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Showing posts from November, 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: Victory Gunner

I can't believe I've thus far neglected to add the Victory Gunner to my What I Want list. I suppose I got a little wrapped up in being disappointed in Victory for appearing to rest on its laurels over the past year or so.
The 2015 model year line up that was announced this past summer was a real let down, full of rehashed versions of bikes that have been around for years. Before that was the let down of the Gunner itself. The first new model since the rebirth of Indian Motorcycles (both Victory and Indian are owned by Minnesota-based Polaris), it fell short of my hopes. Polaris had promised a new, performance-oriented Victory as a result of Indian, but the Gunner is not the all-singing, all-dancing w├╝ndermotorrad I had wished for.

Really, the Gunner is just a stripped down Victory Judge. Same engine, same rake angle, pretty much same everything but for paint and seats. And that is, as I say, disappointing when you're a Victory fan who was hoping for so much more.

(On a si…

Gear review: Knox Fastback Gilet

"Gilet," for those of you playing along at home, is a fancy word for vest. But Knox, being a British company, probably doesn't call this bit of kit the Knox Fastback Vest because in British lingo a vest is often a tank-top.
"So, wait," I can hear American voices saying. "Does that mean that when Brits wear a three-piece suit, the piece under the jacket is a gilet?"
No. that is a waistcoat. Presumably, calling it the Knox Fastback Waistcoat seemed a little too prim, considering the purpose and target audience of this article of clothing. The suggestion of wearing a waistcoat on a motorcycle brings up images of the Distinguished Gentlemen's Ride.
"OK. What about a sweater vest?" my countrymen may ask. "What do they call that? A 'sweater gilet?' A 'sweater waistcoat?'"
Nope. That is a "sleeveless jumper." Obviously, calling this thing a Knox Sleeveless Jumper That Is Not Actually A Jumper is too wordy an…

GWTTA: Caerleon (Caerllion)

This is the second stop on the Great Welsh Tea Towel Adventure. Remember that this whole thing is a work in progress, so if you happen to know anything about the towns, villages and cities I'm planning to visit, don't wait until after the fact to tell me what I should have done -- give me your suggestions on what to see, what to do, where to eat, when to visit, etc. Thanks! __________

Caerleon –– according to the tourism officials at Caerleon –– was once one of the most important places in Britain. It was home to a large Roman fortress and thereafter the setting for a number of Arthurian legends.
Yeah. Bet you didn't know King Arthur was Welsh, did you? He was. He gets mentioned a lot in the Mabinogi, a collection of folk tales that has somewhat biblical status in Wales. And even before then he was being linked with Caerleon. Some versions of his tale say he came from there and others claim simply that he held court there.
Somehow, however, Caerleon's prestigious begin…

Monsoon season

Nikwax, Fabsil, duct tape, repeat. Nikwax, Fabsil, duct tape, repeat. Nikwax, Fabsil, duct tape, repeat. Nikwax, Fabsil, duct tape, repeat. Nikwax, Fabsil, duct tape, repeat...
It feels as if it has been raining nonstop for the past two months.

The relative dry of September had lulled me into a false sense of security and I had not put much effort into getting all my gear ready for the Long Dark: that unrelenting cold, wet greyness which envelops this island from October to May. So, I find myself now trying to play catch up.

There was that soaking ride to Bristol. My gear barely had a chance to dry out completely before I put it through hell again a week or so later on the way down to Exeter.

To my credit, I had spent the days beforehand washing my riding trousers and gloves in Nixwax Tech Wash and thereafter coating them in Fabsil. I had waxed my boots, as well. But that sort of stuff is just the starting point. There is a mental aspect to staying dry that I had somehow forgotten si…

GWTTA: Newport, South Wales (Casnewydd)

It seems appropriate for Newport to be the first place visited on the Great Welsh Tea Towel Adventure. It is here, after all, that I finally passed my Mod 2 exam, thereby earning my motorcycle license.
It is appropriate, too, because Newport exemplifies how utterly random is my tea towel map. I can think of very few scenarios in which I would suggest Newport as a place to visit. I doubt many Welsh people –– including and especially those from Newport –– would tell you to visit, either. Newport is not a place to go to of your own free will; it is a place to ridicule.
Literally translated, the town's Welsh name, Casnewydd, means "new hate," but, of course, this name is almost certainly a mishearing of whatever people were calling it centuries ago. That happens a lot in South Wales. Cardiff's Welsh name, for example, is Caerdydd, which literally translates to "Day Fortress" (a). The name of the town I live in, Penarth, translates to "Bear's Head"…

The Great Welsh Tea Towel Adventure

My first year in Wales was awful. Ranked among my thus far 38.5 years on this planet, I would say it was the second worst of my life -- edged out of the top spot by my fourth year in Wales. I am willing to bet that the third worst year of my life also took place in Wales, which sort of begs the question as to why the hell I am still living here. But I'll get to that in a moment.
Despite it being so generally awful, there were in that first year some highlights. One of which being the day Mormons showed up at the door with a TV.
My ex-wife was (and presumably still is) a member of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, and had found a welcome in the nearby Rhiwbina ward soon after our arrival in Cardiff. I am thankful she did. I doubt very much that we would have survived that first year on our own.
For those of you playing along at home, if you are considering a move to the Old World, be prepared to suffer at least 8 months of unemployment. Jobs are a hell of a lot harder …

The new all-rounders

I'm not really sure what we call these bikes: adventure-sport? Adventure-tour? The bikes that look a bit like offroad-capable machines but that are never intended to be taken off road. The motorcycle equivalent of the Volkswagen Tiguan, I suppose. Though, I feel that's slightly insulting to this particular class of bike. 
But like a pseudo-SUV (a "pSeUdo-V," perhaps?) it is a class of vehicle that borrows offroad styling and features to deliver a positive on-road experience. But in the case of an adventure-touring motorcycle (let's just agree to use that term here), the vehicle is one that is applicable to almost all (paved) scenarios. 
It is an all-rounder. It may not be the perfect bike for any one situation, but it will perform admirably in all. Faster, lighter and better in corners than a cruiser; more comfortable and functional than a sport bike; better suited to long motorway hauls than a true offroad machine. And although very much geared to paved-road us…