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Showing posts from February, 2015

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…

I'm just a dude who loves motorcycles

Not too long ago, I got it in my head that I wanted to be practical and save up enough money to buy a new bike outright.
Or rather, a new-to-me used bike. Because my practicality was borne of the realisation that saving up all the cash needed for a brand-new version of most of the bikes on my What I Want list would take several more years than I'm willing to wait. I realised I would instead need to settle for a bike that was, you know, OK.

A motorcycle that is good enough (a).
So, I went about the process of trying to convince myself that I would want the Suzuki GSX1250FA -- a bike that is more than two decades long in the tooth, reportedly feels quite heavy (I've never test ridden one, so I can't speak to that personally), is visually unexciting, and has less than impressive fuel efficiency (roughly 39 mpg, according to Fuelly). However, this process of self convincing was instantly abandoned when Jenn's father described the Suzuki he once owned as: "The low poi…

What I want: Triumph Sprint GT SE

"You need more than one bike," my wife told me recently.
She's coming 'round, boys! She's coming 'round! Though, sadly, I can't dupe myself into thinking this statement was explicit direction or permission to go out and get myself a second motorcycle. After all, where the hell would I put it? 
Instead, it was simply an observation that my love of motorcycles stretches across multiple genres of machine. At best, it was implicit agreement that, one day, if we have the space and finances safely allow, she wouldn't –– on principle –– have a problem with my owning multiple bikes. I'm happy with that.
In the present and immediate foreseeable future, though, I am a one-motorcycle guy. The question I am forever wrestling with then, is what kind of bike is that one motorcycle? You can see it in all the What I Want posts I write: one day I'm swooning over an Indian Scout, the next day I'm pining for a Honda VFR1200F. Increasingly, though, when I th…

What I can afford this month: BMW K75S

This thing of tracking my motorcycle savings by searching classified ads for bikes I can afford right now is my new favourite game, y'all. Each month I have a tiny bit more money, so each month I am (presumably) able to climb a little higher in terms of desirability and quality.
The bike this month comes from someone who doesn't know how to upload photos properly, and it is technically £25 more than what I have in savings (surely I could talk him/her down that much) but that doesn't really matter because the machine he/she is selling is so iconic. It's a 1988 BMW K75S.
Wait. Is a K75 an iconic bike? I don't actually know. I thought the old R-series bikes were the ones to salivate over. But I assume the old Ks are, too. Admittedly, I only assume that because John Nelson has one (a 1986 K75RT) that he swoons over, and he strikes me as a cool sort of dude who would only surround himself with cool, characterful, iconic things. He rides a Royal Enfield, after all.
Ah, …

Indian Chief Dark Horse

So, mis amigos, what's our collective opinion of the new Indian Chief Dark Horse? The bike was unveiled in Chicago and London last weekend and shows more than anything that Indian is starting to find its stride. 
Changing the aesthetics of a thing and calling it new is a time-honoured tradition in motorcycling, and, though many of us find it to be an annoying tactic, within a certain timeframe it can be seen as evidence that a manufacturer has both the demand and capacity to diversify. 
I suppose "timeframe" is the key word there. When Victory churns out the same thing over and over and over again, it can be seen as indication that the company is out of ideas and on the decline. Suzuki is even worse. But with a relatively new platform such as the Thunder Stroke 111 –– which has really only been around for a year and a half –– it makes sense for Indian to be making the most of it, to be offering it in any number of guises (a).
Basically what I'm trying to say here is…

Europe 2015 pt. II

My ferry tickets have been purchased; it's actually happening. 
"It," of course, is my ridiculously grand adventure to Italy –– a motorcycle journey through seven countries, covering at least 3,000 miles. On my own.

I have more than 4 months to prepare for this epic ride, but already I can't sleep. At least I've taken the first and most important step: committing to it. On 3 July 2015, I will ride to the other side of the UK and board a night ferry to the Netherlands. Then, I'll spend the next few days making my way south to the Tuscany region of Italy.

I am planning to visit a friend in Saarbr├╝cken, Germany, on the way, which explains the slightly odd route I've chosen. The Google machine insists I should get to the continent via ferries or trains that run from Dover, England, to Calais, France. But what Google doesn't take into account is the fact that taking the ferry to the Netherlands costs less, all things considered.

I'll be taking an over…

Gear review: Oxford X30 magnetic tank bag

If you've ever seen any of the pictures I've posted of my motorcycle it's a good bet you'll have noticed the presence of the Oxford X30 magnetic tank bag in most of them. This speaks to the main feature of the bag: it is so damned useful that it's hard to live without.
That's not to say I don't have complaints. There are a number of things I don't really like about the bag. It's simply that I have yet to come across a superior option.
So, let's start with the positives. Easy to throw on the bike and expandable to hold 30 litres of stuff, the bag comes in handy in pretty much every situation. "Installation," if that's the word we want to use, is ridiculously simple: You set the bag on your tank.
That's it. Wing-like flaps on either side of the bag contain strong magnets that secure the bag to any metal tank, a rubber-like underside helps to keep it from slipping. The bag also has an easy-to-buckle strap that you can loop around…

GWTTA: Porthcawl

It's 9 a.m. and I am riding down the main road of Porthcawl on a sunny, crisp winter morning. Already, there are people walking the promenade. Outside the beachfront cafe, old ladies in decades-old winter jackets hawkishly stake out places to sit while their husbands stand in queue for milky tea and dry cakes. And in this I find myself strangely reminded of another town, some 6,000 miles away: Julian, California.
Not because Porthcawl and Julian are in any way alike. Julian is nestled in the Laguna Mountains of Southern California, whereas Porthcawl sits on the southern Welsh coast. Julian maintains a classic Americana small town feel, with a number of wooden buildings dating back to the 1860s. Porthcawl is worn and piecemeal, its architecture reflecting decades of failed attempts to make it into something more than it will ever be.
The similarity comes simply in the fact that, in both cases, just about every person from the surrounding area insists you should go there. And when …

What I want: BMW R1200R

"It suits you, mate. Really does."
I furrowed my brow at him, half trying to communicate that I didn't quite believe him, half trying to communicate that I hadn't asked for his opinion.
"That's an important part of it, I reckon," he said, unfettered. "How you fit on the bike, like. Me, I look better on that big K1600 over there. Not sure the missus would agree if I told her how much it costs, but, you know, that's how it is. Anyway, I'm just sayin': it suits you, mate."
This conversation took place a few months ago at Motorcycle Live, as I was sitting on the new BMW R1200R. The random bloke in faded high-vis wasn't a salesman trying to sell the bike, he was just being friendly. I think.

His accent was clearly Southeast England -- possibly Kent or Essex -- and I always have a little trouble reading those dudes. Britons love being ironic, so a knowledge of the subtleties of dialectical intonation is key to understanding whether …

The Super Bowl commercial I'd like to see

On the way into work this morning, I found myself coming up with an idea for an advert for Zero Motorcycles, or whatever the hell it is that will come out of Polaris' recent acquisition of Brammo. I ride my bicycle to work. By the time I got into work, I had cemented the advert in my mind. I think it would have made a good Super Bowl ad:
Open with a CCTV-on-a-pole overhead view of an empty American city intersection. A motorcycle whirs through the intersection and you see the double flash of a speed camera/red-light camera taking a photo. A new angle, this from a security camera in a shop, shows the motorcycle coming to a rapid stop, engaging the bike's ABS. 
The rider dismounts and begins to strut down the empty street back toward the red-light camera. The rider is wearing jeans, a hoodie and Shark Vancore helmet (or similar). The camera angle is now from the perspective of the red-light camera. The rider walks close up to it, looking up, and takes off the helmet to reveal a w…