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Showing posts from February, 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…

Gear Review: Auritech Biker Earplugs

Item: Auritech Biker Hearing Protectors Website: Time used: Four months and counting Cost: About $35 with shipping
There's nothing sexy about ear protection. Imagine some company paying David Beckham to model earplugs. Or special Deus-branded 'plugs being wantonly fondled by a bearded hipster while his waifish girlfriend slow-mo kickstarts a '65 Royal-Enfield in the background.
Nope, it just doesn't work.
In fact, ear protection is a little dorky. No doubt, those riders who refuse to wear a helmet will see earplugs as ATGATT-ism out of control.
But that doesn't mean hearing protection isn't important. It's a very real issue. My grandfather lost much of his hearing as a young man, thanks to WWII artillery guns. Having to shout my every conversation with him convinced me at an early age I wanted to keep my ears protected, so I have always ridden with 'plugs.
My go-to's are polyurethane foam earplugs of the sort they hand out at roc…

Ride Review: Honda CRF1000L Africa Twin

Just about every review you'll read for Honda's new CRF1000L Africa Twin speaks to the bike's surprising usability off road. Honda seems eager to drive that home, to such an extent that the manufacturer had journalists gather in South Africa recently (my invite must have gotten lost in the mail) to spend two days in the dirt.
Despite my own experience (I'll get to that in a moment), I don't doubt the Africa Twin's off-road chops, but it occurs to me the vast majority of the people who pay upward of $13,000 for this 511-lb. motorcycle are not actually going to go skipping off to the Kazakhstan steppe. I mean, if you really want an all-roads world-traveling Honda, surely you'd choose the Rally Raid CB500X instead. It costs and weighs less.
Instead, I think the Africa Twin will fall primarily into that awkward category of heavy adventure bikes that are perfectly capable, but unlikely to be used by the majority of its owners for anything more exotic than a rur…

British riders are better

(Originally published on RideApart)
Fire up the hater machine: There's no way things are going to be civilized after a headline like that. 
But if you haven't gone straight to the comments section to break your fingers typing a load of stereotype-driven vitriol (Bad teeth! Socialism! Rain! Russell Brand!), if you are actually still reading this, I'll explain why I think Britons are better motorcyclists than their American counterparts. And why I think Americans could stand to learn a few things from the Mother Country.
I hope you understand it hurts me to say that. I've developed a fondness for the UK over my years here, but not so much that I don't hate to admit anything British is in any way "better."
Food? No. Music? No. Weather? Definitely no. Healthcare? More accessible, but no. Police? Friendlier and considerably less shooty, but probably no.
When it comes to riding a motorcycle, however, I can't deny it: The people here do it better.
I'm s…

Riding Motorcycles In Britain

(Originally published on
Forget the Frogs, the UK is best for motorcycling
Not too long ago Tod Rafferty wrote a piece for in which he intimated that France is the best country for motorcyclists. As a resident of the country that is France’s oldest and closest enemy, I feel I am duty-bound to inform you that, with all due respect to Tod, his assertion is codswallop.
Yes, codswallop. Tommyrot. Poppycock. Flapdoodle. I’m sorry to use such strong language. But if you’re anywhere east of the Atlantic Ocean, it’s Her Majesty’s United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland you want to be visiting. Britain is home to civilised riding. That's civilised with a 'S,' thank you.
I’m from America, but have lived in the UK –– in Wales, specifically –– for roughly a decade. I often pine for Minnesota thunderstorms and Texas cooking, but one thing that keeps me from going back home is knowing how much I’ll miss motorcycling here.
Germany (or possibly …

What I want: Triumph Tiger Sport

W'hey, it's been a while since I've done one of these posts. To some extent, that speaks to how busy I've been lately. I've been getting a lot of work from RideApart and –– living the dream.
But also it speaks to how happy I've been with my trusty Suzuki V-Strom 1000. The thing is a comfortable, fun, do-everything workhorse that –– ever since I installed a Givi AirFlow screen –– has been pretty close to perfect. 
Pretty close. I would really like cruise control.
So, I have to admit, it's primarily that feature that draws me to the new Triumph Tiger Sport. Well, OK, that's not the only reason. If cruise control were really so make-or-break for me, I would have bought one of those cruise control kits from Australia (does anyone know if those things actually work?).
There's also the fact that the Tiger Sport is a sport-tourer with adventure-style ergonomics but no pretense of off-road ability. And its 1050-cc inline triple delivers some…

The problem with custom

(Originally published on RideApart)
I spend a lot of time playing the "What I Want Next" game, daydreaming about the dozens upon dozens of bikes (and bike-related things) I'd like to own. As a result, I spend a lot of time reading reviews and descriptions of bikes. One sentence that occasionally shows up, which annoys the heck out of me, is: "This motorcycle makes a great base for customization."
My level of annoyance varies depending on the bike, of course. I don't feel too upset when the base in question is something like the Triumph Street Twin or Indian Scout Sixty — quality machines in and of themselves. They don't necessarily need to be improved upon, it's simply the case that the opportunity is there if you have the will and the wallet.
Other bikes, however — and I'm looking at you, Harley-Davidson Street 750 — are steaming piles of poo. And in that case the "great base for customization" claim feels like a cop-out, a means…

8 reasons cycling to work will make you a better rider

(Originally published on RideApart)
I'm a strong proponent of motorcycle commuting, but if you live relatively close to your workplace — say, within 7 miles — it may make more physical and financial sense to get there via pedal power.   I work from home these days, but up until the start of this year I was commuting to an office about three miles away. With a distance that short, I found it difficult to justify the time and effort required to put on my gear (usually awkward rain gear because I live in the UK), maneuver my motorcycle out of its storage space, then squeeze my way through traffic on roads designed in the 1800s for a journey so short my tires weren't even warm by the time I got to work. 
It was easier to just grab my bicycle and go, and I was always happy I did. Even in the rain and gale-force winds, there was something immensely cathartic about it: a guaranteed 30 minutes of solace each day.
Full disclosure: I used to work for a charity that promotes cycling, so …

What has Erik Buell taught us?

(Originally published on RideApart)
Sportbikes still matter in Britain. Less so than they once did, but enough that MCN —a weekly motorcycling newspaper with a readership of roughly 330,000 — dedicates several pages each week to superbike competition.
Read motorcycle reviews in UK publications and you'll notice a distinct sportbike tinge in the interpretation of a given motorcycle's qualities. The more a motorcycle displays sportbike-like features, the more reviewers are willing to forgive shortcomings.
Many British riders view motorcycling through a similar filter. They coo and swoon for machines that are unmanageable, uncomfortable, impractical and, often, unreliable, because said bikes are capable of going really, really, really fast. Keeping this in mind, I'll tell you about an experience I had in 2014.
I was at the UK's largest motorcycle show, Motorcycle Live, which draws thousands upon thousands of riders who feel it their duty to sit on every single bike. Or, …