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Showing posts from August, 2014

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…

Thoughts on Harley-Davidson's 2015 line up

Randy Newman was clearly wrong. Short peopledo have somebody to love. Or, at least, it appears they have somebody who loves them: namely, America's largest motorcycle manufacturer. Harley-Davidson's recently announced 2015 model year line up is so littered with "low" models you'd be inclined to think we are suffering some sort of worldwide shift in people's stature.
Well, actually, we are. Over the past several decades -- thanks to improved health and better diet -- the average person's height has increased, with the typical American male now being roughly 5 feet 10 inches tall (a). When Harley-Davidson first went into business more than a century ago, the average dude was a good 4 inches shorter.
I suppose some might argue Harley-Davidson has decided to just ignore this data and chase after the dwindling number of short fellas with a Napoleon complex: offering large, loud, shiny things for tiny men seeking to compensate for something. But, of course, th…

A letter to Harley-Davidson

Dearest Harley-Davidson,
Here's the thing: the Iron 883 is easily one of the coolest-looking bikes you make. The Forty-Eight and Seventy-Two hold their own, and I certainly wouldn't turn my nose up at a Low Rider, but for me a simple denim black Iron 883 still takes the sexiness prize. Meanwhile, within its price bracket the Iron 883 is the undisputed champion across all brands when it comes to looks. Sure, just about any Honda can outrun it, a Triumph Bonneville can compete in the vague terms of "authenticity," and a Yamaha XV950 offers an improved overall experience, but in the battle of aesthetics and fit and finish the Iron 883 reigns supreme.
And clearly I'm not the only person who feels this way. According to statistics from the UK Department for Transport, you sold 429 Iron 883 models in Her Majesty's United Kingdom last year, considerably more than any other Harley-Davidson model. The next best-selling model was the Forty-Eight, with 259 units sold. …

What makes a rider-friendly region?

Last weekend I got a chance to spend a little time in South Downs National Park and the surrounding environs, including my old stomping grounds of Portsmouth -- where I attended university in the late 1990s. It was that year in an exchange programme that initiated my love affair with Britain and eventually resulted in my moving back here just shy of a decade later.
I feel inclined now to do a bit of self promotion and point out that I used a number of my experiences from that exchange year in my first novel, The Way Forward, which you can buy for Kindle from both Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
But I digress. The point is simply that while I was in that particular part of the world I couldn't help observing it contained a hell of a lot more motorcyclists than Wales. And it was not just that Southern England appeared to have more riders but also a greater diversity of them. Whereas Wales is the land where Bandits and Fazers come to die, Southern England delivered sights of Moto Guzzi…

Gear review: Michelin Pilot Road 4 tires

It's been a few months since the good folks at Michelin gave me a set of Pilot Road 4 tires, and in that time I've managed to clock up roughly 2,700 miles on them, in pretty much all weather, so I thought now might be a good time to offer a review.
If you have attention deficit disorder or don't like to read, the short version of my review is simply this: Buy yourself a pair.
I say that without reservation for a number of reasons. Firstly, because it was the Pilot Road 4 that taught me tires do actually make a difference. Oh, sure, I had read plenty of articles in which moto-journalists were yammering about the feel of a tire and how long it takes to warm up and so on, but my general feeling was that this was gibberish -- stuff they were just saying because, you know, they've got to say something. Or, perhaps, I felt, if it was not total gibberish it was irrelevant to anyone who rides a bike at anything near legal speed.
I mean, a tire's a tire, right? I've re…

Ride review: Yamaha MT-09 (Yamaha FZ-09)

The Yamaha MT-09 (aka the Yamaha FZ-09) looks almost exactly the same as the Yamaha MT-07. It has a similar name and is targeted at the same young, urban audience. Internally, of course, it is quite different -- being powered by a three-cylinder engine rather than a twin -- but after getting stupid giddy for the MT-07, I had figured the MT-09 would be pure joy.
After all, some people insist a triple is the best of both worlds: the fun pull of a twin with the smoothness of an inline four. I'll admit my experience with triples is limited, having only ever ridden that engine configuration during a long day on a Triumph Tiger Explorer XC, but it had instilled in me a respect for them. Firing up the MT-09, my heart was pounding in anticipation. 
"This is going to be a blast," I thought.
I was wrong. The MT-09 manages to capture all of the negative aspects of the MT-07 with very few of the positives.
The MT-09 is part of Yamaha's "Dark Side" line of bikes, cloth…

Woe to Victory, the unloved child of Polaris

My father was his mother's favourite son. As the offspring of said son, my brother and I were always able to pick this up in subtle ways; the affection we got from our grandmother seemed a little more effusive. But a guest to the house might have picked it up as well, just by looking at the walls. 
In the living room, in plain view of any conversation, was a large, framed photo of my father taken in his senior year of high school. In the afternoon, the sun would hit the photo just right and my father's radiant 18-year-old face would beam with the same intelligent smile that later helped him win a job as a television anchorman.
On an adjacent wall, tucked into a corner that got no sunlight, and not generally within one's line of sight, were two smaller frames containing the senior pictures of Dad's younger brothers. No one ever drew attention to this reality and it is a credit to both my father and his brothers that there has never been any bitterness from them nor air…

What makes a biker-friendly pub?

Not too long ago I wrote a post for the Express Insurance blog about finding a biker-friendly place to eat or hang and how the challenges in accomplishing such a thing start right at the very beginning: What does "biker-friendly" mean?
The blog post was aimed at the UK audience, obviously, but I think it apples to motorcyclists in general. Here's a link:
Biker Friendly Pubs in the UK
For those of you playing along in the United States, I'd be interested to hear how you go about finding places to ride to, what you expect, and what you would like.

Ride review: Yamaha MT-07 (Yamaha FZ-07)

One of the clich├ęs of motorcycling is that it attracts a fair few older guys and gals. I suppose, since I am well past the target demographic for the WWE, you can loop me in with that crowd. Though, I don't like to admit it. None of us do. One of the appeals of motorcycling for the old and busted set is that it is, in part, a means of ignoring the truths of our chronologies.
Until I test rode the Yamaha MT-07, however, the feeling had always been one of general youthfulness. No bike had taken me back to a specific time in my life, made me pine to be that particular age again. This did. Chris Cope, aged 18-25: I have found the perfect motorcycle for you.
For those of you playing along in the United States, the MT-07 is known there as the Yamaha FZ-07. I don't know why Yamaha insists on using different names. Istanbul is Constantinople. Whatever you call it, the bike is a twin-cylinder joyride producing roughly 74 horsepower, about 50 lb. ft. of torque, and who knows how many d…

What I want: Indian Scout

Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce you to my next bike. I don't know when it will be available in the United Kingdom, nor how the hell I'm going to pay for it (a), but genuinely: this is the bike I want. This is the bike I need. As I said on Twitter, when I woke up on Sunday to learn of the existence of the new Indian Scout, I felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story. It's as if Indian pulled this motorcycle from my feverish, wishful mind.
Those of you playing along in the United States will see the Scout arrive in dealerships in time for Christmas, according to Indian. So, you might want to make use of the interim time to ensure you've been extra good this year. And if Santa does roll up at your house with one of these, you will have in your possession a bike that is unquestionably the best in its class.
I say that with a caveat, of course. As of this writing, no actual ride reviews of the bike have hit the web. Expect to see them popping up over the next …