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Showing posts from December, 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…

Sexism and motorcycling: a frustratingly cosy pair

Above is a picture from Victory's UK Facebook page, taken at a motorcycle show in 2014. Can you identify what's wrong here? If not, let me phrase the question differently: How many women do you see in this photo?
I see two: the eye candy. Everyone else in the photo appears to be male. Now, take into consideration the fact that statistics show more and more women are buying motorcycles and ask yourself again: What's wrong with this picture?
I have long felt frustration toward the latent sexism in motorcycling. In fact, I tend to list that among the myriad reasons I spent so many years not riding after I earned my license at age 18. Sure, I dated a girl who rode a Kawasaki Ninja, but overwhelmingly the riders I encountered were male (and white, and usually 20 years older than me), and much of their world seemed to objectify and demean women. 
Remember that I grew up in the American Midwest, the same region in which you will find Sturgis, South Dakota. If you disagree with m…

What I want: Triumph Street Tracker (which is probably actually a new Thruxton)

Let's start with the fact that I don't actually think the bike pictured above is the forthcoming Triumph Street Tracker. To me, it looks a lot like an updated Triumph Thruxton, and as such, what we're looking at here is an updated Bonneville platform. Whatever it's called, though, I want one.
Spy photos of the Triumph in question showed up on a number of motorcycle websites last week, including VisorDown, Cycle World, and Motorcycle.com. What strikes me about all the publications' stories about the bike is how consistent they are. All agree that this is an 1100-1200cc machine that is liquid-cooled and therefore capable of upward of 100 horsepower. All agree the bike will have anti-lock brakes. All agree there will be a standard and an R model. Most agree the bike will be called a Street Tracker.
Obviously, some of that information is educated guesswork. Back in 2012, Triumph went to the trouble to trademark the name "Triumph Street Tracker," so it seems …

Where are the Americans?

Just a quick addendum to my previous post. One thing I noticed in the Honda video featuring world explorers was a lack of American accents. And that got me thinking: Off the top of my head, I can think of no world-travelling American motorcyclists.
I can't remember ever reading about even one. I've read about riders from Canada, France, Germany, Israel, New Zealand and Ireland. I've read about loads of Aussies and loads more Brits. But I'm not aware of the story of one American who has travelled the globe on two wheels.
I realise there are plenty of Iron Butted Americans who have criss-crossed the United States and perhaps even sojourned in Canada or Mexico. I take great pride in counting as friends two people who effectively live on the American highways and byways. But why has my country produced no world travellers? 
Have I just missed hearing about them, or is there something about Americans that keeps them from straying too far from home? 
Full disclosure: I (cur…

I'm a sucker for good marketing

"A life without dreams simply has no meaning." –– Soichiro Honda I'm a Honda rider; I'm never really sure, however, whether you could call me a Honda guy. My emotional relationship with the manufacturer of the bike I ride is often tenuous. You can see that in a number of posts I've written over the past few years: the time I compared Honda to professional wrestler Lance Storm,the time I lamented Honda's utter lack of coolness, the time I compared my bike to an ex-girlfriend, and so on.
Of course, the mind immediately jumps to the question of whether it's necessary to be an anything guy. Why not just buy/ride whatever bike it is that you like according to your needs and wants at the time, rather than trying to shoehorn yourself into the illusory lifestyle of any given motorcycle manufacturer? After all, motorcycle ownership is not religion.
But I suppose we could learn a little about motorcycling from at least one religion: Sikhism. To paraphrase Guru Nanak…

What can I actually afford?

You will know, of course, that I have a tendency to swoon over just about every bike I see. I'm not terribly picky, though I'll admit that the stuff I get most excited about tends to be rather pricey. My grandmother has always accused me of having such tastes. When I was a boy she would take me clothes shopping and claimed I had a magical ability to immediately identify the most expensive item in the shop.
I got to thinking about this a few days ago, after posting my review of the Indian Chief Classic. I absolutely love that bike, but as part of the review I went to the trouble to work out that at my current rate of saving I would have to wait until my 50th birthday to be able to buy one (I am presently 38 years old).

And that got me wondering: what bikes could I actually afford right now? So, I started searching eBay, BikeTrader, MCN,  and various other bike listings to see what I could come up with.

The first thing to really catch my eye was the 2001 BMW K1200 pictured abov…

GWTTA: Monmouth (Trefynwy)

Let's call the visit to Monmouth a learning experience. 
I learned, for instance, that I should probably do a little research on the places I visit as part of the Great Welsh Tea Towel Adventurebefore going to them (a). Otherwise I'll arrive at said place with no idea of what might be there.

Additionally, I learned I should not attempt to explore a place when I haven't eaten. Being hungry makes me incomparably stupid and indecisive. Which, of course, isn't a good thing to be when you don't know what you're doing.

These two issues came to a head when I had the experience of also learning that the Waitrose in Monmouth doesn't have a cafe.

For those of you playing along at home, Waitrose is chain of high-end grocery stores in the United Kingdom. Often they have cafes. Or so I thought.

I had ridden through Monmouth once or twice in the past and noted the existence of aforementioned Waitrose, so my plan had been to arrive, eat at aforementioned cafe and thereaf…

Ride Review: Indian Chief Classic

There is only one reason you should not rush out and buy yourself an Indian Chief Classic. I'll get to that in a bit, but first I want to stress that the Chief Classic is the best motorcycle I have ever ridden.
That sort of thing comes with a caveat, I suppose, because of the truth that there is no perfect motorcycle. If you are looking for elbow-dragging cornering prowess, or crossing-the-Kazakh-mountains off-road capability, the Chief will disappoint. Indeed, there are any number of unfair comparisons that could be put to this bike that would leave it wanting. But if you take it for what it is –– an outsized torque monster that turns the head of everyone you pass –– then it is, without question, The Best Motorcycle Ever.

I should probably admit a certain amount of bias right uprfront, however. Indian Motorcycles is owned by Minnesota-based Polaris, and I tend to have a soft spot for all things Minnesotan. But even without that adopted-home-state connection, I reckon I'd be …

Victory drops price of Gunner in the UK

Victory fans are somewhat few and far between in the United Kingdom (and who can blame them considering the outdated marketing philosophy Victory displays at shows like Motorcycle Live?), so the number of people who will be interested in this little bit of "news" could probably be counted on one hand. But I thought I'd mention it, anyway:
I just happened to check Victory's website today and it appears that the asking price of the 2015 Victory Gunner (due to arrive UK dealerships in March) has been dropped. Its starting price is now just £9,999
As recently as last week, the asking price had been listed as £10,399 -- the same as the Indian Scout (also due to arrive UK dealerships in March). Both machines will be equipped with ABS, to adhere to impending EU legislation, and as such cost comparatively more than their U.S. counterparts.
I find it interesting and perhaps a little concerning that Victory has chosen to slash £400 from the Gunner's asking price before …

Ours is to scream against standardisation

I've mentioned before my love of El Solitario –– a custom-builder from Spain whose work is part of a movement in motorcycles that I love. Here's an interesting little film about him that talks, of course, about motorcycles but also about art and its relevance. 
Subversively, this little film also explains why I need to improve my Spanish and move to Spain.
Who The Fuck is El Solitario from Juan Rayos on Vimeo.

A look back at Motorcycle Live

I went to my first motorcycle show recently: Motorcycle Live. The show takes place in Birmingham every year and is reportedly the country's largest.
I can believe that claim. The show runs for nine days, thereby incorporating two weekends, and when I was there on a Wednesday it was packed. Test rides booked up within minutes, empty places to sit were few and far between, and you had to do some pretty aggressive hovering to be able to sit on the models that appealed to you.
The models of motorcycles, that is. As opposed to the other type of model. I'm not sure we would have been allowed to sit on the underfed girls who prowled the convention halls shoving leaflets into people's hands.
I can't find any recent figures, but in 2011 the show drew more than 112,000. If you consider that the European economy has improved (just a tiny bit) since then, and there have been a huge number of new and interesting bikes announced this year, it's safe to say they are on track to …