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What it's Like to Crash a Motorcycle

“Damn it. John Burns thinks I’m a dick.”
That was one of the predominant thoughts going through my head as I slid down a Florida highway at 60 mph back in March.
It’s weird how the mind works. Time slows in a crash. Every tiny image burns into memory, so your brain can replay it over and over and over at night for the next who knows how many weeks.
In the moments before I crashed, I was riding the Harley-Davidson Street Rod along County Road 34 in central Florida. I’m not sure which county. The accident report simply records it as “County Code 61,” but the internet can’t agree on which county that is. Maybe I was in Indian River County; maybe I was in Suwannee County; maybe I was in Flagler County; I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t matter; I was somewhere. The road passing through that somewhere was long and straight – not the sort of place where one usually crashes – and the weather was perfect.

“My God, I am so happy,” I was thinking. “I am so incredibly lucky to be here – to live t…

Oh, uhm, Merry Christmas, by the way

Things on the ol' blog have been relatively quiet these past several days because Jenn and I were out in the wilds of Cornwall. Which is about as wild as one can get in the overpopulated mess of southwestern England. We were staying in a cottage on Bodmin Moor, the bleak nowhere made famous by Daphne du Maurier's novel Jamaica Inn. The roads were only wide enough for a single car and mobile phone signal was non-existant.
It was only when we were out hiking the tors (craggy rocks that serve as promontories on the moors) did my phone grasp just enough signal to alert me to comments on my previous post about the downfall of RideApart. I genuinely appreciate the fact that Wes took the time to leave a comment, even if it was snarky and insulting. Be valuable, indeed.
Perhaps it was for the best that signal was too scarce for me to reply. At the time I had a fair few snarky and insulting things I wanted to say in response but now, meh, I don't care. I feel morally superior enou…

The strange and sudden decline of RideApart

UPDATE: I wrote this piece in December 2013. A lot has changed since then, including the fact that I am now managing editor for RideApart. Here's a link to all the stories I've written. The site has largely moved away from the things that I criticise in the post below and with every piece that I write for RideApart I hope I am doing my part to make it a quality, interesting site that will continue to inspire people to ride motorcycles.
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll have likely picked up by now that one of my favourite motorcycle websites is RideApart. Or, rather, was RideApart. In the last few weeks its quality has rapidly decreased and it has become something that both angers and saddens me, whereas it used to inspire.

And if you're a long-time reader of this blog you may remember my story: I got my motorcycle endorsement in Minnesota when I was 18 years old, but didn't actually make any effort to ride until almost two decades later. Then, su…

The wind, the fear and the ridiculous

You know that advice they always give about riding with a passenger? "Take it easy," they say. "Make everything as gentle as possible. Don't frighten your passenger."
They have obviously never met my wife.
"YAHWOOOOOOOOOOOO!" she screamed against the wind as the two of us zig-zagged down the A449 Saturday.
We were flying down the dual carriageway ("freeway" for those of you playing along at home) at 90 mph with crosswinds kicking us around in our lane. In curves, the wind would occasionally push us upright and I'd have to fight to drop us back into the lean. At other times it would punch so hard it felt almost tangible, as if an animal had jumped out and headbutted us. Leaves and sticks and all manner of things swirled in the air and plinked against our helmets. Jenn was having the time of her life.
We had ridden that morning to the Farmer's Boy Inn, a pub 10 miles west of Gloucester, which I had spotted during one of my many Starin…

I think we may actually be better

I've spent a lot of time thinking about this: if I'm ever riding in Minnesota and find myself in a situation where I deem filtering to be appropriate, I'm just going to go ahead and do it. If any drivers shout at me, I will say this: "Actually, it is legal. Check Minnesota Statute 169.974, particularly subdivision 5, clause E. See, the reason I know that is because a lot of people think it's not legal, but, really, it is. I'm sorry to have frightened you, though."
The statute referenced is, of course, the exact one that explicitly forbids filtering ("No person shall operate a motorcycle between lanes of moving or stationary vehicles headed in the same direction, nor shall any person drive a motorcycle abreast of or overtake or pass another vehicle within the same traffic lane"). But the driver won't know that. 
If I get stopped by a police officer, I will mention living in the UK and explain that I was confused. I will apologise profusel…

20 things I've learned about motorcycling

Today marks exactly six months since Aliona came into my life. That's not all that much time in the grand scheme of things, but she is, of course, my first motorcycle. So, a lot of things have happened since that exciting June day I took the train out to Cheltenham to pick her up. And from all the experiences since then, those thousands of miles travelled, I feel I've gained a certain amount of knowledge. So, here are 20 things I've learned in my first six months of motorcycle ownership: When kids wave at you, it's awesomeExpect spiders to be hiding in the motorcycle coverExpect spiders to be hiding in your helmet. They will usually only reveal themselves when you are taking a curve at 80 mph. Baby wipes are your friend. They are especially useful in cleaning your helmet -- inside and out. Cold tires really are slippery. That's not just something that people say. Pay attention to tire pressure. And the chain. And fluid levels. And tire tread. And all the other …

A small request

Hey, all y'all with motorcycle-related blogs: Can you please not have white text on a black background? I mean, it's pretty much every single one of you. Clearly, it's a look that a lot of people like and one of the general rules of this here blog is that I don't like to piss on things that other people like -- especially when it comes to things that are motorcycle-related. 
But, see, here's the thing: white text on a black background induces headaches. No, really, look it up. Web designers hate light text on dark background, but more importantly up to 50 percent of the population may suffer adverse effects from staring at that combination too long. That is especially true for me. The two times in my life that I have suffered a migraine headache came after reading white text on a dark background for too long. So, now I generally don't do it.
This means that for many of you, I don't really read your blogs as much as I'd prefer unless I can find a workar…

28 months before

"I wonder if I could put together £8,000 within 28 months," I find myself asking.
That's how long I have until my 40th birthday, which, I keep telling myself, is when I want to buy a new bike. Actually, I'd like to buy a new bike today. And tomorrow. And the day after that. And the day after that. There are dozens upon dozens of bikes I'd own if I had the deep pockets and storage space of, say, Jay Leno. But in the real world, in this life that I'm actually living, my 40th birthday seems the most likely milestone upon which to hang such a target.
I like to do that: set goals for myself and attach target dates that have some sort of greater significance. For example, in July 2005, when London was announced as the host city for the 2012 Olympic Games, I promised myself I would be living in the UK by the time the games took place. As it turned out, I accomplished that goal with six years to spare.
Life throws happy surprises at you. Maybe a new bike will come s…

What I want: Honda NC750X

I try not to look at the stats for this blog too much. I've been blogging in one form or another for a decade now and experience tells me that wandering too deep into the dark woods of blog stats can be detrimental to one's mental health. You start to feel that the incalculable whims of the internets are somehow a reflection on you, your ability to write, etc. If lots of people are reading you feel good, and you become miserable when the opposite is true.
Soon, like the Southern preacher who gets money pressed into his hand at the end of sermons, you find yourself trying to chase after the topics that you think interest people, rather than what necessarily interests you. And thereafter your blog starts to suck.
That said, I want in this post to return to something I've written about before and which has turned out to be one of the more popular topics that brings people to this blog. According to my stats, here are the top three search terms that lead people to this site: …

What I want: Honda Valkyrie (aka Honda F6C)

I'll warn you now: this post is a meandering one...

I am fond of pondering the When It All Goes Horribly Wrong scenario. This is a what-if scenario that started showing up in my usual daydream repertoire sometime after my first wife left me. At that time I didn't really have a prepared response for such a happening, so I just spent a year or so wallowing in utter misery. I taught myself to play a few chords on the guitar and wrote two bittersweet love songs for an imaginary girl, but by and large that time was ill spent.
Because what you are supposed to do when something traumatic happens -- if films and rock songs have taught us anything -- is suddenly veer onto a life path that is generally out of character and more awesome. You are supposed to travel to Italy, India and Indonesia and thereafter write a book about it. Or at least change your hair style and start a new career. I often think that one of the greatest appeals of Doctor Who is his ability to regenerate: when ever…

Gear review: Furygan Revol Evo

When it comes to motorcycle gloves, I suppose there are really only two things to consider: 1) Will they protect my hands in a crash? 2) Will they keep my hands warm/cool?
The first question is rather hard to answer definitively without, you know, hurling yourself from a motorcycle at speed. Yes, you can get a good sense of a glove's durability from safety ratings. You can smack the leather and hard plastic and tell yourself that you feel it would hold up well. But you don't actually know.
So, the bulk of my review of the Furygan Revol Evo glove is centred on how well they answer the second question. Unfortunately, after having ridden with them for a while I have to say they've not answered the question very well.
The gloves are marketed as winter gloves, and were bought on that same heady day after signing up for my CBT that I bought my helmet. Both items were promptly hidden from my wife until I was found out a few months later. Because they are winter gloves, one woul…

Invading England

I like to keep track of just about any riding I do that's more than a jaunt through the city. So, here are a few pictures from last weekend's ride out to Dyrham Park, near Bath. It's a quick 50-or-so miles from Penarth, with most of the riding on the motorway and therefore not terribly exciting. 
But any riding is better than none.

I was happy to get out of the house. With The Long Dark now fully under way in Britain my annual depression has been growing ever more difficult to keep in check. I find it harder and harder to get out of bed. But on Sunday morning the sun was shining and with Jenn planning to have lunch with a friend I had excuse to wander off and do my own thing.
The first time I ever went to Dyrham Park was with my friends Jenny and Chris, who live in Bath. Not to be confused with the Jenny and Chris that are my wife and me. Indeed, this first visit came well before I ever met Jenn, at a point in my life that was terribly unpleasant; my first wife had just l…

Study confirms what a lot of us already knew

I took my UK driver's exam on 26 June this year -- about two months after I had earned my motorcycle license. I realise I haven't ever told that story, so I've put it in italics below. But the important thing to take away from the experience is that I passed the driving exam without fault. That is not an exaggeration, I mean it literally: I was not marked down for one single thing.
And as I sat in the car, feeling a wave of relief at having passed, waiting for the examiner to finish the paperwork, he said offhandedly: "Of course, that's what I would expect from a motorcyclist. They make much better drivers."
Certainly that's a sentiment that many motorcyclists like to hold about themselves. Our fragility on the road forces us to compensate with extra awareness and caution, and that helps develop and improve the skills we use when we're behind a wheel. Before I earned my UK license I had been driving for some 21 years, but I can honestly say my drivin…

Reaction to Harley-Davidson Street 500 and 750

Remember this summer when Harley-Davidson was going into convulsive fits of self-congratulation because of Project Rushmore?
"A whole new ride starts now," the company proclaims on its website. 
Rushmore, they said, was the biggest leap forward in the company's history. Huzzah, huzzah, fireworks, blaring guitars, etc. I didn't really see what the fuss was about.

The announcement the company made this week, however, is far more profound. Harley-Davidson is soon to release 500- and 750-cc liquid-cooled bikes. As far as I can tell, this is the first time Harley have offered a 750 or lower in roughly 30 years (someone please correct me if I'm wrong).

The machines, of course, are a response to the great big pink elephant that resides in the Cult of Harley temple: the median age of Harley riders is 47. And although 47-year-olds are awesome (I'll be one soon enough) and perhaps more likely to have the cash for the latest WTFBBQROFL Cock Monster Special Classic Del…