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Showing posts from September, 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…

What I want: Moto Guzzi Griso 1200 SE

There's something rather lewd about its look: all that engine spilling out of the frame and those Dali-esque pipes stretching its length. It's alluring. It feels indecent. It's like seeing a giant poster of Dita Von Teese in a public place, peering down at you while you and your wife walk through a shopping centre in search of mundane things like spatulas and a card for your Uncle Leroy's birthday. Deep down in your conscience, some part of you rumbles and tries to make you look away. 
"Don't just stand there and gawp, man," your brain shouts. "Show a little decorum. Stop being such a perv."
But you can't stop looking, can't pull your eyes away. Each curve and line captivates you, hypnotizes you, and draws your eyes to the next. You stare and stare and stare as if trying to memorise it all. In the case of the Von Teese poster you might try to play it off, might try to tell your wife you were looking at something else (a), but in the cas…

Stuff I don't know: Why not use aluminium?

"Man, if I had the money, I think I'd get one of those Honda F6Bs," I'll sometimes tell myself.
Effectively Honda's Goldwing grand tourer sans top box, the F6B is, after all, a good-looking machine. And from everything I've read it's a hell of a lot of fun to ride, with handling that belies its massive weight and size. Ever since the bike was released a few years ago I've been daydreaming about owning one and riding it all over North America.
"But, actually," I'll say, continuing the thought. "If I had the money I can't imagine that I ever actually would spend it on an F6B. Because plastic."
Having seen one of these beasts in person I couldn't help but notice that it possesses quite a lot of plastic -- something that puts me off for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it feels wrong to pay £20,000 (a) for a motorcycle with that much plastic. But more importantly because of what plastic does when stressed: it cracks.

Ride review: Honda CBF600SA

It occurred to me today that with all the bike reviews I've written (something I really like doing because it inherently means riding different motorbikes) I've never taken the time to review the one I know best –– my own.
The CBF600SA is no longer part of Honda's lineup, having been available from 2004-2013, but they are damned durable machines and as such will be floating around in the used market for quite some time. Midway through its run –– in 2007 –– the model received a handful of relatively unnoticeable updates with the major difference being the engine. Mine is a 2005 model, running on a detuned engine from the venerable CB600F Hornet. From 2007, the CBF600 carried a detuned CBR600RR engine.
In both cases, the Honda CBF600SA is an interminable workhorse, producing 76 hp and about 43 ft.-lb. of torque. Those are decent enough numbers. As I've said many times before: in reality, that level of power is all you need.

However, maximum horsepower is achieved at 10,…

Looking forward to INTERMOT

For those of us riding in the northern hemisphere, cooler weather is beginning to creep in. Especially in the mornings, some folks are already clicking on their heated gear. Within the next month or two, leaves on trees will change, providing visually stunning riding for those lucky enough to live near a deciduous forest. 
Autumn is a great time to ride, but it brings with it a kind of melancholy because it means the return of what the ancient Celts used to call The Long Dark: winter. Here in the UK, most of us can ride through those months but it is often an unpleasant experience. In other parts of the northern hemisphere, snow will fall, ice will form, and only those with the greatest of derring-do will venture out on two wheels.
Thankfully, this time of year brings us a few things to keep our spirits up: trade and consumer motorcycle shows, where the newest and coolest bikes are most often revealed. 
One such show is Motorcycle Live, which takes place in Birmingham in November. I&…

Miscellaneous

Here are a some miscellaneous things that have been on my mind lately:
Farewell Bob Skoot It would appear that Bob Skoot, author of Riding the Wet Coast and avowed Crocs lover has died. Within the tiny sub-culture within a sub-culture that is blogging about motorcycles Bob was well known as the guy who would actually read posts and leave thoughtful comments. I didn't interact with him as much as I now wish I had, but he was a definitely a good man. 
Victory's hard sell Victory is offering some pretty hefty rebates on all of its models at the moment -- up to $2,000. This rebate applies to a huge swathe of models, going back to those from the 2012 model year. Any time a manufacturer has to slash prices it suggests all is not well, but what's particularly telling to me is that there are apparently so many unsold models from years past. Perhaps that's behind Victory scrapping so many models for its 2015 model year line up: it simply wasn't selling the models it was maki…

The forgotten names

This is Part III of my Yorkshire Dales trip. –– Click here to read Part I –– Click here to read Part II
I was up early on the trip's final day. Showered and with all my gear packed before breakfast, I was keen to be on the road by 9 a.m.  Because I ended up fussing over my tank bag, however, actual departure time was on the lateish side of 9:30.
I have an Oxford X30 magnetic tank bag, which is a damned useful bit of kit but for the fact that it causes paint damage. I'll write a full review at some point in the future but I can tell you simply the bag is so useful that even when it starts making tiny little scratches on your tank you'll find it difficult to replace. All those pockets come in handy.
On the way up to Yorkshire I had strapped it instead to the rear rack. That removed some of the bag's functionality (e.g., I couldn't just pull to the side of the road and dig out a map or bottle of water without getting off the bike) but I thought it worth it for the sake …

Ay up

This is Part 2 of my Yorkshire Dales trip. To read Part 1 click here.
One of the strange aspects of British life is that all 64 million of us are crammed into a space no larger than the state of Oregon, but getting around in that space takes an excruciatingly long time. And it feels even longer. As I've said before, the best way to think about it is to add a 0 to whatever distance you intend to travel. So, this 260-mile ride to Yorkshire Dales National Parkfelt like one that was 2,600 miles long.
By the time I had escaped the northern reaches of Birmingham I was stupid with boredom. Traffic had been slowed to 50 mph thanks to congestion and roadworks. The flow of traffic was steady, so putt-putting along at about 4,000 rpm was doing wonders for my fuel consumption, but it was heavy enough I could not take my eyes off the road. I wasn't able to look at the surrounding countryside, just the Land Rover ahead of me, the impatient Audi behind me, and the various cars we passed as w…

It's (not at all) grim up North

It is roughly 260 miles from the quaintly crumbling South Wales town of Penarth to the Yorkshire village of Grassington. That's assuming you do most of your travelling via motorway, which is what I tend to stick to when I need to get to places on time.

Of course, the "on time" concept is often a fuzzy one for me. I am a strong adherent to the Ride Your Own Ride school of thinking and one of the ways in which that manifests is in how long it takes to do certain things. Some days I move pretty fluidly -- stops for petrol or food are well-coordinated and efficient. On other days, I seem inclined to spend upward of 10 minutes adjusting my scarf before putting on my gloves. Such was the case this past Sunday when I set out for northern England.
Grassington is one of the "honey pot" villages of Yorkshire Dales National Park, which is to say it is one of the places that sees the most visitors. For those of you playing along in the United States and other countries whe…

What I want: BMW F800GT

I've been talking a lot about various cruisers lately -- lots of posts on Harley-Davidson, Indian and Victory machines. I think that may be the residual effect of having visited home earlier this summer: cruisers on the brain.

For reasons that I can't quite determine, that style of bike is king in the Land of the Free. Meanwhile (and this may be one of those chicken-or-the-egg things), the American landscape is one that is particularly hospitable toward cruisers. As I've mentioned before, that's not necessarily the case here in Her Majesty's United Kingdom. Nor many other places in Europe. Our narrow, winding, millennium-old roads and multitudinous roundabouts are not exactly the best places to be navigating a lumbering piece of machinery that weighs more than a high school girl's basketball team.

Yet, there is still a big part of me that wants to get one (a cruiser, I mean; I wouldn't know where to put a high school girl's basketball team). Part of th…