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Showing posts from 2016

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…

The race that won't stop killing

Five* racers were killed in 2016’s Isle of Man TT races. That’s a few more than average, but nothing anyone's getting uptight about; ferry bookings to attend next year’s event have already sold out.

That people have died and will die –– lots of them –– is just the way of things. It’s an accepted truth. There will always be Tuesdays; oranges are orange; men and women will die in horrific crashes at the TT. And perhaps I’ve lived in these parts for too long that I hadn’t really considered how deadly the TT is until RideApart asked me to write a piece about it back in the summer.

By “these parts” I mean the British Isles: the archipelago that also includes the United Kingdom and Ireland. And, to a lesser extent, I mean the Isle of Man.


The Isle of Man, a tiny strip of land sitting in the Irish Sea –– only 14 miles across at its widest point –– holds the status of UK crown dependency. Which means that it can make most of its own laws but its Olympic athletes compete under the United …

Doing an Iron Butt ride was utterly pointless

Back in June I took part in my first-ever Iron Butt ride.
Ostensibly, I took part in the ride to help raise money for the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal, a charity initiative that helps the UK’s military and veteran communities. The Poppy Appeal is a good cause (A special thanks to those of you who donated) and an Iron Butt is something I’d wanted to do for a while, so I jumped at the chance. 
 Now that I’ve done it, I’m pretty certain I will never do it again. 
Turns out I don’t actually enjoy riding 1,000 miles in less than 24 hours. It’s not my thing. It’s tedious, exhausting, and runs contrary to many of the things I love about motorcycling. Of course, I never would have known that unless I’d done it. So, while I’ll readily tell you an Iron Butt is a waste of time, I’ll also tell you that you may need to learn that for yourself. 
My ride started at 5 a.m. on the outskirts of the Northern England city of Leeds, at a place called Squires Cafe. I had ridden up from Cardiff the…

2016 Honda CBR650F - Ride Review

Touring Sport: Scotland on a Honda CBR650F
Summer in Her Majesty's United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is more a state of mind than meteorological phenomenon. It can be 50F and raining in December or June, March or September.


But as that time of year approaches, residents of this soggy archipelago pretend things will be different this time. We dig out straw fedoras and shorts, and we hope. Motorcyclists optimistically remove insulated lining from jackets and pore over maps looking for places to visit.
I sometimes allow myself to be suckered by the glitz of the Global Motorcycle Conspiracy (they're all out to get you, man), so when I daydream about touring I tend to daydream about bikes that are big, heavy, and tech-laden: the venerable BMW R 1200 RT, perhaps, or Triumph Tiger Explorer XRT, or the newly refreshed Yamaha FJR1300AS. The problem with all these bikes, though, is they are also really expensive. Meanwhile, ever since I spent some time travelling on…

Mr Grumpy Pants

The ancient Celts used to refer to the space between October and April in Britain as "The Long Dark." It's a miserable time of year, and it's just starting.

Riding the 2017 Harley-Davidson Road Glide

I shot this video back in late August/early September when I was on the Harley-Davidson press ride in Washington state, then forgot all about it until today. It was shot with a Sena 10C (the same camera I used in this video), which appears to struggle when conditions are overcast. Probably not the best news for me, considering I live in Britain.
At least the audio is better than last time (thanks Nikos for telling me how to do that).

Ultimately, I rode three different bikes on the press ride. I'll put those reviews on this site one of these days, but in the meantime, here are the links to the articles I wrote for RideApart. 2017 Harley-Davidson Road Glide – First Ride2017 Harley-Davidson Street Glide – First Ride2017 Harley-Davidson CVO Limited – First Ride

Low-speed thrills

I think I'm getting old. Earlier this summer I bought a one-piece rain suit to go over my riding gear. 
Yes, I live in the United Kingdom, so it will get heavy use, but there's no getting around the fact a one-piece rain suit is an old-man thing to buy. But I suppose it fits with other aspects of my motorcycling: the modular helmet, the high-vis vest, the never-gonna-take-it-off-road ADV bike... 
Harley-Davidson has a campaign at the moment encouraging parents to expose their children to motorcycling so they'll grow up and buy Harley-Davidson motorcycles (because, you know, every kid thinks their parents are cool). Based on my complete lack of badassitude, though, it's probably OK I don't have kids. I doubt anyone has ever looked at me on the road and thought: "Golly, I wish I looked like that guy."
Recently, to make things worse, I've been flirting with another old man facet to my motorcycling: riding below the speed limit. Actually, that may no…

In the Brecons

I know it's been a stupid long time since I last posted on this blog. That's because I seem to get busier every day. Some day I'll post here again. In the meantime, here's a video I shot yesterday in Brecon Beacons National Park.

Ride review: Indian Scout Sixty

When I was 21 years old, I decided I no longer cared about political science and dropped-out of classes at my dreary college in Northern Minnesota on the promise of working in a tourist trap at Lake Tahoe. I packed a duffle bag, told my roommate he could keep, sell or trash everything else, and spent several days making my way to the Silver State.
My pickup truck had no air conditioner or radio; everything was barebones. I often look back on that trip, and my decision to make it, as being a pivot point in my life. In the Story of Chris, it's impossible to get here –– to the person I am now –– without first going there. So, I'd never undo the experience. But if I could be 21 now, in 2016, I'd make a change: I'd sell my truck and get to Nevada on an Indian Scout Sixty.
Because the Sixty is that kind of bike. It is a cross-the-country-and-figure-out-who-the-hell-you-are bike. A tell-your-grandkids-about-it-in-60-years bike. A motorcycle of the sort that inspires people…

Exploring the Scout Sixty's Irish Heritage

When several weeks of gentle pleading recently resulted in Indian Motorcycle handing me the keys to a Scout Sixty, I knew exactly where I wanted to go: Ireland.

That's probably not what you were thinking. After all, the Sixty is a motorcycle imbued with more than a century of American heritage, seemingly designed first and foremost for the American road. But, as with so many American things, if you trace its history back far enough you'll find an Irish beginning.

In this case, that beginning is Charles B. Franklin, an engineer and motorcycle racer born in Dublin in 1880. There's a plaque commemorating Franklin's achievements outside the house where he was born. And, because among those achievements are the designs of both the original Indian Scout and Scout 101, it makes sense to ride the Sixty there.

My adventure starts, though, in Cardiff, Wales –– separated from Dublin by about 300 miles, roughly 80 of which are across the Irish Sea. I schedule a night ferry and se…