differs from Bigfoot, a likely cousin, is several ways.  The biggest way in that this ape supposedly stinks; and stinks badly.  Giving him the name of "Skunk Ape."

Now never mind the fact that the only people that have supposedly seen the Skunk Ape work at the Skunk Ape research Center and Gift Shop.  I'm sure that is just a coincidence and  has nothing to do with gullible tourists.

I'm sure that these guys are legit Skunk Ape hunters.  I mean they have a jeep and everything, and nothing says "I'm serious about a fictional animal." like a jeep.

Besides just look at some of the evidence they found in all their years of research.  You can't argue with the evidence.

Sue and I enjoyed the weekend away, although we really didn't plan it well.  We left on a Saturday afternoon and had our little adventure on Sunday morning.  Next time I think we will leave on a Friday night and spend the full weekend in the Naples, Florida area.  Their seems to be a lot to do and see in that area.  Of course, more pics are on my Facebook page.

Happy July 4th weekend to all my American readers.